I’m probably allergic to you

A few weeks back I bought a GroupOn deal to get some allergy/sensitivity testing done. It was a good price, and I’ve been wanting to get some help in figuring out any food or environmental things that I’m particularly sensitive to. What could go wrong?

The testing kit finally came in the mail and I was excited to get started…until I read the following instruction:

Cut approximately 90-120 hairs, as close to the scalp as possible. The amount should be roughly the width of a pencil.

A PENCIL??? Needless to say, the whole idea was quite alarming. Didn’t those allergy test peddlers know how much time and energy I spend on my hair? How it’s my glory…my best feature? And to top it off, I had paid for this golden opportunity to wreck my ‘do’!

OK…I took a breath. I had to come up with a plan, the goal of which was to not end up with a big old missing clump that would grow out looking like a spiky post-chewing gum hair debacle from my sister’s past (more about that in an upcoming post). I first tried pulling out some hairs, but that got old really fast. (So much for the high pain tolerance I claim to have.)

Plan B – I would selectively cut teeny bunches from a variety of locations, thereby spreading the damage out so that it wouldn’t be noticeable. After patting myself on the back for such an ingenious plan, I picked up my (impossibly awkward) work scissors, decided I didn’t really need a mirror (since I was sitting at my desk at work), and got on with the cutting. The first few, ‘shhh-nip, shhh-nips’ went well enough, but when I bundled my harvest together the grouping wasn’t even the width of a pencil lead…much less a full Ticonderoga #2. Deciding that bold action was called for, I decided to slightly increase the size of the bunches. I would be careful to distribute the damage and was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.


I pulled my hand away…afraid to look. When I did I saw that I was holding at least a good half-pencil’s width of 18-inch strands, ranging from gunmetal gray to L’Oreal #8 Medium Natural Blonde. It was at that point I decided that my career as a beautician was over.

So far I haven’t noticed any real damage, but I check every single day for evidence of my (lack of) tonsorial skills. Was it worth it? Yesterday I received the following Allergy/Sensitivity List:

  • Ragweed / Mixed grass pollens – Duh.
  • Milk / Lactose / BUTTER FAT – I knew about the milk thing, but THIS explains sooooo much….sigh.
  • Courgette – OK, I had to look it up…only to learn that I’m allergic to one of the only vegetables I actually like. Goodbye, Zucchini…I’ll miss you.
  • Anise – I never liked licorice…I’m SO vindicated!
  • Pine – I think I told ya’ll I’m allergic to Christmas trees.
  • Pine nuts / Pumpkin seeds / Castor bean – And I care because…?
  • Box elder – I’m pretty sure this is the big old tree that #1 planted right in the middle of my backyard 15 years ago – the one that throws seedlings all over the whole neighborhood. Thanks, buddy.
  • Moths – Um…that’s just weird. I guess I’ll have to give up that ‘hanging out under the street light’ habit I’ve been working on.
  • Horse Fly Bot – WTF???? I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far of avoiding most bugs, but especially the larva of flies that live around horses. So much for my dream of becoming a farmer…cause that was so gonna happen.
  • Trimelletic Anhydride – OK…I had to look this one up too, and it turns out it’s an industrial POISON. Wouldn’t pretty much every human being on the planet be sensitive to it? (I hope they didn’t charge me extra for that one.)

And, last but not least…

  • Cat dander

I guess my consolation is that vodka, hair dye and ladies Rogaine weren’t on the list.


Back on the right (wrong) coast

I’ve lived in Oregon for 22 years now. When I first moved across country from South Carolina to the west coast with #1, I was so busy learning to be an Oregonian (and trying to forget the life that we ran away from) that it was seven years before I finally came back east to see my family. These days, I’m a better daughter/sister/aunt, and I travel the 2320 miles (as the crow flies) once or twice a year.

Currently, I’m on my second trip this year back to S.C. and, so far, it’s been a doozy…

  • I had boiled peanuts for the first time in about 25 years (it may have been that they came from a gas station, but I think I can go another 25 without them and be just fine)
  • I had the worst Starbucks of my life (Portland does ruin you for some things)
  • I ran into childhood TV host Mr. Knozit (Joe Pinner) while out at dinner (and forced him to talk to me)
  • I tried on eye glasses at Walmart and had to explain to the nice lady that yes, I do in fact have a head so enormous that I have to wear men’s glasses (she didn’t believe me until I tried on the lady glasses just to show her how strangely tiny they looked. Thanks, Walmart lady…thanks a lot.)
  • I went to the movies with the entire family (Mama, Lynnie AND the niece and nephew) for the first time EVER (and no seat arms were harmed)
  • I arrived and it was 80 degrees – two days later we woke up to heavy snow (the earliest snow they’ve EVER had here). Thanks, Al Gore Roker.
  • I listened to my sister Lynnie yelling at the Gamecocks (that actually has happened this early in the year) and
  • I discovered the true beauty of Adult Swim TV (thank you, Nephew! Oh Rick and Morty…where have you been all my life?)

The best is yet to come though…today my sissy is going to make her famous fried pork chops for dinner, along with rice with (real) gravy, roasted Brussel sprouts and Sweetie Pie’s macaroni and cheese. I may need an extra seat for the trip back to the other coast…but it’ll be worth it!


Oh Mr. Knozit…you haven’t changed a bit!

That time I had the plague…

My sister and I have a sort of weird contest going on to see which of us can most effectively diagnose our (collective) medical symptoms. One of us will wake up with a foot twinge or some sort of rash on an arm and we both rush online to figure out what the HELL we’ve contracted. If we don’t have time ourselves to do the legwork, we network on that shit. It usually looks something like this:

fb chat 2

I should have told her to call Domino’s for me…



Sleep…kind of

Sleeping is sort of my super power. I can sleep anywhere, any time…through pretty much anything. I was told, as a child, that I didn’t even stir the night that a group of blaring fire engines sped onto our street and parked in front of our house with their sirens still going. I guess the whole neighborhood went out to see what the ruckus was about…except for me. I didn’t even believe it happened until I saw the tread marks left in our yard…we were on a corner lot and I guess one of the trucks cut the turn a little close.

If all the daytime talking I do isn’t enough, it turns out that I also talk in my sleep…a lot. Mama used to swear that I spoke Swahili during the night…her way of describing what apparently sounds like a holy roller speaking in tongues. I seem to at least be a funny sleeper though…just a few weeks ago I woke myself up with the sound of my own laughter. Cracked myself up (and awake) twice in the same night!

My sister has always been a couch sleeper. When we were young she would periodically do the creepiest sleep thing I’ve ever seen. Lynnie would be soundly sleeping on the couch, just like a normal person. You’d turn your head and, when you looked back, she was still asleep but with her eyes WIDE open. She would just stare…it makes me shiver to think about it!

Gift idea for sister?

Gift idea for sister?

I’ve shared some stories before about my sister’s deviltry and her knack for getting into trouble, but the open-eye thing was one of the most bizarre things she did. Or so I thought, until once when she was couch sleeping and, all of a sudden, she slowwwwly sat up…her eyes wide open…without using her arms. Now, I know a damn vampire when I see one, but we didn’t have any fresh garlic, so I just went to the bedroom, locked the door, and prayed that there wouldn’t be any sisterly sleep walking!

I’m pretty sure that I didn’t laugh in my sleep that night, but it’s entirely possible that I talked about (or cursed at) my sister after I dozed off. Luckily, no one would have been able to understand what I was saying anyway…unless they spoke Swahili. 


I wrote recently about my grandmother, who was known as Tid. She was the oldest of three girls, and was the bossy one. The next sister was my (great) Aunt C…we all just thought of her as the eccentric (i.e. crazy) one, but in retrospect, I think that she was mostly just very sad. She was (in)famous for her habit of giving me and my sister a $15 check to split on money-giving occasions (“Umm, thanks for that $7.50…I think”). She saw the same psychiatrist for many years, and her therapy seems to have been much more about prescriptions than it was about changing or growing. We loved her, but her house smelled weird, and late in life she developed a fondness for drinking Listerine.

The baby sister was Aunt B…the beauty of the three. She had two daughters, ended up traveling the world as an Army wife, and was the most amazing hostess I’ve ever known. When I was 11 my sister and I spent the summer with Aunt B’s family in Fort Benning, Georgia. It was an idyllic summer for the most part…at least until my sister decided that she wouldn’t eat carrots (or was it squash?) and ended up being left to sit at the dinner table alone for about four hours before she gave up and swallowed her veggies..with much gagging and no chewing. No one ever had anything negative to say about my great Aunt B. Her funeral was the most beautiful one I’ve attended…she was much loved and the memories of her flooded our hearts.

Tid and Aunt B each had two daughters. (Aunt C had two boys, but we won’t worry about them right now.) My mother was the younger of Tid’s girls by 18 months, and was an itty bitty thing with green eyes and almost black hair.  Her sister is known as Scooter, and she has red hair and amber eyes. There is a story of my mom once throwing a carving knife at her sister because, as the tag-along little sis, she felt left out of some adventure. (Even as a child, my mama just couldn’t stand to miss anything.) My mother and her sister each grew up and had two daughters. It seems that we are a family of sisters.

My own sister, Lynnie, and I are also 18 months apart. She never threw any knives at me, but she did seem to have an uncanny knack for getting into trouble…a true talent for destruction. That child just couldn’t help herself…she played with matches, wrote on walls, burned the hair off of (or otherwise tortured) my dolls, and I imagine she must have run with scissors at some point, but I can’t swear to it. She loved to cut things up, and once performed surgery on a stuffed bear that belonged to my mother as a girl, calling the operation a ‘spleemectomy’. (Sadly, the patient didn’t make it.)

Another of my sister’s favorite tricks was to replicate things that we’d seen on TV commercials. When Prell shampoo advertised that their product was so thick that a pearl dropped into the bottle would sink slowwwwwwly to the bottom, Lynnie cut up my grandmother’s pearl necklace to try it herself. When a bra company showed us how thick and luxuriant their fiberfill padding was, one of Grandmama’s bras suddenly turned up cut into two pieces, its flimsy padding an obvious disappointment.

Snow Sisters

My sister and I in a huge  S.C. “snow storm”

I wouldn’t say that my sister and I were exactly friends while growing up. We were close in age, but we couldn’t have been much more different. She loved to play outside and get as dirty as possible, while I preferred to stay inside with a book, and I rarely even walked around barefoot in the summer. I spent a ton of energy trying to be perfect, and Lynnie just had fun! She approached any kind of play with an abandon I just couldn’t match, and I think I was pretty damn boring in comparison.

Because I was older, I was expected to keep both of us out of trouble…not an easy task considering Lynnie’s skills in that area! Once, when we were in junior high school, Mama left us home alone and I was in charge. I was working on some artwork for the school yearbook, and had a bottle of india ink and other art materials spread out on the living room floor. I took a break, making sure to give my sister a bossy, “Now don’t you touch anything!” on my way out of the room. I don’t remember exactly what I was doing when Lynnie found me a few minutes later…her eyes cast down and a terrified look on her face. My stomach sunk as she whispered, “Ummmm…Tammy, can you come in here for a minute?” I knew by the tone in her voice that she’d either broken or ruined something, and I’m sure I started yelling before we got to the living room. I was right…she had been messing with the bottle of ink I’d left and had managed, of course, to spill a tiny bit. Unfortunately, she also had decided that she could ‘fix it’ before anyone found out about it, and took a yellow sponge mop to the tiny spillage, converting at least a foot and a half of the formerly whitish carpet into a huge grey blob. I was so furious that I grabbed that mop and bopped her squarely on the head with it! In the end, I was the one who got in trouble for the entire thing…as the older, (supposedly) more responsible sister. Lesson learned: Messing with your older sister’s things and making a huge mess…minor infraction; hitting your little sister on the head with a sponge mop…punishable offence. I personally think that Lynnie had done so many things in the past that it was no fun punishing her anymore…but I was “fresh meat”!

Years later we bonded over beers, boys, mutual friends and shared living-room dancing skills…the sponge mop violence and doll hair sins of the past behind us. One St. Patrick’s day we were together at Group Therapy, our favorite bar from college, and I leaned over the bar to talk to a bartender friend. I felt something hot on my rear end and turned to see a very drunk guy holding a Bic lighter to the seat of my jeans…I guess my big behind was just too perfect a target to not take advantage of! From out of nowhere, he suddenly had familiar looking arms thrown around his neck, and I saw my sister’s eyes looking over his shoulder at me. She had him in what appeared to be a Three Stooges style head lock, and he spun her around like a rag doll, trying to shake her off of his back as she yelled, “NO ONE messes with MY sister!”

It seems that sharing your childhood with someone can create the kind of glue that connects people for good. My Lynnie is now my biggest cheerleader, and just happens to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. When I’m at my lowest I’ll get a call from her that turns my day around, and when I go back to S.C. for visits, it’s like we’re 20 again..we dance and laugh and we both play now. She’s got my back, and I love her for it.