Category Archives: It’s Funny Because It’s True!

Technology Bytes Sometimes

By Vicki Hughes      Posted December 2, 2013

I have been using a computer daily since about 1992. This in no way makes me a techie, but I have spent my share of time on the line with tech support, and I know the drill: Turn it off. Turn it back on. That fixes about seventy percent of my technical difficulties. Men should learn this when dealing with women, seeing as how they sometimes forget that all important second step.

The other day it occurred to me that I am credited with far more technical savvy than I feel I can honestly say I possess. However, I remain strangely in charge of more and more technical devices. This is much the same way I hated math in school, yet most of my adult jobs have been heavy on the math. It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the way it is.

Here are some startling facts about my lack of technical savvy:

I have no idea what LTE is on my phone, but if I felt compelled to solve the mystery, I’d Google it. Most everything I know how to do with a computer, I’ve Googled. I’m still very fuzzy on RAM and gigabytes and the relative importance of processor speeds and memory. My primary concern is, can I get on Facebook, shop on Zappo’s and download books from Amazon? If the answer is yes, I have what I need.

Whenever I use iTunes, I try various random maneuvers, and I am never entirely sure,from one attempt to the next, what worked and what didn’t. When it works I do a little fist pump, and when it doesn’t work I curse my ever growing dependence on all things electronic, and feel tears of frustration pricking at the backs of my eyes. And then I always marvel at the literal millions of people who apparently are much better at this than I am, and then I weep for realsies.

Sometimes when I am typing a Word doc, it disappears entirely, for no reason whatsoever, and then I have a tiny meltdown. I have been known to have a very strange effect on electronic devices, including making wrist watches run backwards. When things glitch out around me, I attribute this to my animal magnetism.

In spite of this I am notoriously bad about backing up my data. It usually only happens when my computer takes matters into its own hands and simply refuses to let me pass go or collect two hundred dollars until I back some shit up. This generally follows a period where I have been systematically ignoring some pop up window, vaguely telling it, “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure.”

If you ever join us on a night when we are attempting to watch a DVD with my Mom, and I am trying to get the Closed Captioning to work, pack a snack. This endeavor alone will explain to you why I have a favorite martini glass. Our very long suffering daughter usually has to intervene before somebody says something unfortunate.

My iPhone has that clever Siri to help me with a variety of tasks. Why can’t my TV simply respond  when I say, “Turn on the friggin’ Closed Captions, will ya? I’m not getting any younger over here!” That’s a feature I’d pay extra for. And I’d love it if my remote was all voice activated, and would respond to questions like, “Remind me again what happened last week with that snarky guy on Revenge? I was texting during that part, and missed it!”

I occasionally pass along a techie tidbit to someone frighteningly less adept than I am. I recently shared a contact with a friend, meaning I forwarded someone else’s contact information from my phone contacts directly into a text message. All he had to do was click “Add New Contact” to magically have that person’s info. He quietly took me aside, and as though we were passing state secrets, he said from the corner of his mouth, “How did you do that?” I showed him the drill, and then we both felt smarter.  But these tiny sparks of hope are so rare.

Any device that needs to be plugged into the back of our TV, DVR or DVD player with a red white or yellow cable, is probably going to make me twitchy, and say things like, “Maybe this is not my calling.” And the words next to those ports, printed in black on black? Could those be printed any smaller?

I have angry, angry thoughts towards the maps function in my iPhone, and it has caused me on more than one occasion to long for the simplicity of a paper map, and a compass. Or a homing pigeon. Nevertheless, I keep using it.

Passwords that contain capital letters, symbols and numbers make me increasingly hostile, and in my opinion will be the catalyst to convincing the masses to accept the mark of the beast, simply to avoid having to use such absurdities to do things like rent a movie or order vitamins online. Why does my vitamin ordering history need to NSA levels of security?

There are tiny icons on my phone RIGHT NOW that I am completely unfamiliar with. One looks like paperclips in love. I have no idea what it means.

I’m contemplating buying a new tablet, and this is stressing me out. I’m fraught with despair because I’m convinced that whichever one I buy will lack the one feature I truly can’t live without, but will have forty-seven I don’t even know exist.

In spite of it all, when I am enjoying a glass of wine, and weather stalking my friends around the country, comparing our ten day forecasts, I’m all in. When I am texting friends and loved ones all over the USA, while the alfredo sauce gets happy, I am in love with this technology stuff. I am convinced it is here to stay. Happy Cyber Monday.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

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Food Porn

By Vicki Hughes   Posted August 5, 2013

I love Pinterest as much as the next girl. It is my saving grace when I’m too lazy to read, and John has the SyFy Channel on. But I have to tell you, I stay off of the food boards. Hanging out there is just an invitation to a full on food-porn addiction.

I stay safely over on the humor, crafts and photography boards, and even there, I’m not entirely safe from delectable food posts. Yesterday on a humor board, someone posted a picture of a mock up of Outback Steakhouse’s Alice Springs Chicken. It appeared to be four innocent chicken breasts in a Pyrex dish, that had first been trussed in bacon, then held down against their will while four pounds of cheddar cheese was dumped on them, and then broiled. There could be roadkill possum breast under there and you’d eat it. You’d eat it, and you’d like it.

Last week, as John was fiddling with the DVR (presumably to search for more shark movies), my head swiveled up from my book as I heard a food competition contestant say, “I’m making my Maple Bacon Cheesecake.” Really? can we get you a side of queso to dip each bite in? Perhaps a tiny ramekin filled with chocolate sprinkles to really make it sing?

Let me just say, I love food. We cook at least six nights a week, and we eat well. I didn’t join Weight Watchers for nothing. But come on. Unless you want to get winded from brushing your teeth, or have to drive to the mailbox to check your mail, you have to smarten up. Delicious, attractive food does not have to be breast stroking through a channel of melted cheese. Cheesecake does not need additional bacon. Ever.

If a Big Mac and a supersize fries and Coke require seven hours of walking to burn off, imagine the hike to Maine it would take to work off that cheesecake. Considering that most Americans don’t walk seven minutes a day, I think it might be wise to take Maple Bacon Cheesecake off the menu. Unless you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail, in which case, go for it. I’m sure the bears will appreciate the break from Snickers Bars, trail mix and Slim Jims.

Everytime I see an ad for the latest and greatest pizza…”Stuffed crust with fourteen different meats and no pesky vegetables to slow down your heart attack!” all I can think is, “Just what America needs.”




By Vicki Hughes      Posted July 31, 2013

I recently spent my day off, culling the clutter and various flotsam and jetsam that was rendering John’s “office” un-useable. I’m not really sure why we call it an office, because it’s main purpose is to house his Bowflex, surfboard, inversion table and a giant dog bed. It does have a table that could serve as a desk, and the obligatory bills, invoices and random warranty paperwork to things we no longer own. So, sure, we’ll call it an office. Why not?

One reason I’m not especially good at this sort of thing is my tendency to become distracted and absorbed in the family artifacts I discover. I found, among other things: keys to cars we no longer own, Christmas cards bearing photographs of people I don’t recognize, (but clearly cannot throw away,) a grocery bag containing newspaper headlines from the day the Japanese surrendered at the end of WWII, saved by my great-grandfather (why I was entrusted with these, I have no idea) and a few pictures that took me back to the year John and I married and moved to Georgia.

He proposed to me in 1985, the night before we left on a Hawaiian vacation, two months after we began dating. You could call it a whirlwind romance, except we’d known each other for six years, him being my best friend’s older brother. Older, wilder brother. Older, wilder brother with fast cars and an Australian accent. What girl could resist, really?

Two months after the Vegas wedding, we loaded up his Chevy pickup, hauling a questionably road worthy travel trailer. The plan was for me to follow in my extremely adorable Pontiac Fiero. These vehicles contained all of our worldly possessions, which I can summarize here: A rocking chair, a ceiling fan, an extremely neurotic cat, a cornucopia of my Mom’s old pots, pans and dishes, forty-nine plastic trash bags filled with my clothes and shoes, and one bag of John’s clothes which entailed one or two pairs of underwear, several terry cloth polo shirts, which we must never speak of again, and his “cruel shoes.” Clearly, we were ready to storm the castle.

With his friends humming the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies, and two full tanks of gas, we set off. We had our AAA map with the route from Tehachapi, CA all the way to Peachtree City, GA clearly marked with a highlighter. We were Louis and Clark, going backwards, cluelessly, without cellphones. What could go wrong?

The full details of this trip are a story for another day, but here are the highlights: It took us four harrowing days, with stops in many fun and educational places including Albuquerque, where the only hotel room available had a waterbed set to 110 degrees, Oklahoma City, where I continually got myself lost, and the frighteningly narrow bridges of Mississippi, where I first laid eyes on kudzu, and immediately imagined it covering many corpses of people who “Ain’t from around here, are ya?” We had to disengage the air conditioning in the truck, to prevent it from overheating, which really does very little to keep the occupants from overheating.

Rural Mississippi in June also made us aware of the fact that it can rain so hard that you will begin to wonder if you have inadvertently driven into a lake. After helplessly following behind John over a bridge built for covered wagons, I could only say “ogod, ogod ogod,” as the trailer behind his truck did a herky-jerky fishtail, as a semi truck blew by us going about 110mph in the opposite direction. My mouth and eyes all formed perfect O‘s as our trailer came within a redneck’s whisker of flinging a cyclist who was out for a lovely bike ride, off of the Bridge of Doom.

At the next available roadside shoulder, the truck and trailer pulled over in a dramatic cloud of red dirt and gravel. Pre-cell phone, remember? I cautiously parked behind him, and waited for him to approach my car with a much needed cigarette, thinking it might be wise to allow a bit of the drama to fade before making conversation. After a minute or two, when he didn’t appear, I turned off my car, got out and approached the driver’s side of his truck. And he wasn’t in the truck. But he hadn’t gotten out of the truck. I blinked, and looked again, and there I saw him laying on the front seat of the truck with his eyes closed.

Leaning through the window, I put on my most encouraging, newlywed smile, and said, “Hey Babe. You okay? That was insane.”

With eyes calmly closed he replied, “I go no further.”

We then had a more lengthy discussion about the complications of setting up our new household on the roadside in Mississippi, the fact that this was no place to raise a family, how he was the best driver since Mario Andretti and for the love of Mike, is that a banjo I hear? After several shaky smokes, and the promise of air conditioning at our final destination, we continued.

Upon our arrival in the veritable civilization of Peachtree City, Georgia, we set about finding a place to rent. We chose a townhouse in Twiggs Corner. I should explain that “townhouse” was the technical real estate term for, “Front door at ground level, and then carry all your crap up a huge flight of stairs, where the rest of the apartment is.” We were so young, so in love, so naïve. So not prepared to meet the herd of Malathion-resistant roaches who were waiting in the empty unit next to ours to welcome us to the neighborhood. Roaches are very hospitable in the South. They kindly wait until you are unpacked to come a callin’.

John had a distinct advantage over me, in understanding the locals. His Australian upbringing had trained his ear for the twang-y, deep south dialect that left me straining forward with furrowed brows. He’d talk to a cluster of guys in overalls, and they’d carry on, and he’d smile and laugh and then say, “No shit!” I’d politely smile, and then wait till we got home to flip through my copy of “How to Speak Southern,” searching in vain for the term, “Dern de dern dern dern.”

I slowly began to keep a mental list of the vernacular, so I wasn’t always asking people what they were talking about. Buggies were grocery carts. Cranking the car was starting it. Cutting on the lights meant turning them on. I was catching on! Your Mama and them, was the sum total of everyone you were related to, and ‘midity was the air you could see, feel, breathe and wear as a protective coating. Fried was the state that all food must be converted to in order to make it edible, banana puddin’ was health food, water was the second main ingredient in sweet tea, and sweet tea was the reason God made water. For etiquette’s sake, lest you speak out of turn, liquor stores were the place where Baptists suffer from both blindness and amnesia. And my all time, favorite southern term ever was, “Get up out the floor,” which translates to, “Get your tiny, three year old ass up off that floor and act like you have some sense before I beat you!” I kept notes.


Why Lists May Not Be Helping You Remember


By Vicki Hughes    Posted July 2, 2013

I’m growing ever more concerned about all the things I’m expected to remember. I have lists for home, lists for work, lists for family members, several calendars to coordinate, and I’m supposed to remember the last time the dogs had their flea medicine. I have all sorts of note features in my iPhone. This provides a false sense of security, as if putting it in there is an ironclad guarantee that I will magically put the reminder on the right day, or that my phone will actually be fully charged, with the ringer “on” when the alert finally comes through. This is all wishful thinking, and should not be trusted.

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon regarding certain very important items on my grocery list. Some of them are memory resistant. These are not random, weird things like foie gras or clotted cream. I’m talking about very important stuff we actually need, things like deodorant, or laundry detergent, or Tonic water. Even when plainly written on my list, some of these items somehow elude capture. I can’t explain it, but it’s as if, while I am looking at the list, the primary item becomes written in invisible ink, but only until I return home, when it will suddenly re-appear.

I’ve identified part of the problem as the large amount of brain bandwidth that I’m expected to allocate to log-ins and passwords. I especially love it when I am required to create a password with a capital letter, a symbol, a number, a gang sign, the molecular structure of sand and my favorite color when I was twelve. Oh. And for proper security, NEVER write it down. Ever. Yeah. Right. You know who remembers passwords like that? Cyborgs. That’s who.

People are known to cry out over the ignorance of today’s youth about history. I’d just like to say, I personally forgive young people for not knowing more about history. There’s a lot more history now than there used to be. The history of the Internet alone could be a college level dissertation. I think we could all calm down over the youth of America being a little fuzzy on eighteenth century tariffs and who the greatest railroad barons were. Let alone ancient history. Holy crap. Do you want these kids to remember Caesar’s last words, or develop you an app to help you find your phone when you shut it in the bathroom drawer with your toothpaste?

Do you remember that Steely Dan song, “Hey Nineteen?” The guy at the bar is bitter because the sweet young thing he’s chatting up doesn’t know who Aretha Franklin is. First of all, it’s her loss. Second of all, stop being the creepy old guy at the college bar. Let’s not forget, it’s far more depressing that she is unaware that a coffee can be made at home for under five dollars, or that he’s got boxer shorts that have more real-life experience than she does.

When you reach a certain age, there’s a fun game you get to play with people in your same general age bracket. While listening to the music of your youth, you get to play, “Name That Band!” Here’s how we play at our house.

“Who is that, 38 Special?”

“No, it’s 10cc.”

“Yeah, I knew it had a number in it.”

The music plays on…

“Is that Bread?”

“No, it’s Cream.”

“Ehh. I knew it was something edible.”

We continue to chill out to Pandora.

“That’s The Animals, right?”

“Nope. The Zombies.”

“Shit! I knew it was something plural.”

Suddenly one of us jumps up with a fist pump.

“That HAS to be The Animals.”

“It’s The Turtles.”

“Turtles are technically animals.”

We continue like this until one of us says, “I don’t want to play this game anymore,” or until we need more wine.

Because I make my living in the hospitality field, I count it a blessing that I’m good at remembering names. I know lots of people who are not, but I have a feeling they are the ones who manage to get home with all the items they wrote on their grocery list. Really, I don’t think it would be fair for any one person to be good at both. Someone like that shouldn’t be trusted…Cyborgs.

© 2013 Vicki Hughes

The Pool Float Flounder, A Workout For Lazy People

float 2

By Vicki Hughes 2013                Posted June 17, 2013

I recently spent some very serious lazy-time on my favorite pool float, reading a book and doing my favorite form of exercise, The Pool Float Flounder. This particular float is made in two sections, so when it’s on land you can fold the leg section underneath the butt section and it instantly becomes a sort of seventies style chair. This is great because the moment you decide it looks really stupid sitting on the deck, you can grab it and fling it back into the water where the dogs can’t pee on it. Very convenient.

In a sudden burst of redneck, “Hey y’all, watch this!” I wondered to myself if I could sit on the float, in its folded up state, in the pool? I imagined myself perched up there, a la Cleopatra, and wondered if I could get John to fashion me some sort of shade awning out of palm fronds. I folded up the float, drug it over to the pool steps, gingerly tested it with both hands, pressing it down in the water to ensure its seaworthiness. Once my rigorous scientific testing was complete, I took an over-confident hop and sat my ass down on it, and I was promptly bucked off like a rookie bull rider at the PBA finals. My cowboy hat flew off and everything.

As I came sputtering to the surface I realized I’d narrowly missed knocking out a couple of teeth on the side of the pool. I took a mental pencil, and added this to an ever growing list of things to never try again. My list includes: roller skating, walking in the snow in nothing more than slippers and a bathrobe, coloring my hair anything other than some variation of blonde, using the “cheap beans” in chili, doing my own pedicures and helping acquaintances get their lives together by offering them a place to stay “for a week or two.”

You live, you learn.

I decided to be mature, and simply use the float according to package directions, which, I assure you, I never read. Roughly forty-five minutes into what I call The Pool Float Flounder, it dawned on me that I may be on to the next internet craze. The Pool Float Flounder is just as idiotic as say, Prancercize or Gangnam Style.

Here’s how you do it: On the side of the pool you place your beverage, your book, your cell phone, a journal and a pen. Be sure to place your phone in a shady spot so it won’t get a heatstroke and cause the ominous Temperature! warning to come on. That is bad, so I’ve been told. Now, bring the float over to the shallow end, and raising one leg, attempt to straddle the float. Do not attempt to look dignified. That will only slow you down and lead to low self-esteem and bitterness. Expect to resemble an oiled up Michelin Man getting into a rubber canoe.

Now, once the rocking and rolling settles down, use your hands to paddle yourself back to the side where you’ve left your relaxation paraphernalia. Contemplate the wisdom of taking your cell phone away from land, consult your recent memories of stupid things not to do again, and then opt to leave it relaxing in the shade of a potted gardenia. Grab your beverage and your book with the ruffled pages. Fun fact: in the humidity books get curly hair just like people do.

Make sure your straw cowboy hat is someplace on your head, and then with your foot, launch off from the side. At this point, you’re doing great. You’re afloat, you have your drink, which is not exactly as cold as you’d like, but there’s no going back for ice cubes now. Your book will have damp thumbprints and a few smeary lines of text. This is normal. Your body will be making these hilarious, squeaking gunshot noises every time you wiggle around to get comfortable. Also normal.

When you realize you are schlumphed down like an eight pound newborn in a big boy carseat, you will need to position your feet on the lower portion of the float, getting just enough traction to push yourself back, carefully lifting your butt and skootching backwards. This is important in case anyone shows up with a smartphone and wants to take pictures, and you’d like to have fewer than forty seven chins.

Take a deep breath. You’re doing great.

At this point, if you’ve timed your Pool Float Flounder workout correctly, there will be someplace in the pool, preferably along the side, where there will be a smidge of shade. Paddle towards it. You will need to rest quietly for a few moments.

When you determine that the level of shade you are enjoying is perfect and that you’d like to float quietly, this is when the real workout begins. You must try to use either a hand or a foot to create a mooring to the edge of the pool. Your success rate will be sketchy. This is normal. You will suddenly feel your inner engineer kick in, contemplating a series of ropes, canvas straps and bunji cords that should be installed poolside. At the very least, you’d like to see docking slips for people who have finally found the perfect spot but cannot maintain it for love or money.

All your wiggling around will have made you thirsty, so you will need to hydrate and take a few sips of your room temperature beverage. You will find it pressed between your thighs. At this point, your hat should be properly askew and in danger of falling off the back of the float. Once you readjust it to keep the sun out of your eyes, you may attempt to read your bedraggled book through the holes in your straw hat. This should not continue for more than seven minutes, or you will feel yourself growing tense while floating in a pool.

Should a light breeze come up and magically blow you over to the pool’s sweet spot, stop whatever you’re doing: re-adjusting your swimsuit, grimacing at your flattened thighs, flicking gnats off of your drink. Stop everything and relax. Enjoy the moment and soak it in. Because now you have to pee.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Self Service is For The Birds


By Vicki Hughes     Posted June 4, 2014

About every five years I decide to do my own pedicure and then I remember why it’s been five years. They say a cobbler’s kids go without shoes and they should say that a salon and spa manager goes too long without a root touch-up or a pedicure. That’s because I end up surrendering my appointments to customers during business hours and I am loathe to ask anyone, least of all myself, to come in early or stay late to do my “maintenance.”

So I stick with a low maintenance blonde that isn’t a far cry from my natural color and I have learned the art of a messy up-do with a strategically placed hairpiece. Womanhood is all about smoke and mirrors. I’ve also developed a pathetically predictable relationship with one toenail polish color, Cajun Shrimp. This means that rather than do a pedicure when needed, I can simply add one more coat when a minor toe decides to slough off it’s corally lacquer in one complete piece, leaving my foot with a surprised, gap toothed look.

This morning it became impossible to hide my toes of shame. We’ve arrived in full blown sandal season. I cannot blend in, by wearing cowboy boots or clogs when it’s 89 degrees in the shade. As I slipped on my open toed wedges, I stared down with a mixture of shame and resignation. Today must be the day. The travesty must not continue.

I arrived at work and dutifully put my own appointment on the book. I planned. I resolved to not give it up even if The Queen of England needed it. Then, as my appointment neared, I realized it was so not going to happen.

I felt the desperation clouds gathering. I spent the rest of the day strategically hiding my feet from people and then as I left work, I grabbed a bottle of base coat, a new color (same coral family, but with sparkles!) and the mother of all top coats, Seche Vite. I made an oath. Tonight we polish or we die trying.

After I staggered through my front door with my arms full of flimsy white bags full of all sorts of doo dads from Wal-Mart, I realized the one thing I lacked was polish remover. Before I allowed myself to begin keening and renting my clothes, I texted my Mom to see if she had some, and of course she did. She’s the human equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife.

Feeling marginally less inept and ill equipped, I immediately shunned my pants, and exchanged them for a tennis skirt with the little built in shorts underneath. I took my slightly sweaty, very tired, and medium-level, cranky self out to the patio. I was armed with a paper towel, my borrowed polish remover and the tri-fecta of polishes, along with grim determination. Oh. And nail clippers. Don’t forget the nail clippers.

Now, when I say I “gave myself a pedicure” let me use this disclaimer: This was more of a hoof trim/polish change. There was nothing relaxing or girly or mildly spa-like about what was about to unfold. I seated myself in an Adirondack chair on the patio, because I figured they are low to the ground, and my feet are all the way down there. Closer is better.

I dosed the paper towel thoroughly, as if I was about to chloroform a large man, and began to rub away the polish on my left big toe. And I rubbed. And I rubbed. I checked the paper towel to make sure polish was in fact coming off, and it was, but so slowly I actually had time to contemplate the origins of nail polish, nail clippers, the possible need for a sandblaster, and a brief mental list of just how many coats may in fact be involved. At one point the fumes gave me an actual flashback to applying Compound W to childhood warts, and watching them turn a chalky white.

I’m not sure if I was holding my breath or having a near death experience, but I’m pretty sure I saw a white light. There comes a point, when bending over at the waist to do anything pertaining to one’s feet, is riduculously uncomfortable. Examining a callous for a jabby sliver of glass, attempting to fasten the microscopic buckles on very cute, profoundly uncomfortable strappy heels, or hypothetically, removing polish from one’s toenails, it’s just not pretty.

Suddenly every single pound you wish would go away and never come back, suddenly leaves your chin, your upper arms, your butt and boobs, and quickly relocates to your midriff where it all attempts to kill you via suffocation. You have very stern, earnest conversations with yourself about the need for Pilates or yoga or immediate liposuction.

It makes you think of a time when you were twelve and you could fold up your leg and fully examine every crease on the bottom of your foot. Of course at twelve, you couldn’t pick out a good pinot noir, so there’s that. But still, when you are in a position to see what the hell you’re doing with your toenail polish, you are also in the sad position of looking directly at your inner thighs, pressed together like dinner rolls. This is disheartening. Dignity has left the building. You have to focus, and get back to the job at hand.

I decided I needed to quit screwing around and get serious, put some elbow grease into it. I kept rubbing. I was having a hard time not losing heart over the fact that I was now smearing Cajun Shrimp all over my toes, grinding it deeply into my cuticles, callouses and the sad, sad edges of my toenails. I felt the panic rise as I considered an amputation, and then doggedly continued. I was starting to feel like those old women with the smeary red lipstick all around, but not quite on their lips. I thought, “This is how it happens. You just get too tired to continue, and you buy a pair of those brown vinyl shoes to hide what you’ve done to yourself.”

I started to blame the industrial grade top coats we use in the spa biz. Then I blamed the slack, over the counter strength polish remover. The purple kind, “with gelatin and unicorn feathers to strengthen your nails.” I thought to myself, “I need pure acetone, like Sherwin Williams in a metal can, with the skull and crossbones. This Barbie Kool-Aid stuff couldn’t remove a coffee stain!”

I had to sit up and get a few gulps of air to clear my head. Finally, about a half a bottle of remover later, I dosed a second paper towel and moved on to the next toe. This was disturbingly satisfying, as this nail only had a few sad remaining color crumbs on it. Also, I had unsheathed the tiny textured nail file from my nail clippers. You know, the one they are afraid we all might use the next time we want to hijack a plane?

I manage a day spa, for criminy’s sake. I should own an actual nail file. But I don’t because I manage a day spa. I flipped my mini nail file out, like a switchblade, vainly attempting to get a decent grip on the clippers as a handle. I began slashing across the surface of my current victim, thinking I could either buff my way down to the inner crust, where the molten lava lived, or that somehow maybe all the friction would force those polish nodules to just give up the ghost and fall off, like the polish on the toe right next to it had already done without my permission.

How does that happen? They are all polished the same, yet some seem to be affixed with marine grade epoxy, and others are held on with vague promises that we’ll “do lunch sometime.” Suddenly I saw a loose edge. I felt my heart do a tiny skip of joy. Using my fingernail, I pried the edge up and pulled that polish flake flat off. In my mind I did a little Indian whoop of victory. Okay, it wasn’t just in my mind. Whatever.

After I got the final smears removed, and a fresh coat of polish on all ten toes, I felt like I’d completed a marathon or exited from a sweat lodge, or both. Doing your own toes is a job that belongs solely to the professionals. I have seen the white light.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

The Geniuses at Bonnie Bell Cosmetics

By Vicki Hughes    Posted May 27, 2013

 I am convinced that in the seventies, there were marketing geniuses at work for Bonnie Bell Cosmetics. They systematically talked me out of my folded money and quarters I’d earned from rubbing my Dad’s feet. I was in the fifth grade, and spent most of my time with my best friend Chrissy.

Fifth grade girls have a hardwired need for a best friend. It’s when we start noticing the extreme differences between ourselves and other girls, and the ache of that sends us out on a hunt for that other girl who makes us feel safe, and happy, and un-weird. She’s the person you can talk to about nothing or everything in the five minutes you wait for the bus. She’s the person who knows why your hands get sweaty in the lunch line when a certain blonde-haired boy gets in line in front of you. She sits on your bed and looks at album covers with you, while you fold a paper fortune teller out of a sheet of notebook paper.

Chrissy and I lived on the same street in sunny Arcadia, California, home of Santa Anita racetrack, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. We rode our bikes back and forth between our houses, and to the shady, green park at the end of our street to watch her little brother Jeff play little league. There, we sat on bleachers, in an aromatic cloud of cooking hotdogs and dust from the boys running bases. We would systematically nibble on our candy necklaces, biting carefully into the centers with our eye teeth to keep from getting the dreaded “sticky neck.”

A few short blocks from the park was a shopping center where those Bonnie Bell geniuses pedaled their wares. There was a record store, Jackpot Records, a McDonalds, where we anxiously awaited the spring arrival of the Shamrock Shake, and pooled our Monopoly pieces to try to win stuff. And there was Save-On Drugs, home of my very first addiction to cosmetics, the Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker.

The geniuses at Bonnie Bell knew a thing or two about pre-pubescent girls. Primarily, they like to collect things and they like to put stuff that tastes good on their lips because they are imagining kissing boys if they can ever quit giggling. These marketing geniuses figured out that if they kept their price point reasonable, girls would part with their foot rub and car washing money in order to own the latest and greatest flavor they could come up with, no matter how disgusting it might be.

I had a collection that included watermelon, black cherry, caramel corn, sugar plum, Dr. Pepper, and green apple. There was also one in a dark green tube that was so “gross,” I had to hide it in a bottom drawer, but still somehow couldn’t throw it away. This may explain the fourteen lipsticks I own today, but never use.

I saw some Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers at the store the other day. I noticed a couple things that had changed, and it made me wonder if their sales were down compared to when I was a regular customer. First, the tubes are smaller, meaning they are the same size as a regular tube of Chapstick. In the throes of my addiction, they were big, maybe two to three times bigger than the regular lip balms. They were so big they never ran out. You could use one to lube the chassis on a Chevy Impala and still have plenty left over. Now, they don’t stand out from the crowd. Today they’re packaged on a cardboard backer with a clear plastic bubble over the front. You can’t even smell them. I know, because I tried but that plastic bubble was in the way. It was the smelling that always sucked us into the deal.

The lady behind the counter at Save On Drugs, did double duty, dipping ice cream cones, and like a savvy carnie at the local fair, called out to those of us passing by, by simply jiggling the keys to the sliding doors of the glass display case. Inside that glass lived our beloved Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers. We’d stand there, shifting from one foot to the other, contemplating the new arrivals. Oooh! Candy Apple! “Can we smell that one, please?” And then, as if she were pulling out a black pillow bearing engagement rings, she would present us with the goods. Slowly, she would remove the cap, and waft it back and forth under our noses. We’d stare at the sheen at the top of the tube, unused, perfect in every way. And then we’d dig our hands down into our jeans pockets to make sure we had enough cash, after french fries, to make the deal.

The next day at school was our opportunity to be everyone’s best friend. It was the thrill of having a new Lip Smacker, which good manners dictated we let all the other girls smell at recess. As we all know, you only let your best friend actually use your Lip Smackers, because she clearly does not have any cooties. If one of the other girls was so crass as to break the code, right there in front of you, well, then you were forced to give her a dirty look and scrape the top layer off in disgust. I mean really. No one can be quite as condescending as a fifth grade girl. It’s in the handbook and everything.

© Vicki Hughes 2013

What’s The Plan?

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

By Vicki Hughes   Posted May 3, 2013

Have you ever heard words come out of your mouth and then wondered how exactly your mother was living inside of your larynx? It’s a phenomenon we really can’t explain, but it happens. Tiny versions of our mothers take root in our voice boxes and occasionally broadcast some long-standing motherly statement.

Some are standard issue, sort of the ten commandments of mother talk:

-If you sit that close to the TV, it will ruin your eyes

-Have you finished your homework?

-Where is your father, and why are fourteen of your friends here?

-What is that smell?

-Roll your eyes at me one more time, and let’s see what happens

But some of them are unique to an individual family. A phrase gets started, and it just settles in to become a staple. Ours is: What’s The Plan?

This seemingly simple phrase is a catch-all for times when we want to know all the details and have a full sense of control of all variables, and an iron clad guarantee that everything will be perfect, and nothing has been overlooked or will go awry.

When I hear myself say this, I don’t even hear it in my own voice. I hear it in my Mom’s voice. It’s like looking at a picture of George W. Bush with a funny quote of his over it. You end up reading it to yourself in your best George W. Bush impersonation.

What’s The Plan? (You just read that in George W. Bush’s voice, didn’t you?)

In my growing up years, I soon learned that this common question was going to require some actual, factual answers. To reply, “I dunno,” was a one way ticket to, “Well then, you’re not going.” I quickly figured out that details, and the more details the better, were the magic pixie dust to getting my way.

The Plan must include, in no particular order: Where am I going, a list of all attendees, a brief, colorful description of those people, their background and how I know them, what time the festivities will begin, what time preparations for leaving for the festivities will begin, what will I be wearing to the festivities, is it ironed, will I need a snack before I leave in case the food doesn’t arrive in a timely fashion, will the food be spicy/garlicky/salty/raw/Cantonese/jiggling, what time will I leave, how many miles is it to the place where I am going, which route will I take, is it the safest route in case of a tsunami/tornado/flash flood/Sasquatch attack, do I have my driver’s license, an emergency road kit, my AAA card, a snake bite kit, and emergency whistle, and bottled water in the car, and the mandatory, CALL ME WHEN YOU GET THERE!

All these years later, as a mom, I realize that the quiz about The Plan is an automatic, knee jerk response that mothers develop as a way to feel some tiny bit of okay when our children leave the imaginary safety of being in our line of sight, where we believe nothing bad is ever allowed to happen. Knowing The Plan feels like the antidote to bad ju-ju. It’s how mothers cope.

Unfortunately, no amount of knowing The Plan is ever as effective as we imagine. Things change, life is unpredictable, and even if we know The Plan, it almost always changes. It can be frustrating to not have a Money Back Guarantee that all will go as planned, but it rarely does. We have to learn to roll with the punches, adapt, and re-route when necessary. But you still need to call me when you get there.

© Vicki Hughes 2013





The Dark Side of Southern Life


By Vicki Hughes     Posted April 11, 2013

Living in the deep south, we are constantly enjoying a long list of perks, that people who visit from elsewhere are quick to notice. Fine weather, friendly people, food so good that it makes you want to slap someone, good manners, azaleas, and the inherent right to fry absolutely anything without anyone raising an eyebrow.

But there is a dark side.

Nobody discusses it when you first arrive, because frankly, it’s bad manners to make disagreeable conversation before the mint juleps kick in. However, I’ve been here long enough to be able to speak as a transplanted Southerner. I may not have an actual accent, but I do say y’all, and bless your heart, and I’m a regular at the Piggly Wiggly. In spite of my Southern California roots, the past twenty-five years of living in Dixie have qualified me to speak with some actual knowledge of the southern life.

Here is what they don’t tell you upon arrival through Customs: Roaches.

The south is a roach fest. For those of you in Southern California, this does not mean we have an assortment of great weed to choose from. That’s in Oregon. The south has actual cockroaches. Lawd have mercy! That word is so rude, it hurts my eyes to look at it.

A few nights ago I went to the bathroom to take out my contacts, and when I pulled open the drawer, I discovered a two and a half inch long roach, doing a Fandango with my toothbrush. I screeched, “John! Hurry! There’s a roach, and he’s giant, and he’s with my toothbrush!” Here is a fact of marriage that I will pass along to all you newbies. When you want your spouse to move quickly, with ninja skills, they will generally come at the pace of a sedated snail and make you want to punch kittens. Just know it’s going to happen, and you can cross it off your list of things that will surprise you.

He moseyed into the bathroom (I’m starting to believe that when he hears my bug-scream, he goes extra slow in hopes that it will scurry away before he arrives.) He grabbed like, three squares of toilet paper, and I was thinking, “This guy is not taking me seriously, he needs a HazMat suit and  a flamethrower, not three squares of Charmin.”

I commenced hopping on one foot, issuing orders like a Mob boss. “Kill it! Kill it! Dammit, man, what are you waiting for? KILL!!!!”

He made a few toilet papery jabs that made everything in the drawer jump, and then the roach escaped through the back of the drawer. Thus began my dirty looks, stewing and decrees that it was time for The Enforcer. I told John that he needed to do what had to be done, while I went to shop for toothbrushes.

This is a man who knows how I feel about roaches. Back in the eighties, when we lived in Atlanta, I was eight months pregnant, lying in bed, semi-peacefully, when a gigantic roach fell out of the a/c vent over our bed and landed, splat on my bare thigh. What ensued is what I imagine would happen if a psychotic walrus got tangled in a clothes line hanging with sheets and blankets. John was launched off the bed in my heroic attempts to remove all the bedclothes in one fluid motion, like those guys who pull a tablecloth out from under a fully set table.

It ended up with a familiar scene. An escaped felon roach, with me highly pissed off, issuing death threats and extermination orders. We were so poor back then that we frequently had to make those awkward choices at the grocery store checkout: Beer or toilet paper? But that day, budgets were not even a consideration. I didn’t care if it meant PBJ’s for a month. I declared, “We are calling an actual Bug Man. Today. I don’t care what it costs, it’s not up for discussion. Make it happen.”

Therefore John took my toothbrush moment to heart, and he brought in The Enforcer. For you non-southerners, this is not a guy named Guido in a bad suit. It’s a fine white powder with boric acid which creates a barrier that most roaches won’t cross, except for those on suicide missions, but that’s a story for another day. After you live here a while, and you discover that the chemicals the Bug Man uses are the reason you never see the same Bug Man twice, so you have to make smarter choices.

My greatest concern with putting down the line of enforcement, so to speak, is that I realize that somewhere in my house, there will be a few roaches, already inside the perimeter, who are now trapped inside the line. I call them Desperados. They can’t crawl back to Hell, from whence they came, so they are forced to stay inside, with me, until they have the bad fortune to expose themselves.

This morning, just as I poured my coffee, I saw the skittering out of the corner of my eye. Once these foul creatures come in contact with The Enforcer, it begins to effect them. They lose speed, and they scurry along like they’re looking for their car keys that they dropped.

These slower roaches are a good thing, because it allows me to do my part, of keeping an eye on them, while I bellow for backup. “John! Giant roach! Hurry! Reba has him cornered.” Momma’s dog was nosing the little creep, while John did his bug killing, death march to my side. “Where is the little bastard?”

I pointed to the corner where the roach was being examined by the dog. John took the paper towel he was holding, and gingerly bent over to go for the kill. Except his back has been out for a week. I forgot that. It looked sort of like an early morning exercise show for guys in their fifties, working on their low lunges, awkwardly. We both heard, crunch, and in unison, we made our that’s-disgusting-face. I was relieved to know he’d ended that bug, when he pulled back his hand, and it hopped out, and made a run for cover. John made three valiant attempts, from his now sprawled out stance, all to no avail. It crawled behind the armoire, injured, but alive, and is probably blogging right now about it’s near death experience.

John looked up at me, with regret in his eyes. In our family, we have a hard and fast rule we have learned from watching way too many revenge themed movies. If you get the chance to pull the trigger, do it. Never let your injured enemy live.” I rolled my eyes. “Well, at least he’s injured. We did hear the crunch.” John said, “Yeah, but I’m not sure if that was him, or my back.”

© Vicki Hughes 2013

Emergency Espresso


By Vicki Hughes  Posted April 8, 2013

All last week I was forced to wake up early. Work has been crazy, and I’ve been there to open, which means getting up earlier than I am made for. Prior to ten a.m. I’m really not hearing what people say, I just nod my head a lot. I try to avoid serious responsibilities until my brain cells are truly awake.

My morning routine is very simple and predictable. Wake up, scowl, find my glasses, find my robe, go to the kitchen and pour a cup of Joe, then kick the dog out of my chair, where he has once again turned the little rosebud quilt into a dog nest, sit down, check Facebook, grab my journal, and write. I find that a few minutes on Facebook clears my cobwebby head just a little. Sleep has a way of undoing all of my cognitive skills.

Pre-dawn, Friday morning, I came out to get my coffee, and realized there wasn’t a leftover cup sitting there waiting to be zapped in the microwave, so I would be forced to make a new pot. As I reached for the coffee canister, it felt light. I shook it momentarily, and cautiously opened the lid. Peering in, I stood there staring at the half a teaspoon of coffee sprinkled in the bottom of the canister. And I just kept staring at it.

I thought, “This can’t be right. There should be stuff in here. The stuff I want. Where’s my stuff?!” Then I convinced myself to stop freaking out. I looked in the cabinet above the coffee maker, thinking, surely we have more in reserve. No time to panic.

There was no coffee in the cabinet. None. Nada. Someone had used the last of the coffee and said diddly squat about this very important fact. Suddenly I was rummaging through the cabinet like a black bear at a Yosemite picnic, lifting things quizzically, and tossing them aside, shaking jars and grunting in disapproval. I was in such a state, I briefly considered some Chai Tea. CHAI TEA in place of coffee!?

No. Just, no.

And then I saw it. Emergency espresso.

If it had been behind glass, I’d have happily taken a hammer to it, and dealt with the glass shards later. I have no recollection of where this can of espresso came from, but I was thankful just knowing that it was not decaf, and it was a fine dust of actual coffee beans that could serve as a suitable substitute. I briefly considered that it might render me incapable of closing my eyes again till June, but that’s okay. Beggars can’t be choosers. Long story short, I got my much needed caffeine. I’m not entirely sure if that actually was espresso, because it tasted sort of like it had been filtered through cardboard in the Soviet Union. You do what you have to do.

I’ve discovered a few substitutions over the years that are never a good idea.

Liquid dish soap for dishwasher detergent is a definite no-no. Sadly, one time doing this was not sufficient to prevent me from doing it again, many years later. We were probably out of coffee when it happened the second time. Learn from my mistakes, people. Unless you want to have a bubble rave in your kitchen, liquid dish soap should be kept far, far away from the dishwasher.

Because genetics is funny stuff, and mistakes may in fact be genetic, an eight year old Chelsey once tried using the aforementioned liquid dish soap to mop our kitchen floor. She’d seen one of those commercials where the lady squirts the Mop & Glo all over the floor, and creates a shiny sparkling kitchen floor. That’s the day she learned the difference between Dawn and Mop & Glo. We both learned how many hours it takes to get 3/4 of a cup of liquid dish soap off of linoleum, but we also learned how to convert your kitchen into a skating rink in under ninety seconds. I should post that tip on Pinterest.

Also, paper napkins should never be used in place of paper towels to pat dry chicken breasts. Ever. Unless you were planning to use napkin confetti to bread your chicken, in which case, don’t let me stop you. Carry on!

What substitutions have you discovered were just an all around bad idea?

© Vicki Hughes 2013