Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Medicine Mom

Medicine Mom

By Allison Adams 01-22-07, Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 01-23-07

Resubmitted 11-14-10

One look at my son when he walked in the front door from school this afternoon and I knew he was out of kilter.

Like all moms I can correctly diagnose most common childhood ailments after completing a basic exam.

We don’t need a white coat, expensive equipment, or malpractice insurance. We don’t need an antiseptic office either.

We’ve been known to conduct a basic exam in the kitchen, the grocery store, the car, or on the sidelines of the ball field.

“Come close to me so I can get a good look at you.” I ordered.

He complied.

I looked deep into his eyes. As in any case – medical, criminal, or psychological – if something is amiss, the eyes are a dead give away.

His eyes told me he was a sick puppy.

“How do you feel?” I inquired.

“I dunno.”

My patients are not often forthcoming with useful information.

I swept his curly hair away from his forehead and planted my palm there. I left it there momentarily before swiftly moving it to one side of his face – then the other, then to the back of his neck, then back to his forehead.

No fever present.

I placed one hand on the back of his neck and I used the fingers of my free hand to check for lumps and bumps beneath his jaw line and along his neck. As I do this, I always find it helpful if I look up toward the ceiling or down at the floor, as if I might find the results of my examination written there. And if it were, today it would certainly read “lumpy”.

“Does your throat hurt?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

With his chin firmly cradled in the crux of my hand, I took him with me as I set off to seek a bright light source, which happened to be in the kitchen junk drawer where the flashlight lives.

I pulled his chin downward to open his mouth, tipped his forehead back, held the flashlight up, and after a series of repositioning movements I finally got a good look into the back of his throat.

“Stick out your tongue and say ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.” I demanded.

Even though we’ve done this routine a million times I still feel the need to demonstrate so there is no question about what I expect to see and hear. I’m so adept that I can continue to issue directives to during my demonstration.

Its Maternal Multitasking at its finest.

Anyway, I saw red and white stuff way back there and that is capital N-O-T good.

“Do you have a headache?”


“Does your tummy hurt?”


Next for me was the ultimate sacrifice.

“Okay, son” I directed, “breathe on me.”

I moved my face in close proximity to his, and braced myself for what was coming. Breath that smells like it could peel paint would be the final piece of the diagnostic puzzle.

The test result was positive.

“You have Strep throat.” I declared.

“Oh. Okay. Does this mean you’ll take me to TCBY?”

Now – if I’m in a public place when I conduct a medical exam and there are other moms around, I may solicit a second opinion. I know the value of consultation.

I’ve felt up many an unfamiliar noggin and neck belonging to another mother’s child. It’s a professional courtesy.

This time, however, I didn’t need to confer with another Medicine Mom.

What I needed the expertise of someone with a white coat, expensive equipment, an antiseptic office, and malpractice insurance.

Although its 99 percent accurate, the strep test I administer is not yet recognized as such by the American Medical Association – and I am not trained or licensed to wield The Wicked Q-tip, cook a culture in a Petri dish, and scribble an Rx for an appropriate antibiotic.

Perhaps someday all that stuff will come pre-packaged and be available over-the-counter. Until then I’ll continue to practice my own brand of medicine and offer my findings to the pros in the form of a “strong suspicion”.

It’s a professional courtesy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Hello, Larry"

"Hello, Larry."

By Allison Adams 10-18-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 10-18-10

“How was your day, honey?”

“Well. If you must know, this morning I broke the handle off a coffee cup as I was unloading it from the dishwasher. Honestly, sometimes I just don’t know my own strength. Anyway, I decided I could fix it, but naturally I couldn’t unscrew the cap off of the tube of glue.

"You know, just once I’d like to have the luxury of being able to use a tube of Krazy Glue for more than a single application.

“Am I alone?”

“Certainly not …”

“I mean, has anyone ever been able to repair something with Krazy Glue, then screw-on the cap, and unscrew it six months later to release another couple of drops of super sticking stuff? What’s the point of the screw-on cap if we’re only meant to use it once?

“Is this a conspiracy?”

“No, I don’t think…”

“Speaking of conspiracy – is it asking too much to be able to go in to a grocery store, march straight to the meat department, and put my hands on a package containing one single, solitary, pound of lean ground beef?”

“Well, I …”

“Not 1.46 or 1.27 or 1.59 or 1.83 – just a package containing 1-point-double-zero pound of lean ground beef. Why is this impossible?”

“I don’t …”

“Clearly the butcher is using a scale, or else there would be no label affixed to the package indicating that it contained 1.32 pounds of lean ground beef. In all my cooking years I’ve never seen a recipe that calls for ‘slightly more than a pound of ground beef’, or ‘almost, but not quite two pounds of ground beef’.

“I hate to admit it, but I guess I’m just not creative enough to know how to prepare the superfluous .32 ounces of meat.”

“Well, of course you’re crea…”

“And speaking of meat – just once I’d like to make my Tuna Delight casserole, and proudly serve it to this family and hear you all go oooooh and ahhhhh! Instead you react as if I intentionally prepared something for supper that would cause you to instantly lose your appetite, and my culinary effort is met with a unanimous ‘Ugh!’”

“Uh oh. What’s for sup…?”

“And speaking of ‘ugh’ – just once I’d like to go into the grocery store, dressed in what our son refers to as my ‘Bag Lady ensemble’, to buy that one thing I forgot to pick up when I was in there just 2 hours earlier, and NOT run into everybody on our Christmas card list.

“Where are all those people when I go into the grocery store on my way home from church and I’m wearing shoes that match, and one of my earrings compliments my outfit?”

“I don’t know where they...”

“Speaking of my outfit – just once I wish I could be properly dressed for an emergency instead of having to say here, hold this dishtowel really tightly around what’s left of your finger while mommy goes upstairs and puts on something decent to wear to the emergency room.”

“Emergency room…?”

“And speaking of an emergency – I’d give anything to be aware of the exact moment when the ‘ping’ sounds, and the pinhead-sized, ‘Low Fuel’ light on my dashboard illuminates.

“I mean, really – when the kids are hollering, and the music is blaring, and the engine is rumbling, and somebody’s honking their horn… how in the world am I supposed to hear a little ‘ping’, and notice one other teeny weenie light on the dashboard?”

“Did you have to call AAA again?”

“Yes I did. And by the way, Larry say’s hello.”

Bulking Up

Bulking Up
By Allison Adams 06-11-07, Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 06-12-07

I’m sure all you Sam’s fans are happy as clams in a thirty-two ounce can now that the new store has opened.

Now you don’t have quite as far to go to buy yourself a hundred-fifty pound bag of kitty litter and a radically discounted set of steel-belted radial tires.

Now you can score a case of eighty assorted mini-quiches without spending eighty minutes on the road.

Like many of you, my parents are professional Sam’s shoppers. They embraced the cost-per-unit shopping system a long time ago.

They speak the language. For them – a trip to Sam’s is pure entertainment.

For me – shopping at Sam’s is stressful.

Once after a routine visit to their local Sam’s, my parents unloaded a number of bulky buys among which was a box that contained a sixty-pound roll of aluminum foil.

They hovered and cooed over that box like it was a new baby.

They thought it would be fun to see how long it would take them to use up all that aluminum foil, so they wrote the purchase date on the box that contained the roll.

That was October of 1982.

For the next 18 years they moved that box from one new house to the next: Houston to Honolulu, Honolulu to St. Petersburg. It was in St. Petersburg that they finally used the last inch of it.

Daddy called me long distance just to tell me that the roll was empty. It was a banner day! They went out to lunch to celebrate.

I am not making this up.

And then on the way home from their aluminum foil depletion luncheon, they stopped at their local Sam’s to buy a new roll, and the game began again.

That was August of 2000.

They’re still wrapping baked potatoes and covering casseroles.

I don’t want to sound morbid or ungrateful, but I fear I may someday my inheritance may include a partially depleted roll of aluminum foil.

Anyway, surely you see my point about their bulk shopping background. They could write a book on the subject. Frankly, I wish they would because I could surely use some guidance.

I seem to lack whatever’s necessary to make a shopping trip to Sam’s amount to anything other than a waste of an hour during which I have decided we really, really, need a case of breaded veal cutlets, a 6-pack of reading glasses, and a backyard cabana.

Last week the kids and I threw caution to the wind and visited the new Sam’s without the benefit of a guidebook.

Getting your bearings is critical to the success of any mission. Immediately upon entering I noticed the new store had a completely different floor plan from the old one, and I panicked.

My kids took one look at my clueless facial expression and scattered like ball bearings on a marble floor.

I was left to go it alone.

My palms were sweaty, but I took hold of the handle on my behemoth shopping buggy – the size of which could easily accommodate an aircraft carrier, with a deeply discounted price – and forged ahead.

For the next forty-five minutes I wandered all over Sam’s creation without putting so much as one iota inside my shopping-cart-that-ate-Tokyo. With time running out and feeling pressure to proceed to the checkout line with SOMETHING, I retraced my steps determined to redeem myself.

In the end when my kids had eaten their way through the store – one food sample table at a time – I anted up sixty-two dollars and some change for a hundred slices of provolone cheese, a double case of Gatorade, a twin-pack of pool floats, and a four-pound bag of jellybeans.

Yes, you heard me – a four-pound bag of jellybeans.

Which brings me to this: some things just shouldn’t be packaged and sold in bulk. Even my parents discovered this early in their bulk-shopping career when they made the mistake of buying a fifteen-pound drum of Jiff.

There is something very wrong about being armed with a knife and up to your elbow inside a vat of peanut butter.

Anyway … I suppose when my pocketbook and I recover I’ll probably give the new Sam’s another go. Maybe in the meantime you pros can offer me some helpful hints.

And, I’ll let you know when my folks use up their roll of aluminum foil. We’ll have a party.

I’ll bring the jellybeans.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Poor College Student

A Poor College Student

By Allison Adams 09-30-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 10-01-10

It’s been a rather lengthy process, but my daughter has finally adopted an appropriate moniker: Poor College Student.

Her epiphany came on my recent visit to see her, during which I discovered things were completely out of control.

I took her out to lunch at the Broadway Bistro as a special treat, and the maitre’d greeted her by her name and asked if she wanted to be seated at her “regular table”.

“Honey, I want to tell you a little story while we’re waiting for our waiter to bring me my tuna melt special, and bring you ‘your usual’.”

“I hope he gets my order right. The waiter who normally serves me isn’t here today.”

“Honey, I want to tell you about the life of a Poor College Student.”

“OH NO! Who is it? Is it somebody I know?”

“Its you, dear.”

“No, seriously – who is it?”

“Honey, a Poor College Student can’t afford to dine out a couple times a day, seven days a week.”


“A Poor College Student knows that a California Roll from the Chic Sushi Bar, and twice-daily $5 grande-double-espresso-skinny-mocha-Carmelita-lattes from Starbucks are not staples – they are extravagances.”

“But, I need my lattes.”

“We’ve had this talk before.”

“Then can we please talk about something else?”

“A Poor College Student realizes that even frequent visits to Taco Bell will break her budget. She knows that generic brand peanut butter is her friend.”

“But, choosy mothers choose Jiff!”

“But, you are not a choosy mother. You are a Poor College Student, and a Poor College Student must forage through the aisles of the grocery store, and suffer over the saucepan on the stovetop, just like the rest of us.”

“I don’t know how to cook!”

“It would have been nice if you’d shown a little interest in learning while you were still living at home. I can’t believe I let you go without showing you the basics. No mother should let her little birds leave the nest without making sure they can fry an egg, grill a cheese sandwich, and prepare a box of Hamburger Helper.”

“Hamburger Helper? Really?”

“If you can tackle a term paper, you can surely follow the directions on the back of the Hamburger Helper box.”

“Where is our waiter?”

“There’s more.”

“Please, no …”

“A Poor College Student doesn’t make weekly trips to the mall to purchase the latest fashion trends.”

“Are you serious?”

“Very. Also, a Poor College Student cannot continue to download the latest hits from the iTunes web site. She has to exercise complete control over her computer mouse when it begins to guide the cursor arrow on the screen toward the ‘Buy Now’ button.”

“Its just so convenient...”

“Furthermore, just because a Poor College Student is fortunate enough to have a car at her disposal, she doesn’t need to volunteer to be the chauffer every single time a group of Poor College Students holler ‘Road Trip!’ A Poor College Student understands that a tank of unleaded gasoline is a luxury.”

“I’m losing my appetite.”

“A Poor College Student doesn’t have the money to buy a ticket to every rock concert that hits the town, even though EVERYBODY ELSE bought one, and is going.”

“But, but …”

“Simply put, dear, a Poor College Student must refrain from hitting the fashion runway, hitting the road, hitting the town, or hitting the ‘Buy Now’ button, as long as she’s a Poor College Student.”

“Uuuugggghhhh! All right! I hear you! I’ll reel it in! I’ll refrain! I’ll go to the grocery store. I’ll learn to cook. I’ll make coffee in that, that, THING that sits on my kitchen counter …”

“It’s called a ‘Mr. Coffee’, honey.”

“… I’ll park my car. I’ll play OLDIES on my iPod. I’ll wear… *sigh*… LAST YEAR'S BOOTS!”

“Awwww, there-there now. It’s not the end of the world. These are really small sacrifices to make, for a large gain later in life!”

“I guess you’re right, mom. After all, when I graduate from college, I’ll be … ”

“You’ll be a Poor College Graduate, dear.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thar She Blows!

Thar She Blows!

By Allison Adams 09-04-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 09-05-10

I am embarrassed to tell you that the other day when I went looking for something in my pantry I eventually found five boxes of pistachio flavored Jell-O pudding mix. You heard me – five.

The last time I made pistachio flavored Jell-O pudding, Jimmy Carter was President.

The Jell-O boxes were scattered in amongst a kaleidoscope of canned goods and bads, like three empty boxes of Pop-Tarts, which were in the same vicinity as a couple of boxes of Moon Pies – also empty.

I found several cereal boxes that contained nothing but their waxed paper bags with just a trace of cereal dust in their bottoms.

None of those decoys were my doing – but mixed them with general pantry dysfunction, and it means I rarely buy what we really need at the grocery store because I think we already have “it” at home on the shelf.

Bottom line: If my pantry had been organized I would never have needed to empty the sucker just to try to find one lousy can of Chicken of the Sea.

But it wasn’t; so I did.

It was high time, really. I mean I love Mexican food as much as the next guy, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to use all 80 flour tortillas we own before they expire on Tuesday.

Out came a broken VCR, my sewing kit, and some other things that probably should never have been placed in the pantry to begin with … and also six cans of creamed corn.

As a matter of fact, I seem to have a penchant for purchasing any food item with the word “cream” on the label, which may explain my need to incorporate an array of elastic waist pants into my wardrobe in recent years.

I had an excessive inventory of cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, cream of celery soup, creamed corn, Cream of Wheat, cream cheese frosting mix, and cream of tartar.

I don’t even know what cream of tartar is, but if I ever find out at least I won’t have to go and borrow a cup from my neighbor.

Apparently at one time or another there was a big sale on gigantic jars of artichoke hearts because we own four of those.

And I must have had a coupon or else I’m sure I wouldn’t have come home with six cans of Comstock Blueberry pie filling.

It wasn’t until I moved the case of Ramen Noodle Soup (which I meant to send back to college with my financially-strapped daughter) that I finally spotted the object of my desire – the hunt for which precipitated an impromptu pantry makeover: one can of solid white albacore, packed in spring water.

I cannot even speak to the sheer volume of jars of pimentos, salsa, and cans of diced stewed tomatoes that I extracted from my pantry. I remember thinking that it was a good thing that red is one of my favorite colors.

And that’s when it hit me … everything could go back into the pantry according to the color of the item contained in the container!

So now all my red foods are together on one shelf. Cans of green things live on a shelf next to other cans of green things. And canned yellow fruits cohabitate with canned yellow corn, even if the latter happens to be creamed and a vegetable.

And when I’m fishing for a can of tuna, I go straight to the neutral tones section and shout, “Thar she blows!”

Yeah … I know …

Thursday, August 26, 2010

25 Cubic Feet & A Matching Handbag

25 Cubic Feet & A Matching Handbag
By Allison Adams 08-21-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 08-23-10

In 1988, I replaced my standard floor mop with a new, top-of-the-line, sponge mop.

It had a built-in contraption that efficiently squeezed all the excess water from the mop head, just by pressing a lever near the top of the mop handle – keeping my hands bone-dry.

It was nothing short of amazing.

I was so excited about my new sponge mop when I brought it home, I made a long-distance phone call to my mother to tell her all about it – in the middle of the day, when the long-distance rates were sky-high.

For nearly two weeks, I mopped my brains out. I would talk about the qualities of my most excellent sponge mop to anyone who would listen.

Then it hit me: A high-end sponge mop had ignited the euphoria I used to experience when I bought a cute, new pair of shoes.

I was emotionally invested in my cleaning supplies.

Eventually my relationship with my household appliances followed suit. It started with my refrigerator.

It was a side-by-side model - very popular. It had a handy ice and water dispenser built-in to the front of the freezer door - very convenient.

Practically speaking – it kept cold things cold, and frozen things frozen.

But with every turn of my small world I became increasingly disenchanted with everything beyond its double-doors.

More often than not the ice dispenser spat out one solitary crescent shaped piece of ice before it jammed, causing the person whose glass has been inadequately iced to finish the task manually.

The water dispenser worked well, but because it didn’t dispense Gatorade or Diet Coke, it was rarely used. At one point it was deemed “completely worthless” by my children when they tried unsuccessfully to use the built-in dispenser to fill water balloons.

Inside the shelves were deeeeep and naaaaarrow. Heaven help us when things inadvertently got pushed to the back of a shelf or drawer. You needed to be on your tippy-toes to see what was on the top shelf and on your hands and knees to explore what lived inside the crispers at the bottom – resulting in a real workout just looking for the mayonnaise, or a mango.
All too often a search and rescue party had to remove every item in the joint in order to extract Monday’s meatloaf, or Friday’s fettuccini. Sometimes what started out as a hunt for humus ended up revealing a perfectly good science project – or two.

And I can’t even discuss what I had to do in order to place a frozen pizza in the skinny freezer.

Eventually my feelings for my refrigerator soured to the point that I loathed its existence.

Ungrateful for what I had, I began making fairly regular trips to various appliance showrooms to interview new refrigerator candidates.

After several weeks of careful shopping I located a well-equipped floor model priced at fair market value.

The freezer lived at the bottom. The refrigerator lived on the top. No finicky ice dispenser. No fancy water balloon filler.

And when I opened the refrigerator door, there at eye-level was wide, open shelving.

I wept at the space.

In an especially cruel move, I snapped a picture of it, and slapped the photograph on the door of my sorry, side-by-side with a refrigerator magnet.

For several more weeks I resorted to visiting the Chosen One at the appliance showroom. I’d open its doors, run my fingers along the edge of the shelves, peek in the little butter compartment, slide out the crisper drawer, and deeply inhale that intoxicating new appliance plastic aroma like it was a breath of fresh, springtime air.

High on poly fluorocarbon, I would eventually have to bid farewell to the floor model and drive home to Refrigerator Reality.

Eventually I was able to purchase the refrigerator of my dreams.

Our rejected side-by-side model was wheeled into the garage to be used for Gatorade, Diet Coke, and science project storage. In its place in the kitchen now stands a model with what I believe is the epitome of useful refrigerated space, and its gateway is as big as a barn door.

New shoes are nice – but for me, this is nirvana. Of course, if I could get a matching handbag …

Yeah, I know. I need a little therapy.

The Big Buy

The Big Buy
By Allison Adams / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 07-26-10

“Welcome to Buy Big! Do you have your Preferred Customer Perks card?”

“My what?”

“Your Preferred Customer Perks card.”

“No, but I just want to buy this one thi…”

“Yes, I see, but I need to scan your Preferred Customer Perks card first.”

“Ummm. Well, uhhhh … let me look in my wallet … hang on … Oh! Here it is!”

“Let me see that.”

“Here, it’s my Super Shopper card.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t accept that.”

“Okay … uhhhh … I’m sure it’s right here – oh! Here’s my Swipe-n-Save card! I’ve had that card for 14 years!”

“That’s a long time!”

“Yes, it is!”

“Unfortunately, you can’t use a Swipe-n-Save card here at Buy Big.”

“Well … wait a minute. Lemme keep digging … Oh! Here we go!”

“What’s that?”

“It’s my V.I.C. card!”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I’m not familiar with the VIC card.”

“V.I.C. - Very Important Customer!”

“I’m afraid we cannot accept that card. Our customers aren’t very important; they are Preferred. I need to scan your Preferred Customer Perks card.”

“How about this? It’s my Bonus Bucks card!”

“Impressive! However, we don’t give our customers any bonuses.”

“What about bucks?”

“No, no bucks either. We do, however, award points based on your purchases!”

“Oh, really? Do you get rewards for your points?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Wouldn’t that make them pointless?”

“Have you ever shopped with Buy Big before?”

“Yes, when you were called Cash-n-Carry.”

“That explains it! When we were called Cash-n-Carry, we didn’t issue a card! You just paid for your purchases without a card.”

“Okay – NOW you’re talkin’! That’s exactly what I’d like to do! I just want to give you some cash, and then carry this one thi … “

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m afraid that’s not possible. At Buy Big, we offer big savings to our preferred customers, using their Preferred Customer Perks card!”

“Look, I’m in a little bit of a hurry. I just wanna buy this one thi… “

“Why don’t you take just a moment to fill out this Preferred Customer Perks card application form?”

“I have to fill out a form just to buy this one thi… ?”

“It’s a very short form. We just need your name, address, home phone number, cell phone number, e-mail address, and your signature.”

“I thought this was the Express Lane … “

“And on the back here, we need you to come up with a series of PICs.”

“Wha …?”

“PICs – Personal Identification Codes. If you ever forget your Preferred Customer Perks card, we’ll allow you to make a purchase without a penalty by entering one of your PICs. You need to fill in a 6-digit Access Code, a 7-digit Password using letters, numbers, and at least one symbol, and also a case-sensitive User ID.”

“I’ll never remember those.”

“No problem! See? Right here there’s a place for you to write down 3 Shopper Secrets! Just provide us with your mother’s maiden name, the name of the color directly opposite of your favorite color on the color wheel, and the nickname of your current pet.”

“Wha …?”

“If you go to checkout, and you don’t have your Preferred Customer Perks card with you, and you can’t recall any of your Personal Identification Codes, we’ll regenerate your codes for you when you correctly provide the answer to one of your Shopper Secrets!”


“Yes, ma’am! That’s a friendly service we provide to our Preferred Customers, at no extra charge!”

“This is ridiculous! I just wanna buy one thi …”


“Wait! Okay, I’ll fill out the form!”


“Here. Here you go. Now can I please just pay for this one thi …”

“Sign here, please.”

“Okay. There you go. Now … ?”

“I need your thumbprint in this little square.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake.”

“I’ll waive the requirement to have this certified by a Notary Public, since you seem to be in such a hurry.”

“Good grief.”

“Okay – now I can check you out!”


“Do you have any coupons?”

Lipstick & Muzak

Lipstick & Muzak

By Allison Adams 07-10-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 07-11-10

Dear IRS,

I’ve been a timely, loyal American income taxpayer for the past 36 years.

Several weeks ago I had the occasion to visit one of your satellite offices near my hometown, the name of which I prefer not to reveal at this time.

I had to go there, to that satellite office, to get a certified copy of a document – Form Number Something Or Other. That’s all. I just needed one certified copy of one little thing.

I had to go there because my husband said he was too busy to go. He’s never too busy to play a round of golf though. I’m just sayin’.

I don’t mind telling you that I was a tiny bit nervous about going – not because I am now, or have ever been involved in any fiscal wrongdoing, but because the mere mention of your agency makes most folks a feel a little jittery - even nauseous.

Forgive my candor, but I think you might have an image problem.

Some people – not me – but some people say unflattering things about you when they think you’re not looking. Not that you’re ever not looking.

I’m writing to tell you that I think I can help with that – your possible image problem, that is.

If the satellite office I visited near my hometown is an accurate representation of your other offices, then I think a little makeover is warranted.

Lets start with the expressionless armed guard posted just outside the door. He did not make me feel welcome.

Then there’s the office décor – if you can call it that. Everything is gray. Gray everything is depressing.

So you see, your visitors are first made to feel uneasy by the armed guard, and then depressed by the drab color-scheme. Barely in the door and your visitors are already feeling nervous, and wondering if life is really worth living.

I’m sure that’s not the atmosphere you’re going for.

Gray is a good color when it’s used as a background for other colors, such as fuchsia, or indigo, or aubergine, or even basic navy blue. You can introduce pops of color by adding some simple accessories, like candles, or throw pillows.

Let’s talk about the furniture arrangement in the waiting area. It looked as if all the furniture was under arrest. You know – everything was lined up against the wall.

One exception would be the chairs, which were lined up in rows, facing in the same direction. Everyone sitting in them stared at the same bare wall. This would have been a great opportunity to create a cozy conversation area for your guests by simply rearranging those chairs, don’t you agree?

About that bare wall, and the other bare walls. It would have been nice to see something other than a sign threatening my imprisonment if I used my cellular phone, or brandished my firearm while I was on the premises.

I’m not suggesting that you need to hang museum quality art. A simple travel poster or two would have warmed up the place.

How about offering some outdated magazines for people to read, for heaven’s sake?

Think about adding a lamp. Proper lighting can really help set the right mood!

And if you think you’re providing any privacy by placing your IRS agents at their desks behind 5-foot tall cubicle walls, you’re sadly mistaken. The rest of us patiently waiting our turn could hear every single word exchanged between IRS agent and loyal American taxpayer Now Being Served.

And also the whimpering.

You really should consider making available a box of government issued Kleenex (covered with a hand-crocheted cozy) so those poor, sobbing, taxpayers could grab a couple on their way out the door.

Anyway, I think if you made those few changes in the office décor – you know, a little “lipstick” – and perhaps if you hired a security guard with a personality, it would make the waiting more bearable for your customers, and in turn do wonders for your image.

Well, maybe not wonders. But it would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Also, a little Muzak might help muffle the blubbering.

I’m just sayin’.

Yours truly,

Yours Truly.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Witness

The Witness

06-29-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 06-19-10

By Allison Adams

My husband and I are certain that some day our children will write a tell-all book about us. Not because we’re eccentric, but because we’re nincompoops.

As unsettling as that is, it doesn’t seem to stop us from unwittingly supplying them with ample material for their manuscript.

We recently took a five-day road trip covering a little over 1,500 unfamiliar miles. To the would-be tell-all book author, this is known as fodder.

As luck would have it, at the same time we planned our trip, our college-aged daughter, and prospective co-author of our memoirs, happened to have some time on her hands in-between summer assignments. Naturally, we seized the opportunity to spend some quality time with her, and bribed her to come along for the ride.

Reluctantly, she accepted.

She made a little nest in the backseat: pillow, blankie, iPod, book, cell phone, water bottle, and … steno pad.

We were so engaged in our road trip we forgot we had a witness along. An imbedded reporter, ear buds dangling and pencil poised.

She probably started by writing down what happened before we even got into the car — about my successful move to gain control of the steering wheel.

You see, it just makes more sense for me to do most of the driving. After 25 years of marriage, even my husband knows that. If I’m doing the driving, then I can’t be critical of the driver. You do the math.

Nonetheless, we always engage in a little “I’ll drive … No, I’ll drive!” banter, just for the sake of posterity. It’s a verbal tug-of war that drives our passengers crazy.

She probably noted that, after nauseating deliberation, we finally elected to drive the car that has the satellite radio, but never once turned it on.

She will probably explain that, by default, the non-driver becomes the designated navigator.

She’ll tell about the struggle we had learning to use our new “talking” GPS, and the fact that the designated navigator also insisted on referring to a 1977 Rand McNally Road Atlas, and over 30 pages of MapQuest printout.

Seems there have been a few major road changes in the 33 years since our Atlas was printed. And if there’s no satellite signal, there’s no “talking” GPS. And pages 13, 16 and 22 were missing from the MapQuest printout.

Frustration ensued when one of the three navigational tools did not read like the others — a frequent occurrence that made for some tense moments.

GPS: In .9 miles, take left onto US 375.
Navigator: Don't do it. That road's not on the atlas.
Driver: But I see it up ahead! Look at the sign!
Naviagor: It's a trap!
Driver: It's right THERE!
GPS: Recalculating ...

I hope she won’t disclose that, on more than one occasion, I lost my temper with our talking GPS and spoke to it using unladylike language using my UPPER CASE voice. I really hope she doesn’t tell about that, but she probably will.

She probably took note of our tangled mess of hand-held electronic devices that we can’t live without, or properly operate, and about their respective corded chargers that are never respectively attached. As an example, she’ll no doubt mention that for 200 miles we mistakenly thought we were charging the dead cellular phone, and how we would have been if we’d thought to plug in the business end of the correct charger.

I’m pretty sure she’ll tell about the time we pulled in to gas the car and stretch the legs, and when we were through with the latter, we almost drove off with the gas nozzle inserted in the car’s tank. I hope she’ll mention that we managed to avert the disaster … thanks to a last-minute warning that came from the back seat.

“Uhhhh, people? The gas nozzle is still in the tank. I’m just sayin’.”

Surely she will tell about silently standing by on numerous occasions while I tried to gain entrance into our hotel room by repeatedly inserting my key card in someone else’s hotel room door.

They all look alike.

She’ll probably mention the time we stopped at our favorite Interstate restaurant and country store, and ordered our favorite vegetable platter. I was incensed that they tried to pass off half of a smashed baked potato as a serving of country mashed potatoes.

She’ll surely tell that I threatened to send a message to the chef, letting him know that I was on to his short-order shortcuts, and I didn’t appreciate it AT ALL.

Things could’ve gotten really ugly in there, but my husband knows that all it takes is a roll of Necco Wafers purchased from the country store, and I’m putty in his hands.

Oh, yeah. It’ll be a best-seller.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Basics

The Basics

By Allison Adams 06-11-10 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun 06-12-10

Once when our family was sitting in a restaurant, a boy walked by our table and he and my son exchanged a casual nod with one another.

“Who is that boy?” I asked my son.

“A guy who sat behind me in class last semester.” He replied.

“Oh! How nice! What’s his name?”

“I dunno.”

I remember wondering then how my son could sit in front of someone every day, for three and a half months, and not know his name.

A girl would be able to name everyone in her class. She’d also know who her classmates’ families were, and where they lived. She’d learn that basic information on the first day of class, within minutes of making eye contact.

Boys rarely make eye contact with another human being. They really aren’t social creatures. They really don’t care much about knowing the basic things like someone’s name, or where they live, which is why I didn’t hold out much hope for learning anything from my son when he came home after spending a week at camp.

Gaining the basic information from him would involve a slow, methodical process, which is sometimes as successful as getting the proverbial blood out of the proverbial turnip.

I knew I had to pace myself, and lower my expectations.

“Tell me about your roommate.”

“I had two.”

“Oh! How nice! What were their names?”

“Um. David. And, ummmm ... Joe.”

Um David, and Um Joe.

A girl would have known, and cheerfully volunteered her roommate’s first name, middle name, and surname. She’d have known her roommate’s nickname, and how her roommate came to be nicknamed. And, she’d have revealed the new nickname she’d given her roommate to take home with her, and shared all the fun the two of them had coming up with it.

“Oh! How nice! Where were they from?”

“Um. David was from … ummmm … somewhere in Iowa.”

Honestly – I was impressed he knew that David (if that was his real name) was from “somewhere in Iowa”. I was really expecting to hear something a little more global, like “North America”.

“Wait. Nope. Not Iowa. He was from somewhere in Ohio.”

A girl would have known exactly where her roommate lived and she’d have been able to recall it without hesitation. She’d have also known where her roommate was born, and where her siblings, her parents, and her grandparents were born …

“Oh! How nice! Ohio! Where in Ohio? Dayton? Akron? Cincinnati?”


… and she’d have told me all about her roommate’s great-grandparents, and their adventures following their Ellis Island landing …

“Toledo? Columbus? Cleveland?”

“Yup. Cleveland. I think.”

… and she and her roommate would have fantasized about how exciting it would be to someday live in a foreign country. They would have shared with each other their dream to someday study, work, and live abroad. They would have talked about all the wonderful new people they would expect to meet.

“Oh! How nice! How about the other one?”

“Other one what?”

“The other roommate. Joe. Where was Joe from?”

“Ummmm. Lemme think.”

Girls make sure they know the basics about one another. By basics I mean name, address, phone number, favorite color, favorite song, favorite food, favorite TV show, favorite movie, and favorite place to shop. Basic information also includes details about boyfriends, best friends, hobbies, hairdos, and their dream wedding.

I didn’t expect a biography about these boys, but honestly – how can someone spend a week sharing a room with a person without wondering where that person will be headed when its time to go home?

“I think he was from Kansas.”

“Oh! How nice! Where in Kansas? Topeka? Wichita?”

“Ummmm. Nope, I don’t think so.”

I suspected that these boys would not become pen pals.

“Dodge City? Kansas City?

“Uhhh, that sounds right. Kansas City.”

“Oh! How nice!”

I didn’t believe for one minute that Joe (if that was his real name) was from Kansas City, but I still wanted to find out how the camp food was, and what kind of activities he engaged in.

I needed to save my strength.



By Allison Adams 04-01-08, Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 04-01-08

All I can say is, it’s a good thing we were buckled-in.

The guy in the car ahead was bouncing up and down in his seat, giving a thumbs-up sign to somebody – I don’t know who. I glanced back to see that the pair in the car behind me was engaged in giddy conversation. My son and I sat silently in our car – just waiting for the green light.

Suddenly, without warning, we were thrust forward with a force I have never experienced. It was as if we’d been hit from behind by a speeding-jet-propelled-rocket ship-locomotive-bomb. Like we’d been fired from a cannon.

That’s it. Our car was a cannon ball.

My eyes slammed shut. I couldn’t breath.

By that, I mean – I couldn’t breath. I thought to myself, so this is what it feels like just before you die.

We were hurled ahead with so much velocity I think we had to be taking on some “G’s”. G-force – like the astronauts experience when they blast into orbit.

But I was no astronaut. I had a horrible feeling in my gut, and I really, really needed to breathe.

After what seemed like an hour, but was probably just a nanosecond – we came to a stop. Or at least a slow down.

And I breathed. Oh, thank the Lord! My eyes popped open and I peered ahead and tried to assess our situation. But before my brain was able to process any information I’d gathered in my split-second scan, I was pressed back into my seat and our car propelled forward with great speed and plunged into a black abyss.

Again – I couldn’t breathe.

I thought of all of you who have been through a similar situation, and lived to tell about it. I decided right then that I had to take control and tell my body what to do.

So, I shut my eyes tightly, and ordered my lungs to breathe. Hallelujah! It worked!

Then I made the mistake of peeking again. It was black as pitch all around; I could feel we were headed for a steep curve. I had no way of steering. I was completely enveloped in fear. My body was in shock. It quit responding to my generalized requests to breathe. I had to get more specific.

Inhale! I ordered. Now, exhale!

I knew I had to continue to command those two things, or I would die for sure. Inhale. Now, exhale. Inhale. Now, exhale.

I was sure we were hanging upside down.

Inhale. Now, exhale. Inhale. Now, exhale.

No. No. We were SIDEWAYS! (Oh, hello bagel and cream cheese from this morning!)

Inhale. Now, exhale. Inhale. Now, exhale.

I heard screaming. But I couldn’t tell if it was coming from the guy in the car ahead of me, or the pair in the car behind me, or me.

I felt another terrific jolt and I was sure our car was upside down again. I felt the sudden rush of air, and my hair slapped across my face. I couldn’t move my arms or legs – but I was breathing. Barely.

Inhale. Now, exhale. Inhale. Now, exhale.

“Momma! Are you okay?”

Oh! In the middle of this save-yourself-nightmarish event, my son was concerned for ME!

I didn’t want to frighten him. Didn’t want him to know that I was SCARED TO DEATH. But I was unable to even turn my head in his direction. And unable to open my eyes. And unable to move mouth and utter a sound because I could only concentrate on TWO THINGS.

Inhale. Now, exhale. Inhale. Now, exhale.

I felt several short jerks. I heard what sounded like the rush of air being released from a compression tank. Puhleeze, let it be oxygen!

Almost as suddenly as we exploded on this journey from H – E – double hockey sticks, our car came to an abrupt stop.

“Momma! Are you okay?”

I was finally able to turn my head and look at my son – who was laughing so hard he had to hold his gut.

“You looked horrified! That was awesome!”

Awesome? Not the word I’d use to describe that so-called “joy ride”. But I was so busy trying to control my spaghetti legs as I slithered out of the car and onto the platform, my scrambled-eggs-for-brains couldn’t come up with a come back.

Disney’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster had rendered me (among other things), speechless.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


By Allison Adams 10-13-08, submitted to The Greeneville Sun 10-14-08

In 1990, Bill and I welcomed our second baby to our small world. Now four persons beneath our roof, my husband commemorated the occasion by buying a brand-new, stainless steel, four-slot, pop-up toaster. He thought it was important that everyone’s slice of bread have it’s own slot.

He thinks about stuff like that.

In 1992, we welcomed our third baby to our small world. When he realized there was no such thing as a five-slot toaster, Bill agreed to adjust and compromise.

He’s pretty good about stuff like that.

In 2007, our no-longer-new, not-so-stainless steel, four-slot, pop-up toaster gave up the ghost. And so one Saturday morning, I set out to find a suitable replacement toaster for the one I had just thrown away.

I like to conduct a thorough interview of any potential new appliance before making a purchase. You know – turn knobs and dials, press buttons, open and shut doors. If something can be slid, I like to slide it. If there are attachments, I like to attach and detach them.

Very early in the appliance interview process, I realized I would be replacing our former four-slot toaster with a toaster-oven. I loved the versatility of a toaster-oven. A toaster-oven would eliminate the need for me to surgically remove my beloved big bagel from a slender slice slot. It also opened up a whole new world I call “PPR” (Personal Portion Reheating).

Yes, a toaster-oven made perfect sense for our family.
I concluded my appliance interviews and made my selection in less than an hour. The winner: A basic, but efficient, Black and Decker toaster-oven.
Bill was glued to a football game on TV when I returned with our new toaster. I unpacked it, and made a public service announcement:
“Attention! We’ve got a new toaster!”
He managed a wave in my general direction, but he never took his eyes off the TV. I waited patiently for a commercial break, and eventually he wandered into the kitchen to take a look.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“What do mean, what’s that? Its our new toaster!”
He stood and stared at it for what seemed like forever before he turned to me and asked,

“Where is the slottage?”
“The wha…?”
“The slottage. Bread slots. Where are the bread slots? Where do I insert my slice of bread for toasting?”
Well. In no time I threw on an apron, channeled my inner Ron Popiel, and enthusiastically launched a full-scale infomercial demonstrating the versatility of our new toaster-oven. I explained the different, easy-to-use features that allowed one to adjust the setting to toast bread, bagels, or rolls. I introduced the “top brown” selection on the toaster dial, which made thing like heating cheese toast a breeze. I showed him the handy, slide-in tray one would use for things like heating a mini French baguette, or warming a piece of pizza, or baking a chicken pot pie.
“Imagine if you will,” I said, “the efficiency in heating just this small space for a chicken pot pie, instead of heating a whole, great big, conventional oven!”
“Looks very complicated.” he said. And then he just stood there and stared at the toaster-oven for what seemed like days, until finally he spoke again.
“Where does the bread slice pop-up?” he asked.
“Honey – it doesn’t pop-up, or out, because there’s no slot.” I explained.
“Then how do you know when its done?” he asked.
“The toaster-oven just automatically shuts itself off.”
“The bread doesn’t pop-up or out? Does the toaster ding?” he asked.
“No, dear. You just have to open the little glass door when its done toasting, and slide the bread out.”
“No ding?” he asked.
“No ding.” I confirmed.
With that, he heaved a huge sigh, and sulked back to his football game on TV.
Its been a year now, and I really think he’s beginning to come around.
Last Saturday morning I came downstairs to find him standing like a zombie in front of the toaster-oven. His arms were limply outstretched. In each hand, he dangled a slice of white bread, gingerly pinched between his thumb and forefinger. His head was cocked ever-so-slightly to one side.
I approached him cautiously, gently removed the bread from his pincers, slid the slices on the toaster rack, shut the door, and pressed the start button.
When the bread turned to toast, the appliance automatically shut-off, and I presented him with the finished product.
And because marriage is all about adjustments and compromise … I said, “Ding.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Question Mark

The Question Mark

By Allison Adams / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 05-16-10

Why is it so hard for a momma to get her teenaged son to tell her what’s going on in his life? Why does it seem like the more I ask, the less I know? Why can’t I ask a simple question and get a simple answer?

Me: Where have you been?

Him: Didn’t you know?

Me: Do you have any idea what time it is?

Him: Is it suppertime?

Me: Why are you late?

Him: Am I late?

Me: What have you been doing?

Him: Don’t you remember?

Me: If I remembered, why would I be asking?

Him: How should I know?

Me: You expect me to answer that?

Him: Is the Pope Catholic?

Me: What did you do at school today?

Him: What do I usually do at school every day?

Me: Why can’t you just answer the question?

Him: Why do you ask me that every day?

Me: Do you have any important things for me to read or sign?

Him: Can you be more specific?

Me: Do you have any notes from your teachers, or written announcements, or permission slips, or anything I need to read that might help me know what’s going on in your life?

Him: Do you expect me to know the answer to that off the top of my head?

Me: How are your grades?

Him: Don’t you want to be surprised?

Me: Would it be a good surprise?

Him: How do you define “good”?

Me: You know what your father and I expect of you, don’t you?

Him: Is that a rhetorical question?

Me: Is there anything I should know?

Him: Is that a trick question?

Me: Do you have a handle on your class work?

Him: Don’t I always?

Me: If I knew that, why would I ask?

Him: How should I know?

Me: Why are you so defensive?

Him: Why are you interrogating me?

Me: You call this an interrogation?

Him: Are you serious?

Me: Is there any other way to get information out of you?

Him: Is it necessary for you to always give me the third degree?

Me: Do I have any choice?

Him: Why can’t we just have a normal conversation?

Me: Will that ever be possible?

Him: Do you expect me to predict the future?

Me: Would you pass me some Tylenol?

Him: Do you have another headache?

Me: What was your first clue?

Him: Did you know 90% of all headaches are categorized as “stress headaches”?

Me: Where did you learn that?

Him: What do you think I do at school all day long?

Me: How am I supposed to know?

Am I alone?