Saturday, February 28, 2015


Words are our friends. Numbers are stupid, unless we use numbers to count words, then numbers are pretty okay. The following is a discussion of one of my favorite words: Monger. Not used enough, completely overlooked in the popular vernacular, I’m bringing monger back. 


1. a person who is involved with something in a petty or contemptible way (usually used in combination): a gossipmonger.

2. Chiefly British. a dealer in or trader of a commodity (usually used in combination):
fishmonger. verb (used with object)

3. to sell; hawk.

Let’s face it; there is a lot of mongering already going on in the world today. My grandchildren are the biggest mongers I’ve ever met. They’re whine-mongers. Not wine. Whine. They can whine strong men under the table and educated women into hysterics. I’ve seen it. 

They’re like union members chanting endlessly around the capitol rotunda. The basic message being: Give us what we want or we will whine until you cry blood.

When I was a young mother I put a stop to the whine-mongering by being . . . well . . . er . . . umm . . . a MOTHER. 

We weren’t rich. My husband worked full time and went to college part time (sometimes full time) while I raised and educated our four children. All year we would save up our pennies (literally pennies) to go to Disney World. We went once a year. Period. It was a very big deal. 

Traditionally and before we entered the magic kingdom for our yearly excursion, I would deliver my anti-whine speech. “We are going to Disney,” I said, pacing in front of the assembled thumb suckers, while slapping the side of my leg with a riding crop. “We will be there all day. We will eat at lunchtime. There will be one scheduled snack time. We will not be purchasing an endless amount of anything, up to and including: soda, frozen bananas, balloons shaped like a mouse, things that glow, or pointless stuffed stuff. When you get thirsty, drink water out of a water fountain or swallow your spit. There will be no crying, arguing, fussing, complaining, or whining. I hear one person whining, whimpering, or moaning and I will abort the whole, darn mission. Clear?”

They would all nod, knowing I was something of a discipline-monger and an I’m-not-kidding-monger.

And it worked; a little too well it turned out. 

One year we trudged, marched, skipped, hopped, and dragged our way all day—up, down, over, and around the most magical of magic kingdoms. As the day progressed Maren (probably four-ish) sucked harder and harder on her favorite sucking knuckle, but on and on she walked, no complaints, not one. Turned out when I took off her teeny-tiny little pink shoe before bedtime that night, she had a hole in her foot, because she’d picked up a tack in the sole of her teeny-tiny little pink shoe. 

I still feel bad about it! I mean what kind of place leaves tacks all over the place for little kids to step on and drag around all day. Which brings us to lawsuit-mongers.


Monger. It’s a great word. We should use it more. 

Linda (Double Time) Zern 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


When our daughter-in-law, Sarah, was dating our youngest son, Adam, she worried. Strangely, she felt that his grazing like a wildebeest on Doritos and cheese dip was insufficient to maintain bones that did not bend. I understood her concern. 

Adam was a famously picky eater. I remember raising him on pizza and multi-vitamins and his spine only got a little crooked.

Anyway, Sarah worried, so she made Adam start taking vitamins. He did, on an empty stomach, which made him throw up in my pristine, brand new truck, which he was driving because his girlfriend’s mother had run into his car (which was really our car) and crushed in the door, trying not to run over Sarah’s dog Dodger, so it was in the shop—the car not the dog. 

So, Dodger the Dog made Adam throw up in my brand new truck.

Adam cleaned the truck out, neglecting to tell me about the vitamin vomit incident. A terrible, lingering smell ratted him out—also the family. That was the Monday the temperature topped out at 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tuesday, the high was 103 degrees and the faint smell of upchuck and Lysol swirled around my head like the Gulf Stream as I drove my lovely new truck to Dairy Queen.

Adam the Up-chucker! I insisted that he scrub the carpet again.

On Wednesday, the sickly sick smell got weirdly stronger as the heat threatened to suck the air out of my lungs. I accused Adam of being a poor carpet scrubber and a bad son.

By Thursday, the smell had magnified itself into the size and shape of a small malignant mushroom cloud of stink. I called a car detailer and made an appointment, letting Adam know that he would owe me for stinking up my new truck for all time and all eternity. The state of Florida set a high temp record on Thursday. 

On our way to our granddaughter’s swim class Friday afternoon, my husband and I drove the truck to Saint Cloud community pool. The heat was stifling, and the smell inside the truck had started to resemble a poorly maintained landfill—gone really bad. The five-minute ride gave me a headache. I cursed Adam’s crooked spine.

Jumping from the dump on wheels, I yelled, “What did that kid throw up—his internal organs, infected with Ebola?”

My husband shook his head. “The smell is getting stronger and stronger. He cleaned up a smell that is growing? How is that possible?”

People frowned and pinched their noses as they walked by.

“People can smell us coming.”

“And going,” I sniped. “Poor truck. I’m going to kill Adam.”

He stuck his head back into the stench of the cab. 

“Babe, don’t do it. Save yourself.”

I walked ten feet away for a fresh breath of air, next to the dumpster in the parking lot. “Let’s abandon the dump-mobile right here.”

“Before we do that,” he said, as he pulled something from under the passenger seat of the truck, “maybe we should get rid of this.” He turned slowly—a noxious, oozing explosion of festering germs in a casserole dish in his hands. “It’s a dish with your left over casserole from dinner at the Chevrier’s, from a week ago, under the seat, all week, in the heat, all seven days long.”

“Wow. That’s a casserole bomb,” I said.

Flies began to circle, a vulture drifted high overhead. I took the mess from Sherwood, walked slowly to the dumpster, and tossed it.

“What do we tell Adam?”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing. We take this to our grave,” I paused, considering. “We never tell Adam we’ve been blaming him for the slowly festering dish of casserole bits under the front seat. Never. Ever.”

And we did take it to our graves—sort of.

Linda (New Car Smell) Zern

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015


Griffin Henry (age 2) related his personal opinion of me. “YaYa mean!” 

I sighed.

“Don’t fall in the fire pit, little boy, with the fluffly, white hair and polyester shirt.” That was it; that’s what I had said to earn my grandson’s disdain. For that I was called names. 

I’m the YaYa. I’m the mean one. My husband (the Poppy) is the family celebrity. Of course, he’s the guy with endless supplies of Twix and Pepsi, the guy who lets the grandchildren run wild through our lives.

I walked into the office to find a phalanx of children taping away at an endless line of computers. They were playing something called “Animal Jam” or “AJ” in the vernacular. Poppy sat in the middle of the tapping frenzy, tossing chocolate kisses to grandchildren like a walrus trainer at Sea World. Shoulders had started hunch, spines to curve.

I shouted, “Okay, that’s it. Everybody outside. Get some vitamin D. Attempt to straighten your backbones. Go. Go.”

“Poo-poo, YaYa!” Griffin Henry said. Poo-poo. It’s the worst word he knows—so far.

Later, I discover the lot of them at the sand hill. They’d dug a giant hole, run a garden hose to it, and filled it to the brim with water. It was like a massive open strip mine. Kids blasted each other with water and mud. I estimated the cleanup would require two hours and a Shop Vac.

“Who said you could turn that water on?”

“Poppy!” they chorused. 

“Poo-poo, Poppy,” I muttered to myself.

My husband is the celebrity. He never says no, agrees with every wild scheme, finances every whim, and bribes with goodies. He’s the president cutting the fool on Buzz Feed. Me? I’m the libertarian saying, “Sure. Sure. You refused to wear your shoes, stepped on stinging thistles that you were warned about, and now what are YOU going to do about that?”

“YaYa mean!”

Recently, our fourteen grandchildren came pouring into our house saying, “Hi. Where’s Poppy?”

Sighing, I pointed and said, “In the office. Throw away your candy wrappers.” They stampeded. 

I went to find the Shop Vac.

Linda (Mean as a Snake) Zern

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Golf Course Christian

Last year, I was the Sunbeam teacher at my church. The Sunbeams are one of the classes in a kind of Sunday school deal that Mormons call Primary. Sunbeams are three-year olds. Sunbeams are barely civilized, highly entertaining, wildly affectionate, sweetly eager children who start out not being able to tell you their own names. By the end of that first year in Primary, they can stand and say a prayer by themselves. They pray for adorable things.

“Please bless my brother not to bite me anymore.”

“Please help me get a dog.”

“We’re thankful for Sissa [Sister] Zern and snacks.”

That’s me, Sissa Zern. I brought the snacks. 

One of my students was an adorable young man who struggled a bit. He said not a single word that I could understand. Sitting in a chair seemed a waste of his time. Being under the table was more interesting than coloring the picture on top of the table and so on . . . 

Stickers! He enjoyed stickers.

Like so many in his age range, however, by the end of our time together, he could stand and say a simple prayer and sing a little song and tell me what he was thankful for. We had a really good year, even a miracle or two.

Like most Primary teachers, I tried to prepare my little Sunbeams for a new year, a new class, and a new teacher. “Now, I won’t be your teacher next time you come to church,” I said.

They ate their goldfish, nodded their heads, and had no clue.

It’s always a bit traumatic. And on the first day of the new Primary year, I saw my little guy, sitting with his new class and his new teacher. He seemed shocked that I wouldn’t be sitting next to him. He reached out his hand to me and said three words.

“I. Need. You.”

And there it was, the reason I can’t be a golf course Christian. There just aren’t any sweet, little four-year-olds on the back nine, holding their hands out to me, inviting me to put my religion where my beliefs are.

Besides, I don’t golf.

Sister Linda (I’m Right Here) Zern

Sunday, February 8, 2015


My husband is a would-be grifter. A grifter is a con artist who enjoys “shady dealings,” sometimes offering to pave your driveway with his “leftover” load of asphalt at a deep, deep discount. It’s not asphalt, Folks. It’s salt dough made of flour, salt, and water.

My husband isn’t the fake asphalt selling kind of con artist. He’s the ‘let’s get free stuff from the timeshare people’ type of con man. Unfortunately, he sometimes likes to drag me into his pit of shady dealings.

There was this once . . . well, it all began with a phone call from a Timeshare salesperson.

“How about a romantic weekend?” Sherwood called out over his shoulder, while pausing in his over-the-phone dickering.

“A romantic weekend? With whom?”

“Me,” he said.

“How far do I have to go?”

More phone dickering ensued.

“Right down the road at the Hilton Resort and Day Spa, right here in Orlando.”

“No planes? Some romance but not too much? Reading by the pool? What’s the catch?”

“No catch. It’s free.”

“Hmmmmmmm! Sounds like a hookup, and you know how I feel about hookups. I believe that you should pay all the cash money, so that you can use all your vocal cords when you complain.”

“Sign us up,” he said. The dickering ended and the hookup began.

In the truck on the way to “the romantic weekend” he let me know that 1) the grandchildren would be joining us, and 2) the grandchildren would be staying the night along with their parents bringing the total number of people in our room to about three hundred, and 3) I had to attend an hour and a half timeshare presentation—at 8:00am the next morning—the hookup.

“I am not attending a timeshare sales pitch. I hate those things. I won’t do it.”

“You have to, or they’ll kick us out, and besides, I kind of fudged to get us a free weekend. Usually, they won’t let you stay in their resort if you live locally, but the nice man on the phone . . .”

“You mean the other disgusting con artist?”

“The nice man said that I could use my Marietta, Georgia business address, and that there will be a free breakfast and gift cards.

“What are we homeless? Is this our new strategy to feed the family?”

I went to the pitch. I was wearing a bathing suit, reading a book, and sporting a bad attitude. I continued to read my book through the entire video presentation that promised Nirvana and gift cards should we purchase a Hilton timeshare. 

The high-pressure sales lady looked at my husband, the crook, and said, “Your wife doesn’t seem to be too interested.”

“Hee, ha, hee, well, she’s here under protest. Hee, hee, hee,” he said as sweat dripped from his criminal brow.

“We’re not buying a timeshare,” I explained. “We live down the road. We’re here to eat your breakfast, sleep in your beds, use your toilets, swim in your pool, and collect our reward; besides my husband gets endless, free Marriot points from five star resorts. Can you beat free?”

“Mind if I call in my manager?” she said.

“Please. Call two,” I said, stuffing a bookmark into my book. “We’ll wait.” 

The manager was very nice but determined to get to the bottom of our “situation.” 

“Your phone salesman. The guy who contacted us suggested the work address scam. The guy who works for you. You know, the guy you hired to call us.”

“Shady, very shady,” the manager said.

“Excellent choice of words,” I said, glaring at my shady husband. As we left the presentation—early—my husband, the charlatan, turned, paused, and said to the nice manager, “I hate to be tacky but I understood there were gift cards involved.”

In disgust, I left the further dickering to change my identity and forge a passport. Later, at the pool, as I watched the grandchildren frolic, I turned to my husband, Mack the Knife, and said, “Seems like a lot of trouble to swim in someone else’s swimming pool.”

“But fun.”

That’s how it starts—a life of crime and shady dealings.

Linda (Law and Order) Zern

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Reports of my imagined death are false—also incorrect. I’m not dead.

To recap: I am not dead. I’m just concentrating really hard. 

Several years ago, my husband couldn’t instantly get a hold of me via my cell phone, because it was dead, the cell phone. NOT ME. When he couldn’t immediately contact me from Kuala Lumpur or Detroit or Walmart or wherever he was wandering around, to let me know he’d forgotten to take out the garbage or something equally informative, he panicked. 

So he called our daughter, Heather.

Who called our daughter, Maren.

Who told her friends at school that I’m a hermit and a nut.

Who called my husband, her father.

Who called our daughter, Heather, again.

Who called each other, over and over, whipping each other into a jittery frenzy.

Heather finally broke the cycle of hysteria by calling her friend, Maria, and saying, “I’m at work. Could you drive out to my parent’s house and check on my AGED mother?”


Marie who lives in a whole other village, Marie, who got in her car, drove to our country home (also our city home) and finding all the doors, window, and portholes open assumed that I had been eaten by cats—also raccoons.

I was in my office—working.

Proving that what we’ve got here is a hefty case of the jitters. 

While it is true that I live alone a great deal of time, I am not a complete idiot. I try to wait until my husband is home to clean the chimney, re-organize the hayloft, chop down trees, or check the crawlspace for expired squirrels.

And as far as being murdered in my sleep by criminal types, I believe that most criminal types are stupid people, the kind of people that get stuck in chimneys. And if I can’t outsmart some nimrod stuck in my chimney then shame on me.

That’s why I sleep with the cat. Plan A is that I will throw the cat at the stupid intruder and make my escape out of the bathroom window. At which point I will run to the ditch out front and hide behind the enormous stump that the county hasn’t carted away from storm damage. It’s the main reason I haven’t called the county about the eyesore stump by the road. That stump is part of my master escape plan. I have a detailed schematic drawn up. 

Please note: That stump has been hauled off since I first reported on the above foolishness, thus changing plan A to plan B.

Unfortunately, plan B has me hiding in my neighbor’s barn in my *scanties. So sometimes I sleep in my bathrobe with my cell phone in the pocket, except that my cell phone is quite often “dead,” thus kicking off jittery meltdowns in the first place. Go figure.

Linda (Chimney Sweep) Zern

*Scanties is a southern word for clothing you don’t want to be caught wearing while hiding in a ditch. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

R is for Respect

Marriage is about respect. Marriage is about mutual respect and approbation. (Approbation is a fancy word meaning respect and is supposed to impress you with my big word brain—also my ability to use a thesaurus.)

Marriage is about laughing in all the right places—respectfully, of course.

My problem with the whole respect deal is my husband, Sherwood. He’s a nut. He’s a traveling nut, who might be mildly frightened by big city street vendors.

I called my husband in New York City during the big freeze and was shocked when he answered his phone out-of-breath and gasping. He sounded like he was either running from panhandlers, in the middle of being mugged, or dodging pedi-cabs.

“What is going on? Are you being mugged? Say ‘uncle’ if you are.”

“No. I’ve . . . (sounds of gasping) . . . just been . . . (tearing cough) running down Madison Avenue.”

“What? Is it the street vendors? I know how you hate those guys. Are they after you? Say ‘cheap crap’ if they are.”

“No, no . . . (sounds of fifty year old lungs trying to expand) . . . I just thought I knew where my work conference was being held—but it turns out I don’t, and it’s like a minus three degrees around here. No self-respecting mugger would come out in this weather.”

“Oh my gosh . . . people are freezing to death up there, while walking their dogs to make yellow snow.” I knew it was entirely possible that my husband was wearing the equivalent of a windbreaker in single digit cold. “You’re going to die. Do you have a hat?”




“A scarf?”

“I looked for a scarf before I left Florida. Does that count?”

“Have you found your ears? When you find your ears, we’ll discuss the impact of good intentions on a blizzard.”

I had a vague memory of Sherwood pawing through my underwear drawer looking for a blue scarf he had owned—TEN YEARS BEFORE in another state, possibly another universe. I remember telling him, “Honey, don’t you remember we used that scarf to tie a towel on a shepherd’s head for the Christmas pageant? That thing is long gone, probably one of those three kings absconded with it.”

He tried to reassure me.

“After I left my hotel, I walked for a couple of blocks and thought, ‘Hey, this isn’t too bad. I’m okay.’ And then I thought, ‘Oh no! What happened to my ears?’”

“Honey, that means they fell off. Your ears are off. Check. Look around on the ground.”

He ignored me.

“And then,” he said, “I saw a woman with a scarf the size of a blanket wrapped around her head, and I thought seriously about snatching it and running for it. You know like on Seinfeld.”

“Babe, Jerry snatched a loaf of bread, not survival gear,” I said, firmly. “Now listen carefully, I want you to look for the steam coming up from the underground through the grates and head for those. You may need to roll some homeless folks around—homeless folks that, by the way, will probably be more appropriately dressed for the cold than you are.”

“I’m way ahead of you. I’ve been running from grate to grate; that’s why I’m breathing like this.”

I ignored him.

“And, you’re not going to want to hear this next bit, but you’re going to have to BUY yourself a hat and what not—to stay alive, which is the opposite of dying.”

He groaned. “But there’s no where around here to get anything, nothing, no where.”

My worry turned to confusion then to suspicion and finally to frustration.

“I thought you said you were in New York City. Madison Avenue—the pulsing heartbeat of the world’s pacemaker for commercialism, right? That Madison Avenue?”

“Un huh.”

“Buy yourself a scarf! Before you die! Find a street vendor! Find a guy that opens his trench coat and says, ‘Want to buy an electric blanket or maybe a blow torch?’”

I spent the rest of the day afraid to watch cable news for fear that I’d see my husband scuttling like a hermit crab looking for a better fitting shell along the streets of New York City. The news anchors would be pointing at him, mocking, and saying, “That guy is going to die.”

Respect in a marriage is a funny thing. I know it makes me laugh quite a bit.

I’m just wondering where Sherwood is going to prop his glasses, what with his ears falling off and all.

Linda (Bundle Up) Zern

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