Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Got Rid of My Old Car. Yippee!

I’ve heard the old saying, “The happiest day of your life is when you buy a boat, and the second happiest day is when you sell it.”

I could substitute the word, “car” for boat and say that I’m very happy today to have gotten rid of my old car and replaced it with a Prius. I don’t know if I’m so happy because I finally got a car that is comfortable AND gets great gas mileage, or if I’m so happy because I got rid of my old car.

I’m not going to say the brand name because these are considered very nice cars and I don’t want to defame it’s character, but this car had one stroke of bad luck after another. First, it had a couple of flimsy cup holders that broke right off the bat. I asked the dealer about it and he said, “Yeah, they do that if you aren’t real careful.”

It had design flaws that made it extremely irritating. The dashboard cup holder, when pulled out, covered up the controls for the heater. I don’t know what genius came up with this idea, because women always have a cup of something in the car, and they are always too hot or too cold so they need to see, and adjust, the temperature controls every few minutes.

Not only that, but the car was made in such a way that it steamed up in a 360 degree circle that meant you couldn’t see out any window. I carried enough towels in my car to supply a motel. When I asked the dealer, he said, “Yeah, the windows do fog up in these cars. Best thing to do is just carry a towel.” I had kids in the back seat pulling shifts to try and keep a small hole cleared in the rear window. I asked the dealer a couple of years later, and he said, “You can try using the air condition at the same time as the defrost. That’s helped some.”

Well, it did help, but ran my gas bill up. Speaking of which, my car was supposed to get 27mpg highway and 22mpg city. I was very lucky to get 22 period. This frustrated the heck out of me because at the time I bought the car, before hybrids, these were pretty decent mpg numbers, and I felt I was being ecological. I ran tanks of gas through and did the calculations over and over but still couldn’t come up to the lowest sticker mileage, even on the open road.

These were nuisances, but the car also had bad karma. My son had his learner’s permit, and when I picked him and his friend up from Taekwondo, I climbed in the passenger seat, he climbed in the driver’s seat, and the friend was climbing in the back seat when my son started backing out. I yelled, “STOP, STOP, STOP!” so his friend could get his other leg in and close the door, and my son pressed hard on the brake, except it wasn’t the brake, it was the gas. We did a big arc at warp speed and sideswiped a new Toyota Camry from the tail light all the way to the front bumper.

Another time I parked my car in a grocery store parking lot and a lady rammed right into the front before I even turned the engine off. Just recently someone, possibly one of my kids, banged into the front driver’s side so that my door opened with a long grinding screech like you’d hear in a scary movie.

Plus I had it in the shop because it wasn’t running great and asked the guys to check out an oil leak I found under the front of the engine. When I took it back home I found it was still leaking oil. I went back and said, “You charged me $950 to fix a leak, but I still have a leak.” They said, “Yeah, that other leak will cost you $2,000.” With my mouth gaping wide and hands on my hips I said, “Why didn’t you call to say there was another leak? Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten the first one fixed if I’d known.” The manager said, as if I was dense, “You told us to fix the leak on the front of the engine, and that’s what we did. You didn’t say anything about the back leak.”

There’s another old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true.” I guess wishing for precisely one oil leak repair was a pretty stupid thing on my part, but when I saw oil on my driveway, I thought, “Hmmm, I have an oil leak.” I didn’t think, “Hmmm, I have many oil leaks.” Silly me.

Finally, the reason I’m glad to be shed of this car is that every time I fill it up with gas the “Check Engine” light comes on. When I took it to the dealer, he said, “Yeah, these cars do that around 100,000 miles. You need a new catalytic converter – you won’t pass the smog test until you get it replaced for a couple thousand bucks.” I went online and found that this particular car has a gas cap that doesn’t seal completely unless it’s twisted just so; and when it isn’t, which is about 50% of the time, the light comes on. I had to get my license renewed so I gambled and put it through DEQ and guess what – it passed with flying colors. What’s a gas cap cost? Twenty bucks?

If you own one of these cars, you’ll know exactly what car I’m talking about – it was made in 2002 and the type of car rhymes with that year.

I have a good feeling about my Prius. It was getting 100 miles to a gallon while I was ambling down the street. I haven’t found anything to complain about, but when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm Coming Clean

I’ve got a confession to make. This has been bothering me for minutes upon minutes. The blog I just posted did not arrive on time. What I’m trying to say is that, after 105 days of posting blogs every single day – even when I was sick or tired or depressed and totally humorless - yesterday I spaced posting blog number 106 on the appointed day.

You see, we went out to eat last night and I consumed mind-altering beverages, which has not stopped me blogging before, but then there was an hour and a half phone call from my cousin Nancy who lives in Memphis when I got home. She has great stories to tell about her pets and prospective boyfriends who all have an assortment of physical or mental disabilities that make me laugh nearly to asphyxiation, and I was thoroughly entertained. I didn’t start dozing off until the last few minutes.

A faraway voice kept calling my name, louder and louder, and I startled awake and picked the phone back up, apologized, and spent the next fifteen minutes saying my goodbye’s, then got up and promptly grabbed a bag of Cheetos, which I’d been craving earlier but told myself, “No, you don’t need the extra calories.” However, after spending so long on the phone I felt I’d somehow burned exactly the same amount of calories that were in that bag of Cheetos so I was justified.

As I savored the Cheetos, I watched the end of National Lampoon’s Las Vegas vacation starring Chevy Chase and felt that it had been a great day all in all, especially since I’d stayed up the night before until 2:30 doing a midterm project for an online course I’m taking. I thought the topping on the whole day would be to watch a Seinfeld rerun in the comfort of my own bed. I climbed between the crisp, inviting sheets, turned on Seinfeld, and woke up this morning.

When I opened my eyes, I started running through the mental list of everything I needed to accomplish for the day, which is what I do every morning so I can linger in the warm bed a little longer. I thought about what subject I’d cover in my blog, then I thought about what I’d written yesterday, and I almost sat straight up in bed. GASP! I’d gone to sleep last night without writing in my blog!!!!!

What am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do? (This is my way of showing I was in a panic.) I take this blog very seriously. I take this one-year commitment to blog every day very seriously too, even though there are many days I’m in a foul temper and don’t WANT to try to be funny.

This morning I could not go back in time and un-space my blog, though that’s what I would have done in a heartbeat if I could, so I decided I’d try to sneak the missed day’s blog in and hope no one noticed. I arrived at my computer and saw that I had left the webpage up about being passive-aggressive from my research yesterday – a supreme stroke of good luck because it gave me my topic to write about. I whipped out that column and posted it post haste (translation: “in three shakes of a lamb’s tail”), then wondered what I’d write about for the official “today’s” column.

That’s when the guilt set in. Hadn’t Google just told me that passive-aggressive people don’t get things done and then make excuses? Hadn’t I just told everyone in the universe that I was going to try to improve – albeit without a journal?

So I’m confessing right now that I got derailed yesterday. There. I’ve said it. But I’m going to keep going on with my pledge to do a blog every day because I’m going to follow through, by golly, get back up on the horse right now, and besides I’ve got my public to consider (all 10 of you), and nobody’s perfect and, as Robert Muller says, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.” Or as Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much.” And as Thomas S. Szasz says, “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” I’m only asking that you, my loyal readers, be neither stupid nor wise, but just be naïve about my lapse. I appreciate it.

Now I’m going to post this, and I hope not to miss again, but, as you may know, 365 days is a long time, so please be patient and understanding if there comes a day in the future that I have another lapse. Remember my own quote that I just this minute made up, “It’s better to be naïve and nice than to be a b-word and wise.” Thank you. Thank you very much.

Being Aggressive About Being Aggressive

I just figured out that I’m passive-aggressive. The reason I discovered this is because I was describing one friend’s behavior to another friend who said, “She’s passive-aggressive!” We got in an argument about what that meant. I thought it meant a person who seems gung ho about something to your face and then later sabotages it. My friend disagreed and as the discussion heated up, told me she thought I was just plain aggressive.

Lil’ ol’ me? Aggressive? The very thought of it sent me racing to the all-knowing Google to prove her wrong. Instead, I found out that I have the personality traits of all mentally skewed behaviors. I am passive-aggressive, passive, and aggressive! Plus some other traits that boil down to almost being crazy except that these behaviors aren’t classified as mental illnesses. I wiped my brow and breathed a sign of relief on that one. The mental illness thing had me biting my nails - bad behavior I can deal with.

Or can I? There is a huge obstacle to my improving - summed up in the great axiom, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The word axiom is perfect here, or at least I thought it might be, but I couldn’t remember exactly what it meant so as not to appear stupid I again consulted Google, who said, ”An aximo is a tool for verifying knowledge in dynamic multi-agent scenarios. The underlying engine is based on the algebraic axiomatics of dynamic epistemic ...” Huh? Then I realized I’d typed in aximo rather than axiom.

Nonetheless, the paragraph above demonstrates that it’s not as easy as it looks to change a behavior. According to Google, you have to first identify the offending behavior, then start writing in journals whenever you do the offending behavior, and then write how you would have done it if you weren’t a person with the offending behavior, and then write down something else that I glossed over because I knew when I read the word, “journal” that I wasn’t gong to be able to do this.

Even though I love to “write” per se, like what I’m doing right now as we speak, I’m not into “recording” everything I do. This is one of the reasons I can’t lose weight in that easy way all websites tell you. They usually start out with, “The first step is to keep a food diary…” I know this is where I will break down in the process.

Lord knows I’ve tried. I designed all these wonderful charts to hang on the refrigerator when my kids were little. Chore charts, for example. If my daughter made her bed, she got a star. In theory, over time, if she got enough stars she earned a dollar or other age-appropriate bribe. I was gung-ho with this for about three days, and then there weren’t any more stars on the chart. Soon the corners of the chart started curling up and the paper yellowed. The few stars that were on it dropped to the floor and became attached to someone’s bare foot, ending up in the shower drain. I have a behavior disorder that disallows me from keeping records of any kind. Some people might call this laziness, but I prefer to use the scientific name, “lacka followthroughius.”

I’m a person who loves starts but is not so good with finishes. There isn’t anything in the world I can’t start: diets, classes, New Year’s Resolutions, home improvement projects, scrapbooks, photo albums, blogs, exercise routines – I think I can say without reservation and with a certain measure of pride that there probably is no better Starter than I am. But because of some mental incapacity wrought from childhood experiences in your atypical dysfunctional American family, I am not a person who is going to see something through to the end, especially if I can come up with a good enough excuse.

Now, lest some of you think I’m a ne’er do well, I have in recent years forced myself, kicking and screaming, to finish what I started. I got my college degree after a ten year lapse, and I have kept being a mother after all these years, even when I didn’t think I could face diapers and smart aleck teenage comments another day. I accomplished these and other successes by refusing to commit to anything that requires a journal.

So I promise to work on my very bad mental behavior, but I can’t promise to improve because of that stupid journal thing. Still, it’s a start, and that’s what Google says I need to do – identify the problem. Heck, according to Google, that puts me halfway along the road to success! That means already I’ve improved by 50%. With a success rate like that, who needs a journal?

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's Easier to Ignore than Fix It

I’m so happy there’s another thing I can cross off my “Big Scary Problem” list.

I read an article in the paper entitled, “Urban Sprawl? There’s plenty of room.” I now know that urban sprawl is not something I need to worry about. The author looked out his airplane window on a cross-country trip, saw a whole lot of nothing down there, and decided that urban sprawl isn’t a big deal.

He compares urban sprawl to the rain forests. He says even if we’re burning up thousands of acres of rain forest each day, there are billions left. He figures that could just a blip on the global devastation radar, especially when you consider the technology that future generations will develop.

In other words, it’s a big ol’ planet, and what we’re destroying right now is only a drop in the bucket. If it gets out of hand, the next generation will figure out how to fix it.

I like the guys who pat us on the shoulder and tell us things aren’t really as bad as they seem. All those scientists talking about global warming and the ozone layer and everything – it’s just plain scary! I worry about my children.

But now these other people are saying that global warming may not even exist, and if it does, it’s not that bad. Because the warmer climate might help us grow more crops.

I happened to be downtown when Al Gore came to Portland to talk, and there were angry crowds gathered all around with signs saying he was full of hot air. I wondered who the people were. They obviously think scientists are making this stuff up. I hope they’re right. Because the things scientists keep telling us about climate change seem to be coming true, which is disconcerting to say the least.

All in all, I don’t know who to believe. Recently I flew cross country myself, from Portland to Boston. What I saw out my airplane window was a lot of checkerboards. In fact, there wasn’t one piece of earth in that whole twenty-five hundred miles that wasn’t being utilized in some way - mile after mile of land broken into large rectangles. The only place I didn’t see them was in the mountain ranges.

At the time, it was a little depressing thinking that just over a hundred and fifty years ago there were forests and grasslands and elk, deer, bears, wolves, and buffalo – millions of buffalo – meandering freely. But, you know, there’s progress to consider, and besides, it takes a lot of checkerboards to feed everyone in the urban sprawls.

When I read another article in the newspaper that same day, about the horrible life children of meth users endure, I applied the first guy’s logic and felt a lot better. He would have said something like, “Even if there are wretched children living in meth houses, there are billions of children who haven’t been exposed to meth. Besides, factoring in social advances over the next few decades, that number is actually a minuscule blip on the proverbial global children’s suffering radar.”

So I’ll scratch “Meth Children” off my “Big Scary Problem” list, too. I’ve got enough to worry about as it is.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Here's to Dreams

My daughter was running a fever tonight, and it’s always been my tradition to let my kids lie on the sofa when they’re sick so I can sit with them and keep an eye on their condition. When they fall asleep, I sneak away and try to get some things done.

The TV was on and the movie “Field of Dreams” came on. I’ve seen that movie at least ten times, and read the book it’s based on, Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella. I didn’t know if I was up for it again, but my daughter was just on the verge of falling asleep with her feverish feet in my lap, so I didn’t want to disturb her by getting up. Plus there wasn’t anything else to watch.

I got sucked into the movie after the first few minutes. It’s about the reasons people’s lives get off track of their dreams, and the movie gives some baseball players a chance to live out their dreams long after they’ve died.

During commercials, my mind drifted to some of my dreams. When I was five I wanted to be a singer. I could make up songs in my head and sing them without missing a beat. They weren’t bad – all of them rhymed, and they all had an original melody. I never could remember them after I sang one, and never wrote them down, so they may have been really awful, but I don’t think so. My friend, Carole, and I used to take turns making up songs and singing them when we were about 8 or 9. I sang constantly, loved harmonizing, and dreamed of being on stage.

It didn’t pan out, though. I was shy. I wasn’t driven. I got a boyfriend. Lots of things stood in the way. And now I’m thankful, because I would have been just the kind of singer that breaks guitars on stage and trashes motel rooms and hangs out with other rock stars doing all the bad things you hear about them doing. I would have been miserable. Still, if I had to do it over again….

I also had a dream to be a veterinarian, but had to give that up when partying interfered with studying. I haven’t regretted the loss of that dream, because I can’t stand to see anything hurt. I pick up worms on the sidewalk after it rains to keep them from being squished. I would not have survived dissections.

I had other dreams like living in a log cabin in Alaska. What a joke! I had read a book about living off the fat of the land – shooting a moose and storing roots and berries – and it seemed like heaven. Don’t I sound like the typical hippie? I now realize that I would have rather starve than blast a moose. I’m not nearly the cold-hearted huntsman that Sarah Palin is. Imagine little me hacking up moose hind-quarters and livers and such to store for the winter. What was I thinking?

One by one my dreams woke up to reality. I did end up getting to Alaska on a cruise ship, and exploring in the woods around Sitka gave me a satisfying taste of what that dream could have been like. I did some recitals in college and enjoyed being on the stage. And I’ve had a kindred spirit with animals and nursed many back to health. So in a way I realized my dreams on a small scale.

So I say, if you build it, they will come. Whatever your dream is, I think you have to be crazy to make it a reality, just like in the movie. Here’s wishing that each of you reading this is just crazy enough to pull yours off.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catching Crabs in Chesapeake Bay

When I was in 9th grade, I was lucky enough to get invited to go with my girlfriend, Carole, to Baltimore to visit her family.

That was when people threw a mattress in the back of a station wagon so the kids could wallow around and be comfortable for a long trip. It was about an 8-hour road drive from Tennessee, and there were 9 of us in the car – Carole’s parents, their six kids and me. I could write about that alone, except I want to get to the good stuff.

When we got there, she and I went to Uncle Bill’s, and the rest of them went somewhere else. Uncle Bill and his wife, Aunt Edna, lived on the Chesapeake Bay. Literally – we walked out their back door and crossed over twenty yards of grass to the edge of the water, which was about two feet down from the bank. They had a small, partially covered dock with an aluminum boat hanging in the middle of it.

Uncle Bill took us out the next morning to catch crabs. He tied a chunk of fish to a string and tossed it into the water. Pretty soon a crab must have grabbed hold of the fish and took off with it, because the string started moving away from the dock. “We got one,” Uncle Bill said. Then he started pulling the string in slowly through the murky water, and soon you could see the crab coming into view. “If you pull gently, the crab will hold on almost up to the surface.” He told Carole to grab the long pole with a net at the end. “When you see the crab coming up to the top, swoop the net under him,” he said.

From the moment the hazy image of the crab came into view about a foot or two below the surface, Carole and I started screaming and jumping around like we’d seen a tarantula. The crab let go and fell out of sight.

“You girls try it this time, and don’t scare him off.” We fought over who was going to tie the disgusting bait on the string and who got to do the net. Finally we decided to take turns. I pulled the next crab in gently, and Carole swooped the net under him. We screamed again with him crawling around in the net, but Uncle Bill just laughed and told us to dump him in the boat behind us. Soon we were catching enough crabs by ourselves to keep us entertained for hours.

Over the course of a week, we were together 24/7, and were starting to get on each other’s nerves. Plus, it appeared that Uncle Bill favored me – I joked and teased with him because he reminded me of my grandfather – and I think he found me amusing. Whatever the reason, Carole and I ended up getting into an argument about who was going to do the net. Neither wanted to tie bait. “Well, it’s my uncle’s house so I should get to do the net,” she said. “Well, he likes me best, so I should get to do it.” I snapped back. These statements pissed us both off, and we started scuffling on the narrow dock. With the pushing and shoving, we lost our balance and fell arm in arm into the water.

We surfaced and screamed bloody murder, because these were brown, murky, crab-infested waters that stretched as far as the eye could see. Plus it shocked us – it was salt water, which I’d never experienced before. We scrambled back onto the dock and started laughing. Uncle Bill came out and told us it was completely safe to swim in there, and we could touch bottom. “Your screeching and thrashing scared off all the crabs in a hundred miles,” he assured us.

We jumped back in with our shorts and t-shirts, screaming and splashing around to make certain the crabs stayed away. When Uncle Bill went back in the house, we decided to be naughty and go skinny-dipping. You couldn’t see into the water at all, and it wasn’t like a beach where there were people around. This was literally in the backyard of many cottage-type houses, and no one else was ever around. So we flopped our clothes up on the dock and took turns doing daring stuff like touching a foot on the squishy bottom. We got braver after awhile and decided to touch a hand on the bottom, which meant we had to do a surface dive, which meant our bare bottoms were exposed to view for a few seconds.

I’d never skinny dipped before. It had never occurred to me to do it. So it was quite exhilarating. We touched the bottom with our hands over and over, going at the same time so we didn’t expose ourselves to each other. People couldn’t see us from their houses, or at least we couldn’t see them because of the bank. We felt we had our own private bay. Boats passed on occasion out in the distance, but far enough away they couldn’t see us. What a fun time we had – and we didn’t fight again after that. We were sisters in scandal.

Months later, when we were back home, I overhead my mom and dad get into a tiff because he had Playboy magazines. “I only get them for the articles,” he explained. Of course this aroused my curiosity, because I didn’t even know what a Playboy magazine was. I found a copy hidden under a pile of stuff in their bedroom and was shocked to see the foldout and other pictures. But what caught my eye the most was a letter to the editor with a grainy, zoomed in picture of two creamy white butt cheeks poking out of murky brown water. The caption read, “Great White Spotted in Chesapeake Bay!”

I just KNOW that was me!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Peter Pan Syndrome

Some people never grow up. I’m one of them, and I don’t figure I need act my age until I’ve got one foot in the grave – which won’t be until I’m deep in dementia and can’t remember this pledge anyway.

I look at older people who’ve slowed way down and wonder if they ever said these words to themselves. After all, as time has gone by I’ve reneged on a few other pledges I made – like never saying to my kids, “Because I told you so!” Oooo I used to hate that when my dad said it to me. We’d be in the middle of a meal and he’d shake out the last drop of Worchester sauce and turn to me without the least remorse and say, “Here’s a couple of bucks, run down to Kabool’s and get some more.” If I dared question, he’d say, “Because I said so. Now git!”

Kabool’s was a half a block away, and I could sprint down there faster than most people could say “Worchester” and be back by the time they got out the word “sauce,” but it was the principle of the thing. Why did I have to leave my steaming pile of mashed potatoes and collard greens which for some reason I liked and dash off in the middle of a meal?

So I vowed not to ever say it, and then just a couple of days ago those words came out when I blew up like firecrackers in a mailbox and started yelling at my kids.

Another thing I pledged I wouldn’t do was get overweight. My mom and grandmother liked to eat, and my grandmother used to sit with her elbows on the table and shovel in big bites of fried chicken and buttered white bread like she was storing up for hibernation. I have to say it was - well, let’s just say I kept my head down a lot at the table. So I promised myself I’d never lose my will-power and pack on the pounds, and I haven’t done so bad except for the last few years when my breasts went flat and I started carrying around a spare tire.

I’ve hung on to at least one of my pledges, though. I was a waitress after high school and made lots of money in tips, but I decided I’d never do it again. It was very hard work and I got fed up with some of the people. There were the requests for separate checks and impatient, cranky people, but the worst were the ones who couldn’t make up their minds, or seemed unable to until they’d asked me if everything on the menu was good.

I generally had a boss in earshot somewhere, and I wasn’t going to say something on the menu was bad and risk getting in trouble, not at that age, and yet, to a teenager, most of the stuff coming out of the kitchen didn’t necessarily appeal to me, especially when I saw how it was prepared. But I’d try to put a nice spin on things. “The pork chops look very tasty and I bet no one ever complains about them.” I would have lost that bet if anyone would have taken me up on it.

After we’d gone down twenty minutes worth of menu items, and other customers were tapping me on the shoulder wanting their check or choking in the background for lack of a water refill, the woman would say, “Oh, I’m going to go with my first choice. I’ll have the catfish.”

This is why I pledged never to waitress again. I didn’t want to be strangle someone’s mother.

This old lady pledge, though, I think I’m going to stick with it. Sure, you never know what’s going to happen, and I may not have a choice, just like I didn’t have a choice when I blew my top at my kids a couple of days ago when I asked them to pick up their dirty clothes and they said, “Why?” BECAUSE I SAID SO!

I’m not going to quit acting foolish and silly or chase my dog down the street or run out to get the mail in my pajamas. I’ve tried being grown up, and I have to say I don’t care for it much. I work hard, and I’m lugged down with responsibilities most of the time, and if I want to act like a kid and pretend the world hasn’t heaped it’s troubles on me, that’s what I’m going to do. And if people don’t like it, they can go jump in a pond. Why? Because I said so.

And you’d better not ask me again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's Just Easier to Do It Myself

A warning to new mothers. The words, “It’s just easier to do it myself,” will come back to give you a knockout punch when your kids are teenagers.

Yesterday I was in a bad way. On Thursday I’d pulled an all-nighter getting a book finished so it could get to press on time. I was a zombie all day Friday trying to sleep in the afternoon when birds insist on squawking, cars must va-room up and down the street, and daylight pokes it’s ugly head into every crack in the curtains. Then Friday night was dinner out and a long swim meet, and Saturday a three hour morning meeting, and then home to the pig stye that had been neglected because of the book. I was tired and cranky, and when I saw my kids’ breakfast dishes all over the counter right above the dishwasher, I had a meltdown.

I called my teenagers in the room and started calmly lecturing them about the reason they need to clean up after themselves, to which they both denied the dishes were theirs. Then I mentioned the clothes, shoe, backpacks, and candy wrappers scattered everywhere, and my daughter, who is quite astute, pointed to my shoes in the front hallway, my husband’s coat slung over the dining room chair beside his gym bag, and my tea mug on the counter. “Why do we have to pick our stuff up but your’s and dad’s are laying around all over the place?”

I calmly responded that I was going to pick up my own things, and the discussion was about them picking up theirs. My son observed that I just liked any excuse to give these lectures, and my daughter chimed in that she didn’t see why it mattered whether they had things in the floor since all their friends’ houses were messes and why was I such a freak about it?

This is when I lost my calm demeanor and started screaming that no one ever does an effing thing around this effing house except me and can’t they see how tired I am and they just lay around watching TV while I bust my effing buns to make a nice home and nobody cares enough to even put their effing dishes in the dishwasher?

They looked on aghast because the f-word only comes out about every six months or so when I’m really in a bad way. They cowered while I unleashed my fury until I gave out, then scattered like wildebeests chased by lions, running to pick up their stuff – anything to get out of the room.

And I was left alone in the kitchen thinking about what an idiot I’d been for not teaching them to pick up after themselves when they were littlle. I always went into their rooms and tidied up, picked up their toys, wiped up their messes and so forth because I just knew my mother in law was going to drop by unannounced. I also thought I was being a sweet mother, just like my own mother had been. She was a true homemaker. I went to school and came home to a made-up bed, clean bathroom, a dining room table where food appeared at dinnertime, and the dishes disappeared when I was done. I never offered to lend a hand, and she never asked me to.

This was my role model, and this is what I did with my kids for the most part. On occasion I’d read the books that said to require your kids to do age appropriate chores and make up a chore list on the refrigerator. I tried some of those things but they didn’t last long. It was too little too late. By the time they were seven and eight, they’d gotten used to having a personal servant. I’d try to bribe them with money but that didn’t work. I’d make them clean their rooms before they could have friends over, which worked, but they’d just hide things in the closet and do a slipshod bed making that drove me nuts. It was easier to just do it myself.

I hate to admit it but the books were right. If you don’t teach them when they learn to walk, they’ll run all over you when they get older.

On a happy note, I must announce that THIS IS MY 100TH BLOG POST!!! I’m almost a third of the way through my year of blogging every day!!! This calls for a celebration. I hope you will all raise a glass and toast this mammoth occasion. Champaign and applause all around! As Elvis says, “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Girls Night Out

I had a girls night out tonight. What that entails, for any men reading, is women getting together and talking about (a) our children, and (b) our bodies.

The children topic covers how funny our kids are (when they’re little) or how exasperating they are (when they’re teens). Tonight we were all the parents of teens. The amazing thing is that each of us moms knows some inside dirt about the other mom’s kids that we can’t tell. So we’re listening to one of the other moms bragging about her kid and we know that her little angle has recently been naked on Facebook.

This is the awful thing about singing the praises of your own child. Someone else has volunteered at school and seen this same child hawking loogies across the sidewalk or making out with the toothless girl in the sophomore class. It’s a very dangerous thing to brag about you child to other mothers.

The second topic of conversation was the changes our bodies were going through. I know my breasts are heading south and my waistline is heading north. Others talked about hot flashes, weight gain in the spare tire area, the husbands getting diabetes, and so forth. We talked about a book called, “The Female Brain,” that one person praised at length because her book group had discussed it but she hadn’t actually read it because she kept falling asleep whenever she tried to. She highly recommended it to us, though, based on what everyone else said.

We drank a lot of wine, or some of us did, and we laughed, and my ears are ringing like I went to a rock concert because eight different conversations were going on at once even though there were only eight of us there. It’s a law of physics that women can talk out of both sides of their heads. We also talked at length about hair color, which is a given among women of my age except for me who is too cheap to dye my hair. Besides, I used to ask my kids, “Does my platinum hair make me look old?” They were sweet and always said no. Finally, I asked the question again, trying to figure out whether I should dye my hair or continue to keep it natural. My son put me straight once and for all. “It’s not your hair that makes you look old, mom,” he said, “it’s the wrinkles.”

Gotta love those kids. And thank goodness for girls nights out so that I learn from other moms that their kids are brutally honest too. And no matter what happens, if you’re losing your hair, losing your husband, or losing your mind, you’ve got the sisterhood of other women who will hold your hand through it, as long as they’ve got a glass of wine and homemade pizza in front of them. And it never hurts to have a platter full of mocha brownies, either.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Crashing a Guys' Football Party

Saturday night we were invited to watch a football game at one of my husband’s fraternity brothers’ house. When we got there, I scouted around to see what the other women were wearing. I found out the other women were wearing nothing.

Got your attention, didn’t I? You’re thinking what could be better at a football party? Beer? Chips? Naked women? Get your heads out of the gutter.

There were no women. Just me! It was a bachelor, or stag, or guys’ football party. But nobody told my husband.

I made an announcement right off because I knew from experience when girls all get together and one of them brings a husband, it changes the dynamic, no matter how nice he is. “Okay, so I’m the token girl here? I want you to feel free to pass gas and scratch and say the f-word. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun.”

The guys were all polite. “Oh no, we’re okay, we won’t do any of that.” Then one proceeded to scratch himself and plunge the same hand into the potato chip bowl.

For you gals who haven’t had the privilege of going to one of these all guy parties, here’s what you’re missing Menu items: chicken, meat balls, ribs, hot dogs, potato chips. Not one veggie or bowl of grapes, or nice little crackers with flavored creme cheese in the shape of footballs. And not a fork, knife, or napkin anywhere to be found. This lovely fare was served on saucers with the little indentation in them to hold a cup.

The TV’s, one in every room, were turned up so loud vases were inching their way off the mantle. The guys watched just enough to yell how indignant they were at the TV when someone fumbled or got sacked, but they didn’t seem to be all that into it. In fact, during halftime they went in the kitchen to refill beers and dip into a big vat of lil’ smokies, and didn’t even bother to rush back in time to watch the second half kickoff. They were talking guy stuff, which seemed to be more about electronics than anything manly or rugged you’d think guys would talk about to other guys. No one talked about the size of their appendages or flexed their muscles, which was what I’d expect to see. Maybe they were holding back because I was there.

I had fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a lot like those lil’ smokies – great on occasion but I wouldn’t want to make a regular diet of them. And Lord only knows what the guys said about me. “Who brought the gash?” “Yeah, she put a damper on everything.” “Good thing we had the lil’ smokies or the party would have been completely ruined.” “Yeah, and she didn’t even have big ‘uns.” Yeah, how worthless can you get.”

Because this is how guys talk when women aren’t around, I’m just sure of it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making Me Laugh

When the kids aren’t around, which is most of the time, my husband and I watch TV while we eat dinner. We used to watch Seinfeld, but for some reason the networks, in their quest to drive me crazy, put another show in that time slot that I’m not nuts about, so we have nothing to watch.

He spins through the channels and finds a show he likes, but I don’t. Sometimes we’ll watch it, but then I have to eat fast. Other times we’ll watch reruns of America’s Funniest Videos, which I love but he doesn’t. He thinks it’s all stupid and looks set up, but he sits there and laughs the whole time anyway.

When it comes to humor, I like the lowest forms. Some doofus slipping on a banana peel makes me laugh. One of the funniest scenes in a movie I ever saw was the first Home Alone when the kid sets up all those boobie traps and the bad guys fall for them. These were so creative I’m laughing at them right now. One thing happens to the bad guys after another. One falls down stairs on ice and then grabs a door handle that’s been heated so it burns a door-handle shaped brand on the palm of his hand. His partner tries to sneak in the basement door, but the steps are covered in tar so he ends up walking out of his shoes and has to step really hard to get his feet out of the tar each step, and he’s barefoot, but he’s determined to get up the rest of the stairs. The camera zooms in on a nail sticking up one of the stairs, then zooms to his tender, bare foot heading straight for it, and he’s bearing down hard and deliberately with his feet and the camera zooms in at the time of impact, and he lets out a high pitched, girly scream that has to be the best one ever made in a movie. I love it every time I hear it, which is pretty often. Both guys step barefoot on broken Christmas ornaments and tacks; and one, or maybe both, get clobbered right between the eyes with a bucket of paint swinging from a long rope. Now that’s just funny.

Some of those America’s Funniest videos don’t live up to the name, though. I’m not so sure what entertainment value there is watching an eight year old kid with a loogie hanging out of his nose that’s six inches long and growing. All of the snot videos should be culled as far as I’m concerned.

But I love the hungover brides, the crashing snowsleds, the fat women falling off docks, geese chasing screaming women, jackasses chasing screaming men, and babies giggling, over and over, for no reason.

I used to love the Three Stooges because of slapstick. Moe smacking everyone on the head, then hitting them in the stomach – that was funny, but my favorite was when he’d take his two fingers and jab somebody in the eyes. Except that Larry got wise to him and started putting a hand up so Moe’s finger’s wouldn’t reach. He’d say, “nya, nya, nya,” which got Moe pretty riled up. There was a take on this in the movie Something About Mary when Ben Stiller is fighting with Mary’s little dog, and he’s wrestling with it around the room, and the dog’s biting him wherever he can sink his teeth, and finally Ben Still rares his arm back and you see those two fingers going at the dog’s eyes, which made me about wet my pants, and then the dog puts his paw up to block the jab. That’s exceptionally funny.

Well, I have to say I’ve made myself laugh typing this, so that does it for me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cleaning for the Maid

I don’t have maid service, but I have friends who do, and they always clean their house before the maid gets there. Does this make sense?

How about going to the dentist? Do you brush your teeth extra well just before the appointment? And floss. Thoroughly floss between those teeth until you taste that faint metallic flavor that let’s you know you should not have waited until the day of your appointment, in spite of the fact that you hate flossing so much you’d rather pull your own teeth one by one than floss them? Like the dentist isn’t going to look in there and guess that your teeth spaces haven’t seen a strand of floss since the morning of your last appointment.

My friend got a gift certificate for a pedicure for her birthday. She can’t use it, though, because she’s embarrassed that her heels are all dry and cracked, and she doesn’t have time to rasp all that tough, dead skin away. Of course she knows that it’s part of the pedicure to get that poor, abused foot to look good as new, but she wouldn’t think of taking those feet in there and having someone see them up close. And the longer she waits, the worse the heels get so it’s a viscous cycle.

I never go to the hairdresser without washing my hair first. I know she’s going to stand behind me and fluff my hair up while she’s asking me what I want to do this time, and I don’t want to be looking at myself in that gigantic mirror with bed-head hair pressed in weird patterns or sticking out like fake fur. So I shower, wash my hair, condition it, blow it dry, style it and spray it, then go to my stylist so she can wash it two more times, condition it, blow it dry and style it, then put on tons of hair spray. After saying my thank you’s and I love it’s, I dash home and jump in the shower to shampoo out all that hairspray (all hairdressers are heavy handed with hairspray), condition it, blow it dry, style It, and spray it lightly the way I like it.

When I go to the doctor, I take an extra careful shower, then take a washcloth and scrub really well behind my ears. This is carry-over from childhood. I remember my dad doing random ear testing. Just out of the blue you’d be walking from the living room to the dining room and he’d spring out of nowhere and grab you by the ear and flip it forward to expose that white, protected skin that somehow always managed to attract dirt like dust to a TV. No matter what, the outcome of these sneak inspections was me marching to the bathroom for a good scrubbing, followed by another inspection. Just like my dad, doctors seem to always want to poke around your ears even if you came to them because your big toe is throbbing. I’m not ever going to fail another ear inspection, especially one I know about in advance.

I can understand on a purely intellectual level why we shower before getting into a hot tub or swimming pool. The public health might be compromised by the gazillions of bacteria and microscopic vermin that infest each and every one of us. But wouldn’t a hot tub kill them all? It about kills me after ten minutes. I’m boiled clean. That’s not the same as a pool, I suppose, but still, what’s the point of taking a shower when I slather on half a bottle of the greasiest sunscreen I can find just before I jump in the water? The oil slick around me reflects the sun and nearly blinds everyone. The floating bumblebees that are always in pools don’t fare too well if they drift into my wake. Surely bacteria can’t live through that.

Another thing people do is comb their dog out before taking him to the groomers. They’ll take the brush and tug away at those mats to try and make it look like they actually have been brushing the dog daily. As all those clumps of hair form a ring on the floor, the poor beast yelps like a coyote that didn’t crouch low enough when he went under an electric fence. I guess these people think they can convince the groomer into thinking that they actually followed through on the promise they made at the last grooming.

Are we just fooling ourselves? You bet we are. And thank goodness the pedicurist doesn’t comment on the fresh layer of raw, pink skin where the calluses used to be. But does the maid keep quiet about our efforts to hide our messy habits? It probably depends on the tip, and the dirt we didn’t have time to get to because we were too busy scrubbing behind our ears and flossing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Son's Got a Job!

Happy days! My son started working today. He actually got hired and went to an orientation last week, but didn’t know when he’d get any hours. He got hired as a floater, which is a strange word because I’ve heard it used to describe something in the toilet. But in his job, it means he’ll fill in where needed. This afternoon he was over at his friends’ house and got the call that they needed him to work tonight.

I had asked him to whittle down some of the pile of laundry in his room, and I think he got one load done, which I give him a ton of credit for doing. But apparently the clothes he needed for work weren’t in there, so he had to rummage through and find the least dirty things. Then he tossed them in the dryer for a few minutes to “iron” them and raced out the door.

I am so excited I could get drunk. But instead I have to finish editing a book TONIGHT, so this post is going to be very short. So I won’t feel guilty, I’ve included something I got in an email. I deleted the inevitable part at the end that says, “If you want to get rich in 24 hours, send this to ten of your friends.” Ain’t I sweet?

Mathematics & Arithmetic

Romance Mathematics

Smart man + smart woman = romance

Smart man + dumb woman = affair

Dumb man + smart woman = marriage

Dumb man + dumb woman = pregnancy



Smart boss + smart employee = profit

Smart boss + dumb employee = production

Dumb boss + smart employee = promotion

Dumb boss + dumb employee = overtime



A man will pay $20 for a $10 item he needs.

A woman will pay $10 for a $20 item that she doesn't need.



A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.

A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.

A successful woman is one who can find such a man.



To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little.

To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all.



Married men live longer than single men do, but married men are a lot more willing to die.



A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.

A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, and she does.



A woman has the last word in any argument.

Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.




Old aunts used to come up to me at weddings, poking me in the ribs and cackling, telling me, "You're next." They stopped after I started doing the same thing to them at funerals.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This is What Poetry Should Be

I just thought of a poem I read when I was in high school and spending the night at my grandmother’s house out in the country. Gramps, we called her. It was in a coffee-table book of collected poems, most of them boring, meaningless, confusing, and of no value whatsoever to a freshman in high school. I hope you don’t think I still feel that way about all poetry. I’ve since come to appreciate three other poems, one of them you may have head of that starts out, “There once was a hermit named Dave.”

This particular poem was about sleeping at the foot of the bed. It’s written by a kid whose big family always has a ton of out-of-town company. When the aunts and uncles and cousins arrive, he’s the youngest so he knows he’ll have to sleep with what sounds like 4 or 5 brothers and sisters and cousins, and since you can’t get that many side by side in a bed, he ends up sleeping with his head at the foot.

I don’t know how I discovered the poem – I must have been immensely bored, but when I read it I laughed out loud. My grandmother, who loved a good joke, heard me and wanted in on it. When she read it she threw her head back and laughed so hard she started sliding out of the rocking chair. All five of her chins jiggled. She raised a meaty arm and covered her mouth with sausage fingers the way some people do when they laugh really hard. Her’s was a laugh that came from down in her belly and wheezed it’s way up her throat until she lost her breath and started coughing. Tears welled up in her eyes and she swabbed them away with the back of her hand. This went on forever, with her changing arms and pushing with her feet to try and stay in the rocker. Her ample bosom pumped with each laugh, rising and falling rapidly over her barrel of a belly.

You can’t watch a spectacle like that and not laugh yourself, which just feeds the other person’s laughter, which feeds yours, and it could go on until infinity except that one of you gets exhausted or has to go to the bathroom. Then you both take some deep breaths to calm down, and say that was the funniest thing you ever read, then one of you, against your better judgment, looks back at the book and laughs all over again, which sets the other one off.

If you’ve not had this experience, you’ve missed out on one of the greatest highs of life.

Like I said, I just thought of the poem, so I Googled to see if I could find it. Sure enough, the all-knowing Googled delivered. I read it through again, and I laughed all over, except not as heartily. It’s like in the movies when there’s a funny scene and no one else laughs. It’s just as funny, but it doesn’t seem as funny if you’re the only one laughing.

The reason this poem is funny is because I can picture this kid down in the bed with somebody’s gross old toenails in his face and the covers over his head, and people kicking him in the chin when they change position, and bristly legs rubbing against his arms. I’ve actually slept at the foot of a bed. I loved those slumber parties with a bunch of girls and everyone wanted a piece of the mattress so you had to alternate in the bed to accommodate as many as possible. My daughter has had sleepovers and I’ve done a late-night headcount and found five of them on the hide-a-bed: three up and two down.

If you’ve never slept like this, you’ve missed out on one of the greatest indignities of life.

Finally, this poem is so funny because there are creative little rhymes. I’m not a big fan of intellectual poetry, even though I had to read a gob of it to earn my English degree. Shakespeare I like, but only the comedies. Most of those other guys I can easily do without, especially the ones who don’t even have the decency to make their poems rhyme. I like ‘em rhyming cleverly or not at all, and they need to tell a story. Which I guess is why I like the foot of the bed poem so much.

I’ll recommend it, but If you read it, you may not find it as funny as I did. When someone describes something as hilarious and goes on and on, by the time I read it I’m not that impressed. Like those emails that say this is the funniest thing you’ll ever read. It never is. Mostly it’s some stupid, worn out thing that’s way too long and you can know the punch line by the second sentence into it. But I hope if you read this poem you’ll get a laugh. It may help if you find a big, jolly grandma to read it with.

I found the poem in The Best Loved Poems of the American People by Hazel Felleman. It's called "Sleepin' at the Foot O' the Bed, by Luther Patrick. If you copy this very long link into your browser, it will take you to the book and the poem is on pages 525 and 526.

The Church Lady

First a disclaimer. Just about everything I write is more or less not true. I exaggerate, change things, and make stuff up. Sure, you may find an ounce of truth buried here and there, but mostly it’s all a pack of lies.

Now that that’s out of the way, I went to Mass today, which is the truth. As usual at our Catholic service a lot of people were traipsing back and forth up to the altar. We had a couple of guest speakers trying to persuade us that the church building needs many, many very expensive improvements. They had a nice slideshow to demonstrate what things would look like after all the work is done, and though it was hard to tell the difference between the old and proposed new, I took their word for it.

I guess I noticed what people were wearing when one of the speakers walked all around the front of the altar to get to the podium, which took about fifteen minutes. She was a younger woman and very attractive. I liked her outfit because she was thin and her fitted black turtleneck didn’t show any cleavage. She had on a subdued wool skirt, tights, and boots – it was a classy look and something I’d wear if I looked like her, which I’m working on with my newest diet.

Then along came the ladies who serve Communion, and they were a diverse group with one thing in common. All of them liked to eat, and none of them owned a mirror.

One in particular stood out. I’ve seen her many Sundays, and she always looks like your normal, standard, middle-aged Catholic woman attending a casual suburban church. Matronly might be the best word to use here, which is a synonym for dumpy. But today she was going for a different look. She had on a top that bared quite a bit of cleavage. Since she liked to eat, the cleavage had migrated south, but this top gave a good chase and ended up about midway down the slope.

But that’s not all. She had on a pair of stretchy pants made of a clingy brown fabric that left nothing to the imagination. Because she liked to eat, onlookers got a full view of what looked like golf balls peppered underneath the thin fabric in her thigh and rump areas.

She topped her ensemble with a pretty taupe colored sweater that I’m sure she thought extended over her hips and bottom, but it gave up about halfway down in the back. In fact, it curved up toward her waist, but that was probably because she kept pulling the front sides down which created the arc in the back.

Call me old fashioned, but I’m not sure this is the best look for church. The young girls wear their low-neck tank tops, but that’s all they own and if you scold them, like I do my daughter, they’ll use their long hair as a cover up. And yes, they wear skintight jeans, but the fabric is thick and so tight it doesn’t reveal anything. Plus they top it all off with long, hooded sweatshirts that make them appear slouchy and kid-like.

Middle-aged women, on the other hand, must have closets full of frumpy clothes that would be so much more appropriate for church. Which brings me full circle to my original comment that these women must not own mirrors.

Now I know I’m going to wake up tomorrow and have regrets about what could be misconstrued as catty remarks, especially involving women at church. But in my defense I’m only reporting what I saw, and in my defense, if that woman didn’t want to end up on this page, she could have dressed in a gunny sack and we’d all sleep guilt-free tonight. So in a manner of speaking, it’s her fault she’s here.

And like I said at the beginning, it could all be a pack of lies anyway. As the humorist Lewis Grizzard once said, “My mother believes that men landing on the moon is fake and professional wrestling is real.”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Have Regrets

I have regrets. I hate this about myself. One day I’m all gung ho and do or say something, like write a blog post about my son, and the next day I think of all the reasons I shouldn’t have done it.

I don’t want my son to leave my home. Heavens no. I love him so. I hope none of you got the wrong impression yesterday or read between the lines that he’s driving me crazy because HE’S NOT. Sure, who wouldn’t want someone to pitch in from time to time, or arrive home before 2 am, or get up before 2 pm, or stick around for more than 2 minutes in his waking hours? Still, he’s a fine young man and I’d punch you right in the nose if you ever said different.

As for the blog about taxes a couple of days ago, I did not mean to imply that rich folks don’t contribute enough to our country. I like hanging on to my own money, too. Not that I mind paying a little extra in taxes to help out the needy, but I’m more comfortable than many people, so who am I to point fingers at the wealthy? You know, Warren Buffet said he pays less taxes than his secretary, and I find that fascinating. But if I’ve in any way implied that the wealthy don’t contribute their fair share because they can afford the very best advice from their tax accountants, shame on me.

I go through the day talking to myself about what I ought to have done. “Why don’t you start a load of wash?” I’ll ask. Then I head for the laundry room and see that the sofa cushions could use fluffing, and since it will only take a second, I stop to do it. I see a dishtowel stuffed in the crack think, “I wonder how that got there?” then pull it out and take it to the kitchen, where I find dishes my darling sweet children have lovingly left on the counter because they must worry I don’t have enough to do. I load those in the dishwasher, then put the toaster my daughter abandoned once her toast popped up back into the appliance garage. Which reminds me I need to run out to the garage and get the pair of new shoes hiding in my car so I can sneak them in while my husband is at work. While I’m out there I grab a light bulb to put in the bathroom, and after I’ve screwed it in, I kick my daughter’s thong like it’s a soccer ball from the bathroom floor into her bedroom, just in case someone drops by.

Eventually I recall the laundry. “You should have done it earlier, then you could be putting it in the dryer by now,” I scold myself. “Why did you get so distracted?”

And by the way, my husband is not a cheapskate. I hope I didn’t give anyone that impression. He loves to go on golf trips with his friends, and likes wearing nice things. What man wouldn’t? It just upsets him a tiny little bit when I bring bags of new wardrobe items in the house. He thinks I’ve got plenty of clothes, and of course I do. I love those sweaters I got back in the 90’s. And I know good and well if I just hold on, my shoes will come back in style again soon, and polishing and buffing them is helping my arms stay in shape. No one would know I was wearing them when I went into labor with my son. I do sneak in my fair share of clothes, don’t you worry about that.

Well, I hope I haven’t offended anyone new today. I do try so hard to be pleasant and kind. Although I do have my moods where I can get just a tad bit cranky, and I aways regret it. Honest I do.

Fly Away, My Son

My son is taking a break from college and living at home. He just got a job today, but it will be some time before he gets a paycheck and enough saved to move out with friends.

Meantime, I need to know exactly when the statute of limitations runs out for being a mother. I know I’ll always be his mother, and I’ll always be there for him, and I will always love him, but I’m wondering how long I have to do his laundry.

I’d be more inclined to continue in the role of his personal slave if he were nice. But he’s trying to be independent, which means he wants to do his own thing. His own thing is leaving his shorts on the bathroom floor and his dirty dishes in the sink.

It’s just like old times, with me griping about it and him arguing but picking things up because, after all, I was the boss of him. He no longer feels that way. Two years of college and being on his own taught him to do what he wants when he wants.

As for me, while he was at college I got used to having a fairly clean house and reduced workload. My vocal chords were healing from nagging him. Now he pays lip service to my requests but doesn’t follow through, or he just blatantly says NO. He’s an adult after all, and why should he do what his mother says when it’s so stupid anyway? His shorts aren’t bothering anyone, for crying out loud.

It’s not just that he doesn’t do what I ask; he’s down right defiant. I’m helping write a book about global warming, so I’m acutely aware that the convenience of electricity comes to us with a cost in CO2 emissions. I ask him to turn off a light when he leaves a room and he argues. He says there is no global warming. I retaliate with all the scientific evidence, spewing facts as I follow him from room to room while he scrambles to get out of earshot. Finally he tells me to leave him alone and turns off one token light to make me go away. Later, when I return home from my daughter’s swim meet, he’s gone and has left practically every light in the house on. Granted, this is pretty normal for him, but I take it personally.

I have refused to do any more of his laundry. If he wants to be an adult, he can have the responsibilities of one. I was trying to get caught up with the wash today and found several of his items suspiciously buried in the sorting baskets, like maybe the laundress wouldn’t notice they were his. This morning he asked me to pour a bowl of cereal for him. Where does it end?

It probably sounds like I’ve raised a spoiled brat, but honestly he used to be such a nice young man. Compared to some of the horror stories I heard from friends, I thought I was pretty lucky. Now I think that he was just a late bloomer.

If any of you have any advice, I’d love to hear it. I figure I’ll just bide my time until he’s ready to spread his wings and fly the hell out of here. And I used to think Christmas breaks were long.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Black Cat Blues

Today on the way home from walking with my girlfriend, a black cat darted across the road in front of me. I nervously laughed it off. After all, I’m a woman of the technical age. What’s an old superstition got to do with anything? How can the color of a cat and the time it crosses the street cause me to have bad luck?

I don’t know how, but it happened. What a day. I got home and received a negative response to an email about a book layout. No big deal – everything can’t be a slam-dunk in life. Then another negative responses popped up about the same thing. Crap. The black cat.

I went to tutoring early at the request of a teacher, and I had one student after another wanting help. I don’t mind, but sometimes when no one needs me I get to go home a little early, and right now I’m really busy so I could have used the time. Instead, I had to stay until the end of the school day, almost 4 hours, which is a marathon of tutoring. I don’t know whether to chalk this up to the black cat, but it certainly is suspicious.

When I got home my dog was walking on three legs. She looked so pitiful. My mind immediately defaulted to cancer, hip displacement, broken bone, and all the above. I waited a couple hours to see if she improved, but ended up taking her to the emergency vet and paid $89 to find out her leg is sore. I have to give her doggy aspirin for three days. Black cat.

Plus over the course of the day I’ve bit my own lip eight times.

Now I’m writing this blog and I’m having a hard time thinking of anything humorous at all. When you’ve got the specter of a black cat hanging over you, how can you think of anything funny? What’s amazing is that my dog was in the car with me when the black cat crossed, and she’s had a rough day, too. First the sore leg, then the trip to the vet, which she hates. Then the doggish humiliation of a stranger poking a rectal thermometer in her bottom. She didn’t like that one single bit. If she could talk, she’d say: BLACK CAT!

Oh, and on the way home from the vet I meant to stop and get toilet paper because there are about three squares each on the last rolls in the house. But I didn’t remember, and now in the morning, after the coffee, I’m going to be SOL, as they say. If that’s not the curse of the black cat, I don’t know what is.

Even though it’s not very late, I’m going to bed and pray that a tree doesn’t fall on the bedroom in the night. I wonder how long a black cat curse lasts? Is it 24 hours, or until sunrise? Or seventeen years? I hope this cat will be lenient.

The Rich Fight Back

I wrote about perpetual elections yesterday. Today they had an article in the paper explaining Measures 66 and 67. Basically, if you’re making $120,000 as a single person or $250,000 as a family, you’re pretty darned lucky, in my book.

However, if Measure 66 passes, you’ll end up paying – up to – a few hundred dollars more in taxes each year. In other words, you won’t be able to get your Lexus detailed as often.

That’s the heartbreak of taxes. And just what are you going to get for those extra hundreds you have to cough up? The promise of better schools and health care for the lowly. Ho-hum.

People in this income bracket generally have plenty of health insurance and their kids are in private schools. There’s nothing in it for them. No wonder they fight upper crust tax increases like cornered badgers.

Every wealthy person I’ve ever talked to is totally against taxes aimed at them, and they say it’s for one reason. They don’t like giving their hard earned money to pond scum who will just milk the system.

Now there’s something we all agree on. Don’t you just despise those people you hear about all the time who take total advantage of our government? You know the ones I’m talking about. The low lifes who hide money in overseas accounts, who know the tax codes and every trick to get deductions, people who entertain and travel lavishly and write it all off as business expenses – these are the kinds of people who sponge off the government without a care about how it affects honest, hard-working Americas like you and me. Oh wait, that’s the rich folks doing all that. I get so confused sometimes.

If we could put all the money the rich finagle the country out of because of the tax structure in one pile, and all the money the poor get in food stamps and welfare and subsidized health care, I wonder which would be bigger?

I’m preoccupied by these measures because of the phone calls I continue to receive trying to coerce me into voting against them. The callers, who all sound well educated and refined, are getting desperate. Today a perky lady called and wanted to speak to my husband. When I said he was at work, she wanted to know if he’d voted yet. I didn’t know. Is he going to vote against the measure, she wondered. I didn’t know that, either. Well, would I be so kind as to remind him? I told her he doesn’t ever listen to me. She chortled and complimented me on how funny I am, then asked my permission to call back when he might be home.

I was exhausted by the time I got off the phone. And then it rang again.

This robbing from the rich to help the poor is no new thing. Remember Robin Hood? I’ve seen the movie and those poor people remind me of the poor today. Sure, they’d waste some of the money if they had it, but maybe that’s because they don’t know any better. The wealthy sure waste a ton of money that could benefit us all on the silliest things.

All I know is that if you call me tomorrow, I’m not answering. Some day we’ll all look back on this and ram into a parked car.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Vote for Fewer Elections

Does it seem like to you that we’re always voting on something for our state government? If not, then you must live in one of the 49 states or territories that isn’t Oregon.

I don’t know why they call them special elections, either. They’re more like perpetual elections. It seems like I’m getting a ballot in the mail on a monthly basis year round. The one occurring right this second is a vote for Measure 66 and 67. You may have guessed that they have something to do with raising taxes.

I’m not familiar with either bill. Politics give me a headache. So does listening to people trying to convince me to vote for their cause on TV. Generally they say that we’ll all be in the poorhouse if we don’t vote how their way, and it doesn’t matter which side they’re on.

I had dinner with my brother, mother-in-law, husband and our kids a couple of nights ago. One of us, and I can assure you it wasn’t me, brought up this latest election and all hell broke loose. I exaggerate, but I like using that term. Let’s just say the discussion warmed up as people’s views were presented. I stayed out of it, not knowing the particulars, and besides with that bunch you can’t win so why waste your breath.

My daughter thought we should vote for the increase because she’s got 45 students in her French class and the teacher is so overwhelmed that no one is learning anything, which is pretty sad for an advanced high school language class. My brother, who never willingly parts with a dime, was against it, although he doesn’t even live in Oregon so won’t be voting. My son said the whole thing was stupid, which covered both sides, and my husband and his mom were against raising the taxes. I watched them bickering back and forth until finally my husband was trying doing something with his arm and accidently banged his fist so hard on the table that French fry baskets flew up in the air. Our waiter rushed right over, looking scared, and asked, “Can I help you with something, sir?”

It gave us all a heart attack, and by the time we recovered, everyone had forgotten what they were talking about. Thank goodness.

I get calls all day long from volunteers wanting me to vote against the bill. They ask if I’ve turned in my ballot (no), am I going to vote against the bill (I haven’t decided), oh, then was I aware that people will lose jobs if it passes? I cut in after awhile and tell them I’ll study the bill and make up my mind soon and thanks for calling. They say, “Well, um, okay, we just hope you’ll consider all the jobs that will be lost if this bill passes, and a…if you need any more information…” then they ramble some more as if both of us have nothing better to do.

My son and husband would hang up on them, if they ever answer the phone, which they don’t. I used to work in an office where people came in the evening to do cold calling and schedule appointments. They were nice people just trying to make a living, so I always think of them and try to be polite. As luck would have it, the batteries are dead in the set of portable phones I bought a couple of years ago. They are the only phones that have caller ID. I was thrifty and ordered replacement ones off the Internet. They were cheap, and it was could have been a scam since I haven’t heard boo in a few days. Where were they coming from, Egypt? Someone probably took my credit card number and is on the way to Hawaii.

With another week of this election to go, I don’t know how I’ll stand it. Maybe I’ll stay up late tonight and fill in my ballot. Naw, I’m exhausted from answering the phone all day. Maybe I’ll just record an answer on my machine: If you are calling to get me to vote for Measures 66 and 67, press 1. If you are calling to get me to vote against Measures 66 and 67, press 2. If you are calling to ask me if I need to refinance my home, press 3. If you are calling to give me a free week in Vegas if I’ll come to your 90-minute timeshare presentation, press 4. If you are calling….I could keep going to about number 69, then I can say, “If you’re a friend and calling to chit chat, please call me on my cell phone. You know the number. Hope you have a nice day!”

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Presence of Presents

Yippee! I finally returned the last of the presents I bought for people in my family who didn’t want them, and the ones they bought for me that didn’t work out.

Presents are so delightful to open. How exciting to wonder what’s behind that pretty reindeer paper. Then I open the box and slide the tissue over to the side to discover a sweatshirt that’s a size too large and I’ve seen on my mother-in-law. Not that she doesn’t have good taste. She dresses more fashionably that a lot of other women her age – at least her tennis shoes are clean and her spiffy sweatshirt and elastic waist pants match. She dresses for comfort, and I don’t have a problem with that. I’m just not there yet.

My husband always feels compelled to buy me a nice piece of jewelry. By nice, I’m talking about anything over $49. I happen to enjoy cheap jewelry. If I lose it, I don’t have a conniption fit, and if I get tired of it, which I will, I can give it away without any remorse. A piece of fine jewelry – something with a microscopic diamond or two – will most likely wind up in a tiny velvet bag somewhere. I forget I have it, what with my extensive faux collection.

What’s amazing is that I’ve tried to take these more expensive pieces back, but the jewelry store won’t refund my money. They gladly offer to make an exchange for something else, even if I have the receipt, and even if I don’t see a thing in the store I want. Every time I end up going out of pocket to get a piece of jewelry that I might wear sooner or later.

Okay, you’re going to say I’m a b-word and should appreciate what I get. I am a b-word, yes, but I’m a darn thrifty one, and I don’t want my closet full of clothes I know I won’t wear or jewelry that hurts. Yes, hurts. The better quality earrings have thicker posts. After years of wearing cheap stuff, my ears cry out in agony, absolute agony, when I force those thick earrings in that tiny earlobe hole. Can I help it if I’m sensitive?

And if you’re thinking, “There’s nothing pleasing this b-word,” au contraire! I would be most pleased to receive a simple gift card to a store of my choice. It’s not as much fun to open, but at least I could try things on and make sure they fit and look nice on me. Back in the day I looked good in anything – even my mother in law’s sweatshirts. But now I’m fighting a cutthroat battle with Father Time, and he’s got me in a half nelson as it is. I can’t afford to give him any slack at all. I must be on guard at all times, vigilantly choosing attractive colors and the right fit to make my skin more lively, my jaws less saggy, and my spare tire less noticeable over my caboose. This takes hours and hours of shopping, and even then I may come home empty handed and fighting off tears. Those dressing room mirrors can be so cruel.

If you’re not feeling sorry for me yet, why not? My husband returns everything I give him. I’ll give him 4 or 5 items that I’ve lovingly shopped for, wrapped, and hidden until Christmas, and then he opens them and says, “I’ve got a shirt just like that,” or “Mmmm,” or “Pleats, really?” and so forth. I’m lucky if there’s even one thing doesn’t have to be taken back. I have to take my daughter with me to shop because I’ll end up returning all of my presents to her if I don’t. People can be so picky. My son is the only one who doesn’t return anything. He’d rather wear something he doesn’t like than do laundry.

One good thing is that all the birthdays and Christmas are done, and unless I forget and re-write this blog again, you may not have to hear about this particular whining for nearly a year. Yippee!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hideous ID Pictures

I enrolled in a class at the community college here, and I had to get a picture ID made. I hate these things because no matter how much attention I spend on my hair and makeup, the pictures always make me look like a haint.

I first heard that word, haint, from the good natured, funny neighbor of my Grandmother Wheeler in Pulaski, Tennessee, Miz Chapman. Miz Chapman, who my grandmother called, Miz Chat, lived across the street with her daughter, Geneva, and Geneva’s spinster schoolteacher daughter, Barbara Jean. Summer evenings, the widow ladies came out on their porches to sit in their wooden swings so they could sway back and forth enough to cool down after fixing dinner. They’d call hello to each other across the narrow street.

Once, when Miz Chat wasn’t on her porch, we went across the street and knocked on her front door. She answered on the second knock, pushing back strands of faded grey hair and clutching her apron. “Why, come on in, look who’s here, just come on in but oh my, my, don’t I look like a haint to be having company?”

“Miz Chat,” I said, “What’s a haint?” That was the funniest thing she’d ever heard in all her born days. A child that didn’t know what a haint was. “It’s a ghost,” she explained, tossing her head back to laugh. “Or a hag.”

It was a word I took an immediate liking to. I told it to my playmates, and we’d get a silly dialogue going, “You’re a haint.” “I haint no haint, you’re the haint.” “Haint neither.” Making fun of the way country Southerners talked was an infinite source of entertainment when I was growing up. Still is.

Miz Chat was pretty attractive for an old, old woman, I thought. It was her personality. She laughed at everything you said as if you oozed delight. She had a gigantic cat named snowball that coughed up hairballs as big as a lime. The cat lay on the floor swishing its fluffy white tail and you knew it would scratch you to shreds if you tried to pet it, the way that tail danced around. Cats can tell you a lot with their tails, and this one was clearly saying, “Back off and don’t mess with me if you know what’s good for you.”

Whenever I take a bad ID picture, which is 100% of the time, I say to myself, “You look just like a haint.” Right now the community college ID and an old ski pass ID are sitting in front of me out of sheer coincidence. I look like two different human beings, and both are hags. Friends will always ask to see your ID, and you beg off until they insist, then when they look they get quiet, and you say, “I told you I look hideous.” They’ll answer with something like, “Oh, you’re just too hard on yourself.” That’s the sure sign they agree you look hideous, because why wouldn’t they say something like, “No you don’t, you look great.”

No amount of practicing in front of a mirror has helped me improve these pictures. I’ll tilt my head down and grow extra chins. If I remember to lift my head, you can see up my nose. My hair hangs limp, and there are dark shadows under my cheeks and eyes.

Anyone who takes good ID pictures, be very very thankful. Because the vast majority of us haint got a prayer of looking good.

In conclusion, I’d just like to say thanks to Miz Chat, for giving me such a good word. It comes in handy every time I take out my wallet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Moaning Mutt

I like alliteration almost as much as puns. My dog isn't really a mutt. She's a Yorkie Poo, so that makes her only a half-breed and not a Heinz 57. But I couldn't resist the title.

When my dog wants something, she comes into the room and moans. I find this pretty entertaining. The first time she moans, the sound is low pitched, almost inaudible. If you don’t respond right away, the moans get higher until they reach a soulful whine. Even though I don’t understand dog language, but that dog makes it very clear what she wants.

There are two places she moans the most. In the kitchen and in my office. She can be in the furthest reaches of the house when I sit down at my computer, and just like she’s got computer chair radar, she’ll come on the fly, as if she’s saying to herself, “What? What? She’s snuck off to the computer room? I’d better leave the back bedroom closet and get right in there.” When she comes in, she moans until I put her in my lap.

What she’s doing in the back bedroom closet is burying cheese cubes that she gets from us when she starts moaning in the kitchen. She gets practically under your feet and then moans to remind you that she’s down there, starving to death, and you’re a selfish oaf if you don’t share something with her RIGHT NOW. These escalate in pitch and volume, and can accelerate right up to barks if left unattended. To hush her up, we give her little chunks of cheese.

Did you know that’s where the name hush puppy came from? In the South, from which I hail, people would be frying up the leftover corn meal mush from breakfast, because everything gets fried down there sooner or later, and the puppy dogs would hang around the kitchen barking and begging and making a nuisance of themselves, so the women would throw them a wad of that fried up mush and say, “Hush puppy, hush.” Being dogs, they’d snatch it into their mouths and have it swallowed before they realized it just came out of a scalding frying pan, and it would burn their whole insides as it went on it’s steaming way to their stomachs, and they’d let out a baying yelp that could be heard three farms away and race like cats with their tails on fire to the livestock pond and dive in, trying to lower their internal temperature by 20º as quick as possible. Back in the kitchen it would be real nice and quiet, and you can trust this story because it’s mostly a true piece of fictitious folklore from the south.

We trained our dog on cheese. We make her go through her whole routine - sit, bark, roll-over, shake, stand on her hind legs, turn in a circle, and stay. Then we give her a piece of cheese after each. That’s all the tricks she knows, and we feel it’s important for her development to practice them all, you know, the old “use it or lose it” theory. But that adds up to seven cubes of cheese. She only weighs nine pounds, so she fills up and sometimes takes the remaining cubes and buries them in the clothes on the floor in the back bedroom closet.

She goes back there a few times during the day, checking on her chunks, We’ll find her lurking around in there for no good reason, and if we look under a pair of jeans, we’ll find a hard orange cube. If she suspects we’re hunting for her dried up stash, she’ll take the cheese and go into another room and hide it.

My daughter has been reading in bed and the dog will slink in and walk around her bed slowly. There are plenty of clothes on the floor in there. “Mom, this dog’s acting weird,” she’ll yell. I’ll come in and see a little telltale orange color in her mouth – the dog’s, not my daughter. She looks up at you and the whites of her eyes show underneath like little hammocks, and she’ll mosey out of the room, looking back over her shoulder, as if to say, “I’m just having an innocent look around, don’t mind me.” She’ll go off and try to find another place to hide the cheese.

What’s odd is, she didn’t start moaning until the last year or two. She’d just look at you and you were supposed to know what she wanted. To get out so she could go piddle, she’d make eye contact with you and just stare. No bark, no standing by the door, no indication whatsoever that she needed to go outside. So you’d say, “What is it? What do you want?” and she’d continue to stare. “Are you hungry? Do you want some food?” Stare. “Do you need to go outside?” At the word “outside” she’d turn her head toward the door, and that’s how you found out she was going to wet the carpet any second if you didn’t get up quick.

I don’t mind the moaning. Or finding chunks of cheese whenever I lift anything off the floor. I think it’s cute. But I think everything this dog does is cute. She’s a nine pound black curly dust mop of cuteness, and I’m easily entertained.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tightrope Inspiration Falls Short

If you read yesterday’s post, and I’m sure you did, you’ll know that I was all excited about watching “Man on Wire,” a story about a guy who crosses between the World Trade Center towers on a tightrope in 1974.

I was inspired by his leadership – how his friends supported and helped him propel this crazy dream to completion. I turned the TV off and wrote the blog right after he’d completed the walk and been arrested as a trespasser but at the same time hailed by the media as a wonder.

I thought of my life and how I had, at one time, led my friends on adventures – road trips to Myrtle Beach and Fort Lauderdale and Key West with very little money and sometimes no transportation – camping and hiking trips through the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and several road trips across country, one from Florida to Oregon and others starting in Tennessee and leading to both coasts. I don’t think about them much, but I really should write some books because many of these adventures were pretty entertaining. However, I’ll have to wait until my children are adults, if you catch my drift…

So I left the blog and turned the documentary back on, and lo and behold, Philippe Petit fell from grace in my eyes. (How do you like that “fell” pun? Actually, they say when you have to explain or point out your jokes, they weren’t that funny in the first place...)

How did he fall from grace? As he was walking out of the police station to the hoards of media, a pretty little thing came up and put her arms around him and said she wanted to be the first to help him celebrate. A tightrope groupie, I guess you’d call her. I wonder if she had dreams of being a groupie and went down the list: rock band groupie? No; political groupie? No; tightrope groupie, YES! All of the above, hmmm, maybe I should check this one…

So Philippe’s accomplices – one of which was also arrested, and the others on his team, and his girlfriend who had pretty much abandoned her own life to be his love interest and athletic supporter – were all waiting for him totally jubilant about his (and their) success and wanting to jump up and down and high five each other, they were left to anxiously look down an empty hall or await a knock on the door while he goes off with this groupie and bounces on her waterbed for awhile (which is shown in the film – I’m not sure if they used a body double, but this Philippe liked being in his birthday suit, I think). He calls his friends and girlfriend on the phone to tell them he’s being “interviewed” and will catch up with them as soon as he can tear himself away. There are many jokes I could make right here, things like, “Cheah, more like enterview!” but they’d all be puns of some sort, but I’m not sure you’re up (get it) for that.

Nothing happened to him legally with the trespassing charge. He was even asked by New York’s attorney general to entertain some kids with juggling for publicity. His other arrested friend, however, was kicked out of the US, for good, I presume.

On the flight home, he tells the friend who appears to be his closest one, “Well, for our next trick…” and his friend says, “Nope, don’t count me in, enough is enough.” These aren’t exact quotes, but the gist of it, and who can blame him? He and the crew did so much work and had so much at stake – what if Philippe had fallen? – and didn’t really get anything from it except the joy of giving themselves over completely to Philippe’s whimsy and have him abandon them at the time of their mutual success. The movie doesn’t say, but it appears Philippe and this friend had a falling out because the friend appears to have regrets during his last interview.

I think it could be said without a robust argument that men seem to let the little head do the thinking for them at the worst possible times. It happens constantly – it’s in the news daily – just think Tiger Woods. He’s the example handiest right now but there is a list that could circle the globe a million times. So Philippe’s fall is not shocking (that I continue using the “fall” pun is, however).

He even admits in the movie that he “betrayed” his friends and girlfriend. I liked her a lot. She never once says a negative thing. Even at the end she describes how she could see Philippe’s life changing as he became famous, and that it was time for their love affair to end, and surprisingly she was ready for it to end, too. I want to be like her, having tact and grace, but I’m negative and a b-word. I would not have been so kind.

I said yesterday I wanted to be like him. That’s no longer true. I was like him, on a much smaller scale. I had friends who went along with my adventures, and I don’t think they were disappointed. I’m still in contact with my old friends, though distance separates us and the contact may only be through Christmas cards. When we get together we talk about the present, but mostly we remember the things we did and wonder how we survived them.

The movie ended with Philippe alone in his yard walking on a tightrope. All the scenes prior had his friends splayed around in the grass. What has his life been like since 1974? Did he find taller buildings to conquer? Wider distances? I’d never heard of him when it happened, and haven’t heard about him since, but I live in a vacuum. It gets pretty dusty in there. Get it? Vacuum.

It was an amazing feat, and I still recommend the movie, but his story is just like life. It has its ups and downs, highs and lows. When we’re on top of the world, it’s exhilarating, but sure as the sun rises, we’re going to fall (pun) sometime in the future, and it’s nice to have a safety net of friends to cushion us.

Inspiration on a Tightrope

I’ve just been watching the coolest documentary called, “Man on Wire” about a guy who did a tightrope walk between the World Trade Center buildings just after they were built in 1974.

This guy is amazing. He could be a child, flitting around on a unicycle through the streets of Paris, dodging in and out of traffic as horns sound all around him. He’s exactly like one of those people who you would call weird in school and either avoid or stare at with your mouth gaping.

His name is Philippe Petit and he’s got a group of friends who are totally devoted to him and his schemes. They help him string a tightrope on Notre Dame’s cathedral, knowing full well they could be arrested.

I want friends like that. I remember my friends and I doing some pretty crazy stunts, but nothing like this. These guys have to plan for months to set up the wire, what it will anchor to, and so forth, and they are gleeful and very serious about it.

What is it about this tight ropewalker that inspires his friends to risk so much so that he can realize his dreams? They have nothing to gain – they aren’t going to be in the spotlight. I want to be like him.

On the other hand, people are always trying to talk me into doing things, and I’ve gotten so tired of it that I refuse to try and talk others into something. What I forget sometimes is that I get talked into things that turn out very well – like my daughter convincing me to go to Paris summer before last. I had a fantastic time, but she worked on me for months before I said yes. Now I’m inspired, again, to lead people. I used to have that ability, and generally practiced it to generate mischief or have adventures.

From watching him, he’s got this childlike wonder that is infectious. He’s not handsome at all, and yet he decided on a girl and pursued her with such enthusiasm that she jumped on board and allowed her life to meld into his.

He and his friends were practicing in a field what they’d need to prepare for the World Trade Center. They had to get the wire between the buildings – a space of 200 ft. – and came up with the idea of shooting an arrow across the distance with a string tied to it. The friend shot several arrows but they couldn’t go the distance because the string would snag. Finally they tried fishing line on a spool and it worked. The two men ran across to where the arrow landed and rolled in the grass with delight. They were grown men who let themselves be loose and free and delighted and excited enough to roll in knee-high grass. Oh how I envied them as I watched.

I am halfway through the movie and very anxious to finish. My brother was here tonight to watch the BCS championship, and he’s the one who told me about the movie. It’s on the Free Movies on the Comcast On Demand station, and it’s on the Sundance channel, and you can see a trailer at

I am going to go and watch this wonderful little Frenchman achieve the impossible with no more than a dream and some very good friends who just want to grab hold of him and take whatever crazy ride he leads them on. I want to be him because he’s totally alive. I hope after I finish the documentary that I discover he still is…

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ringing in the New Year with New Phones

I gave my mother-in-law cordless phones for her birthday because that’s what she wanted. I picked a middle of the road model – I didn’t figure she needed six handsets since she’s the only one in the house.

I bought a set of phones for my family a few years ago and got 4 handsets. I thought this was such overkill – we already had several landlines so where would I put all those phones? But it was a good deal so I bought them anyway, and we always had a phone handy when it rang – for the first week. Then my daughter took a handset to her bedroom and it got smuggled up in her comforter and was never seen again.

My son took one outside and lost it – either that or a raccoon got a hold of it. Raccoons like electronics – and flip flops. We found one of my daughter’s, half chewed, in the crotch of the tree the raccoons like to hang out in, along with coins, plastic toys, a keychain, and assorted other by-products of young children. Which left us with two phones, and neither of them work anymore because the batteries won’t hold a charge.

The family took my mother-in-law out to dinner, then I offered to go to her house and set up the phones. It wouldn’t take more than 20 minutes I figured, but you know where this is leading, don’t you? I’m going to tell you anyway. I get there and we have tea, which was nice and wonderful except my eyelids kept drooping because Mexican food makes me so sleepy, and decaf tea was like drinking a sleep aid.

After the same amount of time that I could have taken a nice nap, we went to the computer room to hook up the phones. I had already charged them for her – 16 hours of fighting off my kids who couldn’t stand that there was a new “toy” in the house that they couldn’t play with.

Turns out the phone I’d be replacing had a power cord that was wrapped together with several other cords all neat and inaccessible. I had to spend an inordinate (long) amount of time getting the cord out of the tangle, then had to put the new power cord back into the tangle and wrap clamps back around them. But I was soon successful at getting the phone plugged in and the telephone line to work.

That’s when the headaches started. I don’t know why gadgets have to be so complicated. I finally had to resort to the instruction manual, which in and of itself was complex enough. My mother-in-law busied herself pushing buttons so that different things lighted up on the phone and occasional interesting noises came out. She went through ten ringtones that sounded like fire trucks, Christmas bells, and police whistles. Who would choose such annoying rings without being tortured into doing it?

We got the ringtones back where we wanted them, set the date and time, though this took many, many tries, and got all the caller ID entries erased because I kept calling with my cell phone to test the latest rings and volumes and racked up quite a few missed call messages on the display of the phone, which was distressing us both. We couldn’t figure out how to erase them, and the manual was being quite obstinate. Finally we found the passage buried on page 496 and followed the instructions to the letter, which was a long process of pressing the menu key, then the delete key, then the key to the city, and the caller ID key. My 20 minute setup had turned into two hours.

When it was all said and done, it was, indeed, all said and done. The phones rang melodiously, the caller ID field was cleared, and we were both exhausted but happy that we saw the job through to the end.

So now my mother-in-law has three new phones, two of which are in her TV room because she doesn’t need another phone anywhere else but we had to do something with it. She’s delighted. As for me, my ears are ringing. Yuk. Yuk. I couldn’t resist.