Sunshine on My Shoulders

I’d like to be a sun-worshiper, but after today I realize it’s just not in the cards.

Sun-worshipers oil up, grab their beach towels, catch some rays and come back with a tan. I oil up, spend thirty minutes searching for a beach towel, catch some rays and recharge my freckles.


Smart Time

Alarm clock

Image via Wikipedia

I currently own an alarm clock that is smarter than the average human. It automatically sets itself to the right time, has an alarm that can tell the difference between weekdays and weekends, and knows the day of the week without any input from me. Any day now, I suspect it will take control of the DVR — microwave and laser printer to follow.

This latest item in the inventory of intelligent appliances is supposed to make my life better. It joins the ranks of answering machines that arbitrarily delete messages, a computer that cheats at solitaire, and a talking refrigerator. Okay, technically I’m the only one who hears the refrigerator speak, but trust me when I tell you it sounds like an Italian grandmother and says things like: “Look at this cold pizza just sitting here. You are too skinny! Eat!”

Who am I to argue?

While I can’t blame my husband for the fridge, I can blame him for the clock. He bought it and gave it to me as a gift. The jury is still out regarding his motivation. I’m leaning toward self-defense.

See, before the arrival of Mr. Smarty Clock, I used to set my alarm clock precisely nine minutes fast. In a perfect world, this would make sense to people other than me. In this world, all it does is make my husband’s eye twitch and causes him to mutter things I never quite catch.

Obviously, the world is flawed, so I will explain. Math is not my thing. Let’s just say I view math the same way I view handling live insects or piercing my navel with a knitting needle. I can pull it off, but I’d rather not if it’s all the same to you. Ditto for mornings.  See, when I set the clock fast, it forces me to do math. In the morning. Math in the morning. Understand? Just nod. It’s okay.

After two or three snoozes, I either A: get up in order to avoid more early morning calculations, or B: turn the blasted thing off in order to avoid more early morning calculations. The options, albeit limited, are still options. At least they used to be. Now my clock knows exactly what time it is, whether I want it to or not. When I set it nine minutes fast, it corrects itself. If I tell it today is Wednesday instead of Friday, it calls me a liar. Does this make my life easier?

On one hand, I never have to reset the clock if the power goes out, and I have to admit the separate alarm feature is nice. On the other hand, I have now spent countless hours trying to outwit an inanimate object. For the record, this also makes my husband’s eye twitch. Serves him right, I think.

To  simplify my life, this clock would require other special features. Lots of special features. Like something from the Jetsons. I’m compiling a checklist to send to the appliance geeks to help them invent the clock I really need. So far, the system requirements list includes:

  • An alarm with a thunderous, drill-sergeant voice that blasts teens out of bed: WAKE UP, NOW! AND WHILE YOU ARE AT IT CLEAN UP THIS ROOM! IT IS A PIG STY! MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!
  • A microchip allowing me to set an alarm and send the clock into toilet-scrubbing, dog-bathing action. Though not, now that I think about it, at the same time as this could complicate my life more than it simplifies it.
  • A translator diode-thingy to help the clock communicate with the refrigerator and make it quit talking so I can lose a few pounds.

I hope the appliance geeks are listening.


This originally appeared (in slightly different form) in Today’s Woman.

March Madness

P basketball

Image via Wikipedia

Every year, March rolls around and life at my house screeches to a halt as an irrational, semi-rabid man moves in. He takes up residence in the recliner, hogs the remote, and shouts at the people inside the television.

It’s my job to pretend that everything is normal while, in my best soothing voice, saying things like:

“Honey, the referees can’t hear you. It has something to do with them being on the other side of the glass. And four inches tall. And on television.”

This earns me The Look. A scathing glare that suggests I have no idea what I am talking about. That look, with its wild-eyed, laser intensity, may be the exact reason why they call it March Madness.

In fairness, I don’t know what I am talking about. In fact, at this time of the year, I’m usually a basketball widow. I don’t watch the games. I don’t pretend to know the players’ names. Don’t bother me with statistics and shooting percentages. When it comes to basketball, you just have to accept that I do not “get” it. Well, you do if you are anyone other than my husband. For hubby, hope springs eternal. He remains certain I can be converted.

This is a free piece of clipart from http://ww...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always believed being basketball stupid was my way of keeping the universe in balance. As long as I didn’t have  to know anything about the playoffs, hubby didn’t need to get wise about things like, say, mammograms. But, after you’ve been married to a person for so many years, and have spent a goodly portion of that time trying to cure him of madness without success, you begin to take on a “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy.  Madness, it appears, is contagious.

This explains why I decided to toss my dollar into hubby’s office pool during the playoffs last year.

I doubt the amount of knowledge I’ve gained about college basketball will jeopardize the balance of the universe. I did pick up a few important tips on filling out brackets that I’d like to pass along to other non-followers out there.

Tip 1: Teams have names. This sounds like a no-brainer, I know. Of course the teams have names. Serious bracket-fillers know ALL of them, not just the small handful they watch on a regular basis. Apparently, this is a vital part of being able to fill out a bracket. Make flash cards. Study. Your life could depend on it. You just have to trust me when I say it is not in your best interest to have conversations like this:

“Honey? Which team has the little blue men?”


“You know, the little blue men who played the orange guys a couple of weeks ago.”

Baksetball Player With Ball Vector

Image by Vectorportal via Flickr

Tip 2: Take your bracket seriously. Brackets should not be joked about. Ever. I learned this when I came across my husband as he peered intently into his computer monitor.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Filling out my bracket,” he muttered. “This guy at ESPN has a list of who will win each game.”

“So, it is like, what? Your own personal basketball genie?”

He turned away from the monitor long enough to flash me The Look. “This is how I pick my teams,” he said, covering the paper like he was afraid I would cheat and copy his answers. “Why don’t you go fill out your own bracket? Don’t you have some little blue guys or orange men to pick?”

“It’s blue men and orange guys. Besides, mine’s done,” I answered.

“Did you close your eyes and poke the paper with the pencil to pick teams?”

“I would never do anything so silly,” I assured him. However, I said nothing about the Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo system.

It would have earned me The Look.

Tip 3:  The most important tip ever. Once the games start, if your bracket is doing better than your spouse’s, ESPECIALLY if you had to ask him twenty times to tell you which team is made of blue men and which team had the little orange guys, do NOT clap your hands and announce it in a cheerful voice. Do not dance around the room and sing the My Bracket’s Better than Your Bracket song. Do not pump your fist in the air and say things like “Booyah! Take that, ESPN basketball genie!”

Trust me. The end result? Madness.

This piece originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Today’s Woman magazine.

Just Call Me Fingers

An alphanumeric computer keyboard.

Image via Wikipedia

I’m a writer by trade and spend a lot of time at a keyboard. You might not recognize it as a keyboard, as most of the letters have completely rubbed off over the years. Q is still recognizable, as are J, Z, X, and for some odd reason, P. The rest of the keys have either been rubbed blank, or have miniscule traces of the letters that used to live there. Anyway, I tell you the condition of my keyboard to show that I use it. A. Lot. One very used keyboard. On my desk.

Yesterday it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t be using it so much. Or that I should really pay attention to the words I’m making with it.

While working on a piece about creative writing, I typed the much more imaginative “creative writhing.” I’m reasonably certain that those two terms should never be used interchangeably unless it involves some sort of porn script. As it is, I can’t get this imagined conversation out of my head.

“Hello, what do you do for a living?”

“I do creative writhing.”

“Can I watch?”

Um… right.

Frog Talk

Copyright 2011  Barbara A. Tyler
With love, to my favorite frog.

A frog eye in its protruding eye socket, close up.

Image via Wikipedia

Buried inside me is a closet romantic. I keep her locked up like a mad aunt, but every now and then I hear her tapping on the walls. She doesn’t read steamy novels or watch 10-hanky tear-jerkers on TV. She doesn’t need rose petals on the coverlet or strolling violins. When my romantic gets loose, all she really wants is quiet conversation. She doesn’t care if I kiss the frog and he becomes a prince.  She’d rather I kissed the frog and he learned to stay up talking until three in the morning.

Despite my best efforts, my frog seems more devoted to snack foods and ESPN than to the art of conversation. While I’m talking about happily ever after, he’s nodding agreeably and looking for cheese in a can.

I recently peeked around my frog’s sports page. “We never talk,” I said.

“We talked yesterday,” my husband shrugged.

“Discussing what’s for dinner isn’t talking.”

“My lips were moving,” he said.

He doesn’t get it. It’s not just about talking. It’s about communicating. Connecting. Being in the same flow as another person. it’s about knowing the right words and getting them out into the air where they can breathe. It’s about love. If my frog loved me and wasn’t keeping me around just to wash his socks, wouldn’t he talk to me?

I don’t mean he never says anything. He speaks. He talks about work, sports and the kids’ next dentist appointments. He’ll name his wishes for the grocery list and bounce around the social agenda until it fits the space on the calendar. So technically, he’s speaking to me. He’s just not saying the right things.

“He’s not following the script again, eh?” my girlfriend says over the phone. Exactly.

See, my inner romantic is also a scriptwriter. She writes beautiful lines for my frog: “How awful! What happened then?” “No, I don’t think you are being whiny.” “Don’t worry, I love you anyway.” All my frog has to do is say them. Instead, he says, “Stop being silly. What’s for dinner?” This frustrates me. I know what he’s supposed to say. Why doesn’t he?

I could tell him, but it spoils the mood when I feed him his lines. And it makes him look at me funny. Besides, I want him to know what he’s supposed to say.

Girlfriend conversation isn’t like this. A girlfriend knows exactly the right words to say to console me. She will stop what she is doing to help me obsess over my thighs. And when she says she loves me, I never doubt her for a minute. Girlfriend conversation is like that. It feeds the psyche and the soul.

Frog talk feeds my neuroses.

“Honey, does your hair look like that on purpose?” my frog will ask. Or: “I smell smoke. Is dinner ready?” Or: “You said what to my mother?” These are not the things my inner romantic wants to talk about.

Determined to help my frog discover the joy and romance of conversation. I set out to create the right mood. I turned off the television. I’ve found that the glow of ESPN is distracting. It hypnotizes frogs.

“What’s up?” my frog asked.

“Just thought we’d talk.”

Panic lit his eyes.

“It’s not hard,” I reassured him. “Say anything.” My inner scriptwriter had a whole list of romantic “anythings” ready for the frog to pick up and run with . Things like compliments. Things like sweet nothings.

“Okay,” my frog said. “Honey?”


“Did you know that we’re out of cheese?”

My inner scriptwriter flung her computer at a wall and kicked her wastebasket.

“What?” my frog asked. He looked genuinely baffled.

“Never mind,” I snapped. The scriptwriter didn’t know what my frog’s next line should be. She was still stomping around in a huff. No matter. I retreated to the shower and pummeled my romantic yearnings with hot water.

When I emerged, the house was dark except for an orange glow coming from the living room. Definitely not the light of ESPN. More like the light of a room on fire. Well, that’s it. I thought. I’ve finally pushed him over the edge. He’s torching the place and getting out while the getting is good.

In reality, my frog had gathered all the candles in the house and lit them in the living room. The radio played softly in the background. And it wasn’t a sportscast.

My frog looked up from his position on the couch and smiled. He caught my hand and gave it a little squeeze. It wasn’t until I snuggled into his embrace that I realized he hadn’t said a word.

But then again, he didn’t need to.

Frog Talk originally appeared in Family Circle Magazine as: My Husband, the Frog Prince (3/9/04).

The Truth about the Cookies

Want to know why Santa didn’t find cookies at my house on Christmas Eve? Click on over to my guest post on An Army of Ermas to read all about it.

My first attempt at fancy, schmancy christmas ...

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O Christmas… Box?

A closed cardboard box

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It is official. It is T-minus 7 days until Christmas and my house is tree-impaired. This is thanks in part to a nasty stomach flu that kicked me and my husband in the collective gut and robbed us of one entire December weekend.

“I really thought we’d have a tree somewhere by now,” I told my husband. “In the living room, family room–somewhere.

“We do have a tree somewhere,” he replied. “Two of them, in fact. They are both in the basement.”

“Ha-ha, very funny. I suppose I’ll just move all the wrapped packages down there. We can arrange them neatly around a big cardboard box. What’s next? Hanging the stockings on the furnace?”

Later on as I pondered this, it didn’t seem such a bad idea. I mean, it would be easy to wrap the lights around a box. Plus I could skip the family tradition known as the Great Tree Skirt Search. This tradition started when we decided it would be a smart idea to label the box that held the tree skirt to make it easier to find. Sounds wise, doesn’t it? I thought so, too. The only trouble is, that while I was adept at labeling the box, I had definite impairment in the field of “Stowing the Skirt Inside.” Do not ask me how this happened. It did. To make matters worse, I have repeated this exercise during more than one post-holiday dismantling ritual. The result is that roughly three-fourths of the boxes in the basement have the words “tree skirt” helpfully inscribed upon their sides. None of them actually contain the tree skirt, mind you. They just say they do. Boxes, it turns out, lie.

There is no such thing as a “box skirt” so already the idea of spending Christmas gathered around a large, dusty cardboard box in the basement is starting to sound sane and rational.

The box doesn’t have a pointed top, so no tree-topper with it’s skittish lights is necessary. Instead, I’ll just draw on a star using a yellow highlighter. Or an orange one if I can’t find the yellow one. Pink in a pinch. In fact, we can draw ALL the decorations on. When we’re done, I can have holiday cheer in the basement every time I toss in a load of laundry.

And I’ll never have to take it down. Talk about keeping Christmas with you, all through the year.

The stockings were hung round the furnace with care,
mom hoped that a spider would not hide in there.

Yeah. Spiders. Hmm… definite drawback. And it’s cold in the basement. And there’s not a lot of room for maneuvering.

Oh well, the idea was fun while it lasted. Now we’re back to reality. This weekend the tree will go up. Lights will get strung and ornaments hung. The stockings will hang in their rightful places.

But I’m making no promises about the tree skirt.

Snow Daze

Snowflake. Small microscope kept outdoors. Sna...

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Snow Season is upon us. This means school closures are imminent. Snow days will happen. Yet, with preparation, I’m certain our family will weather the storm, uh, so to speak. As usual, I’m meeting the challenge head on by making a list of family guidelines.


1. Despite my best efforts (it turns out that phoning the superintendent of schools at 5 a.m. to plead my case is not a good idea. Who knew?) we are having a snow day. Repeat after me: SNOW DAY. If it was Shave-The-Dog-And-Set-The-Microwave-On-Fire day, we would call it that, okay?

2. For entertainment, why don’t you go make something? When I say, “go make something” I am picturing your little hands at work building a model or drawing a picture. I would prefer you choose to make something more specific than “a mess.”

3. In case of emergency, do NOT break: Glass, dishes, windows, your little brother’s favorite toy, nose or teeth.

4. Do not play with fire. It should go without saying that this rule has not changed. Yes, it IS an electric stove, but it is still considered playing with fire if you use it to turn marshmallows on forks into flaming torches.

5. If you look into the hall closet, you will find several puzzles, books and other activities purchased specifically for your fighting pleasure. Please note that the TV remote is not one of them. Put it down. On the table where you found it. Now.

6. As I just mentioned (You are reading all of this, right?) the closet contains many pastimes and amusements. Use them. Yes, I know you possess creative souls. I do not require a demonstration. No. Really. I mean it. It is not necessary for you to invent your own entertainment while I attempt to work. This means I would appreciate it if you do not invent games. Despite what you think, the adults in this house have finely-tuned powers of observation. We are likely to notice small children hanging helplessly from doorknobs by their teeth. Likewise, we can identify the sound of small butts surfing down the stairs on the lid from the toy box. And trust me, even I, with my limited intelligence, am able to deduce that the stream of water running under your bedroom door probably does not belong there.

7. Before you don hats and coats and head outside, plan ahead. At some time during the day, there will be a question and answer period. You will be responsible for the answer portion. I’ll give you a hint. Past questions have included such gems as: “Who put the yellow snowball in the freezer?” and  “How did the snow shovel get on the roof?” Start planning now. Keep in mind “Not me” and “I don’t know” are not the types of answers I will be looking for. Nor is it acceptable to answer questions with new questions, for example: “”What anatomically correct snowman?”

8. If at some time during the day, you interrupt my work with the words, “Mom, I’m bored,” I will be happy to assist you with your predicament. I am your mother. I love you. And I am currently making a list of toilets to be scrubbed, socks to be sorted, and other fun activities. Just in case.

9. One final note worth mentioning. If at some time during the day you notice that any adult in your presence has lost the ability to speak in complete sentences, run. This is never a good sign.

Let the snow days do their worst. I am ready. Now, if I could just convince the superintendent to take my calls…



This originally appeared in Today’s Woman magazine

Killer Workouts

Hatha Yoga Video Tree Pose - Vrksasana

Image by myyogaonline via Flickr

The Yoga People want me dead. This really shouldn’t surprise me, since I’ve suspected something similar about all the other Fitness People.

The Aerobics People started it. Their plot revolved around making me think Spandex = Good Idea. Never mind that in reality Spandex = Torture. Of course all the hopping and wriggling and squeezing burned a lot of calories. Hasn’t anyone besides me reached the conclusion that getting dressed for a workout shouldn’t BE a workout?

When I swore off aerobics, the Pilates People stepped in and tricked me. I see that now. They had a simple three-step plan.

1. Get me on the floor.

2. Make me move my body in ways that would maximize muscle strain and fatigue.

3. Invite friends over to laugh at me while I starve to death because I’m too sore to get up and all the food in the house is stored above knee level.

Big meanies.

The People with Giant Exercise Balls (which sounds so much better than calling them the Big Ball People) thought to distract me with a fancy toy. The sole purpose was to prevent my noticing that I spent the entire workout wobbling around like a defective Weeble in search of blunt objects to pound with my head. Or maybe they just wanted to show that the Pilates  People weren’t the only ones who knew how to have a good time.

Then there were the Kickboxing People. The Kickboxing people didn’t have anything against me personally. They just hated my furnishings and accessories.

You are probably wondering by now, if the Fitness People are trying to kill me, why do I keep working out? Two things. I call them my thighs. Just the thought of swimsuit season makes them cower in fear. Which, now that I think about it, makes no sense. Thighs this big should fear nothing. They should be super bully thighs, the toughest thighs in the dressing room, ready to kick butt and take names. Except, that might be too much like exercise.

Enter yoga. The first thing I noticed about yoga is that it doesn’t look like exercise. This is how the Yoga People trick you. They lure you in by making it look easy. They can make it look easy because Yoga People have no skeletons.

The lack of a skeleton means the Yoga People also come with a complete set of strange ideas about how my body should move. Just this morning I was instructed to “stretch through the crown of my head.” What the huh? First, my head isn’t exactly what I am trying to tone up. I don’t wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say: “Wow,  the muscles in my head have really gone to seed. I should do some lip-ups.” I have never purchased a Foreheads of Steel video. Second, I checked, and guess what? My head? Not all that stretchy. If it was, I probably wouldn’t have time to workout. I’d be too busy signing autographs as my famous alter-ego: The Amazing Elasti-Head.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I like yoga. I think it is especially cool that all the poses have names. They don’t even call the poses, poses. Instead they are called, aptly enough, asanas. If you add the syllable “ow” to the end of the word, you get the sound I make while trying to contort my body into position. It’s sort of like a sneeze caught in slow motion: “aaah…saaa…nnnaaa… OW!” I’ve also decided that asana, loosely translated, means: Help, my leg is cutting off my oxygen supply and I am starting to hallucinate.

So if sometime soon I turn up dead, just know the Yoga People got me. They did it while talking in quiet voices and taking deep cleansing breaths. Or possibly they just snuck in and smothered me with a pillow because I couldn’t master stretching my head.

The Pilates People will be so jealous.

This piece originally appeared in Today’s Woman magazine.

What’s in a Name?

This blog came into being because, more than a decade ago, I suffered a bout of temporary insanity and became a humor columnist. For several years I wrote a monthly piece for Today’s Woman magazine, won a few awards, took some humor gigs at Family Circle and amused myself to no end. Now I want to give some of those pieces (and my new fun stuff) an online home. You, my friend, are looking at it. No, don’t avert your eyes and pretend you weren’t looking. I saw you. Yes. I did.

Because every blog needs a name (it’s in the rule book and everything) I was determined to give this one a name with meaning. But what to call it? Thus began days of head-pounding frustration as various names occurred to me and were immediately discarded for various reasons.

A Nutter Fine Mess – implied mental instability.
The Mad Chatter – Ditto.
Bubba – Do you see a pattern yet?

In the end I settled for an old standby. What better name to use than the handle given to me by a trusted friend? Plus, I’m already using it as my Twitter name. Two birds, one stone. (Which, now that I think of it, would have been a fantastic blog name. DRAT! Maybe for my next project.)

Oh well…