June 30, 2015 by Karin Fuller


I’ve written about my dad many times over the years, along with other fathers who play a part of my life, so it only seemed fair to open the mic and allow some friends to share stories about their dads in honor of Father’s day. I put a little post online asking for stories, and quickly learned much about my friend’s dads. Like, for instance, how some are capable of achieving the impossible.

From Leigh Shell of Charleston: “My sweet Daddy, ‘Diamond Dallas,’ took my mother and his grandchildren to the beach. He was playing in the ocean, chest-deep with the kids. When they decided to come in, he (and my horrified mom) discovered he had no keys to get in the room or drive the car. They’d been lost in the surf.

“Diamond Dallas announced he was going back in to find them, amidst eye-rolls and sighs from everyone. He quickly calculated his approximate whereabouts in the water and then waded out and came up with his keys in his toes.”

I also learned that Dads are good at making holidays even more fun.

Sarah Blizzard Robinson of Morgantown shared how her Dad would go over to a neighboring farm on Christmas Eve night in order to get a shovel full of manure, which he would then leave on their lawn while the rest of the family was sleeping.

“The next morning,” said Sarah, “we would awaken to evidence that Rudolph and his band of reindeer had stopped at our house long enough to poop in our yard.”

On Halloween, Sarah said her mom would carve the Jack-o-lantern and then her dad would add his contribution—by removing his own false teeth and putting them in the pumpkin’s mouth.

Sharon Summers McClanahan of Poca also had a creative dad.  She wrote: “Before Dad retired, he worked every Thanksgiving. One year Mom made his lunch with Thanksgiving leftovers. Dad made it to the break room before the other men, took out his pumpkin pie and smeared some on his boots. The other men proceeded to come in for lunch. One saw the gunk on Dad’s boot and asked if he knew he had dog poop on his boots. Dad reached down and wiped it off with his finger and said, ‘Looks like it.’ He sniffed it. ‘Smells like it.’ And then he tasted it. ‘Yep. It even tastes like it.’

“The other men all threw their lunches away.”

I learned father’s skill sets can include an ability to feign comatose well enough to terrify the innocent.

Mike Passerotti of Ohio told about his dad being a strong man and a hard worker who installed tile the old way. And he said his dad was also capable of falling deeply asleep very quickly anytime, anywhere. And that was how he often spent his lunch hour.

“Dad had been doing an especially difficult remodeling job when lunch hour came and he just laid down where he was and fell deeply asleep,” wrote Mike. “Except the homeowner decided to run by during lunch to check on the progress and found him stretched out on the floor, not moving.”

She screamed. Luckily, the scream was loud enough to wake the dead.

“Dad rested sitting up after that,” Mike said.

I also learned dads can trick us into learning life skills.

My coworker Lara Lawson of Milton said her dad taught her to be fearless—in a sneaky sort of way.

“He tricked me into thinking that worms were snakes and snakes were worms,” Lara said.  “When worms would be covering the driveway after it rained, Dad would holler ‘Snakes!’ So I would pick my way across quickly. Then, when he would find a snake, we would play with it.”

Rather than be snake-phobic like most of us, Lara has never had a problem playing with snakes. But thanks to her dad, she can’t bait a hook.

It was from my own dad that I’ve learned the most. He’s the one who first taught me how to tell stories with his Three Little Pups. He introduced me to walks in the woods and Indian food and practical jokes. The perils of pulling a finger.

So many lessons on life.

And no matter how old I am, I love that I’m still his little girl.


June 7, 2015 by Karin Fuller

Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro? Can you tie them in a knot? Can you tie them in a bow?

I love how a silly line or two can still send me back…

They call it the good ol’ Mountain Dew, and them that refuse it are few. I’ll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug with that good ol’ Mountain Dew.

Traveling through time to those muggy summer evenings, sitting on the gritty hardwood floor of our beloved Carbide Camp Castle in the belly of Blue Creek. Counselors at the front, seated on wobbly chairs, some armed with acoustic guitars…

Fried ham. Fried ham. Cheese and boloney. And after the macaroni, we’ll have pickles and onions, and then we’ll have some more fried ham … fried ham, fried ham. Second verse, same as the first!

We smelled of chlorine and sunshine and campfires. Our feet were blistered from walking in wet sneakers and our limbs splotched with bug bites and our hiney’s were hurting from riding old horses.

John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt. His name is my name too …

Those old summer camp songs aren’t stirring in my head just because it’s that time of year, but because I learned the final remnant of this area’s much loved Carbide Camps may soon be no more. If it’s possible to add nails to a coffin that’s already long underground, that’s what’s about to happen.

lodgeAlthough this area’s beloved Carbide Camps ceased to operate back in 1982, the Hunting and Fishing Lodge on Blue Creek was still available for camping and fishing, as well as for the annual reunions of former campers. But that will come to an end in mid-August, when the nonprofit board that has been renting the property loses its rights to the land. The campground, shooting range, fishing ponds, and lodge will be no more.

Many former campers are grieving the idea that losing the property will mean that this last building, the Hunting and Fishing Lodge, may be torn down, and with it would go our time transport device. The smell of that lodge—a combination of creosote and logs, as well as the distinct sound its screen doors make when they clap shut—was all that was needed to transport former campers back through time to their days at camp, as that building was a duplicate to our “Castle.”

5182_539649426645_1322261_nit takes is one whiff of that air and I’m racing back down the dirt footpath to the little building where we made crafts, just to the left of the rifle range, where we’d lie on our bellies and shoot old .22s at paper targets. It seems impossible that so many years have passed since we were poking sticks into a crackling fire while counselors told scary stories. And it seems impossible for it to be gone. For bulldozers to have flattened such a magical place.

There’s an opportunity for former campers to gather at the Hunting and Fishing Lodge one last time as the annual reunion is scheduled for July 17-19, 2015. The planning committee needs a head-count, as well as mail or email addresses for those interested in attending. To add your name to the list, send a note to Bob Lilly at bob@carbidecamps.net. Information can also be found on the Carbide Camps website (carbidecamps.net) or the group’s Facebook page (facebook.com/groups/18665277601/).

An extensive collection of camp songs is available online (for free!) thanks to the efforts of Ellen Richardson Pritchard. (carbidecamps.net/Camelot-CarlisleSongbookFiles/Camelot-CarlisleSongbook2002.PDF)

A friend and I are working on collecting camp photographs and other memorabilia into a book, and a filmmaker friend hopes to create a documentary about Carbide Camps so we’re looking for any film, videos, or other items related to the camps, along with stories and suggestions. I can be reached via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


June 1, 2015 by Karin Fuller

matildaThere have been rerouted flights that wound up taking longer than if I’d made the same trip by burro and road trips so waylaid by wrecks and construction it would’ve been faster to get there by snail. There were car-sick spaghetti aficionados and vindictive GPS units and one trip that was slowed by frequent feedings of an orphaned baby raccoon.

There was a fire in a turnpike tunnel and a prankster’s detour to nowhere and a reservation at Myrtle not knowing we’d booked in the middle of bike week in a hotel that was hosting almost nothing but bikers.

And most every time a trip involved the state of Ohio, it also involved some sort of traffic citation.

But it’s funny how, when I look back on vacations, it seems something always happened on the way there or back that often seems to be the most unforgettable part.

Growing up, our parents drove one of those white station wagons with the fake wood paneled sides. We named her Matilda. I’m not sure if Matilda didn’t have air conditioning or if Dad merely preferred the economy of driving with the windows rolled down, but since we often traveled with two large dogs—one a long-haired German shepherd, the other a shepherd-collie mix—by the time we’d reach our destination, we’d be covered in hair.

Sometimes, I think Dad rolled down the windows to discourage talking, as it’s hardly advisable to attempt conversation in a fur-filled windy car.

I was still in my early teens when our family headed off on one of our longest road trips, traveling from West Virginia to the Ozarks for a Tauscher family reunion. On the way there, Dad told us he’d heard the funniest joke ever at work. He said it was about two polar bears, and he warned that it was a little off color. We begged him to tell it. When he did, the joke just went on and on. When it finally ended, there seemed to be no punch line, but Dad was laughing like mad anyway.

The longer Mom, my brother and I sat there quietly trying to figure out what it was that we’d missed, the harder Dad laughed.

Eventually, we realized there had never been a punch line at all. Dad had just been having a bit of fun at our expense. We soon forgot all about it.

Until we got to the reunion.

On the first evening there, several of us were sitting around talking when one of my cousins told a joke, then another. My brother and I started begging Dad to tell his polar bear joke.

Dad waved us off for a bit, but then couldn’t resist. Except this time, when he finally reached the non-punch line, my brother, Mom and I were laughing just as hysterically as Dad.  While the others just sat there, scratching their heads.

We eventually let them in on the joke.

The next day, after even more relatives rolled in, the joke-telling began anew, except this time, an even larger group of insiders was begging Dad to tell his polar bear joke. And before long, even more of us were laughing so hard we had tears rolling down our cheeks.

All these years later, when we’re at family gatherings, Dad still gets requests for his polar bear joke.

These days, our trips are far quieter, with kids occupied by handheld games or watching movies on laptops, with earbuds plugged in. It’s likely less stressful, but also less fun.

It’s said that vacations are a lot like love—anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.

I’d give most anything for another road trip in Matilda. Dog hair, bad jokes and all.


May 26, 2015 by Karin Fuller

monster_in_the_closet_zazzlebandana-r81eb9e6828fa4f7db7d95df58614973c_z21f3_324There’s a reason I have no skeletons in my closet. There isn’t any room.

I tried to remedy that situation this past weekend. Didier was out of town and Celeste was at a friend’s house and it was just me, a new box of Hefty’s, the closet, and a goal—to purge the shelves of all I hadn’t worn at least once in the past 12 months.

Turns out the only clothes I hadn’t worn were Didier’s.

His side of the closet has this whole military precision thing going on with matching wooden hangers and clothes arranged according to type, then sub-arranged by color. And it all actually fits him. And is of this decade.

Would that it could be so simple for women. We’re bound by the many fickle dictates of fashion. Clothes appropriate for the office, but not for church. For a Fall wedding, but not one held in the Spring. There’s Business Attire and Business Casual Attire and Business Casual Friday Attire, all of which are different from genuinely casual, around-the-house wear.

There are shoes we’re supposed to match with our purses and lipstick we’re supposed to match with our nails. There are textures we shouldn’t pair with other textures and patterns we can wear with other patterns and hue pairings so verboten that wearing them together apparently puts the wearer at risk of bursting into flames. And one color is practically illegal to wear certain months of the year.

There are also clothes women aren’t supposed to wear because of their age, although the news that skinny jeans aren’t considered appropriate for women over 40 actually caused me to celebrate being over 40.

Working women in today’s world are expected to know such things and stock their closets accordingly. But doing so requires a good deal of space.

Adding to this is the need most women have for keeping on hand a variety of garments with forgiving waistbands and flowy bottoms for bloaty days and post-holidays, along with a supply of our goal attire—those pretty, form-fitting dresses purchased to inspire continued adherence to diet and exercise programs.

Complicating my own closet cleaning were a number of items that have emotions attached, like the dress I was wearing the night I met Didier, or the 1920s evening gowns given to me by a childhood neighbor, or one of Dad’s old dress shirts, now worn paper thin. These, I boxed and move to the attic. At long last—progress!

I thought about how, when I was a kid, a messy closet was my strategy for protecting against closet monsters. I calculated they’d have little room to hide with my overstuffed shelves or would get so entangled in my floor scatter I could hear them coming and escape. Now, the only monster in our home (beyond the hormonal teen) is a long-haired black cat that recognizes the powers of invisibility that dark closets grant him. I’ve grown accustomed to his lurking, under-rack ankle grabs and no longer feared the sight of a cracked open closet door in the night.

Instead, I feared more what was visible in the light.

So I refreshed my resolve and steeled my spine and ended up filling up several bags.

Which I then carried to the attic. Just in case I changed my mind.



May 26, 2015 by Karin Fuller

graduation nightI remember so little about my own high school graduation. It seems as though it happened a lifetime ago.

So often, people refer to their high school years as being the best in their life. My time at Nitro High wasn’t especially great, but neither was it traumatic. I moved quietly among my classmates. Unremarkable. Shy. To most I was just Kurt’s sister or Valerie’s friend or the girl who lived across from the Harmans.

I participated in most everything. Clubs and plays and student council. I worked the concession stands and built floats and attended most every football and basketball game. Yet I called no attention to myself. Preferred it that way.

Still, I can’t deny that I’ve always had this niggling motivation to achieve some level of success, perhaps to prove to those long-ago classmates that the quiet girl might’ve been worth making some effort to know.

My own daughter, who just graduated, is so different from me. Although she is also quiet, she isn’t that shy. She shunned student council and ball games and most anything school-related beyond tie-dye Tuesday or silly sock day.

She knew most everyone and most everyone knew her. Whatever opinion they might’ve held about her seemed not to bother her for even a millisecond. And I doubt that will change.

And now she’s at the finish line, and I find myself a bit envious of the blank slate that’s in front of her. College or trade school or the military. Working or Americorps or traveling from one relative’s couch to the next. So many possibilities.

So many it’s likely overwhelming.

Yet what I wouldn’t give to be where she is now, except armed with the lessons, knowledge and wisdom the years have provided.

I hope she learns far sooner than I did how much better and easier and sweeter life will be if she eliminates negative people from her life.

I hope she finds a place that suits her. That she doesn’t try to live somewhere she doesn’t love.

I want her to understand it’s okay to change her mind, even if it puts her back a few steps. That it’s still better than spending years doing something or being somewhere that makes her miserable.

I want her to learn a skill or nourish a talent or find a job that she can take pride in doing.

I hope she refuses to be with anyone who makes her feel as though she needs to dumb herself down.

And I want her to realize it’s often the small decisions we make without much thought that end up having a major effect on our lives.. The friends or contacts we make on that goofy part-time job that lead to other opportunities and perspectives.

I hope she recognizes the importance of developing strong people skills. While being a hard worker is important, it seems those who are likable and sociable end up going further.

Beginnings are scary and hard and confusing. She’s going to make mistakes and bad decisions and probably, like most of us, going to have some regrets.

But she’s about to start her adventure. And I hope she has fun while she goes off and finds her place in this world.


May 13, 2015 by Karin Fuller

in the beginningWhen I started writing these columns, my daughter Celeste was just four months old. For the past 17 years, I’ve written about her first Christmas, first words, first steps. The first time she locked me in a closet.

Her first time at camp. First time on stage.

Her first time behind the wheel of a car.

I’ve learned that as parents, we spend so much time recognizing and celebrating our little one’s firsts and preparing for their nexts that for a long time, we’re nicely distracted from noticing all of their lasts. Like the last time they sneaked into our bed at night or the last time they wanted us to stay with them until they dozed off.

The last time they wanted us to read to them.

The last time they held our hand in public. Or in private.

The last time our titles were “Mommy” or “Daddy” before they morphed into the more adult-sounding “Mom” or “Dad.”

With Celeste’s high school graduation less than two weeks away, the lasts have become hard to ignore. They’ve started gathering at the sidelines, increasing in number, and then rushing me all at once.

So I have to keep reminding myself there will be some lasts I won’t mind.

The last time I’ll have to turn skinny leg jeans right-side out before tossing them in the wash.

The last time I’ll have to scrub solidified milk from a forgotten cereal bowl or scoop a nest of long, black hair from the drain.

The last time my makeup will go missing. Or my favorite flannel shirt. Or my car.

The last time I’ll have to fight her out of the bed in the morning for school.

Although I am going to miss watching her down a bowl of cereal while still completely and deeply asleep.

And I’m so going to miss celebrating snow days with her. And shopping for school clothes. And that first day of school.

I’m going to miss school projects and goofy assignments and her impassioned descriptions of classmates.

And I’m especially going to miss the days she wants to ride with me in the morning instead of taking her car.

I’ll miss her being a kid.

In a few months, she’s going to be leaving me. Maybe short term. Maybe not.

I’ve been fighting this panic of wanting to hold onto every moment with her, and this Mother’s Day has hit me especially hard since it could very well be my last with her under my roof.

I’ve heard one of the ironies of parenting is that if you’ve done your job right, your kids will leave you.

But, dagnabbit. I don’t want her to go.

jan 2015 frame


May 3, 2015 by Karin Fuller

The problem with watching scary movies is that some of us tend to carry those things around long after the movie is through.

Case in point. Said movie fan is a patient in a hospital’s emergency room, shivering with cold under a papery wisp of a sheet when a kindly nurse stops by and asks if there’s anything she needs. Through chattering teeth, the patient manages a weak, “A blanket would be lovely.” Then she resumes the fetal position to maximize warmth until the nurse returns.

But the nurse never returns.

A while later, shortly before two icy toes break off and roll under the bed, a different nurse happens by.

“Can I get you anything?” she asks.

“A b-b-b-blanket,” says the patient.

The nurse says she’ll be right back with a warm one.

But that nurse never returns.

The patient is snuggling with a pair of penguins when a third nurse pokes her head through the curtain and asks, “Is there anything you need?”

“I’ll give you twenty bucks for a blanket,” says the patient.

“Don’t be silly,” says the nurse. “There’s no charge for blankets. I’ll be right back with one fresh from the warmer.”

Yet she, like the others, disappears.

It isn’t until this point that the patient–her normally lightning-fast thinking slowed by hours in subzero temperatures–recognizes the terrifying reality of what’s happening. In her selfish quest for warmth, she’s become the Blanket Warmer Killer’s unwitting accomplice. Sending one innocent nurse after another to their bloody demise.

badnurse-202x300Yet before she can sound an alarm, she must deal with a new terror–The Unrelenting Phlebotomists!

Our patient’s crafty veins dodge and roll evasively, but The Phlebotomists regroup. They stab. They poke. They chisel. But ice water runs through her veins!

Since she never got those darn blankets.

“If you get me a warm blanket,” she says to the needle wielder. “I’ll get my blood to cooperate.”

The Phlebotomist extends her hand, as if to shake on the deal, but when patient extends hers, it’s grabbed, turned and pierced. Her vein is blindsided!

 A kindly new nurse (or perhaps the Blanket Warmer Killer himself) takes pity on our newly drained patient and brings her a thick stack of hot blankets. A bit later, he returns and wheels the patient upstairs to a pretty, warm room on the fourth floor with a working television and a private bathroom and a fun bed that goes up and down with the press of a button.

So lulled is our patient with these amenities that she freely offers her veins. They do not waste the opportunity, draining her often throughout the night.

They tell her they must do many tests, apparently even testing her patience by awakening her every 45 minutes or so. The torture agents regularly shove a stick under her tongue and allow a constrictor to strangle her arm time and again. They put square stickies all over her chest, attach them to wires, and then yank the stickies back off her again. They even make her run on a treadmill!

And then they tell her it wasn’t a heart attack, but rather a problem with her rhythm. She tells them she’s known all her life that she didn’t have rhythm. That they could’ve discerned the same diagnosis far faster merely by watching her dance.

Just when she thinks her travails have concluded, she learns they have one final torture—that of being released.

“You can go home,” they say and then pause, cleverly waiting until they can tell by the patient’s expression that she actually believes she’ll be home in time for dinner before they add, “as soon as all the doctors sign off.”

Thus bringing our horror-film loving patient full circle. With a different sort of stress test.

Where the sequel begins.


April 27, 2015 by Karin Fuller

HEART ARTMy last column was eerily predictive.

I wrote about riding the exercise bike at the gym. Mentioned it was recently nearly the death of me after my new work out strategy misfired. My strategy was to ride at a normal pace while watching a TV show on the bike’s built-in monitor, then go really fast through the commercials.

I nearly did myself in after accidentally changing the channel.

To an hour-long informercial.

On Monday, I wasn’t even doing my race-through-commercials thing when I started to feel a scary sensation in my chest and back.

But it wasn’t the elephant I’ve heard people describe. It wasn’t even a baby elephant.

It was just . . . odd.  Wrong. More uncomfortable than painful. With it were random flashes of lightheadedness, and those I rather enjoyed. Dizzy is something of a natural state for me (or is that ditzy?), and this just wasn’t that bad. A toy elephant and that whee! feeling you get when you hit a rise in the road just right in a car with bad shocks.

So I dealt with it the way I so often deal with unpleasantness. By attempting to ignore it.

The next morning, I was still feeling decidedly off, but went to work anyway. The pain seemed more in my back than my chest, so I chalked it up to having pulled something at the gym.

Until it clicked that I’d only done leg exercises on Monday. Nothing that might’ve affected my back.

So I decided to consult with Dr. Google. I searched for heart attack symptoms in women, since I’d heard they were different from the symptoms for men.

Most everyone knows about the chest and left arm pains being the most common symptoms, but for women, the pain is frequently in the back, arms, neck or jaw, and can feel more like a squeezing or fullness.

And instead of the elephant sitting on the woman’s chest, it sometimes prefers to settle on her stomach, causing symptoms that can be mistaken for heartburn, a stomach ulcer, or a viral-type bug. Nausea. Sometimes even vomiting.

If a woman doesn’t normally sweat, but finds herself become unreasonably sweaty considering the amount of activity being expended—that’s another of the possible signs.

Fatigue is symptom of heart attack in women, especially if they’re feeling excessively tired when they haven’t really done anything that strenuous.

And then there’s shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. Restlessness. Insomnia. Anxiety.

It’s so easy to chalk it up to simply being out of sorts, which seemed the best way to describe how I felt. But when the dizziness and back pain refused to subside, I walked over to the nurse’s station a few buildings away from where I work. She took my blood pressure. It was high. It’s never been high.

We waited a bit, and then she took it again. Still high. The back pain wasn’t waning, and I was pretty excessively dizzy.

The nurse gave me a nitroglycerin pill. In almost no time at all, the back pain subsided, which she said meant it was likely my heart. My fiancé came and got me (since I’m too cheap to spring for an ambulance) and took me to the hospital, where I was admitted. It’s where I’m writing this now.

A stress test and echo cardio gram are scheduled for in the morning. If it turns out to be something, I’ll deal. If it’s not, I’ll celebrate.

It would’ve been easy to ignore how I felt, to try and push through, but I wouldn’t want my mom to ignore these symptoms, or my daughter.

Or any woman who thinks not having an elephant means she must be ok.


April 19, 2015 by Karin Fuller

I was peddling into my fifth mile on the exercise bike at the gym when I realized the world needs to create a new system of measurement.

This realization occurred while watching a TV program about weather, which I was able to do since the recumbent bike I was riding has a built-in television, as do the gym’s elliptical machines and treadmills. These televisions are fantastic for people like me who need to be distracted from the fact they’re exercising. Kinda like how pediatricians distract little kids with toys when they’re being given a shot.

The display screens on gym equipment are multi-functional, so in addition to watching Judge Judy, users can adjust the amount of resistance, monitor their heart rate, and track the approximate number of calories being burned.

Which are shockingly few.

exercise bikeThus the need for some new system of measurement. One that’s along the same line of thinking as wind chill factors and heat indexes. By how many calories it feels like we’re burning.

Granted the monitor should still display the actual calorie numbers as well, but how encouraging would it be for us former couch potatoes to have our efforts recognized with a second set of numbers? Maybe even have those numbers in a bigger, more fierce-looking font.

In a country where kids are forever getting participation trophies and ribbons for simply being part of a team, isn’t this a natural progression?

Yeah, it’s actually 20 degrees outside, but the wind chill has it feeling like 0.

Temps are in the 90s, but that heat index has it feeling like 110.

You’ve only walked 3 miles and burned 110 calories, but it feels like that Twinkie has been paid back in full!

In the past, my most common method for burning calories involved not hearing the oven’s timer go off. But for the last year or so, I’ve been hitting the gym three or four times a week.

I’ve noticed my best workouts seem to happen when someone sits at one of the bikes right beside me. They might not realize it, but we’re racing.  If they’re riding at 4, I’m at 5. If they up it 8, I do 9. If they push it to 12, I order a pizza to pick up on the way home.

Mostly, though, I’ll have the bike area all to myself. It’s especially good if I arrive a few minutes after the hour, since I usually end up getting so involved in whatever HGTV show I’m watching that I keep riding until that show ends. Will they Love It or List It? Is it a Flip or a Flop? I’ve even come up with a strategy that makes the station’s many commercial breaks work to my advantage. To maximize my workout, I’ll pedal as fast as I can during the commercial breaks and then slow down again once the show comes back on.

Although this was nearly the death of me once.

When I accidentally switched the channel to an hour-long infomercial.

And burned enough calories that I picked up a pizza on the way home.


April 14, 2015 by Karin Fuller

qtI was busy squinting at labels in the lotion section of Rite Aid when bits of a conversation between two ladies further down in the aisle drifted my way.

“The way I do it is I hit the bottle every day, first thing in the morning and then again at night,” said the one. “Then I walk around naked for a while. At least half an hour.”

“Sounds more like margaritas than ‘tan in a can,’” said the other.

The first to speak handed the second a gold and black bottle. There was some grumbling over the cost of the home tanning spray, and then second one said, “Promise I won’t end up looking like I rolled in Cheetos.”

I’d been there. Done that. Several times.

I remember the first self-tanner I ever tried—a bottle of QT back in the late 1970s. Not only did it smell horrible, but it left me looking weirdly streaked, with my arms and legs as orange as an Oompa Loompa’s. Yet most every spring, when a new tanner arrived on the market, I’d gamely try it again.

And turn weirdly orange every time.

Not long ago, a friend was telling me about her daughter’s spray tan experience.

The daughter, who is in her mid-20s and was a fairly new mother at the time, was one of eight bridesmaids in her cousin’s large and rather elaborate wedding. So thorough were the preparations that the family had even arranged for the bridal party to start out the big day at a spa–a perk likely intended to ensure a certain level of consistency among the girls. Same color fingernails and toenails, same upswept hair-do, same color of tan.

Since my friend’s daughter is a redhead with porcelain skin, she was especially excited about the tan, as she (like me) generally only collects freckles if out in the sun.

The morning of the wedding, she and the bride and the other girls hopped into a rented mini-bus and went to the spa, where they were shuffled in trios from one alternating station to the next. My friend tagged along to care for her granddaughter, who was still being breastfed and had trouble with bottles so couldn’t go far from her mom.

The spray tans turned out fantastic, and when the last of them were finished, they all headed out to the bus to be transported to the hair salon. The girls were wearing the special robes they’d been given so their clothes wouldn’t get stained.

They were about halfway across the parking lot when the skies opened up.

“It wasn’t just a few raindrops,” said my friend, “It was more like they were getting hosed down at full blast.”

The girls raced back inside the salon, where they dried off and some were partially re-sprayed. They tried to wait out the rain, but there simply wasn’t time. The bus was brought close and they squished together under the only umbrellas they could find, but the rain was blowing sideways and most everyone still got a little wet. Even the baby was unhappily damp, but the baby’s newly tanned momma calmed her the way that nursing moms do.

“When she handed the baby back to me,” my friend said, “It looked like someone had colored a big, brownish-orange circle all the way around the baby’s mouth.”

The bride and her maids didn’t fare much better. The rain left them all splotched.

“It sort of gave them a cheetah effect,” said my friend.

Rather than fall apart, like most brides likely would have, this one found it hilarious. She decided to just roll with it. She said, “That’s what Photoshop’s for.”

So while you might always hear that cheetahs never win, I think this one actually did.