Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It’s all worth it.

Our Christmas Eve soirée was filled with so much love and friendship that I will feel abundantly fulfilled for a long time.

So next time my tank’s on not-quite-full, I’m having a party!

How ’bout you?

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

’Tis the Season

It starts with a little sadness when cooler weather lingers longer. Leaves begin shriveling up and don’t look a whole lot different than my skin. When the back yard is covered in dried, brown foliage and winter’s approach is inevitable, melancholy dances atop my deepening sadness, thickening any atmosphere near me. Life feels like potato soup—with corn starch.

Then I’ll make the mistake of rousing the words Christmas and bank account in adjacent thoughts, and whap! depression moves into my heart like mice when the cabin owners are gone.

“But Christmas isn’t about marketing, buying stuff, and being materialistic.” Right. But it would be nice to have an option.

Along with the gloom come ruminations of decisions that could have been wiser, relationships that could have lasted longer, opportunities that I didn’t pursue, relationships that lasted too long. But now, at my age, starting over is like having a cold car with a dead battery in the middle of winter. I think you get the drift.

“But what about the white-bearded guy who started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was two hundred years old?” He was too blind to see that his chicken had hair all over it.

Yes, folks, ’tis the season. The holidays are upon us like a thong on a hippo, and they may not be pretty.

So what can pull a po’ ol’ gal out of her heavy-hearted humility?

A party! Sharing food year-round is my way of giving. (I can listen well too.) But eating nutritious fare with friends is one of the best things in life. It makes the sun shine brighter on a cloudy day and the moon look twice as good against a window.

So c’mon and join the Christmas Eve soirée, no matter what your persuasion. ’Cause like a little tree growing out of a chunk of granite, Auntie’s leaving dormancy and sending out (s)hoots.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Conversion to Vegetarianism

Praise God! I never thought I would hear these words out of my daughter. I mean, she’s a tough cookie, extremely opinionated, and unwavering in her beliefs, to a point that I find her insular at times.

So today is a monumental day. After nearly 17 years of life, she is converting.

As she finished dinner—barbequed chicken, rice, and her favorite veggie, corn—Ivy whispered, almost inaudibly, while covering her lips, “I want you to start cooking…(hushed) lentils. I don’t want to eat meat anymore.” Oh, and I might add to her list of characteristics—comedienne, hilarious, and dramatic wild woman.

My eyes widened. “Really? I mean, you joke around with me all the time. You really want to go vegetarian?”

Her eyes wandered to her left as she contemplated this commitment, then transitioned into discussing the movie her video production teacher has been showing them on the horrific abuse and torture of the still-living animals at slaughterhouses. “Yes,” she replied.

“The reason I went vegetarian at 18 was for the same reason. I saw one of those movies too. Even when we were beef farmers, we never raised the one we were going to eat, because we’d get very attached to each of our cows, calves, and bulls.” Plus I had a friend who didn’t eat meat. “You’ll feel better, look better, and be a better steward of Earth!”

But I backslid 27 years later. In 2005 when “that man” joined our family, he took us down the evil path. He was a wolf, a wolverine, a lion—a carnivore. So being the dutiful little wifelet I wanted to be, I began serving roasts and other dead animals. To my amazement, I uncovered a gift I didn’t know I had for preparing these lifeless creatures. I experimented with herbs, spices (my specialty), and marinades I’d concoct. Ooo-la-la, I felt like hot chilies!

And by the next year when “that man” had moved on (with a boot in his arse), I could have gone back to my meatless ways, but Ivy had an affinity for animal carcasses. Being a dutiful little momlet, I continued to permeate our home with these odors.

Ivy also went on to reeducate me about corn’s omnipresence in our lives and as livestock’s unhealthy filler feed. I added that the reason I’ve rarely consumed corn for three decades is because it’s comprised of starch, sugar, and used as filler. When she agreed, I smiled broadly.

Could life be any better? She’s becoming more like me!

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Fish is Dead

My little fish flipped out again, but this time she was out too long. By the time I found her, Angel was harder than the last time and her tail had turned black.

Just the night before I was telling someone fish stories (see about the last time I found her crispy and two flip-outs just this week. She was like the Little Mermaid who wanted to grow legs.

As I slept that night, I worry-dreamed about the fish, and at 6:18 a.m., I flew out of bed, thinking I had heard her hit the floor again. But instinctually I let Shiloh outside instead of checking on my fish. When we came back in, there was Angel on the kitchen rug again. This time I knew she was dead, but because I’ve been able to revive her in the past, I put her in her bowl, held her upright, and prayed.

This time, though, her energy was completely different than all the other times she’d flipped out. Then, a minute later, she slightly moved her gill. Within a half hour, she could keep herself upright, and throughout the day, she improved and the black in her tail turned white again. But it was obvious, her color and personality had declined.

My friend looked at the fish, shook his head, and said, “She’ll be—”

“No! Don’t say it!” I cried.

His mom used to raise fish for Colorado Springs pet stores and had numerous aquariums that she constructed, so he knew what a dying fish looked like.

All night the worst thoughts pervaded my mind. At midnight Angel was barely alive. I had more strange dreams. By three she was sideways on the bottom.

I have never handled death well. My connection to everything is so strong that I feel subtle energy emanating from not only humans and animals but from trees and mountains. Sometimes all this stimulus is too much to deal with. It makes me wonder why I adopt animals…and I won’t anymore.

The night my Nana died, I parted company with her prior to her departure. She had raised me, yet I couldn’t handle being with her at that moment. I’m not sure I should feel guilty, so I justify my retreat. At the precise moment her spirit left her body, though, I was amidst a crowd and gravitated to a quiet corner where I sat and felt her pass.

When my little yellow Lab and almost human, Alex, transitioned May 20, 2000, I knew the exact second he died and came upstairs to find him. That experience is still one of my worst. Not sure I could even write about it. No matter who dies, I know I’m partially to blame. And I should have gotten my little fish a different bowl.

I will bury Angel in my rose garden and never forget her. I will still hear her noises—the small ploop, ploop sounds of her eating or blowing bubbles, the foraging between stones to find fallen food. I’ll miss looking into her bowl and greeting my little fishy-poo—’cause that girl had personality.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009


Practically all year they graze and drink together, walk side by side or in single file, keep each other company, and even lick each other…or themselves…because they can.

But when the leaves fall and the smell of crisp, dry foliage fills the air, they become, shall we say, frisky and downright mean toward each other—and anything else in their way.

Rutting season is here. It’s when I feel trapped in my house and don’t hike for fear a buck will charge, ’cause they never pay cash.

On a recent hike, one scoped me while Shiloh was off trail relieving himself. When my hiking buddy calmly said, “Turn around,” and I saw this 14-pointer leap over the wood fence aiming toward me, I almost relieved myself. Fortunately, he made an abrupt 120-degree angle and headed up the hill. What a relief.

And yesterday when a 5 by 5 (ten tines on his beams) looked through our garden-level window, his knees at my eye level, and he started scratching the ground, lowering his ears, and steering his rack toward me, I closed the blinds.

He then turned left, snorted at his contender on the other side of our fence, and Mr. Testosterone Two, in turn, wheezed his reply.

Elks bugle; mule deer wheeze through their noses like elephants trumpeting through their trunks (sec 0:17 on clip). Hormones drip from their noses. I saw it. As many times as these powerful animals have been in our yard, I have never heard them make that sound.

All day long, they engaged in a standoff, each on one side of our fence, posturing like little kids who have to pee. Hindquarters lowered, knees bent inward, small movements back and forth, eyes watering, then a quick rearing of the head with a snort.

What a tedious chore this hostile escalation is. Occasionally, one of the adversaries will lie down and drink a beer, while the other rolls his eyes and exhales, miffed because he was so close to engaging. These two are proof that evolution can go in reverse. They’re supposed to be challenging each other for female access, but yesterday no does were to be seen in our yard.

At dusk, with the smell of musk overpowering the aroma of cracked leaves, I heard the neighbor dog whimper and felt the earth move beneath my chair. “Quick!” I shouted to my daughter, and we ran to the living room window. There were Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, horns locked, buck snot flying, doing an intimate tango, and destroying one of my gardens.

Crack! Two large pieces of pottery holding my stand of parsley ruined. Over bricks and flagstone, scraping and dragging their hooves across the ground, they forced each other from one side of our yard to the other. While it was as exciting as the Thunderbirds flying over the house, it was clear how much these horny deer could destroy.

Finally, one sperm donor heard his mommy calling him home for dinner, so he extricated himself from the lovelock and sprinted east through the woods, his hungry rival trailing close behind.

So now my backyard looks like the war zone it was. Jack-o’-lantern remains are strewn about. Deep, muddy gouges slice through the carpet of green grass. Flagstone is scratched white and peppered with mud. Chunks of fur lie on the grass and rock.

And the dazed doofi didn’t even leave me an antler.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Golden Years (my ass)

When I was young, it drove me crazy that older people—usually my boyfriends—would turn their conversation around to their health. Well, it wasn’t really about health, it was their lack of health. Dialogue gravitated to aches, pains, their wives, and what didn’t work that used to, how they used to be able to do something they no longer could, and how hard it was to keep up.

That was during a time when I’d rather have been talking about whose parties were coming up, sales I’d made, music I’d played, weekend jaunts I’d taken or planned, dinners, and sex. Now those topics were exciting.

Even ten years ago I said, “I’m so much more comfortable with myself as I get older. I look better, feel better, and have more confidence. But now? You know what I think of “the golden years”? They suck like a pool drain. I hate getting old. What makes it even harder is that I’m still a teenager in my brain.

But when I hit 49, the declining-health talk I’d formerly cringed at began to eek out of me when I spoke. It’s not as if I planned it, it simply emerged. I began talking about what was happening to my body: cells that needed to be destroyed, movements that weren’t being inspired, not feeling like a hottie, shrinking boobs. And whereas talking about bodily events used to lead to interesting discussions, the exchange became more of a dirge.

And you know that phrase “There are those who do it and those who talk about it”? I was talking about it. By choice. I got so self-conscious about all the purportedly uncontrollable* things going on in my body that I couldn’t imagine being too close to someone, not even the dog.

If this rings any bells with you, we’re part of the same club. The dreaded Silver Club, like a golf club—not the building, the silver rod with a mallet at the end to hit balls with. Hard, ’cause you’re so pissed off. How can you feel so young in your brain yet have a body that looks and acts so different, so old?

When I aged another year and joined Club 50, I decided to view the physiological changes as natural and not fight them. You know, start loving myself in this evolutionary stage. For 50, I figured I didn’t look too bad anyway. ’Course I need glasses. Plus the only person who sees me in the morning is my daughter, and she’s way past the shock.

So what do I do with the wrinkles around my eyes? Fill ’em with makeup. When the inner tube that used to be a stomach area gets too big, I wear long shirts. I use the little bumps that used to be my boobs as an excuse for not wearing a bra. Really, what’s the point?

When my pants feel tight, I don’t wear any. And because I work from home, when I look old, fat, and unacceptable, I can forgo being seen, except of course by the critical chick in the mirror. But I’m learning to ignore her criticism. (She-devil.)

So if you see a caulked-up, long-shirted, brassiereless gal wearing no pants, walking her dog, don’t think, Whoa! There’s a golden girl who’s lost her marbles. Think, teenager. Think, Woodstock. Think, titillating!

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

* purportedly uncontrollable: I’ll elaborate on this topic later.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Soldier in Hiding

In 1953 my friend was stationed at the Fort Ord army base in Monterey, California. By that time, he’d already graduated from college with a bachelor’s in music, had lived through basic training, and was enrolled in the army’s clerk school.

After a short stint in the army, he and another private were promoted to a different unit and ordered to collect their personal items. Together they headed to the barracks to pack. When they arrived, they quite unexpectedly found a young private already in the barracks, which was forbidden without permission.

As my friend and his cohort gathered their belongings, they occasionally glanced to the barracks’ other side, trying to ascertain why the other private was there. When they heard voices outside, all three men turned and looked out the window and saw two captains approaching.

Frightened, the obviously prohibited private jumped into his wall locker and shut the door.

The captains strolled in, and conversation indicated there would be a changing of the guard. Protocol dictated that an outgoing officer review equipment and tour the buildings with the incoming one, so the assuming officer would learn the ropes.

As the outgoing captain walked and talked through the routine, he casually opened a locker for inspection—the one containing the scared private. Noticeably shocked, but maintaining his composure, the captain said, “Soldier! What are you doing in there?”

The young man sheepishly drawled, “I don’t know, sir.”

With that, and trying to suppress his laughter, the captain closed the locker door and continued with his instruction.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bee Dipper

Adam’s Mountain Café has grown from a quaint, eclectic restaurant in Manitou Springs, Colorado, to a more cosmopolitan, cultured enclave in the old Spa Building, on Manitou Avenue, the street where it first began.

During the 25 years I’ve dined there, the chefs have continued to create amazing dishes with a classy flair. Primarily known for exquisite vegetarian fare, they also serve tasty dead animals too. With nuts, cheeses, herbs, spices, and sauces, they transform ordinary into an extraordinary expression of flavors.

On a cool summer day, our friend treated my daughter and me to lunch. It felt so good to get out of the house and have someone wait on me. When the waiter brought our beverages, I inhaled the steam from my warm peppermint tea and began to thaw.

I drew the ceramic honey bowl closer to me and removed the notched cover, so I could drizzle some sweet stuff into my tea. As I lifted the little wooden honey dipper, I watched the viscous liquid slowly cascade back into the bowl.

When the dipper was almost drained of its honey, I leaned in to get a closer look. It appeared something was stuck to the wood.

After my eyes focused better, I giggled and said, “Look! Isn’t this a clever idea. This honey dipper has a bee as a decoration to keep the honey from falling so fast.”

My daughter looked into the bowl, then inquisitively at me, “It is a bee, Mom,” she said, “but it’s still a great idea.”

So the moral of the story is, look closely at food or drink before moving it past your lips, because recently, in the middle of the night when I drank my water, I swallowed a spider.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Psychopaths, Spiders, and Hotrods

A reader called Hotrod responded to my “Internet Dating” story with some astute points that have made me reconsider my narrow viewpoint, so I encourage you to read his comment.

I would agree, psychopaths are everywhere, and there is no requirement for honesty, whether you meet someone in person or online. And I should know. I had a financially disingenuous guy in my life for a year. His deceitful behavior cause creditors to call my number and send collections notices to my mailbox continuously—after four years of my boot in his arse. It’s extremely disheartening to know that I could make such a poor choice, like if I shopped at Wal-mart.

Hotrod asked, “How is it that your hot tub has so many strangers happening by for you to meet?”

Thank you for asking. Here’s a story of only one stranger in my tub that I can recall. One eve I jumped into the hot tub for a little plumping. I slid into the lounge, closed my eyes, and meditated for a while, when I sensed something behind me. Slowly I turned around, and there, inspecting the color of my roots, was a sweet little gray jumping spider with furry legs.

I said hello with my eyes, six fewer than my new acquaintance’s, and he greeted me. Rather than acting frightened, he moved closer to the end of my big nose, which was still quite a distance from my eyes. His forward nature intrigued me, so I pulled my finger out of the water and moved it toward him. This made him jump back a few spider lengths.

He sensed I wasn’t a predator and was as curious as he, so we performed the meeting dance. Finally he indicated he had dinner to catch, made a right turn, and cascaded down the tub’s wall.

I was so fascinated by my little visitor that I went upstairs and learned about jumping spiders. Though their field of vision is narrow, it is incredibly sharp.

A characteristic I find most interesting is that they have an internal hydraulic system. They alter the pressure of their blood, which extends their limbs, and it enables them to jump 20 to 80 times their body length. Wherever the spider goes, it tethers a silk filament to whatever it is standing on, so if it falls, it can climb back up. [Taken from] Cool!

And these little creatures are stalkers. They use the features God gave them to hunt, see, pounce, and bite. So next time I meet my acquaintance, I may give him a wider berth, in case our meeting dance is really a meating dance.

Here’s another informational site:

Now I ask, with an epithet like Hotrod, would you find cool chicks at the racetrack? With a name like Eartha, I look up to the sky.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009


In 1953 my friend was in the army’s basic training at Fort Ord in Monterey, California.

I’m pretty certain I could not live through the rigors of basic training, and in fact, some have not, due to the strenuous endurance training our men in the military must survive before moving to the next step.

For eight weeks back in ’53, sergeants drilled our future soldiers who withstood heat, exhausting exercises, mentally fatiguing drills, and obstacle courses only the fit can complete. Without preparation, these can be near-death experiences.

On a hot, humid day, a platoon of men had to do double time during an all-day, on-foot exercise with their gear that included rifles weighing just over 10 pounds. Their burden was beyond tolerable and enough to kill an overheated, dehydrated man.

Miles into this exercise and after walking at a slower pace, the sergeant shouted to the men to pick up their speed, and they began marching at double time again. Many detested this sergeant, a large, surly black man, whose only emotion seemed to be irritation.

A young private, a white man, was noticeably fatigued and appeared to be close to exhaustion. Seeing this, the muscled, temperamental sergeant moved toward him, grabbed the young soldier’s rifle, and carried it for him in addition to his own, then ran by the private’s side for the rest of the exercise.

Such inspiration the sergeant’s action aroused, that all the soldiers had renewed energy and purpose and successfully completed their mission.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Suicide by Bag: Paper or Plastic?

The following story is one I just received from a friend.

I am back working at the suicide prevention hotlines and admissions to the psychiatric unit at our local facility. Although it is often a sad endeavor trying to keep the humblest of God's human creatures alive from day to day, there are some occasional bright spots.

The other night a couple of guys in their mid to late 50s came in. They were brothers, and one of them was bringing in the other for admission.

I asked the potential client/patient why he was there. He told me he had been thinking about killing himself and had planned, and even rehearsed, his method of suicide. This is very sad but true that suicidal people will rehearse killing themselves.

I asked the client what his plan was. After some elaborate detail during which he evaded my question, I finally asked, “How were you going to kill yourself? What were you going to do?”

He replied, “I planned to put a bag over my head.”

I responded with the only thing I could at that moment: “Was it going to be paper or plastic?”

Go ahead, you can laugh. Even the client and his brother laughed.

Sometimes in the tunnel of darkness, there are small lights and great lights. They can either be a train thundering in your direction or lightning bugs sent to amuse. I prefer the lightning bugs.

The man was admitted and is alive to this day.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009


A male friend has always called cats “pussies.” For years I expressed my disgust of the term to him, and after 23 years, I laid down my sword and took his side.

One day I was in a hurry to get out the door and leave with my daughter. Part of the leaving ritual involves getting the cats to the lower level, because I don't trust Piercing, the long-haired cat, upstairs (though I do trust Tattoo, the short hair).

As I scurried about, looking for the cats, I said to Ivy, “Where are the pussies?”

She cocked her head, squinted her eyes at me, and replied, “I think they’re in our pants.”

And so goes life at the zoo.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Internet Dating

Disclaimer: Internet dating has served a few of my friends. In fact, at least two of my guy friends have married their cyberlovers. One’s still in love, but the other gave his back.

I’ve always thought Internet dating was a freaky way to meet someone. I can imagine the headline: “Unsuspecting Girl Meets Clutter-Freak Psychopath via the Internet.” Considering I’m a mom, I am superselective about whom I drag home by the hair. And I probably wouldn’t knowingly date a guy who does iDating.

If by fat chance I were to meet someone, I’d probably be doing something I enjoy, such as eating in a decent restaurant, hiking, perusing in a bookstore, grocery shopping, socializing, shooting pool, singing, playing guitar, tasting wine, sitting in my hot tub, or writing.

As a matter of fact, I did meet someone, or something, in my tub and at the grocery store. More in upcoming stories.

But writing it was when I met my match.

In October 2008, I e-mailed a Neighborhood Watch update to about 66 neighbors in the area, many of whom I’ve never met but who have asked to be on my mailing list.

One kind person thanked me for my work and shared some insight about the neighborhood that I found valuable, so I e-mailed back, asking more questions. Well, that e-mail led to another and another, and we, quite innocently, started our relationship.

It turns out we had mutual friends and enemies, shared complementary problems, so we could help each other, and we encouraged each other as no one else would have. We have been open, honest, giving, sharing, and when we disagreed on a couple of issues, we recovered quickly.

It wasn’t until June 2009, when I needed professional advice on how to help a friend, that we finally spoke briefly on the phone.

But it’s as if we don’t want to break the spell, and we haven’t met in person. But I consider my iDating match Gayle a true friend, even if she isn’t a member of the opposite sex.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Scotland Bomber Released

My hiking buddy asked me what I thought of releasing the convicted Lockerbie, Scotland, bomber, because he is terminally ill with prostate cancer. Although former Libyan secret service agent Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi has maintained his innocence, he was handed a life sentence for murdering 270 people around Christmastime 1988.

My thought? Release him from a jet at 27,000 feet over the Atlantic—100 feet for every person whose life was lost.

But what if he really wasn’t guilty?

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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It’s so much fun to do things that are on the fringe, like wearing whipped cream, not wearing panties, and streaking. Most of us have stories from our high school or college years that would make our parents (or kids) cringe.

Streaking slid out of vogue soon after the song “The Streak” was released in 1974, yet even recently I’ve thought, What would the neighbors think if I dashed outside naked? Would they turn me in? Would they think I fell off my rocker? Would they even notice? It’s not that I’m as proud as I can be of my anatomy, as Ray Stevens sang. Frankly, I’m quite boyish in my appearance. The act would be for effect.

Naturism is a part of many cultures, even in a few spots in Colorado, where there are vacation spas and pools, such as Mountain Air Ranch and Orvis Hot Springs, where it’s clothing optional.

For years I had a recurring dream. I’d be changing from my gym uniform into street clothes in our junior high girls’ locker room when, all of a sudden, the bell would ring, girls would rush, and I’d end up sprinting to my next class, shall I say, without my books and normal looks. I was mortified and couldn’t find my way back to the locker room, so I’d dart aimlessly, overexposed, amid a gawking student body.

I’ve talked with others who have had almost the same dream. Fears. Or is it a desire to do something we’re not supposed to do?

Back in 1974 or ’75 my cousin Hope was having a slumber party. We girls started talking about streaking, and eventually devised a plan for one of us to streak. Being the odd one of the bunch and three years older than the others, they voted me Most Likely to Streak.

So, I slipped on horizontal-striped socks and a trench coat. Don’t think dirty old man, think, skinny blonde with legs up to her neck.

The plan: My cousin’s friends would accompany me to the designated Release Spot on seldom-traveled Trump Lake Road. When a designated girl would yell “Now!” I’d drop the coat, the girls would catch it, and they’d follow me, in case someone drove around the curve. That way they could cover me quickly.

What I didn’t know was that these clever little defectors had a different plan.

“Now!” someone yelled. I dropped my coat and started running. But their giggling voices were moving farther away. Rather than catching my coat and acting as my entourage, the little traitors ran with my coat in the opposite direction!

When I turned to see them running away from me, I gasped! Oh my gosh! What am I gonna do?!

Realizing I couldn’t catch them and not wanting to sprint in my birthday suit alone on the road, I decided to run for cover. Though I was closer to my aunt and uncle’s home, getting caught in this predicament was more punishment than I could handle, so I decided to run into the neighbors’ summer home.

I opened the side door, flew through the kitchen, and gasped again as I saw poor, sick, little Joe raising a spoon of Corn Flakes toward his mouth. His eyes grew as big as his bowl, he dropped his spoon, and I leaped into their bathroom. “Hi, Joe,” I cautiously peeped from behind the bathroom door.

A while after I heard him push in his chair and walk upstairs, I wrapped myself in a towel and headed back to my aunt and uncle’s—to devise a familial redress.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Between a Wall and a Toilet

For years I’ve said, “I’d rather clean a toilet than paint.”

I’m not sure when my aversion to painting began, but it could have been when I painted my Nana’s house, the summer “Afternoon Delight” was released. Let’s see. I had just turned 17.

Being a singer who loved the outdoors, painting Nana’s large home emerald green while earning a little green seemed ideal. Enough space and trees separated her home from the neighbors, so I could belt out the high notes without any apologies.

The worst part of the two-week job was on the last day. And believe me, it wasn’t because I was sad to be almost done. I was exhausted, my arm ached, and I really started hating the color green, which for an ecologist-environmentalist is sacrilegious.

During the final days, I ascended and descended the ladder numerous times as I painted the trim white. Finally, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, I was delighted to be on the last side, a short one.

As I climbed the ladder and lifted the paint can up to set it on the fold-out tray, my aim was a negative attitude off. I hit the side of the tray causing the can to tip, slosh, then fall out of my grip. I watched in slow motion as white paint glopped all over my emerald green work. I screamed.

Painting is not just about coating a surface with a liquid. It’s also about preparation, gathering the needed materials, and cleanup.

The interior of our current house was looking shabby last year. I knew that touching up the white baseboards would perk up the place, but I had to tease myself into the job. First I got the can out and set it on the kitchen counter. Three weeks later it remained unopened, so I put it away. Three weeks after that, I went into the garage and shook the can, then put it back.

“How does Joanne do it?” I asked aloud. My former flatmate painted rooms all the time. Wild thing.

Finally I thought, Maybe I’m scared of big brushes! So I shook the can, cracked it open, slipped on latex gloves, and started painting baseboards with a small watercolor brush. Sure it took longer, but cleanup was a breeze.

Eventually, I graduated to using a small rag moistened with paint to complete the baseboard project. I felt empowered!

By Christmastime 2008, I bit the bullet. I hadn’t remodeled my daughter, Ivy’s, room in five years, so I decided to Africanize it. Bed, Bath & Beyond had a fabulous sheet and comforter ensemble, a friend donated African fabric and a vase, and another friend allowed me to enlarge and frame photos he shot in Africa. Ivy’s dad contributed a new ceiling-light cover, and all that was left to set the scene was paint.

On Christmas Eve I suggested terra cotta for the color, which Ivy and I decided should be on two adjacent walls. I spread most of the paint with a spongy applicator. Oh my gosh! It turned out beautifully. At night when she illumines her room, a warm glow flows into the hallway, creating a warm, inviting welcome.

I was on a roll, preparing mentally for my next project.

There were two special paints I’d purchased in 2005 to match my dining room furniture—cerulean and mauve. The plan: Atop the one tan wall, I’d use a rag to create a design with the cerulean. Once dry, I’d rag on the mauve, so the colors would bring out those in the chairs.

The plan never materialized. But as I lay in my bed one morning, I realized those colors would look good in my room too. After thinking about this for several months, I did it!

The result? Everyone who sees it is in awe. My real estate agent even said, “People pay thousands for work like this!”

I might have to start singing a new commode-free tune: Rubbing moist liquid on a bumpy or smooth surface can be an afternoon delight and create ecstatic results.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Friday, August 7, 2009


What’s the first thing you think of when someone says, “I just turned 50”?

Maybe you wonder if they scheduled their colonoscopy. It’s the second stage in the rite of passage; the first is admitting that you actually are 50.

The week before my procedure, I brought up the topic to everyone I met. At a wine and music event, I sat at a table with folks who’d endured more than one colonoscopy. All of them said it’s no big deal. But the day before isn’t any fun.

So the day before “the day before,” I ate very little. And on Sunday when I was allowed nothing but clear liquids, it wasn’t much different from Fridays, when I generally don’t eat. Preparation C, for “cleanout,” also consisted of four tablets of “the worldwide no. 1 selling overnight laxative,” Dulcolax, which on me acted like pepper triggering a sneeze: It was not an overnight phenomenon. My neighbor’s advice of staying home and not going to the neighborhood potluck was sage.

A couple of hours after swallowing Dulcolax, I was directed to pour seven doses of MiraLax powder into 64 ounces of chartreuse-colored Gatorade. MiraLax is polyethylene glycol, a synthetic resin used as a solvent or wax. I’m guessing in this case, it’s not wax. In the drug facts, it reads, “Stop use and ask a doctor if you get diarrhea.”

Kind of ironic.

Because I’d consumed so much liquid already, I had little room for much else, yet after three hours, the Gatorade was gone, along with everything inside me.

The next morning at 4:30 I was back at the bottles—MiraLax and Gatorade. My tongue fell out of my face at 6:10 a.m. No more.

Showered and lighter, I floated next door to Bette’s for a lift to the gas blower. You know how some women have a husband to take them to doctors’ appointments? Well, I don’t need a husband—I have Bette.

In the waiting room, we waited. When nurse Kris called my name, we jumped up and went into a preparation room. “I’m scared,” I told Kris. “I’ve never had an IV before. Do I have to have drugs? Do you know how much to give me? I’m rather skinny. Have you lost anyone yet? Why would you want this job?”

Nurse Kris patiently answered my questions. “You don’t have to be sedated. Would you like to have the procedure done without drugs?” Her tone of voice and expression formed my reply.

“Maybe not,” I whimpered.

“And who’s this with you?”

“Bette. She’s my confidante, neighbor, and drives the short bus for me.”

“So is it all right if she hears all the bad news that the doctor might tell you?” she sort of asked.

“Oh yes, please. All the news from North Korea too.”

“Okay. Take off your clothes and put on this cute little gown that exposes your rear,” Kris sweetly ordered. “Be right back!”

While she was gone those two minutes, I said to Bette, “What do you suppose is behind these curtains?” I peeked around the side to find sliding glass doors, a hallway, and another room across the hall that looked like a laboratory. Suddenly I felt as if I were in a university hospital and a whole class planned to observe my procedure from the hallway, giggle, and make anatomically correct comments about my hemorrhoids.

Kris skipped back in, pulling me out of my nightmare. “Now lie back on the bed and relax.”


When nurse number two walked in, I realized they were ganging up on me for the kill. “This is Elizabeth,” Kris announced. “She’ll be inserting your IV and feeding tube.” I could picture the straitjacket with a chink cut out for my butt hole.

“Will it hurt? I think I hear my daughter calling me.”

“No, it’s nothin—”

“Ouch! How long will this hurt?” Elizabeth, pretending to be mute, strapped the needle hole to my arm with several rounds of tape. I was stuck now. “It still hurts,” I whined. I noticed the pleasure she took in using my body as an oversize pincushion. Bet she’s mad at her boyfriend.

Behind me, Kris kindly interrogated in rapid-fire succession. “When was the last time you ate solid food?”

“I think, a month ago.”

“When was your last drink of liquids?”

“I had a shot of tequila at 6:10 this morning.”

“Have you had any aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs in the past week?”

Drugs, that’s what I forgot. “No.”

“Have you any allergies?”

“Onions,” I said, “and men. That’s why I have Bette here.”

They liked that. “Do you have a family history of colon cancer?”

“My family’s full of it,” I honestly replied.

“Wheel ’er in!” Back flew the curtains, slide went the glass door, and whoosh went the gurney on which I rode.

“Never been on a gurney before!”

In the laboratory I met Gail, the drug-prep nurse. I suddenly felt like a character in Young Frankenstein. We chit-chatted about painful topics, probably to get me in the mood.

Then I felt something move inside of me. “I think I have to go to the bathroom,” I told her.

“We have a suction.”

“Oh? What are you doing with all those needles?” I hesitantly asked.

“I’m preparing your drugs.”

Then I heard someone waltz in behind me and slide over to the sink by the window. As she washed her hands, I asked, “Are you Sue the doctor?”

“Yes, I am!” the perky little 15-year-old blonde answered, then pranced over to me. As she sat down and looked at me, she asked, “So why are you here today?”

“I’m here for the interview. Did you clean those instruments?”

“Yes. And are you having any problems?”

“Well, I may have irritable bowel syndrome, because you know as we get older, we have fewer enzymes to digest— What are you doing with that needle?!”

“Oh, I’m just putting a little sedative in you,” the little bombshell said as she injected Versed and fentanyl in me.

“I’m really small, so you don’t have to put very much in,” I uneasily offered. “And I’ve been having pain right here, and I’m thinking maybe it’s my colon and not my left ovary and…” I crashed.

I faintly heard, “Can you roll over on your left side for me?” I grunted and rolled like a beached whale. I did feel a sharp pain when they turned on their gas blower.

“Bette!” I eeked when I awakened in the first room. “How long have I been here?”

“About 15 minutes.”

“Am I going to live?”


So I slipped on my sundress, opened the door, and in my Versed-induced hypnotic state said thank you to everyone and wiggled my butt to the car. I think.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fresh Versus Bottled Water

Reading the local Gazette, I see that Colorado leads in fitness, yet our fitness seems to be physical, not mental. In some ways, we Coloradans are as clogged as a sluggish bowel.

If you’ve traveled to other places in the world, maybe you’ve tried their water. In Mexico, it tastes like tequila; in Germany, beer; in France, wine; in Scotland, scotch; in Iraq, trouble.

No matter where I’ve visited, I have never had water as good as it is in Colorado Springs. Nestlé must agree. They want to buy Chafee County Colorado’s water and bottle it under the Arrowhead label.

Bottled water. Why don’t people think before they do things?

Pour good, fresh water into an outgassing petroleum container and take a swig. Not quite the same, is it? It’s awful, empty, and tastes like (gasp) plastic. With the world’s thirst for oil and plastic, though, bottled water slides past gums like petrol through an Expedition.

After drinking the contaminated serving or two, many still throw bottles in the trash! Makes me want to slap someone. Hard.

According to the Gazette, the national average for recycling waste is 28.5 percent. Coloradans recycle only 12.5 percent of our waste. Laziness.

In general, American water is safe to drink from the tap. We’re running into leeching problems in the eastern states where the infrastructure is old, but we typically try to keep water flowing as purely as possible. That’s what our tax dollars are for. And when we run out of tax money, we just print more.

The recession has been such a blessing. People are finally buying less, so there will be less excess crap to fill.

People are opting for birth control, rather than bringing another person into the world who would need space, food, water, and all the ancillary junk humans accumulate. Sometimes people act like bowerbirds adorning their nests with colorful shells and feathers that will be discarded after the children have flown away.

Whatever happened to common sense?

I hope that bottled water is banned, unless there is honestly a reason to drink from a plastic bottle.

But I can’t imagine beer or wine mixed with the taste of plastic.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Party Games

Saturday night at dusk, my daughter and I heard people hootin’ an’ hollerin’. I glanced over at my daughter and gave her my best “oh well” look. She said, “It’s obvious someone’s playing a rousing game of pin the tail on the donkey.”

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Silence and Its Antithesis: the Barking Dog Syndrome

If I were a dog, I’d be the type that people would only hear barking when there was a reason to bark, like if I saw a cute guy or spotted a skunk or heard a mountain lion or was upset with my owner for not giving me a juicy bone.

And I’d wag my tail a lot—particularly after I barked at the cute guy.

I would not bark garrulously, for fear someone wouldn’t like me, or would walk away and not say why, or would kill me. Like most, I lack complete confidence. I’d do my best to behave, so hopefully others would like me.

Last year we had a lot of burglaries in our region, so perhaps homeowners bought dogs to protect their property. But like car alarms that only seem to go off on non-break-in occasions, barking dogs don’t seem to be alerting anyone to danger.

The dogs and their owners in my home’s vicinity must have their fur stuffed with groundless confidence, because all I hear is obnoxious, incessant, peace-draining barks. Sometimes perpetual barking fills what should be our night’s silence. I hear more noise than a bar filled with bikers and a band on a Friday night.

I must be the only one who hears the commotion, though, because if someone lived even a couple of houses from any of these abhorrent dog owners, they would conquer the explosive cries with a neighborly little chat or love note, right?

But I live two or three blocks from these thoughtless meatheads and know not precisely where they are. You see, many of the barking-dog owners in a three-block radius of my home sense when I put my jammies on. They know I won’t venture out in the dark wearing jammies to hunt them down.

But soon I may. The mercury is rising.

Oh my God! This just happened. It’s 11 p.m. Two dogs have been barking at each other like jealous boyfriends for 10 minutes. A shot just rang out. Not a firecracker or bottle rocket, a shotgun sound—and the dogs aren’t barking anymore. Hmm, silence : )

Is there something wrong with silence? Apparently the law thinks peace is a good thing.*

The other evening as I prepared to sit in my hot tub, a backyard neighbor’s high-pitched-yipping dog indicated displeasure with its life via uninterrupted yapping for 12 minutes. Mindless little moron.

Preparing to help its yelp with a little pop of the pea shooter, I summoned my strength and opted for a little silence-breaking soliloquy myself.

“No!” I yelled out the window. The pinhead barked a little louder—then went inside.

Minutes later while sitting in hot water, a retriever-sounding dog wailed and screamed and sounded as if it were being castrated without aid of brandy just four houses east of the first dog. I decided to pour vinegar on its wounds later, but first loudly sang, “Staaahaaaaaaaap!” (That’s an elongated “stop,” but if I’d typed a series of o’s, it would look like “stoop.”)

Shortly after my song, the dog stopped—then went inside.

My home should be my sanctuary. Things in my midst should evoke peace. That’s not been the case.

I wonder, 
Am I the only one who hears these dogs yelp?
Are these dog owners deaf?
Are the neighbors of these owners deaf?
Are these dog owners ever home?
Do these rude dog owners give a hoot whether their neighbors three blocks away can’t sleep all night because their dog barks and lives without the attention it apparently needs?
What about all the neighbors in between the dog and three blocks away?

If I were a dog, I’d hunt down the owners of neglected and abused dogs and bite them. Real hard.

To the inconsiderados:
Your dog is driving us nuts,
and frankly, we haven’t the guts
to say to its face
“you’re invading our space,”
so perhaps you would do it for us. Amen.

I’m thinking about starting two new services:
(1) I’ll post barking-dog videos with addresses on Auntie,
(2) for $10, I’ll send an anonymous letter with a nicer poem, or just the letter of the law, to the person you request.

Let’s hear your story of how you got a dog owner to stop his or her dog’s barking.

Remember: It is not the dog’s fault.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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* For El Paso County, Colorado:
Is there a set time that animals are allowed to bark?
Per the City/County ordinance an animal is not allowed to bark and disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood at any time, day or night. Please visit the Animal Control Ordinances page for more information.
Barking Dogs
Incessant barking can be very disturbing to the peace and quiet of a neighborhood. In addition, it violates County ordinances to harbor such a disturbance. If your neighbor's noisy pet is habitually disturbing you, please call the Humane Society at 473-1741 to learn about possible courses of action.

City/County Law
It shall be unlawful to own or keep a dog which, by barking, howling, baying or other utterance, disturbs the peace and quiet of the neighborhood. (6.7.115) (Res. 78-136, Sec 16)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Am What I Ate

When I was 24, I sat in front of the mirror with my hairstylist behind me clipping away, and she said, "Wow! You sure eat a lot of carrots."

I slowly turned to view her eyes rather than her reflection and gave her an incredulous look. "How do you know that?"

"Because your skin is orange," she remarked.

It had happened so gradually, I hadn’t noticed the effect of eating the carrots I craved in the morning with my coffee. I was what I ate—orange. Maybe I needed beta carotene, the precursor of vitamin A.

Or maybe I just wanted to be more like my bright, beautiful, orange-haired friend Sue. (I love you : )

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Cheap Date

(I’ve always said I’m a cheap date, but I’ll admit, when it comes to dining, I prefer very nice restaurants and they’re never inexpensive. For every rule there’s an exception, however.)

My friend suggested we go grab a bite to eat. I was hot, hungry, and dressed casually, so we headed down the street to a Texas Roadhouse, certainly not one my regular spots. They had a 35-minute wait, thank goodness, so we left. It was very noisy and we would have had to yell to talk with each other.

We jumped back in the car, headed south, and kept looking for a viable alternative. “Let’s try Estela’s Mexican Restaurant,” he said, and up the driveway we went. The place had always looked vacant to me, although their sign remained up for 16 years.

When we greeted the hostess, she asked, “Can I get your name?”

“Is there a long wait?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she answered. “We’re just taking everyone’s name.”

So my friend, being the smart aleck he is, said, “Schmaltz. Spelled S-c-h-m-o-l-p-f-t-z.”

The hostess’ grin got a little scrunchier while I cracked up and rolled my eyes. Promptly someone escorted us to a table for two.

The place was a whirlwind of activity with more waitstaff than I’ve ever seen in any restaurant. The atmosphere was spirited, positive, fun.

“Coming in!” waitpersons would yell as they approached the dual-swinging doors and entered the kitchen. Unusual, but they didn’t have a mirror to see if another person was coming out. So to avoid smashing a burrito on someone’s bust, they’d shout their arrival.

My friend and I caught up with life’s events, crunched on chips, and sipped water while awaiting our food and watching the flurry of people around us. Our waitress, Ashley, was a delight—friendly, attentive, and she genuinely laughed at all my friend’s quirky comments after I explained that they only let him out for a couple hours each week.

During one of Ashley’s visits to our table, she must have recognized that we were wondering why our dinners were taking so long, and she said, “Your dinners are coming. At least they’re free!” Amid the voices, people running back and forth, and clatter of dishes, I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly, so I just kept smiling and said thank you.

After about a half hour, our meals arrived, steaming hot and smothered in a burnt orange sauce. We dove in. Halfway through, a beautiful woman who appeared to be the owner stopped by and in a breathless, happy tone asked, “How is everything? Are you enjoying your food? And who invited you to our party?”

“Party?” I started to laugh, “We’re at a party?”

“Yes! Tonight is our training night and private party, because we’re reopening!”

I couldn’t contain myself, and the laughter bubbled out of me. “I’m so sorry. We weren’t invited. Are you Estela?”

“No, Estela’s my mother. My sister works here too. We were open for years, then closed for the last nine. But you’re fine. It’s okay,” she said graciously with a huge welcoming smile on her face and perhaps muttering a Hail Mary that we’d vacate our seats soon so the invited guests could dine free.

We’d crashed a party, and the hostess was simply compiling a list of the invited guests who’d shown up. I had tears streaming down my face from semiembarrassment, yet felt overjoyed by this serendipitous faux pas.

My friend left a generous tip for Ashley. Then we thanked our host, Estela’s daughter, and made room for the invited. And I became a cheaper date.

Pretty Schmaltzie.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Should English Be Spoken in the U.S.?

I’m beginning to believe being PC isn’t politically correct anymore.

I was at Gnashing, the sprightly restaurant where I recently had my birthday party, and its manager whom I’ve known for years approached me, asked me to step out in the hall with him for what I expected to be marketing ideas, and shocked me with, “Auntie, someone heard you in the bathroom say through the stall to one of our employees, ‘Speak English. You’re in America.’”

The girl had been talking on her cell phone to someone in Haiti, so her language would not have been too unfamiliar to me, given my heritage.

But really, what would be unjust with saying those words, asked my friend who joined me. Is there something wrong with speaking English, or even Americanized English, while in the U.S.? Knowing the aid and intervention the UN and U.S. have given Haiti in 1994, 2004, and more recently, I would think she’d appreciate Americans.

And if she was supposed to be working, why was she in a public restroom talking on the phone? If I were an employee of an establishment, I’d pay homage to those who paid me—the patrons and my employer—showing public honor and respect, which is a good principle for us all.

If she were truly offended by being asked to speak English, why would she tell her American-born boss? As a friend familiar with the establishment wrote: “I don't know what was said, but you are living in America and people can say what they want! Why didn't this girl say something back to you if it was such a problem???? She could've stood up for herself.”

And isn’t it politically correct to respect the language of the people whose country you are living in? I’m not referring to tourists, who would typically speak their native tongue with a smattering of English, unless they’re European and learn English in grammar school.

But this girl was supposed to be working, so she must be living here.

I said to my world-traveler friend, “If I were going to another country, I’d do the best I could to learn some basics of the language before I visited. In fact before I went to Italy, I practiced with books, tapes, and a dictionary. Even though they couldn’t understand me, they appreciated my feeble attempts.”

He, having visited numerous African countries and China a couple times, several Middle Eastern countries, and Europe and Mexico numerous times, responded, “I always try to learn common phrases before I leave. And though Chinese was somewhat difficult, I worked toward educating myself. People really appreciate that I’m making an effort. It’s always said how rude the French are. Well, when I was there, I did my best to speak their language, and they were very gracious to me.”

It’s about respect.

When asked the question, Do you think people should speak English in America? a female interviewee wrote: “Absolutely, it pisses me off when they speak their native language in public or place of business!”

A man said he’s been to Haiti and they spoke English, though according to a few sources, their languages are Haitian Creole and French. “Don’t you know,” he asked, “that there is a current conspiracy against Americans and that we are seen as evil and must be destroyed?”

All I’m discussing here is that we have the United States Constitution, and I’m defending one’s right to exercise our First Amendment right and support a country with its diverse heritage.

It’s about respect.

In 387 A.D. St. Ambrose said to St. Augustine, “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are.” Eventually his thoughts evolved into “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

The Gnashing manager wants me to apologize to Miss Haiti or I’m not welcome back. Being obsequious, I probably will. But he wasn’t specific about what to apologize about.

Am I sorry for purportedly saying the obvious: she’s in America, in a public place speaking other-than-American-English? for purportedly exercising the Constitution’s First Amendment right? for interrupting her conversation?

Is it okay to speak your mind in a declarative sense, or is Iran on the right track?

Is it PC to speak French in France, German in Germany, French or Creole in Haiti, English in England, American-English in the U.S.?

Please click the comment link below and let me know how you feel. Go ahead—rip me a new one!

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Skiing at Fifty (not miles per hour)

I turned 34 Friday…for the seventeenth time.

So I decided to celebrate by accepting Rick’s invitation to go waterskiing. It wasn’t an easy decision, though, so I stalled by saying, “I have to ask my daughter first. I’ll call you right back.”

Why would I stall saying yes to do something I enjoy?

Fear. If you’re older and don’t do a sport regularly, maybe you can relate. Like golfing, bicycling, or sex, you hesitate because you’re just not sure you can do it anymore.

When I was young, there wouldn’t have been a second thought. I’d just do it. Except back then it was, “Hey, you wanna go night crawler pickin’?” Or “Let’s play hide-and-seek in the cemetery tonight!” Or “Whoa, slow down! I think that was a skunk. Let’s catch it and throw it on the dance floor at that disco bar! Yeah!”

Life was simpler back then.

Realizing the game I was playing with my mind, I called Rick back and said yes, please.

When we were on the water, I also accepted the invitation to be first to ski. I made a series of exaggerated noises: screamed at the cold water, giggled at the huge fish that was going to bite my foot off, grunted as I slid on the tight Jobe, and yelled, “Hit it!”

It was great, refreshing, invigorating, and followed by interesting compliments, like how much bigger my breasts looked when I covered them up with the ski vest. What little ego I have quickly dissipated.

As always, my friend Rick, a filmmaker, actor, voice talent, and fabulous skier included wonderful people: Bud, a very well-known professional piano player here in Colorado Springs; Steve, a young, retired filmmaker from our library district; and Ivy, my daughter.

Next up to ski was Steve, up on two right away! Then Bud, up on two, dropped one, and oh my God! This guy knows how to work a ski! Like a lot of the Wisconsin boys I grew up with, Bud spoke some German, drank PBR, and kept a firm build. But Bud is an exception: He still does all this stuff at 50-something!

Rick has always been a pro at skiing and sort of reminds me of Jesus walking on water. They’re both strong, trim, and dark, but Rick’s faster and much more handsome.

After we had all skied, except Ivy the No Sayer, we ate lunch near my favorite tree, as Rick dubbed it. The tree is the largest in a cluster of several dead, ashen ones rising from deep in the reservoir. As usual, a colony of about 20 double-crested black cormorants perched and squawked like old women at a coffee klatsch. I think of the big, dead tree as Cormorant Commune.

Enthralled, we inched the boat underneath the tree, but when two of us felt moist manna dropping from the sky, we opted to be less intimate with the birds and use our own mayonnaise.

Nearby, another slightly less populated colony sported one blue heron standing in its nest, the priestly knight amidst a Halloween gathering of Grim cormorant Reapers. We saw ospreys, a pelican, yellow-breasted chat (I think), and fish jumping out of the water.

Each of us enjoyed another dance on the water, more bold and reckless than our first rounds. A bunch of fearless old farts with youthful spirits!

Go ahead. Give me another birthday!

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Angel’s Nine Lives, I Pray

I love my little fishy-poo, and evidence has shown, she can feel it. She's low maintenance and has a supercool personality.

While that may sound strange to some (“Gee, you believe fish can think and feel? What a bullhead!”), perhaps I can convince you.

My daughter, Ivy, and I bought two goldfish about the time I began editing as my primary profession versus being a pole dancer, which is kind of like doing a Chinese fire drill only with less space and with a guy named Lapinski.

We bought a large terrarium for our finned friends to call home and placed it on the dining room table. Then we started thinking about what to name our fish.

What is it with humans that make us name things? Heck, I’ve now named all my vacuums: Slick the Panasonic, Wick the Bissell, and Mick the 10-gallon Shop-Vac (Mick, because like Jagger, he has big lips and really sucks). Guys even name their…
ahh, for another time.

As some of us earn our names due to our actions or through our characteristics (sweetheart, dumbshit, honey, numb nuts, bonehead, fartface, buffalo breath), Ivy decided to call the white fish with a red-orange cap Angel and the fiery-looking one Phoenix.

True to its name, within two days, Phoenix appeared to be undergoing a transformation. But rather than burning itself on a funeral pyre and rising from its ashes, on day three, he simply floated to the surface, ashen.

Choosing not to introduce Angel to a disease, we opted to keep her as an only fish. It’s worked well for my daughter—I mean, she has no diseases to speak of—and Angel has seemed relatively content to live as our solitary pet in water. Until recently.

Before I reach today’s climax, I’ll share Angel’s adventures and changes of venue.

While editing at the marble table where our fish resided, Angel would observe me. Whenever she felt ignored, she’d swim to the surface and make bubble sounds at me, like a teenager snapping gum. I’d then give Angel some attention till she felt content to go about her business.

Even my dear friend Kathi said, “We have a lot of fish, but this one has personality. She seems so aware.”

One day while cleaning her terrarium, I used water that was too hot and the glass cracked. Though it didn’t break and held together when empty, I suspect filling it with water would have caused a gusher. So we temporarily placed Angel in a smaller vessel.

Our former man of the house bought a gorgeous, tall glass vase from Michael’s, which we filled with water and inserted a lovely, nontoxic plant with Angel, then placed the vase on the brick hearth.

Life was good for a long time. Tattoo the cat didn’t disturb Angel’s aquatics, and Angel enjoyed sliding along the stem of her tall plant like a stripe on a candy cane.

Then Shiloh the Lab discovered kitty number two: Piercing, the Maine coon and holy terror [see].

One autumn evening while Ivy and I worked at the dining room table, Piercing was inconspicuously observing Angel dancing in her glass confines.

You know the ol’ saying “curiosity killed the cat”? Well, it’s because the cat almost killed the fish, and it upset the humans. Crash! We heard heavy glass hitting brick, immediately followed by a gush of water. I leaped out of my chair.

There on the carpet flopped little Angel.

Fortunately, the fish didn’t flop on broken glass, and Piercing darted without trying to revive the fish. I cried out to Ivy, “Get a bowl of water! Quick!”

I gingerly scooped up the little fishy-poo and let her slide safely into her makeshift enclave. She must have felt like a gypsy. At that point I vowed not to purchase any new glass containers that would make Angel visible to the cats.

I did, however, place her temporarily into another smaller glass vase out of feline view, though it was like putting me in a hot tub—the tight space is wonderful for a while, but after 45 minutes, I feel like a fish in a bowl and want to jump out.

Exploring my cabinets, I decided to house Angel in a large olive-colored chips-and-salsa bowl that our friend Terry gave us. It was thick, sturdy, offered sufficient space for afternoon laps, and provided camo, that is unless a cat leaped upon the counter and peered inside, which would mean sudden death to the curious cat, as earlier mentioned.

But I felt guilty. Angel had shown intelligence when she could look outside her container, and by placing her in a home without windows, she was unable to observe the world around her. Nevertheless, thinking I was keeping her safe from Piercing’s inappropriate behavior, I kept her in the big bowl for a couple years, placing her in a transparent vase only weekly when I changed her water.

Then it happened. She became discontent. And who can blame her. She has a good brain.

One night about a year ago, I changed her water, kept the bowl by the sink, and went to bed. The next morning, I looked in her bowl and saw no fish. So my eyes and body darted over to the temporary holding vase and saw no fish. A brief panic overtook me. I looked in the sink, and there, lying atop the rubber flaps before the sink’s disposal lay Angel, still as death. I cried, “No!” carefully reached down underneath her body, and she flopped!

Soon she was swimming happily as if nothing happened.

Then a couple of weeks ago I could hear her flipping around. Within a short time, I heard a wet flopping noise on the counter. I dashed into the kitchen and gently put my hand around her and put her back into the bowl.

That little goldfish was able to jump up two inches and out another two to leave her space. Sounds like adolescence to me.

Later that same day, she flipped out again! This time she landed on the floor, 39 inches below. Fortunately I was nearby and the cats weren’t, so I scooped her up and put her back in her bowl.

At this point I’m thinking that this really isn’t a goldfish at all. It’s a flying fish with ulterior motives masquerading as a house pet.

Now the sad climax. I changed Angel’s water before I went to bed Friday night, and my gut told me not to put her back into her bowl but to keep her in the temporary holding vase. I didn’t listen to my intuition.

I got up Saturday morning, walked outside with the dog, and came back in to prepare for the animal feeding frenzy. As my eyes glided around Angel’s bowl, I saw no swimming fish. But in the salsa side bowl she lay, still and crispy. Again I cried, “No! Don't die."

I quickly put her in the water and she started slowly spreading her gills and gradually flipping her flippers, but she couldn’t right herself and kept floating on her side and upside down. I gently held her upright in the water for 10 minutes while saying, “please live,” until she could almost hold herself up. Her swim bladder must have been completely dry.

Throughout the day her scales exfoliated as she cautiously swam in the vase on the table, so I could keep an eye on her and give her loving smiles. She even had a small bite to eat. By afternoon, I placed her in fresh water out of the cloud of her own cells, but she sank to the bottom.

Saturday evening I put her back into the chips-and-salsa bowl, where she balanced in the corners. Relieved, she was still alive Sunday, but still staying next to the salsa bowl. So I moved her into a vase, and it enlivened her! And now she’s swimming around wet, wild, and full of verve.

I can tell she’s excited about life, now that she has a 360-degree view, because she has a good brain.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Monday, June 8, 2009


Q: Where on earth can a child be sexually molested and the known perpetrator allowed to continue his behavior for 10 years without being charged?

A: Colorado Springs and the El Paso County Fourth Judicial District.

Q: Where can a grandmother gain custody of her grandchild but not be able to travel without written permission from the unfit mother?

A: Colorado Springs and the El Paso County Fourth Judicial District.

Q: Where can women be verbally, physically, and emotionally abused by their husbands, be sent to three different organizations designed to help women, and still not receive help without police intervention?

A: Colorado Springs and the El Paso County Fourth Judicial District.

Q: When one of the aforementioned organizations hands out a four-page resource list, should the only two numbers you select be operable?

A: Not necessarily in Colorado Springs and the El Paso County Fourth Judicial District.

I love helping people, but sometimes I feel as though my city and county are working against me. Does anyone else feel this way? Auntie’s not feeling real humorous today.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Friday, May 15, 2009


I’ve been in therapy all day, and I’m exhausted. How could something that’s supposed to help be so painful? My body feels like a wrecking ball, my eyelids like iron curtains.

The results from all this hard work should be worth the effort, though.

Fewer dandelions will poke their little yellow heads through my grass. Freshly planted seeds, blessed with water, time-release food, and sunshine will bring new life, a new perspective, vegetables, and herbs. Yes!

I love gardening and yard work. It’s therapy. Earth has given so much to me; you should see my fingernails and hemorrhoids.

Give me an old knife, a pitchfork, and shovel, and Freddy, look out! Every taproot I hold in my hand is a sign of victory. Auntie over Earth. Auntie loving Earth. Auntie showing Earth what can grow in her yard—and what can’t.

When I first bought this property in 1994, it was riddled with ants, weeds, lumps, and slugs. The former residents were too busy with paying work to work toward the big payoff—a beautiful home and yard.

I’m into the old “pride of ownership” thing. If you’re going to own something, you should take care of it, all the way. The benefits are visible and intrinsic. Guests feel more welcomed when a home is nurtured. My daughter and I feel better, because we’re comfortable and our eyes see loveliness.

In 1994, the ants were having the time of their lives. They owned this property. Being a naturist and naturalist, I wanted to let them know how I felt about their presence, naturally, so I bought bags of oranges, ground them in our blender, and poured pulp and juice over the ants’ primary living area, which was everywhere. Orange juice is supposed to cause their little lives to move toward Ant Hill Heaven.

The ants in our yard, however, must have had scurvy, because they led more productive lives with my generous gifts of vitamin C. They’d lick their little lips, burp, take their little legs and wipe their mouths a few times, burp again, and say, “Thank you, Miss Eartha! We knew living here would be heaven.”

So I bought Diazinon. “Oh, good,” they’d murmur, “here comes Miss Eartha with breakfast.” Yum, yum, croak. Darwin, however, is alive and well, philosophically speaking. Survival of the fittest prevails to this day, and God, are they huge!

The lumps in our yard are clay—not the modeling type. The house moves atop the clay as if it were a boat, not brick, and definitely not good for being pulled on water skis. Cracks in the house open when the ground is dry and close when wet, so they primarily remain open.

I don’t want to fill the cracks, because if I fall into a lot of money before I fall out of this house, I’ll have the house leveled—not razed, but pushed back into place, so the house will sit on the same elevation. Right now the north side is at 6,732, and the south side sits at 6,543. Uneven, but we get a decent workout just going to the bathroom.

And the slugs. They’re those oversize snails sans shells. I tried the natural massacre on them too. Pour beer into a shallow tin, which draws them in (hypothetically), then they drown in beer.

A waste of good barley, but I tried it anyway, ’cause if I were to go naturally, why not drown in beer. That way when I’d pass my final fluffer amongst my sluggish friends, I wouldn’t be alive to experience embarrassment.

But the slugs didn’t like the beer I chose. For me, I like a darker, more expensive brew. When I go to the bathroom, I like to know I had a good brew. For the slugs, as when I was in college, I bought Old Milwaukee. Not a bad beer if you’re broke. Our slugs must have been opulent, livin’ the high life.

“No thanks,” they oozed as they slithered along leaving a slimy film in trails in our yard, “contact us again when you’re serving Black and Tan.”

Eventually, through nurturing and poking holes in our soil, the slugs transmogrified into my former boyfriend, but I kicked his proverbial arse out of my home (slapping hand wipe and a whew!).

So if anyone out there would like a group therapy session, I could use the company…and I have very good beer I will share.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It’s All in the Name

My friend has always remarked that his name sounded Chinese. I disagree, but it certainly must be a popular one. I googled “Sam Hall,” and 20,100,000 citations were listed. Most references, I think, are Nigerian, Russian, or Peruvian, well, maybe they’re English, Irish, or Scottish, not Chinese.

Many years ago, Sam was drafted and had to join the army. Though he’d already graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in music, he followed his country’s orders and traveled to Fort Ord, California, via Ontario.

Ontario, California, that is.

Wanting to be the best, most obedient soldier he was capable of being, given his deviant tendencies, Sam modeled exemplary behavior. A week into his duties and in his first formation, Sam joined other platoon members in the marching routine. Keeping rhythm, his posture was as straight as a pianists and he carried his rifle as carefully as he would his prized girlfriend.

During the march he heard someone shout, “Sam Hall!” Startled, he quickly stepped out of formation, not knowing what else to do, and kept walking alongside his platoon. “Yes, sir!” he said.

Discreetly, he glanced around for the lieutenant who would give Sam his next command. But when no instruction followed, he shook his head, presuming he’d heard incorrectly, and glided back into formation.

A couple minutes later, he again heard his name. “Sam Hall!” Thinking, it’s a good thing I’m on the outside of this block of men, or I’d disrupt the rest of the platoon, he jumped out of line, wondering if this time he’d hear the next order. When none came, he strode back into formation.

By the third “Sam Hall” and successive exit from his position, the soldier behind him incredulously asked, “What the hell are you doing?”

Exasperated, Sam said, “Someone keeps calling my name—Sam Hall.”

The guy shot back, “He’s not calling your name, you moron! He’s saying, ‘Stand tall.’”

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009


My dad’s mom was a fiery little Englishwoman. Standing four feet tall and spanning four feet from hip to hip, Grandma could barely fit on the piano bench with her dog, Buster.

Through an odd twist of fate, her immense bottom was complemented with an itty-bitty turned-up nose that fit her humpty-dumpty face like a raisin in the center of a crop circle. She was blessed with bright blue eyes, a milky white complexion, and grandmotherly pearly white hair.

Grandma was peculiar. To compensate for weightiness, or perhaps a lack of sense, she developed quirky behavior to match her quirky features.

The minute we’d come to visit, she would whine a hypocritical story: Jesus saved this and Jesus did that and those rotten neighbors should be…(you can imagine). Then she’d run into the living room of her ancient little farmhouse with high ceilings and start playing “Bringing in the Sheaves,” Buster at her side, howling while she sang.

Even in her later years, Grandma and Buster would entertain elders at the nursing home where she eventually lived, acting like the only child among those her own age. People loved it. She was funny, perpetually grinning, and lively, moving her shoulders left to right as she performed.

She lived a few miles from town where the nursing home and her church were. The Assembly of God was Grandma’s second home, so she could almost do the drive in her sleep. She’d open the car door, jump up on her pillow in the driver’s seat so she could see out the windshield, and go “lickety-split,” as she’d say, into town and back.

Yep lickety-split was the way she did a lot of things. She was a quick one. And dramatic.

On her way home from church one Wednesday night, she jumped up on her pillow and headed for home. Halfway there, she looked into her rearview mirror and saw a car tailing hers. Scared, she sped up.

The more she stepped on the gas, the faster her pursuer drove. It almost looked as if the car had red flashing lights on it, which made her panic. She probably thought Satan had sent one of his angels to thank her for saying bad things about the neighbors. She kicked it up another notch. Lickety-split, she drove like greased lightning.

Finally, she swerved into her driveway, stopped the car, and was ready to run into her house and lock the door, when a policeman walked beside her car.

“Officer!” cried Grandma. “Someone was chasing me, so I drove home as fast as I could!”

“Mm-hmm.” As the policeman wrote out her speeding ticket, Grandma acted as if she were having a heart attack. He politely walked her into her house—and handed her the lickety-ticket, quick.

(Puzzle piece number 38 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

You’re It!

My former roommate used to sell insurance and wanted to make a presentation to her friend Steve.

Both leading active lives, they played telephone tag for a week, leaving messages on each other’s answering machines—Steve less frequently than Joanne. These were the days before mobile phones overcame the world, where there are few places to play hide and don’t find me.

After a week of missing each other, Joanne called Steve’s number and again heard “Hello, Steve isn’t home right now, so Mira is protecting the house. If you’d like to leave a message, however, start speaking after the beep.”

Being an occasional hiking companion of Mira, Steve’s golden retriever, Joanne creatively responded, “This message is for Mira. This is your friend Joanne. Your master has been a bad boy, and I’m very upset with him. I keep calling him, but he doesn’t call me back, so I want you to bite him!”

The next day, the following message was on Joanne’s answering machine: “Grr-ruff, ruff, ruff. Ouch! Grr-ruff, ruff. Ouch!

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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At a local softball game, my friend David and I sat behind the outfielders while Katie, his energetic golden retriever, gamboled about, greeting other spectators.

Two guys offered Katie pieces of hamburger, which she eagerly accepted. One man looked over at David and asked, “Is she registered?”

Without missing a beat, David replied, “No, she doesn’t vote.”

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Skinny Jeans

My friend and I had gotten together for our weekly lunch and were running through the usual topics—work, men, weight.

I was feeling exceptionally thin, having taken off a few pounds, so I said, “It’s great! Every time I put my skinny jeans on, they fit more loosely.”

“Did you ever think of washing them?” she replied.

(Puzzle piece number 37 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Grenade Prank-Stopper

As a freshman at the University of Arizona in Tucson years ago, my dad was constantly aggravated with pranks played on him by Tim, an upperclassman.

After a couple months of Tim’s shenanigans, my dad had his fill. He went to the experimental lab, from which he took a grenade loaded with gunpowder and a smoke-causing substance—nothing lethal, but certainly explosive enough to grab someone’s attention.

Dad then walked to Tim’s dorm, opened his door, and as he threw the grenade into Tim’s room, he calmly said, “Good-bye, Tim.”

Tim never pulled a stunt on Dad again.

(Puzzle piece number 36 of 38.)

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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