Fifteen Seconds of Fame…

I realize the saying is usually “fifteen minutes of fame,” but in my case, it was closer to fifteen seconds. Give or take two seconds. I wasn’t exactly timing it. I was too busy floating in a surreal world of Cloud Nine Dreams Come True.

My friend Amy and I were minding our own business in the front row of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Strings Attached concert here in Pittsburgh last night. I had already warned Amy that I would sing along with every single song, unapologetically. It’s just how I roll. And, I did. Every. Single. Word. Of Every. Single. Song. 

I’d given Amy homework before the concert: memorize both “The Saga Begins” and “Yoda,” because Al does those two songs as an encore at every concert and everyone sings along. And he did not disappoint us. The audience sang along on all the choruses (and most of the verses) of both songs. First “The Saga Begins” …

(Photo courtesy of @AmyJMable)

Then “Yoda.” Near the end of “Yoda,” Al turned the microphone to the audience and told us to sing. And we all belted out a chorus of “Yoda” together with gusto.

Then, without warning—with his accordion still strapped to his chest and the microphone in his hand—he knelt down and crept over the wires at the front of the stage. I could see him headed my way with that microphone sticking out as the audience wrapped up its group-chorus… and… and

Oh my gosh… was he headed toward ME with that thing??

Then, he yelled into the microphone, “NOW JUST HER!” and pointed it right at my nose. I saw my life flash before my eyes as I used that split-second to decide whether to curl up and die in an introverted heap, or to boldly go where I had never gone before (that is, singing solo in front of 3,000 strangers, right in front of my favorite musician ever).

Should I belt out an entire chorus of “Yoda” all by myself? Or should I live in regret and despair forever? Guess which one I chose. No, really, guess. I’ll wait.


Have you guessed yet?


I even did my own conducting at the end…


It was perhaps the most glorious fifteen seconds of my life. And I might even include the births of several of my children and at least one of my weddings in that assessment. But I won’t say which ones.

Poor Amy froze. Although she’d been surreptitiously taking a picture here and there (just like everyone around us), there just wasn’t time for her to unfreeze, get her phone ready, and snap a picture.

So where did these candid pictures come from? Well, you see, there was this VIP after-party…


…where we all chatted and made new friends while we waited to get our photo taken with Al. There was classical music playing and there were battery-operated candelabras on the tables. Stormtroopers and Darth Vader entertained us.

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Al even bought us all pizza!

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Meanwhile, I was teasing poor Amy about having not captured my moment of glory for posterity. (She endured it with grace. I would’ve smacked me into next Tuesday, but Amy is lovely and forgiving, unlike me.) She began asking around while we were in line for our photo op, and since “Weird Al” fans are some of the nicest people I’ll ever meet, we found someone further down the front row who had taken three photos of my fifteen seconds of fame, one Jeff McClelland by name. (That’s one picture every five seconds for all you fellow English majors out there.)

Keep reading. It gets weirder.

I exchanged cell phone numbers with a beautiful friend of Jeff’s, and she said she’d text me the photos today. And… she did. And… I squealed with delight.

And… it turns out Mr. McClelland designed the AWESOME Pittsburgh concert poster for this tour (all VIPs received a 16×24 copy of this poster, individually numbered), and mine will be framed and hanging in my office by the end of this week. It’s a great mix of “Weird Al” Yankovic meets Andy Warhol.


I need to keep thanking Jeff McClelland (and his friend Brianne [@DellaandLila], who was the catalyst for these photos to get to me and who, as it turns out, is a children’s book author—see? I told you it got weirder), but I don’t think there is enough gratitude in the world for going the extra mile to get these to me.

And, of course, thank you to Mr. Yankovic, for not only entertaining us last night, but for providing me with decades of entertainment that got me through some very dark times. You, sir, are a gem.



Gray Hair Everywhere…

It took me a while, but I eventually resigned myself to my graying hair. The hair on my head, at least. In fact, now I get comments even from hairstylists that my cool little gray (read: white) streak in the front looks great. One woman even asked if I colored it that way on purpose. I tried not to snort on her. Really, I tried.


Her comment was a bit extreme, but hey, even a thinly veiled compliment is worth latching onto at my age.

Yup, I was owning my gray, which I had earned over the course of what seemed like two separate lifetimes. I hadn’t been carded at a bar or casino in years (read: decades), so who was I trying to fool? (That was a rhetorical question. I wasn’t foolin’ anybody.)

The fatal blow to my Clairol Nice ‘N Easy days came when a pastor friend mentioned a sermon in which he quoted Proverbs 16:31: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (ESV).

Well, I wasn’t so sure I qualified for that “righteous life” bit, or that I wanted any sort of crown at all, but I had to ask myself: Why was I still coloring my hair? What was I trying to prove? I couldn’t think of one good reason to continue. Not the money. Not the chemicals. Not the hassle of worrying about roots growing out.

So, I stopped. And it was gloriously liberating.

Fast-forward a few more years to that morning from hell.

One morning I discovered that the only thing worse than waking up to find a few gray hairs on your head is waking up to find a few gray hairs up your nose.

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And where I saw that one hair, others began to follow.

NOW what was I going to do? After a futile Google search for “nose hair color” (apparently Nice ‘N Easy doesn’t have a tiny package for nose hair, although their R&D department is missing a lucrative opportunity here, if you ask me), I ran options through my mind. I saw only two:

  1. Buy a pair of tiny nose-hair scissors and learn how to nosescape, pronto. Knowing my history of clumsiness (I have had more stitches in my head than Frankenstein’s monster), I immediately nixed this idea. It could only end badly, with me probably snipping the end of one nostril like I was trying to recreate the digging of the Panama Canal on my face.
  2.  Buy a nose-hair trimmer.

Oh, good grief. Had it really come to this?

It hadn’t hit me that I was getting older when I turned 50. It hadn’t bothered me when songs from my teen years started showing up on the oldies station. It hadn’t concerned me when I realized capris were invented for seriously middle-aged women… and that I owned more than a dozen pairs that I wore in a regular rotation from April through October. And it hadn’t worried me when AARP started sending me solicitations in the mail every two or three days, knowing eventually I was going to succumb to that offer of a free tote bag (read: another tote bag, in my case).

Nope. I lived through all of those things and never really thought of myself as old. But that nose-hair trimmer I now had to purchase sent me careening downhill emotionally.

Thankful for discreet online purchases, plus Amazon’s generic and ubiquitous boxes, I ordered a nose-hair trimmer and dashed up to the privacy of the upstairs bathroom when it arrived.


I was being more secretive about this than a teenage boy rifling through his dad’s sock drawer. But, I soldiered on, reading the directions carefully before firing up this small missile of doom. I’d read some of the comments on this device on Amazon’s site, and they were both hilarious and informative. And they probably saved me a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

My one piece of advice for using any nose-hair trimmer (especially while the batteries are fresh and the thing is making noises like a Boeing 747) is to ALWAYS KEEP IT MOVING. Be slow. Be careful. Be gentle. But ALWAYS KEEP IT MOVING. Do not linger in one area of either nostril for too long, even if there is a hotbed of blindingly white hairs there. If you hover in one spot too long, these things will sense your fear and latch onto twenty hairs at once like it’s a tug of war for their lives… and they will not back down. It’ll feel like your brain is being yanked out through your nose.

And let me say, these devices could probably do it, if you piss them off enough. You’ve been warned.

Is it worth the painful lessons learned to be able to leave the house without a proboscis full of pearly white hairs? Yes, indeed.

Have I gotten over the fact that gray hairs can pop up anywhere now that I’m rushing headlong toward sixty? Not really.

But at least that last area to go gray remains discreetly hidden from public view. And, even after that one episode of Sex and the City, no, Nice ‘N Easy doesn’t make hair color for that, either. I checked.


If It Weren’t for Bad Luck…


Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Calvinist and don’t believe in luck. But you know you’re in for a bad day of standing in line everywhere once you discover:

  • your driver’s license is going to expire tomorrow;
  • your car registration is also going to expire tomorrow;
  • your train home from vacation on the 21st will arrive about an hour after the primary election polls close;
  • there is no good food in the house;
  • a torrential downpour is about to start.

This was my day yesterday. And, based on that list above, it ran true to form. But I had A PLAN. I even made A LIST. I was ready for this day.

And then I made the mistake of leaving the house.

I figured I’d hit the DMV first and get the painful part out of the way. Plus, that license was going to expire no matter what. I could fudge on the no-food-in-the-house thing, but not on that deadline. I parked way too far from the entrance (of course) and barely kept halfway dry under the umbrella (of course), before walking into the DMV to find it virtually empty. Had my luck changed?

A bunch of folks were walking out of the DMV, though, looking disgusted. This is a fairly typical look for anyone going to the DMV, so I didn’t think much of it.

Till the guy at the counter turned me away. “Sorry, we’re closed. Our computers are down. Come back tomorrow.”

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Artist’s rendering of what I DON’T look like in the rain  Photo by Bhupendra Singh on

Great. I was now soaking wet. The photo camera card was drenched. I had to swim through three puddles to get from my car to the door. And your computers are down. 

By the time I got back to my car, I realized I wouldn’t make it to the courthouse in time to get my absentee ballot, so I ignored that second item on my to-do list and skipped right to the third one: grocery shopping. I was near the Walmart already, so I zipped over there just as the rain was letting up. Perhaps this part of my Day of Errands would go well.

Sometimes I laugh at my own naivete.

I was shocked to find a decent parking place. I stunned myself by efficiently loading the cart with items from my list… the list I somehow hadn’t forgotten at home this time.

Yes, things were really starting to go my way! I was focused. I was ruthless. I zoomed through the store, picking up not only groceries but various and sundry items such as toothpaste, flower pots, bird seed, guinea pig food, and pantiliners. No item left behind!

And I like to buy most things in bulk, so the toothpaste was a 3-pack, the bird seed and the guinea pig food were both big, heavy bags, and the pantiliners came in a box of 92. I was a lean, mean, money-saving machine.


And then, what was this miracle? The checkout area was virtually deserted! How had my luck changed so drastically? I stopped second-guessing my good fortune and dashed forward with glee.


Whenever I must purchase what I call “girly items,” I try to find a checkout manned by a female. (Well, should I call it “womanned by a female” instead? The whole gender thing is beyond my age group demographic, so let me apologize for all the ignorant terminology right now.) I just didn’t want to go through the checkout with a 16-year-old boy manhandling my pantiliners. Is that so wrong?

I found a checkout with a young woman at the helm and headed her way. There was NOBODY in front of me, so I quickly began dumping items onto the conveyor belt. As she was busily scanning each item, I reached deep into the shopping cart to grab a few canned goods. (I admit it: I like to put things onto the belt in the order I want them bagged, with heavier things first so they’ll be at the bottom of the cart when I load the bags back in.)

In my haste, the lightweight box of 92 pantiliners toppled off the canned goods in my hand and landed on a few other items, which popped the lid of the box open. I watched in horror as 92 pantiliners went flying all over the cart, which still had half my grocery items in it. There were now pantiliners strewn amid the bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s, the can of Bush’s baked beans, the oversized bag of shredded cheddar cheese, and the large bag of potting soil. And the 3-pack of toothpaste.

Meanwhile, the checkout girl was caught up with the things I’d already put on the belt, and she was looking at me expectantly. I tried to explain what had just happened, but, well, you know…

She just chuckled condescendingly. Yeah? Laugh it up, missy. Don’t make me call a manager over here.

Who was I kidding? The last thing I wanted was a manager here watching me try to scoop dozens of pantiliners back into a box. I had foolishly chosen the ultra-long ones, and those things were not cooperating—bending in half backwards, going all perpendicular on me so they wouldn’t fit back in the box. I gave up and started manically stuffing them back into the box any way I could… when I saw a man headed for my checkout line.

In my haste (part 2), one of the pantiliners flew up over the side of the cart and landed on the floor near the candy display. Now I had a moral dilemma on my hands. Should I stoop down and pick that one up, knowing I’d never want to use it now that it had been on the Walmart floor? Or… wait, what was my other option? Oh yeah. I could push it under the candy display with the toe of my shoe.

I’ll let you decide which option I chose, but let’s just say I got a good price for those 91 pantiliners.

The man coming toward me hadn’t seen anything incriminating, so I relaxed a little and continued placing items onto the conveyor belt (more gently this time). At one point I grabbed the clear plastic container of cherry tomatoes… which popped open, spilling cherry tomatoes all over the conveyor belt.


The cashier was now laughing out loud, and I was ready to start tossing those loose tomatoes at her. Clearly she needed an attitude adjustment. Well, one of us did. I just assumed it was her.

She then asked me—with a straight face—if I wanted that 10 pounds of bird seed in a bag. You know, one of those flimsy plastic Walmart bags that you can see through because they’re about 2 molecules thick. I laughed and laughed.

As I headed out the door with my cart full of groceries, including the pantiliner box with the lid still wide open, the torrential rain started up again.

Of course it did. Because there’s nothing quite like feeling a little Carefree in the rain.


Postscript: Today—in delightful 80-degree sunny weather—I did all of the following in under one hour, including the drive time:

  • renewed my driver’s license (I was in the DMV for literally 5 minutes);
  • absentee-ballot voted in my local primary (I was in the election bureau for literally 5 minutes);
  • deposited a check at the bank drive-thru (I was in the drive-thru lane for literally 2 minutes).

Clearly someone thought I had suffered enough yesterday. Amen to that.

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Photo by Alturas Homes on