Thursday, October 15, 2009

Keep It Simple Stupid

The other day my 4-year-old son was doing karate in the nude. Why? I have no idea. Sometimes I think it is best not to ask questions that you really don’t want to know the answer to. Why even start that conversation? It is better to just look away and pretend that you never noticed anything amiss.

I never used to believe that old saying “ignorance is bliss” but life has a way of reinforcing lessons, whether you believe them or not. Over the years I have learned that ignorance is a nice way to live. It is much easier to be happy when you don’t know what you are missing, and it is less stressful to be able to say “I don’t know,” rather than explain things all the time.

Sometimes it is better to not think of what is out there, and to remain ‘in the dark.’ It gives you freedom from trying to forget things that may be shocking or painful. For example, my husband and my son were playing “got your nose” and my husband said, “Don’t take my nose, because it is yucky.”
“Everyone’s nose is yucky Dad.”
My husband said, “Well yours looks pretty clean.”
Then my son said, “That is because I eat the stuff that is in mine.”

Anyway, it is easier to believe things that aren’t true. Like when I make my children a nutritious and well-balanced lunch. I choose to believe that they are being nourished by my care, both physically and emotionally, but in reality we are having conversations like this:
“How did you like your lunch today son?”
“It was the best lunch ever!”
“Really? You liked it that much? Wow, that is great! What was your favorite part?”
“Well, it is tough to say . . . I gave my sandwich to Nick and he gave me a Snickers bar for it! Plus, Alex gave me some chips for my yogurt, and since you put 2 cookies in my lunch, I was stuffed!”
“You traded away all of your food for junk? What about the carrots? Did you at least eat the carrots?”
“No, I just threw those away.”

Sometimes, even if what you learn is inevitable and necessary, it is better to be eased into it, because once you know something, you may wish you didn’t. Like with dating. You don’t want to know everything about someone on a first date. It destroys the mystique and usually leads to a break-up anyway. Case in point: I once met a guy at work who told me within the first 10 minutes of dating me, that he had to know my intentions. He said he needed to know whether I was serious about him or not. He hated to put pressure on me, but he needed a mother for his 4 kids, and wanted a working woman with a car, because his disability payments were running out soon and his food-stamps had been cut back, and his parents wanted him to move out of their trailer ASAP. Aaah if only we can just turn back the hands of time.

Don’t believe it when people say things like “knowledge is power” if that were true how come Einstein was never President? Smart people don’t get anywhere in life. It is the dumb, lazy people who make their mark on the world. Don’t believe me? Then how do you explain the Snuggie phenomenon, Billy Bob Teeth or the Electric Slide? Dumb people and dumb things are always in style. Americans especially, are known for gathering around, and showing support, for the village idiot. If I am wrong, then how come “The Hills” is still on television?

I started making a list of all the things I wish I had no knowledge of and after a few minutes came up with a list of 20 things I wish I didn’t know:

How fiber is affecting my facebook friends.
That my parents French Kiss.
How to imitate Bowzer from the group Sha-Na-Na.
The approximate size of animal that can be flushed down the toilet.
Where babies really come from.
The amount of calories in a Twinkie/Ho-Ho/Ding-Dong.
What sushi is made out of.
The definition of an enema.
What baby poop looks and smells like.
The words to “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
That bacon fat is bad for you.
How Gilligan and the Gang got off the island.
Where a rectal thermometer goes.
That Milli-Vanilli were lip-synching.
About Bill Clinton’s ‘relationship’ with Monica Lewinsky.
How big my bosses gallstones were, and how many he had.
What a hot-dog looks once it has been regurgitated.
How much money that dress cost my sister (42 cents at Goodwill).
There are no such things as Oompa-Loompas.
How it feels to be in the back of a police car.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing . . . When those brain synapses’ start firing the damage is done. You can’t un-know things—you can forget, but once you know something, it can come back to haunt you at any moment. Why do you think people say things like “TMI?” Because the world we live in is now one big sea of information overload. I don’t want to go into work and hear who has the “trots” and who had garlic for lunch and who lets their dog “kiss” them on the mouth. There are just too many information junkies out there today and I say enough, is enough. Stand with me against tyranny, don’t learn anything new today! Enjoy your bliss and just stay dumb. You’ll thank me later.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can You See Me Now?

Without my contacts I cannot see. I am, according to the law, blind. I have tried many methods to improve my vision in times of contact-less-ness. I have tried, like a bat, to make high-pitched squealing sounds and have them bounce off of objects, but since my hearing is also bad, I cannot hear the sounds bounce back and just walk into walls and chairs anyway. I would wear glasses but I have a depth-perception problem . . . objects may be closer than they appear . . . or further away. I cannot tell the difference. I offer the bumper of my car as evidence.

I have worn Gas Permeable contacts for 20 years or so, and am mostly used to the troubles that come with using them. They slide up onto the top of my eyeball and get lost. I try and maneuver them back into position but while they are floating all around in my eye they are like little evil plastic shards trying to slice through my cornea. When the wind blows the tiniest bit of dust feels like barbed wire rubbing against my retina.

Not being able to see well is a problem. People will often wave to me on the street and I have no idea who they are, or what they are doing. They could be having a seizure for all I know, I can’t see them. People smile at me across a room as a greeting, I can’t see them either. Somebody will make foul gestures at me in traffic, ha ha the jokes on them; I can’t see ‘em.

People will ask me, “Are you near-sighted or far-sighted?” The answer is ‘I don’t know.’ I am confused, is it near-sighted that can see near or can see far? That is the eye doctor’s job to remember those kinds of details. He is always trying to tell me stuff about my eyes, things that are supposedly important but have no meaning to me. He tells me I have rounded corneas and astigmatism with myopia and for that little bit of info he would like $400 please.

Everyone keeps trying to convince me to have laser surgery. You know the one where they take a claw-like apparatus to hold open your eyelids so that a laser can burn a flap around the eye and shape your retina by burning it off? Then they send you home, more blind than when you came in, armed with nothing more than a little bottle of eye-drops so that the little flap doesn’t shrivel up and fall off completely. What I want to know is what if the laser is bumped during surgery? Like because the doctor sneezes or something? I guess I have always had that one eyebrow that requires a lot of tweezing—maybe they could take care of that while they are burning off other parts of my body.

Now there are all these price wars for Lasik surgery. How low is too low to go before you are having your eye surgery done in the back room of a dimly lit 7-11 located just off the freeway by some guy named Rhubarb; who performs the entire operation with a magnifying glass and a flash-light? I say if the price is so low that you can pay in rolls of quarters then it is probably not the place to go. Also, if they answer the phone “Bubba’s Gas and Go, Exotic Tattoo Parlor and Lasik Surgery Center” then that is also a potential red flag. One more tip, if your “nurse” has a wallet on a chain, wears a dog collar, a Metallica t-shirt, combat boots and is named Mike-the-Spike, then just back right out the door. Trust me.

No matter where you go, you should expect a certain level of professionalism too. When I went in for my surgery the only thing Rhubarb said to me was, “Hold still. I am almost out of batteries.” Other than that little bit of conversation, my “doctor” was all business and told me it would take 7-10 weeks to see the results. Well, it has been 10 weeks and I can see that my checkbook is $200 lighter and I have almost fully recovered from my fear of Mag lights. I can’t say that I can actually see better, but I have stopped complaining about my contacts and the costs associated with licensed physicians.

I guess if I ever want better vision I will just have to squint more. Otherwise, it is back to the drawing board, or should I say . . . the cutting board.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roughin' It Ain't Easy

Lot’s of folks assume that because I am from Idaho it means that I am a hardened outdoorsy person who loves the smell of pine and the rugged uncharted countryside, and that I can do things that are woodsy, like camp. But they would be mistaken. In my opinion there is only one civilized form of camping and it is called ‘staying in a hotel.’ I like to take my cues from the president. When he “camps” he stays at Camp David, otherwise known as the Taj Mahal of the outdoors. It comes with a maid, a chef, and 20 highly trained secret service agents ready to blow wild animals to bits. That is my kind of nature experience.

Why do people get excited about camping? What is so fun about hiking out into the middle of nowhere and pretending you are homeless? I have had friends tell me that they go camping to “get away from it all.” What I would like to know is: Get away from what? City services like running water, police and fire departments? Or is it the hospital, paved roads and toilets that flush? Maybe they are trying to get away from me. If so, then camping is an excellent way to hide, because I would never go looking for them.

Now, I used to camp with my parents when I was a kid. Let’s just say, I have mostly forgiven them. I still have nightmares about the 15 person green canvas tent and blue shorty-bus my parents made us take on camping excursions. Fifteen kids, 2 dogs and no indoor plumbing; conquering the wild outdoors in a baby-blue mini-bus that was only prone to breakdown on long stretches of lonesome highway during record high temperatures—ahhh, memories.

When I went camping with my parents it was do or die. It did not matter what was going on around us (or to us) this was our “vacation” so we would press-on no matter what. A tire blows out, we keep going. Lose the car keys in a lake, we keep going. Someone complains of extreme stomach cramping that may/or may not be attributed to acute appendicitis and/or a ruptured spleen . . . we just keep on camping. Once when we were vacationing in the Payette Lake area an epidemic of stomach flu began to circulate in our troop. First one of the little kids exhibited signs of illness, then another, and another. It was like watching a Mack truck getting ready to plow into you. You knew it was coming; you were just waiting for the crash. We begged our parents to take us home, but they would not relent.

One night, after several very troublesome hours of trying to sleep next to my flatulent brother; I hobbled to the outhouse and just got the door pushed open as I started to exhibit the tell-tale signs of gastro-intestinal distress. In the dark, with no flashlight and barely able to stand upright, my bowels unleashed a fury the likes I had never seen before or since. My aim had been exceptionally poor and the contents of my stomach now coated the entire inside of the outhouse, unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it at two in the morning. Sick and weak, I barely made it back to my tent before collapsing. In the morning, I was headed to the bathroom for another bout of heaving when my brother warned, “Be careful someone spilled bean soup all over in the outhouse.”

The ride home from that trip only got worse. An hour on the road my sister said she didn’t feel well and that she needed to get out of the car. My mother turned to my father and said, “Dear you need to pull over.”
My dad said, “Ok, let me find a good spot.”
As my sister continued to writhe and swoon in her seat, my mother said a little more firmly, “Dear, you need to pull over, soon.”
Then my dad said, “I know, I am looking for a good spot.”
My mother glanced fearfully at my sister and then to my father and said, “Dear . . .”

That is the exact moment when my sister’s vomit smacked my mother in the back of the head.

After my mother’s cranium recoiled from the force of spewage slapping her in the skull, she turned to my father, (who was still looking for a good spot to pull over) and tried to kill him with her eyes. When the car finally did come to a stop, everyone filed out at record pace, well, except for the dogs. Over the commotion I could hear someone say: “Oooooooo gross, the dogs are eating it!”

I assumed that when I got married I had finally escaped the camping extravaganza, but sadly, no. I married into a family of outdoor fanatics. My husband however, is the worst. Survivor-man has nothing on this guy. He doesn’t believe in bringing along luxuries like pillows and food. His list of camping necessities to pack has only 7 items on it, and includes the following:

1 box of granola bars (breakfast)
1 pkg of hotdogs (lunch and dinner)
Toilet Paper (to start the fire and, well, uh . . . you know)
Leatherman multi-tool (used to whittle sticks for cooking hotdogs)
Matches (to build the fire to roast hotdogs)
Sleeping Bag (our only protection from the elements)
Extra Underwear (well, if you are going to face hungry cougars and bears, you may need lots of these)

Yes, he likes to take our whole family camping, presumably to bond and get back to the basics of life. I have to say, it does accomplish both of those. I spend the whole time praying that if God preserves my life I will never again go to a place for a vacation where I surround myself with small children and a husband so sick of hot dogs they are ready to eat me Donner-party style.

Now, because of my lack of outdoor experience you may assume that I know nothing about the wild, or that I have no sense of adventure. This is not the case. Have you ever been to a Double-Tree during wedding season? How about trying to park at the grade-school Christmas program when you are 10 minutes late and are in charge of costumes and 2 Shepherd’s? How about running errands with 2 toddlers who have missed their nap and didn’t eat their lunch? Trust me; I know about wildness and adventure, it is just a different kind.

Now I performed a quasi-scientific survey among friends and family and found that the number one reason that people like to camp is the quiet. The absence of noise is really what drives the desire for roughing it. So if this is the case with you, I have come up with a list of quiet places to hide out, er I mean hang out, and get a camping fix without having to pack up your tent.

Library (Upside: Temperature controlled environment; Downside: They will make you pay for any books used to start your campfire)

Mortuary/Funeral Home (Upside: You will be completely alone; Downside: Does not have that fresh pine smell)

Golf Course (Upside: Wide open spaces with varied terrain; Downside: Know the sprinkler schedule or plan on having soggy s’mores)

Cemetery (Upside: Lots of interesting “rock” formations; Downside: Watch out for large crevices)

As summer made its official end last week, I can toast the fact that I made it through another camping season. Here’s to a 9 month reprieve before next summer rolls around. Until then, I will be enjoying the cold weather and blustery skies. Secure in the knowledge that the only time I will be getting back to nature this fall and winter is on a few random Saturdays when I choose to go without makeup.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lost and . . . Well, Just Lost

I lost my child again today. This time at the library. I would like to say it hardly ever happens, but unlike you, I am a bad parent. I have lost this one particular kid in a variety of places, including, but not limited to: the mall, an airplane, 4 Wal-Marts, my own house, a church and Disneyland. Now I know what you must be thinking, that I am not very observant or I don’t care about my child, or I am just distracted. The truth is simply, I have no idea how he gets away. Either the tranquilizer darts are not working or I don’t have that leash on tight enough. I am not sure. The point is this was not our first incident.

The most recent lost and found episode at the public library should not have happened. He was in the children’s book room trying to choose between “Little Duck Lost” and “Where is Thumbkin.” I was at the entrance of that very room in the parenting book section. I was making my way through the huge shelf of dusty books on how to be a better mother, trying to select one book that would help me regain my sanity. Somehow, as I had my head down, my four-year-old child walked right past me. Because, with the perfect eyesight that God has given him, he didn’t see me and thought I had wandered off.

One of the books I was looking through actually said that it is a good idea to give your children some freedom in decision making. It improves their self-esteem and let’s them know that you trust them to be responsible. I was reveling in the book’s good advice when I looked up to see that my little angel had disappeared. So, I logically did what any normal parent would do, I started screaming his name hysterically at the top of my lungs while running around the library still carrying two parenting books, waving them like flags to alert patrons that my child was missing.

As I was racing around screeching like a mental patient, he was also looking for me. My little sweetie has 20/20 vision but evidently cannot see the overweight middle-aged woman that feeds him and tucks him in every night, from four feet away. His auditory function, although also perfect, inhibits him from hearing that same woman crying and wailing for him at the volume of a low-flying 747 as she tromps through the library like a mother bear.

Since I am good at multi-tasking, as I was searching for him, I was also going over in my mind what I would tell the police when I called them as well as the picture that I was going to use of my son on milk cartons. Because after 10 seconds of looking I was certain he had been abducted. While I was planning a tri-state coordinated search in my head, complete with the use of tracking dogs, FBI surveillance and a helicopter, he was calmly walking up to a clerk and asking, “Have you seen a woman with brown hair and a black sweater? I can’t find my mom.”

Unlike my offspring, I was not calm and I, on the brink of panic, did not ask a clerk. I questioned what appeared to be a 3-year-old girl, with a Kool-Aid mustache in the middle of eating her own mucus, “Have you seen a little boy, with blonde hair?!” I screeched maniacally.

She, appeared to be totally unmoved and replied, “No, I don’t think so. Well, maybe. Ummm . . . did he have a train shirt on?”
“No.”
“Did he have a dinosaur shirt on?”
“No.”
“Did he have a race car shirt on?”
“No.”
“Did he have a monster shirt on?”
“No.”
“Then I don’t think I saw him.”

I ran off trying to find the next innocent bystander to scare, I mean ask, when I spotted my older son. “Have you seen your little brother?!”
“No.”
“Are you sure?! You didn’t see him come by here?!”
“No. I didn’t see him mom.”
I could tell that older brother was as shook up as I was, because he paused for almost a mili-second and very nearly looked up at me to answer, before he continued with what he was doing. When he is in such emotional distress I know that it is no use to try to talk to him, so I raced on.

Apparently, you are not supposed to scream in a library. I could tell because people were acting awfully peculiar as I continued on my quest for my youngest. Patrons were gawking, shaking their heads and shushing me. Hello?! I have lost my baby! I really don’t care if you are trying to read Jane Eyre--I need to find him. Ok, that was a little far-fetched, no one reads the classics anymore, what I meant to write was, I don’t care if you are in the middle of your Spider-Man graphic novel or People magazine, my child has been stolen!

Just when I was sure all hope was lost, along came the librarian with my child in tow. Children who run away from their mothers get a sticker and sympathetic looks. Mother’s who have heart palpitations from children who run off get nothing but a warning from the library staff and maybe a visit from child-protective-services.

Once my sweetie-pie was back in my possession and I had assured any, and all, interested parties that he indeed was my son, I did not go look for any more books. I just took the ones I had up to the counter and checked them out, being sure to maintain a death-like grip on my child the whole time. When I got home, I thought I was going to collapse, but my nerves were all charged up again when I heard my little bundle of joy recount his version of the story to his father at dinner time.

“Mommy got lost at the library. I couldn’t find her anywhere. By the way, where is brother?”

Maybe Mommy needs to get lost next week, but somewhere a little more relaxing, like the mall or the spa . . . or Mexico. Just don’t send anyone looking for me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Movie Madness

I don’t like to criticize, but . . . I am going to anyway. The entertainment industry has gotten out of hand. Each movie or show that comes out costs more and more money to produce. Movie stars are getting paid more for a few months of work than my whole neighborhood would make in a lifetime. I don’t really care how much movie stars get paid, except that they pass those costs onto the consumer. And by the consumer, I mean me. I am not made of money. Jelly donuts maybe, but not money. The truth is I don’t even have any money. Unless you count the 18 pounds of change that has collected in the bottom of my purse, I am penniless.

The recession hit me hard. It was so bad I had to give up shopping at the dollar store. Not because I didn’t have any dollars, they just told me I couldn’t shop there anymore. Some outrageous rule about not opening and using deodorant in the store and putting it back on the shelf. I don’t get it. Product testing, hello. Anyway, most everyone has been somehow impacted by the recession. The only ones not affected by the recession are Bill and Gates. No, not Bill Gates. My Uncle Bill and his cousin Russell Gates, they work in the printing department at the U.S. Treasury. All the rest of us cannot afford to do fun things like go to the movies, who has that kind of money?!

In my family, we reserve high dollar amounts for silly things, like food and shelter not completely unnecessary things like movies. Incidentally, that is the number one reason that they don’t take checks at the cinema, most people don’t keep that much money in their checking accounts. I am afraid to even go near the theater. Anyone seeing me go up to pay for a ticket knows that I am carrying at least a thousand dollars of hard cash on my person and that is just to cover admission. A professional mugger would make a killing if he just stood outside in the parking lot; he could rob a few people and call it a night after only working an hour. It wouldn’t be a bad gig, especially on weekends with the matinee crowd. Hey that gives me an idea . . .

No, not that idea! Stick with me people. Focus. I know how we can afford to go to the movies. As with all of my ideas it is a very simple premise, we just need to put a plasma donation center on one side of the theater and an organ harvesting center on the other. Can’t afford Milk Duds? That is ok; your body automatically makes something that you can sell!

“Mom, can we get popcorn this time?”
“Well, I don’t know honey. We already took out a second mortgage on the house and I don’t have any more cash.”
“Pleeeeaaase Mom!”
“I am not sure sweetie. Why don’t you go ask your father?”
“Where is he?”
“He is at the blood clinic.”
“Where, I don’t see him?”
“Look through that window. See he is lying on the table.”
“Where?”
“He is in between the man with no arms and the man with no legs.”
“Wow, he looks different through the glass. He is so pale.”
“Yeah, that is how you can tell they are almost through with him.”
“What should I say when I ask him?”
“Just ask him if he really needs that other kidney.”

Ok, so maybe that idea still needs some tweaking but there are more where that came from. Another idea I came up with is the black-market candy sales business. I could sell generic candy inside the theatre, I would only have to unload enough to cover my costs. However, it is dark in there and people don’t always know what they are getting, so a hefty profit is almost guaranteed. If you see someone wearing a trench coat in the middle of summer, and they appear to make a lot of noise when they walk, slip me a fiver and I will give you some ‘Malted-Milk-Duds’ and some ‘M & N’s. Or maybe you would prefer some ‘Crimson Vine Licorice’ or some ‘Mike & Spike’s. However, use caution when opening our sodas, the ‘psssshh’ sound tends to alert security. They have a vest and a little rolling floor sweeper thingy, they mean business. Other than their militant rules, I feel sorry for them. You can tell a job has little upward mobility when they won’t even let you use a real vacuum.

Honestly, I don’t even know why I would want to go the movies anyway. Between hogging the armrest, kicking the backs of the seats and talking over the actors, it isn’t as relaxing as other people make it out to be. It makes me tired; I don’t normally do that much activity in a day. Plus, it is a workout climbing over all those other people in the row just to get to the bathroom. And don’t even suggest not doing that. I tried it once, and let’s just say those ushers get very nosey about puddles under the seats. “Is this what I think it is?!” “Did you do this?!” “What is the matter with you?!” Too many questions. I paid to watch a movie, not get the third degree.

See how hard it is to go to the movies? Is it fair that I have to follow all these rules and they can charge exorbitant prices and make me watch whatever garbage they put out and I have no recourse? It is not right. Anywhere else, if you are not satisfied with the product you return it to the store. You raise a fuss, you demand your money back, you scream for a manager, you stand up for your rights, you use force if necessary, you get tasered! Ok, so except for that last part, it is a good system. Why not use it at the movies too?

Me: Yes, I just saw your latest movie “Return of the Swamp Thing” and I am totally dissatisfied. Them: So?
Me: I want my money back.
Them: What?
Me: It was no good. I was not moved to a single involuntary emotional reaction. I did not learn anything. There was no moral. Oh, and the popcorn was stale.
Them: What do you want me to do about it?
Me: I want my money back.
Them: Uh, no.
Me: But it stunk. It was a terrible movie. I want my money back. And I want to be reimbursed for my time.
Them: Lady, are you crazy?! Did you not see the movie previews? Of course it stunk. The posters weren’t even any good. I had to have the snack-bar guy photo-shop them just to make them look better.
Me: I am sorry about that, but I am still upset about this. Don’t you want to keep your customers happy?
Them: I would love to. But since they put in the Plasma Center and the Organ Center next door I have had to invest a ton of money in handi-capable services. Like extra wheelchair spaces, IV hook-ups, staff nurses, and a defibrillator. I had a guy code last week; and I can tell you that ambulances are not good for business. I can’t afford to give you a refund. On top of that, candy sales are way down and if things don’t pick up I may go out of business all together.
Me: Um, you know what? Never mind. I can be the better person here. It is just a few dollars after all. So I will just be on my way.
Them: Hey you dropped something, it fell out of your coat. Is that a generic peanut butter cup?! SECURITY!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer School

Summer break is that time of year when I am reminded of why we need to pay teachers more. If for no other reason than they are required to have conversations with our children during the school year, that we do not want to have. Over the summer vacation, we get to have those conversations. All the time.

“Mom, did you know that someone buys a Barbie every 3 seconds.”
“Really? How do you know that?”
“I read it.”
“Where?”
“The Bathroom Reader for kids. But I wasn’t in the bathroom when I read it.”

I know it is tough on teachers to compete with the media and all of the technology that is incorporated into everyday life.

“Mom, did you know that if our body did not produce mucus, our stomach lining would begin eating itself, and we would die! So snot is actually good for us.”
“Wow, did you learn that at school?”
“No. Cartoons.”

I think kids are so distracted in these fast and ever-changing times that it is hard to keep their attention.

Sluuuuurp, Sluuuuuurpp, sluuuurrrrpppppp.
“Son, what are you doing?”
“Huh?”
“What are you doing? You were making a weird noise, how were you making it?”
“Oh, that. That was just me squishing my spit.”

Part of the problem with our culture is that everyone is always trying to one-up each other to shock and disturb. It is a constant problem, even in families.

“Mom, I read about a guy who eats 2 pounds of metal a day.”
“Why?”
“So that he could break a world record. He ate the two pounds a day, until he ate a whole plane!”
“How does his body handle it?”
“He has a genetic mutation in his stomach lining that allows him to swallow metal and not get sick. Isn’t that cool?”
“Um, I guess.”
“Mom, if you could eat 2 pounds of metal a day what would you eat?”
“I don’t think I would. I don’t want to.”
“Well if I had a special and unique talent, I wouldn’t waste it like Mom would. I would eat a light pole.”
“Why?”
“It’s for training. I would work up to eating a helicopter, but not one that was moving.”

Then the little one, who had been listening quietly the whole time, said: “Well, I would eat the whole world. Then when I pooped, you could see it from space!”

Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like they are learning anything.

“Mom, do you know what the secret ingredient in Coca-cola is?”
“No.”
“It is called 7X. But no one knows what 7X is because it is a secret.”
“Yeah, I heard on the news about a secretary who tried to sell the secret formula a few years back, I wonder if she knows what the secret ingredient is.”
“That is the problem with knowledge, it just gets out,” he said.
Then I tried for sarcasm, “Yeah, I guess it is better to lock it up and not let anyone know what you learned. Keep all your smarts to yourself.”
“Mom, that is weird, that is like giving a thief all your money so that he doesn’t steal it.”

I guess they are learning something after all.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Going to the Ool

Aaaaah summertime. The smell of something burning on the grill, the sounds of yellow-jackets and mosquitoes buzzing in my ears, and the spectacle of children splashing and playing in the pool. Yes, the pool. The place feared by mothers everywhere. Not because of safety issues, but because we may get our hair wet.

Whether it is a wading pool, a lap pool, or an Olympic size pool--there is one thing they all have in common . . . pee. Every pool is a giant urinal that does not flush. I recently read a news article on CNN.com about peeing in the pool. Evidentially the CDC warns against using a pool as a toilet. (Really?) It goes on to say that drinking a little bit of tainted water is bad for you and can make you sick. (No joke?) It finishes with the following: Don’t pee in the pool. Ok, that is enough for me. I am going to try and stop immediately. Well, at least cut back.

Printing a journalistic story on the crisis of pee in American pools hardly seems newsworthy, but apparently it is a big problem. According to the article: 1 in 5 American adults admit to peeing in the pool, and I am guessing, that the other 4 are liars. Someone told me they have never peed in a pool, and it is not that I don’t believe them, but I am leery of “warm spots” in the aquatic environment. I don’t stand too close to anyone at the pool, no matter what they say. Even Michael Phelps, the 14-gold medal winner, admitted tinkling in the pool, and the swimming pool is basically his workplace. So if he is willing to do it, I don’t hold out hope for the rest of America.

I am a little perturbed by this news story though; I see it as an attack by the media to vilify the United States; just more propaganda to make us look bad to the rest of the world. I mean you hear all this press about how lazy Americans are, and stories that we are all obese, that we have short attention-spans and now, we are incontinent too. Wetting ourselves and swimming around in it; great, the U.N. will have a heyday with that one. Well, I for one am not going to believe everything I read, but just to be on the safe side, I will be showering after swimming from now on.

I used to work at a pool, so I appreciate the feeling of familiarity when I visit swimming facilities. And, believe it or not, there are some things about the pool that I do enjoy. For one, the smell of chlorine is actually soothing to me. I also love those cutesy signs that they put up at some swimming areas, the ones that say “Welcome to our ool, notice there is no ‘P’ in it.” They are charming and folksy, but have no truth in advertising. They really should say: “Welcome to our pool. Notice there is ‘P’ in it. I wouldn’t drink the water if I were you.”

Of course, I didn’t say I like everything about the swimming pool. Besides the urine-filled water, one of the things I dislike is the fact that you are seeing everyone disrobed. Going to the pool is like seeing everyone you know in their underwear. It is too much information paddling around in sun block. You cannot hide anything in a swimsuit; all of your limbs are out there for the world to see. It is like stripping down to your skivvies and asking the entire neighborhood to jump in and take a bath with you. I don’t like it one bit. And now we have to worry about who is going #1 in the water? I already look at people who swim with suspicion, and now I have to wonder what they are doing when they float on over to the deep end?

I have enough to worry about when I take a trip to the pool, like trying to look people in the eye. Hey it sounds easy, but you try and not to look alarmed when you see the human equivalent of Chewbacca coming at you in a pair of cut-off Levi’s while his tighty-whitey’s are playing peek-a-boo with his distended-belly. Keeping a straight face is tougher than it sounds. Now, I am no super-model myself, so I have a certain amount of sympathy for the attractively-challenged, but I have one word for that guy—“Manscaping.”

Yes, the pool is full of many pit-falls and potentially uncomfortable situations. I speak from experience, many tortuous years of having my children drag me to the aquatic center has resulted in a rather steep learning curve. So this summer, before you hit the swimcenter, feel free to use my tried and true beach bathing guidelines:

Self-tanner will not cover varicose veins.

It is not ok to hit other people’s children, no matter how many times they splash you in the face or shoot at you with a water weenie.

That little skirt on your swimsuit is not fooling anyone, not even you.

If you have to go down the water-slide make sure all ties and straps on your swimsuit are securely attached and latched. Seriously.

The snack shack does not sell Xanax or Gin; you have to bring your own.

The “cannon-ball” is not a dive.

And lastly: If you are going to pee, please don’t stand next to me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pet Cemetery

There is a frog that lives outside my house in the decorative bricks. It is ribbitting like there is no tomorrow. My husband says the frog is doing that because it is mating season. I think it is because the frog is trying to warn the others. If that amphibian has lived near our house for very long, he knows that there are almost a dozen animals buried in our yard, and I think he is trying to protect his friends. His croak is a warning, it means: Stay away, these people are killers! We really aren’t murderers, the pets we had just died, mostly of natural causes. I would call it the circle of life but it is more like the cul-de-sac of life, you can enter but just know ahead of time that it is a dead end.

I don’t want to bore you with all the sordid details, let’s just say we have more shoeboxes full of skeletons buried in the yard than any other family on our street. I think that our reputation has spread, because the last time we pet-sat for someone, they told us there would be an extra $50 in it if they came back and their pet was dead. Of course we turned them down, but 2 weeks later their beloved family pet died anyway. I guess just being in our home, seeing the carnage all around him, was enough for the animal to give up the ghost. Of course, we didn’t get the $50 because of a technicality, some mumbo-jumbo about the fact that it didn’t happen on our property.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like animals, I just don’t looooooove them. My kids love animals, in fact, the little one’s first word was “goggie” (read: doggie), and he said he is going to change his name to “Puppy Lover” when he turns 20. Why? Because he loves puppies. When I tell folks that I am not an animal lover it brings out a lot of hostility in them. They make all kinds of assumptions just from my one statement. They automatically think I am a cold, heartless person. They insinuate that I am going to canvas the neighborhood looking for dogs to roast over an open flame and serve alongside potato salad. I am not going to do that. Besides, I am sure they taste just like chicken anyway, so really, what is the point?

It does not make me a bad person just because I don’t want to dress up four-legged creatures in sweaters and hot-dog costumes and carry them around in a purse. It makes me a sane person. It does not make me a lunatic just because I don’t want to follow my dog around all day with a little blue bag to carry his business in. I like to see animals and play with them, cuddle them and watch them run on a wheel or swim in their tanks; I am just not obsessed with them. I enjoy the company of animals but we are not in a co-dependant relationship.

Besides, I think the pet craze has gotten out of hand. I hear of people on the news getting bigger and deadlier animals as pets. One story recently, was about a woman who kept a chimpanzee as a pet. Keeping a humongous ape, that weighs more than the average man, in your house and dressing it up in a diaper does not even sound like a good idea in theory, let alone in actuality. The animal eventually went nuts and viciously attacked the neighbor, totally unprovoked. Details did surface that the animal was on anti-depressants, which just goes to show that medication alone does not work; chimps need therapy in addition to a prescription.

Ok, so people are pushing the limits of the kinds of animals to keep, maybe they just don’t know the in’s and out’s of adopting a pet. So, here are my tips for shopping for a new family pet:

Any animal that outweighs you by 100 or more pounds should be automatically disqualified from being a pet.

Any animal that is a natural predator of homo-sapiens (yes, this means you) should not be a pet.

Any animal that is considered “a pest.” This means an animal in which an exterminator is called to people’s homes to eradicate, should not be living in yours.

Any animal that can survive, and thrive, in a public sewer system should not be kept as a pet.

Any animal that sprays toxic fumes/poisons that could potentially blind, paralyze, kill and/or maim you, should not be a pet.

Animals that eat their young, are potentially ok. Animals that eat your young, not ok.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “But my kids will want one of these animals. How do I dissuade them from selecting an animal that doesn’t fit into the ‘safe’ category?” Well, if this is the case, here is an example of how you handle that type of conversation:

“Mom, can I get a King Cobra?”
“No.”
“Mom, can I get a scorpion?”
“No.”
“Hey, Mom, how about a tiger?”
“No.”
“But Mom, I really want a dingo.”
“Remember that little kid that used to run around here for a few years? He had blonde hair like yours and slept with your old teddy bear? You called him brother?”
“Yeah.”
“He was eaten by a dingo.”
“Oh.”

Now, that you are getting the hang of it, go out and pick up a new pet. Maybe a free cat from a box in front of the grocery store, or a nice neutered dog from your local animal shelter. Oh, and one last tip, don’t get something exotic, like a one-of-a-kind hairless Burmese cat or a Brazilian scarlet macaw. In the event that something goes awry, you may need a pet look-alike to fill in. So you should pick an animal that is generic and easy to find replacements for. You know, like in case the new pet dies in an accident or because of a mysterious illness. Or, in case you ask us to pet-sit for you. I am just saying . . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bracing for Impact

One day, my husband said this to me: “Go ahead honey, why don’t you drive?”

I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

So I said, “Nah, it’s raining.”
“It is ok. You can drive slow. I’m in no hurry,” he said.
“Nahhh.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t like to drive with you in the car.”
“Why?”
“You’re too distracting.”
“Because I am talking to you?”
“No, by gasping and shrieking every time I take a turn. Or the way you flinch and press both palms to the dash every time I pass someone.”
Then he said, “Oh, that. That is just me bracing for impact.”

So, he thinks I am a bad driver. It makes life easier if you just AWG. AWG is my new mantra, a little something I made up, it means: Admit the truth, Work within the parameters of your limitations, and Get on with life. That is why when my husband insults my driving, I don’t get indignant. What is the point? It is a true assessment of my abilities. When other folks hear this they say things like, “Oh, come on now. I am sure you aren’t that bad.” or “I am sure you are better than you think.” But I have never had any of them offer to ride with me.

I think my driving problems began in high school with the driver education program. You see, I didn’t go to one. My dad taught me how to drive. Then after half a year he took me to the county seat to take the actual driving test with the local sheriff. Looking back, the only reason that I can think of why my dad would agree to such insanity is that it never crossed his mind that I would pass the test. I mean, he drove with me for six months, he must have assumed that no competent licensing agency would allow me to pass. But he underestimated my sheer force of will and steely determination. Or, it may have been the crying. Yeah, now that I think about it, it was probably the crying.

When my father first agreed to teach me to drive I am guessing that he thought it would be easy. He was a tank commander in the army and I doubt that he felt out-gunned by a sixteen-year-old girl with poor fashion sense and an addiction to Aqua-Net hair spray. I am sure that he sized me up and thought, ‘piece of cake.’

Our first trip out together was going to be a nice little jaunt around the block. I started the car and drove around each turn, doing what I thought, was a reasonable 45 mph. He didn’t say a word for the 30 seconds it took us to come back to our starting spot in front of the house. When I slammed on the brakes, and his head lurched forward with whip-lash force, narrowly missing the windshield, I said, “How was that?” He looked at me with an expression I had never seen before, I could see much more of his actual eyeball than I had ever remembered seeing, and it was very white. Then, when his breathing returned to normal, he said, “Let’s try that again. Only slower this time. Much slower.”

Thus began our journey together. He tried to teach me to drive and I taught him what really causes grey hair. It was an experience. The clutch survived, which is amazing in it self, I stripped out a number of gears and I once ran the car so far out of gas that air got in the lines. So, when the woman at the DMV handed me my freshly minted driver’s license I was ecstatic. My dad, again, was speechless. I am not sure if it was pride or fear, but either way, he knew there was no turning back. For the ride home, he let me drive. There is nothing like the feel of the open road in an avocado green station wagon with your petrified parent clutching his chest in the seat next to you.

Ever the teacher, on the ride home, my dad decided to give me one last driving lesson. He wanted me to pass someone. I had not passed anyone in all of our training together. Not a little old lady on a Sunday drive, not a single-cylinder moped, not even a pedestrian. Now my dad wanted me to pass the longest greyhound bus in the world.

His mini lesson began with: “See that bus ahead of us is going 45 mph. The speed limit is 55. We are coming up to a good spot to pass. When you see the dotted line, look for oncoming traffic and if the lane is open, pass this bus.”
I said, “Dad, I can’t.”
“Pass the bus.”
“I can’t.”
Then more firmly, he said, “Pass the bus.”
“Ok.”

I was scared out of my ponytail. After all of his lectures on not speeding I was determined not to speed as I followed his directive. So, I began slowly accelerating, 45 mph, then 46, 47. The minutes ticked by. I didn’t want to move too quickly, so as to avoid the whole ‘trip around the block’ incident.

“Pass or get back into your lane,” he said a little too forcefully.
“I am passing.”

I could see a car heading toward us in the distance. The speedometer was slowly climbing as we were almost neck and neck with the front of the bus.

“Pass or get back over!” He must have seen the on-coming car too.

I glanced at the gauges, we were almost up to 50 mph and it only took us 4 or 5 minutes tops.

“Pass or get over!” Now he was almost shrieking.
“I don’t want to break the law.”

The on-coming car was getting closer. I wasn’t sure how to proceed, but his instructions were getting shorter and louder.

“PASS OR OVER, PASS OR OVER!!!”
“I can’t speed. You told me not to speed.”
“AAAAAAAACCCKKK!”

So, to make him happy, I decided to pass. I didn’t know that you were supposed to get one car length in front of the other automobile before you pass them. (Was that even in the manual?!) So, I just nosed in, narrowly missing a head-on collision with the on-coming car and a ramming from a 10-ton commercial transportation vehicle.

Even though I was upbeat and positive about my triumph over passing the bus--my dad was not. “Can I do a victory lap around town when we get home?” I asked.
“No,” was all he said.

I am not blaming anyone for my bad driving, least of all myself. I mean, I am a victim of unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes the cosmos just conspires against me, I am blaming the devil.

So when you are on the highway with traffic backed up to the coast, and there is one lone car at the front of the pack going 45 mph in a 70 mph zone, maybe you will be more understanding when you zoom around them at the first opportunity. And please wave hello when you cruise on by me, but don’t honk, I tend to swerve when startled.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hairy Teeth

When I am sick my teeth feel hairy, like they have fur growing on them. The doctor told me it is from breathing through my mouth when my nose is stuffed up, but I am not convinced it isn’t one of the lesser known cold symptoms. You know, like headache, body aches . . . hairy teeth.

I mean, how much do we really know about the common cold anyway? We don’t even really know where it comes from or how to get rid of it. If I go to the doctor they usually won’t even give me medicine. And I will probably catch 6 more strains of bacteria sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for them to come in and tell me that all I need are fluids and plenty of rest. Now the flu is actually killing people and the folks in charge think it is being caused by pigs? Sounds fishy to me. I think hairy teeth is more believable.

When I get sick my whole family gangs up on me. It is their chance to live a life of freedom. The kids know that my guard is down, I have no resistance. When they want to wear long-underwear, cowboy boots, and a cape to school I just say, “Sure, wake me when the principal calls.” Chocolate cake for breakfast? Like I could stop them. Three hours of cartoons? I don’t even have the energy to find the remote to turn the TV off. The sound of antibacterial hand-sanitizer squirting, the overwhelming smell of mentholated rub, and the spectacle of kids painting the cat with nail-polish; yes, Mommy must be ill.

Even eating is no fun when I am sick. It is just a bunch of chewing (which usually hurts) and I have to make something for myself (which expends valuable energy) and I can’t taste anything (it could be play-dough for all I know), so what is the point? When I am sick we sometimes get takeout, because I am worried about spreading germs by handling food that my family will consume. So, when I am ill, we often pick-up drive thru or deli food to cut-down on contamination. And, since I am the one who is sick, naturally, I am the one they send to pick-up the food.

This last time I was fighting off a cold I had a stack of thank-you cards I needed to send out. I usually have the kids write their own message on thank-you cards; if they are younger I have them draw a picture, or dictate a message for me to write. So while I went to get more Kleenex I left my little one at the table to “write his card.” When I came back he had a napkin over the card and was gently scrubbing it. I thought he was trying to erase a mistake, but when I asked him what he was doing, he replied, “I’m wiping off my sneeze.” Please do not judge me too harshly when I say that I went ahead and mailed that card. That is right, mailed it with the flu-like equivalent of anthrax covering the entire note. You have been warned, if you get an envelope in the mail with my return address on it, spray it with Lysol and open at your own risk.

One thing I hate to do when I am sick is talk on the phone. I sound like Elmer Fudd on hallucinogens.

“Hew-wo?”
“Hi, uh, is Sonia there?”
“Spweek-een.”
“Sonia?”
“Wes?”
“You sound awful. I just called to see how you are holding up.”
“Nod vew-wee wewl. I hab a stubbed nobe and I am vew-wee ti-wrd. I need to go wy down now.”

The person on the other end of the line is not sure if they just had a conversation with me or accidentally called the psych ward of the mental hospital.

Even trying to sound like a normal person is useless. I cannot think. My brain goes all fuzzy and putting together a coherent thought takes a monumental amount of brain power. It would be easier for the planets to align and for the government to pay off the national debt, than for me to do anything that requires thought when I have a cold. Once when I was sick I put the phone in the washing machine, and then it got sick too.

One of the worst parts of illness is when you don’t have anyone to take care of you. Husbands aren’t the most nurturing when it comes to caretaking. My husband was in a coffee shop recently when a young woman was blowing her nose and exclaimed, “EWWW!” Another woman asked her if she was ok. “Yeah, but when I blew my nose my eye squirted.” So my husband says, “Oh yeah? Let’s see.” That is not the response of a concerned person that is the response of a recruiter for the circus.

Along with the other symptoms that I have already mentioned, I become horribly disfigured, when I am under the weather. My skin becomes so pale it is almost see-thru, I get dark circles under my eyes, my nose is chapped, cold sores cover my lips, my eyes are bloodshot, and because I lay down so much, my hair looks like it lost a fight with a tornado. I scared off 4 girl-scouts and 2 Jehovah’s witnesses just by answering the front door.

Luckily, I am recovering from my most recent bout with the flu. My headache and sore throat are almost completely gone. I have no fever and the congestion is slowly clearing up. So, why am I not happy? My husband came to me this morning and said, “I don’t feel well. *sniffle* I think I have a tickle in my throat. *cough* I am going to go lie down.”

I guess I had better go check his teeth.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Don't Squeeze the Garmin

I thought the television program “Lost” was going to be a reality show, about a bunch of guys stranded on an island trying to get home. And the first one to crack and look at a map would get voted off. Boy was I disappointed when I saw the first episode, until I noticed an odd anomaly. Three-quarters of the cast were males . . . on a show titled “Lost” . . . coincidence? I think not.

I am lucky, my husband never gets lost. He just takes the scenic route. That is why he is always rushing me whenever we have to go anywhere; we never really know how long the drive is going to take. Going across town may take 2 hours--I can understand why he wants me to hurry.

I don’t think I would mind riding with a man who does get lost as long as he is willing to admit it. Let’s just be honest with one another—he gets lost and I look better with makeup on. See now, that wasn’t so bad. However, after 13 years we are still keeping up the charade—he pretends he knows where we are going and I pretend not to notice we have passed the same spot 3 times. To keep up the pretense my husband speaks in man-code when we are on a road trip. He will say things that have hidden meanings. Things like:

“Look at this beautiful scenery!” but what he really means is: None of this looks familiar.

“I think it is up around this next corner.” But what he really means is: I sure hope it is up around this next corner. Fingers crossed.

“Wow, look at that cloud, looks like rain.” That means: Great, now it is starting to get dark. Now I will never find it.

Sometimes he says, “There’s a deer.” In man code that means: I will create a diversion and she won’t realize that we are lost.

Or he will say, “I know where we are. You worry too much.” But really means: I sure wish I knew where we are.

When my husband says, “It sure is nice to get out on the open road and spend some quality time together;” what he really means is: I hope that she doesn’t try to shoot me with the emergency flare gun under her seat.

Because of our often eventful road trips and the unintelligible man code, I bought my husband a Garmin GPS device for his birthday. I was hoping it would cut down on the times we would have to take the “scenic route.” Things were going well the first few times he used it. A lilting woman’s voice came out of the device and said lovely things like: “Turn right in 2.8 miles” and “Go 1.4 miles and turn left” or “Estimated time of arrival 5 minutes.”

I was amazed, not just because it was so easy to use and follow the directions, but because it was the first time I had ever seen my husband actually listen to a woman’s voice. Everything was going along great until, one day; my husband saw a gravel road out of the corner of his eye. He yanked the steering wheel with considerable force and said the four most horrible words in the English language—“I know a shortcut.”

The next thing I know we are hurtling along an unpaved road with no name and no identifying landmarks. I was panicked, but the Garmin lady was unfazed. “Make a U-turn at the next intersection.” She remained calm while inside I was having flashbacks of a trip to a birthday party in which we ended up in the wrong county.

Garmin lady reiterated, “Off course, recalculating.”

All that my husband said was, “Its ok, this road isn’t in the map database. Don’t worry, I know where we are.” At that point, I saw my life pass before my eyes because the gravel road then turned into a packed dirt road. It turns out I didn’t need to be afraid of that road, because it was only a matter of minutes before that road became a dirt road with patches of grass and weeds growing up from the center of the lane.

“I don’t think we are going the right way.”
“Yes we are, it is just up past this ridge a ways and then down into that draw. Then lickety-split we will be back on the highway.”
“Turn left at the next intersection. Recalculating.”
“We aren’t even on a road.”
“Yes, we are. These tracks are a road.”
“For pioneers maybe, not for a minivan. There is a creek going over it.”
“A little water never hurt anyone.”
“Off course, recalculating.”

I sat like a stone for the next little while. Only moving to check my phone and see if I had cell reception, hopeful that I could call for help and be rescued from the lunatic behind the wheel. The silence was only broken by the Garmin lady periodically announcing we needed to turn around and resume course. I am not sure, but I sensed she was starting to panic too, since her requests to make a u-turn became more frequent.

As we rambled along we came to a huge open space where the road (read: tracks) ended and nothing was there but a wide open field. That is when the unthinkable happened. My husband yelled at Garmin lady. My only sane companion on this God-forsaken journey, and he was telling her to be quiet. I had to say something.

“Leave her alone!”
“What?”
“Stop yelling at her, she is just trying to help.”
“Recalculating.”

Then he hit Garmin lady with his hat and put the car in reverse. We turned around, heading back the way we came.

Garmin lady gave us directions the rest of the way, although she didn’t sound quite as spunky as before. I didn’t say anything for the rest of the trip, but when Garmin lady said “Turn right and arrive at destination” I thought I was going to cry.

We now have a new family policy regarding the Garmin: No one will poke, prod, squeeze, hit, or otherwise man-handle Garmin lady. She saved my life after all, it was the least I could do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Keeping the United States Afloat

I have discovered the answer that the world has been looking for. I know how to solve most of the United States’ social and economic problems. It is so simple I am surprised a movie star or politician didn’t think of it first. It will resolve everything from the recession to obesity. Here it is: We all need to buy a boat.

That is right, we all need to buy one boat per household! Not only will it get the economy revved up, unlike spending the same amount of money on taxes, citizens would actually get something that they pay for. I know it’s brilliant, right?

The purchase of boats would help create jobs, because we would need people to make them. Then there are the accessories like trailers to haul the boats, and water wings and water tight flashlights and boat patrols. Plus, instead of the IRS conducting an audit, it could be a representative from Cabella’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse. They could come out to inspect your boat and make sure you are doing your part. It would completely eliminate the need for the Internal Revenue Service, W-2's and off-shore accounts.

Besides, with global warming on the way, we will all be glad to have some type of flotation device when all of those glaciers start melting. My favorite part of this plan is what it will do for national security. We can have rednecks in bass boats patrolling the waters and there will be no more pirate problems. It is a bit of a trade-off, there will be lots of mullets and some Skoal in the water, but no pirates. I think that small sacrifice is worth it to protect our open waters.

Additionally, it would cut down on wars and Prozac, because no one that has a boat is unhappy. Also, with everyone striving for a common goal it will create unity among citizens, camaraderie, if you will.

Now, to put my plan into action, I have devised a chart to determine each family’s boat purchasing level. I have made it very simple and there is very little math involved (ten fingers, so ten categories). The only exemption is for fast-food employees, because prolonged exposure to all that grease makes them naturally buoyant, so the need for a boat is a moot point. Anyway, review the chart below, select which income level you fall into and then follow the line across to see which type of boat you would need to purchase.

Out of work-------------Handmade empty milk jug and palette raft
Work part-time-----------Float tube with a cot strapped on
Work full-time (min. wage)------Inflatable rubber raft*
*(oars required only if you get overtime)
Work full-time ($10-$15/hr)--------Canoe or peddle boat from Costco
Teachers/Firemen-------------Rowboat w/7hp electric trolling motor
Low-level Mgmt---------------Fiberglass boat with gas powered motor
Middle-Mgmt-----------Aluminum boat w/gas powered outboard motor
Senior-Mgmt--------------Small houseboat with inboard motor
Executives/Lawyers/Doctors--------------------------Sailboat
CEO’s/Politicians/Actors (Upper 5%)---------------Yacht

Besides the benefits I already mentioned: it would get people moving which would cut down on obesity, it would give people a place to go if the bank forecloses on their homes, and more people would be eating heart-healthy diets that are fish-based. The only time someone would need to get a new boat is when they move up an income level. Also, a person with high-drive to achieve that is stuck in the lower income bracket, can modify their boat to propel them forward. For example, someone who is in the ‘out of work’ category can secure their empty milk jugs and palette to the under-side of their mobile home and therefore instantly “float” to the top of the chart, with their home-made houseboat. So there are built in incentives.

Now to get folks excited about my plan, I have composed a few snappy phrases for commercial use. Things like: “Rock the Boat” and “Whatever Floats your Boat.” So write your congressman and tell him that you are “on board” with a new tax system of boats. And remember April 15th is tax day, on your tax forms when it says “donation-other” give your donation to the Boat Fund. Your country is counting on you . . .

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I Need a Maid or a Hand Grenade

This morning as I was putting away clothes, I left a stack of my husband’s underwear on top of the dresser while I sorted his socks. When I lifted the underwear there was a space on the dresser that looked different from the rest because it was dust-free. I took the stack of underwear and wiped off the rest of the dresser and then put them away in the drawer.

Put Away Clothes: Check
Dust Dresser: Check

Now, I am not a domestic goddess or anything, but I do make an effort to keep the house tidy. Sometimes doing things the regular way does get boring. I have found that the trick to stay motivated about housekeeping is to make it interesting. Sometimes the kids will make it interesting for you . . .

When the little one rode by on a tricycle wearing nothing but a pair of socks, I asked him, “What are you doing?”
“I’m riding my tricycle.”
“You’re naked.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot.”
Then I get to play “guess where his bottom has been so you know what areas to sanitize.” See, isn’t this fun?

A book that I read said that when you are cleaning house, you should try to stay focused on one thing at a time. You will be more efficient and will feel energized by completing a task.

“Where are your pants?” I asked the little one, as he strolled by in only a shirt.
“I got some pee on them.”
“How did? . . . Never mind. Did you put them in the hamper?”
“No, I put them back in my dresser.”
Then you get to wash and fold an entire drawer full of clothes instead of just one pair of pants.

Although I agree with the book about needing to stay focused, you have to be prepared for whatever household cleaning emergency may arise.

“Mooooooooooom!!!”
“What?”
“There is a spider downstairs. It was freaking me out!”
“Where is it?”
“I killed it.”
“With what?”
“Brothers shoe.”
“Did you wipe it off.”
“Yeah.”
“With what?”
“The carpet.”

One website I looked at said to clean in short bursts, you will be amazed at how much you can get done in only 10 minutes. Although tough jobs take more time, it can be fun to go through the house like a cleaning tornado trying to whip the house into shape before the end of a commercial break. But even a tornado can be stopped in its tracks.

“Mom, smell my hand.”
“Why? What does . . .? P-EWWWWW!!! Your hand stinks! What have you been doing?!”
“I don’t want to tell you.”
“Why?”
“You’ll be mad.”
“Where has your hand been? I promise I won’t get mad.”
“My bottom itched.”
“Go wash your hands. Now! Do it now. Don’t touch anything.”

After an “itchy bottom” you get to play a new game, it is similar to ‘guess which surfaces need to be sanitized.’ Only this one is called “Guess which surfaces need to be disinfected.” It is pretty much the same from a strategic stand-point, the only differences are that it takes longer and it isn’t as much fun. Oh and it is still a single-player game.

If you don’t like to play games when you are cleaning, you could always take the opportunity to ponder some profound and theoretical questions. Things like: Why is toothpaste always spattered all over the mirror, am I the only one in the whole house whose neck can bend over the sink? And: If you vacuum up an estimated 20 Legos a day, how come the total number of Legos in the household does not seem to diminish but actually seems to increase?

Now, for one of the toughest cleaning chores there is, cleaning a teenager's room. Try not to go in if possible. Only enter if there is an aroma that is tainting the rest of the house. Start by throwing out anything that is beginning to grow roots. Take all cloth like materials (bedding, curtains, and clothes) and wash them. Empty the garbage—this includes the entire contents of the floor. If the room still cannot be revived, only resort to painting and spackling after the child has secured their own apartment. If the young person returns, chances are, so will the smell.

The household chores can really be an adventure if you just try and keep a positive attitude. If all else fails, I heard somewhere that if you leave the gas on in your oven and go shopping, the explosion will blow the dust off of everything and the heat will sanitize it. I have never tried it myself . . .

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Friend or Dough

A study came out in 2006 in the American Sociological Review that said Americans are suffering a loss of quantity and quality of friends. Friendships have been declining since 1985, and the article goes on to say that 25% of Americans have no close confidants. I think this is probably true and have a theory about why it is happening: it is hard to make friends. One reason why it is hard is people don’t meet face to face. You cannot get to know people unless you meet them. Either they have to leave their house, or you have to leave yours. This means someone has to get off the couch.

I have tried lots of different ways to make friends but usually when I meet someone I just talk too much and scare them away. I am excited and they are like, scared. I once thought that if I just spent more time alone, when the time came that I was around others, I could show more restraint. The only thing that happened was I started talking to myself. My husband once walked in on me having an argument while I was alone and apologized for interrupting me and then left the room. He doesn’t want to talk to me either.

When I became a mother I would go to parent co-op groups to meet other mothers. We all had kids, so we had something in common, but building a connection with them was harder than I thought it would be. I had to miss a meeting once and when I came back they had ‘voted me off the island’ survivor style. “The tribe has spoken,” as they put the top on my sippy-cup and told me to pack my diaper bag and go.

It was back to the search. I had to lower my expectations. I decided that not every friend is going to be a close one. It occurred to me that there are lots of different kinds of friends and different kinds of friendships. There is the fair-weather friend, the take-you-to-the-airport friend, the take-you-to-the-airport-and-wait-with-you-in-baggage-claim friend, and then there is the kind that will take you to the airport, get there early so that the two of you can sit the coffee shop and make fun of airline employees before you get on the plane friend. Those are the best kind.

Along with all the good versions of friends, there are some bad ones too: The diet sabotager, the flakey friend, the borrows-your-stuff-and-never-returns-it friend. Then there is the worst kind, the Amish Friendship Bread Friend otherwise known as the AFBF. This friend is not really a friend at all. They are a friend that hates you. My advice is to stay away from them.

You probably already have an AFBF in your life, if not; count yourself lucky. If you do not have an AFBF, or are not sure that you would recognize one, pay attention and I will describe them for you. It is easy to recognize an AFBF, they are typically overly cheerful with sunny dispositions, and they are nice, nice, nice. It is enough to make you sick. They are generous and sweet and so you know they have an ulterior motive, and it is to recruit you to Amish Friendship Bread hell.

The trick is to not be drawn in by their affability, they are ruthless and they mean business. If you see an AFBF at a PTA meeting, soccer game, charity event or at church, do not engage them in conversation or look them directly in the eye, turn sideways and slink away as quickly as possible. If you are caught talking to an AFBF unawares it may be necessary to sacrifice an acquaintance. That means grab someone close and say, “Hey, have you met Sally, she is new to the area. She loves to bake.” Then, run!

There may come a time in your life where it feels like everyone around you is an AFBF. You may receive five or more bags of glop at a time. Do not open them, do not squish them, do not add any ingredients. Just stop the cycle right now, and throw out your baggie of yeasty sludge. Do it now, and do not look back!

Now you may be thinking that I am overreacting, what could be so bad about the AFBF, you may ask yourself? Well, let me tell you. The AFBF is an Amish Friendship Bread maker. They are the ones responsible for the deadly and ever-powerful Amish Friendship bread starters otherwise known as the baggie of doom. Some have called it the Amish chain-letter, but I think it is much more sinister, I believe it is the Amish bid for world domination. Think about it, if they can get you to ferment, and then squish, a bag of poisonous slop on your kitchen counter for 10 days; and then scoop it into more bags and pass it out to your “friends,” and then make your slime into something to eat . . . they can get you to do anything.

It is a form of Amish mind-control. Don’t let the cute quilts and buggies fool you, those people are angry. It might be all of our electric ovens; I am not sure what they have against us, all I know is that if anyone brings me a bag of goo with a cutesy poem attached that says Amish Friendship Bread, I know that person has gone to the dark side. I am on to you Amish subversives!

Just remember what your mother told you about friends jumping off cliffs—if a “friend” told you to take a zip-top bag of tainted dough and then tells you to add more stuff, squeeze it every day, let the air out of it, and make it into something that when cooked looks like hazardous waste material--would you? Besides I always forget about my bags of slop and they ferment way past their due date, one even exploded on the counter while I was on vacation. Heed my warning and do not let this happen to you!

Trust me, make new friends, but keep one eye open for the AFBF. Call me paranoid, but I think I have seen black buggies circling my block . . .

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Super-Scientific Test

I embarrass my children all the time. Not on purpose, but because I don't realize that being me is, in itself, embarrassing. I have tried to be more like them, but that is also embarrassing. Then I tried to be a modified version of me; less hovering, less smothering, but evidently, that is trying too hard and also embarrassing.

I guess it is just that I am so old I forget I am someone's mother and need to be reminded periodically that I should only do embarrassing things like breath and talk, when I am alone and in the house with all of the curtains and doors closed. The good news is, if you are like me, and you happen to forget, I have devised a simple, yet very scientific, test to determine if you are in fact someone's mother. Just answer these questions below. If you answer yes to any of them, you are either someone's mother or a deranged lunatic. Either way: seek help.

Ok, so here goes . . .

Have you ever caught vomit with your bare hands?

Have you ever counted crackers, a cheese stick, and raisins as a full meal?

Have you ever: signed a permission slip, broken up a fight, helped tie shoes, and combed someone's hair--all while going to the bathroom?

Have you ever consumed a half-eaten grilled cheese/peanut butter sandwich that has slobber on one side and applesauce/pudding/yogurt on the other because you are just too exhausted to make anything else for yourself to eat?

Have you ever listened to another adult talk about potty-training for 2 hours straight without your eyeballs rolling to the back of your head, and falling into a boredom induced coma, because you are so starved for companionship that you need to talk to a grown-up . . . or you will literally lose your mind?

Have you ever listened to an entire music/CD collection sung entirely by cartoon characters?

Have you ever agreed to help make an authentic mummy/civil war/roman chariot replica out of modeling compound/paper mache/styrofoam only to discover that, 12 hours into it you: 1.) Have absolutely no artistic ability, and 2.) Have no idea what you are doing?

Have you ever had to remove any type of round item (i.e., a marble, pencil eraser, piece of cereal, bead, etc.) from a child's ears, nose, and/or diaper?

Have you ever felt that it is absolutely necessary to "stack the deck" before you begin playing the game Candyland so that no one gets Plumpy near the end and starts crying and makes you start the game over, causing you to think suicidal thoughts?

Have you ever given a really obnoxious toy to a niece or nephew as revenge for a toy that was given to someone in your home?

Is the floor-board of your car permanently sticky?

Have you ever thought that eating boogers should be a capital crime?

Have you ever planned, and invited, twenty 5-year-olds to a birthday party complete with decorations, hats, games, food, cake, ice cream, favors and a pinata? And did you allow other parents to drop the children off and leave? Did you think it would be a peaceful and organized event, since you put so much time into organizing the whole thing, only to find that small children can smell fear and know how to mutiny? After the children left did you look around and say "I am never doing that again" only to turn around and do it again when the child turned 6?

Have you ever been peed on and didn't notice it right away?

Have you ever heard a noise from another room that sounded like something breaking and thought--"I do not care if a 16th century Ming Vase was just destroyed, unless someone comes in here screaming and holding a severed arm, I am not going to see what that noise is? I am too tired."

If you have ever said the phrase: "I hope that you have kids that are just like you," you are definitely someone's mother. Like I said above--get help. After all, the first step is admitting you have a problem, that is what my kids tell me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Day I Went Blind

Have you ever been blind? Me neither. I have been called deaf and dumb before, so adding blindness wouldn’t be much of a stretch. I do wear contacts, so I often say that I am “as blind as a bat” and as if on a cue, some know-it-all person will come out of the wood-work and say in their know-it-all way, “bats aren’t blind, you know.”

Listen, if I wanted to know that much about animals and science and nature, I would watch more public television. As it is, my brain is full with important facts, like: how many miles I can drive the car on empty before I really run out of gas, and what time I absolutely have to be dressed in the morning so that I won’t be late taking my kids to school.

Snooty, smarty-pants people really bug me. So they have some mental aptitude, do they have to draw attention to it all the time? I sweat like a rabid goat when I am scrubbing the tub, but you don’t see me bragging about it do you? Who cares if bats are blind or not, they are ugly and that is what really matters. If I saw a bat coming at me, otherwise known as a flying rat, I would scream. Seriously, does it matter if they can see? I can see them, elude and evade, that is my motto when it comes to bats.

Now, because of my disgust for bats you may think that I am biased against ugly things. This is not the case. I let my husband keep most of his things inside the house and some of it is so ugly it will make you wish you were blind. So see, I am really an accommodating and tolerant person. Except for smart people, they do get under my skin.

People of above average intelligence just don’t understand what it is like for those of us with average (ok, slightly below average) IQ’s. What I know I gleaned from the streets, otherwise known as the school of hard knocks. Things I have been taught over the years cannot be lectured about in a classroom; I have been educated in the gritty underbelly of suburbia and there isn’t a tougher one around than the cul de sac. For example: I have learned that if you say yes to the Avon/Mary Kay/Tupperware lady she will come back. I have learned that the Schwann’s man will not deliver ice cream at 2:18 a.m. even if it is an “emergency.” I have learned that if you dice up vegetables really, really, really tiny you still cannot hide them in a meatloaf.

Ok, so I did go to University, but that is irrelevant. I didn’t learn anything there except for the fact that student loans will force you to eat Top Ramen for a minimum of 10 years after graduation. My point is, even if you are smart you don’t have to be a show-off about it. I try to increase my intelligence. I do, I try. I read a lot, maybe I am just reading the wrong kinds of books.

One of the books that I read recently is “Lessons I learned in the Dark” by Jennifer Rothschild. It is basically a memoir about a woman who goes blind in high school. I loved the book because it talks about faith and trust and relying on things we cannot see. It is very moving. It also talks about things a sighted person wouldn’t worry about, like how to decorate your house, or how to choose an outfit or how to get ready for a date when you are sightless. Things that people with vision take for granted.

The book says that if you repeat the same process every time, when putting on makeup or fixing your hair, you can feel when you are having a bad hair day, even when you can’t see it. Just to show that I was trying to learn, I did a little social experiment, I decided to try and get ready to go to the mall as if I were blind, I mean, how hard could it be right? Ha!

I thought it would be easy to put makeup on and fix my hair without seeing what I was doing. Evidently, you have to really be blind to apply makeup in a way that makes you look like you are not blind. When I was through with my face I looked like I had applied my makeup in the dark with my eyes closed. On a positive note, it was the first time my husband ever asked me if I had “done something different with my hair?” Now, keeping with the theme I decided not to look at myself in a mirror before I left the house. I mean really, I was “blind” so it didn’t matter to me, right? It is the people that can see me from the front that feel frightened by my appearance. Besides, my husband likes sympathy, and trust me, he got a lot of sympathetic looks that day.

Well, the blind thing didn’t work out, but I bet you already guessed that. Yeah, I ran into a friend while I was out at the mall and she asked me what was wrong, was I sick, did I have a seizure while applying my mascara? All the typical questions one might get on their first day of blindness. “No,” I said, and I explained my experiment about putting on my makeup blind.

“Well,” she said, “you must be as blind as a bat, because you look terrible.” And that is when I said . . .

“Oh yeah, well bats aren’t blind you know.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Watch Out, She's Gonna Blow

Once when I was in 3rd grade I passed gas in class. Larry Campbell then followed me around the playground “farting” on his arm anytime I got within 10 feet of him. I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation, everyone kept telling me to ignore it, but I decided to go another way, instead I hit him over the head with a lunch tray. He pretty much stopped after that.

Passing gas is a taboo subject among women—we don’t do it and we don’t talk about it. Like most things that we are afraid of, we pretend it doesn’t exist. As mother’s we learn that kids do it and husbands do it, but we spend the next 18 years and 40 years, respectively, training them to stop. If we are successful, we load up on Beano and Gas-X and go back to pretending it doesn’t happen in the real world, even if we are faced with the stinky truth.

When I worked at a University I had one peer who would come into my office for various reasons related to the job, all the while tooting away like the noise and the smell were figments of my imagination. I was often so stunned by her, uh . . . performance that I could not concentrate on what she was saying. But, no matter how uncomfortable I was, I never said a word. I just smiled and went about my day. Well, I did hold my breath until she left, but other than that, it was business as usual.

Men handle bodily functions much differently, for one thing they are not scared of flatulence, well unless you cry while you are doing it, that scares them. I cannot even say ‘passing gas’ out loud. I stick with calling it gastrointestinal distress. Sure, it sounds like I am dying, but even death is more dignified than ‘breaking wind.’

I have found though, that in life, there are just some things you cannot always control and gas is one of them. When my husband wanted to marry me he sat down with my Mom and Dad and asked for their blessing. I was there mostly as moral support, quietly observing, until the unthinkable happened.

“Sir, I would like to ask your blessing to marry your daughter.”
“Thbbbbbbbbbbttttt.”

Yes, that is right, I cut the cheese. The whole room was silent, except for the unpleasantness that reverberated off of the naugahyde sofa. I could tell that no one knew how to proceed, so I stuck with the protocol and acted like nothing happened.

“You were saying . . . “
“Sir, I love your daughter and I would like to spend the rest of my life with her.”
“Thbbbbbbbbttttttt.”

It happened again! I was in uncharted territory, but I think everyone understood it was a stressful situation, so they kept on going.

“I promise to take care of her and love her.”
“Thbbbbbbbbttttttt. Bbbbbttt. Bbbbbbbttt.”

A third time! This was unprecedented. My fiancĂ© had finally had enough. He turned and looked at me and very menacingly said, “Are you through?” From that moment on I clenched like I had never clenched before and we made it to the end of the conversation without incident.

I would like to say that I began to feel less insecure about flatulence, but sadly, no. Some things are harder to change than others. Once, when I was feeling particularly carefree, I decided to try something different. I was taking a walk and listening to ‘Funkytown’ on my Ipod. It was a gorgeous sunny morning and I was breathing in the fresh air, getting exercise and enjoying the music, I felt alive . . . and so did my intestines. I knew that my bowels were stirring, but I was all alone, it was 5:30 in the morning and I thought it would be ok to relax and not worry about it. So as I listened to my music, I just kept walking and, well, um . . . you know.

Won’t you take me to Funkytown. Thbbbt. Won’t you take me tooooooo Funkytown. Thbbbbbbt. Won’t you take me to Funkytown. Thbbbbbt. Won’t you take me to Funkytown. Thbbt. Bbbbbtt.

Boy was I feeling good. Along with tooting up a storm I decided to start singing along. I am sure I sounded like a beached walrus doing a ritualistic mating call while suffering from a brain aneurism but I didn’t care. I could see my house and was as high as a kite as I headed for home. It was exhilarating. Until . . . two pillars of the community passed me on either side. They were out for their morning constitutional as well, and were now powerwalking past me. I was going to say good morning, but for once, my rear end and my mouth were silent. Besides, I couldn’t blame them for wanting to get around me as quickly as possible; I wouldn’t want to be downwind either.

From that day forward I have vowed to stick with the plan—passing gas is a myth, it doesn’t exist, and believe me, I don’t even want to talk about it.

Mealtime Isn't for Sissies

It is hard to have a peaceful meal with children. During dinner my husband averts his eyes and won’t even lift his head during a meal in which children are in attendance, afraid of what he might see, afraid it might ruin his appetite. Coward.

I agree, it is difficult, but after a while you do get used to it; the many strange concoctions: applesauce and ketchup, or pudding and noodles, or eggs and peanut butter. I tell him that you can learn to tune out the fighting, the bodily sounds, the spilling of everything from milk to Pepto Bismol, and even the constant gagging. I believe that you can learn to deal with all of that, if you just remember the goal: nourish the children with healthy food and family companionship. Boy, it sounds good in the hypothetical.

I read a parenting book that said to give your kids choices and there will be less hassles at meal time.

“Do you want apple slices or grapes with lunch?”
“No.”
“Do you want strawberries?”
“Nooooooo.”
“Do you want raisins?”
“No! No!”
“Now son, you have to have some fruit. You can choose, either raisins or strawberries or grapes or kiwis or apple slices or oranges or mango or nectarines. But those are your only choices. I am serious.”
“No! No! No! I want neither! I want my Daddy!!!”

The parenting book also said that being firm would stop power struggles in their tracks.

“Mom, can I be done?”
“You hardly touched your food. You need to eat a little bit more.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“How about, if you eat two more bites of carrot and 1 bite of chicken.”

That is when the switch is thrown and your child becomes like Sybil, with their second personality being that of an ACLU lawyer used to strong-armed negotiation tactics.

“M’am, my client will pass on your first offer. Let us know when you want to come to the table with something serious.”
“Ok, how about one bite of carrot and one bite of chicken?”
“No.”
“One bite of chicken and one bite of potato?”
“Here is what we are willing to do: one bite of chicken—no marinade, no carrots, and no potatoes, no bite of roll, and absolutely no salad. Plus, we would like extra whipping cream on desert. Do we have a deal?”

Now, I recognize my part in all this, I never claimed to be a gourmet chef, but I do make an effort. I try new recipes and look through cookbooks searching for real food that the kids will eat. Even when I put out a five course meal that took hours to prepare I can tell that all they really want is a pizza. They say rude things like: “Can we just order a pizza?”

I tell them ‘just try it,’ and ‘you have to give it a chance’ but it doesn’t help. It wouldn’t be so bad except for all of the negative and inappropriate comments. Things like:

“What is this black stuff on the bread?” and “Why is the gravy greenish-blue?” And “It is gravy isn’t it?” Yes, my husband can be a tough critic, but the kids are worse, they say things like “EWWWW! Gross!” or “Look, Mom, when I do this doesn’t it look like puke?”

I guess the bright spot in all this is, thanks to the recession, the cost of food is so high we can no longer afford anything nutritious anyway. Meal time has become less of a battle. So thank you Ponzi schemers and predatory lenders, thanks to all you generally bad people and no-gooders, you have made meal-time happy for children everywhere. Macaroni anyone? There are little pieces of hot dog in it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Conjunctivitis Bananas

I think that most clerks and cashiers at the grocery store hate me. I don’t know why it is, but I have mostly come to terms with it. When I go to the grocery store I stick with cashiers I am familiar with, if possible. I don’t care if there are 40 people in the line, I select a clerk that I know isn’t going to throw my eggs down the conveyor belt or smack gum and roll their eyes at me.

Once, my husband convinced me to go through the express lane with an untested clerk because we were only purchasing two items. I was reticent, but I gave in. I had high hopes for this new clerk because she was youthful and fresh-faced and smiled at each customer. I first noticed something amiss when she spoke to the customer in front of me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong until she rang up my purchases. The total was $4.87 but what she said was, “Fo Abee Sebum, Pees.”

“Pardon me?”

“Aye Sethd, Fo Abee Sebum,” she repeated while spraying me with spittle.

I stared at her blankly, still unsure of what she said and wondering what to do next.

That was when my husband jumped in with a five-dollar bill while I wiped saliva off my face and purse. It was when she handed him the change and said, “Hab a nithe day” that I noticed her pierced and swollen tongue.

I understand the challenges of a new piercing; the redness, the inflammation, the pain, the fear of being choked to death by your own engorged appendage . . . all I am saying is, if you can’t be understood, or speak without showering your audience with discharge, you might consider piercing some other body part, like an eyebrow, for instance.

Like I was saying, I think it is better to go with the evil that is known. Every time I deviate from my regular clerk or attendant I ask God why he is punishing me? Once when I was in a hurry, I selected what I thought was a short lane at a local grocery store.

As luck would have it, not only had the printer run out of paper, but it was shift change time. So as the one cashier was changing the register tape, her replacement came up rubbing her itchy, swollen, and oozing eye and said six words I will never forget: “I think I have pink eye.”

I had a backlog of customers behind me and one in front of me, and was therefore trapped. My urge was to grab my groceries and run, but I was stuck in the narrow lane and couldn’t have escaped without trampling innocent bystanders.

“Maybe its allergies,” the first clerk said.
“Yeah, but it really itches. And something is coming out of it.”
“That is too bad. Have to tried eye drops?”
“Yeah, but now I think my other eye is swelling up too.”

Aaaaack! My brain was in panic mode as I prayed that the first cashier would stay on until after my provisions were rung up and that the second cashier would go nowhere near my perishables.

“Well, the tape is all ready to go. Let me look at your eye. Oooh, it is red and gummy. You should see a doctor.”
“Yeah, maybe after work today. I wouldn’t want to hold up the line. Ha ha ha.”

Then ‘typhoid Mary’ grabbed my bananas and started to scan them. I am a germaphobe and don’t like viruses on my fruits, I consider it a matter of personal taste. That is why my motto is: stick with the cashier you know. And, if all else fails, it might be time to plant a garden.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Driving Me Crazy

I read a parenting book that said it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your kids and a good place to talk to them is in the car.

“Mom,” my sweet-faced little boy questioned from the backseat.
“Yes,” I answered just as sweetly.
“Do you know what boogers are?”
“Uhhhh?”
“Nose poop!” he shouted excitedly.

Yes, my kids and I have some of our best talks while driving down the road.

“Mom?”
“What dear?” I say in my best June Cleaver voice.
“What does pee taste like?”

Car rides are truly a bonding experience. Your kids have a captive audience and it is easier to hide your vacant expression when you are not facing them. Sometimes I like to eavesdrop on my children’s conversations with one another.

“Turtles do not have hair.”
“They are bald?”
“Yep. No hair at all.”
“Dad must be a turtle then.”

Sometimes when we are driving along we pass a location of interest—like a school or a park or a prison. It is a good starting point for deep and philosophical discussions.

“Mom, do you have to get arrested to see inside the jail?”
“Unfortunately, no.”
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“No.”
“Why, is it hard to get arrested?”
“Not really.”
“What do you have to do to get arrested?”
“Naughty things.”
“Like not eating your carrots?”
“Yes.”

You can find out a lot about your kids just by talking to them.

“Mom, I like everything about you. I like the way you smell too. Except your feet. They stink.”

You can learn about their hopes and dreams.

“Mom, I want to be a shark for Christmas.”
“A shark? For Christmas?”
“Yes. A Christmas shark. I know just what I want it to look like.”
“Why do you want to be a shark for Christmas?”
“Because no one else is a shark for Christmas.”
“Hmmm . . . .”
“Mom, did you know that sharks have to wiggle while they are sleeping, or they will die?!”
“Wow.”
“Yeah, I am going to wiggle always. Because I don’t want to die yet. Not until I am really old like you.”

Besides, it is important to learn what is going on with your kids—they are the future after all. And you need to find out which ones will need money to go to college and which ones will only need to save money for an ankle-monitoring type device.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reminiscing

Sunny days always make me think of being a kid. Back then, if you were under the age of 18 and didn’t have the chicken pocks you were outside terrorizing the neighborhood on warm days. I hardly ever see kids outside anymore. Some folks say it's more dangerous to be a kid in the world today, but I guess that is a matter of perspective.

Here is a list of “toys” we got to play with when I was a kid:
-Bicycle (BMX or Banana Seat)
-Plywood and/or 2x4 Studs
-Wooden baseball bat
-Pitch fork
-Shovel
-Glass canning jars
-Push mower
-Coffee can and/or metal bucket
-Concrete blocks
-Pocket knives
-BB guns
-Dog and/or cat

Now I know that everyone thinks their childhood was the hardest, the roughest, the one filled with the most misery, but mine really was. We didn’t have Nintendo or cable or Ipods. We had Atari, 3-TV channels, and siblings. I know on the outside it doesn’t sound rough, but trust me, even the scissors were bigger and scarier back then. The giant, 2-foot industrial-steel, ones with the black handles. No safety scissors in our house. If you were going to cut off a limb, you were going to do it in such a way that a board certified surgeon couldn’t reattach it.

People say, “Yeah but nowadays you have to be afraid of your neighbors.” I was afraid of my neighbors back then. It was an unwritten rule that any adult could hit you at any time for any offense without warning, and then, whatever they hit you for--they would turn around and tell your parents about. It was called community parenting, and trust me, we all lived in fear.

However, I don’t think kidnapping was as common back then. Have you ever tried to kidnap a kid on bicycle armed with a pitchfork and a 2x4? Besides, we avoided all adults except the ice cream man and I think that poor guy was afraid of us.

If, by chance, we had a rough day in the herd we might wander home for a little sympathy and Kool-aid, but what we usually got was mower duty. You wouldn’t even dream of saying the deadly phrase “I’m bored,” because what awaited you was a push mower made of solid cast iron weighing roughly 2 tons. No matter how many times you pushed that thing around the yard it wouldn’t cut a single, solitary blade of grass. However, if you happened to roll it over the human foot, it could turn flesh into hamburger with a single swipe.

Don’t get me wrong, mixed in with all the treachery were some pretty good times. I know that I had a good childhood because I can count at least a dozen near death experiences before I reached adulthood. I learned some things along the way too, little life lessons that will stick with me forever. Things like: No matter how many times you toss the cat into the wading pool, they still don’t like it.