Life in the Judy Lane

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October 2013: Autocrack

Posted on October 3, 2013 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

au•to•ma•tion (ô t -m sh n) n. 1. The automatic operation or control of equipment, a process, or a system. 2. The techniques and equipment used to achieve automatic operation or control. 3. The condition of being automatically controlled or operated.

For the most part, automation is supposed to be our friend. It makes our lives easier. Redial on the phone is a good thing. It comes in really handy when you’re calling into a radio station to win that prize. Traffic signals that sense the flow of traffic so you don’t have to stop at 2 am when no one is in sight is sweet. And, well, that’s about it for me. Automation is my nemesis.

Piddling after you’ve piddled – Yes, yes, of course. We all want to save water. But, those automatic water faucets at public restrooms are for the birds—literally. Dutifully washing my hands, I haven’t even gotten to F in the alphabet when the thing turns off. And the soap spits out a fraction of Brylcreem’s ‘little dab’ll do ya.’

“No soap for you! Next!” sprays the water-Nazi.

I’ve tried to defeat it by waving my left hand in front of the sensor while my right hand stands by. Try washing and soaping one handed. Suddenly I’m a Tim Conway skit.

Keep moving, nothing to see here - The cousin of the faucet fascist is Otto Flusher. Not to get into any graphic detail but I want to make sure everything is as Dr. Oz says it should be. Can I just take a quick peek?


I’m not even upright yet and it’s all gone. What if I was one of those gals who just gave birth at the prom? How would I know? Sometimes, I’m just adjusting myself a bit on the seat and swoooooosh! Move along sister!

Once I just entered the stall and was prepping the area with a seat cover and--floop! My sunglasses fell off my face and were sucked into a mad spiral. Before I could snatch them back, they were on their way out to sea.

I have been doing this potty thing since I was 2, I think I can handle the timing myself, thank you very much.

Auto-crack – This texting feature was undoubtedly designed for the Gen-Y’s who can’t spell, can’t add—what do you do? But, really. It’s like trying to tell a story and having a control-freak in the group who can’t wait and has to fill in the blanks. I know what I want to say, let me finish!


Me: Sheady, what would you like for d-i-n-t-e-r?


Siri: Steady, what would you like for dinner?


Me: No, twit. It’s ‘Sheady” and “dinter.” It’s a joke between us. It’s a Madea thang.


Siri: Naudea thing.


Then, of course, there are the messages that can get a boy in a lot of trouble.

Me: Cory, do you need me to pick you up?


Cory: No, Mum. Emily will give me a rise.


Me: TMI, son.


Cory: A ‘ride!’ A ride! Damn autocorrect!


I’m sure I’ve left out amazing automation that has benefitted man and womankind. They just don’t come to mind while I'm freakishly waving my hands under a paper towel dispenser that is not automatic. But, I do have some thoughts of my own. I’d paid handsomely for a device on my coffee cup that senses tension and automatically squirts a shot of Kahlua.



July 2013: Emancipation Day

Posted on July 14, 2013 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)






Any day now, my 13-year old daughter Shea will emancipate herself from her parents. At least that's what I would do if I were her.

Aside from the typical things parents do to embarrass their kids like speak and breathe, I have gone above and beyond. Not since my father chased the public bus down, pounded on the door till it opened and threw a Jethro-sized brown paper bag at me at the back of the bus shouting, "Joooooody! You fohgot your lahnch! has a parent consistently behaved in a way that would make a lesser child consider hopping a freight train east.

From taking the kids to school on a holiday, to jokingly telling them I wasn’t their real mother, I am guilty of crimes against children.

“You are our real mother!” 5-year old Cory and 3-year old Shea protested.

“No, I’m not,” I continued. “I’m just watching you for her till she gets home.”

To seal the deal, when the waitress commented “what sweet kids you have!” I replied, “Oh, they’re not mine. I’m just watching them.”

After that, I took them to the arcade for about an hour or more and never put a cent in. They were "playing" against the loop that goes around and around until you actually put a coin in and start a game. I finally shouted out, "Let’s go kids! What am I made of money?!”

Who knew the kids would have such steel-trap memories. They still bring this up after 10 years. I see it as my small contribution to Shea’s memoirs and Cory’s stand-up routine.

My latest infraction may have sealed the deal, however.

I’m well known for getting lost on a good day. I have the sense of direction of an avalanche victim.

"Am I up or down or--wait, maybe if I spit..."

Those “You are here,” dots on signs at the mall are useless.

“Where the flippin’ hell is “here?!” I scream.

I rarely get to a practice or meet or game on time for either kid because I somehow get discombobulated on my way.

"Those directions are whack!" I invariably scream as I come barreling up, out of breath, drenched in sweat, 20 minutes late amidst every other parent who had the same directions and arrived in time to get situated comfortably with a cold drink in hand and nary a drop down their respective butt cracks.

After years of Shea’s involvement in softball, I am just getting to the point where I don’t call practice “rehearsal” or uniforms “costumes.”

“When is intermission?” I asked a parent next to me. “I could use a nice drink.”

And all along, Shea has handled it with grace and good humor. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock was quietly plotting ways to murder his father that turned into Oscar-winning scripts, so you never know.

We scheduled Shea for softball camp at UCLA this summer. She would get to practice and play with world champions, eating and living in the dorms like a college kid. We had this planned for months. I carefully read the instructions of what to pack, where to park, and printed each piece of paper, putting it in folders for us and Aunt Patti who was scheduled to pick her up on the last day, while Pepper and I would drop her off for “Opening Ceremonies.”

The night before she was scheduled to leave, she was packing her bag, using the check-list I prepared.

“Nothing to worry about,” she said tentatively. “But I have a fever, chills, sore throat and possibly diphtheria.”

“What?!” I shrieked.

“So much for not worrying, Mama. I’m gonna be fine. Look, if I have to go on a stretcher, I’m going to softball camp,” she said as I filled her with Emergen-C, Tylenol, hydrogen peroxide, Windex and a little smudging for good measure.

The next morning she popped out of bed like a firefighter, dressed and ready to go. I had point-by-point directions on my phone and we headed out hours earlier than the 1:00 pm check in time.

The traffic was a nightmare as we navigated our way through freeways under construction, detours and just a bumper-to-bumper ride to Westwood. We arrived at 12:40 p.m. Early! Not enough time for lunch, but for once, not late.

I left Pepper and Shea on a bench outside the check-in area while I foraged for a sandwich or snack I could get for Shea to tide her over. Inside the building, I found myself swimming upstream against swarms of young ladies dressed in “UCLA Softball” t-shirts, squealing, laughing, skipping and otherwise reveling. Obviously, I thought to myself, there was a camp prior to Shea’s that was underway or wrapping up by the looks of the camaraderie amongst the girls.

I returned to Pepper and Shea to see one noticeably upset and the other stifling a laugh, respectively.

“We’re 3 hours late. Check-in was 10 a.m., not 1:00 p.m.!” Pepper said, exasperated.

If there was a super power that allowed you to instantaneously combust, your body disintegrating into a pile of dust on the floor, I would choose that one.

“It’s fine, Mama,” Shea said, noticing the look of horror on my face.

We rushed to find “who’s in charge?!” which was like asking to see the “supervisor” at a Girls Gone Wild Party. Finally after sometime, we ran into one of the UCLA softball coaches, who generously took Shea under her wing—probably seeing the wisdom in snatching up this poor mocha-latte, skinned young girl from these big, crazed white women.

“It’s all fine,” Shea continued sweetly, as she kissed each of us good bye.

“It’s not that bad,” Pepper assured me.

No, it wasn’t that bad. There was a grand opening ceremony, where pictures were taken and posted on Facebook for friends and family to see back in New Zealand. Signature t-shirts and lanyards distributed. Normal parents standing by watching their girl’s rite of passage, as they were broken up into teams, partnered up with roommates.

And, Shea? She was hurriedly trying to catch up, grabbing lunch in a packed cafeteria in five minutes, staking out a bed and dresser and reporting for practice on the field. By now, the energy between the rest of the girls was palpable. They were already blood sisters, sucking pricked fingers as they raced through the corridors, arms locked. Tattoos of each other’s names and “BFF” emblazoned on their arms. And, still others had pet names for each other and were busy making lists of who they hated. No, it wasn’t that bad.

At the end of her stay, Aunt Patti managed to pick her up at the correct time, took pictures at closing ceremonies, even one with three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Lisa Fernandez. When we were reunited, Shea was still talking to us. So, I guess Pepper was right. It wasn’t that bad. All’s well that ends well and all that, right?

“So what do you think, Shea?” I asked her last night. “You think you could get used to college life? Playing softball at UCLA or some other place?”

“Oh, yeah. Definitely. I can’t wait. That all-you-can eat cafeteria was awesome! And, don’t worry. I saw a bus stop outside the dorm so I can get myself there.”



11252 Willowwood Drive, San Diego, CA 92127

Lotto Gods

Posted on December 16, 2012 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Twice a week I go to bed with visions of mega millions dancing in my pretty head. On most Tuesdays and Fridays I buy a chance or two in a bazillion to win the top prize. I know full well that I am more likely to be struck by lightning while dancing on the head of a pin with Prince on New Year’s Eve in Dubai than to win. But, hey it’s a certainty that I won’t win if I don’t play. And, more importantly, I’d like to believe in a miracle even for just a few minutes while I drift off to sleep.

When I was a little girl studying my Catechism and working my way through the holy sacraments as my Irish Catholic mother orchestrated, I was certain there was a God. And, that he knew everything I was doing day and night—kinda like a thinner, less jovial Santa, only you got your rewards for being nice on Christmas Day, whereas the Chief would be meeting you at the pearly gates hopefully many, many years down the line to make you pay.

“If you do something bad with your hands, your hands will burn in Hell,” Sister Mary Nevercrackedasmile chided us in religious instruction class. “If you read something bad, your eyes will burn in hell...” and so on ad infinitum, ipso facto, mea culpa, bella canto and Bella Lugosi.

As my seven-year old brain processed this prospect, I was certain I was going to simply instantaneously combust in a ball of flames with just ashes in my saddle shoes where a lively, curious little girl once stood.

An older brother or two dispelled the myths of Santa and God long before I wanted or was ready to decide one way or the other for myself. Pretending to believe in the old fat guy got me an extra present for a few more years. The other was a bit more challenging.

I went from believing, to doubting, to questioning to finding it all a bit hard to swallow. Much like the Holy Host that I instinctively threw up at the altar to the dismay of my family and rage and utter disgust of the aforementioned nun. Like ghosts, of which I have actually had personal experiences, the whole God/son of God theory was in the category one of life’s unanswered questions. Like how is it possible that the Kardashians are so popular for doing absolutely nothing? It is what it is--whether I believe or not.

But, unlike the Kardashian conundrum, people feel the need to make you pick a side. Either you believe or you don’t. Republican or Democrat. Straight or Gay. One Direction or NSync. What if you’re right in the middle? You don’t really believe but you’re not ready to throw it all out with little Moses’ bath water.

Back in the 80s, when I lost my mother, younger brother and father within a few years, I prayed. Prayed to believe. To attain that comfort that believing in God or Jesus or something seemed to bring to other people who did have faith. But, I could no more believe in one man creating and overseeing all this wonder than in Santa Claus. It just was what it was. And so I carried my grief, powering through each day until it didn’t sting as much.

When 911 happened, I was horrified and sad and shocked by what I saw--just like every other American. Once again I prayed. To believe. To get some of that comfort people talk about. At the same time, I was struck by how much overwhelming fear there was considering that 90% of Americans believe in God. I was heartbroken but I wasn’t afraid. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t feel safe in the knowledge that when it’s your time, it’s your time? That God will gather you up in his loving arms and take you into the afterlife. Etcetera, etcetera, veni, vidi, vici, semper fi!

Now with the recent horrifying tragedy in Connecticut, if you have to wonder--why is God so pissed off?!

“God works in mysterious ways,” a friend reminded me.

Mysterious, indeed! Maniacal is more the word that comes to mind. What kind of cruel joke is this guy/gal pulling on all of these faithful worshipers, particularly young, innocent children?

In 1968, when we first moved to California, my father would read the Bible to us in the evenings since we did not have a TV to entertain us. He would always close the book with the same comment.

“Dis is all just a wery good story. Det’s all. A good story.”

Some story. Makes Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy look like Sesame Street.

When I lost my sister a couple of years ago, I was again struck with what to do with all the pain and grief. Couldn’t I just give it up to somebody? Something?

Then it dawned on me that as much as I don’t believe, I really don’t know. So, in the interest of drifting off happily—if only for a couple of nights a week--now I lay me down to sleep with stacks of green bouncing around my brain. And the prospect that maybe, just maybe, I will see my parents, sister and brother again and we can all dance on the head of pin with Prince…

August 2012: Survival of the Fattest

Posted on August 18, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The next time somebody tells me that they have lost serious poundage in record time by “just giving up soda!” I’m going to crack them over the head with said soda bottle.

The only thing I’ve ever lost by giving up one simple item was my mind. It’s like pyramid schemes. They only work for other people, not me.

Back in the day, I used creamer in my coffee. One morning, as I slurped my morning brew and licked my chops, a co-worker stopped me.

“You know how many calories are in those? You figure you drink 2-3 cups a day…you’re adding 200-300 calories just in your coffee!”

I wiped the donut crumbs from my double chin and made a commitment to drink black coffee from that day forward. Days went by, weeks, months without my beloved creamer. I lost the taste for creamer, but nary an ounce. Fifteen years later, I still drink my coffee naked and can serve up a cup or two on my well-rounded, ever expanding rear-end.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this phenomenon. There was a segment on Oprah about a husband and wife who were serving as missionaries in a third-world country. They were captured by rebels and held prisoner for months. Tragically, the husband didn’t survive due to an infection from injuries suffered in the incident.

“We were given a cup of water and one bowl of rice a day,” the wife tearfully explained. “He was so weak. He lost 30 pounds in a month.”

“And you?” Oprah asked softly.

“I didn’t lose an ounce!” she exclaimed.

Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. She lived! Her body went into survival mode. But, is that really what’s happening to me in my cushy middle-class, suburban life with a nice job and all the comforts of home? I turn on the morning news and my brain sends out an alert to my body?

“What?! Traffic is tied up on the freeway?! Batten down the hatches! Store up the fat! We’re all gonna die!”

A friend of mine “just started walking” a month ago and apparently she’s lost 30 pounds. She’s somewhere in Texas now, but apparently very thin.

I walk, too. I don’t lose weight. But, I suppose I would be Gilbert Grape’s mother if I didn’t.

“Atkins Diet!” said another friend. “That’s the way to go. Give up the carbs and watch the pounds drop.”

Thirty days ago, I gave up bread, pasta and cereal and the only things dropping are my chins and breasts. My bra size is a 40 long now.

All right, I admit, I’m down six pounds, but I know I could easily put that back with a visit to the movie theatre. What to do?

Perhaps I can incorporate the walking—round trip—and just easing up a little on my beloved carbs and see how that goes. And, maybe I’ll give up the ice cream. And the cookies. Oh, yeah and the extra glass of wine, and the…

July 2012: Funny or Not, Here I Come

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 12:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Grief works in mysterious ways. One minute you’re sobbing into your soup and the next you’re laughing wickedly—almost maniacally at something that is not necessarily all that funny. I guess it’s nature’s way of releasing those crushing emotions.

My mother-in-law lay dying in a nursing facility just blocks from our home. She had been there for about two years, first unable to walk, eventually unable to speak and finally to swallow. We got the call on Saturday afternoon in the middle of Shea’s softball game. “You’d better come soon.”

Pepper, her sister Patsy, and I rushed to her bedside. We spent the rest of that day and night with her. Pepper resumed in the morning. I went to the grocery store to get some supplies not knowing how long the bedside vigil might last.

I pulled out a cart from the line stacked neatly at the entrance and wondered,

“Have I grown considerably in the last few months or did these carts shrink?”

They were the size of a kiddie cart. The only thing missing was a little yellow flag. I hunched over and pushed the cart through the doorway.

When I entered, I notice a big sign, “Tell us what we can do better!” You can buy life size shopping carts instead of these rejects from Toon Town. How about that?

I was about half way through my shopping when I noticed a sale I couldn’t resist. Two cases of water for $5. Even if I didn’t need water, I couldn’t pass that up. I don’t need water, I don't like water, and still and I couldn’t pass it up. I looked down at my Barbie cart and realized I couldn’t even fit two bottles of water, much less two cases. I begrudgingly decided to get just one and stuff it in there if necessary. I bent over, huffing and puffing and grumbling about the other $2.50 I could have scored, sliding the case on the bottom of the cart, when I heard it. Amplified. As though the Musak was replaced with this echoing sound.


I split my pants entirely up the back. Not just split,—or just a little rip----shredded. Shredded like wheat. Like Watergate files. Shredded. As though I backed into a whirring fan.

Now what?

I began laughing…hysterically. The irony of the past few days…the past couple of years of sadness and difficulty and here I am with my shorts shredded on my arse. I looked up to see one of those giant mirrors which made me laugh harder. I could just see the “loss prevention” monitor watching me on the spycam to make sure I wasn’t eating any of those Craisins out of the plastic bag.

I still had Pepper’s comfort food to buy—chili, soft cheese, grapes, Coke Zero. What to do?

Unfortunately this was not one of those superstores where you can buy tires, bananas and a pregnancy test all in one place. There were no pants to change in to, just some beach towels, which would be weird even for me. Then I saw it from the corner of my eye. A Padres t-shirt stuffed into the bottom shelf. Right where they are in the MLB--last place. But, right now they were my heroes. I wrapped it around my waist; the sleeves stuck into my pockets on either side and resumed my shopping

People were probably thinking I'm trying to shoplift that valuable shirt.

At checkout, the young girl drones,

"How's your day so far?"

"Well," I say laughing, "I split my pants so far! So, I just borrowed this t-shirt,” handing it to her.

No response. No smile. Nothing. I'm laughing. Alone. The bag boy didn't even look up. Finally, she turns to look at me.

"At least you were wearing—”then pausing for what seemed like an eternity.

"Underwear? Yes--at least I think I am,” I quip.

No smile. Nothing. When the boy is done putting my plums in with the detergent, he looks up and asks routinely,

"Do you need help out today?"

"Yes. Can you walk behind me very closely?"

I thought he was going to pass out.

"Just kidding," I say as if he could ever get that lucky with the likes of me.

Kids have no sense of humor; so uncomfortable in their skin. I never want to be young again.

“Go Padres!” I called out as I left the store.

My mother-in-law would have been in stiches.. Especially the part about the Padres t-shirt since she was an avid Braves fan. She had a wicked sense of humor. I remember once she looked at me very seriously and asked, “What do you think about Red China?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, taken aback a bit since she was not very political.

“Well, I think it looks great on a white table cloth,” she said.

We laughed. Out loud.

The day after my shopping experience, she passed peacefully in her sleep. Good night, sweet Mary. I’ll miss you.