Friday, April 20, 2012

The only ginger in THIS house, is in the spice rack.

I am NOT a ginger. Think, people. Ginger is yellow. I am a redhead. I was called “carrot top” growing up. Bruce Imig used to yell down the middle school hallways at me, “Flame on, Torch!” And my cousin Jim used to say, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head.” I even red [sic] recently that redheads are more likely to be bullied than kids with other hair colors. But I have suffered long enough the slings & arrows of redism. From now on, I will wear my red hair like a neon badge of courage and power. And I thought I’d share a few factoids about redheads (with my occasional commentary), for those of you still donning huge bad hats or dealing with botched dye-jobs as you try to hide your magnificent bittersweet locks under a bushel…

1. Redheads have a higher pain threshold than others. And painkillers used in childbirth work three times better on red-haired women than on others. Darn good thing,‘cause wait till you get to #5.
2. Redheads can withstand 25% more electric shock than non-redheads. Good to know for when the Capitol (Republicans) divides us all into Districts surrounded by electrified fences.
3. Red hair is usually thicker and coarser than blond hair, so it appears fuller.
4. Red pigment is a poor filter of sunlight, so redheads are more susceptible to sunburn, skin cancer and wrinkling with age.
5. In medieval times, red hair was thought to be a mark of a beastly sexual desire, sexual prowess, and moral degeneration. Two-thirds true. I won’t tell you which two thirds.
6. In Australian slang, redheads are often referred to as "rangas" (short for the orange-haired orangutan). No basis in fact. See #18.
7. Some astrologers believe that the planet Mars ("the red planet") is more likely to be rising above the eastern horizon (the astrological Ascendant, which supposedly influences a person's appearance) at the time of the birth of a red haired person than for the population in general. Is it a coincidence that my name means “of Mars”? I think not.
8. Red hair dyeing is sometimes practiced in Islam, because it is reported that Muhammad had red hair.
9. Scotland has the most redheads (13% of the pop.). Mary Magdelene is often pictured with red hair + she figures prominently in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code + Dan Brown also mentions Rosslyn church + Rosslyn church is in Scotland = all redheads should get free trips to Scotland to see Rosslyn church. And to tip a pint with fellow redheads.
10. Redheads are more prone to mosquito bites and anemia.
11. The ancient Greeks believed that redheads would turn into vampires after they died. Makes sense…see #10.
12. Red is the rarest hair color in humans. Only 1-2% of people on the planet have naturally red hair.
13. Red hair doesn’t gray as much as other hair colors. It turns blond and then white. Never. I say, never.
14. According to Hamburg sex researcher Dr. Werner Habermehl, women with red hair have more sex than women with other hair colors. See #5.
15. Because natural red hair holds its pigment more than other colors, it is harder to dye.
16. During the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, many women were burned at the stake as witches merely because they had red hair. Figures. Imagine being a woman AND a redhead AND an herbalist AND a midwife. Oy.
17. Lilith, the supposed first wife of Adam, is said to have had red hair. She was ultimately kicked out of the Garden of Eden because she refused to be subordinate to Adam. I find this resistance to subordination common in most redheads I know, though not in shy, demure little me, of course.
18. Mark Twain once quipped that "while the rest of the human race are descended from monkeys, redheads derive from cats." That explains the hairballs.
19. Hitler reportedly banned the marriage of redheads in order to prevent “deviant offspring.” Takes one to know one.
20. According to George Chapman’s 1613 play Bussy D’Ambois, the perfect poison must include the fat of a red-haired man.
21. According to legend, the first redhead was Prince Idon of Mu who, upon discovering Atlantis, was imprinted with the island’s stunning red sunset and leaves in the form of red hair and freckles so future generations would be reminded of Atlantis’ first sunset. Clearly, proof of Atlantis’ existence.
22. Red hair is a recessive trait, which means that a child must inherit one red hair gene from each parent. I had two redhead grandparents, I have a redhead mom, a redhead brother, I married a red-bearded man, and of my three offspring, one is a natural redhead. Of my three grandkids, none is a redhead. My children will not be allowed to stop reproducing until I get a redheaded grandchild. Period.
23. Recessive traits often come in pairs, and redheads are more likely than other people to have another recessive trait, left-handedness. My one redhead offspring is a leftie.
24. According to Playboy magazine, “Redheads are like other women—only more so.” See #5.
25. Famous redheads include Nero, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, the ancient god of love Aphrodite, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Emily Dickinson, Vivaldi, Thomas Jefferson, Van Gogh, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Galileo, and King David. Great minds look alike.
26. In ancient Rome, redheaded slaves were often more expensive than non-redheads. See #5.
27. Satan is often portrayed as a redhead. See #5, especially the “moral degeneration” part.
28. In 1995, Professor Jonathan Reese discovered that mutations of the gene MC1R on chromosome 16 were responsible for red hair (known as the “ginger gene”). The gene mutation responsible for red hair in humans probably arose 20,000-40,000 years ago. See #5. Survival of the fittest, baby.
29. In Egypt, redheads were buried alive as sacrifices to the god Osiris. By the end of every semester, I feel a bit like an Osiris sacrifice myself…
30. Ruadh gu brath is Gaelic for “Red heads forever!”
31. Redheads are said to have “fiery” tempers. No comment, dammit. Shut up.
32. Some common surnames in the British Isles reflect the frequency of red hair there, including Flanary (“red eyebrow”), Reid (“red-haired, ruddy complexion”), and Flynn (“bright red”).
33. In some cultures, redheads are considered "abnormal." For example, they may raise peacocks and dance in barns.
34. In Michelangelo’s Temptation and in St. Paul's Cathedral, Eve is initially depicted as having brown and blond hair, respectively. But in both artistic renditions, after she eats the apple, and she and Adam are driven from the Garden of Eden, Eve is depicted as a redhead. See #’s 5 & 17. If she has red hair, she must be bad. If she’s bad, she must have red hair.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Dieter's Prayer

We’re midway through week three of our Game On diet, with only one more week to go after this. I was certain last Friday’s danceathon at our Little Town watering hole, wherein I did my best imitation of Elaine’s dance on Seinfeld ( for an entire night & drenched my vinyl chair with buckets of sweat, would put my team safely over the top. I was certain that when I weighed the next morning, I would be stunned by my sudden drop in poundage, and that when I went out that day, people would wonder if I’d been ill recently. Imagine my chagrin, then, when I discovered the next day that I had GAINED two pounds. Yes, it could have been the fluids—a dark beer or two, a glass of wine, some sort of shot that tasted like green apples—but c’mon…REALLY?!? I lost the two pounds by Sunday morning, but gained most of that back again at Easter dinner, for which I blame Mom’s incredible corn & macaroni casserole.
So now, with a forecast of music & dancing for the next three weekends, I’m resorting to prayer and a desperate hope for a miracle. Because heaven knows, I want our team, the Victorious Secrets, to wipe the sweaty dancefloor with the Fab Femmes and make them pay for the gluttony that will be our triumphant, prize-winning 27-course dinner out (ironic, yes, but oh, so satisfying). So here’s my dieter’s prayer (double duty, since it's also National Poetry Month). Keep your fingers crossed for the Secrets…


            patron of failed diets

Sweet child, bless me with your holy secret,
how you lived for weeks on eucharist alone,
because, trust me, I’ve tried everything else—

Cabbage soup eight times a day, my back
withered leaves folded in on themselves, idiot smile
a stigmatic line of stewed tomatoes, compost breath.

Meat rare, raw, blended or blessed & grilled over
frankincense coals until I grew fangs, fur, prayed
on my haunches, hunted squirrels in rabid packs.

Once I changed my name to “24 Points,”
every waking moment a food journal confession,
self-flagellation for the Weight Watchers high priest.

Racked once for the sin of bad food-group
combinations, I kept my citrus corralled,
my grains wholly egregious to my fatted lamb.

Or those eight summer weeks I ate nothing
but brown rice and soybean sprouts, until faint, I felt
the sharp stab of cherubic wings sprout in my shoulderblades.

And still, these round heathen hips sashay,
arms flap like heretic banners, chins double,
opulent breasts & belly a bed for some craven head.

Teach me, St. Catherine, to find the skin & bone again,
to see God in a slice of cucumber or a celery stalk,
to be so light that even hunger is too heavy to hold.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dieting Do's & Don't's

  • Don’t keep anything in the house that would undermine your diet. A good rule of thumb is, if it looks, tastes, feels, or smells good, feed it to the peacocks.
  • Do keep peeled, sliced cucumbers in a Tupperware bowl in your fridge. You will not be able to make yourself eat them (without sour cream), but they will give the appearance of healthy eating habits.
  • Don’t, under any circumstances, bite your partner.
  • Do imagine that you are so spiritually rarified, you no longer need food.
  • Don’t attempt to become so spiritually rarified, you no longer need food.
  • Do imagine yourself chained in a medieval dungeon. This helps you to be grateful for the morsel of dried toast you had ten hours ago for breakfast. And, the image of yourself as an emaciated feudal prisoner (in a new Land’s End swimsuit two sizes smaller than last year’s), will keep you going.
  • Do remember that it could be worse: You could be a breatharian. You could be on the cabbage soup diet. You could have those three middle school girls following you around (
  • Don’t raise and lower the footrest of your La-Z-Girl ten times and call it “exercise.”
  • Do perfect a low, resonant, guttural growl. This is an effective way to quickly signal extreme displeasure if your partner eats anything in your presence that is slathered with frosting, gravy, butter, or syrup.
  • Do rig up a plywood Victorian bed partition if you have a tendency to dream of food or to eat in your sleep.
  • Don’t record 37 hours of the Food Network to watch when the diet ends.
  • Do buy all of your clothes two sizes too big, then whine constantly to coworkers about how you’re “falling out of these old things” and can't figure out why.
  • Don’t imagine various implements of torture when your friend says she “forgot to eat today.”
  • Do remember (seriously now) that you are gol dern lucky to have every bite of food you put in your mouth, unlike the 925 million people in the world who are hungry and would feed a family of five with your boiled egg and celery (

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Maybe it's the 27 calories a day I'm living on right now, but I think I got a peek at the Divine Order of the Universe yesterday. It started in the early afternoon, when I almost burned down the farm. But it wasn’t my fault, and here’s why…

I flicked a lit match, thinking, “Wow, that’s close to the woodpile…what’re the chances?” and walked away. A short time later, I walked outside and heard crackling. As in, lovely burning-wood-in-a-fireplace crackling. Smoke was billowing up from the north pasture, along the [wooden] fenceline, where the cut wood is stacked. Half the woodpile was smoldering, and the bottom half of one fencepost (an 8x8) was gone, with tiny flames peeking from the center of the rotted-out top half. When I was done laughing hysterically at my own stupidity, I ran. For the house to get one garden hose. For the garden to get another. For the hydrant by the barn to hook both hoses together. For the woodpile, dragging 100-million pounds of spliced garden hose behind me. It took almost an hour of frantic running (because we didn’t want to be late for our trip to town), but I did my best Smoky Bear and put the fire out.

We made it to town in time to visit two old friends we hadn’t seen for ages, who just happened to be converging in one place. Jack had come from Chamberlain to play music at our local nursing home. He’s a human iPod, with a repertoire of 1100 songs, and a virtuoso at playing the piano by ear. He plays probably 3 times a month at nursing homes around Chamberlain, bless his chord-pickin’ heart. He had come all the way to Vermillion to play because another friend, Ed, lives in the nursing home for now. Ed had a major hemorrhagic stroke a couple years ago as the result of a fall, and is crawling his way back from complete left-side paralysis. Ed’s a wonderful musician himself, with one of the sweetest, clearest voices I know. He hasn’t recovered his ability to sing or play his guitar yet (left-side paralysis includes vocal cords), but he has an incredibly positive belief that it’s just a matter of time.

Then, because we were in town and pushing my new diet's four-hour limit between meals, I decided to take my sanctioned once-a-week “meal off." On a whim (literally...we were headed for the Hell-Mart parking lot and veered off at the last moment), Ray and I decided to try the new Asian buffet for the first time. Soon after we loaded our plates and sat back down in our booth, over walks Tim, a friend from the Old Verm days, with whom Ray and I played in a band called Second Wind.  For the past few decades, Tim's been living in Kansas, in a town where, coincidentally, my younger brother lives. And Tim told us a funny story about a guy he ended up working with in Kansas who, coincidentally, had once lived in Verm and was a regular fan of Second Wind.

And, if Tim hadn’t come over to our booth to catch up and reminisce, I would have gone back to pile up my plate again and again, and I would have eventually made it…dear lord no…to the dessert bar, and I wouldn’t have “made weight” this week.

Soooooo, if I hadn’t flicked that match, I wouldn’t have been running my fool head off and wouldn’t have gotten in my daily 20-30 minutes of exOrcise. And if we hadn’t gotten the fire out in time and made it to town, I wouldn’t have seen Jack and Ed for the first time in ages. And if we hadn’t gone to town to see Jack and Ed, we wouldn’t have decided to try out the new Asian restaurant. And if we hadn’t tried the restaurant, we wouldn’t have run into Tim and his wife, Penni for the first time in eons. And if we hadn’t run into Tim & Penni, I wouldn’t have made weight this week.

Believe anything you want. As for me, I believe the Universe carefully choreographed our day yesterday—a beautiful, perfectly timed dance, reminding me how grateful I am for good friends, salty food swimming in ginger sauce, and fine music. And the bottom line is clear, folks: 

(1) The Universe, not me, almost burned down the farm.
(2) The dieting brain can rationalize anything.