Thursday, December 31, 2009
We just returned from a European vacation. The trip provided many potential blog topics including:
• European bathrooms... or 'toilets' as they are called and my adventures in figuring out how to flush the endless of varieties of toilets. (The only version missing was the stick shift.)
• Driving a U.K. car, with the steering wheel on the right (aka wrong) side of the car and all the associated challenges of driving in England and France. In England they drive on left (aka wrong) side of the road, while in France they drive on the right side. But aside from the numerous F-bombs flung from my husband - the driver- and the many near death experiences, the driving experience was as you would have expected... horrific.
What WAS totally unexpected was the man on the train to Paris. I've ridden subways and trains in many cities and have seen a lot of strange people doing very unusual things: bums talking to themselves...bad singers crooning loudly to their I-Pods...drug dealing...children eating spaghetti... men reading porn. You name it. I've seen it. Mass transit mayhem had ceased to shock me.
Until that train ride.
I was sitting on the train to Paris on Christmas Day. A 20-something man stepped into my car and sat two seats up, across the aisle from me. He was typical looking in nearly every way... blue jeans, denim jacket, back-pack on the seat next to him. Typical in nearly every way.
Except for his head.
For, you see, he had shampoo in his hair. On the train.
Now reader, I don't mean that he hadn't rinsed completely and had shampoo flakes on his shoulder. He had shampoo lather throughout his hair. It reminded me somewhat of Lumiere's wig in Beauty and the Beast (except, of course, Lumiere's wig was dry).
I could not take my eye off this sight. Suddenly the man (let's call him "Pierre") glanced over his shoulder and caught me staring at him. I quickly looked away, but was pleased to notice that I could watch his reflection in the window without getting caught. I sat up straighter and watched in wonder.
I had so many questions. Did he know that he had shampoo in his hair? Had he forgotten to rinse? That question was soon answered, as Pierre purposefully moved his hands up to his head and began to massage his head and lather up the shampoo.
Was he running so late that he didn't have time to rinse?
Maybe he just got caught up in the endless "lather, rinse, repeat" loop.
After several stops, when Pierre was looking more like Harpo Marx than Lumiere, he pulled off a wad of lather from his head and applied it to his mustache. He then began to lather his lip.
At this point I shifted from being shocked to being completely entertained. "Hey Dave... pass the popcorn", I said to my husband (who was sitting across from me and missing the entire show.) I mean, what is next? The eyebrows? Could he be heading south? Is this G rated or R rated?
And then it all ended. The train stopped. The man stood, picked up his backpack, and took his lathery head and lip off the train. I felt cheated. My questions were left unanswered.
The only thing I knew for sure is that Pierre's hair would be very clean if he ever got to the rinse step.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Well, apparently it is a big deal. The same school that cancels school THE NIGHT BEFORE a dusting of snow is forecast, has scheduled midterm exams on the last day of school before Christmas vacation.
Of all exams, Linda has her Science midterm at 1:00 that day. And Mrs. Tyrannosaurus, the science teacher, takes the exam schedule quite seriously. It is apparently quite uncommon for her to release her prey from an exam.
I decided to send Mrs.Tyrannosaurus an e-mail, explaining our predicament and asking permission for Linda to take the exam at another time, AT HER CONVENIENCE. I was as polite as I could possibly be.
And here is the response I got back:
Dear Mr. Clyde,
You must have approval from Miss Illaneous, our Instructional Principal, in order to be excused from taking an exam at the designated time. You may call her at 555-5555. Once you have spoken with her, she will inform me of the outcome and arrangements will be made accordingly.
Mr. Clyde? Mr. Clyde was my father!! And Miss Illaneous will inform Mrs. Tyrannosaurus and arrangements will be made accordingly? Am I applying for an FHA loan? I called Miss Illaneous and left her a voice mail message with the request, mentioning the fact that Linda has not missed one day of school so far this year. Low and behold if I didn't get the following e-mail from her:
I have copied Mr. Imincharge, since the principal makes the decision about a student taking an exam at a different time.
The principal? What next, the superintendent? Perhaps the school board? Governor Sanford has been in a bad mood lately, with Jenny appearing on that Barbara Walters show, so I hope he's not the one who decides.
As it turns out, I got a call back from Miss Illaneous, saying that Mr. Imincharge made the determination that Linda could take the exam when she returns to school in January.
I decided to suck it up and sent her this e-mail:
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. You mentioned in your voice mail that Linda could take the exam after the holidays. She's able to take the test early, as well, if that would be more convenient for Mrs. Tyrannosaurus.
It makes sense to stay on the good side of these administrators, right?
Here's the response I got back:
You are welcome. Mr. Imincharge made the decision for her to take the exam after the holidays. If you would like to appeal to him you may do so.
I decided to cut my losses and stop there. Besides, Mr. Imincharge has more important issues to deal with. There may be snow in the forecast next week.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I survived my first Improv class. I (barely) maintained my dignity. We played some Improv games that pushed me well out of my comfort zone. At the end of the class, our teacher Vicky gave us a homework assignment. We were to keep our eyes open for interesting characters and observe them.
I found my interesting character. Mall Hair Girl Receptionist. She works (and I use that term loosely) at my doctor's office. I love my doctor. He's the nicest, most down-to-earth doctor I've ever met. In fact, everyone in his office is very nice...even the phelbotomist. Everyone, that is, except Mall Hair Girl.
I had to pick up a prescription today. I walked into the doctor's office and there she was.
I approached the counter with a smile, determined that I would not let her spoil my mood. Mall Hair Girl was staring at a computer screen, type-type-typing away. I said hi and gave her a friendly smile - a wasted friendly smile, since she didn't even glance my way.
"Yes, maaaaaaaaaaaaam", she sneered, as she continued to look at the computer screen (type-type-typing away).
"I'm here to pick up a prescription", I said.
"When did you call it in?" she grumbled, as she continued to look at the computer screen (type-type-typing away).
"My husband just called me and told me it was ready", I responded.
"When did you call it in?" she repeated, clearly annoyed that I hadn't answered her question the first time, as she continued to look at the computer screen (type-type-typing away).
She looked at me, snarled and huffed, as she got to her feet, probably for the first time that day.
I couldn't take my eyes off her bangs. They went straight up, defying gravity. In fact, she was three inches taller with those bangs than without them. I wondered how long it took her to get ready for "work" (again, I use that term loosely).
Then I remembered my Improv homework assignment and my entire attitude change. I'd found my subject! And it was like I was watching an amoeba under a microscope...well, make that a hairy rat in a maze. My imagination took over. I visualized her spraying the lacquer in her hair that morning.
I imagined Mall Hair Girl stopping at Food Lion to pick up some donuts, hair spray, and chewing tobacco, which made her late for "work". She made the first patient of the day, an 87-year old woman, wait for five minutes while she finished up her game of solitaire (which she lost). She was looking forward to her big date with her boyfriend Woody. She's hoping he invites her to go hunting with him in the morning.
"Maaaaaam!" What? Mall Hair Girl was talking to me.
Back to reality.
Mall Hair Girl handed me the prescription and said, "There. Get lost, now."
I gave her my sweetest smile and a sincere "Thank you very much!".
I can't wait for my next Improv class!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
An Imrpov class?
I'm the one who is ready DAYS in advance of a presentation. I run through the slides until I lose my voice. By the time I have an audience it's like I'm performing in a play.
The closest I've gotten to Improv was when my projector froze in a presentation and I had to tap dance while someone fixed it. I told my one and only joke. It's a good one. It's a nerdy one.
Q. What did the zero say to the eight?
A. Nice belt!
Most of the audience stared blankly at me. Of course, the nerds in the crowd chuckled admiringly.
I'm not good at spontaneous public speaking. In fact I would be the world's worst public relations spokesman.
I can see it now:
Reporter: "Miss Company Spokesperson, can you tell me why your company is raising fees?"
Me: "Um...what was the question again?"
Reporter: "Your fees are going up by 15% this month. Can you tell me how senior citizens will be able to pay their bills?"
Me: "Um...well...I think the school district is looking for bus drivers."
Reporter: "Are you suggesting that senior citizens should drive school buses in order to afford your service?!!!!"
Me: "Oh, NO! That would not be safe!"
Reporter: "Can you tell my readers how senior citizens will be able to pay your inflated fees?"
Me: "Um...well...Walmart is always looking for greeters"....downward spiral continues....
Anyhow, I have MAJOR IMPROV ANXIETY about my class that STARTS TOMORROW NIGHT. Will the teacher toss me an object, such as a squash racquet, and expect me to say something funny about it?
I can just imagine it:
Me: "Um... look at this...um...over grown ping pong paddle...um...with strings...um...and a long handle....what did the zero say to the eight?"
I need a dose of Improv Viagra. Or at least a detailed syllabus and study guide.
Friday, November 20, 2009
"Hello. My name is Lou and I'm a Farmville addict".
It's time to face my addiction. Look in the mirror and recognize my psychological dependence.
Farming? Come on! In my real life I can hardly keep a plant alive, let alone plant, fertilize and harvest everything from roses to red peppers. If fact, last week I accidentally watered a cactus with Sprite.
I can't tell you how many times I've admired somebody's garden and unsuccessfully tried to plant similar flowers in my yard. My neighbors just shake their heads with pity when I arrive home from Lowes with flowers, soil, mulch, and all the optimism one could muster.
"Oh, dear," one neighbor says. "When will she learn?" "You have to give her credit for trying," another observes. " I hope she doesn't bring down our property values," remarks a third.
Farmville is different. The soil has no clay or rocks in Farmville. I don't get sweaty when I garden in Farmville. And everything I plant grows in Farmville.
I can enter the magical world of Farmville with a couple clicks of the mouse. It's a wonderful place for brown-thumbers like me. There's only one way to kill a plant.
Which fully explains my addiction.
In Farmville you can plant a variety of seeds, with germination times ranging from 4 hours (for Strawberries) to 4 days (for artichokes). Coffee is ready to be harvested 16 hours after planting, while aloe vera is ready in 6 hours. My farm has anywhere from 6 to 12 different fruits, vegetables or flowers growing at one time, all ripening at various times around the clock. And if you don't harvest them within 30 minutes or so of their ripening they wither away.
And it's not just the plants that get harvested. Oh, no! I have 2 barns with 20 cows each (93% ready at this time). I also have to worry about harvesting the truffles from my pigs, the horsehair from my horses, the wool from my sheep, the down feathers from my ducks, the eggs from my chickens and the milk from my goats. (I also have an elephant, but his peanuts are collected only about once a week.)
Which, again, fully explains my addiction.
Unlike my real neighbors, my Farmville neighbors do not laugh at me when I plant roses. In fact neighbors in Farmville help each other with their farms (and get rewarded for it with Farmville money and experience). I send my FV neighbors gifts, and receive gifts from them in return. Just today I received a chicken, a purple fence and a goat topiary!
Farmville also has a very nice market (where you can buy seeds, animals, barns, and other useful things like bicycles and butter churns ). I have my eye on a pink outhouse, that is selling for 8 Farmville bucks.
But what I really need to buy is that wagon.
So I can get on it.
And get on with my life.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I'm a book on CD junkie and just finished listening to Salem's Lot, a Steven King book about vampires settling in a small Maine town. I read the book years ago, when it was first published in 1975. It scared the crap out of me then. Thirty-four years have passed and guess what? It scared the crap out of me again.
Actually, it may have been worse this time around, since I wasn't the one reading the book. An actor with a very convincing voice was reading it to me...in my car...when I was alone....driving in the dark...in the little town of Irmo's Lot, S.C.
Aside from the fright factor, it was interesting to note how much society has changed in 34 years.
First of all, there were no cell phones in 1975. If fact Salem's lot had a 'party line' system, which sounds much more exciting than it really is. A party line is where neighbors share a telephone line and can basically listen in to each others' conversations. We had one for a few years when I was a kid growing up in Western New York. But sadly, we didn't live on Wysteria Lane (the setting for Desperate Housewives) and the available conversations were about as entertaining as a reruns of test-patterns on television. (e.g. "What time does Bingo start in Bergholz tonight?")
With that said, cell phones would have really come in handy in Salem's Lot. Seriously, can you think of an example of when a cell phone would be more helpful? (Your phone lines are cut...vampires are chasing you around your home....)
Another societal change that I noted is that they did not have 911 service back in the 70s..at least not in Salem's Lot. When the teacher had a heart attack after facing a vampire, he gave Susan his doctor's phone number to call (before passing out).
And, of course, doctors made house calls in 1975 (in Salem's Lot.) When the people in town started dropping like flies (thanks to the vampires), the doctor was running from house to house like a marble in a pinball machine. I don't know what is more unlikely in 2009: vampires or doctors making house calls.
Cigarette smoking was also prevalent in the book. After every vampire attack, Ben and his friends would pull out cigarettes to calm their nerves. But then again, I don't think any of the characters lived long enough in Salem's Lot (thanks to afore-mentioned vampires) to suffer the effects of cancer.
I know that the Twilight series has been a phenomenal success. I've read a couple of the books and enjoyed them. But if you want to read the ORIGINAL vampire book (not counting Dracula), check out Salem's Lot. It should scare the crap out of you.
If nothing else you'll learn about life in the olden days of the '70s.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Every now and them my children ask me to help them curl their hair.
Flash back to my childhood.
I would NEVER ask my mom for help curling my hair. I was the victim of way too many home permanents. In fact, I would run away as fast as I could when she came near me with a Toni Home Permanent box containing toxic chemicals and 52 pink torture devices in varying sizes.
In my Mom's defense, she had the very best intentions in mind. She wanted to make me pretty. The problem was that I was a tomboy with very unruly hair. And Home Perms did not make me pretty. Home Perms made me look like a poodle.
The 'Home Perm Season' in my house was typically the week before Easter. My Mom would stealthily approach, box in her hand and say, "Girls! Look what I brought home for you! A Toni Home Permanent!"
The first year my sister and I were willing guinea pigs, sitting nervously throughout the treatment, which involved rolling hair onto scores of rollers, overlapping each other onto our heads, being doused with noxious chemicals and remaining still as the chemicals seeped into our hair, heads, and clothing. After what seemed like hours, my Mom would take out the rods and rinse the chemicals from our hair.
It wasn't until my hair dried that reality sunk in. My hair had expanded exponentially, in every possible direction. To say my hair was frizzy is like saying a root canal might sting a little.
And there was one fact about home permanents. They were permanent. Nothing but time - or scissors - could get those curls to relax.
My house would smell like Toni home permanents for days. As if my new poodle-do wasn't obvious enough, you could smell me coming a block away. I can recall my 4th grade teacher looking at me the Monday after my Mom had her way with me saying:
"Mary Lou, did you get a Toni home permanent? You look very..um....you look very.... (still searching for words)... you look very....curly!"
"No, she stuck her finger into a light socket", Alan Clark replied helpfully.
"That was no finger in a light socket mishap," said Miss Forth. "Can't you smell her Toni Home Permanent?"
By this time I was sunk so deep into my chair that only the tip of my afro was showing.
Thankfully, those days are over. When my daughters ask me to help them curl their hair I pull out the electric rollers, or curling irons, and voile!
And if they don't like how it looks, they can wash it out.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Of course, my spices never cooperated with me. (They clearly never had Mr. Few, my high school chorus teacher growing up. ) They would goof off on the bleachers, trade places with each other in an attempt to hide from me and often times topple off. Spice avalanches were extremely common in that cupboard. I was known to drive all the way to the grocery store to purchase a new jar of cloves to avoid facing the challenge of locating it in my cupboard.
My spice stress is now a thing of the past. I have a spice rack. My spices are safely seat-belted into a horizontal ferris wheel which sits on my counter. "What's that you say, recipe? You need 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary? Let me twirl my ferris wheel and get that for you!" (As opposed to..".Where the *$*#&$^ is that #$%$@# rosemary... NOOOOOOO...step away from that cinnamon! ..TIMBER!!!!")
The 1st runner up to the spice cupboard in the Miss Annoyance pageant was the Papason chair in my bonus room. For those of you not familiar with this item, let me describe it. It is a bowl-shaped chair with an adjustable angle. The bowl rests in a frame made of sturdy wicker. A round cushion fits inside the bowl.
At least it fit in the bowl when we first got the chair.
Now the cushion stretches over the bowl. The bowl itself used to sit neatly on the frame. Now the bowl, with the help of the cushion, tips over and causes the occupant of the chair to avalanche, not unlike the spices in the spice cabinet.
Once the Papasan has avalanched, getting the bowl back onto the frame is no easy chore. You must find JUST the right angle. And putting the cushion into the bowl is as much fun as finding the dill weed in the spice cabinet.
But my chair is turning over a new leaf. It began when I was Googling the spelling of Papasan for this blog. I learned that a scientist has discovered a new use for his Papasan chair. A lightbulb went off in my head.
I stepped confidently to the chair and looked it firmly in the eye said, "if you don't start behaving, I'll make a solar cooker out of you".
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I have vivid memories of my confirmation. I went to a very small rural Catholic church in Ransomville, N.Y. and they conducted confirmations about every 3 years (or however long it took to get sufficient numbers of students to warrant the Bishop making the trek to perform the sacrament).
My sister and brother were both confirmed with me and somehow my Mom was able to scare up 3 different confirmation sponsors for us. (Of course, our family had so many cousins that the aunts were rotated in and out of Godmother and Confirmation Sponsor roles like football players in a pre-season scrimmage.)
We did have to attend classes in preparation for confirmation, but the only thing I remember about those classes is learning that the Bishop was going to slap us in the face after confirming us. I am not making this up. I recall sitting in the church next to my sponsor (Aunt Mary, who slept through the whole ceremony), anxiously awaiting the belt from the bishop. It was entirely anti-climactic - more of a tap than a smack.
Confirmation in 2009 is an entirely different story. Catholics have really gotten tough with the sacrament prerequisites. I had to take a baptism class to be a God Mother. Come on!!! OK, I was able to talk them into giving me the DVD version of the class, which I fast forwarded through, but I still had to take a class to be a God Mother.
There was a parent meeting at the start of the summer where the confirmation coordinator reviewed the requirements: attending every class, never missing mass, volunteer hours in the community, taking tests, attending retreats, curing cancer, etc. I also learned about the dreaded "Saint Paper". Linda had to pick out a saint that she admired and write a paper about that saint.
My friend Becca has a graduate degree in theology, so we asked her for advice on an interesting saint. She told Linda that there was a saint named Polycarp, who was a martyr burned because of his faith. But the coolest thing was that he smelled like bread when he was being burned. And they couldn't kill him by burning him so they had to stab him or something to make him die.
"Cool!" said Linda. (Polycarp is like action-adventure saint).
So Linda wrote the paper on Saint Polycarp. She was one step closer to confirmation.
Except for one teeny, tiny problem. It doesn't have to be a problem, but it kind of is. Somehow, during the parent meeting, I missed the part about how the Saint you choose becomes part of your confirmation name. Linda came home from CCD last Sunday telling me that her Confirmation name will be Linda Anne Polycarp.
I feel somewhat responsible for this, so I sent an e-mail to the confirmation coordinator and confessed to my brain lapse. She responded that if Linda wanted a different name she had to write another Saint paper. Still, she thought Polycarp was a very "interesting" name. Of course, the confirmation coordinator's name is Polly. (Again, I am not making this up.)
So we are faced with a dilemma. Do we let Linda honor Polycarp, the Patron saint of Panera and let her go down in Catholic records as Linda Anne Polycarp, or does she write another paper and become Linda Anne Teresa, or something else more socially acceptable.
If it were me, I'd be Mary Louise Polycarp. In a heartbeat.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Linda had to take her written test for a drivers' permit. We arrived at the DMV at about 4:15, waited in line for about 5 minutes to talk to Ursala, the friendly greeter. I told her what we were there for and she said, "I'll need a birth certificate, a school ID and a social security card".
I said, we didn't have the social security card, but we had a birth certificate and a passport.
She said ,"It told her in her book that she needed to have a birth certificate, a school ID and a social security card."
I said, "I'm not sure I can find her social security card. Will a passport work instead?"
She repeated, "It told her in her book that she needed to have a birth certificate, a school ID and a social security card."
I thought, but didn't say, "Thanks for the empathy" and we left. (I think I heard her cackling on the way out.)
There was one place in the house the social security card could have been and it was there. The stars were aligned. I grabbed it and we raced back to the DMV. I said, "We found her social security card! Now we have a birth certificate, a school ID and a social security card, just like the book told her."
She looked up at us, stuck out her warty chin and said, "It's 4:45. I told you we didn't take anyone after 4:30."
I'd had enough of her friendly greetings by then and I growled to her "You didn't say anything about not taking anyone after 4:30".
She stuck her warty chin out even farther and pulled at a stray hair growing out of her cheek and said, "I told you we didn't take anyone after 4:00".
I looked straight into her evil red eyes and said, "You didn't say anything about not taking anyone after 4:00".
There was a long, uncomfortable pause and she realized that we were going nowhere. And, as if a switch had been turned, she looked at Linda and said, "Please put your face up to the machine and read the letters in the 1st row."
And that was it.
Linda read, "w-i-t-c-h"
I'm making that part up, but I wish she'd thought to do it.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
For the past 13 years Sabbie has been an integral part of our family. It seems like just yesterday when we adopted him from a PetSmart in Jacksonville. Although nobody could accuse him of being obedient, Sabbie was the sweetest dog in the world.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Passing time in a waiting room is like watching water boil. The magazines in the clinic were old (Princess Di's funeral was on the cover of one of them.) The TV was on some educational channel. There were no naughty children getting yelled at by their parents. No fun at all.
Tick-tock-tick-tock. The minutes dragged by.
When the x-ray tech called me in I shouted 'YAY!" - meaning my wait is over. She commented that it is very unusual for a patient to shout "Yay" when called into the mammogram room.
So I undressed from the waist up and put on the lovely shirt and entered the torture chamber. For those of you who have never had a mammogram, be prepared to lose every ounce of dignity. You stand at various angles in front of a robotic machine with a mouth that closes hungrily onto your boob. It's the tech's job to make sure that the machine gets the biggest bite possible, from every imaginable angle.
It starts easily enough. 'Let's place your breast on this shelf', the tech will instruct. If only I could unscrew them and place them on the shelf. The tech could turn them around, flip them upside down and get the perfect X-rays. Unfortunately, my body is connected to that breast so I have to go along for the ride.
After you 'place your breast on the shelf' the robot closes its mouth and compresses your breast into what looks like a piece of boneless chicken breast . (I wonder if chicken mammograms are part of the Tyson process). I marvel at how compact my breast has become- 1 inch?
After the 'head on' bite they take angled versions, which involve moves straight out of a pilates class (minus the soothing music.) And when they finally get you in the machine's mouth at the perfect angle they make you freeze until the X-ray is done.
I asked the tech if she ever does mammograms on men and she said yes. I made a comment about how the fact that men are flat is probably a challenge, but OH NO! Size is not a challenge that tech. She can get any sized breast into that monster's mouth.
But what is a problem is chest hair. She told me about one man who just kept sliding out of the mammogram's mouth because of his hairy chest. "Thanks for that image," I said. So much for stopping for breakfast after the mammogram.
When I was finally done I thanked her and went back into the changing room.
But I had one last thought. I knocked on the door and when the tech answered I said, "Thanks for squeezing me in."
Friday, September 11, 2009
Of course, there are several tiers of campgrounds. The rustic campgrounds' bathroom facilities are located behind bushes and require squatting. Male readers may not be able to relate to this, but aiming while squatting can be particularly challenging and potentially messy. Then there's the wiping. What to use? Leaves? If you do, remember the oh-so-important poem by Robert Frost called 'A Leak in the Woods':
Leaves of Three. Let them be.
One step up from rustic campgrounds are campgrounds with outhouses. Although I have on desperate occasions been forced to utilize these 'rooms', I will never be able to do so again after having seen the move Slumdog Millionaire.
The better campgrounds have indoor facilities with showers. For those of you who have never experienced such campground shower facilities, let me describe them. They are remarkably consistent from campground to campground.
There's usually a shower curtain to allow for privacy while the camper 'enjoys' his/her shower. However, the curtain covers approximately 57% of the shower opening.
If you're lucky, there will be a bench for you to place your clothes on while showering. However, usually the bench is just large enough to hold 1 bar of soap. But hey! It's just not camping if your clean clothes don't get wet while you're showering.
The water is typically 40-60 degrees 'warm' and you share the shower with plenty of large insects. (Since the facilities are the only light source in a campground at night, every bug within a 5 mile radius is drawn to your shower.) It's really not a problem...unless you happen to wash off your mosquito repellent.
Yes. I used to love camping. Then I discovered featherbeds...and room service....and direct TV....and wine....
Sunday, September 6, 2009
We're talking poor: 'Ramen Noodles for dinner' poor. I was so desperate for money I would not turn down any assignment. And although Math was my subject area, I would teach anything from home economics (imagine that) to band.
I never met the actual Math teacher (let's call her Miss Isosceles), but she sure was absent a lot. And her absences seemed to grow exponentially during the school year.
Word spread throughout the substitute teachers circles in Western New York about Miss Isosceles' Math class at Edward Town Junior High School. By the end of the 1st 10-week period, a suspicious substitute Math teacher shortage hit the school. (It only took one time subbing in the dreaded class, and the substitutes would conveniently be unavailable thereafter.)
I cannot recall exactly what happened during those classes. Years of therapy have helped me repress the memories. But I do recall getting the phone calls...
Mrs. K: "Hi! This is Mrs. Kram calling from the middle school. Are you available to teach today?"
Me: "For what class?"
Mrs. K: "Math"
Me: In shaky voice: "Which Math class? "
Mrs. K: "Miss Isosceles class"
I begin to sniffle.
Mrs. K: "Excuse me, did you say you can come in?"
Me: Sniffling more. "I guess so" (between sobs)
Mrs. K: "I'll take that as a yes. Thank you." Not heard: "Sucker!"
But I made it through that year a stronger person. Years later I was working at Miller Brewing Company as a Market Research Analyst and the brewery workers went on strike. I was called to the plant, along with many of my co-workers to keep the beer production flowing.
I put on my hard hat and worked at the de-palletizer for 8-hours a day making sure the beer cans came off the pallet and lined up like little toy soldiers for their journey down the assembly line. I also worked 'bottle wash' where I had to wash labels off the bottles that were put on incorrectly 8-hours a day for 2 weeks. I even worked Beer Dump for several shifts.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I am always on the lookout for blog topic ideas so you can imagine I was thrilled this morning as I was looking through the index of my Betty Crocker cookbook for the pancake recipe and I came to the following item:
- Porcupines, 29
"Shut the front door!", I said to myself. "A recipe for cooking porcupines in my 1978 edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook?" Now THAT's what I call a blog topic.
I was running late for my walk with Becca (making pancakes from scratch slowed me down a bit), so I didn't have time to look at the recipe until later that day. But my mind did not stop working.
- Will Betty Crocker tell me how to remove the quills? Will there be another use for them?
- Where does one get porcupine?
- Does it taste like chicken?
- Is porcupine red meat?
It's hard to believe, but my skills have worsened since I've started using reading glasses. I was making pancakes a couple weeks ago from a mix and the recipe called for 1 egg, 1/2 cup of oil, and 2 cups of milk (or so I thought).Before I finish this story I must note that I have an uncanny ability to discover that I'm missing an ingredient to a recipe while I'm in the middle of preparing the food....EVEN IF I'VE JUST RETURNED FROM THE GROCERY STORE TO PURCHASE THE INGREDIENTS FOR THE RECIPE.
Back to the pancakes. I poured the milk into the measuring cup and saw that I only had about 1 3/4 cups of milk. Being the creative genius that I am, I added 1/4 cup of water to the measuring cup, silently commending myself for reducing the fat content of this breakfast.
I'm not sure why decided to put my reading glasses on, but when I did I quickly noticed that the recipe called for 2 cups of MIX, not MILK. Crap. But being the creative, cheapskate that I am, I poured the diluted milk back into the carton, silently commending myself for making skim milk, and reducing the fat content of a future breakfast of cereal.I digress. Back to the recipe for porcupine. When I returned from my walk, I went right for the cookbook. I turned to page 29 to review the porcupine recipe. I read the recipe once. I read it again. Are you kidding me? The recipe for Porcupine does not include porcupine.
I feel cheated.But then again, would I really want to know how to cook porcupine?
And besides...I'd probably hurt myself trying.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I think she should bring out the big guy. The most famous real estate mogul of all time. No, not Donald Trump. She needs Joseph. And she needs to bury him in her yard, like all Catholics desperate to sell their homes.
A number of years ago my husband and I were trying to sell our very small starter home...in the winter...in Wisconsin.
- We had no dishwasher (not counting me).
- We had a toddler who would have won the gold if toy hurdling were an Olympic event.
- We had a dog that shed the equivalent of an alpaca ever 3 weeks, and a vacuum cleaner on its last breath.
- We had realtors who were kind enough to give us 4 1/2 minute advance notice of showings.
So I brought out my nativity set and attempted to pick out Joseph from the other guys. After close inspection, I was able to eliminate the shepherds (they were the ones holding onto brown candy canes). I figured the kings were the ones holding the presents. The remaining guy was looking down lovingly, presumably at a new baby. Bingo!
Next step...bury him in the yard. This is no easy task with 2 feet of snow over frozen earth. But did we want to sell the house? YES!
I put on my parka, grabbed the shovel and my man Joe and after about 20 minutes of hard labor he was buried. And I was confident that we'd have an offer by the end of the week.
A week passed... no offer. I mentioned this to a friend of mine at work and she started asking specific questions like:
- "Did you bury him in the front yard or the back yard?"
- "Was his head pointing down or up?"
- "Which direction was he looking?"
I wasn't certain how I had originally stuck Joe in the ground, but I knew for sure he was in the wrong place and chances were that he wasn't facing the right way. But, did I want to sell the house? YES!
I put on my parka, grabbed the shovel and a 'cloth' and was lucky enough to find the spot where Joe was resting. I moved him to another spot in the yard, wrapped him in the cloth and stuck him head down facing the house.
Did the house sell? Yes. My husband tells me it's because we put on a new roof, but I know better.
St. Joseph should have gotten at least half the commission.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I was in Mrs. Truxes 7th grade math class. Mrs.Truxes had cankles larger than her thighs . In fact, if she had wanted to, she could have used her legs as an illustration of an isosceles triangle.
Enough math stuff.
Did I mention that I was a goodie-goodie? I never, ever, EVER got in trouble in school. Until that day in Mrs. Truxes’ math class.
I had a very important question that I wanted to ask Paula Lipton. It could not wait until the end of class. Paula was sitting right next to me. If I whispered to her, Mrs. Truxes would certainly hear. I didn’t know sign language, and even if I did, Paula didn’t know sign language. My options were limited.
Logical thinking prevailed:
1. I needed to ask Paula a question.
2. I had to ask it during math class.
3. I couldn’t use my voice.
4. I couldn’t use sign language.
I really had no choice. I had to pass a note.
My pulse was racing. I took out a sheet of paper, wrote the message, and carefully, quietly folded it into a small rectangle. Then I very nervously passed it to Paula, while Mrs. Truxes was facing the front of the room.
Did I mention that Paula was not a goodie-goodie? Not only was she not a goodie-goodie, she liked to live life on the edge. She was very experienced at breaking classroom rules, including note passing. I nearly wet my pants as she very noisily opened up my rectangle, wrote a response and passed it back to me, without even looking to see which direction Mrs. Truxes was facing!
Well, needless to say, Mrs. Truxes happened to be facing the classroom and she waddled down the aisle to my desk, picked up the note, READ IT TO THE CLASS, and said something to the effect of “Be careful not to drop the soap while you’re in detention today, you juvenile delinquents.”
Detention? Oh my gosh! I had heard of detention before, but knew nothing about it. (This was before The Breakfast Club.) I had no idea what to expect.
I was beet red when I entered the detention room. I was literally shaking in my knee sox and loafers. I saw Paula and sat down next to her. The other students in the room looked at me curiously when I arrived, but put their heads back on their desks for their detention naps.
The detention monitor told us no talking and began to read a book. Wow. I wondered… is this all it is? It’s just a study hall.
After a few minutes I very confidently passed a note to Paula that said, “Detention isn’t too bad!”
Of course, in today’s world, I would have texted ‘dtenson isnt 2 bd’.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I've seen the movie- it's about this Siamese king with many wives and even more children who hires a sassy English teacher for the kids. (Sort of like an Asian version of the Sound of Music with polygamy.) The bald headed king marches around with his arms crossed over his buff chest. (Sort of like how my husband describes the Golds Gym locker room without the singing.)
I have a lot of empathy for my friends, and hope they wear knee pads under their costumes. That should help. Kneeling for extended periods of time is difficult, especially if you're not Catholic.
I have a lot of kneeling experience and am very pleased to share the following pew strageties that I've developed over a lifetime of attending Catholic church.
The 1st, and easiest move is what I call the 'Shuffle Knee'. You start out by distributing your weight evenly between both knees. After a while, you lift one knee at a time to give the other a break. If you keep your body perpendicular to the floor - and don't lean over in agony - this should be every effective on stage.
The 'Butt Plie' works quite well if your Mom's not kneeling next to you. In this move you very slowly ease your butt back toward the pew bench. (This move was never successful for me when I was growing up, since my Mother had pew radar, in addition to eyes on all sides of her head.) Since I don't believe there will be a bench on the set, this move will probably not work.
Another popular kneeler move is what I call the 'Heel Squat' which involves shrinking down to sit on your heels while maintaining your height. Again, this move was never effective for me as a child, but I've observed its success numerous time with other lucky kneelers - especially if the father was in charge.
This move would have to be carefully choreographed on stage, but could be especially effective if the actors were of varying heights while kneeling, and were not adjacent to each other. Yes! I think it could work!
Here's some sample Lou Pew choroegrahy:
'Getting to know you' (Becca Heel Sqaut Down (HSD))
'Getting to know all about you'
'Getting to know you' (Becca: HSU; Ruth:HSD)
'Getting to like you'
'Getting to hope you like me' (Ruth: HSU; Laura HSD)
Et-cetera, Et-cetera, Et-cetera.
And if the cast needs some extra practice, they can join me at 10:30 mass any Sunday!
Monday, July 27, 2009
It’s over. After over 2 months of rehearsals and 15 shows we are done. For nearly 3 months I have spent more time with the cast and crew of Beauty and the Beast than I have spent with my own family.
We had a great final show. During ‘Be Our Guest’ our entrances and exits were as precise as a drill team. There were no traffic jams, bottle-necks or enchanted objects hanging out of the wings. When did we get so good at that?
All the wigs stayed on all the heads during the show. Lumiere’s hands remained intact. The goose landed where it was supposed to when Lefeu ran onto the stage. There were no mic issues.
The castle moved when and where it was supposed to. When Gaston died, he didn’t have to dive over a 3 foot cavern to land on the mattress for his final AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…. splat moment.
The audience got a good show.
When I took my spoon off for the last time I marveled at how easily it slipped off. I recall receiving brush burns every time I tried to struggle out of the contraption. I would often hit someone with the spoon or knock something off the table as I was shrugging out of it. When did I get so smooth?
There were more of us huddled in the wings watching the show yesterday (a no-no), to see it one last time. There were a lot of tears, both off-stage and on.
It will be odd for me to come home from work on Wednesday and not have to rush back down town for a show. But I will miss it. I’ll miss all the goofiness in the green room. I’ll miss whispering with my cast mates and crew back stage. And whenever I hear ‘Be Our Guest’ I’ll most certainly giggle at the memory of Alison (the other spoon) and I tap dancing wildly backstage, while the ‘napkins’ were dancing onstage.
We took props down to the prop room as we were done yesterday- dozens of mugs from Gaston’s bar, tons (literally, it seemed) of books from the Belle scene. Costumes were returned to the costume room. Before everyone had left for the cast party the set was coming down.
Danny (the Technical Director) had constructed a miniature version of the set for ‘The King and I’ on his desk. As soon as the B&B set is down, he and his crew of volunteers will get started building this next one. And a new cast will come together. There will once again be drama on stage and back stage.
What will I do with all my free time?
I better start preparing for my next audition!
Friday, July 24, 2009
A couple months ago, one of my co-nerdlings came into my office with a puzzle. Here’s the gist of what he said.
Say you’re on the game show Let’s Make a Deal and Monty Hall asks you to pick 1 of 3 doors. Behind one door is a car; behind the other 2 cars are goats. After you make your pick Monty opens up one of the doors you didn’t pick and there’s a goat behind it. He then asks you if you would like to change your door or stick with your 1st choice. What should you do?
My immediate answer was: "It doesn’t matter. There’s a 50-50 chance that the car is behind the door I picked.”
Jeff said, “Are you sure?”
I said, “Of course I’m sure! It’s either the one I picked or the other one. That’s 50-50!”
Jeff: “Are you positive?”
Jeff: “Want to make a wager?”
Self doubt begins to set in, considering Jeff is a complete genius. So I decided to draw all the possible scenarios and corresponding outcomes on a sheet of paper.
Assume that the car is behind door A. There are 3 possible scenarios:
1. I correctly choose door A and Monty opens one of the other doors (B or C)
2. I incorrectly choose door B and Monty opens door C (he’d never open door A)
3. I incorrectly choose door C and Monty opens door B
If I stuck with my original guess I would have a 1/3 chance of being correct (scenario 1). If I changed my original guess, I would have a 2/3 chance of being correct (I would chose door A in both scenarios 2 and 3.)
So, by switching I’d actually increase my odds to 2 out of 3.
Man! I guess I failed that test!
There is a name for this brain twister – it’s the Monte Hall problem. Even PhD mathematicians get the problem wrong (which makes me feel a bit better).
Now all I have to do is get on Let’s Make a Deal so I can win a car. But with my luck I’ll come home with a goat.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Like I just left 'My Sister's Keeper' red.
Let me explain. I'll start by saying that although my distance vision is 20-20, I need reading glasses for everything from reading menus to doing Soduku puzzles. And I definitely need them for putting glue on the edges of false eyelashes.
I love false eyelashes... that is, when they're on my eyes properly. It's very challenging to put on false eyelashes, period. But when you need reading glasses for Soduku, it's near impossible.
Reading glasses work quite well for the first step in the false eyelash process: squeezing the glue from the tiny white glue bottle onto the edges of the false eyelashes. But, that's the easy part.
Using my reading glasses to place the eyelashes on my eyelids? Now, that's a challenge.
I tried putting my glasses on sideways (vertically) so that I could see out of the opposite eye. The problem is that I need 2 hands to put the eyelashes on the eyelid and my reading glasses either fell off my head or angled into a prism making my vision even cloudier. So I'm resigned to the fact that I need help from my 14-year old daughter to place the glued lashes onto my eyelids.
Last night I decided to live dangerously. Linda was not there to help and I felt this irrational sense of confidence in my abilities to maneuver the glued eyelashes to my eye. Just 3 steps:
- Put glue along the edge of false eyelashes - check!
- Place eyelashes on eyelid - check!
- Eyelashes adhere to eyelid - No
- Put LOTS of glue along the edge of false eyelashes - check!
- Place eyelashes on eyelid - check!
- Eyelashes adhere to eyelid - No
Okay, I know the problem. It's because the false eyelashes were wet. (I'd washed off the glue from the previous night before starting.) I carefully dried the other false eyelash piece and decided to try the other eye
- Put glue along edge of completely dried false eyelashes - check!
- Place eyelashes on eyelid - check!
- Eyelashes adhere to eyelid - No
As I was packing up I realized that the little white glue bottle was already in the false eyelash kit.
Uh - oh.
What was in the white bottle I was putting on my eyelashes. Some kind of lotion?
No time to look. Off to the show. When I got home I decided to put on my reading glasses and see exactly what I had mistaken for the glue bottle. Before I looked I said a little prayer...please don't let it be vaginal cream....
It was simply facial lotion.
Whew. But thankfully I had my reading glasses on and could read the fine print.
"Avoid contact with the eyes."
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Here’s the conversation:
Lou: Hi George, This is Lou
George: Hey Lou
Lou: Yay! Congratulations on the review!
Lou: The review! It was awesome! And they mentioned you! Yay George!
George: What review?
Lou: For the show! It came out today- have you seen it?
Lou: Uh-Oh… Do I have the wrong number? Is this George?
Lou: Oh, come on George! Haven’t you seen the review? It mentions your fantastic treo!
George: Step back for a minute. What’s this about?
Lou (looking at Blackberry- safely- while driving) –Uh oh. Is this George XXXXXX (the president of our Georgia subsidiary)?
Lou begins to babble
There is a major lesson learned. Do not use your 14-year old daughter as your administrative assistant. Especially if you have your company executives' phone numbers programmed into your Blackberry.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
How did they ever come up with that? Do you know anyone who has ever gone cross country skiing with their rifle?
But what is even odder is the Curling competition. And no… Curling has nothing to do with hair.
Think of shuffleboard on ice. Teams of 2 players take turns sliding 42-pound polished granite stones down a sheet of ice towards a bulls eye while 3 other team members sweep the ice with brooms to make the stone speed up or change direction. I am not making this up. I fact, I played (or attempted to play) this once when I was in grad school in Bowling Green. (I was not sober).
It’s time for me to get on my soapbox. If they are going to include such lame sports as Biathalon and Curling, the Olympic Committee should consider a real sport: Quick Change Dressing (QCD). Here’s how it could work- The athletes would be on a team of ..say 61. When the gun goes off, the athlete must race in the dark through an obstacle course of people lined up in large, clunky costumes (some of whom should really not be there) to a location where 1 or more individuals remove the athlete’s clothing, shoes, jewelry and wig and replace it with completely different clothing, shoes, jewelry, and wig. The race is over when the athlete returns to the stage…err, starting block.
Teams would be penalized as follows:
· Costume not zipped up properly – 10-second penalty
· Wig Malfunctions (on backward, or incorrect wig, or no wig) -15 second penalty
· Knocking over teammates in obstacle course – 20 seconds per teammate
· Panting –(penalties equal to the duration of the panting).
The team with the fastest time would win the gold.
Quick Change Dressing. Now THAT’S a sport. And the only broom involved is in the wings…err, obstacle course.
Monday, July 6, 2009
My friend Becca brought Oreos to my rehearsal yesterday. Knowing the rule ('No eating, no drinking, and no smoking in your costumes’), I snuck them up to the Green Room in a cleverly disguised Publix shopping bag.
It took about 7 seconds for someone to see the Oreo box through the shopping bag and say, ‘Hey! Lou’s got Oreos!’.
Now, in an ordinary show I would stand firmly and say, ‘You know, we can’t eat, drink or smoke in our costumes!’ But this is no ordinary show. The costumes in this show include large pieces of cake, slices of cheese and sugar cubes that do nothing but stimulate your appetite for Oreos.
And in such a situation, we have no choice but to eat Oreos in our costumes.
The tricky part is to keep the crumbs out of your teeth. The evidence can be overwhelming.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Let me explain.
We have a wonderful dog named Sabbie. He's an American Eskimo, getting up there in years. In people years he'd get free coffee at McDonalds.
About a year ago the vet put Sabbie on a prescription diet for dogs with kidney disease. Although the food looked and smelled pretty nasty to me, Sabbie didn't seem to mind it. That is, until a couple months ago, when he abruptly stopped eating it. For a while I could get him to eat from my hand (yuck), but after a while he just stuck up his nose and walked away.
I wondered why we couldn't feed Sabbie people food. I mean people with kidney diseases have special diets, right? Why don't we 'just' feed him people food?
I did a search on the itnernet and found a recipe that included ground beef, bread, rice, eggs, and (not kidding) tums. The vet approved and so did Sabbie. He gobbled it up like there was no tomorrow.
After a couple weeks, he stopped eating again. The vet found nothing physically wrong with him, and said we could feed him whatever he wants.
Enter the monster. Let's just say that Sabbie eats better than the rest of us. This morning he woke me up for breakfast and I prepared him a delightful meal of chicken strips and bread. He has requested chicken parmisan for dinner, with a side of noodles. (I'm drawing the line at lobster!)
Dave came home from Food Lion the other day and showed me some special frozen fahita chicken that he purchased for Sabbie. When I commented that it looked pretty tasty, he warned me that it was for Sabbie, and not me.
It may have been my imagination, but I think I heard Sabbie snickering at me.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The spoon is another story.
The spoon costume is basically a black tuxedo with the spoon growing out of the back of the shirt. The spoon fastens to the body kind of like a back-pack with a very thick piece of foam rubber between your back and the handle of the spoon. (At the risk of getting ahead of myself, the foam rubber acts like a sponge, absorbing sweat as the body releases it, thus increasing in weight.) (OH NO! THE AFOREMENTIONED CASTMATE WITH B.O. IS A KNIFE!)
So the spoon must be threaded though a hole in the back of the tuxedo shirt... prior to putting it on (learned that the hard way). And, it is no small feat to feed the spoon through the said hole in the tuxedo shirt. Did I mention that the spoon is very tall? I go from about 5'5" to about 6'5" when I have my spoon costume on.
This led to the first problem I had with the costume. Actually, the 1st problem was getting into the costume. The second problem I had with the costume was forgetting that I was now 6'5" tall and could not walk through the same doors that I was able to earler in the evening. In order to get from the back stage to the wings of the stage, I had to bow at the waist. Being that there were 3 pieces of flatware going on stage in succession, I had to make sure I don't harm the knife while bowing.
The next challenge I had was the 'metronome' effect of the spoon. This is a particular problem when you're dancing on stage. In one particular movement, I must lean to the right and salute to Belle. The spoon's momentum in that lean nearly caused me to fall over. (I'm told that adjustments can be made to the back-pack to minimize this phenomonon.)
The final challange to the spoon costume, as mentioned previously, is its (ever increasing) weight. I'm not exactly large in frame, so the costume is winning the scrimmage.
Despite all of these issues, rehearsal was a blast. Allison, one of my co-flatware - in fact the show's other spoon, were doubled over in laughter at times. All we had to do was look at each other and the giggles would start.
I'm sure I'll get used to this new appendage.
And maybe when the show closes I'll miss it. It will be just like amputees with phantom itches. I'll find myself bowing down when I enter a room. People will think I've gone mad.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Last night we had rehearsal for Beauty and the Beast. It's a rather large cast, ranging in age from about 7 to >65. Early in the evening I passed a group of teen aged boys backstage and about passed out. I have NEVER smelled such bad body odor. Several thoughts went through my head:
- we're not even in costumes yet
- the spotlights aren't on yet
- it's summer in South Carolina
- please, don't let it be the silverware (I'm a spoon)
I was very relieved when my knife and fork fell in line and I was able to breathe without incident. It must be one of the other 'enchanted objects'.
I delicately asked the director to make an announcement during notes after rehearsal about the importance of taking showers, using deodorant, etc.
I hope 'he' was paying attention. Otherwise, it could be a very long, smelly month.
Monday, June 29, 2009