Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Of bats and behemoths

Mom, today I learned I go to school with GIANTS!

And I learned the real reason my niece has been turning up her nose at the raisin bran lately.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Math geeks "get" me.

Mom, today I learned the makers of my algebra textbook understand that when I do algebra, I want to throw myself off a very tall building.

New feature!

Drumroll, please.


I'm posting my first pic and caption today in The Mother Load's new feature, "What I learned today." I'm not sure how often they'll be up at this point. I'd love to post these daily, but that will depend on how often I see funny things and take pictures and on how long it takes me to set up an email for this blog so readers can submit pics they'd like to see featured. For now, I'll post them as I find them. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Final Spectrum column

Published September 27, 2009

St. George Spectrum & Daily News

9 years ago, I was a young mother with three children, a silly sense of humor, and a dream. I had a part time job I enjoyed, and life seemed content on the surface. Underneath, however, lived an electric undercurrent of potential. It pricked and poked and sometimes stabbed at me, saying, “You are a writer. You write. Why are you not writing?”
I confessed these feelings to a friend one evening. I told her how I looked at the pages of The Spectrum and knew I should be in there. I felt it with everything that I was. My friend’s response was matter of fact. “What are you waiting for?”

I had many reasons to hesitate. I had some college experience but no degree. I had no professional writing experience. I didn’t know what I would write or why anyone would hire me. In the end, none of that mattered. I was a writer. Why was I not writing? I said the same to the managing editor of The Spectrum, and the rest is history.

I’m trying to imagine what my life for the last 9 years would have been without The Mother Load. I’ve described this column as “fluff” on more than one occasion, downplaying its importance in an effort to hide what it really means to me. The truth is, this column has been my pulse, my life force, my soul on paper. It has been comfort and catharsis and celebration. It was my “barbaric yawp,” and The Spectrum was my rooftop.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing as if this is a last column, it’s because this is a last column. Faced with budget cuts that were abrupt but not unexpected in this economy, my editor let me know last week that The Spectrum would no longer be able to run The Mother Load. I had been anticipating this for a year, watching the trends and wondering when my time would be up. I’m surprised and gratified that they hung on to The Mother Load as long as they did.

I couldn’t leave without expressing appreciation to some very important people. My first editor, Jennifer King, is someone I will always consider a friend. One day, she told me that reading The Mother Load was the highlight of her week. I considered that statement one of the highlights of my life. Two editors followed, Kathryn van Roosendaal and Rachel Glidden. I was privileged to work with them both and thank them for their kindness and professionalism. Managing Editor, Todd Seiffert, has my undying gratitude for believing in me, promoting me, and telling me once that I had, “quite a following.”

Lois Smith, ILIKEU and wish I could tell you what a huge impact you had on my life. Thank you to readers who sent letters and cards to let me know how much they enjoyed reading The Mother Load each week. Thank you, especially, to a couple of anonymous readers who sent a card of thanks and encouragement and an anonymous gift that came at just the right time.

To my ex-husband, Aaron Wilson: thank you for supporting and encouraging me through the early years and for making me a mother five times over. To my husband, Richard Clark: no one gets my humor like you do. Thank you for every appreciative guffaw, for every proud declaration of, “That’s MY wife!” and for understanding what it means to love words like flabbergasted and surreptitious and facetiously.

More than anything, I’d like to thank my five children, without whom this column would not exist. The “load” of motherhood is, at times, heavy and demanding. It’s a load I’m blessed and privileged to bear. My kids remind me that there is beauty and hope in the world and that dreams are attainable if I just believe. Ray, Miriam, Cate, Evelyn, and Michael, you are my heroes.

While this will be the last edition of The Mother Load in the Spectrum, it will not be the last edition of The Mother Load. I could no more stop breathing than stop writing this column. The venue may change, but The Mother Load will live on, shifting from humor column to humor blog. Check it out at There’s not much to see today, but you’ll soon have access to new weekly editions, past favorites, and some other funny features I’m developing.

Thanks again. It’s been a phenomenal run.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hello? Is this thing on?

Hi everyone. This is the new home of The Mother Load, the wildly successful (right?) humor column I've been writing for The St. George Spectrum and Daily News for the past 9 years. The Mother Load has gone the way of Reading Rainbow...death by budget I'm moving it here.

Don't be discouraged by the look of the blog at this point. I'm just getting started over here, and it's been a busy week. I have wonderful (WONDERFUL) friends helping me get moving on this despite my schedule. I think it may be because they're all addicted to their weekly dose of Mother Load and will go into horrible withdrawals and shave their heads and burn down their houses if it ends. I think that because it makes me feel powerful, muahahahahaha!

I kid. Thank you to Dawnyel for setting this up for me. And thanks to my MOFs and other friends who have pushed me into the world of the blogger. Welcome readers, both from the Spectrum and to those of you seeing The Mother Load for the first time.

Starting this week, I'll post a new edition of the Mother Load each week. Check back here for the day. I'm thinking Fridays, since that was deadline day at The Spectrum, so I'm already used to getting it done by then. I'll also be adding past editions of The Mother Load, picking out my favorites for you to enjoy all over again. I've got a few other ideas in development right now for weekly features I'd like to run in addition to the weekly columns. It's all very new and exciting!

I'd love for you to become a follower of the blog. I don't know how you do that. Ask Dawnyel... :) I'm also considering joining Twitter so I can let people know when new material is up. If anyone wants to tell me how the heck to use Twitter, I'd probably make you some homemade bread. A back rub is also a possibility,as long as you remain clothed. If someone can tell me how to add this blog to facebook via the fan app, you can have bread AND a back rub. You can have your back rubbed WITH bread (the cracked wheat really exfoliates)!

So there you go. I'm happy to be here. Here's to another 9 years (and more!) of The Mother Load.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Flippant talk of phlegm

Published September 20, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

We’re halfway through September and adjusting to the routine of fall. Everyone has settled into school and the back to school bug has settled into my head and lungs.

I do this every year. It starts in my pharynx, that space in your head that connects your mouth to your nose. It’s the place congestion loves to live and from which normal people, ahem, “hock” the offensive junk out of their bodies.

I wish I knew how to do that. It would make my life a lot easier. I’ve tried it on numerous occasions and had caring friends demonstrate. Alas, I am missing the hock gene. Without this ability, I suffer as the gunk gets more and more impacted until I’m ready to shove a metal hook past my tonsils and scrape it out of my head. I’m always saved from the task when the crud migrates south for winter and builds a vacation resort in my lungs.

I’m sorry if my description disgusts you. Sick people are fairly lacking in tact. And couth. I have neither the energy or the time to care about either. Next week, I’ll write a happy, non-disgusting column. For now, my life is all about phlegm…snot…boogers…great, green, chunky lung nuggets that get caught in my windpipe and threaten to choke the life right out of me.

Maybe I have swine flu. I wonder what I would do if I did have swine flu. The guidelines change from day to day, so I’m not aware if I’m supposed to let the health department know or if I’m good to treat it like any old bug, metal hook at the ready, grumpy voice at full volume, and tact and couth tied up for the ride.

When we first started hearing about the swine flu pandemic, news reports brought to mind scary guys in hazmat suits, mass quarantines, and a possible end of life as we know it. It seemed like only a matter of time until people started chanting (behind protective masks, of course), “There but by the grace of hand sanitizer go I.” While swine flu remains a threat, it’s certainly not the crazy, scary, duck-and-cover emergency the press made it out to be.

I think the swine flu health guidelines are like the terror alert system. They change almost arbitrarily. They don’t really tell us anything. They keep airline passengers from enjoying their expensive, amenity-free hurtle through the friendly skies. Eventually, they become white noise in the background of life.

Today’s terror alert is yellow. I believe that means our chances of being attacked by terrorists are about the same as being trampled by coughing and sneezing pigs, so we should all patriotically go about the business of being terrified…and wash our hands and avoid kissing schoolchildren.

If I actually have swine flu and die from it, I’ll feel really bad about making light of a serious subject. Okay, that’s not entirely true. If that happens, I won’t feel anything, because I’ll be dead. It’s more accurate to say that if I die from swine flu, my family will feel really bad that I made light of it. “If only she’d washed her hands more frequently,” they’ll say. “If only she’d ducked when the man at the grocery store coughed into her shirt instead of his. If only she hadn’t angered the gods with her flippant talk of phlegm.”

If I do die, I’d like to be remembered as someone who changed the lives of others, if only by introducing the phrase, “great, green, chunky lung nuggets,” into the vernacular. Bury me with this edition of The Mother Load on my chest, an American flag on my coffin, and a metal hook implanted in my pharynx.

And I’d like the terror alert level changed to green.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reading Rainbow Tribute

Published September 13, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

“Butterfly in the sky…I can go twice as high…” If you’re my age or younger or you have a child who is my age or younger, you’re probably quietly singing, “Take a look! It’s in a book! A Reading Rainbow!” and remembering quality time spent with this beloved PBS show. Can you believe that show’s been on the air since I was six? Of course you can because it’s amazing.

Well, it was.

If you hadn’t already heard, I’m very sorry to let you know that Reading Rainbow is no more. A victim of budget cuts, Reading Rainbow aired it’s final show just over a week ago, ending its 26 year run on public television. I heard the news from the man himself, host LeVar Burton, in an interview he gave on public radio. The news had me sobbing all the way to work.

There are many things in this world that can bring me to tears. By many, I mean most. I cry whenever I pass a tough test. I cry every time one of my children performs on stage. I weep regularly over the vast number of Americans who don’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your.” I was not prepared to grieve this passionately over a TV show I haven’t watched in years.

As I listened to callers express heartfelt expressions of appreciation for Mr. Burton’s work and share their favorite episodes of the show, my own favorite came quickly to mind. I see LeVar Burton decked out in specialized gear, standing outside the entrance to a cave with the episode’s designated expert. He smilingly informs my younger self that exploring caves is called, “Spelunking,” then turns eagerly to enter. I am rapt. Spelunking. What an amazing word.

Any true collector of favorite words can tell you the word that started it all, and there was mine. Of all the ways to express the act of exploring a cave, someone had chosen this exquisite word. I took it as a gift and have treasured it since. I’ve been spelunking a time or too, and I still can’t tell you if I receive more enjoyment from the act of spelunking or the fact that I can say I’ve been spelunking. Either way, every time I think of the word, I think of the episode of Reading Rainbow and know the show helped to plot the course of my life. I became a reader, an avid one, and a lover of amazing words.

I originally intended to write a comical “Save Reading Rainbow” column, but my reverence for the show forestalls most attempts at levity. Reading Rainbow had a profound impact on my life as I’m sure it did on yours. The people behind it understood the great importance of reading and created a generation of youngsters who still value books today.

To all the people at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the producers, directors, cast and crew of Reading Rainbow, I offer my thanks for a job well done. To LeVar Burton, you have my gratitude for years of dedicated service to the cause of literacy and for a favorite word that changed my life. Your show will be sorely missed.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Published September 6, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

In a recent family meeting, my 12 year old son raised an issue, asking whether we felt comfortable dropping him and his sisters, aged 9 and 10, off at the movie theater to watch a show sans parents. Fighting my nearly overwhelming desire to answer with a knee-jerk response of, “You’ll go to movies on your own when your kids are out of the house,” I tabled the issue pending a survey of aunts and uncles with kids older than ours.

As I’ve spent time deliberating, I’ve found myself watching the pendulum swing back and forth from “overprotective” to “just plain nuts” more than once, hoping to find a “sounds reasonable” somewhere in the middle.

I wonder if this process was much the same for the parents of Laura Dekker, the 13 year old Dutch girl who wants to sail around the world by herself for the next two years. I don’t know the Dekkers, but I imagine they watched the same pendulum swing, though I’m assuming theirs only swings between “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” and, “WHAT?!” with nary a, “Maybe it would be okay, if …” in between.

I’ve been watching the case closely, assuming these parents made their decision thoughtfully and wanting to avoid some of the thought processes they might have used. It’s easy for me (and every other rational human being in the world) to look at this family and say, “Hellooooo. This is a really dumb idea.” But if you’re the parent, are you going to see it that way? (Okay, well, if you’re you and not them, then yes, you’re going to see it that way, because you would never do this; but if you’re me and the decision is about a movie theater, is it going to be that clear cut?)

According to an interview with her lawyer, she’s been asking for the chance to sail around the world for quite awhile. Hoping to buy themselves time, her parents told her if she managed to get it planned and set up by herself, they’d let her do it. When she came back to them later having done just that, they reported they were stuck. (This is also exactly why I have made no such deals with Ray.) That’s a classic parenting mistake. When you make a deal with your child hoping their immaturity will give you an out, the correct response when they surprise you is to plead ignorance and buy them something. Does Laura have a Wii? I hear they’re fun.

According to reports, Laura’s father then told her if she could sail to England by herself without any problems, he would feel good about her sailing around the world. Apparently, when she was detained by British authorities who called and demanded he accompany her back to Holland, he did not see this as a problem. I could send my kids in to the theater on a test run to buy popcorn and drinks, but if the manager called me to remove them, I don’t think I’d see it as successful. I’m just saying.

The best advice we’ve gotten so far is to consider allowing the kids to take a cell phone in to the theater with them. That way, if they need me, they can get in touch. Since Laura plans to enroll herself in an online school, I’m assuming she can email her parents daily if she needs anything. Of course, we’re comparing an hour and a half with two years and a number of oceans here. Somehow, I’m not sure it computes.

For now, the issue is on hold. The Dutch courts want a psychological evaluation done to determine whether or not Laura can withstand the emotional rigors of a solo trip like this. Can she handle the isolation? The loneliness? The lack of sociocultural stimuli necessary for adequate emotional development? If they answer yes, her dream will come true and the email updates will begin.

“Dear mom and dad, today I saw three jellyfish, finished up my pre-Algebra homework, got attacked by pirates, and I’m all out of conditioner. Please send cash.”