Friday, October 6, 2017

First Ladies' Séance in a Box

Several First Ladies have dabbled in the supernatural, perhaps none more than Florence Harding. In fact, one of the coolest objects I've seen at a presidential site was Florence's séance chair: high-backed and elaborately carved with celestial symbolism. That chair is in Marion, Ohio, but Florence's forays into the supernatural extended to Washington, D.C., as well.

Florence first met a woman named Madame Marcia Champney in 1920 while Warren Harding was seeking the Republican nomination. Madame Marcia was a well known fortuneteller in D.C., and in fact served as Edith Wilson's go-to astrologer. Madame Marcia was able to see that Warren had many affairs (but who wasn't, amirite?), and predicted that if he became president, he would die a sudden death before the end of his term. Despite this ominous forecast, Florence vowed that if Warren won, she would make Madame Marcia the official White House astrologer. As we know, Warren did win, and Florence continued to consult frequently, even obsessively, with Madame Marcia throughout his (brief) presidency.

Many other First Ladies held séances, referred to horoscopes, or believed in other supernatural phenomena. For example, Julia Tyler claimed to have ESP. Jane Pierce and Mary Todd Lincoln held séances to try to communicate with their dead children. Nancy Reagan famously consulted with astrologers in the White House. Hillary Clinton seemed to have taken the "First Lady Occult Club" to another level when she was rumored to have communicated with a long-dead Eleanor Roosevelt. (Upon clarification, it turned out that she just imagined what it would be like to talk to Eleanor, like asking WWERD?...which is something we should all be doing.)

Hillary and Eleanor might not have communicated with each other, but there was another supposed instance of First Ladies picking up vibes from one another: One night Edith Wilson went to bed with an ominous feeling. She awoke to newsboys spreading word of President Harding's death. Ooooo! Coincidence, or something supernatural? honor of all of our spooky First Ladies and just in time for Halloween, I present a DIY Séance in a Box. Depending on what materials you use, it's actually really fast and easy to make. (Or it can be really complicated and take more than a week. It's up to you.)

Here's what you'll need:

  • Empty mint tin (I used a Trader Joe's Gingermint tin)
  • Printed ouija board
  • Glue
  • Velvet or velvety paper
  • Tiny printable tarot cards
  • Glass marble
  • Tiny picture frame
  • Resin (optional) and resin molds (also optional)
  • Other tiny spooky things

My project was inspired by these instructions. That kit uses a very cool Ouija mint tin, but I didn't have one. What I did have was a lovely tin that had previously contained Trader Joe's Gingermints, so I decided to make that work. You could use any mint tin, really, but it probably helps if it's one with a flat top, rather than one with embossed writing or details.

I searched for some Ouija board images and needed to go through a few before I found one with the right proportions for my tin. I just resized them in a document until I had one that worked, then printed it out on cardstock, trimmed it with scissors, and rounded the corners with a 1" corner punch. (But you can use scissors, too. Or leave them pointy. Whatever.)

I glued the board onto the lid with Tacky Glue, and then brushed on a coat of resin. Now, I realize not everyone has resin lying around. I love how it gave my board a hard, shiny finish, but obviously you can skip this step. I would recommend at least using some kind of top coat or varnish to seal it and give it a little more heft, but that's up to you. (If you want to give resin a try, though, it's really very easy and fun. I use Little Windows resin, but you can find other brands on Amazon or at your local craft store, too.)

The resin did make my board a bit translucent, so if you look carefully you can see some of the writing from the gingermint tin, but I think that gives it extra character. Next time I might add a basecoat or add an extra piece of paper or cardstock underneath, but I might not.

For the planchette, I used resin (colored with a bit of glow-in-the-dark paint) in a mold I got from Etsy. If you don't have resin, you could try forming a planchette out of polymer clay, or you could use a guitar pick like in that other tutorial I linked to. Or maybe carve one out of bone like they did in the old days. (I jest!)

Instead of using real velvet to line my tin, I found some velvet-ish paper in the scrapbooking section of my craft store. It's very thin and more sturdy than fabric, so it was really easy to cut. Then I glued that into the tin with more tacky glue.

There are tons of printable tarot cards online, but I used ones from this site because it doesn't require a ton of paper (just one piece!) and because you can print a back to them! I printed that out on cardstock and spent about five minutes cutting out the tiny cards.

I tried making a crystal ball by gluing a marble to an overturned teacup charm, but I couldn't get anything to adhere to the marble, even after sanding it. So instead I have a "standalone" crystal ball, although I found that it fits nicely inside the planchette hole, so there's that.

I also added a little skull charm for some extra creepiness (I cut off the charm-nubbin with wire cutters and filed the little bits down).

And of course, I needed a picture frame (another charm) to help commemorate the dead. (Yes, that's a tiny photo of Florence Harding. I also printed out Edgar Allan Poe and a raven, because of course.) The photos are just printed on regular paper and then sealed with some packing tape. They slide in and out of the top of the charm, so it's easy to change them depending on what you're going for.

I had planned on adding a candle, too, but decided against it when I realized my interest in fire safety outweighs my interest in necromancy. A birthday candle would fit just fine, but be careful when burning it.

You can add anything else you want: Throw in some tiny runes, a few little crystals, a miniature pendulum, whatever floats your ghost ship.

And there you have it: A portable supernatural kit for all your conjuring needs! (This would also be useful if you have an American Girl doll who starts to show an interest in the occult.)

If you make one of these, let me know how it goes. And tell Florence I say hello.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sean Spicer Fan Fiction: Chapter 3

(If you haven't read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, make sure to do that first!)

Among the Bushes

Things are About to Get Spicey

Chapter 3

Caroline flipped through the dresses in her closet, searching in vain for just the right one. She didn't understand why she was so nervous. She was used to dating powerful, successful men: stockbrokers, hedge fund managers, CEOs of multinational oil corporations…the kind of people found throughout the current administration. So why was she intimidated by this Press Secretary-turned-gardener? 

Caroline paused and closed her eyes, remembering how dreamy Sean Spicer had looked in his suit and safari hat. She imagined him standing behind the podium in the White House briefing room, ignoring the questions being thrown at him as he pointed right at her, his beady eyes sparkling. She’d stand up and walk to the podium, where he would sweep her into his arms and give her a passionate kiss in front of the whole White House press corps, stopping only when Jim Acosta started yelling that there were no cameras.

She shook herself out of her reverie when she realized she needed to meet Sean at the restaurant in an hour. (Caroline always insisted on driving separately for first dates in case things didn't work out. One could never be too careful with former White House employees, as she had learned during a disastrous date with Rahm Emanuel.)

After settling on a simple but stylish black dress and rushing to get ready, Caroline arrived at the steakhouse right on time and waited for Sean outside. A few minutes later he pulled up in a Hyundai Elantra and tossed his keys to the valet. Caroline was excited to see him but was surprised to see what he was driving. Sean must have sensed her disappointment. 

“I had an Escalade, but Seb Gorka asked to borrow it and never gave it back,” he explained. 

“Why didn't you demand it back?” 

“Are you kidding?” he asked, holding the restaurant door open. “That guy is terrifying! Plus I kind of got out of there in a hurry. Some things had to be sacrificed.”

Once they were seated and had ordered a bottle of wine, Caroline took a good long look at Sean Spicer. His surprisingly well tailored blue suit enhanced his muscular and/or chubby arms, and she was pleased to see his American flag pin was right-side up, but she realized she didn't know much about him, despite what she'd seen on TV. She decided it was time to get to know him better.

“So, Sean,” she began, “Tell me more about yourself. What was it like being the White House Press Secretary?”

“Oh, you know…It was a real privilege,” he said flatly. “Phenomenal.” 

“Did you like it?” she asked. “You always seemed…kind of angry.”

“No, I wasn't angry,” he said. “It's just that I hate the media so much.”

“Don't you think maybe a Press Secretary shouldn't have such disdain for the press?”

He looked at her with a puzzled expression. Thankfully just then the waiter arrived to take their orders.

As usual, Caroline ordered lobster. She always did that as a test to see how her date would react. If he balked, he wasn't worth it. Sean smiled at her, then ordered steak—medium-rare. She was glad to see he wasn't like the president in that regard. 

“Would you like a baked potato or sweet potato?” the waiter asked. 

Sean started breathing quickly and closed his eyes tight. He was quiet for a few awkward moments before snapping, “A baked potato! A regular baked potato! Period!”

The waiter exchanged a nervous glance with Caroline.

“What was that about?” she asked as the waiter scurried away.

“I'm sorry, I don't want to get into it,” Sean answered. 

Why was he so angry about a potato? Caroline started to wonder if this whole thing had been a big mistake. They sat uncomfortably for a minute while Caroline tried to devise an escape plan. Instead, she decided to give Sean another chance. She couldn’t give up on him that easily.

“Um…so why gardening?” she asked, breaking the silence.

Sean visibly relaxed, the crease between his eyes almost disappearing. 

“It's something I've wanted to do for a long time,” he explained. “I’d been in politics for so long, and a couple years ago I had this epiphany that made me realize I really wanted to reconnect with nature.”

“What was the epiphany?” Caroline asked.

“Well, let's just say it was an experience that allowed me to tap into my inner animal.”

Caroline raised her eyebrows and smiled. “Your inner animal, huh? What was it?”

Sean glanced around the room. “Don't laugh.” 

“I won't, I promise,” she said, taking a sip of wine. 

Sean looked around the room again. “It was when I dressed up as the Easter Bunny.”

Caroline shot wine out of her mouth. 

“I'm so sorry,” she said, blotting wine from the tablecloth and desperately trying to stifle her laughter. Sean’s face turned red, and Caroline wasn't sure if it was from anger or embarrassment.

“I'm really sorry,” Caroline sputtered. “Please, tell me more.”

Sean hesitated but continued, “I mean, really, it made me start thinking about how nice it would be to have a less stressful life, away from the 24/7 news cycle and talking points and all that. But then I had the opportunity to work for the president, and even though he's clearly a deranged lunatic, it wasn't an opportunity I could pass up.”

“I suppose not,” Caroline agreed. 

“But it was awful. Every day I'd go to work and I'd have to find creative ways to spin the news. Believe it or not, sometimes I'd even have to—” he stopped and looked around again to make sure no one was listening, then leaned over the table and whispered, “lie. Tell alternative facts!” He looked at Caroline wide-eyed. She pretended to seem surprised.

“Eventually it got to be too much,” Sean said. “People think Scaramucci was the final straw, but I was done long before that. I just wanted to put it all behind me, find a job where I could work in the sun and feel the warm earth on my hands.”

Sean’s beaming smile was so endearing that Caroline decided to ignore the earlier potato incident. 

They wound up having an enjoyable dinner. Sean regaled Caroline with secrets about the White House, like the true meaning of “covfefe” and how Sandra Huckabee Sanders has a penchant for knitting with human hair.

Caroline found herself giggling like a schoolgirl. She realized that Sean Spicer was very funny, and not nearly as dumb as she'd thought. Before long, she was gazing into his eyes, admiring the flock of crows feet that formed around them when he smiled. Sean had just started to reach across the table to take her hand when the waiter dropped off the dessert menu. 

“Ooo! Pumpkin cheesecake!” Caroline exclaimed. 

“No. Please don't get that.” Sean looked concerned.

“Why not? Are you allergic?”

“No, just…please. Please don't get the pumpkin cheesecake.”

“I don't understand.” Caroline shook her head. 

“Stop shaking your head!” Sean demanded, brow furrowed. “Just please order anything other than the cheesecake.”

“I don't get it. You didn't mind the lobster but suddenly cheesecake is a problem?”

“Just not the cheesecake!” Sean repeated.

“This is unbelievable,” Caroline hissed. “I don't care how hot you are, or what a great spokesman or talented topiarist you are, no man will tell me what I can or can't order for dessert!” 

Caroline stood up and slammed her napkin onto the table. “Thank you for dinner, Sean, but this date is over.”

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of Among the Bushes!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Presidentress' Summer Highlights

Although most of my summer was filled with non-presidential stuff like taking the kids to swimming lessons, taking the kids mini-golfing, trying not to get killed by mosquitos, and writing Sean Spicer Fan Fiction, I did manage some presidential fun, too. With summer "officially" over, I wanted to take a few minutes to write a "What I Did This Summer" eassay...Presidentress-style.

In no particular order, here are the presidential highlights from my summer:

The Presidential Fight Club Tournament (PFCT)

A few months ago, Howard from Plodding Through the Presidents invited me to join a Facebook group for American history fanatics. There's the typical link-sharing and conversation, but the owner of the group also runs a daily quiz of some sort. Over the summer, he decided to mix things up and instead of a quiz each day, he presented the Presidential Fight Club Tournament, a series of polls to determine which president would dominate in hand-to-hand combat.

He created four regional brackets and matched up two presidents per day, which we then voted on. Winners advanced tournament-style. Unlike the famous "Presidential Knife-Fight-to-the Death," this contest allowed no weapons, and it assumed that the presidents were in the physical (and mental) condition they were in around age 35. (Side note: I just learned there's a Presidential Knife-Fight Game. This is very important information.)

Anyway, the Presidential Fight Club Tournament wound up being a highlight of my summer...which might say a lot about me and my summer. Some of the matchups were painfully dull, like James Buchanan vs. Woodrow Wilson. Some were painfully difficult to decide, like Teddy Roosevelt vs. Abraham Lincoln. My choices didn't always win (I would have bet on Taft going much farther than he did, although he did beat Obama in the first round), but it was thrilling nonetheless.

The final match came down to George Washington vs. TR, with Teddy ultimately taking home the prize. One of those final matches against Washington also produced this remarkable conversation between two of the group members:

Meeting Hottest Heads of State

As soon as the kids were done with school, we took off on a Disney World vacation. Toward the end of that trip, after an unbelievably sweaty day at the Magic Kingdom, we were having dinner at 'Ohana at the Polynesian Resort when I saw that JD and Kate of Hottest Heads of State had posted on Facebook that they, too, were at the Polynesian Resort.

Frantic Facebook messaging and texting ensued, and before I knew it, Kate was standing at our table asking if I was Jennie. (My mermaid mouse ears served an important role in my cosplay as Ariel, and also as a way to identify me in a huge crowd.)

Kate couldn't stay long because JD and their kids were waiting for their table at another restaurant, but I was super excited that serendipity put us in the same place at the same time, like when Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey wound up having dinner in the same New York restaurant (except that Kate and I like each other).

The Truman Trip

Speaking of Truman... If you missed my recent post about our trip to Independence to see the Truman Home and Library, you can read that here.

Patriotic Jello

You can also read about my highly successful patriotic jello experiment (which could easily be altered for different holidays!). It's much easier to make than you'd think, so get on it.

So, that's my presidential summer in a nutshell. Stay tuned throughout the fall for more presidential insights, and maybe a giveaway! And also definitely more Sean Spicer fanfic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sean Spicer Fan Fiction: Chapter 2

(If you missed Chapter 1, be sure to read it first.)

Among the Bushes

Things are About to Get Spicey

Chapter 2

Caroline’s mouth dropped open. This revelation about her gardener's identity did explain why he was wearing an ill fitting suit, but she had so many more questions. 

She had never been a fan of the president, but his spokesman was another story. Ever since the early days of the administration, Caroline had felt a certain affinity for Sean Spicer. In fact, she had found him inexplicably attractive, even though she normally didn't go for the angry, doughy type. And now he was standing here in her yard! Caroline decided to take advantage of the situation.

“You look really hot,” Caroline heard herself saying. Then she quickly added, “You're sweaty. I mean—it looks like you could use some shade.”

What was happening to her? She was not the type to get flustered around men. Who knew Sean Spicer could have that affect on someone? Caroline took a deep breath to help regain her composure. 

“Would you like to come inside to cool off for a few minutes? I have LaCroix,” she offered. 

“That would be phenomenal,” Sean said, wiping away some sweat and possibly another tear. 

Caroline led Sean into her house, unsure she was doing the right thing. Even if he was a former White House Communications Director, he was still a common gardener at the moment and she wasn't comfortable having the hired help inside her house. But then she glanced over her shoulder and saw his endearingly confused expression and her knees went wobbly. “Pull yourself together, Caroline!” she silently chided herself. 

“The bar is this way,” Caroline said, walking through the kitchen, into the hallway, then up a few steps to the open bar area above the living room.

“You have a beautiful house,” Sean said, looking around.

“I do okay for myself,” Caroline said coyly. 

“What do you do for a living?” he asked. 

“What flavor LaCroix would you like? Or I have other things, if you'd like something…harder.” Caroline raised her eyebrows. 

“No, LaCroix is good! No drinking on the job! Do you have lime?” he asked. 

“Of course,” Caroline sighed. She turned to her mini fridge, took out a can of lime LaCroix, and handed it to Sean, letting her hand linger a bit longer than she should have. 

“I like your fridge” he said, prying the can from her hand. Caroline made a mental note to keep an eye on her appliances. 

Sean opened the can and took a sip, then looked out the large picture window on the other side of the room. 

“That was my first attempt at an elephant” he said, nodding toward the window.

“Really? You'd never done that before? That’s amazing!” Caroline said. “My only concern is that the bushes are so much smaller now.”

“No, they're bigger,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“The bushes are bigger than they were before.”

“How can they be bigger when you've just trimmed them to make an elephant?”

“Trust me, they just are,” he said. “Period. They only look smaller because of the covering I put down to protect the grass.” 

Caroline narrowed her eyes. She felt like she had heard this argument before. She was about to press him on it, but then he loosened his tie a bit and she got weak-kneed again. 

“So, tell me, Sean,” she said, leaning onto the bar next to him, “Do you like working with...bushes?”

“Well, it’s better than working with Clintons!” Sean Spicer started laughing uncontrollably. 

Caroline signed again and rolled her eyes. How could someone so cute be so dense? 

Just when she thought he would never take a hint, Sean calmed down, took another sip of LaCroix and asked, “Would you want to go to dinner sometime?”

Caroline blinked. Was Sean Spicer really asking her out on a date?

“I'd love to,” she said, “but I thought you're not allowed to have dinner with any women other than your wife.”

“No, that's Mike Pence,” he said. “People sometimes get us confused because we have the same neck and glare.”

“Oh, right.” Caroline did have trouble keeping track of the angry white men in the current administration. “But won't your wife be upset anyway?”

“I'm not married,” he said, swigging some more LaCroix.

“But I thought—”

“Just a story I made up and put in my official White House bio when Kellyanne Conway got too handsy.”

Caroline winced. 

“Exactly,” Sean said, noticing the horrified expression on her face. “Look, I need to go. I have to get the lawn equipment back by 5:00. But are we on for dinner? Tonight?”

Read Chapter 3 now!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Trip with Truman

Earlier this summer I read (and wrote about) Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure. That got me in the mood to go to the Truman Library and Museum, but I didn't think I'd be able to talk the family into it. But then Mr. Presidentressor expressed interest in going to see the eclipse, and I noticed that Independence, Missouri, was in the path of totality, and suddenly a weekend getaway was born.

If you want to see all things Harry Truman in Independence, it's important to know that his home (available for tour) is a separate entity from his presidential museum, so plan accordingly. We arrived at the Visitor Center for the home (a few blocks from the house itself) in the morning, which was a good plan because tour spots and times are limited and were going quickly. We snagged spots for the 2:30 tour, which gave us plenty of time to go to the museum beforehand.

The Visitor Center is small but it has a film and a few small exhibits (mostly about baseball). That's also where my kids got their Junior Ranger booklets. My 5-year-old is obsessive about filling out any kind of booklet/scavenger hunt/etc. he receives at museums, so that kept him busy for a good chunk of the day. My 8-year-old found the booklet for kids under 9 to be too basic, so she asked to upgrade to the book for 9-12-year-olds, which is also the one my 13-year-old did. (I saw an adult doing it, too, so I guess anyone can become a Junior Ranger. I wish I'd known that years ago.)

Once my kids filled out what they could at the Visitor Center, we drove over to the Harry Truman Library and Museum. There, the kids got scavenger hunt cards, and I realized--despite what I said in my previous Truman post--that I had never been to the Truman Museum before. Oops.

Mr. Presidentressor and I both thought the museum was great, and even the kids seemed to enjoy it. The first floor is primarily about Truman's presidency, and I felt they did a good job presenting balanced information about tough topics like the Korean War and the dropping of the atomic bombs. I especially liked the exhibit on atomic-related popular culture.

The first floor wraps around in chronological order, and when you get to the end, you're able to walk out to the courtyard where Harry, Bess, daughter Margaret, and son-in-law Clifton are buried.
After we paid our respects and were walking away, my 5-year-old shouted, "Farewell, old people!"

After hurrying the children back inside, we explored the lower level of the museum, which was less "Harry the Politician" and more "Harry the Human." There were exhibits about his pre- and post-presidency life, and many of the exhibits were interactive. My kids' favorite activity was making Harry Truman campaign buttons.

They could also write a letter to Truman. This is what my 5-year-old wrote before giving the letter a kiss and sticking it in the mail slot:

I ❤️ you. I miss you in your grave

Should I be worried?

The whole time, my 8-year-old was keeping an eye out for a paper crane folded by Sadako Sasaki, the Japanese girl who was stricken with leukemia after the bombing of Hiroshima. My daughter read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes a few months ago and is obsessed with it, and the only way I could entice her to go to the Truman Museum without complaining was by telling her they had a crane there. After searching in vain, we asked a kindly security guard, who told us exactly where to find it: Right next to the front doors. We went back upstairs, and there it was. We were both surprised by how tiny it was, but my daughter was very pleased to have found it.

The gift shop has a nice selection of Truman memorabilia and the requisite American flag-type stuff. I was tempted to get a plush "Pete," the squirrel who used to take walks with Harry, but instead I got this string-doll-keychain because it seemed weirder.

After the museum the kids were hangry, so we headed back toward the quaint old downtown area and wound up eating at a hotdog place called Up Dog. (Excellent tater tots!) When we were done eating, we drove over to the Truman home for our tour.

The ranger leading the tour was knowledgable and helped make it interesting for the kids. Due to structural concerns, only the first floor of the house is available to tour, so it doesn't take very long. However, the house is preserved just the way the Trumans left it, so what it lacks in accessibility, it makes up for in character. I absolutely loved the midcentury mint-green-and-red kitchen.

Courtesy: National Park Service

Later at the Visitor Center the ranger asked my daughter what she liked best about the house, and she said, "The wallpaper." In the photo above the walls look pink, but the wallpaper is a fabulously gaudy/busy red print, and it's on the ceiling as well as the walls. I want some.

Courtesy: National Park Service

High-five, Harry!
When we were done with the house, we checked out the very small museum/tour-holding-pen in a house across the street (protip: it has bathrooms!), then headed back to the little downtown area for ice cream at Clinton's Soda Fountain, in the building where Harry Truman had his first job in a drugstore. We had sundaes and the kids finished up their Junior Ranger booklets, which we then took back to the Visitor Center so they could get their badges.

The rest of our weekend consisted of non-Harry-Truman-related stuff, like visiting the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, and heading to Columbia, Missouri, to see the total eclipse. The museum and the eclipse were phenomenal. I recommend both.

For a while there it looked like we might not see the eclipse due to weather and traffic concerns, but we decided that even without it, the trip would have been a success and a good way to end the summer. In the end, it all worked out. I guess you could say it wound up being an excellent adventure.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Sean Spicer Fan Fiction: Chapter 1

Inspired by the Vladimir Putin and Justin Trudeau fan fiction over at Hottest Heads of State, I decided it was time to give the world what it really needs: Sean Spicer fanfic. I thought it might be a bit outside the scope of the Presidentress blog, but then I figured that Sean Spicer fits squarely in the category of presidential history, so why not? 

Since I'm dealing with the Trump administration here, I should probably include some sort of disclaimer, but a lawsuit would also drive a lot of traffic to the site, so I'll just remind everyone that this is fan fiction. (Also, I use the term "fan" loosely.) Check back for new chapters!

Among the Bushes

Things are About to Get Spicey

Chapter 1

Caroline sighed and took another sip of her pineapple LaCroix. A bead of condensation ran down the can and fell onto her bare thigh, causing her to shiver despite the sweltering heat. She set the can down and adjusted her wide-brimmed hat to block the sun from hitting her copy of The New York Times. 

She had just turned the page to continue reading the latest story about the president’s Russian collusion when the sound of the gardener’s hedge trimmers made her lose her concentration. Caroline sighed again. These new gardeners always seemed to arrive at the worst time, when she was trying to sunbathe and relax by the pool—or sunbathe and read by the pool, as it were, since there was nothing relaxing about Russian collusion. 

Caroline missed Raphael, her old gardener. He would always come when Caroline was at work or out shopping, and he never interrupted her solitude. Unfortunately Raphael had been detained in an ICE raid in April and had since been deported. Caroline had gone through a few other gardeners before finally settling on the company she had hired a few weeks ago: Garden Alternatives, Inc. The company was okay. The guy they sent seemed to be meticulous and always did a nice job, but Caroline felt like she was never alone anymore. 

She did her best to continue reading despite the whirring of the hedge trimmers, but something felt off. She took another sip of her LaCroix, which this time dripped onto the middle of a paragraph, obscuring the name of a Russian oligarch. Caroline folded the newspaper and threw it down in frustration. She glanced over at the gardener just in time to see him turn away from her. 

She picked up her phone and tried to catch up on her Facebook feed but the glare from the sun made it impossible. 

The hedge trimmers hummed to a halt, but the silence suddenly seemed too great. Caroline got an uneasy feeling again. Without turning her head, she slowly moved her gaze back to the gardener. Sure enough, two beady eyes were peering out at her from between the bushes. 

So that was it, she thought. The gardener had been creeping on her. Caroline made a mental note to call Garden Alternatives, Inc. first thing in the morning to request a different worker. She had no interest in serving as eye candy for a laborer, even if he was masterfully trimming her shrubs into the shape of an elephant. 

Caroline swung her legs over to the side of the lounge chair and sat up. She grabbed her wrinkled paper and her sweaty can and stood to go inside, away from the stalking gardener.

“Wait! Ma'am!” the gardener called. 

Ma'am? Caroline inwardly huffed. She was too young to be called ma'am. She turned to him anyway. 

“Yes?” she asked, peering over the top of her red sunglasses. The gardener strode over to her. 

“I just wanted to see if you'd like any other animal topiaries,” the man said, gesturing toward the elephant. 

A large fabric safari hat obscured most of the man’s face, but something about him—his meaty neck, his chinny jaw, his furrowed brow—felt strangely familiar. Caroline didn't understand why, but she suddenly felt calmer and more at ease. 

“Oh, the topiary,” she said, unexpectedly flustered. “Yes, I meant to thank you for it. It’s lovely.”

The gardener smiled, but not an ordinary smile. It looked like the smile of a man who hadn't been complimented in months. Caroline thought she saw him wipe away a tear.

“Are you okay?” she asked. 

The man gave a little chuckle. “Yes, I'm sorry,” he said. “It's just nice to have someone appreciate what I do. Things didn't go too well at my last job, so I'm trying something new.”

Caroline wondered what his last job had been. Pool boy? Butler? Ice cream truck driver? She shuddered to think what could have gone wrong.

“What was your old job?” she asked. 

“I was the White House Press Secretary,” the man said, almost as an apology.

Caroline was speechless. Surely this gardener was pulling her leg...her long, tanned leg.  But wait. That neck, those chins, those beady eyes… Could it be? 

“No!” Caroline gasped. 

“It's true,” he said. Slowly the man reached up to remove his hat and all doubt. Caroline’s new gardener was Sean Spicer.

Read Chapter 2 now!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Presidential Anagrams: Mind Can Quash Joy

I don't want to sound like a big nerd or anything, but I love anagrams: words or phrases that are made by rearranging other words/phrases. Since I also love presidents, it seemed natural to create anagrams of all the presidents' names, and I'm going to share them with you now.

There are some rules and guidelines to anagramming. Each letter in the original word or phrase (or name, in this case) needs to be used exactly once in the resulting anagram. Punctuation can be added as needed. There are anagram programs that let you type something in and then compute anagrams for you. That's great and all, but it's also no fun. I did these with pen and paper, although I did use a program to double-check my results. 

I feel that anagrams need to make some kind of sense. They can be silly, but they have to sound like a somewhat reasonable phrase or sentence---they can't just be random jumbles of words. The resulting phrases don't necessarily need to have anything in common with the subject, but the very best ones will. Several of these presidential anagrams do describe their namesakes, but I think my favorites are James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding...and not just because they're kind of dirty.

For the purposes of the presidential anagrams, I chose to include/not include commonly used middle names/initials (or longer/shorter forms of first names) depending on what worked best. Some names, especially those that include a disproportionate amount of vowels or consonants, can be really tough (I'm looking at you, John Kennedy and Barack Obama), but I made it work. John Tyler was nearly impossible.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but they're the best I came up with for each president. Without further ado:

George Washington
Throwing a Nose Egg
John Adams
Oh, Sand Jam!
Thomas Jefferson
Fresh Foam on Jets
Moth Jar Offenses
Mothers: Jeans Off!
Major Hen Offsets
James Madison
Join Mad Seams
James Monroe
No Ammo Jeers
Mojo Nears Me
John Quincy Adams
Mind Can Quash Joy
Andrew Jackson
Scan Down a Jerk
Nerd Owns a Jack
Martin Van Buren
Invert Urban Man
Vain Number Rant
Rent Nirvana Bum
William Henry Harrison
Hire Slimy Iron Narwhal
John Tyler
Her N.Y. Jolt
James Polk
Joke Lamps
Zachary Taylor
A Crazy Holy Rat
Try a Lazy Roach
Millard Fillmore
Mild Moral Filler
LOL Mermaid Frill
Franklin Pierce
Rank-File Prince
Can Fire Per Kiln
James Buchanan
A Man’s Jean Chub
Abraham Lincoln
Born Llama Chain
Banal Calm Rhino
Andrew Johnson
Horn Down Jeans
Jar Shown No End
Ulysses S. Grant
Stern Ugly Sass
Stern Guy’s Lass
Rutherford Hayes
Here For Thursday
James Garfield
Smear Jedi Flag
Chester Arthur
Truth Searcher
Grover Cleveland
Revolver Clanged
Benjamin Harrison
Major Brains in Hen
William McKinley
Wily Camel in Milk
Theodore Roosevelt
Lose Over Teeth Odor
Other Elves’ Toe Odor
Love the Rooster Ode
The Overdose Looter
Do the Elves Root Ore?
William Taft

William Howard Taft
Will T.: I am Fat

Wow, I Hit Fat Mallard
Thwart a Mild Ol’ Waif
Woodrow Wilson
Wow, I Drown Solo
Worn Solo Widow
Wow, Indoor Owls!
Warren G. Harding
Erring Hard Wang
Calvin Coolidge
Loving Iced Cola
Herbert Hoover
Berth Over Hero
Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt
No Evil Snorkel Fart

Flavor Lets One Drink
Stoner Killed For Van
Harry S. Truman
Yarn Hurts Ram
Starry Ham Run
Hurry Man’s Art
Dwight Eisenhower
Dig the Wiener Show
Hero Widens Weight
He Is Downright Wee
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Tend Zinfandel, Jerky Hog
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Oh, Enjoy Non-Bland Sins
Richard Nixon
Our Hind Rhinos Climax
Gerald Ford
Frog Ladder
James Carter
Rams a Reject
Ronald Reagan
A Renal Dragon
George Bush
Oh, Gee! Grubs!
William Clinton
Lilt a Mini Clown
I Am Wilt Lincoln
George W. Bush
Where Bugs Go
Barack Obama
Am A Kabob Car
Donald Trump
Damn Turd Pol
Old Rant Dump

Because anagrams have to include exactly the same letters as the original name, there are some near-misses I couldn't include in the chart but that I'll list here because they're too good not to:

Thomas Jefferson almost becomes "Major Offenses"
William Henry Harrison almost becomes "Him: An Ill War Hero"
William Clinton almost becomes "Illicit Woman"

If this inspires you to create some presidential anagrams of your own (or if, by some chance, you already had) please share any good ones!