Monthly Archives: June 2016

I Love You, Mr. McGregor

VeggiesAs a child, I read Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. I loved the cute bunnies — Mrs. Rabbit wearing a spotless white apron; Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail sporting little pink capes; and Peter, a blue jacket with brass buttons. I thrilled to Peter’s quest for food and adventure. My dark side, carefully concealed under a pastor’s daughter’s façade, rejoiced in his mother-defying moxy. That bunny had attitude!

But I despised Mr. McGregor, who owned a whole garden, yet denied a few morsels to a hungry little bunny. McGregor and his equally depraved wife had baked Peter’s father in a pie! Such barbarism horrified me. I trembled as Peter nearly met his end. I cheered him as he sneaked past the evil old farmer.

Having misplaced most of my wardrobe during my young lifetime, I sympathized with Peter. He not only lost his coat and shoes, but his mother sentenced him to an early bedtime and chamomile tea. The unjust ending rankled — an all-too-familiar scenario of siblings enjoying life while the family’s fun person suffered.

In my mind, Peter Rabbit was a victim several times over.

Mr. McGregor, that green-thumbed egocentric, bore the responsibility.

Fast forward a few decades. Well, more than a few. …

A rabbit gang has invaded my garden. Unlike Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, none of these rabbits — I no longer refer to them as bunnies — wear cute little clothes. If they don clothing at all, I imagine it consists of baggy jeans and bandannas, accented by tattoos.

But the few I’ve spotted wear nothing. I try to be broad-minded. But hordes of naked rabbits nightly overrunning my garden?

This X-rated, crime-ridden piece of ground requires the monitoring services of the National Guard. Or at least, a few heavily armed musclemen.

Instead, enter a cranky old person wearing glasses and rough work clothes who somewhat resembles a beardless version of the 1902 storybook portraits of Mr. McGregor. She weeds and hoes, creaky bones playing rhythms that would shame a parade drum line. She pours her heart, plus gallons of expensive irrigation, into her garden. All she wants is a nice little harvest of something besides zucchini.

Instead, like poor Mr. McGregor, she must chase off heartless varmints who would have her go hungry. She probably won’t escape bad press, either.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit … will I read it to my grandchildren? Of course. I wouldn’t think of depriving them of childhood classics. But it might be a somewhat — er — updated version.peter-rabbit-cover


What’s your favorite childhood story? How might you “update” it?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Begone, Evil Weeds!

GardenOh, my God, you began human history in a gorgeous garden. Sadly, our own backyard attempt was no Eden—Klingon sticker weeds almost won! But my valiant husband spent hours of sweaty toil reclaiming our land. Not that he’ll let me forget that. But OMG, didn’t he do an awesome job?

OMG, It Isn’t Even Monday!

Oh, my God, I’m trying to thank You for technology. Really. But it’s Wednesday, and I’m already writing an OMG prayer! Please help my Awesome Techie (a.k.a. Hubby) and I figure out why my blog is lying to me, insisting it is sending posts to my subscribers when it is not. Otherwise, OMG, I may be asking You about exorcism.


The Great Marital Debate

StrawberryshortcakePerhaps more premarital counseling might have helped my husband and I avoid untold pain our first year of marriage.

Steve and I could not agree on what honest-to-goodness strawberry shortcake was.

I spent two sweaty hours picking the best strawberries. I entered my June-steamy, closet-like kitchen and, like my mother before me, baked a decadent white cake. I covered giant pieces with berries, and plopped vanilla ice cream on each, adding more berries. Finally, I buried my masterpiece with an avalanche of whipped cream.

I presented my magnum opus and awaited raves.

Steve ate in silence.

I hinted for a compliment.

He said, “It’s okay. But it’s not real strawberry shortcake.”

Note to you youngsters: don’t try this at home. Unless you really enjoy sleeping on a sofa.

In the parking lot.

When we were speaking again, he pointed to a picture of “real” shortcake in my Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, his thoughtful gift the past Christmas. “Real shortcake’s like a biscuit,” he explained. “You dump berries on, then pour milk over it.”

“Biscuit?” I stared at Steve in horror. “Milk?”

What kind of person would sacrifice innocent strawberries for breakfast food masquerading as a dessert?

I refused to budge one inch. For our future children’s sake, I would allow only the highest strawberry shortcake standard in our home. Hubby said nothing more.

But at a church potluck, his eyes brightened as he spotted that profane biscuit stuff. He devoured an enormous piece and told the woman who made it, “That was the most delicious dessert in the world!”

I considered moving our sofa to the parking lot again. But it seemed like a lot of work. And Steve had so enjoyed “real” shortcake. …

I decided I would (choke!) use Betty Crocker’s biscuity recipe. Still, compromise was the name of the marriage game — for Steve, too! So I invented a shortcake we both appreciate. I added lots more sugar. I slathered butter on it to raise the cholesterol content to decent levels. Not only did this compromise save our marriage, but it has impacted our children, who actually asked for my recipe before they left home. While our kids-in-law secretly believe Mom Phillips is an alien from the planet Skorkxx, they will come if she makes strawberry shortcake.

Tonight I’ll pile ruby-red berries on my husband’s piping hot shortcake and (this still hurts) pour milk over it. I’ll slather butter on mine, add berries, ice cream and fat-free Cool Whip.

After 41 years, we still do shortcake different.

But together, we have a berry good time.


Did you and your spouse experience a similar crucial controversy during the first weeks—days—hours?—of your marriage?



To Tan or Not to Tan?

Our truant sun, rumored to have defected to another solar system, finally has appeared. Throughout the Midwest, mothers pull plugs and hide batteries, demanding their offspring “go outside and play!”

For generations, these card-carrying members of The Great Mother Conspiracy have specialized in kicking kids out of the house.

However, during the 60s, moms spouted unique wisdom: “Sunshine’s good for you!”

We needed vitamin D, or some such thing.

Ha! Had I not read of Laura Ingalls Wilder, forced to wear sunbonnets to keep her skin white? My own grandmother donned sunbonnets while gardening or bringing the cows home.

Why, on sizzling days, couldn’t I stay inside and read? At Mom’s bidding, however, (and because she locked the screen behind us), I obeyed, accumulating a dark tan.

SunglassesLotionDuring adolescence, my desperate friends, afflicted with peaches-and-cream complexions and tiny allowances, smeared baby oil (with and without iodine) from head to toe, frying in backyards. Affluent palefaces bought trendy suntan lotions guaranteed to turn them into California girls. Instead, orange-streaked and -striped, they resembled Tony the Tiger.

Regardless, orangeness equaled popularity. I, blessed/cursed with a natural tan, sighed for such status.

Regardless of skin tones, all “lay out.” Working assiduously on my tan, I nevertheless concealed a deep, dark secret: I disliked it. Lying out resembled the Mother Conspiracy command to “go outside and play.”

The similarity should have roused parental sympathy as they watched us loll on blankets, listening to transistor radios. Yet they could not comprehend how hard we were working.

TannedFeetWhat could you expect from moms who tanned only while weeding gardens and chasing after kids? From dads who sported farmer tans? When parents insisted on family beach time, we teens spread our towels far away, lest their chubby, lily-white backs and bellies shame us.

I, suffering a bald father who wore a hat while water skiing, spread mine in the next county.

By the time I frequented kiddie pools with my toddlers, the Great Mother Conspiracy did a 180-degree turn. Expensive sun block replaced expensive suntan lotion. No evil sunshine would attack our babies!

The tanning industry responded with infinite wisdom: free sunshine was bad, but expensive tanning beds would make us sexy, increase I.Q.s, and free us from excess cash cluttering our lives.

Hubby and I keep our cash and slather on sun block. I still prefer hot summer afternoons inside with a good book. But he slaps on sun block, then hands me the tube.

“It’s hot outside,” I whine.

He tugs me free from the sofa’s soft, seductive clutches. “Exercise is good for you.”

Sigh. How long before medical authorities and The Great Mother Conspiracy overturn that one?


Have you ever worked hard on your tan? What was your favorite tanning concoction?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Going Steady


Oh, my God, I wore two 1971 class rings to our 45th high school reunion this past weekend — rings Steve and I gave each other our senior year. OMG, how thankful I am that four years later, we exchanged them for wedding rings. And that, after 45 years, we still love going steady!


Would You Marry a Writer?

According to Jewish comedian Sam Levenson, God has played matchmaker ever since he introduced Eve to Adam: “Have I got a nice girl for you!”

camelThe Almighty guided Abraham to Sarah, the Mae West of the Old Testament. He used thirsty camels to bring about Rebekah’s marriage to Isaac. He masterminded Boaz’s marriage to Ruth, the great-great-great-great-grandma of King David and, ultimately, Jesus Christ.

But finding a spouse who will stick with a writer? That task might make even God scratch His head.

Online dating services insist they can find the perfect partner for anyone — even writers. One website includes 29 dimensions by which future mates can be measured. (Why not a nice round number like 30? Just sayin’.)

These surveys never include correct questions for potential writer spouses. I submit the following in hopes of helping experts increase the reliability of the profiles they create.

Would you want to marry someone:

  1. Who wears a baggy sweat suit and feather boa to work?
  2. Whose house and yard officially have been declared a landfill?
  3. Who will awaken you at 3:00 a.m. to brainstorm a dozen new book titles?
  4. Who works 80 hours a week and nets 2.4 cents per hour, minus Xerox and Prozac costs?
  5. Who invites poison experts and chain saw murderers over for coffee?
  6. Who maxes out credit cards attending conferences where hundreds study “beats”?
  7. Who crashes weddings, funerals and Rotary meetings to develop characters?
  8. Who robs a 7-Eleven, crashes your car, and sleeps in a dumpster in order to research and “feel” a crime story?*  **
  9. Who needs years of psychotherapy to recover from her last fiction plot?
  10. Who vandalizes signs with apostrophes in the wrong places?
  11. Who drinks espresso to calm down?

*If a potential spouse boasts lots of rich relatives who can post bail money, the marriage’s survival chances increase exponentially. **Yes, I’ve listed 11 questions, not ten, for researchers who are all about 29 dimensions.


Some claim anyone who agrees to these conditions resembles the dependability of a JELL-O sidewalk.

Exactly. God, in His matchmaking wisdom, has designed special lunatics who voluntarily accept the impossible task of marriage to a writer.

Civilized society should be warned: these spouses often appear normal. My husband of 41 years eats Cheerios every morning. He serves as the rational voice on church and community boards.

Yet he regularly rescues my manuscripts from the Black Holes of cyberspace.

He attends my book signings, hauling and hovering as needed.

HeadlessGuyWhen I was writing biographies, he didn’t mind sharing my breakfast conversations with dead people.

Finally, he told me money and success weren’t important, as long as I was doing what God wanted.

And they say writers are nuts.

What special craziness in you or your spouse keeps you both sane — sort of — as you pursue an impossible occupation?




OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

sundaeOh, my God, I love writing books. Thank You for helping me these last crazy weeks. Please give me courage to hit the “send” button today, my deadline. OMG, thank You for Your Spirit to revive me. (And for the sleep, hair appointment and Moose Tracks sundae that might help a little, too).

Summer: the Season of Flip-flops

June — and flip-flops — have invaded America for the season, appearing in offices, fancy restaurants and even at weddings. But the change in footwear reflects only a tiny fraction of our monumental summer lifestyle shift.

Flip-flopped Schedules

School is out, graduates have flipped tassels, and parents/teachers/students have flip-flopped their schedules. School buses hibernate, and millions of children remain at home to spend quality time with beloved siblings.

College kids also have abandoned books, eight-o’clock classes and the joys of dormitory living to converge on home. All to spend quality time with their parents’ Internet, refrigerators and car keys.

Flip-flopped Fun Time

We empty nesters change our stodgy ways, as relatives and friends — freed from winter’s icy grasp — target travel in all fifty states, particularly those where mooching a free month’s lodging is legal. Especially if we nesters live near the ocean, the mountains or Disney World.

In view of the above, Congress should enact a law that establishes a ceiling on laundry levels, especially beach towels and sheet changes. No wife, mother or hostess should awaken on a sunny morning to find herself a victim of a hostile laundry takeover.

Flip-flopped Food

Also, before Congress adjourns for a well-deserved (?) vacation, why not demand laws requiring automatic shut-offs on kitchen ranges from June through August? After all, salad actually tastes yummy during summer. Although in a dietary flip-flop, ice cream does, too.

I vote for ice cream.

And for s’mores. I dislike marshmallows, yet when summer arrives, I admit an urge to bury myself in bear-infested woods, building campfires whereby I roast them (marshmallows, not the bears) and me. I sacrifice delicious chocolate bars and perfectly good graham crackers by slathering them with marshmallows, even feeding s’mores to my grandchildren.

Dastardly grandma crimes of this magnitude committed in February might evoke stern frowns from nutritionally correct parents. But what can they say, when possessed by similar summer madness, they probably buy them deep-fried Oreos at county fairs?


Occasionally, the carefree, “whatever” lifestyle of summer does us in. Maybe we’ve listened to “Good Vibrations” too many times with the car windows down. Sniffed one too many citronella candles. Carried too many pounds of sand in the seats of our bathing suits.

Perhaps months of wearing flip-flops not only have affected our arches, but also our brains.

But isn’t summer worth it?


How will June, July and August flip-flop your life this year?