Friday, November 1, 2019

How To Repurpose Your Old Underwear Into DIY Home Decor

     Every time I drive past the landfill in our town, I think about all the stuff people waste without trying to think of clever ways to recycle. Yesterday when I was cleaning out my drawers, I had the same thought while filling up a garbage bag with my old underwear.

     Obviously, no one else wants my ratty underwear (dear God, I hope not!) but what if I were to find a useful way to recycle my panties? What if EVERYONE chose to recycle their underwear instead of tossing them into the trash bin and clogging up the landfill?

     I have a few ideas that just might work for repurposing your old undies. And before you ask, yes, this is the sort of stuff that keeps me awake at 3:00 a.m. while the rest of my family is fast asleep....

Lampshade: If your underwear happens to be a size XXL (and preferably red), you'll have enough fabric to make a decorative cover for your lampshade. Sew a few tassels around the bottom edge and Voila! Chic decor in your boudoir!

Throw Pillows: If you want to jazz up a dull sofa, your underwear will make a creative cover for an old throw pillow. Use a Bedazzler to add rhinestones for extra flair.

Shower Curtain: If your old underwear has several stains, you can quickly turn them into a leopard print design by circling each spot with a permanent marker. If the president can get away with Sharpiegate, you can totally do it to your shower curtain!

Quilt: Cut a square out of each pair of used underwear and sew them together to make a 4x6 blanket. It will be a hodgepodge piece of history so unique that you'll want to hang it on your living room wall. Every square on the quilt tells a story: "The pink lacy one at the top is from the panties I wore on my wedding night. The square next to it is from a pair of maternity underwear I was wearing at Kroeger's when I was pregnant and my water broke."

Sofa Cover: You'll need at least fifty pairs of underwear for this clever DIY trick. Bleach them first and then tie-dye the fabric for that retro Woodstock look. If you want to add more pizazz to your hippy hideaway, thong underwear strung together will make a fabulous window valance to match your sofa.

Baby Onesie: Men's cotton briefs are perfect for this DIY project, preferably in baby neutral colors such as soft gray or yellow. *Natural brown is not recommended.

Placemats: Add extra spice to your dinner table by sewing floral panties together for the perfect summer garden look. Wait until your guests have finished their lamb shish kebobs before telling them they ate dinner on your old underwear.

Dog blanket: No need to wash the underwear before sewing several pairs into a blanket for your pet. Dogs love that musky human odor.

Winter Cap: Underwear already has an elastic band that should fit snugly around any head. Just attach brightly colored pompoms over each leg hole, and you'll have the perfect Secret Santa gift for your next office Christmas party!

If you found this article helpful, stay tuned for our upcoming feature, "How To Repurpose Your Old Bras Into DIY Kitchen Gadgets."

**** Want more Meno Mama? In case you didn't hear me screaming and jumping up and down last week, I had my very first essay published in THE NEW YORK TIMES!!! You can read it here:

Friday, October 18, 2019

A Dream Come True

     Today, the top item on my writer's bucket list came true. My first (and very personal) essay was just published in THE NEW YORK TIMES!  My life is now complete. ***Please refer to the link below and visit the website when you get a chance. Time to pop open some bubbly and celebrate!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Specialty Beers For The Geriatric Generation

     When I first met my husband, he was not a beer drinker. In fact, on our first date, he ordered a freakin' WINE SPRITZER (it was the 80s, what can I say?). Not surprising that after four kids and 35 years of marriage, my husband finally learned to appreciate beer.

     But not just any beer. He likes the good stuff---expensive ones that come from small craft breweries with weird names like "Pink Sloth Alehouse," or "The Tacky Tongue Brewery."

     I haven't been a fan of beer since my first college keg party when I spent the majority of my evening puking in a random bathroom at the Sigma Nu house. My husband, on the other hand, has sworn his allegiance to craft beer and is certain that he will die in his favorite recliner---tv remote in one hand, a beer in the other.

     That may be true, but by the time he becomes part of the geriatric generation, beer brands will have drastically changed. And hopefully, there will be a market for brews designed especially for old farts like my husband. I already have a few beer brands in mind that just might appeal to him.....

Gassy Lassy Ale: A highly fermented, flatulent-inducing blonde ale with hints of sulfur and last night's bean burrito, sure to clear out the dining hall at the retirement community. One sip, you'll rip.

Domestic Dementia Dark: This 11% ALC/VOL dark brew with nutty undertones is enough to make you forget who your president is and propel you back to the good ol' days when you wore sneakers with actual laces instead of orthopedic shoes with velcro straps.

Incontinent IPA: Also known as the "I-P-A lot beer," specially handcrafted for seniors who have embraced their incontinence. Best served in a chilled bedpan. *Watch for our latest BOGO sale---Buy one six-pack of Geriatric IPA, get a disposable catheter kit for free!

Loose As A Goose Lager: A lager made with bottom-fermented yeast to tighten your saggy butt and lift your testicles so high you'll belt out a Mozart aria with ease. Drink more than three, and you'll think you've bathed in the Fountain Of Youth (even if your face is still as wrinkly as an elephant's backside).

Poopin' Porter: A dark, thick, odiferous brew developed in London with well-hopped beers made from brown malt. Detectable notes of roasted coffee beans immersed in stewed prune juice. *Not recommended for use during intimate encounters with people you've met on SeniorsOnly/

Sleepy Stout: A sweet, full-bodied, slightly roasted ale from England that is rich in calming lavender and tryptophan. Drink this beer while listening to Zamfir, and the dense brew will have you yearning for a hooded Snuggie and a memory foam pillow.

Brittle Bones Bock: A German beer created during the Late Middle Ages when people were dying from the Black Plague. A healthy dose of calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D has been added to combat osteoporosis, swelling, and decreased range of motion. Bold hints of mothball accompanied by a morphine aftertaste.

Peter Pilsner: An arousing brew enhanced with Cialis to ensure a lasting and satisfying outcome. Guaranteed to give you the confidence you need to flirt with the thirty-something Activities Director while she's instructing you on the art of playing Bocce.

Get Off My Lawn Lite Beer: Less calories, less taste, and even less friends after you've had a few. Great to leisurely sip on the front porch while compiling a list of complaints on your phone's  Next Door Neighbor App.

Mysterious Aches And Pains Malt: A predominately pale ale infused with CBD oil to alleviate sore muscles and arthritic pain. Your achiness will quickly disappear along with your dentures and your memory. *Disclaimer: This beer has 65.7% alcohol content and is not recommended for use during geriatric beer pong at the American Legion Post....unless you're planning an extended stay in your recliner. *

***WANT MORE MENO MAMA? You can find me this week on NEXT AVENUE discussing the benefits of a Zumba workout. Read it here:

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

How To Treat Urinary Incontinence By Strengthening Pelvic Floor Muscles

     I know many menopausal women who have complained of urinary incontinence after reaching their fifties. It's more common than most people realize, and the symptoms are treatable when done correctly. The secret is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

     Today on the blog I'm sharing news from InControl Media of an innovative treatment option from Attain with a non-implantable muscle stimulator that can be bought over the counter  for the convenience of those who suffer from incontinence:

"Today, we’re inundated with TV ads promoting the use of pads and adult diapers. We hear about mesh surgery going awry and about meds being prescribed. Urinary tract and bladder control can be one of the most embarrassing aspects of aging. Many people who suffer from urinary incontinence can truly suffer in silence and embarrassment and as a result, are confined to their homes.

There are several types of incontinence including urge, stress and mixed incontinence which can cause accidents or unintended leaks when coughing, sneezing, laughing, jumping or lifting, and can occur any time or at any place. 

Fortunately, there’s a new, non-surgical solution to treat incontinence and eliminate the need for pads and diapers altogether. It's called, Attain and is the first over the counter non-implantable muscle stimulator designed to help treat incontinence by exercising the pelvic floor muscles. It is a small, painless, easy-to-use medical device for people to self-treat in the privacy of their own homes. And, many respond well to pelvic-floor electrical stimulation and biofeedback as a first-line treatment, before considering surgery or medication.

We go to the gym, take cycling and Pilates classes to exercise our calves and abs but shouldn’t forget to strengthen our pelvic floor muscles too. Attain provides a guided exercise program to solve incontinence at the source. Muscle stimulation at specific frequencies in an alternating manner increases pelvic floor muscle strength, calming the detrusor muscle and eliciting a full, deep muscle contraction, providing neuromuscular re-training. The lighted biofeedback graph and visual cues guide the user through a series of variable timed, contractions along with a relaxation phase, much like a physical therapy session. A customizable probe inflates to be “comfortably snug,” placing the stimulation in full contact with the vaginal wall ensuring a deep muscle contraction with a comfortable, effective stimulation delivery. A probe provides active resistance for a full muscle contraction, re-positioning musculature into a resting position between contractions.

Dr. Arnold Kegel, developed exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles in 1948 and still, physicians to this day remind their patients, “do your Kegels!” Kegel exercises have been the first-line treatment, but most people experience frustration because they unknowingly don’t perform the Kegels effectively or consistently, which leads to no improvement in symptoms. Attain electrical stimulation with biofeedback therapy is an effective tool to do your Kegel’s for you and improve bladder control.

Talk with your doctor, urogynecologist or medical team about your incontinence and ask them about Attain before agreeing to surgery, meds or relying on those embarrassing pads or diapers."

InControl Medical, LLC, is a pelvic health company focusing on urinary and fecal incontinence. The company’s philosophy is that a first-line treatment should focus on improving the strength and support of the pelvic floor to restore continence naturally. InControl Medical is so confident in the effectiveness of its products, the company offers a Performance, money back Guarantee.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Menopausal Women Are So HOT! Guest Post by Theresa Wiza

     On the blog today I have my dear friend and fellow writer, Theresa Wiza, who is here to share her experience with menopause and to show us some really cute t-shirt designs for hot (as in HOT FLASHING) women like us! ***Samples of shirts are below the post***

Menopausal Women are SO HOT! Quick disclaimer – I didn’t know I was in menopause until my gynecologist told me I was post-menopausal. Surprise! So let me take you back to the time I was in my early 30s, more than half a lifetime ago. My younger sister and I were discussing our sporadic periods and mild hot flashes – you know – the difference between mild and hot versions of hot sauce? Like that. We would sit in restaurants and periodically remove our jackets and put them back on, take them off, put them back on, and repeat the process every time we got together. We even discussed our thoughts considering the possibility that we were experiencing peri-menopause. Was that even possible? Weren’t we too young to be in peri-menopause? We had no reference point, because our mother, who had a complete hysterectomy in her 30s, never experienced menopause. Fast-forward to the year I turned 48. I awoke one night drenched in sweat. OK, now I know I’m menopausal, because I had heard about night sweats, and I was obviously having one. So I made an appointment with my gynecologist, and after she tested me, I learned I was post-menopausal. Because I was only 48, she tested me again, and yep, same result – POST-menopausal! I was flabbergasted! That was it?! One night of night sweats? You mean menopause is OVER for me and I’m POST-menopausal already? How lucky could I be? I’m never lucky! How did I get away with only one night of night sweats? No more hot flashes? Yay! Yippee! I’m so excited! And I never again experienced another night of night sweats – of awakening with sheets drenched in sweat – thank you, God! But, alas, the effects of menopause were not over – not by a long shot – not by 20 years (so far, anyway – add dramatically disgusted face here), because what continued were HOT FLASHES, not to the point of soaking the sheets with sweat at night, but to periodic waves of sweltering heat that NEVER ended! And all I could think was, NOT FAIR! Maybe the reason I’m still experiencing menopausal hot flashes is that I have always been HOT! People could be sitting around me wrapped in blankets, and I would be trying to figure out how not to be naked and still feel comfortable. A stash of sweaters from the early 70s, when I was in my 20s, haven’t seen daylight since the 70s. Worn only on days when temperatures were sub-zero and I had to walk a couple of blocks to work, I’d get to work, remove all of my outer clothing and bake the rest of the day. Those sweaters are still in perfect condition. I keep them, because I’ve heard that little old ladies get really cold, and I don’t want to have to purchase new sweaters when I already have a bunch in perfectly good condition. Though I’m now 68, I am apparently not yet old enough to wear them. My body heat problem is so bad that wherever I go, I have to find out at what temperature people like to keep their thermostats so I can dress accordingly. My mother and one of my sisters are always cold, so I avoid them. Just kidding. I wear tank tops or similar no-sleeve clothing when I’m in their homes. Family occasions, no matter where we all meet, are usually very crowded, and I’m especially sensitive to body heat. Put a bunch of people in a room together and my body’s temperature rises about 1 degree for every person there. So when the temperature in the room is 70, and you add 40 people to the mix, I’m so hot, you could roast a meal on me (I hope you weren’t eating when you read that last sentence). If you attended those gatherings, you’d find me grabbing paper plates and fanning myself with them or running outside barefoot in the snow just to cool off. You’d see my face dripping with sweat, and you’d hear me repeating over and over, “I’m so hot!” One day, not long ago, after hearing from his mother, for probably the millionth time, “I’m so hot,” my son, who was standing near me, blurted out, “Don’t flatter yourself!” After I burst with laughter, I thought, Wow, what a great idea for a menopause t-shirt! So, with a picture in mind about how I wanted the shirt to look, I asked my creatively cartoony cousin to design my menopause shirt for me. And he did! So Ladies, if you experience hot flashes, remember that you’re not just hot – you’re SO hot, you’re practically on fire! And now may I present to you the menopause shirt that will announce to everyone just how hot you really are (but don’t flatter yourself).


"Gutsy" T-shirt:

"Courageous" T-shirt:

"I'm So Hot" T-shirt:

BIO: Theresa is first and foremost a mom, grandma, and great-grandma. When she's not writing and crocheting, she's taping her new YouTube channel, Youthful Aging for REAL Women, or she's designing t-shirts, mugs, tote bags and more. She always ends her posts with, "find a little joy and sprinkle it everywhere." 
***You can find Theresa's YouTube channel here:

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Top Tips For Planning The Perfect Multi-Generational Family Holiday

     Today on the blog I have my guest Rosana Beechum here to discuss her top tips for planning a multi-generational holiday. If you are planning some trips for the upcoming holidays with your family, I think you'll find that this article will come in handy!

Top Tips for Planning the Perfect Multi-Generational Family Holiday
Planning a holiday with your entire family can be incredibly rewarding but difficult. Taking just your family away can be difficult enough but it can become even more difficult when you decide to also invite grandparents and in-laws. Your children might adore having their cousins to play with but things can become a little more difficult when trying to get everything planned out. Here are some top tips to make planning your multi-generational family holiday that little bit easier. 
Could a Hotel Be Right?
When you have a big group, one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make will be whether you want to stay in a hotel or opt for self-catering accommodation. There are many advantages and disadvantages to both. 
With a hotel, you have everything you need right there. If you are staying at a resort, chances are there will be a kid’s club you can send the children to so the adults can have some relaxation time alone. You can also choose to stay somewhere all-inclusive. This means that you won’t have to worry about food or drink and everyone will be able to help themselves as they want to. 
However, you may feel like you do not have enough privacy when staying at a hotel. If any of your children want to share a room with their cousins, they may not like having to stay in a hotel room with their cousins. You may also encounter problems if someone does not want to eat the hotel’s food or go on one of the planned activity days. Sometimes, a little more flexibility is needed.

Is Self-Catering Better?
If a hotel is not right for this trip, a better option for your family might be a self-catering villa. It is even possible to find several self-catering villas grouped together in a shared compound with their own pool. This might be the best option if you want every family going to have their own space but still have a communal area for you to all come together during the day. 
Having access to multiple rooms also allows your children to decide who they want to share a room with. If they have a particularly close bond with one of their cousins, you can easily let them stay in a room together.
You might think that staying somewhere like this could be quite expensive but it can come to be quite affordable. With three or more sets of paying adults, you might be able to split the cost of a fairly upmarket villa. This could give you a tad more luxury than you could maybe afford if it was just your immediate family going on holiday. 
The obvious drawback with a private villa is the fact that you will all need to pay for your own food. Decide early on what you want to do for meals. If everyone is going to pitch in to help make food, you should put together a kitty for the money and then organize a rota to make sure that the workload is properly taken care of. It might be a boring task for when you are supposed to be on holiday but it is extremely important and the sooner it can be addressed, the better.

Getting to the Airport
Not a lot of people think about how they are going to get to the airport during a big family holiday but it can be incredibly important, especially if you are going to be traveling together through somewhere busy like Heathrow. Some people would just prefer to book an airport transfer but that might not be ideal depending on where you are starting from. If you have a long journey on either side of the flights, or you are all meeting at the airport from different places, it might be better for you to look at Heathrow airport parking services. Even in this busy place, parking at Heathrow airport can be a doddle if you know how to plan it correctly. 
By pre-booking your Terminal 5 parking, all you need to do is arrive on the day and drive directly to your designated parking space. No matter how much luggage you have or how many people are with you, you can just park up and then head off into the airport. Consider using these services if you are searching for the perfect way of minimizing the stress of the airport from the second you arrive there; no matter how many people you happen to be traveling with.
Planning Activities
When you are on holiday with a big group, it is important that you plan a lot of activities to stop everyone from becoming bored. However, with such a big group it can be difficult to decide what to do. 
On any days where you want to organize an excursion, try to arrange three options. Two groups will go away and each do a different activity. Anyone who doesn’t want to take part can just stay at the villa or hotel instead. This is an easy way to ensure that everyone will have the chance to do something fun. There is also always going to be someone who would rather stay behind in the sun and this allows them the option to do so. 
This holiday will be about spending time together as a family but enforcing this rigorously is going to result in frustrations and the potential for arguments. You need to work out precisely the right balance between spending time together and time apart to best be able to capitalize on this. 
Remember to Relax
Trying to pull together this gargantuan effort can be extremely difficult. Whilst you might feel overwhelmed at times, it won’t be long before you are on holiday. If you feel like you are being left with the majority of the planning, reach out to some of the other people coming with you on the holiday. It is your vacation too so you need to make sure that you have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the time to relax. 
If you are particularly close with one of the other families going on this trip, make sure you ask them to give you a helping hand. This is incredibly important even if it will be your partner’s family instead of yours. You cannot be expected to organize everything for the holiday. If you want to arrange the flights, ask someone else to organize the accommodation, and someone else to look into car rental or some other service you might need while you are there. It might be easier than you think to get everything properly arranged. 

Once everything has been arranged, you can settle back and prepare for your holiday properly. Remember why you are going on holiday; it certainly won’t be to run around and check up on everyone else. No matter how you want to do it, make sure that you take a little extra time to chill out and enjoy yourself. You have worked hard to pull this holiday together and you certainly deserve the chance to relax.

Contact your relatives and start organizing your first big family holiday together now. It might be the best holiday you ever have!


Rosana is a Business Management graduate from the United Kingdom, who is a mother of 2 that she adores greatly. She enjoys writing informative articles from her curiosity to explore meaningful topics and share her own knowledge on raising children.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fly On The Wall With The Elf Lord

     Welcome to another edition of Fly On The Wall group blog postings,. hosted by Karen of Baking In A Tornado. Today, four brave bloggers are inviting you into their homes for a peek of what goes on behind closed doors.

     At the Doyle house, we're gearing up for fall festivities. I have a birthday coming up next month---the BIG 60! Yikes! But I plan on celebrating it like I'm still 30. I also love Halloween! Candy corn is my jam, so you can bet I'm stocking up on it right now. November brings my favorite holiday of all---THANKSGIVING. I'm blessed to have all my kids and grandkids living nearby, so the holiday is always a beautiful, sentimental time for me. Honestly, it's having grandchildren that make the holidays even more special. I love my girls and spend most weekends with them. Recently, my oldest granddaughter took an interest in the Titanic. We watched the movie together and then I gave her the Heart Of The Ocean necklace. Her eyes LIT UP! My kids and my grandkids are my life, so you can understand why I am so EXCITED for the holidays to get here!!

     In the meantime, I'm still taking note of the odd bits of conversation that go on around here with the hubs and the kids when they come over.. And I'm totally sure that nosy fly on the wall has been entertained by what he has heard around here.....

"You look really tired today. You have bags under your eyes"
"Yeah, I didn't sleep well last night."
"Oh, so that's why United Airlines called---they want their bags back."

"I'll be happier at 75 because by then I will have a hip replacement, knee replacement, and no more pain."
"Too bad they can't give you a memory replacement."

"How about we try the Nine Dragons restaurant?"
"Which one is that?"
"The place with the red dragon on the roof."
"Only one? No thanks."
"That's a bad omen. It means eight of them are already dead."

"Oh my God, your fart is smelling up the whole room!"
"Yes, I know because I can't stop laughing!!"
"If that's what real laughing gas is, then I don't want any the next time I go to the dentist."

"Daddy, did you have a bad day at work?"
"Yeah, actually, I did. My boss bitched at me plus I forgot to bring my lunch. I also cut my finger on a mower blade. It really hurt."
"Awww poor guy. I guess you should have called the WHAAAAambulance."

"You always want more pugs. I'm going to refer to you as the Pug Queen from now on."
"Oh yeah? Since you're so interested in collecting Christmas elves, does that make you an Elf Lord?"

"What's your mom doing?"
"She's online buying illegal exotic pets."
"Oh, okay....wait, WHAT?"

"Why are all the photos on your phone so tiny?"
"Because everything on me is tiny."
"Well, I know one thing for sure thing that's tiny...."
"That's NOT funny."

     Maybe Elf Lord is a bit insecure, but you know what they say.....the bigger the elf, the bigger the.........

Buzz around, see what you think, then click on these links for a peek into some other homes:

Baking In A Tornado        
Never Ever Give Up Hope   
Menopausal Mother           
Spatulas on Parade           

Friday, September 13, 2019

Fall Feature: Elaine Ambrose's Memoir, Frozen Dinners

     It is always a pleasure to feature award-winning, bestselling author Elaine Ambrose on my blog! Not only is she an accomplished writer, but she is also a good friend. When I learned that she had just completed the audio version of her latest book, Frozen Dinners, I invited her here to share one of her favorite chapters (you can read another chapter that was featured here).

     I've enjoyed all of Elaine's books, but the complicated family relationships in Frozen Dinners really spoke to me on a personal level. I'm confident that once you start reading her memoir, you'll be hooked, too.

Chapter Two
The Trucking Company

During the harvest of 1950, disaster came to potato farmers in southern Idaho. Bad weather, bad luck, and bad timing resulted in a poor yield, and after the meager harvest the farmers were paid less than what it cost them to grow the crops. The local bank managers demanded that loans be paid or else farms that had been bartered for collateral would be seized. 
My father clenched his teeth as he watched the local banker, who was now his former friend, pound No Trespassing signs on the farm he was renting. For nine months, he had worked to plant, weed, and harvest a worthless field of potatoes. Now, the bank owned the farm, and he owned nothing but debt.
These circumstances prompted my dad to distrust banks and vow to make it on his own. By the spring of 1951, his biggest regret, after losing the farm, was that my mother was pregnant. They already had a one-year-old boy, and Dad, only age 23, didn’t know how he could support his growing family. My mother did her best to conceal her pregnancy to minimize his distress, but the charade became more difficult because she carried twins. I was one of them.
Dad’s older brother lived in Hawthorne, Nevada near the US Army Depot. The brother wrote that there was a job for a mechanic at a local truck stop, so my father packed his family and their few possessions into a battered Ford station wagon and left Wendell for Hawthorne. Mom was sick during the ordeal, but concentrated on supporting her husband and caring for her baby boy. She left behind her parents, her sister, her friends, and her church. 
Dad quickly learned how to service the 18-wheel diesel trucks that rolled day and night between Montana and California. Through the grease, the clamor, and the meager pay, he focused on ideas that could improve his life. Something in his gut told him there was opportunity beyond the noise of the pneumatic torque wrenches he used to change hundreds of dirty tires. He just had to find it.
My mother sweltered in the Nevada heat. They had rented a cramped, one-bedroom, half of a duplex without air conditioning in the village of Babbitt. The town was a World War II housing project, later abandoned in the 1980s. On the morning of September 8, my father drove her to the hospital and then paced the floor in the waiting room, wondering how his life had turned so stressful. Three babies in 20 months. Losing his farm. Working manual labor in a sweat-filled shop with grease under his fingernails, in his nostrils, and matted through his black hair. Living in a government housing project. This wasn’t the life he wanted.
When the doctor emerged, Dad sensed something was wrong. “We lost one,” the doctor said slowly. “But, one survived and she is one healthy baby! She came out hollering!”
Dad suppressed a smile. He didn’t know if his relief was because there was one less mouth to feed or because his daughter seemed to be boisterous. “Let me see her,” he said as he passed the doctor and marched through the door.
My mother was still in recovery, but Dad noticed two bassinets in my room. One was empty. “That was for the other baby,” he said to the nurse. He looked at the healthy, 8-pound baby in the next bassinet. “Should have been a boy,” he said. Then he went back to work.
Christmas of 1951 was bleak. My parents missed their own parents and siblings back in southern Idaho, but no one had any money to travel. It didn’t feel like the holidays anyway because the weather was warm. They entered the New Year with a determination to return to Idaho. Dad worked overtime at the shop, and Mom took in a little boy to babysit. She cared for three children in cloth diapers, washed clothes in the sink, and hung them to dry on a line in the backyard. Back in that hot, temporary home in Nevada, Mom took life one day at a time to do the best she could for her children. One day she found that someone had left a new high chair on the front step. She never knew who gave such a wonderful gift, but she promised to return the favor someday to another woman in need.
Dad watched and learned as the big trucks continued to pull into and out of the shop. He worked on the refrigerated units on the trailers going south, added propane to the cooling units and diesel to the trucks. These same rigs came back through with empty trailers, and he realized that if the trucking company could still make a profit with empty trailers, it could make a much larger profit if the trailers were loaded. He tabulated how much diesel it would take at 14.9 cents a gallon to drive 1,100 miles. He talked with drivers as he serviced their trucks and asked them about their wages and expenses. He learned how payments were made for deliveries and which loads were more profitable. 
He was a visionary and studied the opportunities of the time. The 1950s brought economic advantages and posterity for many people living in post-World War II America. The automobile industry successfully produced cars and trucks, and new industries capitalized on consumer demand for more electronics and household conveniences. Most homes had one black-and-white television set, and families often ate dinner while watching TV. 
For the next two years, he read newspapers and business magazines during his work breaks. He was interested in the latest innovation in the food industry: frozen food that was inexpensive and easy to cook. The public craved these products, but couldn’t always get them because of distribution problems. My father had the answer. He would haul them in refrigerated trucks.
One day one of the drivers who came through on a regular basis told him that a small trucking company in Montana was looking for drivers. Dad decided he would become a truck driver. He quit his job as a mechanic, left Mom with three small children, and hitched a ride in a truck going to Montana. On the way, he learned how to drive an 18-wheeler.
When my father walked into the office of Hansen Packing Company in Butte, Montana, Alvin Williamson, the owner, eyed him with suspicion. Dad wore wrinkled clothes, he was unshaven, and he had grease around his fingernails. But he was impressive, a big man; he stood 6’2”, ruggedly handsome, with black hair and intense green eyes..
“I’m here for a job,” he said.
“Can you drive?” Alvin asked.
“Yes, sir,” he replied, not admitting that he had just learned how to maneuver a truck by hitchhiking with a Montana Express driver. “And I have an idea that will make you more money.”
Alvin leaned forward in his chair. He wanted to hear what this skinny 24-year-old stranger had to say. Within two hours, Neal Ambrose and his dream of making money had convinced Alvin to give him a job. Ambrose saw his future fortune packed tightly and conveniently into a refrigerated trailer on the back of a diesel truck.
“You’ll need a co-driver this time out,” Alvin said. “Driving in Los Angeles ain’t easy.” Dad nodded and stuck out a grease-stained hand. They shook. “There are showers and a cot upstairs,” said Alvin. “Be ready to go by six in the morning.”
My father hardly slept that night. Three other drivers shared the dormitory, and they all seemed to compete for who could snore the loudest. He wished he could talk with my mother to tell her about the job. He made another promise to himself: someday they would have a telephone.
Three days later, Mom was hanging diapers on the line when she heard a diesel truck pull up in front of the house. She laughed as Dad jumped out of the cab and ran toward her. “I got the job!” he yelled as she ran to him. 
“Are you driving that?” Mom was amazed.
“Yes, I am,” he answered as he kissed her. “And I’m on my way to California. See you in a few days.”
“Do you want to see the kids?”
“Don’t have time,” he hollered and climbed back into the cab. “But I’ll have a paycheck in two weeks.”
As the truck rumbled out of sight, my mother wondered what she should do. She had five dollars to her name, the rent was due, and the babies needed food. That night, someone left a bag of groceries and an envelope with 100 dollars on her front step, and she had never been so grateful in her entire life. Before going to bed, she prayed for her husband somewhere on the road, she prayed for her children, and she prayed for her mysterious angel. Then she dried her tears and, mentally and physically exhausted, fell asleep.
“This here is L.A.,” said Marvin Titus, Dad’s co-driver. Dad’s eyes widened as he sat in the passenger seat. He had never seen so many cars and buildings. Three lanes of traffic moved  in each direction, and there wasn’t any lane separating the oncoming traffic. “These roads can’t handle big rigs,” Marvin said as he maneuvered the truck.
“I’ve read that a new Interstate System will be built soon,” said Dad. “It will connect the country from coast to coast, and there will be north-south freeways that connect to the Interstate. We’ll be able to drive from Butte to Los Angeles in two days.”
“That’s impossible,” Marvin muttered. “They can’t do that.”
“Interstate I-5 will be built soon, and I’ll drive on it.”
Dad and Marvin had shared the cab for five days and 1,100 miles. One of them slept on a crude bed behind the seats while the other drove. They cleaned up at truck stops along the route and shared the ten dollars a day that Alvin gave them for food. Through the trip, my father learned a lot from Marvin and he admired the driver’s knowledge of trucking, but the confined quarters went against his need for space. He knew that he had to have his own truck.
Marvin turned into the warehouse district and found the Safeway Store’s loading dock. “I’ll take it in this time,” he said. “You can pull ‘er out.” He backed the 40-foot trailer down the ramp and shut off the engine. The two drivers got out to watch as the dock workers unloaded the trailer. They logged every pallet of frozen groceries and then exchanged paperwork with the workers. There were no shortages, no broken cartons, and no thawed food. Any one of those possibilities could have resulted in the load being declined. A declined load meant no paycheck.
“Okay, your turn,” said Marvin as he climbed into the passenger seat.
Dad adjusted the mirrors and put the truck into gear. He slowly eased the rig up the ramp and into the truck yard. Then he noticed that no other trucks were waiting to unload. He stopped the truck, shoved the gear in reverse, and moved the trailer backward.
“What the hell you doing?” shouted Marvin.
“I need to know how to do this,” Dad said as he watched the mirrors and backed down the ramp. It took ten tries until he got the trailer lined up and the dock workers stopped to watch. When he finally got the trailer safely down to the loading dock, they all clapped and cheered. Dad saluted and drove back into the yard.
“Show off,” muttered Marvin.
The two drivers cleaned up in the driver’s lounge of the main trucking center. Then my father scanned the message board until he found the notice he needed. A broker had a load of frozen Morton chick pot pies that needed to go north. Consumers were demanding the new innovation of frozen food, and Neal Ambrose was ready and willing to bring them their dinners.
“Bingo,” he said and wrote down the number.
It took several calls and all of his spare change, but Dad finally contacted the broker and secured a deal between the broker and Hansen Packing. Five hours later, Marvin and my father were hauling 40,000 pounds of Swanson’s frozen dinners to Montana. Night fell as Dad drove the truck away from the city, and he was relieved to see the lights of Los Angeles in his rear-view mirrors. Marvin climbed into the sleeper and was snoring before the rig turned north. 
Dad drove through the desert and noticed that the stars were extraordinarily brilliant. He felt more alive than ever, and his heart beat in rhythm with the rumbling engine of the truck. He was a trucker, and people needed the pies, soup, detergent, and toilet paper that he would deliver. He was intoxicated with the open road. When he crossed the state line into Nevada, he began to think about his family. For the first time in two weeks, he wondered how his kids were doing.
It was daylight when my father pulled into Hawthorne and stopped at the shop where he used to work. He jumped out of the cab and called for the attendant to fill the tanks. The boy looked at Dad with surprise and envy. Marvin crawled out of the truck, sleepy and disheveled.
“We have to make one quick stop,” Dad said. “Then you’ll drive.”
After the rig was serviced and the men had grabbed some food, my father drove the truck to his rented home. Mom hustled the children out to the lawn and they waited until he stopped.
“Can’t stay long,” he said as he hugged his wife and patted his children and the other little boy. “But I’ll be back in a week with my paycheck.”
He gave my mother a bag of groceries from the truck stop and all of his extra food allowance. “It’s going to be okay. I promise.” Then he climbed into the sleeper and Marvin drove away. Mom counted twenty dollars and waved good-bye. With the money she made from babysitting, she had just enough for groceries until he returned.
A week later, she heard the familiar rumble in front of the house. She ran out and met her husband with another driver. He lifted her in the air and twirled her around. “Hey, Sweetheart,” he said. “Look here!” He handed her an envelope with his paycheck for $300 plus a bonus of $50 for instigating the frozen dinner loads. They had never seen so much money at one time. 
“Can you get to the bank?” he asked. “Keep some for yourself! Maybe get a new dress!” He searched for the kids, gave them a quick hug, and hurried to the truck. “Be back in two days. Hustle. Hustle. Time is money,” he called, fired up the diesel engine and drove away.
Mom couldn’t think. A new dress? The kids needed shoes. And, how was she supposed to get to the bank with three small children? She waited until her sister-in-law stopped for a visit later that afternoon and begged her to watch the kids for an hour. The woman agreed and Mom hurried to the bank to make the deposit. She reserved enough money to pay for rent, groceries, and essentials. Then she stopped at the dime store with the intention of buying new shoes for her son. That’s when she saw the rocking chair. 
Forgoing the dress, my mother eagerly bought the shoes and the chair and drove home, the chair tied with ropes into the open trunk of the old car. That night, after the working mother picked up her son, and my brother was in bed with his story books, Mom rocked her daughter and smiled. “It’s going to be better,” she said.  
  By the spring of 1952, my parents had saved enough money to move back to their hometown of Wendell, Idaho. They rented a two-bedroom house across the street from the Presbyterian Church, and Mom found a young widowed woman who needed babysitting for her two kids while she worked. Mom took care of four children during the day and then typed for the church in the evening. When money was lean, she added a third job and typed for Bradshaw’s Honey Plant late at night. I often fell asleep listening to the clacking of the typewriter keys.
Dad was gone on the truck most of the time and Mom found companionship in the church women’s group. When she could get a babysitter, she would wear her best dress and attend the church luncheons. She carried her porcelain platter piled with homemade cookies, sure to write LA on the bottom in fingernail polish to make sure the platter was returned.
Dad leased a truck in 1953 and became an independent owner/operator. His nonstop truck driving and Mom’s three part-time jobs paid the bills with enough money left to buy a few Christmas gifts that December. The New Year promised prosperity, even if Mom still didn’t own a car.
Dad was an avid reader, and during the fall of 1954 he noticed news articles about a new invention: frozen TV dinners. A national food company named Swanson misjudged how much turkey would be sold for Thanksgiving that year and after the holiday the company had 260 tons of leftover turkey. A clever salesman noticed how meals were served in compartmentalized aluminum trays on Pan American Airways planes. The salesman convinced Swanson to develop a convenient meal, served in trays, that could be frozen and delivered across the country. Swanson gambled on the concept and packaged turkey, corn bread stuffing, peas, and sweet potatoes and initiated a nationwide advertising campaign. The company sold more than 25 million TV dinners to Americans who demanded the convenience and low cost of frozen dinners. The meals cost 98 cents per package, and people enjoyed eating them in front of their television sets.
Dad continued to develop relationships with key contacts in the Los Angeles area. Soon, he had brokered regular shipments of Swanson TV dinners. He continued to haul meat from Montana to southern California and return with pallets of frozen food to distribute to warehouses and stores in Idaho and Montana. He knew the route by heart and drove from daybreak to late at night. 
Every time my father drove through town, he left a box of frozen TV dinners. Mom didn’t have enough freezer space, so ate the dinners for every meal. Salisbury steak, little trays of corn, cherry cobbler, meat loaf and potatoes. We sat around the table scraping the bland food from the tin trays. Sometimes, to be fancy, Mom would spoon the food onto real plates. She said we were lucky that daddy could bring home food for the family. 
I remember my father bringing random surprises from his travels, and we eagerly waited at the door when we heard his truck rumble to a stop in front of the house. One time he maneuvered a large wooden crate into the living room, and my mother seemed excited as she tore open the box. Her expression changed from hopeful to confused as she uncovered four life-sized busts of Aborigine Indians. The two men and two women were carved from dark wood and each had a hole at the side of the mouth to hold a wooden pipe. The women were bare-chested.
“Aren’t these great?” my father asked, enthusiastic as a school boy. “I got them at an Indian Trade Market on the California border. They’ll look perfect in the living room. Gotta go. See you next week.”
Those four busts remained in Mom’s living room for the next forty years. At Christmas, I would add red bras on the women, much to the chagrin of my mother and the laughter of my brothers. Other “rare” gifts included a large metal shield with five swords, an adult-sized metal breast plate, an Indian shield made from painted buckskin supported by two iron arrows, a wooden Indian throwing an arrow, and a wooden Indian sitting on the ground smoking a peace pipe. He complimented the theme with several framed prints from western artist Charles Marion Russel. Mom tried to balance the cowboy and Indian theme with watercolors of flowers and pastoral landscapes. She added candles and crosses arranged on hand-crocheted doilies.  As a result, our home resembled a pawn shop in a truck stop.
Life changed dramatically again in the spring of 1955. Dad borrowed money to lease seven diesel trucks and named his company Montana Express. Mom was pregnant with their third child.
Frozen Dinners is selling in hardcover edition in local bookstores, on Barnes & NobleAmazonWalmartTarget. The eBook is available on KoboApple ITunesNOOKGoogle Play, and Amazon. The audiobook is on and Audible.

Elaine Ambrose is an award-winning, bestselling author of ten books and a popular humorist, public speaker, viral blogger, and workshop facilitator. Her books have won seven national writing awards in the past four years in three genres: creative nonfiction, children’s books, and memoir. Elaine has published 10 eBooks and recorded three audiobooks. Her memoir Frozen Dinners chronicles her childhood on an Idaho potato farm. She lives with her patient husband in Meridian, Idaho. Find her books and blogs at

Thursday, August 29, 2019

How To Prepare For A Hurricane (Part 2)

Now that Florida is sitting squarely in the cone of concern, I'm revisiting an older humor post I wrote about hurricane preparedness. Are YOU ready?

1. Turn on weather channel. Note lines for bottled water, gas, and plywood. Hit panic mode the minute you realize you are in the "cone of concern."

2. Ignoring the gallons of available tap water from your kitchen sink, map out strategic plan to find brand name water bottles in your neighborhood. Camp outside Walmart at 5:30 a.m. until the supply truck rolls in.

3. Tune into weather channel, chew your fingernails down to bloody stubs and tell everyone on social media how frightened you are.

4. Sit in line two hours for gas. Yell obscenities at the guy taking 30 minutes to fill up ten containers for his generator.

5. Stock up on eggs, liquor and bread. Return to store for a case of Twinkies and several bags of Cheetos.

6. Watch old videos online of other catastrophic hurricanes, then tell everyone on social media that you think you might die.

7. Realize you are low on batteries and spend four hours driving around town until you find the last package for 75$ sold by some shady guy at a roadside stand. Ignore the expiration date of 07/2010 on the box.

8. Tune into weather channel and realize you need more wood, more nails, and a helluva lot more toilet paper.

9. Update your will.

10. Wash ALL of your underwear in the event you are unable to do laundry. Consider buying adult diapers. 

11. Check The Weather Channel. Eat entire tube of Pringles.

12. Cover all windows with shutters and plywood. Velcro your three cats together so you don't lose them in the storm. Hunker down in the bathtub with your mattress and the velcroed cats.

13. Consume three sacks of chocolate chip cookies while you wait out the storm. 

14. Once the hurricane passes, prepare to live in the Dark Ages in 90-degree heat with no electricity, no hot water, and people who have not bathed in a week.

15. Celebrate your survival by polishing off the rest of the Twinkies.


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