Monday, November 29, 2010

Stuff I'm Thankful For

At Thanksgiving dinner we were requested by our hostess to say something we were thankful about. I said I was thankful I got to go skiing earlier in the day, and to my credit I did NOT say I was thankful that I got to do something fun with my family rather than spending days cleaning, shopping, cooking and then cleaning just as much again after everyone went home.

My gynecologist turned me on to skiing on Thanksgiving. He was looking at me through the stirrups, making idol chitchat about how he and his sons have been going to the mountain for years because there are no crowds and no lift lines. When they go home, his wife has a big turkey feast waiting for them.

I wonder what it would be like to be the wife of a gynecologist? Just think about it.

Since he told me that about skiing, I’ve made it my life’s goal to get invited out for Thanksgiving rather than spending it in the kitchen slaving. I’ve been able to do it for the last two years, and with any luck, I can keep this tradition going.

But scamming Thanksgiving dinner is not the subject of today’s blog. Nope, getting out of cooking and cleaning is wonderful, but I want to devote this space to some of the things I’m thankful for. Let me share my little list.

I’m thankful that my kids no longer rely on me to drive them around. Oh Lord am I thankful for that.
I’m thankful that, in spite of how much they appear to bumble, the politicians I voted for are trying hard to make life better for me personally and for others who don’t have my gifts and advantages.

Speaking of those others, I’m thankful I live in a country that wants to take care of our poor even when some of them seem to be taking advantage. I would hate to live in a third world country where the poor line the streets like wax paper and no one pays any attention to them. If I didn’t have to pay taxes, that would be great, but as long as there are poor and disadvantaged, I love knowing our poor aren’t nearly as poor as the poor in the rest of the world.

When you get right down to it, I’m actually thankful I pay taxes, because I like public schools and roads, nice public buildings and museums, subsidized clinics where suffering people can find some relief, public housing for people who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. I hate that there are lazy people who take advantage of my taxes (shame on you), but I’m very happy that children born to poor families get the opportunity to be educated in spite of their circumstances.

I’m thankful for my dog who is excited when I walk in the door even if I’ve just gone out to the mailbox.

I’m thankful for TV. Yes there are so many awful programs (Jerry Springer to name a few), but I like finding free movies to watch so I can float away from reality like a soapy bubble blown out of a plastic wand. I’m especially thankful for The Big Bang Theory.
I’m thankful for laptops and comforters and chocolate chips and sunny days.

Now I’m going to give YOU something to be thankful about. I’m going to end this sentimental romp down Pollyanna lane and jump into something I’m very, very thankful for. A warm bed piled high with heirloom quilts my grandma patched together. Now that right there is definitely something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Floating in an Italian Alley

My daughter and I went to Europe a couple of years ago. We had a fantastic time, mostly because my daughter’s red hair attracted attention and won us special favors and kindnesses. Even in France, where there is a reputation of impatience with Americans, we were treated well. My daughter also knew enough French to talk to the waiters. They were aken by her. One waiter flirted openly and gave her his phone number – right in front of me. He asked if he could come to America to see her.

The most memorable experience, however, was in Italy. Italian men practically shoved themselves at her. Unlike in France where people on the streets were in a hurry and did not seem inclined to notice us, the Italian men leisurely gawked at us when we walked by. Sometimes we’d be in those cobbled alleyways with only a few people around, and the waiters would be standing outside smoking. All Italian waiters smoke. They’d see us coming from far away and stared the whole time we walked toward them, looking us up and down openly and unabashedly as we passed.

I’d like to take a second to look up the word “unabashedly” because by anyone’s standards that’s a doozie. Doozie is another word I’d like to look up. It was popular back in the day, but I don’t hear people using it much anymore. Either of these words would be well worth a side trip to Funk and Wagnall, but I’d like to get on with my story so that will have to wait.

When the men eyeballed us (and by “us” I mean my daughter), I’d say under my breath, “Don’t look at them. I don’t want them following us around like stray dogs.”

They were a fine looking bunch of specimens and that is the truth. Italian men are a delicious feast for the eyes. Slurp. But I’d read in the touristy books that it was not a good idea to encourage them. The books warned of men grab women’s bottoms in public. I don’t think I would have been too offended if I was the destination of some wandering Italian hand, but I sure didn’t want one of these guys groping my baby girl.

So we both kept our eyes facing forward and picked up our pace when we’d see the smoking Italians leaning against the outside cafĂ© walls, drinking us in like we were Chianti.

Once, however, we were walking down an alley in the sultry, dusky evening, and a young Italian man was walking toward us. He had on a long-sleeve white shirt with the cuffs rolled up, and long, dark pants that swished as he walked. He was tall and exceedingly good-looking, and he had not taken his eyes off of us the entire time he swaggered toward us. As usual I whispered, “Just stare straight ahead.”

He smiled brightly at us when he was about twenty feet away and my daughter must have smiled back because he stopped, and in that exaggerated Italian way you see Italian men act in movies, he grabbed his heart with both hands and said, i“Ahhhh, she smile at me! She breakin’ my heart!”

We both giggled and said, “Buon giorno.” He stood still and watched us walk by, still clutching his heart, grinning with luminescent white teeth. He made us feel like we were beautiful and exotic and like we were eye candy right back at him.

One day when I’m in a nursing home drooling cream of wheat, I hope I still remember this man and his flamboyant compliment to two worn out Americans tromping down the street on exhausted legs after another hot, humid day of roaming around Rome trying to snatch every sight in three fast days, and how he made us feel like we were walking on air.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Credit Cards Are Evil

I recently got a bundle of blank checks from my credit card company. They send them every other day, it seems like, with exciting headings that say, “CONSOLIDATE YOUR OTHER DEBTS AND SAVE! LOW INTEREST!”

I usually tear them up because I know they’re EVIL, but yesterday I was curious just how evil they were. Let me tell you, folks, they are very, VERY evil.

I got out my 20x magnifying glass and started reading the fine print. It said, “Yo, sucka, if you decide to use these checks, you will owe us: (1) an arm, (2) a leg, (3) your first-born child, (4) your sister’s first-born child, and (5) everything else.” Trust me, these credit card companies are not after your best interests. They want your interest, and anything else they can get.

You may have heard the old saying, “If you do (blank), we’ll slap you with a fine.” This statement could, indeed, apply to the credit card companies. “If you use one of these checks, we’ll slap you with charges and interest fees so high you’ll have to climb to the top of Mt. Everest to find them.”

For example, I have two credit cards. One I use because it pays cash back bonuses. When I looked at the checks they sent (and I’m doing this from memory because I’ve already torn them up), it said I could consolidate all my other, higher interest debts into this one payment at a low interest rate. Sounds great. But here’s the catch. They wanted a fee of $10 or 5% of the value of the check, whichever was highest. Hummmm, $10 isn’t bad. I can afford that. Besides, that 5% would require me to think, or worse, remember 7th grade math.

Maybe I’m one of those people who spent 7th grade writing notes to my girlfriends or I was the boy who kept dropping pencils so he could look up girls’ skirts and didn’t have the time or inclination to pay a whole lot of attention to those lessons on percentages. What good was it going to do me? I’d never use it anyway. Maybe I’m one of those Scarlett O’Hara types and will think about it tomorrow, after the money is in my hand.

Whatever the case, these are the kinds of people the credit card companies are BANKING on, and I mean that literally. They are making masses of money on these checks, and I’ll tell you how.

In the first place, why would a smart human use these checks? They wouldn’t. But there are plenty of followers of Sarah Palin who would use these checks, and they’d use them without doing the math because they didn’t graduate from high school, or if they did, it was a GED, or by the skin of their teeth or whatever. OR they have an addiction. But whatever their background, the reason these people would use these checks is because they’re desperate for cash RIGHT NOW. If they are only desperate for $200 in cash, they’ll be okay, because they’ll only pay the $10 fee. However, if they are desperate for, say, $10,000 in cash because Guido is going to break their legs and or put their feet in a bucket of cement, or both, then they think, “Here’s how I can get that 10,000 bucks right now and it will be AT ONLY FOUR PERCENT INTEREST for SIX WHOLE MONTHS!”

So what’s the big deal? If you multiply $10,000 by .05 (Sarah, FYI that’s the way you calculate 5 percent), you get $500. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS! They will charge you $500 to write that check. Flat fee. No negotiating.
Immediately you owe the credit card company $10,500. And they’ll start charging their 4% or whatever interest rate on that from day one. Or they’ll give you 3 months of zero interest and then start charging a huge interest rate from then on. Either way, you’re out $500. Just think of the big screen TV you could buy for your trailer with that money if the credit card people didn’t have it.

Even though this money is touted for the use of consolidating debt, I called the credit card company and they said it could be used for anything. “Just write the check to yourself and deposit it in your bank.”

Even followers of Sarah Palin must realize that this is a scam. Do not allow yourself to be a victim of white trash politics AND credit card robbery. It’s just too tragic.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Lost My Website

I lost my website! I looked under the beds, in the closets, in the back yard (in case my dog dragged it outside), behind the refrigerator, in the attic, behind my son’s ears, under both sofas, under all the sofa cushions (which was a lucrative place to look), in my car, in my daughter’s lair (generally a no-man’s land), and everywhere else but I couldn’t find it.
Then I realized that a company whose name could be pronounced Yey-Who (which is defined as a country bumpkin – and by sheer coincidence is the only word I can think of right now that rhymes with pumpkin), this company had allowed my domain name to expire. If you don’t know what a domain name is, consider yourself lucky. You are oblivious to websites and the internet. Why is this good? I don’t know, I’m blathering.
Alright, alright I’ll tell you what a domain name is. It’s the name where you reach a website or blog, such as The www part in front of that stands for World Wide Web – not to be confused with SLW, Simply Local Web. This web actually doesn’t really exist. I just made it up. As a matter of fact, there isn’t any other Web – world wide or otherwise – so you can get away with simply typing without the www. You sure as heck don’t need the extra http colon forward-slash forward-slash in front of the web address, as in this example: Typing that to get to a website just shows that you are a rube amateur when it comes to the internet.
EXCEPT when you’re going to an FTP site. This stands for Foot Toe Pie. Ha Ha. It really stands for File Transfer Protocol, which is a fancy phrase website designers use to describe how they get stuff off their home computer (like sticky buggers) onto the World Wide Web for everyone else to partake of. But you don’t need to know anything about that because you are not a website designer.
Which leads me to why I lost my website. This certain web company I mentioned earlier whose name rhymes with BaBoo had my domain name, but they kept raising the price every year. Well, I raised a stink, so to speak, when they automatically renewed my domain name at an even higher price. I could have sworn I’d cancelled my service with them, but there was no documentation etc. etc. so I paid - but swore it would be the last time. I cancelled reordering my domain name from them, but it was about 11 months ago, and a person like me can forget a lot of stuff in 11 months, believe you me.
Since I had cancelled, when the year was up, this company didn’t warn me my domain name was going to be cancelled, and somehow I neglected to put a tickler on my calendar to remind myself. A tickler, if you don’t know, is a feather device that tickles you silly when something is coming up. It especially loves the armpits and behind the knees – it would get the bottoms of your feet if it could reach. You’ll do anything to make it stop because you’re just about to wet your pants.
So my domain name expired, unbeknownst to me, and since I’ve been working so many hours and haven’t blogged in a coon’s age and then some, I didn’t notice until one of my loving fans (and neighbor) expressed his extreme disappointment that I haven’t been filling pages of nonsense and that my website now was an advertisement from the Web company to buy frivolous stuff of no use to anyone on this, or any other, planet.
So I’m happy to say that I got my domain name – – and my website back. And the web company was nice about it all – very helpful. I hold no grudge against them except for the skyrocketing raise in prices of previous years but, hey, they’re trying to make a living too, just like the rest of us. They just believe it should be a very GOOD living.
So you, oh loyal and faithful readers, can expect many more words out of me. I can’t claim they’ll be sensible, honest, or even amusing, but, just like beans around the campfire during a cattle drive, there’ll be plenty of ‘em.