Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cartoons No Laughing Matter

Tonight my daughter wanted to go see Toy Story 3 and I jumped at the chance. Mostly because she doesn’t find much time to spend with me between her job and friends and boyfriend. Although we live in the same house, a teenager’s priority list of things to do has “spend time with mom” way down there, after cleaning out her closet and doing her laundry. I wasn’t nuts about seeing Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, although I remember liking the first Toy Story many years ago.

It was in 3-D, and I was glad to be wearing the 3-D glasses because I got choked up toward the end and my eyes were misting like some foolish old woman getting sucked into a cartoon plot about a bunch of talking toys whose “boy” was all grown up and going to college.

I identified with those toys. When my son, my firstborn, was a baby, I used to look down at him in my arms and know that at that very second he was getting older. I could see him outgrowing one set of clothes after another until he packed them up and moved away. It broke my heart.

He’s moved out, but his closet is still full of clothes retained because of their memories. His Tae Kwon Do uniform is still there, plus all his snowboard tees and sweatshirts from his high school snowboard team. His Boy Scout shirt is there, even though he was only a scout in 4th and 5th grades. Every souvenir T-shirt he got at Disneyland or at Trailblazers basketball games is there.

What does this have to do with Toy Story? Beats the hell out of me. I’m just feeling sentimental about things changing. Life moves forward, for better or worse, and little boys spend an eternity playing with toys that one day will end up under the bed or in a container that will collect dust for years.

My son had this big stuffed parrot about the size of a real one that he took everywhere. He’d fly it around the back yard where it found every kind of adventure. Once he propped it up in a swing and took a picture of it, then made a wooden frame and put the picture in it and put that in his bookcase where it still sits to this day.

It’s obvious that this train of thought is not going to produce anything funny, is it? Since I’m on a roll, I might as well see this through. Remember that song, “Puff the Magic Dragon?” I used to sing the chorus when it came on the radio but never knew the words until it was on a tape of kid’s songs. I listened to the words in the car because those tapes played everywhere we went. I discovered that Puff was a toy, not a real magic dragon. Turns out there was a kid named Little Johnny Paper or something like that who played with Puff in a land called Hanalei. Who knows if I’m getting these names right because those tapes were scratchy. This little Paper boy played with Puff until one day he grew up and put Puff away, and Puff never got to come out and play again.

When I first figured out poor Puff’s fate, I was so sad. “What kind of story is that for a kid?” I thought. It ranks up there with Ole Yeller. Ever seen that one? About the sweet family dog that was so spunky and made you wish more than anything that you had a dog just like then and then… well you ought to rent it if you haven’t seen it, but buy a box of Kleenex.

Oh good grief, I’m bawling right now. Tears are dripping onto my hands and my fingers are slipping all over the keyboard. I exaggerate, but I’m whimpering and my eyes are watering. I could think of some more very sad things, but I can’t take it anymore. I have been on an emotional roller coaster ever since I saw that cartoon, and there’s no cure but chocolate. Thank goodness I made some of those no-bake chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies. That’s what I’m going to serve right now at my pity party. Wish you could come. We could have a regular bawl-fest as we stuffed cookies in like we were stuffing stuffing into a torn toy. Let the fun begin!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Trashy Is As Trashy Does

My cousin in Memphis, Nancy, is so much fun and very funny. I call her every couple of weeks for a laugh fix.

She’s a jovial person, shaped like a barrel on top of a pair of gorgeous legs. She could be a model for nylons or socks, but only from the thighs down. It’s amazing how the body stores it’s excess. Mine is a muffin around my waist. Her’s is all in her torso so she looks like an Idaho potato on toothpicks. She’s got a mixed breed dog that also loves to eat, and she calls him “Fweet Tater” because he looks like a sweet potato on toothpicks. Must be genetic.

I’m trying to bring Nancy into the digital age. I set up Office Outlook for her over the phone, a task that took several hours. I’d be telling her to click here and click there, and she’d be reading me everything on the page. “It says File then Edit then….and there’s a box I just clicked on and it says….” She is an artist and notices all the details. I was just trying to get her to simply click on File…New, but that wasn’t going to happen for another ten minutes. I told my daughter it was like telling a child to go into the drug store and go directly back to the pharmacist without stopping, and the child happens to choose the toy aisle and stops to pick up every little thing along the way.

Just now she emailed me from Facebook and wanted to know how to upload pictures. This is a HUGE stretch for her, and I’m proud that she’s willing to make the attempt. I emailed her back from my Facebook and decided the tutorial shouldn’t be boring. So I said, “Go to the photos tab and create an album and name it something like, “Nancy holding a lit match to her bottom just before blasting gas.” Then describe the Location, like “At the Ladies Church Social” and then the Description: “Father didn’t really believe a match could become a torch.”

Once I’d posted it, I got to wondering whether that can be seen by the general public. I hope not because I’m trying to keep up a fa├žade of couth.

Anyway, I hope my friends have a sense of humor if they read it. I know Nancy will laugh like a teenage boy watching “The Hangover.” I’m betting she’ll wet her pants. And maybe even pass some accidental gas.

I don’t know why I’m being so tacky. I should be ashamed. I laid around on the couch all day yesterday, and ate dinner with the family in front of the TV tonight, which according to Jeff Foxworthy is a sure sign of being a redneck. I pointed this out to my husband, and he said, “If the shoe fits.”

I apologize for being trashy, but this is my 250th blog and by golly I can say what I want. So there.

Oh, and to sum up my tutorial to Nancy, I said, “And just click on the pictures you want to upload and they’ll be on your Facebook page faster than you can say, “Who farted?”

I have sunk to the depths of white trashiness. I hope I haven’t offended, but if I have, you can kiss my rosy red toes (I just gave myself a pedicure). Now I look like a muffin on two carrots with a head and shoulders baked into the top and red sprinkles on the toes. Can’t you just picture it?

Please excuse me for rambling. How else could I get through 250 BLOGS! Think about it - TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY! Whoopee!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wasting Away in Sofaville

I took a day off today from doing almost everything. Instead of gluing myself to the computer, catching up on filing, or planting the flowers I bought a week ago, I finished a mystery novel that I’ve been struggling through a page at a time in bed before I dropped off to sleep. I should feel wonderful making time for R and R, but I feel worthless.

How am I going to make up these lost leisure hours, I’d like to know? Tomorrow I will have to work extra hard and I won’t catch up. Things will be tabled until Tuesday, and then Wednesday. Is R and R really worth it?

I will leave the answer to the philosophers and people who make a living answering such questions (and please let me know if you hear of any job openings in the latter). All I know is that it felt pretty darn good.

One thing I noticed about reading while lying on the couch was that I kept dozing off. When I did, my mind would continue with the story. If I dozed off when the big strong man was approaching the petite detective lady, my semi-conscious mind would actually continue on like I was reading: “He took her in his arms and kissed her ravishingly. And then he scooped her up in his arms and walked toward the bedroom, bending down to kiss her along the way.”

I’d startle awake and look at the words on the page and this is what they’d say: “Lance walked toward Andrea. When he got within arm’s reach, she slapped him hard across the cheek. ‘You bastard!’ she hissed.”

Hmmm, my unconscious mind obviously didn’t pick up on the direction the plot was actually going. This happened over and over – with my half-asleep imagination completing scenes the second my eyes closed.

When I managed to stay awake, my conscious mind knew all too well what was coming, long before the author took the plot in that direction. I knew pages and pages earlier that the son was going to get kidnapped as if I’d already seen the movie. This was frustrating because I really wanted to be surprised. The writing style wasn’t that great, so the plot needed to be good to make up for it. This was a book someone had given me and said it was really good. As I was reading it, I kept thinking - compared to what?

But I finished it, wasting my entire Sunday on the couch, and now I’m going to have to work myself to death to make up for it. I think I’m going to go now and doze off so my mind can take me to a place where my inbox is empty, where all my good intentions have been carried out – every birthday card sent on time, every batch of cookies baked for the new neighbors – and life is carefree, plus there’s a magical box of chocolates that don’t have any calories. I’m going to dub this place “Sofaville” and it’s going to have a remote control that has commercial-free comedies all day long, and a sweet little dog to cuddle up to my feet and keep them warm. All the laundry will be done, dishwasher unloaded, bookshelves dusted, fish water changed, cobwebs knocked down, carpets with vacuum streaks, buttered popcorn that isn’t fattening, and a cheese platter.

OMG – this is so pathetic. Other people dream of changing the world or becoming rock stars. I’m dreaming of a day on the couch. Still, it sounds good. Hence, I’m off to bed where my rich fantasy life awaits me. Here’s wishing that all your dreams come true – at least in your dreams. Good night, my friends.

My Brain Reveals Itself

Yesterday I went to see if any of my other photos had sold at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts and none had. Funny how you can be so excited about something one day – “YIPPEE! TWO OF MY PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE SOLD!!!! – to “yippee, two of my photographs have sold.”

By using those capital letters I hope you can hear the excitement in my voice and see the joy on my face, while the small words show that I’m being sarcastic, as if to say, “Big freaking deal, two have sold, but what about the other seven?”

My expectations the first day were that none of them might sale, and how awful that would be. But at the end of the first day, I was so excited that I’d made two sales because it validated me as a photographer and artist. I got the stamp of approval from the world.

By the end of the second day, however, the world had said to me, “You got lucky with those two, but we’re wise to you now and you won’t get away with fooling us anymore that you’ve got talent.”

Not that the world is actually saying this (or maybe they are. If you hear anything, let me know), but the little whining, insecure voice in my head is saying, “Why did you ever think you could be a photographer? How humiliating to have your stuff hanging in a festival with real artwork for the whole entire world to see and not have any little orange dots on your card except for a measly two.”

This voice hounds me day in and day out. It’s a wonder I can ever get anything done, because it questions everything I do.

“Why are you still using that frayed toothbrush? It’s embarrassing.”

“It works fine, and who’s going to see it?”

“I see it. It might work fine, but it’s an eyesore and you know you’re supposed to replace those things every few months.”

“I just got it about six weeks ago. Can I help it if the toothbrush companies make them so they get frayed really quick?”

“Oh, so now you’re going to blame it on the toothbrush companies?”

This conversation banters back and forth until I leave the bathroom, at which time the voice starts in about something else, like: “Why don’t you clean out this closet?”

The reason I actually accomplish anything is that another voice is in my head tells me how great I am. This one says, “Why are you only entering nine of your photographs? How can you pick just nine when they are all so beautiful?”

These guys are in there arguing like an umpire and a baseball coach, in each other’s faces, spit flying, while I’m trying to make a cup of tea:

“If you’d clean out this closet, you could find something to wear.”

“There’s plenty to wear, in fact, there are so many cute things in here it’s impossible to choose between them.”

“Cute? Cute? Did you say cute? Look at this shirt? When’s the last time anyone wore this thing? It’s got a stain on the front.”

“That stain is microscopic. Nobody except Superman could see that stain.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So how come you never wear it?”

By then I’m dressed and buttering toast”

“Are you going to put that much butter on your toast? I thought you were trying to lose weight?”

I don’t know if other people have to contend with this, but to me it’s like having two kids in the back seat bickering:

“She hit me!”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“He hit me first.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“That’s because she was looking at me.”

“Was not.”

“Were too.”

I can ignore them and go about my business, or pull over and threaten them within an inch of their lives to get them to stop, or reach back there are start flailing around trying to make enough contact to distract them so they stop. Even if any of these things work, I know it’s going to start back up again a few more miles down the road.

Georgia O’Keeffe, the artist who does those paintings of one part of a flower that is magnified and sometimes look like a vagina, once said something similar to this line: “I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” Actually, this was her exact line, because I asked Google and found that the line I typed (and had to delete) was nothing like this one. I also found I’d spelled her name with only one “f” (which I changed). And I found this interesting quote by her: “I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.” This makes her sound kindof crotchety, which seems like the perfect word except I’m not sure how to spell it and I’m not going to take the time to look it up. (Note: spell check fixed it.)

The point is that she must have had those two voices in her head all the time, too, and I know exactly what she means when she says she terrified every moment. I’m just like her, except not rich and famous. I’m afraid of my own shadow, which is the reason I live in Oregon where the sun rarely shines (that’s a joke, ha ha – get it? I don’t see my shadow to be afraid of it so much here in Oregon because….oh forget it.)

If you are still with me on this long, rambling journey through the workings of my inner brain, you are probably wondering how we got so far away from the topic about my photographs. You and me both. But I will bring this full circle by saying that I promised in my last blog to make my next one twice as long, and I think I’ve succeeded, so I can end this now. Aren’t I clever?

“Are not.”

“Am too.”

“Are not.”

“Am too.”

“Are not.”

“Am too.”

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Sold Two Pictures!

I have good news! I sold two of my framed photographs at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts. It runs for 2 more days so I’m hoping to sell another. I’m too excited to write. I’ll write twice as much tomorrow.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Commercial-free Radio?

Today I was listening to Blue Collar Comedy on my satellite radio that I got they renewed for the next 6 months for a very reasonable price.

I can’t find Laugh USA anymore, which was the station I really liked because the others are pretty raunchy. Many funny people say the f-word about six times in every sentence. In fact, it has become the new “you know.” You know how stoners talk, “Hey dude, you know, man, I went down to the you know store and you know I got some you know candy – a whole you know lot of candy like I, you know, practically bought out the whole you know candy aisle I was so you know hungry for a little you know something sweet.”

On these other comedy stations, they have announcers or interviewers or comediennes or chimpanzees - whoever is holding the microphone – talking like this except they substitute the gerund form of the f-word, as in f___ing, for every “you know.” I’m not a big fan of “you knows” and have tried to eliminate as many as I can, so this substitution irritates me even more because it’s as if they are deliberating trying to insert the word as much as possible rather than just normal rambling and filling in the pauses while they try to remember what they were saying.

Sometimes they liven the word up by adding “mother” in front of it.

Today, however, I had other irritants on the satellite radio. Namely, commercials. Correct me if I’m wrong (at your own risk), but isn’t satellite radio’s claim to fame the very absence of commercials? Isn’t that why we are supposed to prefer satellite stations over the ones we don’t have to pay for?

These commercials are awful, too. I think I blogged already about Prolixus – the male enhancer that sounds like it will add girth to the male member. I don’t know about you but I’m not sure I want a member the size of a can of pork and beans coming anywhere near me. I was not broke in by a horse, if you know what I mean. Men should just leave well enough alone unless they are dating a porn star. The rest of us, and I think I speak for most women endowed with a normal anatomy, are not too interested in being skewered by something that would make the Jolly Green Giant proud. When we say, “size doesn’t matter,” we actually mean it.

I’m dipping into crude territory, but I had a long drive this morning and got saturated with these comedy stations and their stupid commercials. One very excited man was breathlessly trying to tell me that I had better hurry and snap up a home loan because these interest rates would never happen again in my lifetime. I wonder how he knew. Is he psychic? More like psychotic the way he kept saying that the government has never allowed such low rates and I’d be pretty foolish not to jump on board and take advantage of his offer right this very second, because, as he kept saying, rates would never be this low again in my lifetime. Never ever. Ever.

The commercials are homemade without any fanfare or background music, just someone claiming to be a lawyer or doctor or millionaire telling the public the honest truth about the great deals they are hawking.

I’m going to get to the bottom of this whole commercial thing if I have to call the satellite station administrator personally, except that I live on the west coast and you can only call between 8 am and 11 am Eastern Standard time, meaning that I have to call between 5 am and 8 am. It’s enough to drive me, you know, crazy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Growing Old with Barbie

I was tutoring at the high school a few weeks ago and the kids were asking me to review their essays. One of the topics they could write about was “politically correct Barbie.”

The kids were saying things like: “I think Barbie is unnatural in today’s world. Nobody looks like that anymore.”

Back in the day we all looked like Barbie. All the girls had giant pointed objects on their chests, mostly made of foam rubber or wads of toilet paper, but we all had the look. We were all skinny, too – I don’t know why. I ate like a horse, but if I turned sideways in homeroom, the teacher marked me absent. I guess I ate vast quantities of was mostly vegetables.

Today’s politically correct Barbie would have big, saggy, rounded things on her chest with cleavage going midway to her waist. She’d have long flat hair and wear clothes that didn’t match. She’d wear flip-flops even in the snow, and a tank top layered over another tank top. And she’d have rolls of spare flesh bulging over her low-slung jeans like muffin tops. She’d also have a skin-tight shirt that showed the outline of her bra plus the bra straps and maybe the top of the bra itself.

Or, if Barbie grew old, she’d have a V-shaped bottom with panty lines under polyester pants that did a lousy job of covering her cottage cheese thighs.

If you haven’t guessed, I am in a foul temper. I find that somehow I went from a bubbly 19 year old to a woman of a certain age, and I’m mad as hell about it. This was NOT supposed to happen to me. I told myself in my teens and twenties that I would refuse to grow old. I would be Peter Pan. “The only reason people age,” I said to myself, “is because they quit exercising and give up the fight, and that’s not going to happen to me.”

Now that I just typed that last paragraph, I feel like I deserve a good tongue-lashing. Please indulge me. This is me talking to me.

“Listen, bee-och, all you need to do is lose that 10 extra pounds and you’ll feel like a girl again.”

“You’ve said that before.”

“And it’s always been true. You have to promise to lose the weight and get the spring back in your step.”

“But I’m too tired.”

“Shut up that incessant whining. Just DO it!”

Okay, to shut this inner voice up, here is my pledge. I will drop 2.5 pounds a week for the next 4 weeks, starting today. Then my clothes will fit and I’ll regain my energy and I’ll start looking like the old Barbie, except I’ll still have to use toilet paper.

I’ll let you know how it’s going, and I apologize for the crabby blog. Even us humorists need to take a vacation on occasion. Oh, and I got a fortune cookie today that said, “You are a bee-och.” Just kidding, I just love the way that sounds. It really said, “You are covered in cottage cheese and will meet a nice pineapple.” Just kidding again. It really said, “You have a keen sense of humor and like to have a good time.” That is so true, except today. Today I’m an old hag carrying saddlebags full of globular fat around my waist who can barely get off this chair to drag myself to bed. But tomorrow, as I start inching my way back toward Barbie, I will be in a much better humor. I can’t wait!

Tax Dollars Blues

Recently I wrote about four city employees standing right under the stop signs at a 4-way stop, each one holding stop signs. I didn’t see any construction going on anywhere and thought this was a blatant waste of four perfectly good stop signs, but I soon forgot about it.

Today I was at the same intersection and the same four people were there. The thought crossed my mind; “I wonder how much money we, the taxpayers, are paying these people to be human stop signs when we, the taxpayers, have already paid for the four stop signs they are standing directly under?”

My curiosity led me to pull over to pose the question, “What the heck?” (or WTF for you younger readers). I approached a person in an orange vest that turned out to be a woman. “Why are you guys holding stop signs when there are already stop signs here?” I asked.

“There’s a detour,” she explained, and then went on to tell me the entire detour route. As she was doing this, the man at the stop sign to the right of us yelled, “CINDY!” I presumed he was her boss and he was alerting her to approaching traffic so she could have her sign at the ready. He must have felt that the few seconds it took me to ask the question and her to start answering was distracting her from her duties, which he appeared to think required her undivided attention.

The first time he yelled, she looked over at him to acknowledge that she’d heard and heeded his control-freaking. When I didn’t immediately scurry away, he quickly called, “CINDY” again.

“Actually,” I said, “I’m writing a humor blog and thought it was funny to see you guys standing out here under the stop signs. Is this really necessary, even with the detour?”

“CINDY!”

“We have to keep traffic moving off Multnomah Blvd. as they come around the corner to this part of the detour, and since this is such a short stretch of road right here, it would get backed up.”

“CINDY!”

I looked over and noticed he was waiting for one driver to get to him so he could let him or her through, which meant that Cindy couldn’t let her cars go. They were stacking up and snaking back around the corner of Multnomah Blvd., the very thing these four people were trying to avoid at all costs.

Cindy and I both watched him. The car he was waiting for continued to approach slowly, no doubt confused that his sign said, “Slow” but the sign right over his head said, “Stop.” I know the feeling from going through earlier. You really don’t know which one to believe. Finally the car got up to him and went through. Meantime about 20 cars had stacked up on Cindy’s side, blocking traffic on Multnomah Blvd. (which is a hard word to say and people who aren’t from around here really muddle it up. It’s pronounced “bull-i-vard).

In all honesty, I believe the stop signs could have handled the traffic better than what I just witnessed.

Finally Mr. “Hey Everybody I’m In Charge Here And Don’t You Forget It!” signaled Cindy that she could let her cars pass.

In a related story, I got a parking ticket about a month ago that I lost. It was for $70 and I don’t want the fine to double by not paying it, so I called the City of Portland and asked for a copy.

“I can’t find a record of the ticket,” the clerk said. “The policeman who wrote it hasn’t filed it yet. Call back in a week.” Which I did, and they still had no record.

“It’s been over a month, what am I supposed to do?” I asked, hoping the statute of limitations had run out on the thing.

“Just keep calling back every now and then,” she said.

“How long do I have to keep calling?”

“Sometimes it takes these guys two or three weeks to file their tickets,” she said.

“But it’s been over a month already!”

“Well, just keep calling.” So every week from now to whenever my ticket gets filed, or until eternity (whichever comes first) I will be calling the city.

I see those signs at highway construction sites that say, “Your tax dollars at work.” I’m thinking that my tax dollars hired some folks that really aren’t giving me my money’s worth.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happiness Is a Good Night's Sleep

I mentioned the happiness book I’d been listening to on my iPod yesterday, and the author started talking about studies that had been done showing happy people get enough sleep, i.e. 8 hours a night.

DUH!

I’m not trying to be sarcastic, well, yeah I am, because this seems like common sense to me. Everybody gets cranky when they don’t get enough sleep, but nobody’s doing it on purpose. If you’re not sleeping enough it’s probably because you have (1) too much work, (2) too many babies (3) too many bed bugs, or (d) too many troubles. Oh, and I forgot to add (f) teenagers.

I have a teenage daughter who spends her every waking minute giving me causes to fret. What are her and her boyfriend doing when they’re supposed to be at a movie? What are her and her boyfriend doing out in the bonus room, and should I go in and pretend to be looking for something again? When we added that bonus room it was to get our noisy kids and their friends away from us. Now it’s way, WAY too quiet in there. Is her boyfriend causing her to study less? Is she spending too much time with her boyfriend and not enough with her girlfriends? Does the boyfriend ever eat at home?

She has a midnight curfew, and I feel I need to be awake to make sure she comes home on time, and alone. It’s not that I don’t trust her, it’s just that I was her age once….and I’m not going to say anything else on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me.

So if I hop in bed at 12:01, and the crows start squawking at 5 a.m., which means I’m going to lose about 3 hours worth of happiness. I believe this explains why I am cranky and try to pick fights with my family, friends, grocery clerks, and the dog. If none of them are around, I argue with myself, out loud. Sometimes I snarl and bite. I’ll show you the teeth marks if you don’t believe me.

Sometimes I’d like to switch places with my dog. She lies around all day except when someone goes in the kitchen, where she’ll come from the ends of the earth hoping for a dollop of butter. I sling it off the knife onto the floor but sometimes it hits her. What a mess. Butter splats right between the eyes, and her tongue not nearly long enough to reach it even when she curls it out the sides of her mouth. This is torture for her, so I’m not sure why I nearly roll on the floor laughing when it happens. I invite the whole house in to watch. Then I have to clean off the butter and give her a dab as a consolation, which I’m sure she thinks is not nearly enough for what I’ve put her through and the public humiliation.

I can tell you one thing, though, I don’t lose any sleep worrying about accidently buttering my dog on occasion. I’ve got plenty of other things robbing me of my rest and happiness, including writing this blog very late at night. I get tickled and that makes me wide awake. I just wish you could see that dog trying to get at that butter.

So I will bid you all sweet dreams and hope the crows decide to take a vacation so I can sleep in until maybe even 6 o’clock. Ah, that it would be so….

Monday, June 21, 2010

Humorless Happiness

I was Googling something the other day and came across a website about happiness. There were some tidbits of wisdom in the right hand column and I read a couple. Intrigued, I ended up buying the book, written by Gretchen Rubin, called The Happiness Project.

It was a downloadable book that I started listening to yesterday while I was cleaning house. After awhile I realized a very important thing – happiness is not conducive to humor.

Listen to any comic or watch any sitcom and the humor is all about the misery or misfortune in people’s lives. I love The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about super-intelligent nerds. Much of the humor comes from them either putting down each other’s intelligence or mishaps they have to squirm out of because they lack the social skills average-intelligent people have people have. Leonard, some kind of super physicist or something, is dating the blond bimbo who lives across the hall, which provides plenty of material to contrast his super-intelligence with her lack of it.

Here’s what the script would be like if they were following the suggestions in The Happiness Project:

“Hi Leonard, thanks for coming in.”

“My pleasure, Penny. You look lovely in your Cheesecake Factory uniform.”

“Well, aren’t you sweet? Taking a break from your contam physics?”

“(Laughs) I love how you say quantum.”

And blah blah blah. Utterly boring.

My point is that I don’t know how much of this happiness stuff I can take. The Happiness Project book is good, and I’m going to listen to it and hopefully follow some of the suggestions and make some positive changes in my life. But she makes it sound like I need to be loving and forgiving and kind and generous, and sensitive and patient and a good listener, and quite frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to it. I’m smart enough to know that these things work because I’ve tried them here and there in my life. But they’re like Brussels sprouts, they’re okay some of the time but I’m a long way off from wanting to make a steady diet of them.

Humor is based on sarcasm, put downs, people’s pain, or unexpected, negative things happening. It is not funny to see a man in a suit walking down the street. But it’s very funny seeing the same man walking along and slipping on a banana peel so that his legs fly up over his head and he lands, WHOOMP, flat on his back with the wind completely knocked out of him and flailing like an upside down turtle.

In a happy world this would not happen. The insensitive dolt who threw the banana peel down would not have done it in the first place. He would have walked a block out of his way to find a garbage can because he’d want to keep the city beautiful. The Three Stooges would never smack each other with a 2 x 4 or poke each other in the eyes in a happy world. I could not write about men with limp you-know-whats because all those men using Viagra (nearly 99% of U.S. males) would be offended.

So don’t worry, you can count on me to not succumb to these happiness theories, even after I listen to that book cover to cover. I will not let this happiness stuff go to my head if I can help it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Doggie Barf-o-Matic

My dog goes into these cycles of throwing up constantly, and she’s in one right now. My husband was peacefully curled up on the couch watching TV when I heard him bellow, “Awg, the dog barfed on the couch.” I went in there because I’m the designated dog throw-up remover since I was the one who wanted the dog, and there was a slimy wet pile with a streak where his bare foot had carved a path like the wake of a boat. He limped off to scour the foot with bleach, and I cleaned up the 100th pile of the day.

We don’t know why she gets this way. She can go days without even burping, and then one day I wake up to the sound of her stomach. It’s a cacophony of growling like no human stomach has ever made, even the hungriest one or the one that ate chili a couple of hours ago. These noises sound like something miserable is alive in there and it’s got a microphone.

Later, she doesn’t eat her food. This is a very bad sign. She tries to bury the food with her nose. She pretends to cover it with fake dirt, and her nose keeps hitting the bowl, lifting it in the air so that it comes down with a resounding bang like hard plastic dropping on hard tile. This goes on forever. I realize she has instincts that are commanding her to bury the uneaten food lest some wild animal appear and scarf it up, but can’t she see that there is no dirt? Pretending to cover a bowl of food is not the same as actually covering it.

The reason her not eating is a bad omen is because it means that, 9 times out of 10, she’s got an upset stomach and she will be expunging all of yesterday’s food for the next several hours. She goes outside and eats grass, which I’ve heard is supposed to soothe the stomach but for her it’s like turbo emesis. FYI emesis is the Greek word for vomit. Barf is the Latin word.

When the vomit fountain starts flowing, it comes out in erratic spurts. Sometimes there’s just a spot here and there. Others, there is a pool that frogs could play in if they were so inclined. Birds could take a bath in there, and so on. For a 9-pound dog, she’s got quite a reservoir.

The carpet looks like it’s got land mines all over it. I wipe them quickly with some anti-doggie germ stuff but the evidence lingers for hours until it dries. Everyone who has come to our house has either witnessed her throwing up or has been the victim of a barf blast. My brother was over the other day and decided to rest his back by lying on the floor. He started to lay his head down but paused, looking around. “I bet there’s not one square inch of this carpet that hasn’t been covered in that dog’s throw up.”

“Yeah, and more than once,” I said. He put his head down anyway, and the dog jumped on his stomach and promptly threw up a white, slimy pile on his crotch.

“Oh my gosh, that looks just like…” I didn’t say any more because I’m making this part up and don’t know what else to say. But all the other stuff I’ve written is true, if you can believe that.

I asked my daughter, “What should I blog about?” and she said, as she dodged one of the wet piles, “Write about that dog barfing.” So I did. Hope you enjoyed it. If you ever come to my house, wear shoes and guard your crotch.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Drink Life Up Without Regrets

We had some Chinese food last night and ended up with leftovers. One box was this really good green bean stuff with little chunks of garlic that is out of this world from Wu’s Open Kitchen. Anyway, I scooped out all the green beans and put them on a plate to pop in the microwave with the other stuff. I got ready to toss the box in the garbage and noticed there was some juice in the bottom full of those little chunks of garlic.

I was starving and it looked so good, I thought about tilting the box up. Then I calculated what would happen. You know the Chinese take out boxes I’m talking about? They have those little fold tops. I needed to fold them completely down or else, as that fabulous liquid started toward my wide-open mouth, it would run out between the slits and I’d lose some of it.

I knew this would happen by observing the design and because of past experience. So I moved the top lids down so that my mouth could be very close to the box but it still didn’t make contact. I knew there was a risk that some of the liquid would miss my mouth. So what did I do? I tilted that box up faster that lightning strikes, and all that liquid ran out where the slits were and headed right down the front of my top. Not only did it go inside the low cut top, it went between the cleavage, out the bottom of my bra that doesn’t make total contact right in that one and only spot – women know what I’m talking about – and ran down my stomach nearly to my belly button.

I must say I had no idea liquid could flow that fast or with so much force. From a purely scientific observation, it was quite remarkable. And what are the odds that the liquid would find it’s way right down that cleavage? A little to the left or right and the damage would have been minimal.

As it was, I was drenched all the way down the front of me by what appeared to be no more that a teaspoon or two of benign fluid at the bottom of a small cardboard box.

There are forces in nature we do not understand, but they plot and scheme to work against us so that we will not get the impression that we are intelligent beings in control of our own lives. These forces cause us to get tripped up on feet that are so used to walking some people can do it in their sleep. They make it so we can’t remember our debit card pin that we’ve been using daily for ten years when there is a line behind us as long as the equator. They make food leap off a fork as it travels to our mouth and land in the lap of a silk dress that is Dry Clean Only. The list is infinite, and I’m not the only person who has been dealt the cruel hand of fate. How many times have you heard people say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with this key, it always worked before?” or “Of all the luck…”

The heartbreaking thing about tonight’s Chinese food incident is that (a), I didn’t get to enjoy that glorious nectar, and (2) I knew it was going to happen. I was getting the vibe big time that it was going to spill on me, but I decided to gamble. I thought if I tried, I’d have a 50-50 chance that it wouldn’t spill, or worst case, it would spill but only a little. I knew I was taking a chance, and it crossed my mind to pour the stuff in a cup. Why didn’t I? Because I thought that would be a stupid waste of a clean cup, and it would take a few seconds more and I wasn’t willing to wait.

What have we learned from this?

First, we’ve learned that I’m an idiot.

Second, we’ve learned that if something can go wrong it will, so only an idiot would gamble on getting a lucky break, even just this once.

Third, we’ve learned that we can console ourselves with a Costco cookie and some chocolate pudding, which, combined, turned out to be a nice consolation for the missed green bean juice.

And finally, we’ve learned that being cautious is probably a good way to go, but it’s not nearly as interesting, and living your life in fear of Chinese juice in your cleavage is just living a half life. I say, don’t be afraid to go for it all. Better to have tipped the box and get soaked than drink out of a cup like some smug little sissy girl who wants to act superior all the time. That’s just not me, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Now excuse me while I go take a shower.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Surviving Through Lunacy

I was walking my dog through some wooded trails near my house and got pretty far into the woods when I passed a man. I’d been deep in thought, probably thinking about the cookies I’d made and how good they were and how I wished I had stuck a few in my pocket. I wasn’t thinking about being alone out there with a 9-pound dog that would feel like a mosquito if she chomped down on an attacker.

The guy gave me the creeps. Hair started rising on my arms, and I was getting that prickly feeling on the back of my neck. I nonchalantly quickened my pace while I thought about worse case scenarios. He could at that very second be turning around and following me. He’d keep his pace faster than mine so he’d close the gap between us. It was a cold, cloudy, ugly, miserable day and we were probably the only souls in that million-acre park with nothing but quiet trees to hear my screams.

I was getting frantic. I couldn’t outrun him, or outfight him. My best hope was to do something to make myself unappealing to him, but what? And then I came up with a brilliant plan. I started talking out loud to the dog.

“I can’t believe I got cooties,” I said loudly, as if the dog was deaf. “I itch all over.” I started scratching exaggeratedly all over my head “This is the most stubborn case I’ve ever had. They’re everywhere.”

I started scratching my arms and back. “I sure hope you don’t get the cooties from me. They’re highly contagious. You think fleas are bad, they’re nothing compared to these cooties. They get in your hair and all over your bedding. They’re almost impossible to get rid of.” Then I shouted in exasperation, “Oh I HATE these cooties.”

I got the idea for the cooties because when I’m walking in grassy areas where snakes can be lurking. I talk out loud and kindof stomp my feet.

“Listen here, snakes,” I say. “I’m a big, mean, snake-stomping machine and you had better crawl out of my path unless you want your eyeballs to squirt out of your head like popcorn in a hot frying pan. You better get on down the road and don’t look back or I’ll flatten you and make you into a snakeskin belt. You better take your rattling behind on out of here or I’ll twist it off and give it to a baby for a play pretty. You better…” and so on.

I jabbered about the cooties for about fifteen more minutes, scratching like an orangutan in a silly movie, not daring to look back or slow down. Finally I came up to the road. Only then did I look back and see an absolutely empty path.

“We scared him away,” I told my dog. She looked up at me and said, “I’ve been itching like crazy this whole time. You better NOT have given me the cooties or I will rain down an unholy terror of barfing and diarrhea that will blanket the house an inch deep.”

She may be little, but I don’t doubt that she could do it. I had a lot of explaining to do on the way back to my house.

Yes the neighbors may think I’m crazy, but I’m still alive after that close call today. I might be crazy, but crazy like a fox. No?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stopping for Signs

Today I was driving to meet my friend so we could walk our dogs and I came up to a 4-way stop. Standing under each of the stop signs was a highway flagger person holding a metal sign with “slow” on one side and “stop” on the other. There was no construction being done as far as the eye could see.

The person facing my side of the traffic had his sign turned to “slow.” The car in front of me pulled forward. When I stopped (because of the Stop sign), he started waving the sign for me to proceed slowly.

I don’t know what the guy’s big hurry was. There were no other cars in the entire intersection, and no construction going on, and even he could figure out I’d stopped out of habit, so why’d he threw a hissy fit?

This job cannot be that difficult.

“Okay, you’re going to hold this sign here at this stop sign, and when the cars get close, you want to wave it in the air like this to make ‘em stop. Then you make ‘em wait a few minutes while you look back and forth like there’s something you need to check, and take a puff or two on your cigarette, and then you slowly turn the sign around and let ‘em go. You got that?”

“Whoa, that’s a lot to remember. You better run that by me again a little slower.”

“Okay, now that I’ve gone over it a second time, you think you can handle it?”

“You say I need to take a puff off my cigarette? But I don’t smoke.”

“Holy Jiminy Christmas.. Where do they get you guys? If you don’t smoke, you should. In the meantime, just pick your nose or scratch your ass or whatever you can think of to stall ‘em.”

“Why can’t I just let them go right away?”

“Now what on God’s green earth would be the point of that? You want to make this job fun, don’t you? Well, it ain’t no fun if you just let ‘em go without teasing them a little. If you hold them off long enough, they’ll start squirming in their seats a little, and then they’ll start slapping their fists against the steering wheel. I get a real kick out of that. It’s pretty entertaining on a long shift in the rain. Otherwise your days are going to seem like they last 60 hours. Is that what you want?”

“Well, I…”

“And another thing. You start letting people through in a hurry and you’re going to make the rest of us look bad. We stick together in this job, and you better get that through you head right now. If that’s not something you think you can handle, then you’d better hang up your sign. You finally got all that?”

“I guess so.”

“You’ve taken me well over five minutes to train you, and now I’m way behind. I hope you learn to pay attention out here or else find yourself another line of work.”

“I just…”

“Don’t give me no lip, boy. Now get a holt of that sign and get out there and start slowin’ down some traffic like I told you.”

When I went back home this morning, I took another route. I didn’t have the time to waste watching the State of Oregon spend 4 times the money needed on construction crews waving signs to tell me to do the obvious. I’m sure Oregon had good intentions this morning, but you know what they say about good intentions? The road to Hell may be paved with them, but the road to the dog park is paved with tax dollars and nincompoops.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Unrewarding Rewards

I don’t know about how they do things in your neck of the woods, but here in the Northwest every store has started trying to get you to sign up for their rewards cards. I guess it’s a smart marketing tool to build customer loyalty, but why do they have to give you all those plastic cards or things to hang off your key chain? I have about six of those things to every key on my key chain, and it takes me a very long time to find the right one at the cash register, and then both I and the cashier have to contort ourselves to get the scanner to read it while piles of people stack up in the line behind me.

Some stores give you immediate discounts. At Safeway you can see your $100 grocery bill whittled down to $96 right before your eyes, which I find very satisfying. But Fred Meyer’s sends you discount coupons in the mail. This is a win-win for them, but a pain in the neck for me. To use the coupons, I have to go back to Fred’s and shcp, so I end up buying impulse items like Pepperidge Farms Mint Milano cookies. Also, chances are good I’ll lose the coupons when they get buried in all those wads of plastic in my purse and expire before I excavate them.

I can’t go into any store at all without being given a sales pitch about why I need to join the store’s rewards program.

“Ma’am, would you like to sign up for our triple star rewards program where you’ll earn triple points today?”

“I’m just here to buy a washer for my faucet.”

“That’s okay, you’ll be able to save 10% off your purchase today and earn points you can redeem later.”

“But I never come in here. And B, how much is 10% off of 39 cents?”

“Well, it may not seem like much, but it really adds up, especially in these hard economic times.”

“Okay, go ahead and sign me up.”

“Oh, good. This will only take a few minutes once the computer comes back up….”

I signed up for Macy’s rewards and get 20% discount cards all the time in the mail. It was pretty exciting until I went to try and use one.

“I’m so sorry, but this discount doesn’t apply to these items,” the clerk said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“It’s right there on the back of the card,” she said.

I looked at the card and saw something that I thought was part of the design – little squiggly lines. “Here, use my glasses,” she said. I put her glasses on and could tell the lines were writing, but couldn’t make out the words. “Here, use this magnifying glass.” With it I could see that there was a very long list of items that did not qualify for the discount – namely every regular priced, sale, or clearance item of every brand name in the store. “Is there anything I can actually purchase to get the discount?” I asked. “Not that I know of,” she said brightly. “Will that be cash or credit?”

I think this whole loyalty thing would work better if everyone wasn’t doing it. I have cards at Albertsons, Safeway, and Fred Meyer. I just go to the store that’s on my way without a thought about their rewards. I’ve signed up for Nordstrom, Macy’s, and American Eagle rewards, among others, but I buy different things in these stores. I don’t buy anything for myself in a couple of them, only stuff for my daughter. Toting these rewards cards around has not increased my loyalty, and it ticks me off that I’m probably paying MORE than I did before because these stores are making all those plastic cards and sending coupons in the mail and I’m footing the bill for it.

I just hoping they get rid of them and lower prices across the board before I have to bump up to a larger purse to accommodate my colossal key chain.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Parade Day

I went to the Rose Festival parade on Saturday. It was great seeing all the people. The parade was entertaining, too.

Even though it’s free to watch the parade on the street, I think they must have some admission criteria.

(1) You must weigh 100 pounds over your ideal weight.

(2) You must sit in a flimsy aluminum lawn chair with legs bowing under the strain

(3) When you struggle to your feet, the lawn chair must remain attached to your bottom until someone pries it off

(4) You must wear a very loud printed top one size too small.

There are more horses in a parade than you see on any farm, many of them with rodeo queens. Quite a few of these ladies met the same criteria as (1) and (2) above, except substitute the word “saddle” for “lawn chair.” The horses of the biggest gals were stopping and snorting and trying to walk backwards. The queens tried to make it appear that they were manipulating the horses on purpose, but I knew these horses were putting up a fight. They were thinking, “There is no freaking way that I’m walking on this hard pavement when my back is bowing so much that my belly is practically scraping the ground. I am backing out of this situation right now.”

These robust queens were nothing compared to the dance teams tromping by. Who on earth picks out those stretchy polyester dance uniforms? Listen up, dance uniform picker outer, If the majority of your dance team is made up of girls in the plus to jumbo size range, there must be some other fabric that will camouflage their insatiable craving for Moon Pies and Big Gulps. Look for some corset-like material that will smooth them out rather than those gaudy things that accentuate their every layer of rolls.

In stark contrast to your American dance team, you have the ones coming from Portland’s sister cities in Korea and Japan. These wisps of girls sport bright, NON-STRETCHY uniforms that make them look toned and healthy. They practically float over the ground along with the colorful flags they wave. You could package a dozen of these girls in one of our dance uniforms and still have less bulges.

The size of these kids used to shock me, but I’ve gotten used to it. I look for other things to shake my head at, and I was not disappointed this time. I witnessed something at this parade that I could not for the life of me figure out. When the horses walk by, there is a cute golf cart decorated with signs like “Pooper Scooper” and “Road Apple Patrol.” One such cart lost sight of its purpose and went IN FRONT of the horses. As luck would have it, a horse decided let loose a thunderous amount of baseball sized steamy green chunks in the middle of the street right in front of us.

The crowd groaned and looked around for the Pooper Scooper, but then we remembered it had already gone by, so we thought another one would be along soon.

In the blink of an eye, a mom to the left of us prodded one of her little boys to run out in the middle of the street and stand by the steaming cluster for a photo op. He didn’t want to, so she offered him $5. He slowly walked out there and stood beside the heap while she trained her camera on him. Then she wanted him to interact with the pile – pretending to step in it, fall in it, be surprised by it, etc. He dutifully complied. His littler brother ran out as well and they pretended to push each other into the pile. Most of the crowd sat with our jaws hanging open at this supreme white trash display, but some, the biggest and brightest dressed ones, encouraged the boys to dance around the turds and really whoop it up.

About that time the Marine Band came around the corner toward us. They were all grim-faced discipline. “Do you think they’ll step in it?” I asked my daughter. “No, surely they’ll move over,” she said. “Don’t call me Shirley,” I snapped.

The marines kept their eyes straight ahead and tromped right through the pile, the cuffs of their pants dragging turds along as they marched. The crowd moaned. I felt my cereal rising up like mercury in a thermometer. Not one marine flinched. There could have been a dead possum lying there and they would have squished right through it.

The rest of the parade was anti-climatic after this. The Boy Scouts came next, and they dodged the pile like it was a nest of rattlesnakes, parting like the Red Sea until they got around it. Same with the rest of the groups. Those turds lingered through the whole parade, taunting everyone who passed. My biggest regret was that I gawked at those two boys rather than whipping my camera out and taking a picture, because who’s going to believe that really happened?

Askar's Addendum

If you read my last two blogs, you might get the impression that I’m a nice person. This is not true. I only did a little for Askar. I could have picked him up in the morning and taken him to school. I also could have given him money, grocery shopped for him, bought him clothes and any number of other things. I really did the minimum; so do NOT be hanging a Mother Teresa sign on me.

I’m not exactly sure how I feel about giving handouts. In contrast to Askar, I know a kid who is working at Blockbuster, a video rental chain losing its links to bankruptcy (get it – losing its “links,” like links in a chain, because it’s a “chain” store). You know a joke isn’t good if you have to put something in parentheses after it.

This kid is down to working about 8 hours a week, and his store is closing in a couple of weeks. Rather than looking for a new minimum wage, no-skill job (which are available because of high turnover), he is getting unemployment. He’s an able-bodied high school graduate who could easily sling hash, pump gas, or collect trash. Instead, with the help of your and my taxes, he can sit home all day and play video games.

I don’t know how the government decides who is deserving of a handout and who isn’t, but I can assure you that this kid is not deserving. At 21, it appears to me that he could be an expensive investment for our tax dollars without any return if this continues throughout his life. Giving him a job makes way more sense than giving him money. Couldn’t that money be put toward temporarily employing him to pick up garbage beside the highway of weeding our national cemetery for a few hours a day?

By now you must be asking, “What is her point, and how come it isn’t funny?” The answer goes back to Askar. I felt guilty not doing more for him, especially when I saw how tired he was, but in the end, if I had done more, would he have accomplished all he did on his own? Would he have had his picture in the yearbook or in the graduation handout or gotten the Mr. Perseverance award? Would the principal talked about him overcoming his struggles on his own and never giving in? She might have been talking about ME, for crying out loud.

There’s an old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” I believe I was put in Askar’s path and given just enough guilt to offer him the exact amount of help so that he would not lose sight of where he aimed to go.

If I had done more, would he have done less? I’ll never know, but one thing is for sure, I will always feel guilty about not doing more – if you’ve seen “The Blind Side” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Still, I will always feel proud that I did something, and that it turned out right.

About three weekends ago I forgot to pick Askar up after work at 11:30 on a Saturday night. I was home writing my blog and just completely spaced it. I remembered around 1:30 and sent him a text to apologize. He replied that he was on the bus heading home and not to worry about it. I continued to send one apology after another. I felt really bad. He finally replied, “Do not be sorry. You saved my life. I am so thankful for all you do.” Perhaps he was just trying to make me stop texting, but his message soothed my stupidity that night and has helped to ease my guilt at not doing more.

So please do not put a hero sticker on me, because I did just the measliest minimum to help a kid graduate from high school. As it turns out, that was enough, but I’m certainly no saint in so many ways, it’s not even funny.

Speaking of funny, thanks for indulging me while I told a remarkable young man’s story. I was just so proud of him that I got carried away and lost sight of where I aimed to go, which is to give you, oh faithful reader, a little dab of humor every day. I pledge to return to humor on my next blog, and I’ll try really hard to actually be funny.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Askar's Story, Part 2

February nudged March, which gave way to April. “You’re almost there,” I told Askar. “Only a few weeks to go.” “I’m so tired, SuzyAnnde” he said frequently, the weariness like a sad mask on his face.

One day in May he got a backache that wouldn’t go away. He started missing school and work. I would text him, “Are you working today?” “No, am not in school too.” He complained that he was way behind on his work. “You have to take something for the pain,” I said. “I have some pills but don’t want to take them.” The doctor at a clinic downtown told him it was strain and he needed to rest. I worried that he wouldn’t have the money to make his rent, but when I asked he said he was okay.

On my regular tutoring day he was back at school but he could barely sit – he was like a board leaning against the chair – his legs straight out under the table and his back rigid. After school I took him home. “Let’s get you some food before I drop you off,” I said. “Then you can rest your back all evening.”

He wanted to stop at an African restaurant near his house to get take-out. “You should try the food too,” he said. “You will like it.” I wasn’t too sure about that, but it smelled so good when we went in the door that I ordered meals for my husband and I to go. We ended up waiting forever for the food to be done, and sat at a table watching Aljazeera news on TV, which I’d never seen before. It was all subtitled in English, and I found it fascinating. Most of the news was about America and Europe, with some Middle East stories as well. “Can you understand the language they’re talking in?” I asked. The sound was turned down but I assumed it was in Arabic or whatever language they speak over there. Askar laughed. “It’s in English!” he said. “It’s not a Middle East station?” I asked, thinking it was some satellite station from across the world. He thought that was the funniest thing ever and laughed in spite of his pain. “They have Aljazeera in many languages” he said, shaking his head. ”It’s like CNN.” How was I supposed to know?

The food finally came and I tried to pay with my Discover card but they didn’t take it, so I handed over my VISA. It got rejected. “That’s nuts,” I said. “I always have a zero balance.” Then I remembered the new card had come in and I hadn’t bothered to replace the old one yet. I looked at the card and it had expired. “I will pay for it.” Askar said, and handed his credit card to the cashier. “I could write a check,” I protested, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “You do so much for me,” he said, and pushed my hand away as I tried to hand over my debit card. I took the food home and my husband and I had a feast. I felt bad taking his money, but I quickly repaid him by buying a yearbook for him since he couldn’t afford it. There was a big picture of him in one place and other pictures elsewhere. He was very happy.

One night he told me his friends wanted him to meet them downtown at a teen club. I felt odd taking him there. I wondered about liability if anything happened. But he had very little social life, and I thought, “What the heck?” He told me later that someone at the club told that his shirt looked like a gang shirt and he had to take it off. He tried to hide it but later, when he was ready to leave, it wasn’t there. I suspected the person who told him to take it off and just wear his undershirt had his eye on it and thought this gullible kid would be easy prey. “It was my favorite shirt and I had just gotten it a few days before,” he said.

As graduation drew near, I asked if he was going to the all-night grad party. “Too expensive,” he said. “I think they have scholarships, and I know the mom in charge. I’ll give her a call.” When I told her the circumstances, she said, “We can give him a full scholarship.” He neglected to get his paperwork in on time, but they were lenient and he ended up being able to go after several moms helped the process along for him.

At the senior awards, he got to go up on stage and accept an award for being, “Mr. Perseverance.” The principal told the students and parents in the auditorium about his story and how he overcame so many odds to finish his education. He was very proud.

On graduation night, the principal again talked about a couple of the students because her theme was “never give in.” One was Askar. She dragged the story out, and I knew she was trying to make the point that life can be hard, but you can press through the bad times and reach your goals. Askar was a perfect example. “I was so afraid she was going to say my name,” Askar said afterward. “I had my head in my hands I was so embarrassed.” “Everyone is very proud of you,” I said. I didn’t tell him that he was an example to so many of those kids who’ve had everything given to them and still whine about their miserable lives.

After graduation I looked for him for a long time in the sea of square green hats and graduation gowns. Finally we spotted each other. He ran over and gave me a long hug. It was the first time we had touched. I thought it might be against his religion so I avoided contact. He took me to meet his aunt and uncle, and his uncle, who could not speak much English, kept smiling and shaking my hand. “You are very kind,” he said, “you are part of this family.” He was very kind.

Askar’s brother was supposed to bring him a change of clothes but did not arrive on time. Askar got on the grad night bus wearing a long sleeved white dress shirt, suit pants, and wing-tip shoes. I felt sad for him because all the other kids were in jeans and tennis shoes. Luckily I’d packed a swimsuit and towel for him – an old one of my son’s – because they were going to a pool and he’d told me he didn’t have a swimsuit.

The next morning at 6:00 am I picked him up after the all-night party. “You don’t have to come,” he had told me. But I knew he’d be so tired, and the thought of him walking all the way to the bus stop and riding in the morning rush hour traffic for an hour and a half was too much.

While I was waiting to pick him up, I thumbed through the pages of a handout made by Portland Public Schools to give to parents along with the graduation program. They had students from all over the city, and I saw Askar’s picture. It had a long paragraph about everything he’d overcome to graduate, “while working two jobs and living by himself, he still managed to get a 3.78 GPA.” I was flabbergasted! He must have never slept to end up with that high of a GPA. When he got in the car I said, “I didn’t know your grades were so high.” “It was because of you,” he answered. “You gave me extra time to study or I would have had all C’s and D’s.” I don’t think that was true, but it was a nice thing to say.

Why have I written about Askar in a humor column? I guess because I will always think of him when I’m ready to give up. And I hope that anyone reading this will find an opportunity to help a kid. Even a little makes your heart swell, and you’d be surprised how many kids there are out there fending for themselves.

And though you’ve probably not laughed reading this, I hope you at least ended up with a smile.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Askar's Story, Part 1

Let me tell you about Askar. He’s this senior high school student I’ve been volunteer tutoring for a couple of years.

Askar came from Somalia, a war-torn country in Africa, three years ago and did not know English. The first year I tutored him he was a happy-go-lucky kid who smiled a lot, joined the track team, and was learning quickly. He made good grades in spite of barely understanding English because he worked so hard. Sometimes it was painful to work with him - I had to keep asking him to repeat his questions in order to understand what he was saying. He could not read one sentence of homework instructions without having to ask what two or three words meant.

In December 2009 Askar had to leave our tutoring session early because he said he had a job interview. He was a senior, so it wasn’t unusual that he’d want a part-time job. I asked what kind of work and he told me that it was on an assembly line working 5 days a week from 3-11 I pried and found out that his parents had split up and he had been living with his older brother, but the brother was moving and Askar had to find his own place. “I have to have rent money,” he said.

I knew he could not finish his senior year and work this job, which was located way out by the airport, so I begged him not to take that job. I mentioned to the librarian that he needed work, and perhaps she put the word out. As luck would have it, he got a job as a janitor right at the high school working from 4-9 Monday through Friday, which was a perfect set-up.

He had too much luck, however, because he had also applied at OHSU hospital and was hired there as well, working from 3:30 to 11 on Saturday and Sunday in the transportation department moving wheelchair and stretcher patients.

I advised him not to take both jobs, but he didn’t know which to turn down, and he wanted the money. He managed okay the first couple of weeks, then he became exhausted. He’d come to tutoring and lay his head on the table to and rest. “I am so tired, SuzyAnne,” he’s say. That’s how my name sounds with a Somalian accent. He complained of headaches and of his grades falling. He had found an apartment, but it was across town, which meant a long bus ride to school and after work.

I kept saying, “You are young, you can do this. Just don’t quit school.” It became apparent after the first month that he wasn’t gong to be able to manage it all. He didn’t have enough time to work, go to school, study and sleep, much else shop for and prepare food or hang out with his friends. Since he had to work, and he had to sleep at least a few hours, school moved down on his priority list.

I wondered what I could do to help him. I thought about giving him money so he could quit one of the jobs, but somehow this didn’t seem right. I prayed about it and racked my brain and finally decided that the best thing I could give him was time. One night when he got off work I showed up at the bus stop and asked him if he wanted a ride. He was surprised and hesitant, but accepted, and I drove him home. I told him, “I am supposed to do something for Lent, and I’ve decided I will drive you home from work and that will be something good I can do.”

He is Muslim and understood the concept of sacrificing for your religion, and so even though it was awkward for both of us, I continued to pick him up after work, and he accepted the rides. It usually took him an hour or more to get home on the bus, plus the waiting and walking time. I could have him home in 15 minutes or so. “You can use that extra time for sleep or studying or sleep,” I said.

Sometimes he would be so tired it would break my heart. I’d tell him a funny story or talk about the Trailblazers or ask him about work at OHSU to try and get his energy back up. “Oh, SuzyAnne,” he’d say. “The people are so fat. It took three of us to push the man’s stretcher. Three of us! He was so big and everyone there is so big! Why do they eat so much?” These stories, though tragic, made us laugh at 11:30 on those dark rainy nights, and I looked forward to hearing them.

I would ask him about the Muslim religion and was fascinated with the customs. “If you touch a girl in my country before you are married, even just on the arm, her father could come and shoot you in the head and no one would do anything to him because of the Muslim law.”

Once I brought my dog in the car, and she jumped over in his lap. He raised his hands in the air. “You’re not a dog person, I see.” “No, not really,” he said, waiting for her to get off his lap before he put his hands down. A few days later he told me that dogs were considered unclean. “if you touch a dog, you have to wash your hands seven times,” he said.

“Don’t people have them for pets?” I asked. “No, not one person,” he answered. “There is not one dog in the town I came from. Not even on the street. People have cats for pets, but not dogs.”

I will continue Askar’s story tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ripped by Preparation H

In my last blog I talked about causes and cures for the bags under my eyes. In doing thorough internet research on this very important subject, I came across an article by ABC news about men rubbing Preparation H on their arms and chests to make them appear “ripped.”

I can probably figure out what ripped means, but what the heck, I might as well look it up. I’m back already, and, just as I suspected, it means torn. It also means rubbing it in that someone was an idiot to spend a lot of money, as in, “Oh man, you paid $600 for a dog? You got ripped, man. My neighbor’s got a whole bunch of those same puppies. I coulda got you one for free.”

Like so many words in this language you’re reading, there are several meanings for the same word. Thus “ripped” also means having ripples of muscles, sometimes called a six-pack. In this case six pack does not mean beer, but those highly defined muscle groups in the stomachs of lean men who have nothing better to do than push heavy weights toward the sky and make commercials explaining how easy it is for everyone else to get “six-pack abs.”

Unfortunately, everyone watching these commercials is, at that very instant, “putting away” a six-pack. This is another example of how confusing our language is, and probably explains why we don’t see many six-pack abs in real life. No one has explained to these chronic TV viewers that the six-pack goes ON the stomach, not IN it.

I’m always amused to what lengths men and women will go in order to attract each other. It seems like the more they try, the less success they have. And they go about it in such ass-backwards ways.

A Preparation H guy wants to get lucky with a temporary relationship that lasts no longer than a few hours. He’s trying to make himself sexually appealing.

Women are looking for Mr. Right so they can become Mrs. Right. They don’t want a one nighter – they want life with no parole. They’re looking for a guy who’s sharp and stable and sweet. They’re not looking for a guy who’s practically wearing a neon sign that says, “I’m a bee yo love slave tonight.” Guys need to dress for success, not for sex.

On the other hand, women are looking for a guy who’s ready to go the long haul. So what do they do? They dress sexy and give guys the come-on because they think this will attract a prospective marriage partner. All they end up attracting is the guy who smells like Preparation H, and they’re going to avoid him because he’s so obviously just interested in a one-time sleepover.

The guy looking for a long-term relationship is going to avoid the woman who has overdone her makeup and revealed too much skin because she doesn’t look like the mother of his children.

Seems to me that this is a no-win situation all the way around. You might as well just stay home and work on that six-pack.

Baggy Eyes

I have a perplexing problem. I have awakened this morning with bags under my eyes. The perplexing problem is that I ONLY get bags under my eyes if I wake up and then go back to sleep. It doesn’t matter if I’ve only slept 3 hours or if I’ve slept 12 hours, I will not get bags under my eyes if I sit up right away. In other words, for those of you who still give a rip but aren’t comprehending what I’m saying, it is not the lack of sleep but the LACK OF GETTING UP that causes the puffy swelling under my eyes.

Here’s a pop quiz. You don’t know me, but can you guess what one of my top ten favorite things to do in the universe is? If you cannot guess this, you have the brain of a cabbage. Nothing personal, it’s just the truth.

Answer: Lying in bed is one of my favorite things to do, no matter what time I wake up – even if it’s 7:30 and I have a 7:45 appointment. I like listening to the birds, planning my day, trying to remember what day it is, and pretending to stretch my ankles and legs to buy more guilt-free time under the covers.

I could do all of this sitting up, and I do that when I’m going to be seeing people early in the day. By “people” I mean individuals who haven’t seen me looking like this and gasp when they first see these golf balls under my eyes. My family and friends, of course, have seen it and no longer suck in air and bug their eyes when they see me, for the most part.

If I have an early appointment, I have to get straight out of bed, or at least sit up. I’ve been doing this all my life because I got these bags even during college. I can tell you that the last thing I wanted to do after a late night fraternity dance where I’d spent the evening with my favorite party companions, Jack Daniels and Ezra Brooks, was jump out of bed. I found on those occasions that it was way more practical to just stay in bed all day rather than worry about being seen with bags that look like bubble gum bubbles hanging under each eyeball.

I just went to Google to find out why we humans get bags, and Google says it’s because it makes it easier to carry our groceries. I redefined my search and found out that it’s because there is fat under the eyeball that does not want to be discriminated against. The fat under the belly, in saddlebags, under upper arms, etc. gets to show itself day in and day out. Why does the fat under the eyes have to be hidden? That’s what eyeball fat wants to know. So it chooses to show itself, especially as we get older because it gets more and more pissy about it as the years go by.

Google also said the bags come from too much salt or other random excuses that don’t fit my situation. Then they talked about cures, which all sound unpleasant. One is surgery. Not for me, Miss I-Hate-Needles. Another is putting cold tea bags or cold cucumbers on the eyes – or asking someone to cold cock you. The resultant swelling and bruises will distract you from the bags.

The final cure was rubbing Preparation H on the bags. In case you live in outer Peoria and don’t know what this medication is used for, it’s supposed to reduce the painful itching and swelling of hemorrhoidal tissue.

I just went to Google to find out how to spell that word (I don’t want to type it again) and discovered that men are rubbing Preparation H all over their torsos before they go out to clubs at night because tightening things up, they think, will help them “get lucky.”

Now there’s a blog topic! But to end this one, please tell me if you have this same problem and what you do about it. Not the problem of getting lucky, silly, the problem of bags under your eyes after staying in bed. I wonder if going back to bed in mid-morning has the opposite effect – it might get rid of the bags. I’m going to test that out right now and I’ll get back to you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What Is a Guy's Guy?

I’m still in central Oregon without wi-fi, and continuing with my observation of men.

People say my husband is a “guy’s guy.” What does this mean? I have this vague idea that it’s someone who acts like a stereotypical guy and likes to hang around with other people of the same ilk.

If you try to define ilk, you’ll lose track of this topic, and even though more than anything I want to know exactly what “ilk” means, I have no connection to Google, the source of answers to all my brilliant questions. So I will not stray from the subject, but just this once.

If you want to define how a guy acts, I suppose the list of characteristics would be someone who scratches his privates and spits (as in a baseball player), farts and belches and is comfortable walking around in his underwear (as in Will Farrell), and someone who likes to drink beer and see something naked (as in Jeff Foxworthy – he does this really funny comedy routine about what a guy is thinking. He says, “Ladies, if you want to know what a guy is thinking, it’s simple. All we think about is two things, and nothing else. These are the two things: I’d like a beer and I’d like to see something necked”).

Guy’s guys verge on being uncouth, but they’ve been taught socially acceptable norms. They know how they’re supposed to behave; they aren’t totally white-trash clueless. They just choose to default to the lowest common denominator of behavior, allowing their bodily functions to be the boss of them, and finding great amusement in others who do the same. There is also a laziness in their actions – they will choose to do the easiest thing. Not in all situations – they can be very hard working, but in social interactions they’ll do what’s easier. For instance, it’s easier to look at someone and find a flaw rather than finding something to compliment. They’ll say, “You’ve put on a little weight,” rather than, “That dress is pretty.”

These are stereotypes, yes, but they fit the vast majority of people I’d call guy’s guys. They’re perfectly happy sitting and watching TV, commenting on the stupidity of the plot/actress/Democrat/female politician/woman driver/feminine hygiene product commercial and so on without actually conversing. They like hanging out with other guys and watching TV while doing all those same things. Other comments are generally “what an idiot” or “man, that thing is HUGE” or “look at the tits on her” or something along those lines.

Phil, our host over here in central Oregon where, again today, the sun is shining, does not seem to me like a guy’s guy. I can hear him again in there right now trying to make conversation. There have been long stretches of quiet, but when there are words being said, he’s the one who’s starting them. He’s the kind of guy who takes pictures of his daughters and puts them together in a slide show for their birthdays. He will sit and talk to you about any subject and not act like he’s just putting his time in until he can politely say, “I have to go mow the lawn now.” My husband does this all the time when women are around. Sometimes he’ll mow grass that he just mowed to get out of a conversation with a woman.

In looking at this whole guy’s guy thing under a microscope, I see lots of interesting things – some of which look like cooties. There appear to me to be 3 different kinds of guys. Your guy’s guy as described above (perfect example is Al Bundy in “Married with Children”), and, at the other end of the spectrum, there’s the girly guy, who is gay and is a girl in a man’s body and loves doing things girls love to do, like chitchat, shop, gossip, decorate, flirt, exclaim “OH MY GOD!” every few minutes, and so forth. And then there are men like Phil – cultured, polite, sensitive, romantic, couth, but who also like beer and have, perhaps on rare occasions, passed gas, but only on accident and never in front of guests (I hope).

My question is, what do you call these guys – the not gay guys and not guy’s guys. Let’s all ponder this for a day or two. If you have ideas, please send them in along with your surplus money.

What Guys Talk About

I am over in central Oregon right now without wi-fi. If you are reading this it means I found some somewhere, but if this is not on the post day, then it means I found some but not until I got back home.

Finding wi-fi is not always easy. At my own house I’ve looked under the sofa and behind the dresser and couldn’t find it. I’m not even sure what it means. I think the “wi” stands for wireless. So does the the “fi” stand for fireless? These questions weigh heavily on my heart right now.

Here in central Oregon it is sunny, as opposed to western Oregon where the rain drove ANOTHER slug into my house. I put the “another” in all caps to show that it wasn’t the first, and so you could hear the exasperation in my voice. But the weather is not the subject we will be looking at this morning. We’re going to talk about guy’s guys.

We’re staying at a friend’s house, it’s 7:30 a.m. and I’m in the bedroom blogging while my husband and our host are in the living room. I can hear them talking, and they’ve so far touched on the stock market and sports. These are what I’d call typical “guy” subjects.

My husband doesn’t go in for a lot of idle chatter. He uses words functionally. He says things like, “I’m hungry,”or “you’ve told me this before.” The rest of the time, he’s either quietly observing the world or asleep with the remote control clutched in his hand. Our host, however, is a salesperson and used to talking a lot. He’s chatty.

What’s interesting is that women always wonder what men talk about. At least I do. I’m always saying to my husband, “Are you this quiet around your guy friends? When you’re golfing with them for 4 hours, do you just walk along side by side without talking?”

He answers, “We talk when there’s something we need to talk about.”

Right now these guys don’t know I’m awake listening to everything they’re saying. I’ve noticed that Phil has initiated the conversation in every case. He says, “How about those Ducks?” or “Can you believe the stock market?” My husband responds with the obvious comment, like “yeah, can you believe it?” then Phil responds back and they have this little back and forth until that subject is exhausted about 45 seconds later.

So ladies, if you want to know what guys talk about, I can vouch for these two. They aren’t talking about anything worth listening to.

Since I’m having a little vacation, I think that’s enough blogging for one day, but tomorrow I think I’ll blog a little more about men.

PS: I did not find wi-fi, though I looked in every nook and cranny. I'm back home now. Sorry for the lapse in posting.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ways to Get Rid of Your Surplus Money

This morning I went to hang one of my photographs at Starbucks and heard a snippet of an interview on NPR. It was about a lady who started sending requests in the 1980’s to people asking for donations to help bring down America’s debt. She and a bunch of other people sent hand-addressed letters to thousands of people.

What a crazy idea! Asking people who already pay taxes to contribute more money to the gov’ment (that’s how I learned to say it in the south, just like I learned to call the police “the law.” Just thought you’d want to know).

The even crazier thing is that people responded by sending money. These people got thousands of people to send thousands of dollars to help reduce the national debt. After they’d counted it all, they took a month-long trip to Hawaii and spent most of their days being pampered with massages and foot rubs by cabana boys. Ahhhh, doesn’t that sound good?

Of course I’m kidding. That’s how the story would have ended today, because we Americans (pronounce the “mer” in this word like the “mer” in “mermaids” if you want to sound Southern – or should I say like an East Tennessee hick?).

Hand up in the back? You want to know the difference? Let me explain. A “hick” is someone who ain’t got no edgy-cation and thinks possum is the other what meat (insert “white” for “what” if you don’t understand. I think you got that edgy-cation was education. No? Well, it was). So you got your “southern” accent, and then you got your “southern hick” accent.

The difference between the two is in the way the words are pronounced. So a southerner might say the word “education” like this: “ed-u-ki-tion,” so the “southern” part of the word is changing the “ka” sound to a “ki” sound. I changed the “c” to a “k” for 2 reasons. (1), I didn’t want to confuse you by making you think the “ci” was pronounced like “sigh,” and (2) I’m going for a Guinness Book of World Records on how many of these (“) things I can put into the body of one blog.

Where was I? Oh yeah, hick. The difference between a “general” southern accent and a “hick” accent is where the emphasis is on the word and the way it’s pronounced with a wad of Skoal in your mouth.

Let’s hold the questions until the end, because I’m trying to tell you about the lady on the radio. She claimed there are still people sending in donations. Last year they sent 1.3 billion dollars! (or something like that. I’d suggest you do your own fact checking because I can’t vouch for these numbers, this lady, or whether I dreamed all this. It was 5:30 in the morning and I had not yet had my coffee, for crying out loud. Be sure to let me know if I’ve misstated because I truly give a damn).

I can see that we’re running out of time. The point of bringing this up was to inform you that there are people out there with surplus money. It is up to each and every one of you to figure out how you can get your hands on it. When you come up with a way, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Hey, I just had a great idea! If you find that you have surplus money laying around just getting in everyone’s way, don’t keep tripping over it. Send it to me, preferably in a plain brown wrapper. 20’s are nice. It’s for a good cause. You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away and Take the Slugs with You

It has been raining in the Northwest non-stop since October. We realize that it rains a lot here. We take pride in the rain. The University of Oregon athletic teams are called the “Ducks” because everybody around here has “web feet.” Pretty clever.

Every year at this time people in the Northwest start getting really, really sick of the rain. But this year, we got sick about a month and a half ago. It’s too much of a good thing. Even the slugs are sick of it.

If you don’t know what a slug is, it’s a snail without the shell. They are everywhere here because – take a wild guess – they like moisture. When I go out my front door to get the mail, I’ll pass a minimum of 5,000 slugs on the way to the mailbox and back. You have to dodge them because you DO NOT want to step on them because they’ll stick to your foot and leave a permanent slime trail that soap and water, harsh chemicals, or even sandpaper can’t get off. You have to shed that layer of skin before the slime goes away.

How do I know that even the slugs are sick of the rain? Because I have found two slugs in my house. TWO!!! IN MY HOUSE!!!!

These guys are desperate to get refuge. It’s like some mass migration to find a dry spot somewhere…ANYWHERE. I found one on the carpet in the dining room – hundreds of miles (in slug miles) from any entrance. I think he got there by jumping on a passing shoe as it walked by, hoping to get out of a puddle.

I had seen the other one when I went out to get the newspaper earlier in the day. It was on the sidewalk, coming right straight for the front door, traveling at the rate of approximately 2 inches per hour. I stepped around it, but wondered what it would do when it got to the door. There is a small crack under the door, but surely not big enough for a slug to slide through.

A few hours later I found that same slug IN MY ENTRYWAY. I knew it was the same one because they all have different coloration and markings – just like different breeds of dogs. You’ve probably heard of the “banana” slug – the big granddaddy of them all that can grow to be 3 feet long in the Northwest and has been blamed for the disappearance of small dogs or cats. Then there are the finger-length slugs that are about as long as your arm and have brown spots on a tan body.

The slug in my entryway was grayish tan with spots AND stripes, which is an unusual combination. That’s how I knew he was the same one I’d seen earlier heading for my door. He had two little eyes sticking up, checking everything out and wondering where I kept my goldfish. Luckily, I found him before he could wreak much havoc and I scooped him up into a napkin and marched his little slug bottom right back outside and dropped him into the grass. Actually I tried to drop him but he was clinging to that napkin like he’d been super-glued to it. He wanted to stay in the warm, dry house. I shook and shook but he just stared at me with these big, pleading tentacles. At one point I think I saw a tear. Finally I just put the napkin on the ground. The rain pounded it into the earth and the slug slithered off, shaking his fist at me. He was headed straight toward the door again.

If I wake up in the night and that thing has crawled in bed with me and is about to chomp down on my throat, I’m going to be really, really mad.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How a Morning at Starbucks Helped to Define the Dictionary Part 2

(In our last episode we left Merriam returning from the bathroom with extraordinarily sweet smelling hands, while Webster was sitting at the table with a mouthful of spoon bread and a maddingly obsessive tickle in his throat.)

…Webster tried to grin. At this very second the tickle brought out the big guns.

It called on the mouth to send reinforcements in the form of saliva. The mouth was more than happy to assist, ordering the saliva to migrate slowly over the tickle like a glacier. Webster, feeling the trickle sliding over the tickle, was defeated by the onslaught and coughed with a mighty roar just as Merriam settled himself into the booth.

The spray from the cough hit Merriam like a shower without one of those flow restrictors on it that you find in old motels. It slammed his head back against the booth with such force that the woman on the other side thought it was an earthquake and ran screaming from into the street where she spotted another Starbucks and went inside to order a replacement latte.

Luckily no one was injured. Courteous Starbucks employees ran over with fresh white towels and wiped Merriam down. He sat wide-eyed, apparently in shock, as they buffed him up like he was at a car wash.

Webster took a long drink of scalding coffee, which laid the tickle to rest – until next time. “As I was saying, we will have the dictionary set up so that words like “winterize” will not have to be defined other than saying something like, ‘making ready for winter.’ If that’s not enough to satisfy them, they can go to the dictionary again and look up winter which we could define as “the season between autumn and spring comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of December, January, and February or as reckoned astronomically extending from the December solstice to the March equinox.”

Merriam came out of his trance, buffed up spiffy as a chrome bumper, and said, “Hot damn, word man, you’re brilliant!” He’d forgotten all about the saliva and pumpkin bread shower he’d just been subjected to. “Why, they won’t know what equinox means, and they’ll have to look that up, too.”

“Yes! Yes!” exclaimed Webster, “Now you understand! They’ll have their noses in our dictionary all day long. It will be like a wonderful scavenger hunt, with words as the only clues!”

“We must get on this right away, before someone steals our idea.” Merriam said. “There’s just one thing that I’m confused about.”

“What is it, man, speak up!” said Webster, anxious to get started.

“What does ‘wintercation’ mean?”

“Oh, I’m very excited about that word. Very excited. It’s one I heard in a commercial just yesterday. It combines two words – winter and vacation – into one. Don’t you see the possibilities? We can have these words listed individually, and then we can combine them and people will have to look up both root words!”

“Yes, yes, I see,” said Merriam. “We could combine any number of words and create new words. Let me see if I can come up with one….Here’s one: ‘frenemy.’”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a word I saw on a website – it means a friend who is, at the same time, an enemy,” Merriam said. “They also used the word ‘complisult’ which is giving an compliment which is also an insult.”

“Use it in a sentence,” Webster said.

“You have a nice face except for all the wrinkles,” Merriam said.

“Who-a,” Webster said. “Do you think it’s okay to just take any two words and smash them together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

“Why not?” Merriam said gleefully. His happy disposition accounted for the ‘Merri’ part of his name.

“By George, you’re right! Why not? Especially since they’ll be paying us by the word!”

So blog readers, you now have the true** story of how to pad out a blog when you’ve run out of ideas. You’ll notice that I turned the word “spunky” into a two-day blog, and for that I give myself credit.

For those of you curious as to the definition of spunky, I will again consult Merriam and Webster, who are hunched over a drawing table playing a game of tic-tac-toe. They say that spunk is “a woody tinder…any of various fungi used to make tinder.” They also said I could look up the words: mettle, pluck, spirit, and liveliness, but I’m okay with that first definition.

As to the original topic of this blog, I noticed that I am more like my mother than I previously thought, and the flaw that I have imitated (unbeknownst to me) was the flaw of being too lenient and trusting. One of my adolescents got into some mischief, and even though adolescents will be adolescents, as they say, it might not have happened if I’d been more suspicious and ruled with an iron fist.

So it is with a mouthful of pumpkin bread (it’s really is good) that I apologize to those people whom I said were lazy. Even us woody tinders fall into the bad habits of our parents, which is not to say we will give up the struggle. We just have to ground ourselves, much like the way I’ve grounded my child for the aforementioned shenanigans, and hope we all learn something from it. **And FYI, none of this is true except, or including, the grounding.