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Banana Trees and the Road to Hell

Much Ado About Nothing May 25, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

I can’t verify this, but if things continue as they are, I may be driven to the point that I have the opportunity to find out first-hand. But, I’m pretty sure that the road to Hell is trimmed in banana plants, those big, floppy-leafed scourges of the yard. The only thing that could possibly make banana plants more hatefully heinous would be cross-breeding them with poison oak. At which point, we need to tap out and surrender the planet because we’ve lost the war on agri-terrorism.

If you’re considering planting one of these pests in your yard, just go home because you’re drunk. You’d be better off – and definitely happier in the long run – if you simply backed up a cement truck and paved over your entire property. Although, this may be the only way to get rid of the chlorophyll creatures from the pits of someplace unspeakable once you’ve got them.

Despite my homeowners association frowning on such thing, I’m talking napalm, flame-throwers, small nuclear devices detonated from a safe distance across the street. Voodoo and practitioners of the dark arts are also not off the table in my battle against the bananas. Here’s the problem: you can hack them to the roots, dig them out and salt the earth and they’ll still find a way to come back. They’re vegetational herpes. This is truly the price we’ve paid for the whole mishap in the Garden of Eden: God said, “Get out and go live in shame with the banana plants.”

So after two long, bloody years of hand-to-leaf combat, I finally felt I had eradicated the green plague. Then as I’m licking my wounds and trying to recover from the resulting PTSD, the banana plant in my neighbor’s yard has sent up a scout on my side of the fence. Naturally, I’m triggered. The machete has long since been put in a locked location to keep me from hurting myself or others (like my neighbor who obviously shops in the garden center at ISIS Depot).

Unless your family name is Dole and you live in a jungle in Nicaragua, there’s no reason to have banana plants. Propagating this problem should be considered a crime against all humanity and punished accordingly. For the sake of all that’s holy, If you want a banana, go to Kroger.

Last Little Bird

Much Ado About Nothing May 18, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

In just a few days, my tenure as a grade-school parent ends. Despite those times when we just weren’t sure if it would really happen, my youngest son will graduate from high school – We hope. Although, there is still time. Not until I actually hear his name called and the diploma put in his hand, will I breathe. That’s the same time his counselor will stop eating Valium like LifeSavers, the principal will stop considering a career change, and his first period teacher will look up and think, “Oh! That’s who that kid is. His face isn’t familiar.”

I’ve always said he is the child my parents wished upon me. This is the kid that would have qualified us for the elite Navy Seals special ops supreme command of Parenthood if such a thing existed. He has made us battle ready for any level of mischief, mishap, or outrageous improbability. While they say it takes a village to raise a child, I disagree. In this case, it takes a village, a fully functioning medical/surgical facility, an offshore bank, several high level negotiators, a contact at the United Nations, a building permit, and friends with “connections.”

Then just about the time I think I’m on the top of my parenthood game, he’s leaving. He never listened when I told him to clean the bathroom, wash denim separately, or mow the lawn. But when I told him to dream big and chase after it, he listened to that! I pushed him to take harder classes and do his homework on time. Of course, he never did that. But when I push him to be independent, smart and self-sufficient, he’s all over it. What the heck?!

So it seems I have worked myself out of a job — a job with rotten pay, long hours and amazing benefits. It’s a job I have loved more than anything else and one I must have done right. The last little bird in the nest is spreading huge, strong, powerful wings that will let him soar to places beyond what either of us could have dreamed.

And just as he did when he marched off to Kindergarten, he’s not looking back. If he did, he’d see the endless pride on my face and my heart in my hands. He’s going to be great! And I’ll be okay, too.

Naked Garden Day

Much Ado About Nothing May 15, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

World Naked Gardening Day is the first Saturday in May. So, gosh darn it, we’ve missed it. I’m guessing, though, this is a bigger celebration in areas that don’t have mounds of fire ants. As someone who has had a miserable tangle with poison oak after pulling weeds in my flowerbed while fully clothed, I’m not sure I grasp how this is a good idea. Thank goodness, World Naked Gardening Day has a website (www.wngd.org) to answer that and so many other questions!

Don’t go to this website, however, unless you are prepared to be exposed to naked gardening. Unfortunately, no one warned me in advance. I admit I initially had trouble absorbing their information because I kept thinking: How are these people not getting seriously sunburned?!

While their website does explain why you should garden naked, more importantly, they tell you how! “Find an opportunity to get naked.” Okay, that seems a bit obvious, but then you can naked garden with your friends, family, even your gardening club. Whoa Nelly! I’m not sure what the demographics are of your gardening club, but I’m nearly positive I could kiss goodbye any chance I had at “Yard of the Month” if I showed up naked to the next meeting of my club.

They also suggest you “Do it inside your house, in your backyard, on a hiking trail, at a city park, or on the streets.” Really?! In Texas? Now I see how I win “Yard of the Month.” We’re talking about a prison yard! I hope, too, they didn’t mean Estes Park in Colorado when they said park, because there was two and a half inches of snow that Saturday which gives a whole new perspective to freezing your buns off!

Celebrate World Naked Gardening Day next year on May 5, 2018. Maybe start slow by just watering your houseplants in your underwear. The website does suggest when you naked garden, be sure to “tell someone about your experience… email it to your local newspaper.” Yeah, do that. I double dog dare you to do that! Include your address and phone number, so the local newspaper can send out a photographer (to take your mug shot for the local police department!).

Seriously, if you garden naked, garden smart. Wear sunscreen. Avoid poison oak. That’s all I have to say on that.

French Pedicure

Much Ado About Nothing May 8, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

After several weeks of back packing through France, my feet were beat. Therefore, the first thing on the agenda after clearing US Customs was to kick off the trekking shoes and get a pedicure. That I could have pulled a fish out of a lake with these toes was likely the prime indicator my feet had gotten out of hand!

I had seen several places during our travels that advertised French manicures. What the heck?! I’m in France! What other kind of manicure was I going to get? I immediately didn’t trust them. This was obviously a sketchy front for the sex slave trade. And you know there’s probably a big market for middle-aged white moms with bunions. People do strange things in France plus the whole ISIS presence, so you can’t be too careful. Just one more reason to go another day without changing my socks because my miserable neglect of my feet was probably all that was keeping me safe.

Back home, I’m in one of those pedicure chairs that always make me feel like I’m on a bad buckboard ride in a horrible Wild West theme park until I can figure out how to turn off the “massage” function. I notice the woman next to me. She must be about to leave for France because she’s having her toenails painted this weird Kermit the Frog shade of green. She must think if her feet resemble a poisonous snake, she’ll be safer. I’m not saying she’s wrong.

Meanwhile, to punish me for my neglect, my pedicure girl has stuck my feet into pans of boiling hot wax. I can only imagine this is how Hans Solo felt in that Star Wars episode where he’s trapped in molten lead. Like Hans, I also know that resistance is futile. Nothing to do but suck it up and hope she didn’t get that cheese grater tool thing out again. I understand the calluses were bad, but surely there are laws to protect me from that thing.

Then on the way out, I stop to throw away those little pieces of foam they stick between your toes. Except I didn’t have my glasses on and I was already out the door when I realized I’d “thrown them away” in some lady’s big purse. And you wonder why I let my feet get so bad.

Hack Job

Much Ado About Nothing April 25, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi La la la I’m toodling along minding my own business, and wham-o! My email gets hacked. What did I do to deserve having some obnoxious moron in Cyberville target me? I’m not involved with online gambling. I don’t click the ads to learn how to lose 20 pounds of belly fat in two days. Nonetheless, several versions of unfortunate emails were sent to every person in my address book. If you got a message that seemed a little weirder than what I usually send, let me straighten out a few things.

Be confident in my sincerity when I say I care about you deeply, but there will still be things that I don’t need to put on my radar unless I’ve given birth to you. In all honesty, I do not care if you want to further your education through online courses to be a master electrician or cosmetologist. That’s great if you do, but I’m not going to email you information about it. Don’t open those.

Whereas I know quite a few physicians and the pharmacist I use is super nice, I’m not going to hook you up with cheap medications. I don’t know a single doctor, pharmacist or drug dealer in Mexico, Canada or any part of the UK. Shop around. You can find generics everywhere for about $4. That’s as far as I’m going on giving you advice on that. Don’t look for any more emails on that subject.

I don’t care if you’re balding, wrinkled, or have incontinence. Most of all, I do not care about whether or not you increase your personal satisfaction in anything, even if it’s by 200%. An 83-year old friend of mine received an email from me asking if she had certain genitalia. If she did, she needed to click the included link. She promptly emailed back to let me know that even at her age, she was still able to identify her parts. Since she was deficient in the equipment required, she deleted the email. Excuse me while I’m temporarily mortified, but sometimes it pays to be a girl. Even an old girl.

I can only guess that this invasion of my privacy is known as being “hacked” because I was definitely hacked off by the whole experience! What happened to the days when you simply got your house wrapped?

Buster and Tom

Much Ado About Nothing April 20, 2017

Buster Ciampi - Jean's Ultra Sweet DogMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

Jean Ciampi is on vacation. This week’s guest columnist is her dog, Buster. As a proud alumni of the Brazoria County SPCA, Buster is currently an advocate for animal rights (with the exclusion of squirrels which he believes get what they deserve).

Yes, she’s on vacation in France, probably eating French fries and French toast. Not that I give one wag. Because, after nearly 14 years, I thought I could be confident that my people would have my best interest at heart. Looking back, I don’t know where that misplaced trust comes from as these are the same people that shipped me off to live in Saudi Arabia for three years, a place known for their disdain of dogs and a sick fondness for cats. But here they are proving again what a disappointment they are.

Although I’m not sure how, as I find no spot where they could have dug under the fence, my people have slipped their leashes and run off, leaving me at home — with the teenage boy. Don’t they realize that SPCA and CPS have a lot of the same letters for a reason?! Who thought this was a good idea? Not me!

The one who is now responsible for feeding me is the one who would probably eat out of a trash can. Seriously, some of the garbage I’ve seen that kid eat! Makes a dog pray that there are no table scraps. And that’s who they left as the keeper of the kibble? I’m going to starve!

I guess I can forget my walks for a while, too, unless there’s a video game for dog walking. Maybe if we get the Wi-Fi password for every house in the neighborhood, he could bring his computer with us and still stay connected. He acts like he’s the only one with business to take care of! Hasn’t he thought that maybe I need to go check my pee-mail, send and receive a few messages from my dog friends?

I suppose it could be worse: I could be at the kennel, that horrible place where I’d get brushed and bathed, three squares, regular romp time, doggy social hour, and my ears scratched. Yeah, good thing they didn’t send me there. So have fun in France, people. The kid and I will be here throwing wild house parties.

Cell Hell

Much Ado About Nothing April 13, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

Dear Cell Service Provider Which Will Not Be Named Because I Don’t Want To Be Sued: thank you for teaching me some important things about myself that I didn’t know before I spent nearly two hours in your store. Not since I tried to get worked in for an appointment at the doctor’s office during the height of cold/flu/plague/Ebola season have I had so much fun wasting what’s left of my life. I admit that I have been remiss in upgrading my phone, but, you understand, I would rather continue to shovel coal into the back of mine to keep it going than have to face your store. Only the unfortunate though not unexpected demise of my phone forced me darken your doorstep.

The experience, however, taught me that I have the uncanny ability to suppress my dignity and nap on your floor by the front door. Shamelessly.  I’m needing that nap because I have worn myself out glaring at salespeople who aren’t helping me. Pulling together a really effective evil eye requires a lot of energy. Otherwise you end up with a not nice eye which just does not have the same impact. Real evil requires real effort. But why am I telling you that, dear cell service provider, as I believe you may be the actual creator of evil. (And if it’s not you, I’m thinking it might be my health insurance company. You’re probably working together, right?)

During my time in your store, I’d like to say what a joy it was to interact with your employees, except that would be a lie. While I accept that I’m on the express bus to Hell for a lot of reasons, lying isn’t one of them. Okay, maybe not the main one. Regardless, I do have to applaud your ability to find, recruit, hire and train people who can function without conscious thought, logic, or basic positive personality traits. Of course, Texas is a Right to Work state, so, yes, even zombies need jobs. Good on you for hiring all of them. I’m interested to know what the company picnic looks like, but, no, I don’t really. Forget I said that part.

What I do want to say is: “Thanks!” and I’m loving my new phone that cost me more than my son’s first year at a major university. Oh, and I hate you.

Need A Zonkey!

Much Ado About Nothing April 6, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

Stop! Because you had me at zonkey! The Bayou Wildlife Zoo that is out between Alvin and Dickinson is for sale! Okay, yes, they’re asking $7 Million for it, but I think I could start a GoFundMe thing and raise that, don’t you think? I need this zoo! Because until just now, I had never even heard of a zonkey, but now that I have, I know that my life’s calling is to be a zonkey owner.

Zonkeys are a type of zebroid – a hybrid zebra that’s a cross between a zebra and a something else. While a zorse (zebra + horse) is kind of cool, it pales dramatically to a zonkey. I was already convinced I needed a small herd of miniature donkeys because they have a cute factor that can only be measured by the International Space Station. Then, of course, I’d need several guard donkeys to keep my dinky donkeys secure. The one thing I’m missing to complete the perfect donkey trifecta: a zonkey!

If that’s not enough, my new zoo also comes with a newborn giraffe. That right there makes the $7 million asking price a bargain! It is only possible to resist a newborn giraffe if you are completely devoid of a soul. Zonkey plus a newborn giraffe, how do you top that? Well, you add a white rhino. Not just your average, oh-everyone-has-one gray rhino. No, a white rhino. Thank you, we have a winner.

I’ll have other animals that aren’t zonkeys (but probably want to be zonkeys because who in the animal world doesn’t want to be a zonkey), plus 7 trams to haul around the 90,000 people that will come every year to visit me. The seller is also throwing in the bulldozer, of course, as well as the fleet of Jeeps. And I’ll need the $1 million the zoo rakes in every year to cover the $6,000 a month in Purina Zonkey Chow. Which is fine. You can’t have your zonkey eating table scraps.

Naturally, I have a couple of questions before moving forward like how do I get in touch with Matt Damon? Is that zookeeper’s wife movie still playing? I could probably pick up some tips from that. And who drew the short straw for hand-feeding the alligators? Not me, because I’ll be over here petting my new $7 million zonkey!

Baby Doc

Much Ado About Nothing February 2, 2017

Jean Ciampi

Jean Ciampi

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

My youngest son turned 18 recently which means I’m off the hook for a lot of big things. If his debilitating case of senioritis keeps him from making it to his first period class enough times, the truancy officer doesn’t haul me into court now. He goes. I’m not responsible for his debts, like what he owes to Firestone for that front end alignment. (I told him if he banged that curb coming into the neighborhood enough times…). And I don’t make his doctor’s appointments anymore. However, he was still a minor when I made the appointment for his annual checkup with his favorite doctor: his pediatrician.

Because no good deed goes unpunished, he made me go to the appointment with him. There we sat in the waiting room with the fishes and dolphins painted on the walls, PBS on the television, and countless coughing, drooling, snotty, germ-infested babies and toddlers. Just me and my kid who is a full foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than me. But, I can brag in front of the other moms that my baby was the only one there with full facial hair, a driver’s license, and a constitutional right to cast a ballot. Let’s see their elementary school honor roll top that!

I realized, though, that some things will just never change. For example, while we were sitting there waiting, we suddenly hear the ear-piercing, blood-curdling screams of some poor child who had obviously just come due for some kind of booster shot. Either that he was having his fingernails ripped off with pliers. Those screams are so similar, it’s hard to distinguish which is which. Every kid in that waiting room froze, including mine. He turned his bearded man-face to me and said with an unmasked level of panic in his voice, “I don’t need shots for college, do I?!” Just when you think your baby is all grown up and gone, you realize that little boy will always be there.

We’ve always loved our pediatrician. He’s one of the Top 5 Greatest Guys Ever. So I understand not wanting to give him up. If his office accepted Medicare, my kids would probably plan to be patients there for life. Besides, you’re just never too old for a SpongeBob sticker and a Donald Duck Band-Aid.

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