Awesome Advice Central: Weasel words


The scene: Awesome Advice Central HQ

alt="IMAGE-weasel-words-after-the-kids-leave"On a beautiful Queen Anne-era table lies a carefully unwrapped package, surrounded by the plain brown wrapper in which it was delivered. The package consists of a shoebox containing an 8-track cassette tape; the tape itself appears to have been smeared with a pungently aromatic oily substance. And when we say “pungent” we mean it smells as though it has been in the vicinity of a recently demised skunk.

The Awesome Advice team is appropriately horrified, and clutching their lavender-scented lace handkerchiefs to their noses, they slip the cassette into the 8-track player their last pool-boy, Dylan, left behind when he fled their employ. 

This is a transcript of what they heard:

Dear Awesome Advice Central,

I’m a friendly person. Maybe some say I’m too friendly but I just think it’s my duty and pleasure in life to reach out and make someone happy. Pay it forward, keep ‘em smiling, never let ‘em see ya sweat.

I’m good at that stuff. I like to comment on women’s shoes as they pass by. They like that.

When I’m standing at the local coffee bar, I tell the barista that the person behind me will pay my bill. That also goes over pretty well. I also like to pick up hitchhikers, because they’re people, too, right? But I’m not stupid, I always frisk them for guns and knives before I let them on the buggy. I also check their ID—if they’re under 65? No way, find your own ride, mister, you’re not going to make a mince pie outta me!

So it’s a fact that I get on with pretty much everyone. That’s what makes what just happened so puzzling.

I was sitting on a plane bound for Weasel Skull, and we were just getting down to the serious business of eating our delicious onboard meal. I had the dandelion salad for starter, the sautéed skunk with red wine jus, and for dessert, a delicious acorn pie.

My neighbor, who thus far hadn’t said a word to me, not even “Excuse me while I put my deer carcass in the overhead woven basket, I hope it doesn’t bleed too much on you,” had the local delicacy, weasel brain with chili mayonnaise on her plate, and man oh man, did I ever want a taste of it.

Once she’d removed the paper towel from her tin plate, I leaned over and took a small forkful. I stuffed the brains into my mouth and then nodded and smiled in appreciation at its delicate texture, aroma and taste. Honestly, there’s nothing like a good weasel brain, and this was nothing like it. Yum.

Imagine my shock when I saw her make a face at me. She must’ve had a particularly chewy piece, probably the cerebral cortex or something, and that’s what was causing her to screw up her face like that, so I put it out of my mind and concentrated on finishing my own meal. I’d attempt to clink glasses with her, but it was kind of hard to catch her eye, so eventually I gave up.

We settled into the flight and I was watching “The Wonders of Weasel Words” on the personal TV set they kindly set upon my tray. It only costs a quarter for 15 minutes, which is a pretty good deal as far as I’m concerned (I’d stocked up on 10 bucks worth of quarters pre-flight, so I was all set. I’m a deep thinker that way).

I was just watching the bit where the famed Traveling Weasels were beginning their toe-tapping dance revue when I happened to look over at my neighbor and saw she was beginning to nod off.

Taking this as my cue, I turned off my TV, leaned over the armrest and gently began singing her a lullaby, to help her to sleep. It’s my personal favorite: “Kill the Moose, You Silly Goose.” I just knew she’d like it.

Her eyes opened, which isn’t what I’d intended, so I shut up straight away. She looked around, like she was searching for assistance or something, then closed her eyes again and relaxed in her chair.

I tried again, this time my second favorite, “I Can’t Stop Crying (Since That Scorpion Bit My Testicles).” Perhaps you’ve heard it? It’s a sweet one! Her eyes opened a bit wider this time, so I quickly moved back into my seat and made a play of finding another quarter for the TV.

I was probably too late to watch the weasel dance revue, but for sure I still had time to see them attacking their enemies the mountain goats, up high in the Rockies. I’d been looking forward to that all week, actually.

I watched a bit more (did you know that weasels jump on the backs of mountain goats, grasp the horns in their weaselly paws, and then do an ancient weasel tap-dance on their backs that causes the goats to die a slow, painful death? Interesting what’s on TV these days). Then when the coast was clear, I leaned over and sang again to my neighbor again, choosing one that you know as well as I: “Oh When the Elephants Come Marching In and Eat all the Otters.”

This time, her eyes flew open and she grabbed my arm, rather strongly, I thought. She yelled “Help, help!” and the flight attendant charged down the aisle to see what was going on.

I started to explain about the weasels and how I was actually trying to help this lady relax, but SHE got her side of the story in first and now I’m strapped into the airplane seat until we land in Weasel Skull, where I’m apparently going to be sent to the police station to explain my actions.

What actions!!? I was just being helpful and kind!

Would you do me a favor and have a word with the good people of Weasel Skull, and tell them I’m a nice guy with only kind intentions? The airplane people won’t let me write my story down—they say they don’t have any paper, but I think they don’t trust me with a pencil—but are letting me record this on my 8-track cassette machine, which I bring with me everywhere I go. I hope you have a machine in your office, you two look pretty modern so I’m sure you’ve got the latest technology.

Please send help immediately, and while you’re at it, I’d really like some beaver candies, the musky ones please, not the salty ones. Thanks!

Walter W. (not for Weasel, haha) Easel

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Dear Walter:

We confess ourselves intrigued. Repulsed, yes, but also intrigued by your most peculiar story.

In fact, we wonder whether you might perhaps be dwelling in some alternate reality, quite separate from the one we inhabit. A reality in which it is considered normal to consume members of the family mustelidae; one in which the 8-track tape remains the pinnacle of technological wizardry.

Or perhaps you live in Tennessee, or Texas. We really cannot tell, and your taped missive offers no clues.

Truly, sir, you have presented us with a conundrum!

Much as we would like to be of assistance, we fear we must leave you to your own wits on this matter, in part because we are unable to locate the local constabulary to put in a word on your behalf.

We did look up Weasel Skull on GoogleMaps and were unable to locate it…but then, if you’re living an an alternate reality (or Tennessee or Texas, as the case may be) GoogleMaps would mean nothing to you, would it?

In any case, we couldn’t find beaver candies, but have enclosed a packet of black salted licorice, which is just about as objectionable and should suit the purpose.

Good bye, good luck, and please, next time you feel moved to communicate with us, could you do so via pen and paper? And hold the skunk juice.

Thanks ever so,

Awesome Advice Central




My so-called empty nest

Dear Wendy,

alt="IMAGE-empty-nest-revolving-door-after-the-kids-leave"It seems a little bit strange to be writing about the empty nest when my youngest kid is sitting next to me playing Sims on her computer, but summer’s almost half over, and the new school year is only a month away.

Last year at this time I remember musing about my first year with no kids living at home—Adrian had been living on his own for about 10 years, Rachel had finished her first year of college, and I was feeling kind of cocky about having survived that dreaded first plunge into childlessness.

Well, temporary childlessness.

Because, as I now know, they come back. That was actually Lesson 1: this whole “going away to college” thing isn’t the real thing. Sure, we call it “the empty nest,” but it’s really more like “the temporary lull.” The real empty nest will happen in a few more years, when degrees have been handed out, jobs and first apartments acquired.

I know this, but I’m not thinking about it too hard. Call it denial, but I prefer to think of it as “living in the moment.”

Empty nest, full nest

Right now we’re in the revolving door stage, at least with our youngest child.

Our year has a particular rhythm now: we spend the summer preparing for the new school year. In early September we drive to Toronto and drop Rachel off at her college. This is a happy-sad time for all of us, and tears are usually involved.

On our return home, everything is suddenly intensely quiet, until Mitchell and I have time to adjust back into our “home alone” routine. But we quickly relearn what it’s like to live as a childless couple again—cooking for two, planning our days around our own schedules, running the dishwasher every couple of days. Of course, we see Adrian a couple of times each week, but he always returns to his own place afterward.

In October Rachel comes home for Thanksgiving weekend, which is always insanely hectic and much too short; then it’s a longish haul until her December break. We have a full month together, and then she’s off again, this time until mid-February, when she’s back for study break; Easter is usually about 6 weeks later; and then we’re making the trip to Toronto once more at the end of April, to bring her back home.

You see what I mean about the revolving door, right?

Right now, we’re in the middle of the pre-back-to-school planning stage, thinking about all the things we need to do before September: courses must be chosen, mountains of laundry must be washed, haircuts must be scheduled (because seriously, when you find a great hairdresser, you don’t mess around with that).

Rachel only has about 10 days left in her summer job (interning at an architectural office), and we’ll be off on a camping trip for a few days, and then it’ll be time to get packing in earnest.

For now, I’m enjoying the temporary chaos of having our youngest at home, but these days it seems that no matter whether she’s here or not, I’m aware that it won’t last long. Change, it seems, really is the only constant.





Touring the British countryside

Dear Readers,

Wendy is off gallivanting around the British countryside, and asked me to post this as a warning to the locals on her behalf. Since I’m a dedicated sister and only a little bit jealous, I agreed. So here goes:


We left London in the early evening by car, to Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds.


Driving up to Slaughter…sounds ominous. Not really.

On arrival, we enjoyed a relaxing 7 (7!) course tasting menu at the Manor.


The Manor: pretty much as grand as it sounds!

Next morning we walked to Upper Slaughter. Truly the tourist guides are not lying when they say these are the most beautiful villages in Great Britain! (By the way, in case you’re wondering about the odd name, it turns out that “Slaughter” has less to do with bloody murder, and more to do with the Old English name for a wet land ‘slough’ or ‘slothre’ [Old English for muddy place] upon which it lies.)


Despite its odd name, Slaughter has been named one of the most beautiful towns in England.

Up next: the Lake District

On our way we stopped at the Brontë parsonage museum. I practically wept to think I was standing in the same spot where Charlotte, Emily and Anne wrote their masterpieces.


Wendy and Lars and Emily and Anne and Charlotte

Continuing with the literary thread, we went to Hill Top in Ambleside to look at Beatrix Potter’s house. It is exactly as it was when she died. Her will stated it must not be modernized and I’m here to tell you, her wishes have been acknowledged and granted.


You can just imagine Peter Rabbit hopping through the gardens here.

Off to Scotland tomorrow, as it’s time to pay our regards to Robbie Burns and Nessie!




We come over all teary-eyed

Dear Readers,

Happy Birthday, little George!  We get a little misty and teary-eyed, looking back at his first royal year:

Who doesn’t love a good wedding?  Especially when the groom is the one making all the decisions, including choosing the venue, the decor and, most important for brides, the dress.  There’s actually a show about this, called Don’t Tell the Bride.  To see an earlier version of this show, we offer you this snippet from Stuart times:

We’re sure those of you of Scottish descent will be crying tears of a different sort when watching this.  Bob Hope died 11 years ago; he killed the Highland Fling many years before that.

Wiping tears from our eyes, we remain,

Karen & Wendy

Are you ready for the empty nest?

Dear Readers,

Yes, it’s still summer, but for many families it’s a time of flux—if your offspring are heading off to their first year of college, you’re probably wondering what it’ll be like, how you’ll cope, and what your new role will be.

It’s a huge life transition, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You’ve spent the better part of the past two decades raising this person, teaching him or her how to cope with life…and now that they’re about to leave, there’s often a feeling of panic. Will they be able to deal with all the new challenges that independence brings?

And what about you? You’ve invested a huge part of yourself in being a parent. How will that change when your kids are no longer living under your roof? How will this huge transition affect your sense of self, your relationship with your partner, your sense of place in the world?

Big changes are afoot, and you’re right to be thinking in terms of “now what do I do?”

To help you prepare, emotionally and in practical terms, we’ve put together a list of blog posts on life just before, during, and after the empty nest. From Jackie DeMuro’s musings about this last summer with her daughter at home, to Sharon Greenthal on the emotional realities of the too-quiet house, to Carpool Goddess on what to buy for your kid who’s moving into a college residence…and yes, even a couple of our posts—one on what it’s like when they leave for good, and one on making a plan when your child has a chronic illness—we’re pretty sure you’ll find what you need here.

Like all our Saturday lists, this one is made on Listly, so you can vote items up or down, add comments, and even add posts of your own, or from other sites, you think should be part of the list. In fact, we hope you do!

On your way to the empty nest

KarenWendy Irving On your way to the empty nest

KarenWendy Irving | 10 items | 84 views

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  1. 1. Being Comfortable with the Quiet of an Empty Nest

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    One of the most challenging things when your kids leave home is being comfortable with the quiet of an empty nest. Despite a fundamentally good marriage, there are hours...days...sometimes longer when my husband and I don't have much to say to each other.

  2. 2. Yarn and an empty nest

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    I wandered into a yarn store the other day. I had no business in there, really. I don't knit and it's been at least 30 years since I crocheted anything. But it was so inviting. Out of nowhere, I was struck with thoughts of my kids who are all busily, productively, living their lives.

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  4. 4. Empty Nest: the final stage? - After the Kids Leave

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    Dear Karen, I've been giving some thought to your letter last week about the revolving door of the empty nest. As you enter one stage, I seem to be exiting, so I feel 100% qualified to tell you what you have to look forward to in the next year, after she Rachel graduates: She will leave one day, suitcases packed, perhaps a U-Haul idling in the drive with all her furniture, and she will not come back.

  5. 5. Kids Going to College: Getting Your Heart and Head Ready

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    Lisa writes: When we published a post last summer about our kids going to college, we thought we had missed a most important moment and had one only chance left, when our youngest leave. We were wrong. Parenthood has two big transitions, when our children arrive and when they leave.

  6. 6. Am I Over Empty Nest? Who Am I Kidding...

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    My son Rob surprised me last weekend. Showed up Friday night when my husband and I were out having dinner, about to go the fantastic Artosphere Symphony. I became a mess. Crying. Introduced him to the waiter. " This is my son. He works in Conway. I didn't know he was coming ".

  7. 7. Empty Nest: Life Beyond Parenting - Now What?

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    Right now, in homes across the country, college acceptance letters are sitting on kitchen tables. Your own children may be deciding where to go to college. Excitement is high, but the reality is also bittersweet. Why? You know that there will be an empty chair at the table.

  8. 8. Shopping for College & Getting Ready For Move In Day - Carpool Goddess

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    Congratulations, your child is going to college! Now you must face the task of shopping for the dorm room. It is a special time for parents and their college bound kids and a wonderful opportunity for more bonding as they're headed out the door.

  9. 9. Health crises and the college student - After the Kids Leave

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    Dear Wendy, Well, Rachel's departure for college didn't go exactly as planned. We'd intended to set out on Sunday around noon, take a leisurely drive down Highway 401 (hahaha...

  10. 10. Advice For Parents Facing An Empty Nest

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    When stay-at-home mom Sharon Greenthal's youngest child left for college nearly four years ago, she decided to grab life by the horns and reinvent herself. She talks about the opportunities for parents once their kids fly the coop.

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Have a great weekend, and catch you tomorrow for our weekly video roundup,


Karen and Wendy

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