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!”
“Stop yelling at her, she is just trying to help.”

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
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.

“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.”
“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.”
“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 . . .