It was a nice trip, see you next fall

The only thing worse than having toilet paper stuck to your shoe in public is falling down in public.

I once finished speaking to an audience of several hundred women and started to walk away from the podium to a satisfying round of applause, forgetting that I was standing on a small box. I took a step into mid air, dipped, tumbled and grabbed the corner of the podium with one hand.

The robust applause immediately turned to a collective horrified gasp.

Despite what felt like a dislocated shoulder, I pulled myself up, laughed and shouted, “Down, but not out!”

I was laughing alone.

Even for me, it was an ending with a little too much drama.

Grace runs in the family.

When our youngest was interviewing for her first teaching job, she had finished her demonstration lesson, answered questions from a panel of teachers, and was dismissed. The panel sat quietly as she retrieved her belongings from the floor at the front of the room. She caught the heel of her shoe in the strap to her purse and fell flat on her backside in a skirt suit.

The room fell silent. “I’m OK!” she said. Not that anybody asked. She said the worst part was that nobody laughed.

Last week was a big week for falling. Madonna was performing “Like a Prayer,” in a Dallas concert, knelt down to shake hands with some fans and lost her balance. Her leg shot into the air, she fell on her back and somehow turned it into a dance move. The video clip looks like a demo for Fire Safety Week: stop, drop and roll.

Carrie Ann Inaba, one of the judges on “Dancing with the Stars,” was effusively complimenting a good-looking male contestant while waving her arms around and got so excited she fell right out of her chair.

Then there was the video circling the Internet of a Tennessee reporter holding up a 12-pound fish, commenting on its size, when the fish unexpectedly came back to life. The reporter screamed, threw down the fish and jumped up on a seat in the boat. She lost her balance and fell backward onto the man standing behind her. They both toppled, with the reporter in a short dress displaying all her goods. It may be a superfluous detail, but the reporter was blonde.

Humiliating? Sure. But at least the camera crew and the guys in the boat were laughing.

Falling in public is the only time you don’t care that people aren’t laughing with you and hope they will laugh at you. There’s something about laughter that diminishes the embarrassment — and the dislocated shoulder, the hurting, the bruising and the gaping wounds. Even if you are facing surgery due to your dislocated elbow with the help of shoulder surgeons laughing can help you to get through it. A friend of mine found this helpful when she had to go through shoulder replacement (using somewhere like, she found that laughing helped her through the tough times.

I believe in being prepared for the unexpected. If I take a tumble in public again, I’m going to jump up, thrust my arms in the air like a gymnast at the close of a floor routine and yell out my score. I’ll rate myself low. Maybe that will get a laugh.

Heads of state are part trick, part treat

Every year we grumble about how there are more Halloween costumes for adults than kids and that adults have taken over the holiday. And then I wonder if we’re adding fuel to the fire.

We have an interesting collection of masks. They are extremely life-like face masks with two tiny holes for your eyes — masks of the presidents. We have presidents 39 through 44 with the exception of 41. What’s that, you say? You don’t have any?

I am married to the only man in America who has found a way to weave history with Halloween.

The first year we were married the husband bought a Halloween mask of then President Jimmy Carter. His exact words were, “We’ll never get a chance to get one of these again.” It was like he was looking at the last Veg-O-Matic to ever air on late-night television. He said it as though this mask was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I could only hope.

Carter eventually took up residence in a cabinet where we kept bandages, Tylenol, prescription meds and the humidifier. Carter became like our family care physician, we only saw him when one of us didn’t feel well.

After Carter, much to the husband’s amazing, unbelievable good fortune, he found a Ronald Reagan mask. He subsequently missed out on Bush 41, but did acquire a Clinton mask, a Bush 43 mask and an Obama mask.

If you’ve ever seen these presidential masks, you have probably wondered who buys them. Now you know. We do.

The husband wears the presidential masks when handing out Halloween candy to the kids, but it is often the parents who have more of a response. Once in awhile a kid may recognize the face on a mask and comment that the president looks shorter in person or ask why he’s not in Washington. More often, a parent is likely to scream at the child, “Don’t take candy from a Democrat!” Or Republican. It depends on who is in office and which mask the husband is wearing.

We have enough presidential masks to host our own summit, or at least phone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and tell him one of the Presidents will see him. Of course, it would take time to round up one of them.

For years Reagan was in the kids’ dress-up box along with an old Cub Scout uniform, a fireman’s hat, assorted hats and heels and my mother’s old wedding gown.

We see President Obama on a regular basis, as he is in the hall closet on a shelf between mailing supplies and vacuum bags.

Bush 43 is in the linen closet. He’s behind a stack of towels. I know he’s there, but I always forget that I know he’s there. Consequently, every time the stack of towels dwindles, I yank out the last one, am startled and shriek, “Who put Bush in the linen closet?”

I worry that there are only so many times you can scream something like that before the Secret Service pays you a visit.

My birthday was last week. Care to guess what my gift was? Welcome to the line-up, Gov. Romney.

Do these scales make me look thin?

I stepped on the scale and saw the unexplained weight loss nearly every woman dreams of. I weighed 57 pounds. I knew that couldn’t possibly be right, so I stepped on it again.

Sure enough, 57 had been a bad read. The scale said I actually weighed 58.

Technically, I should be traveling in a car seat. That’s me, the one in the driver’s seat of an SUV strapped in a pink Cosco juvenile car seat with tilt recline and the side beverage cup holder.

The last time I weighed 58, I was probably in the fourth grade. I knew all my states and capitals then. I loved converting fractions, wrote a poem once a week, was a jump rope champion, had legible handwriting and enjoyed recess twice a day. My mother did my laundry and cooked all the meals and I could still overpower my younger brother. It was a good year, one I wouldn’t mind revisiting.

It was nice to weigh 58 again. It made me feel light, inside and out. My clothes fit better. My jeans felt loose. I felt healthier. More energetic. More vibrant. Maybe I’d swim a couple hundred meters. I’ve never been a swimmer, but why should that stop me?

Yes, it did occur to me that the digital scale was on the fritz, but I immediately put that thought out of my mind. Why let practicality ruin a wonderful start to a beautiful day?

We went out to lunch later and I had biscuits. I don’t eat biscuits. I don’t even like biscuits, but when you have unexpected weight loss, you feel entitled to eat biscuits.

Pass the butter.

I had ice cream, too. Not much, but a little. It’s been months since I had ice cream. It’s on my banned food list. But I was eating ice cream now.

As I poured a little chocolate syrup on the ice cream, I wondered if I should call the doctor so he could update my medical records. Maybe my cholesterol numbers had taken a dramatic dive, too.

This was the most excited I’d been about a failed household appliance in ages. I was disgruntled when one of the lights over the stove went out. I was downright surly when the hot water heater turned into Old Faithful. Don’t get me started about the combination digital clock/radio /iPod anchor with the alarm that goes off every day at noon and can’t be shut off. But the digital scale falls apart and I have a new a skip in my step.

Later that night the husband walked to the ‘fridge, opened the door and casually said, “I weighed 75 pounds this morning.”

“Really?” I asked. “I only weighed 58. You should go on a diet.”

We ordered pizza.

Life was good for a few days. We ate what we wanted, pretended we were both grossly underweight, and then it all came to a crashing halt.

We bought a new scale. We’re back to reality. The memory of biscuits lingers. In more ways than one.