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Swimming in Dress Socks

 Pool Dress Socks

In rural towns there is usually that one family who has money. They usually did not make it in the town because let’s face it, rural Idaho farm towns are not the places one can make a fortune. These people bring it with them to a small town where they can escape, settle in, and become nobility. In my town, the Windsors (that’s what I’ve decided to call them) did the most awe inspiring thing. They put in a pool, and they generously opened it up for the kids in town to have swimming lessons.


We were a bunch of rugrats with little experience with the clear blue water of a swimming pool. Those of us who had been in chlorine purified water had done so on visits with the city relatives, or the very rare stayover at a hotel. Our usual swimming venues were brown green waters of canals, reservoirs, and rivers. But, here we were with access to the Windor’s pool. There would be no dodging animal poop as you swam, and when you got out, there would be no leeches to peel off your body.


Swimming lessons were a dream until the swimming pool tore up the bottom of my feet. I didn’t have normal rural kid feet. I was the only kid in town required to wear shoes at all times because I was allergic to bees. The times I had been stung had all been when I was running around barefoot in our clover filled lawn. I was embarrassed of my uncalloused, wimpy feet and wanted to quit swimming lessons. My parents didn’t want me to miss out, so my gram was called in to come up with a solution.



When Mom and Gram put their heads together to solve my problems, I could usually count on it being something completely embarrassing. For example, their solution to my rapid growth was not to purchase new pants that fit. No, they came up with sewing lace or bandanas to the bottom of my pants. That was mortifying, but not as much as what was about to occur for swimming lessons.



Nobody in small town Idaho knew what water shoes were, and I did not own a pair of non-leather sandals, so my dilemma was extra perplexing.  In the end, the solution, which I fought to absolutely no avail, was that my feet were to be protected by a pair of my dad’s dress socks. In an extra ingenious move, my gram added rubber bands at the top so they wouldn’t be washed away while I swam. It was truly mortifying. I was teased by my swim classmates. I mean, who couldn’t resist poking at a kid in a swimsuit and dress socks?  But, I went to swimming lessons every day and swam my heart out because I figured the only way I was getting out of the dress socks was to never have to touch the bottom of the pool.


When I say in the preface of A Backpack, a Eurorail Pass, and Some Serious Baggage that I write because I wish to get to a place where I can run unabashedly through the pages of my story, I don’t just mean the part of my story I tell in that book. I also mean stories like these. Although in this case, I believe I should be swimming unabashedly through the pages of my story. And, thanks to Gram and my mom, I can do that swimming quite well.

The Best Form of Birth Control According to Uncle Fred



For whatever reason, when I sat down to write my blog today, I thought of my Great Uncle Fred. He was hilarious, and somewhat naughty for his time. That’s probably why I liked him so much. The following is advice he gave to my aunt when she got married, but I wrote it in first person.

Fred straightened to his full six foot five and began his speech. "Over the years I have perfected the absolute best form of birth control. As you know, it's worked because I don't have any children.”

             I knew his lack of children was due to a defect known in my family as “shootin' blanks”, but I didn’t interrupt.

             "Now, I don't give my secret to just anyone, but I will share it with you."

             Fred took a handkerchief out of his shirt pocket and wiped his brow. When finished, he meticulously folded and replaced it. Then he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out something grasped tightly within his fist. I was curious.

             "Are you ready? This is ridiculously simple so I don't want you to miss it."

             I smirked. "I'm ready."

             Fred picked up my hand. "Open it up." He placed his fist with the object on my open hand just like he used to when giving me penny candy as a kid. "You sure you're ready?" I felt a warm, rounded, heavy object drop into my palm. "There it is!"

            I gazed at the utterly plain rock sitting in my hand. "Uh-"

            "You don't get it?" he asked.

“No, I don’t get it Uncle Fred.“


"I guess I'll have to explain. I forgot you are your mother's daughter and a little naive when it comes to things like sexual relations." Fred took the stone between his thumb and forefinger and held it six inches from my nose. "This ordinary looking pebble is the answer to any and all birth control worries. All you have to do is put this miracle in your husband's shoe."

"In his shoe?"

             "Yep.  Slip this into his loafer, and it will be sure to make him limp. Problem solved.”


Thanks for the stories, and the laughs, Uncle Fred!


How I Stumped a Barista


I considered it fairly good luck when I was third in line at Starbucks. I expected the orders to be Hemingway length paragraphs that included words in coffee language I didn’t understand. I called them high maintenance orders. What always amazed me was the baristas taking these orders. They would take that long list of demands, reduce them to a few initials that were written on the side of the cup with a sharpie, ask for a name, and draw a heart or smiley face. Then the cup would be passed down to a colleague to pour, mix, flavor, steam, foam, dollop, design, sprinkle, or blend to the customer’s specifications.  

When it was my turn, I stepped confidently up to the counter. My capable Barista readied her sharpie in her right hand, her left hovered over the stacks of cups. “I would like a Vente...” She snatched the appropriate cup and moved her marker in place. “Decaf coffee.”

My barista froze, she wrote nothing on my cup. “What?”

She didn’t say it loudly, but the place went silent. Evidently, Baristas didn’t ask customers to repeat themselves very often. I felt a slow burn begin at my hairline and work its way down. I repeated my order, “I would like a cup of decaf.”

“I don’t think I can do that.” If there was anyone who wasn’t paying attention to this exchange before, they were now. She placed my cup and her marker on the counter deliberately and stepped to her colleague who was looking at me, mouth agape. They conferenced in low whispers. I really wished I could take back my order, but that wasn’t possible now. I had to see it through.

The barista returned. She smiled stiffly. She picked up my cup, wrote nothing on it, and handed it off to her partner. To me she said something about a seemingly complex process involving something called an Americano, but she thought they were going to be able to fill my order. “If it’s not to your satisfaction, I’ll make you an herb tea,” she said in a not-so-nice tone.

In You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks said a person’s complex coffee order was a way of “getting an absolute sense of self.” If that is true, then the barista becomes part therapist. I robbed my barista of that part of her job. Although I am a little proud that I stumped a barista, I also feel a little bad, so from now on, I’ll just make my decaf at home.  


Your Kid’s Wisdom Teeth Removal is Hilarious!

Of course I had seen the videos of kids drugged up after they’d gotten their wisdom teeth out, but I always thought that maybe there was a little bit of acting, or that kid was the exception not the rule. However, after witnessing my daughter Bailey’s procedure, and hearing about many of her friends’ experiences, I think that this not-so-great experience for our kids could be a highlight for us parents.

My youngest daughter, Brooke, volunteered to get up early during her Christmas break because she thought we may need someone to capture it on video. We did. As we left the house, I gave Bailey the little pills the dentist gave us to relax her before surgery. By the time we arrived at the office, Bailey was like a sloppy drunk. Her speech slurred and she was obsessed about her phone that had been purposely left at home. We kept telling her it was in her pocket. When she couldn’t find it in that pocket, we would tell her it was in another one. This game lasted until Brad helped her stumble into the waiting room and fall into one of their big, poofy chairs.


In between dozing, Bailey would wax poetic about the beauty of seeing two of everything. This also lead to her exclaiming that Brooke and I should start a band. Our inability to sing aside, I asked, “What kind of music would we sing?”


“Country, err something deep and mellow.”


We laughed because this family hates country music, not to mention we lack singing ability. Brooke zoomed her camera in on Bailey to catch the serious look on her face and asked, “What would the name of our band be?”


Bailey waved her hand as if to say that was the easiest question of all. “Brooke and Jen, and Jen and Brooke.”

 “A foursome?”

 “Yeah, because there’s so many of you.” Then Bailey fell asleep until the hygienist came to get her.

When it was over, they rolled Bailey to our car in a wheelchair. Brad was in the process of getting her settled in the backseat when she asked for her phone. I asked what she was going to do with that. “I have to keep my streaks,” Bailey slurred around the bloody gauze that was hanging halfway out her mouth.

“Oh, honey,” I said, “You don’t want anyone to see you right now.”

“Yes, I do. I look awesome.” A bloody piece of gauze and some red drool spilled from her mouth. Brad shoved the gauze back in and we started home.

Brad played ‘your phone is in your pocket’ game again with Bailey, and worked at keeping her nasty gauze in her mouth, Brooke filmed, and I drove. This lasted for a few minutes, but then Bailey noticed a ball of yarn in the back seat. It was actually for a Christmas Eve scavenger hunt, but for Bailey, it meant that we got a cat. She wasn’t happy about our new cat.

“Do we have a cat? Why would you get a cat? I don’t want a cat, I hate cats! Why didn’t you get a puppy? I want a puppy. I love puppies. Puppies are so cute. Why did you get a cat? Cat’s are stupid. I can’t believe we have a cat.” Tears joined the red drool cascading down her face.

Nobody corrected Bailey’s assumption because it was video gold. Brad said as he shoved her gauze back in her mouth and wiped her face with a Kleenex, “I’m sure you’ll grow to love the cat.”

“Nnnooo, I won’t! I don’t want a cat. They don’t love you, they just use you. Dogs love you. I just love dogs. That’s all. Nothing else.” Bailey sighed. “Where’s my phone?”

Bailey remained fixated on her phone until we finally get her into bed and asleep. She would later thank us, after seeing the posts from her friends who had their wisdom teeth out, for not giving it her. Unfortunately, the videos were lost forever when Brooke got her new phone, which is why I had to write it down.  

Merry Christmas to the Man Who Wanted to Fight Me in the Drive Thru

 drive thru

Christmas brings the best, and the worst, out of people. I believe that there is far more good that comes out of the season, but let’s face it, that’s not nearly as much fun to write about. I am still wondering what it was that I did to this guy in the fast food drive thru, but I figure he needs to be wished Merry Christmas.


I innocently pulled into the drive through behind an older, slightly beat up car in my local Wendy’s drive through. I noticed that there was a car behind me, and not wanting to leave her hanging out in the parking lot, I pulled a little closer to that car in front of me. All of a sudden, these two very large paws raised and seemingly hit the roof of his car. The man vehemently stared at me in his rear view mirror. His perfectly round face was bright red, and he was yelling. It didn’t take much lip reading ability to know what he was calling me. Then he noticed that I saw him and started to wave backwards as if he was swatting away flies.


I understood that he believed I had pulled too close, which I didn’t know was a thing in a drive thru. I realized that although I couldn’t see the bottoms of his tires, but I could still see the top. I didn’t think that my white, mom-car Kia Sorento could be intimidating, so I was really confused as to why this was a thing. I checked my own rear view mirror to see if I could make this not-so-jolly man in front of me happy and back up a bit. The woman behind me was right on my bumper. So there I was.


Luckily, the car in front of him finished his order, and pulled forward. I believed the incident was over. Not so much. The mad man did not pull to the microphone to order. He pulled up to the picture of a burger and stopped. Now mind you, this was not a menu he stopped at. It was just a picture of a burger, and no matter how good that burger looked, it did not deserve the time that this man spent stopped there. I didn’t know what to do. I waited a very respectful amount of time before I tapped my horn.


The man’s car started to bounce. His arms flailed, his face went from red to maroon, and I swear I could see the saliva flying out of his filthy mouth. Then he reached for his door, and I thought, “God help me, he’s coming to get me!” Then, I have to admit, there was that part of me, the part that was sick of Christmas shopping, and tired of my sixth graders excited for break. It thought, “Bring it on, fat man!” 


I will never know which part would have prevailed because instead of the door handle, he was reaching to roll his window down. I think he lost a lot of angry momentum because it didn’t seem like his window wanted to roll very well. When he finally got it down, he stuck his arm out, gave a couple fly shooing waves, flipped me off, then rolled forward to order his lunch. I stayed where I was until he ordered and pulled around to gather his lunch.


You would think this was enough, but not quite. At the light near Wendy’s, a clunker pulled up beside me. Yes, it was my friend from the drive thru. We made eye contact. He began yelling at me again. I simply waved, smiled my biggest smile, and said, “Merry Christmas,” nice and slow so he could read my lips. The light turned and, like Santa, I drove out sight.


Merry Christmas to the Ladies Who Wanted to Kill Each Other in Costco

Costco blog


Christmas brings the best, and the worst, out of people. I believe that there is far more good that comes out of the season, but let’s face it, that’s not nearly as much fun to write about. Tempers are sometimes short during this most festive of seasons, and I witnessed this during holiday shopping at Costco. There were two ladies who definitely needed some Christmas cheer.


My daughter and I finished our shopping, and joined the line in the center isle where we would be herded toward the check stands. We didn’t see the initial incident, but we heard the aftermath. A high maintenance, big bootied blonde woman in front of us stopped her cart, put her hands topped with long, manicured claws on her ample hips, and glared at a Latina mom next her. I knew she was a mom because she wore a flannel shirt, unpainted short nails, and her cart was full of kid food.


Anyway, blondie kept the glare on the mom while saying to her friend, “Let that bitch pass. She just cut me off. She almost hit me with her cart.”


I was thankful the herd began to move and the Latina mom took her place in front to lead us to the checkstands. I believed it was over. Not so much. When we reached the point where we would split up and go to a checkstand, the mom decided that she wasn’t going to let Blondie best her. She left her cart and strode, with as much stride as a five foot nothin’ woman can, over to her antagonizer. She tapped her on the shoulder, and when Blondy turned around, the mom said something to her.


I wished I could have heard what that was because it must have been good. The blond woman raised her hand and pointed. “Oh, don’t do it,” I muttered. But the woman did it. She put her blood red fingernail to the Latina mom’s chest. The mom brushed it away and stepped forward so she and Blondie were toe to toe, nose to nose.


I really hate it when my teacher instincts take over. Instead of standing back and watching the Latina mom pulverize the booty girl (because you know she would have), the teacher part of me took over. Before I even knew what I was doing, I wedged myself in between them just like I would do with sixth graders on the playground. I said in my most cheerful, but stern, teacher voice, “Ladies, Merry Christmas!” I placed a hand on each of their shoulders and gave a gentle shove as I said, “Now, you go this way, and you go this way.”


I don’t know if it was the teacher voice, that I reminded them it was Christmas, or the fact that I was a good ten inches taller than either one of them, but they obeyed and went to their assigned check stands. I guided my embarrassed teen daughter to a checkstand of our own. I took a deep, cleansing breath and wished I had put just one more bottle of Christmas cheer into my cart.   

What Are You First World Thankful For?



I am, like most of you, thinking of all the things I am truly thankful for. At the top of that list is family, time with family, friends, my home, and my jobs. But, I have also thought about those unnecessary luxuries that I feel should also get some love. They are those things, that while unnecessary, make my life easier, richer, and more fun. I am first world thankful for the following:


  • Online shopping. If you love the mall, the big sale, more power to you. For me, however, going to the mall or to a busy department store is what I would imagine schlepping through hell would be like. Online shopping is my idea of retail heaven. I can sit in my favorite recliner, drink a frothy beverage, and get Christmas done.

  • The remote start and heated seats in my car. I run cold so these things make my day. No longer do I shake and shiver all the way to work. Once there, it would take my body, and my personality, an hour to unthaw. I’m sure they don’t know it, but my 6th graders are thankful I have them too.

  • College football. Never, in the history of mankind, has there been a better use of a Saturday than college football. I love screaming at the TV, or high fiving, waving, and whistling in a stadium with thousands of other like minded fans. It is the day that I get to exorcise all the stress and annoyances from the week. The worst day of the year is when the national championship is played and I have to remove my butt from the couch and find another outlet that will never work as well.

  • Variety. I wanted to write variety of beer, but then I realized that I like variety in a lot of things. I know I am extremely spoiled with the amount of choices I have in all of my favorite things including beer, food, shoes, TV shows, music, and movies. When I walk into my local pub, it almost brings me tears looking at that long row of taps that change monthly. I grew up with three TV stations, four on a clear day, and a place to rent movies that carried maybe twenty five VHS tapes to rent. Gram and I watched the same movies over and over. If Gram were alive today, she would simply shake her head as I scrolled through the choices displayed on my humongous flat screen TV and mutter, “Hell’s Friday!” Variety really is the spice of life!  


As long as we remember the real stuff we are thankful for, I think it’s OK to thank the universe for those first world items as well. What are you first world thankful for on this fine Thanksgiving day?


Related blogs:

Cringe Worthy Halloween Costumes from Childhood

Untitled design

I was a kid in the late 70’s and 80’s so political correctness was not a thing. Gram was as compassionate and open minded as anybody, but there was something about Halloween that brought out her crazy. Gram was in charge of my costumes, and although original, I have more than a few that as an adult I find cringe worthy.


  • Gram took a burlap sack and cut holes for my head and arms. Then she cut slits in the bottom to create fringe at the bottom. She took a western belt, added Grandpa’s turquoise belt buckle and a butcher knife. I wore moccasins purchased at Fort Hall, and a patterned headband with feathers and two black yarn braids sewn onto it. There was one last problem that Gram felt needed to be solved before I was the perfect Indian Squaw. I was the whitest white girl there was. Gram found the darkest foundation she could and caked it onto my face. I hated that costume because it was top to bottom itchy. The burlap seemed to make its way through my undershirt, and the cheap, waxy foundation was unbearable. In fact, I have not worn either one since.  

  • Gram believed that the search for the perfect costume should begin at a thrift store called Deseret Industries, D.I. for short. It was there that she found a passion purple taffeta prom dress. The skirt and bodice were accented with a hot pink net-like stuff. Gram believed that reuse of the moccasins and the addition of blue eye shadow, fake eyelashes, bright red lipstick, and an impressive amount of costume jewelry  would make me the perfect Gypsy. I didn’t even know what that was, but it was my ticket to go trick or treating. I did get tired of telling people what I was supposed to be.

  • One year one of my dad’s high school students (he was a science teacher) gave him a sombrero. The second I saw it, I knew if gram found out about it I would have to be a sombrero wearing Mexican for Halloween. Sure enough, Gram found me a poncho at D.I. This time, however, I did refuse to wear the foundation.

  • For this costume, Gram didn’t have to make a trip to D.I., she simply raided my grandpa’s closet for a threadbare flannel shirt, a pair of holy jeans, and one of the red bandanas he used as hankies. She filled the hanky with cotton and tied it to a stick. She tied the pants up with a piece of rope and removed the laces from my boots. It was the most comfortable costume I had gotten to wear thus far. Until she decided that I was a male hobo and needed stubble. She spread honey on my face then made me lean over the sink as she put coffee grounds over the honey like one put sprinkles on cookies. It was uncomfortable and it stunk.


Maybe in her own way, Gram was trying to introduce me to other cultures, maybe we are too sensitive in this day and age. I don’t know what the answer is. I did have some normal costumes. I was a vampire one year. Gram gave me a cape and some teeth, which I really hope did not come from D.I.  I used the cape again, carried around an antenna broken off a CB radio and called myself a magician. Ok, maybe that one isn’t so normal. I broke away from Gram’s costumes in seventh grade. I went to my mom to help transform me into Boy George from his “Karma Chameleon” video. Even as creative as she was, I didn’t think Gram could pull off that one. At least my costumes were never store bought, and they were always memorable!


For those of you who are a little older, what were some of your cringe worthy costumes?

How Do You Know It's Fall?

fall blog


There are many obvious ways you know it’s fall. The leaves are turning and falling onto my lawn, the wind is blowing the neighbor’s leaves onto my lawn, my teenage driver is complaining about having to scrape her windows, and many more. But there are also the more personal reasons that indicate the change of season. For example:


  • On the weekends, I feel like the Dunkin’ Donuts guy who meets himself at the door. One self is just coming from making the donuts, while the other is going to make the donuts. Mine, however, is not donuts. It’s canning. Every year I ask myself why in the hell I grow so many tomatoes.

  • There are many reasons to love fall, but one of the greatest is college football. Fall is absolutely for shouting at my TV, beer in hand. Go Broncos, and any team from the west, and any team playing Alabama!

  • In my classroom I’m breaking out the Febreze far less often. I love teaching sixth grade English, but man, those guys smell funky. They would smell funky in a freezer, but at least the cooler weather makes it a little better, which means fewer trips to Costco for me.

  • Also an indicator for me as a teacher is when I am motivated to look up what day of the week Halloween falls on so I can mentally prepare for the sugar highs, and the sugar hangovers headed my way. By the way, damn it, it’s on a Wednesday.

  • Me, my girls, and the dog are shedding. Liquid Plummer anyone?

  • I am no longer merely dusting the bathtub. It has to be cleaned.

  • My razor is new, the shaving cream can is full, and the socks that I’ve started to wear to work no longer fall down. Leg hair is one of the many perks of fall.

  • I have casually started to look for the remote start fob for my car. I know I put it somewhere I would totally remember come fall, so where the hell is it?

  • My latest Amazon purchases include snow boots and a roof rake. I’ll be damned if I let winter kick my ass this year like it did last.



These are the things that truly let me know that fall is here. What is it that lets you know this beautiful season has arrived?

We All Have Hell’s Fridays




Hell’s Friday may be an odd name for a blog. Particularly a blog that I intend to be not at all hellish. "Hell’s Friday" is actually a catch phrase my grandmother used often. As a kid growing up in a very small, very Mormon, very conservative Idaho town, I liked when Gram said "Hell’s Friday" because it felt rebellious, perhaps even a bit dangerous. And, there’s nothing quite like a good "Hell’s Friday" to express an emotion that’s somewhere between a "damn" and a real get-your- mouth-washed-out-with-soap cuss word. 

Hell’s Fridays are those instances that leave us frustrated, irritated, and surprised. It’s also the Hell’s Fridays that make life interesting, and often funny. And, of course, it is through those Hell’s Fridays that we learn those lessons we need to make it through this thing called life.

I Googled "Hell’s Friday" once. After spending way too much time digging into some obscure scholarly work on the history of England, and watching clips from Monty Python movies, I found the meaning was not quite as optimistic as my own. Hell’s Friday, according to one scholar, was the day during the plague that the cart came through to pick up the dead. Like “Ring Around the Rosie”, I think the meaning probably evolved as time went on. At least I hope so because I want this blog to be helpful and humorous for the reader.

Hell’s Friday, let’s do this thing!

Watch the “Bring Out Your Dead” clip from Monty Python:


Posted on June 13, 2017Categories humor, lessons, life, parenting, wisdomTags gram, hellsfriday, idaho, montypython, mormons, notdeadyet, plague, smalltown