Use the Force, Ellie Mae

Every summer I take a Weight Watchers cookbook and beat myself over the head with it.

Why, I groan, didn’t I exercise all year? Then at least I could be half as buff as my cousin, a former track star. When that gal drops her towel at the beach, nobody ever runs off screaming.

But this summer the cookbook stays shelved, because last New Year’s Day I told my neighbor Rita about my resolution to get in shape.

“Great!” said Rita. “We’ll work out together.”

I failed to tell Rita I make this resolution every year. I always work out for a few weeks… and then quit before January does. Working out with Rita meant I probably couldn’t quit until Valentine’s.

But Rita was resolved and so was I. (How was I to know that when some people make New Year’s Resolutions, they actually keep them?)

In the name of said resolutions, Rita has dragged me through horrific torture sessions (otherwise known as video workouts) in which we do god-awful things like hold weights on our shoulders while we climb up and down on 14-inch steps.

Yeah, it’s tough. But my jeans are loose and I’ve raised a few muscles. Heck, slather a little self-tanner on me and maybe I could drop my towel at the beach without scaring anybody. Then again, maybe not.

Either way, I have to admit that my Body by Rita came in handy the day before our last camping trip.

My husband usually loads our van roof rack. But he had to work late and I thought I’d help him out. So I put a chair next to the van and picked up a box of camp gear. Placing my foot on the chair, I hoisted the box to my shoulder… and stopped dead, because that dang thing was heavy.

I was about to give up and wait for Hubby when I noticed I was in the start position of the killer stepping exercise. So I stepped.

The box SAILED over the Caravan.

Now let me just say that blasting the Death Star couldn’t have given Luke any more pleasure than I got using the Force for the first time.

Two hours later Hubby found me in front of our van. “Hi,” I said brightly. “We’re all packed!”

Eyes wide, he surveyed my work. All three cargo boxes of camping gear were on the roof rack.

So was our tent, four folding chairs, two chaise lounges, a camp table and sun umbrella, an awning, the badminton and bocce ball sets, three boxes of food, four duffel bags, four sleeping bags and four bikes.

The bikes had been a bit of a challenge but I pretended they were wobbly barbells.

“Look at all the room inside the van!” I gushed, waving my hand like they do on game shows.

“We look like the Beverly Hillbillies,” he protested.

“Hee, hee! I’ll be Ellie Mae and you be Jethro.”

Hubby gestured at the loaded van. “YOU can be Jethro.”

The next morning the Caravan barely slowed to a park before I hopped out and raced over to my cousin’s campsite. I felt my budding muscles gave us something new in common to discuss.

“Hey!” I greeted her. “I’ve been working out.”


“Yep,” I sniffed modestly, flexing my biceps. “Loaded that Caravan all by myself.”

Cal Poly’s Star Athlete of 1984 looked me over like I was a javelin the size of a walrus.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, deflating quickly. “I’m kidding.”

Feeling the Force leave me as fast as its little Yoda legs could carry it, I scurried back to help Hubby unload the Caravan.

Should’ve packed that Weight Watchers cookbook on the roof rack, too.

The Bell Tolls for 90 Days, Same as Cash

My neighbor Thelma and I were chatting over my gazanias when a station wagon careened into the cul-de-sac. It did a 180 and screeched to a halt, blocking off the entrance.

The doors flew open and two little girls in uniform and their mother shot out.

The girls headed in opposite directions for the houses on either side of the street. The mother stood her ground as another car bore down on her. Continue reading “The Bell Tolls for 90 Days, Same as Cash”

High Finance

Jenny called to let me in on her latest investment plan. “Four Happy Meals!” she crowed. “Got a complete set of toys!”

This really burned me up. Women everywhere were making a mint in collectibles while my MBA-toting husband fiddled with mutual funds. Continue reading “High Finance”

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won

I’m a bad housekeeper but my hubby is worse, or at least he pretends to be.

He messes up any attempt to clean–a crafty but transparent plot to avoid housework. Supposedly he can’t remember how to sort lights from darks, or that you’re not supposed to wash plastic bags in the dishwasher.

He can’t ever find stuff, either. “You keep changing where things belong!” he complains, like it’s my fault we’ve lived here six years and he still doesn’t know where the ice cubes are.

Eh, I forgive him. At least he works hard at his day job. In fact, he’d been working so much overtime he hadn’t mowed the lawn for a month.

I knew we’d either lose the dog in the back yard or we’d get another nasty association letter informing us we’d lowered our neighbors’ property values again.

So I decided to help Hubby out. After all, I’d appreciate him helping me out sometime, maybe by picking up his dirty socks, or by hanging his clothes on hangers instead of doorknobs.

Inspired, I studied the manual of our Honda mower (an excellent example of “How To” in an easy reading format) and pulled the machine out of the garage.

It started right up. Holding the manual between my teeth, I proceeded to mow the lawn. It turns out mowing is actually a lot like vacuuming, only you have to empty out the bag more often.

I was making neat little vacuum tracks on the lawn when all at once our little cul-de-sac became the most heavily traveled pedestrian thoroughfare in the county.

Several passers-by felt the need to stop and tell me either a) they thought it was great I was doing what my very lucky spouse should be doing, or b) they thought it was rotten I had to do what my no-good, lazy spouse should be doing.

I realized, wow, this is what dads everywhere experience when they’re caught changing their kids’ diapers in public. The insight kept me humble, so I downplayed my marital contribution by telling everyone my scheme about the dirty socks.

Despite all the interruptions, I finished and put the mower away. Then I had to figure out how to work Hubby’s precious edger, a monster with more gearshifts, levers, and knobs than a front-end-loader.

It’s his pride and joy, the biggest edger in San Diego. He bought it in Texas, where Real Men use weed whackers for whacking weeds, not edging lawns.

But the edger manual wasn’t written by anyone who spoke an Earth tongue as a first language. So I gave up on it and instead hosed the lawn clippings off the driveway and down the street to my neighbor Rita’s house. She always appreciates that.

I didn’t tell Hubby–I knew he’d notice my noble gesture on his own. A week later he did notice something. During every sprinkler cycle a geyser the size of Old Faithful gushed in the middle of our lawn, sending gallons of water down the street to wash grass clippings out of Rita’s gutter (something else she’d appreciate).

“How long has that been going on?” Hubby asked, pointing at the fountain in our lawn.

“I don’t know. Usually I sleep through the sprinkler cycle.”

“A sprinkler head’s missing. Did… did somebody… mow the lawn?

“Yeah,” I said proudly. “I did! No need to worry about it this week–I mean, last week.”

“You mowed off a sprinkler head!”

“Really? What was it doing in the middle of the lawn?”

His face showed a sudden alarm. “You didn’t touch my edger, did you?”

“No, I couldn’t figure it out, but if you showed me how…”

Please,” he interrupted, “no need to touch the lawn again. Damn! Now I have to replace that sprinkler head.”

Jeez. The way he was going on about it, you’d think he had to chisel melted plastic bags off the bottom of a dishwasher.

Baby Blues

About a year ago my neighbor Sophie called me up.

“I’m pregnant!” she announced excitedly. Before I could congratulate her she rushed on.

“You call your husband right now and tell him to come home. I want you pregnant by tomorrow morning.”

She has always been a take-charge kind of woman, but this was pushing it just a little bit. Continue reading “Baby Blues”

You Better Wave

There’s no better ice-breaker than moving into a brand-new housing development with ten other families.

It’s an instant, equalized community where everyone has exactly what you do: extreme mortgage payments, dirt back yards, and sheet/blanket/beach towel window treatments.

Our first summer, we held countless potluck barbecues in the cul-de-sac. While the kids played, we grown-ups discussed deep, soul-wrenching topics like, “Who Got the Best Deal on Their Floor Plan,” or “Who Spent the Most on Ugrades.”

It was our neighborhood’s honeymoon time. Continue reading “You Better Wave”