Clouds of cool, pillows of refreshment

There was something I was waiting for last night and I just couldn’t fall asleep because of the waiting for it. I wondered what it was that had me so expectant and then it hit me.

When my mother remarried for the first time after my father died, she married a man much older than herself, one who had been in the Navy. His name was Elmer, Elmer *Stinpinchky.

He always had (and I don’t think this a “Navy guy” state of mind — just his own parsimonious personality) special little money-saving things for the whole family to do. Like, he wanted us all to take “Navy” showers (a special routine he learned in — you guessed it, the Navy). That’s where you get in the shower, turn on the water and get wet and then turn off the water. With the water off, you soap up. After thoroughly soaping and washing, you turn the water back on and rinse. Then you turn the water off — immediately — and get out.

My younger brother and I constantly flouted this shower rule and Elmer, in turn, constantly berated us bitterly about it. He habitually harassed us about it because, guess what? He was listening at the door to gauge our compliance. I know, right? Pretty creepy. My mother asked us to comply with his rules and we always assured her we would and probably had every intention of obeying our mother — until confronted with the actuality.

To this day I take v-e-r-y long showers.

Well, his concerns for household expenditures extended to every aspect of daily living and, of course, to the running of the air-conditioning. We lived in Florida and he refused to run the air-conditioning during the day (when it was the hottest). At night he set the temperature for a delightfully refreshing 80 degrees Fahrenheit. My younger brother and I hated this with a passion. Elmer’s arbitrary control of the cool air was a challenge to us — a cannon shot over the prow of our childhood sense of right. He pricked us to our very cores and provoked us to rebel by making us lie in the sweltering heat waiting for the air-conditioning to come on so that we could fall asleep to its comforting song.

The fact that he had very keen hearing, was a light sleeper and could immediately pounce on any air-conditioning infractions didn’t deter us once he had whipped our hearts to mutiny. It really became an all-out war with reconnaissance and special missions on our part against his temperature tyranny.

Elmer and my mother would go to bed and as soon as we heard him snoring, I would, or my brother would, creep out into the hall from our respective rooms and adjust the temperature. This would result in, most times, the enemy charging forth from his room and bellowing about what bad kids we were and turning the temp back to what he wanted (oh, and the horror of seeing him flap around in his boxer shorts and t-shirt as he ranted and brandished his fist!). But sometimes, oh sometimes, he would sleep right through long enough for the air-conditioning to whisk us off into dreams on a cloud of cool.

Finally, tiring of the nightly skirmishes, Elmer came upon what he thought was the perfect solution and which, I admit, at first brought bitter defeat into our hearts: A Honeywell TG511A Universal Thermostat Lock Box…

Image courtesy of the Honeywell Company

Product description from the Honeywell site:

“Make sure your temperature settings stay just where they should be with
the Honeywell TG511A universal thermostat lock box. Compatible with a
wide range of thermostats, this lock box protects against unauthorized
temperature changes while still permitting temperature monitoring. It
also shields your thermostat from unintentional damage as well as wear
and tear.”

But we were not deterred indefinitely. We discovered that touching the thermostat was not necessary to triggering the thermostat. A bump against the wall would trigger the mechanism by jostling the delicate spring system by which the arrow indicator maintained its balance. So, once the lock box was installed we all slept the better for it. Elmer could sleep secure with the knowledge that he held the key and we, we could sleep in comfort once his snoring began and the wall had been gently bumped goodnight.

Last night, on the heels of such hot weather I might have mistaken myself for being back in Florida and with humidity licking at the windows, last night I was waiting for the air-conditioning to click on — just like when I was little.

*Last name changed per my mom’s request

Happy Birthday Bubble Wrap!

Cartoon courtesy of Confessions of a Writer  

I love you bubble wrap!

50 years ago today bubble wrap burst onto the pop culture scene. A wallpaper wannabee, bubble wrap went on to be so much more than mere surface decoration. From packing material to artistic muse and enveloping such things as fashion, fun and therapeutic activities in between, bubble wrap went on to become an iconic product. There are over 250 Facebook pages devoted to bubble wrap.

But the best thing about bubble wrap, of course, is popping it!

Being destructive was never so much fun. It’s like being allowed to jump on the bed, run down the stairs, yell in the house and track mud on the floor — all rolled up in the pleasure-packed finger fun of bursting bubbles!

USA Today reports:

Today marks an essential day in pop-culture history: Bubble Wrap’s 50th birthday.

Where would we be without these protective, oddly addictive plastic orbs of sealed air? (Actually, we might be in a healthier environment with more recyclable packaging materials, but we’ll overlook this fact for the moment.)

The term “Bubble Wrap” was coined in 1960 by engineers Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding who came up with the stuff in Hawthorne, N.J., “with the intent of creating a trendy new textured wallpaper.”

Today has been dubbed Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, so pop a few in their honor. And if you’d like to be green about it, just use some virtual Bubble Wrap.

Links of interest:

Free bubble wrap iPhone app
Compulsion, obsession, possession
Heart-shaped bubble wrap


                                                                                                            Copyright Annette Marie Hyder

“All head sizes are beautiful”

“At some point, you have to be OK with your little head.”

Have a laugh with your coffee. This pasquinade from The Onion will go well with your afternoon break.

Is Bratz promoting unhealthy body image among young women? In this clip, The Onion investigates the possible link between unrealistic head size and low self-esteem.

“In Beyond The Facts, we examine how Bratz are convincing a generation of girls that to be hip and beautiful they have to have gigantic heads.”

The Onion

Condiment acquisition gene

Copyright Annette Marie Hyder

A capacious purse with bottomless depths

We were at the Olde World Cheese Shop, a gourmet shop that had a restaurant attached (or vice versa) that served all things delicious, from savory soup and zesty salad to puffy omelets and garlicky escargot. I was ten years old and by now used to (but nonetheless mortified by) the way that my grandmother would remove the jelly packets off of restaurant tables and plunge them into her capacious purse of bottomless depths.

But this restaurant had special fancy single serving size jelly and jam packets. They were not simple flat plastic envelopes of jelly but tiny plastic bowls with shiny foil covers that had the names of the jam and jelly flavors in cursive font. After my grandmother swept the entire supply of them off the table and into the gaping mouth of her purse, she wanted more. So she told me to ask for more. In my family, my grandmother was the strong armed matriarch and you did not disobey her.

So, to my embarrassment, I found myself asking our server if we could have more jelly (“and jam” sotto voced my grandmother) — and jam — please. He took one look at the plundered plate that previously held no less than fifteen single servings of jam and jelly and asked me “Where did all of those go?”

“Well,” I explained “my grandmother likes them so much that she has put a few in her bag to take home with her. I hope that’s OK?”

“Sure!” he said. “And perhaps you would like to take the salt and pepper shakers home too? Tablecloth? Napkins? Just let me know. I’ll be right back with your jam.”

Total. Complete. Horrified. Embarrassment.

“You never know, these could come in handy.”

I had also seen her take a red cloth napkin out of a Chinese
restaurant with her. The hostess came chasing out after us to get it
back. My grandmother said it was an accident; she didn’t mean to take it out with her. She would also take salt packets, plastic utensils and extra napkins (“You never know, these could come in handy.”)

I wondered why she did it. Did it have something to do with her age (but I didn’t see other older ladies behaving that way)? Did it have something to do with her having lived through the Great Depression? Whatever her reasons, my grandmother’s penchant for packing her purse with packages of
condiments was a great source of embarrassment to me and I swore that
(duh!) I would never embarrass my dining companions like that when I was an adult.

It’s not just old ladies: generations of condiment acquisition

Fast forward: I’m an adult, and I am on a visit to my cousin’s place in Texas. We’re in the college town of College Station. We go out to a Mexican place with authentic tacos, pitchers of beer and plastic forks. when we leave, my cousin not only  takes extra napkins home  with her — but plastic forks too!

“I can’t believe it!” I said.

“What?” she replied.

“You take stuff from restaurants — just like Grandma did!”

“So?” she replied.

“You’ve got the — the condiment acquisition gene from her!” I spluttered.

“Well,” she replied “I’ve seen you ask for extra soy sauce when we order Chinese. You’ve got the condiment acquisition gene too.”

“No I don’t! That doesn’t count.” I refused to believe that I too had been tainted by this genetic disposition to covet plastic cutlery and nab napkins.

Condiment abuse

Yet, I have discovered myself to be just as condiment compromised as others in my family (yes it is a family malady). I do ask for extra napkins. I do ask for extra packages of sauce when we order Chinese. But (I tell myself) that’s only because they never put enough in the takeout bag!

And my daughter has recently told me, while getting a sample of food at the supermarket, “Free food samples! Oh my gosh they taste better than the actual food!” Is this a mutated manifestation of the condiment acquisition gene?

I ponder.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Day

Have some chicken soup — some literary soup. It’s Chicken Soup for the Soul Day and to celebrate I am posting my article, Pantyhose Hair, from the book Chicken Soup for the Mother and Daughter Soul.

Pantyhose Hair
Excerpt from Chicken Soup for the Mother and Daughter Soul
By Annette Marie Hyder

When I was 6, I
donned my mother’s pantyhose and wore them on my head. They were my very own
long, luxuriant pantyhose hair. What
necessitated my resorting to this was the fact that my mother kept cutting my
hair into one of those “cute little pixie cuts.” I got expert at layering
several pairs, so that I could braid and style my many-legged pantyhose hair.
I was never allowed to wear my beautiful hosiery hair out in public, but at
home I gloried in it. I promised myself, with all the fierce determination of
my 6-year old self, that if I ever had a daughter, I would never, ever, cut
my little girl’s hair.

So, when I found out that I was going to have a little girl, I had two reactions.
First, I felt an absolute feather tickle of joy throughout my body. Second,
I was suffused with a fierce maternal protection towards my little girl’s heretofore-unseen

Imagine with what joy I looked forward to my little girl’s Rapunzel-like ringlets.
All of my thwarted longing for flowing tresses, all of my impeded desire for
an enviable mane, my long hair envy, would be made right, accounted for, sublimated
by my own daughter’s inviolate strands. I went into a veritable frenzy, buying
hair accessories. Hair bows, hair bands, hair clips, hair scrunchies, little
hair bows that attached by Velcro — I bought them all. I bought every color
of the rainbow and every pattern that I could find. My little girl actually
had more hair accessories than she could ever hope to wear, unless of course
I adorned her head with four or five at a time, which I did not consider out
of the question or in any way extreme.

I was only mildly discouraged when Jasmine Rain was born with very
little hair — just a light vanilla fuzz. I took to proudly adorning her
fuzzy little head with those headbands for newborns that look like a
garter belt.

I took my cue from nature. Kittens, puppies, bunnies — all are born practically
hairless. And all, in no time, sport thick luxurious growths. I wasn’t worried.
I waited patiently through the first, second and third months. Of course I was
always brushing and lavishing unstinting attention on the little bit of encouragement
that was there in the form of blonde dandelion fluff. Then in the fourth month,
there was still no hair. I started to worry. I read the articles on hair growth
and developmental expectations. I quizzed friends and co-workers about their
experiences. And I stared forlornly at the heads of the thickly-haired babies
that seemed to accost my stricken eyes everywhere I went. What was I doing wrong?

The ribbons, bows and assorted hopefuls sat dusty on her closet shelf — a sad
testament to my so-recent optimistic expectations. I was horrified to hear the
same words uttered in regard to Jazzy that had so mortified me as a child —
“What a cute little boy!” — always offered in the heartiest and most
jovial of manners. But still I maintained hope. Every little tuft of growth
was greeted with excited enthusiasm and happy pleasure.

Finally, when Jazzy turned two, I was rewarded for my patience and faith. Her
hair began to grow. Whether it was just time for it to grow, or whether it was
the naked-with-a-carved-wooden-mask-on-ceremonial-hair-growing dance I did that
accomplished it, I just don’t know. Whatever the reason, it was now my supreme
pleasure to contemplate the appropriate adorning of Jazzy’s hair.

Unfortunately, contemplate it is all I’ve been able to do. Would you believe
that every time I try to put her hair in pigtails, Jazzy squeals a high-pitched
scream and will absolutely not allow me to do it? Would you believe that every
headband I put lovingly on her head is yanked off immediately in the most annoyed
manner? Can you credit the fact that now that her hair is at the right length
to finally utilize her extensive hair fashion wardrobe, she vehemently refuses
to do so?

I’ve read that asserting her opinions and preferences is the first step on the
road to developing independence. I’ve read that it shows a healthy level of
self-confidence and incipient autonomy. I’m trying to look on the bright side
and I am happy that she has a very opinionated little mind of her own. But still…

It has been a little disillusioning for me. And frankly, I’m starting
to worry that Jazzy will be the exact opposite of me, hate long hair,
and feel like I forced it on her; end up shaving her head just to get
back at me. I hope by the time she is old enough to do that, I will be
peacefully accepting of her in whatever guise she chooses to coif

Maybe I’ll have shaved my own head by then too — in utter frustration!

At least for now, sometimes, Jazzy does allow a stylish hat.

Recipes for Chicken Soup