Saturday, December 19, 2009
Then again, maybe I would. It's kind of fun. There I was, cast upon the shoals of too little sleep and too much to do. The big blog they call Gitche Gumee never gives up inspiration to the tired and cranky.
Or maybe people have just run out of new ways to annoy me. Maybe I've built up a tolerance to stupidity. Maybe I'm mellowing.
Ask the Princess. We met a car going the wrong way up a parking lot aisle the other day and I was uncharacteristically gracious. I didn't stake out the middle of the lane, stop and glare at him while traffic backed up behind me. I thought about it, but I didn't do it. No, I pulled to the right and crept past him, looking down at his puny little 2-door, which I could have squashed like up bug if I had chosen to.
Ditto for the second moron I met while I was driving down -- the correct direction -- the next aisle. She was totally oblivious to the fact that she was this far away from becoming my hood ornament. I usually only cut slack to one person per day.
I mean, Hello, people! That giant arrow painted on the road? It's pointing the opposite direction you are going. All these parked cars? They are parked going the opposite direction you are going. All the cars you are meeting in this extremely narrow lane? They're all going the opposite way you are. Yes, there's a chance they're all wrong and you are right. But you forgot one thing. I'm one of them, and I'm never wrong. Even when I'm not right.
To be fair, I met these idiots while driving through the parking lot of the Coralville HyVee, without a doubt the most screwed up parking lot on the face of the earth. I met moron number two in the mysterious, off-pattern "out" aisle, which ends at -- in a stroke of shear genius -- the "in" aisle for the attached strip mall lot.
You would think the entire strip mall could adopt a uniform, alternating "up, down, up, down" pattern of parking aisle, beginning on one end and "up, down, up, down"-ing all the way to the other end. But NOOOO! Some sick, parking lot painting, psychopath went and threw in one extra, single-sided "down" row -- just to mess with people's minds!
This is the same parking lot pervert that put in a random stop sign at the other end of the lot so that the occasional person exiting the drive-thru dry cleaners can have a clear shot at messing up the main in-out traffic flow. The strategy here, I believe, is to make more work for the dry cleaner. Typically if you stop at this stop sign you run the risk of being rear ended. Not all the skid marks left here are on the road, if you know what I mean.
I think if Gordon Lightfoot had dug a little deeper, he may have found the captain of the Edmund Fitzgerald was following shipping lanes set up by the same person who designed this parking lot.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
4 a.m. It's snowing! Not much yet, but the weather man says more is on the way, followed by blizzard conditions. Ominous outlook, but for now Eastern Iowa has been transformed into a Winter Wonderland! It's so peaceful and calm. Except for the ear-splitting scrape of the snowplow. Hope we still have a road left.
6:05 a.m. Must have snowed more than I thought. No school today. The district's new automated calling system gives a much earlier alert than the radio. The kids don't have to get up, so maybe I can get a little more REM sleep. Prince Charming was just about to kiss me....
7 a.m. Kids are up already! Hmm, they never get themselves out of bed this early when they do have school. Oh well, who needs Prince Charming, when you have a charming husband? The sooner we get up, the sooner we can start our fun-filled snow day! I can hardly wait!
7:30 a.m. It must be magic snow! The kids made their own breakfasts and are downstairs eating, watching cartoons and making plans for a snow fort. Maybe later we can have hot chocolate and make cookies! Good thing I ran errands and picked up groceries yesterday. This is really going to be a such a relaxing, fun-filled snow day!
8:30 a.m. Kids are gearing up to go outside. There is some disagreement about which hat belongs to which kid. I'm pulling dual duty as referee and seeker of lost snow gear. I know I labeled that tote full of snow pants and boots. It's got to be here somewhere! I can't wait to get started on our first-of-the- season, fun-filled snow day!
8:45 a.m. The kids managed to get outside without killing each other. Note to self: forget the cutesy hats and the tough guy hats, buy identical hats from now on. I'm left behind to pick up the trail of discarded single mittens and gloves. Why did I pack away singles? Maybe the mates are in the other -- also missing -- tote. It might be a little tough to make a snowball with two mismatched, left-handed gloves, but kids adapt. You don't have to be able to use your thumb to have a fun-filled snow day!
9 a.m. Found breakfast dishes under a pile of Legos under a pile of discarded snow gear. Hmmm, the little scamps must have forgotten them in their hurry to enjoy their fun-filled snow day. Oh well, as long as they're having fun. Now I can sit down and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. There's more than one way to enjoy a fun-filled snow day!
9:10 a.m. Kids are back in already. Coffee will have to wait while I supervise hanging of wet snow gear.
9:20 a.m. Kids are going back outside. Have to lay down trail of throw rugs to laundry room.
9:30 a.m. Kids are inside. Remind them to stay on throw rug trail.
9:40 a.m. Kids going outside. Aarg! Stay on the trail!
9:50 a.m. Kids inside. Puddles forming on the trail!
10 a.m. Kids outside. I've locked the doors, microwaved my coffee and stuffed my ears with cotton. I swear I'll call them in after I finish this one cup. Please. Just. One. Cup!
10:20 a.m. How did they get back in? Not dirty enough to have come down the chimney.
10:25 a.m. They're hungry. How could I have gone to the store and not picked up snacky things? It's not supposed to snow and blow until later this afternoon, and the forecast is bleak for tomorrow as well. I'll never survive two fun-filled snow days without sweets. Emergency trip to the grocery store!
10:30 a.m. While all the other Moms are grabbing milk, bread and peanut butter, my cart is filled with cookies, ice cream, pop, chips, dip, Totino's Pizza Rolls, and candy. The other Moms are giving me the stink eye. The other kids stare at my kids with envy.
11 a.m. I shoo the kids outside one more time while I try to hide my own personal stash of HoHo's and licorice. Just assuring everyone's safety in case of a snacking emergency. Maybe after lunch we can play some board games and bake cookies. This is going to be such a fun-filled snow day!
1:00 p.m. We've played every board game, card game and dice game in the closet. We've made crafts, colored pictures and sculpted a replica of Michelangelo's "Pieta" out of Velveeta. We've read the Bible. Aloud. Twice. They're bored. They say this is a boring-filled snow day!
1:15 p.m. I've shut them in the TV room with snacks and a stack of DVDs. I'm locking myself in my room with the HoHo's and a bottle of wine.
4:00 p.m. They've converted a cardboard box into Santa's sleigh and built reindeer out of Legos. They're playing together quietly. More or less. They say this has been the best, fun-filled snow day ever!
8:00 p.m. Everyone is showered, jammied and ready for bed. Enjoying a little quiet reading time together before turning in. A peaceful ending to a fun-fill, snow day.
9:30 p.m. School has been canceled for tomorrow. Another fun... filled... snow...day. I can hardly wait.
Monday, December 7, 2009
So, what are we not thinking about this week? Oh, many, many things (has Britney finally found true love?). But specifically, the historical accuracy of the local community holiday celebration, "A Christmas Past."
The Royal Offspring and I partook of the hoo-ha over the weekend. First of all, let me say we had a great time, as always. In fact, since we didn't loose any body parts to frost bite, we probably had a better time this year than some years.
His Royal Highness the King, a.k.a. "Mr. Literal", stayed in the castle where he could work uninterrupted, enjoying such modern conveniences as computers, heat and a flat-screen TV. He suggested that if we truly wanted to celebrate "A Christmas Past," we should turn off all the power to downtown, carry buckets of water to boil for hot cocoa, and line up for the privy out back of Hoover's Birthplace Cottage. Note to self: I don't think there's a pit under the outhouse, so use the facilities early in the evening.
I would just like to point out that the festival is titled "A Christmas Past," and it does not specify which "Christmas Past" is being observed. Some of the activities may have been similar to what Herbert Hoover experienced living here in the mid 1870's. The idea for the festival was based on newspaper reports of similar celebrations taking place in the 1920s. Other parts are definitely more modern, or are modern twists on old traditions.
For example, Hoover probably did travel in a horse-drawn wagon. However, that wagon probably didn't have nice Goodyear tires, cushioned bench seats out of an old school bus, or steps that raised and lowered for boarding. While it may not be the stuff of Currier and Ives, I appreciate those little touches.
The Prince and Princess did learn a few things about horse-drawn wagons: they move slowly; they don't have heaters; and horse poo, historical or not, smells. A lot. And yes, the Queen Mother will join in (not lead, but join) when other riders start singing carols.
The Princess and I participated in another semi-historical activity: the 5K walk/run. Hoover probably did do a lot of walking to get around town. However, he didn't drive a car three-quarters of a mile to get to the starting line before starting out. My "Olde Tyme Shin Splints" feel pretty authentic, though.
The Boy Scouts' donuts, fried in a pot of oil over an open fire, call to mind the "fry bread" of the Native Americans -- residents prior to 1870. However, I don't think (politically incorrect alert!) the Indians had access to "whomp biscuits." If they had, the Indians could have easily subdued the white settlers by setting up a donut stand. The settlers would have been sitting ducks while they all stood in line patiently waiting for the next batch, like the crowd at ACP.
Of course the real purpose of ACP is not to impart great historical knowledge and insight. It is a chance to impart great knowledge and insight of local businesses. A chance to make cash register bells ring after the ring of the sleigh bells has past. Less cynically, it is a chance to foster community spirit and good will, a chance for businesses to thank their customers.
Whew. Glad I got that out of my system. We will now resume our regularly scheduled snarkiness, already in progress.
Of course, I have thought of a couple of ideas to improve A Christmas Past. Since this could, theoretically, be "any" Christmas past, why not celebrate a 1960s Fall Out Shelter Christmas? They could even replace the horse-drawn rides with a hot rod, ala the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick." Or how about a "Disco Christmas?" Just keep those polyester suits away from the bonfires.
On a more serious (perhaps?) note, the downtown businesses could all recreate the lavish Christmas window displays I recall from my youth. I remember going to Cedar Rapids at least one year to see the display at Armstrong's Department Store. Wouldn't it be cool if all those mechanical elves and reindeer and woodland creatures were in storage somewhere just waiting to be reused? At the very least, let's dust off the "Talking Christmas Tree" that was at Sycamore Mall.
What if all celebrations were like "A Christmas Past?" What if we could just pick and choose the best parts and get rid of the parts we don't like or find inconvenient? Like birthdays. Keep the presents, party and cake. Loose the "another year older" part. Ooops, I already do that.
I've always been a big picture kind of person.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
"Demitasse Tank? You're putting me behind bars for a little too much caffeine?" I broke out in a cold sweat -- a sweat that smelled an awful lot like coffee. "I swear it will never happen again! I can control my coffee habit, really! I can quit anytime I want... a blinding headache from caffeine withdrawal. I promise, I'll get help."
"Jail? Who said anything about jail?" Officer Valdez looked confused. "You just need to sit over there in the lounge area and have a muffin and juice to counteract all the caffeine in your system. You've got the coffee jitters so bad you can barely hold your car keys. Jail? Huh, maybe there is a link between caffeine and paranoia."
While I was relieved not to be goin' to the Big House, there was no recalling the shot of adrenaline now coursing through my body. Somewhere along the way it re-ignited the caffeine laying fallow in my veins, mimicking the effects of a triple shot of espresso on an empty stomach. My mind raced like a hamster in a wheel rolling downhill. Images flashed through my head like dream sequences in a Disney Channel show.
"I can beat this," I whispered. "I'll get this java monkey off my back. I'll go straight, just you wait and see." My eyes glazed over as I imagined myself in my very own kitchen, standing in front of a Keurig single-cup coffee maker. I was dressed like Snow White, and animated bluebirds flew around me. Assorted woodland creatures surrounded me as I burst into song:
"Just whistle while you work,
Caffeine is bad, it makes me sad
One cup is quick to perk!"
The room spun and everything grew dark. As the darkness lifted I saw my husband -- my knight in shining armor -- standing in the kitchen doorway, shaking his head sadly. I was on the floor, slouched against the counter by the coffee maker, partially hidden under a pile of used K-cups.
Another fade to black. As action resumed, I was standing on a street corner holding out a Starbuck's cup, begging for money.
"Hey buddy, can you spare a five-spot for a venti Pumpkin Spice Latte? They're only available for a limited time!" I begged. Passersby avoided eye contact and quickened their steps as they approached. Finally a wino stopped and handed me a flask.
"Here you go, kiddo," he said. "It'll help wean ya' off the hard stuff. That demon coffee, it'll ruin your life."
The images swirled once again. As I shook my head I heard a familiar voice calling my name.
"Hey Jo! Long time no see!" Barbara the Barista was standing by the espresso machine, wiping down the steam wand.
I looked around and realized I was standing in the doorway of the coffee shop. Officer Valdez was no where to be seen, and the plaster was firmly stuck to the wall where it belonged.
"Are you alright? You look like you could use a latte," Barbara said.
"Uh, yeah. I mean no. NO! I mean, I think I'll just have some herbal tea," I replied weakly.
Barbara looked surprised.
Who am I kidding? I thought.
"Naaah, make that a mocha, please. Extra foam. MO-CHA, mocha mocha!"
Friday, December 4, 2009
"Ahhhh! I love the smell of arabica in the afternoon!" My favorite barista was at her station behind the espresso machine mixing up a little heaven in a cup for the only other customer in the shop.
"MO-cha, mochamochamoca!" I cha-cha'ed across the floor. "Mocha me, Mamma!" I said, slapping my hand on the counter top.
Instead of looking amused, which I had expected, Barbara the Barista looked a little nervous. I was instantly suspicious of the other customer. Was he hassling her? He looked pretty nondescript. Average height, average build, dressed in blue, wearing mirrored sunglasses. There was something vaguely familiar about him. I'd seen his type before, but where?
Barbara finished frothing his drink and slid it slowly towards him. She turned toward me, a look of concern on her face.
"How ya' doin', Jo? Switchin' to decaf for the afternoon?" Barbara spoke slowly, emphasizing the word "decaf" and darting glances at Mr. Mystery out of the corner of her eyes while she nodded her head meaningfully in his direction.
Decaf? I never order decaf. And that strange twitch. She must be speaking in code! I was certain she was trying to warn me of something, but what?
"Oh, no-nee, no-nee, no-nee. I don't drink that wimpy decaf! Heh heh heh. 'De-crap,' I like to call it," I said. Barbara continued to jerk her head toward Mr. Mystery and make "shushing" faces at me. Obviously this guy was trouble and she was trying to warn me. Well, I was just going to have to woman-up, and let him know that if he tried any funny stuff with me around he'd be sorry!
"Yep, I finished off a pot of dark roasted robusta this mornin'," I said, hitching up my pants and flexing my pecs. "Just need a little motorin' mocha pick-me up to keep my ninja-like reflexes sharp." I did a quick little kung-fu move I picked up from watching "Big Trouble in Little China."
Mystery Man didn't flinch, but Barbara looked nervous. "Well, gosh! Look at that! The espresso machine must be on the blink," she was talking rapidly now, almost babbling. "How 'bout a nice herbal tea? Maybe a beer or two (or twelve she added in a whisper) to mellow you out."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, confused. "I just saw you frothing his coffee. I don't need a pick me down, I need a pick me up!" I was getting agitated now, my caffeine level dipping dangerously low. "Don't 'cha have some house blend in a thermos or something? Just toss some grounds in a cup with hot water, I'll strain them out with my teeth." Desperation was setting in.
"Or, or, or..." I stammered, thoughts spinning wildly in my head. "Maybe I can just suck on some beans. Come on, man. I need a lil' sum-sum. Just let me sniff the empty bean bag!"
"What she means, Ma'am," Mystery Man spoke, "is that you seem to be a little over-caffeinated." I tensed as he stood and walked toward me. The light glinted ominously off the small, blue-black metallic object in his outstretched hand.
"I'm going to have to ask you to blow into this breathalyzer," he said. "I'm Officer Valdez, Caffeine Overuse Protection Services."
"Coffee C.O.P.S? Busting people for drinking coffee? Isn't that the coffee pot calling the kettle black?" I snapped.
"Ma'am, I can assure you we've heard all the coffee and donut jokes. And we are not amused." He waved the breathalyzer near my face. "Ma'am, you're registering a 2.0 on vapors alone. You're going to have to take a caffeination field test. Please stand with your back against this wall and hold completely still." I did as I was told, but it was harder than I could have imagined.
"Holy Sanka!" Officer Valdez cried. "You've got such a caffeine buzz you're vibrating the plaster right off the wall! You're going to have to spend a little time in the demitasse tank until you mellow out."
To be continued!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I have no problem admitting my age -- 39. Alright, 39 and a half. I can admit that my "greylights" are courtesy of Mother Nature and not L'Oreal. But for most of my 4... I mean 38 and a half years, I've been reluctant to tell anyone just how big (size-enhanced) my feet are.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I have feet. I like my feet. They work just fine. They allow me to stand upright and provide balance in a strong wind. They add valuable inches of height when I stand tippie-toes. But when I go shoe shopping, they just get in the way.
There's nothing wrong with my feet. It's those arbitrary numbers they assign to shoe sizes that bother me.
It is nearly impossible to find shoes in my size. After years of contemplation, I have come up with three possible reasons: 1. Manufacturers only make five pair of shoes in this size for distribution throughout the entire country. 2. Someone (with a really big closet) is hoarding all the shoes in my size. 3. Drag Queens beat me to them. It doesn't really make me feel better to think that I could be wearing the same shoe as Patrick Swayze did in "To Wong Fu."
Several young girls the Little Princess' age already wear size nine. And they're not done growing yet! I am torn. There's a part of me that feels sorry for them, knowing they are facing a future of meager shoe pickin's. But mostly I'm just worried that they will mean added competition for a limited number of generous-sized shoes. I have seniority! I deserve the cute shoes!
Online shoe shopping is just not the same. All too often I've drooled over a cute pair of shoes on display at a store, only to puke when I look down and see them on my feet. I want them off my feet and out of my life NOW! Not after I've repackaged and hauled them to the post office. I'm all about the instant gratification.
One of my (many) ideas for building my hometown's business and tourism base is to open a shoe store. Not just any shoe store, but a SHOE store, catering to size-enhanced feet. Not just any shoe store, but a shoe STORE! Offering a unique shopping experience for a marginalized demographic who, far too often, wind up impaled on the pointy end of a stiletto heel when it comes to cute shoe choices.
The front room of my store would be modest, but cozy. A wide array of shoes styles would be attractively displayed -- no boxes up front! The shoe store equivalent of a maitre d' would welcome customers, politely answer questions and show them around. He would also be responsible for ascertaining the actual shoe size of the customer.
This is vital, because only shoppers with size 10 -- maybe nine -- or larger feet would be allowed to advance through the velvet curtain, past the security system/Brannock Device, to the back room. The inner sanctum, as it were. All you elfin-footed girls would have to sit out front on semi-comfortable chairs to wait for your full-footed friends.
The back room would be a shoe shoppin' Shangri La! Foot-fortunate females would be treated to champaign fountains, trays of gourmet chocolates and plush couches -- complimentary foot rubs optional. The sales associates would all be hotty-hot-hotties dressed in crisp, white shirts and dark, pin-stripped suits with skinny ties (Why yes, I have been watching "White Collar" on USA). All customers would be addressed as Miss, not Ma'm, and breath mints would be used at all times.
And the shoes! Oh yes, the shoes would be awesome! Not a pixie-sized pair to be found! Top designers would create styles especially for the grander sizes. We'd put an end to those shoes that look cute in itsy-bitsy sizes, but in the upper size range look more like clown shoes. We would turn the current trend of shoe size discrimination on its head by not even manufacturing these adorable shoes in sizes smaller than a 10-- maybe a nine.
Yes, I am a little bitter about not being able to find shoes in my size. And no, I'm not a big enough person to "just let it go." That's why I'm considering adding a closed-circuit tv that would allow the miniature-footed to see what they were missing out on while they sit on semi-comfortable chairs, drinking tap water and munching on generic, candy-coated chocolate drops.
Because in this case, size does matter.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
My political aspirations began after a typically crazy day of so-called "stay-at-home" mom chores. I was seriously considering a career change. I mentally listed my strengths (keen sense of fashion, razor-sharp wit, infallibility) and my desires (unlimited power, a huge paycheck, to be worshiped in a manner befitting royalty). Two job possibilities immediately came to mind: politician and mob boss. Since there are fewer politicians in jail than mob bosses, the choice was obvious.
Besides, I've always enjoyed spending money. Particularly other people's money. OK, that was really what tipped the scales in favor of politics.
What could you expect from a Jomama administration? A chicken in every pot, pot for every chicken. Something for everyone at no cost to anyone, all financed by OPM (Other People's Money).
Anyone can make empty campaign promises and vacuous slogans. I offer real plans, solid solutions to the most pressing problems. The first stop on my roadmap to prosperity is right here in eastern Iowa.
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors continues to wrestle with the question of what to do with the historic Sutliff Bridge. At last report it would take a mere 2.4 million dollars of OPM (news flash, you are the other people) to replace the span washed away in the flood of 2008.
If only the raging Cedar had been considerate enough to wash away the other end and leave the span next to Sutliff. That span could have become Eastern Iowa's biggest and best back porch! The bridge was always a great place to enjoy burgers and beer from Baxa's Sutliff Store and Tavern. Half a bridge would be even better -- short and sweet and closer to the bar!
But that's not the way Mother Nature rolled. Most people would look at that half a bridge and see a problem. Not me. I'm a bridge half-full kind of gal. Where others see problems, I see possibilities.
Let me take you through my solution-making process. Part one: the Sutliff Bridge was over a river. The river flooded. Big problem. Solution? Move the bridge. Seems obvious, I know, and yet people continue to put bridges over rivers. Go figure.
OK, part two: it's an historic bridge. I think "historic," I think history, I think... West Branch! Heck, the tavern building would fit right in with the downtown architecture. Now we're getting somewhere.
Speaking of getting somewhere, let's face it, Sutliff is not in the middle of somewhere. West Branch, on the other hand, is right off the interstate. Bingo! Bring the history to the masses!
For you purists, West Branch is located on the west branch of the Wapsinonoc Creek, so the bridge could still be a "bridge." The creek has even been known to flood occasionally, so the element of danger would still be there.
In fact, the creek plays a vital role in my plan to move the remaining span to its new and improved home. What the Cedar River hath started, let the Cedar River finisheth, I say. Just attach a couple pontoons and an outboard motor to the remaining span, wait for the next flood and sail her on down to the Wapsinonoc. I'm not sure the two waterways connect, but have you ever heard of a little thing called the Panama Canal? Where there's a will there's a way, baby. This thing has "made for Discovery Channel" written all over it.
Oh yes, I have a dream. A dream that some day West Branch will not only be the birthplace of the 31st President of the United States, but home to the Sutliff Bridge, and campaign headquarters for the Supreme World Dictator.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Eh, a little of this, a little of that. It's amazing how time flies when you're not really accomplishing anything. You would think, with as many different things as I try to do, something would get done. I mean, what are the odds? Random, dumb luck should take over at some point and finish up at least one project.
It's the old infinite monkey theorem. Give a room full of monkeys typewriters and sooner or later one of them will pound out the works of Shakespeare. Ooops, I guess the secret to my blogging is out now. Of course the primates have a much easier time of it with my prose than with iambic pentameter:
Forsooth, I have forsworn the use of "thou."
The apes protest the ban and cry "alas."
Enough, I say, you pain me in my ...
Yeah, well, monkey kibble doesn't buy the same quality text it once did. It does explain the proliferation of limericks, though.
But I don't have a room full of monkeys. It's just me and my inability to say "No. I can't do that. I'm busy." I know I'm not the only one with that disability. I'm not even in the same league as some people who juggle multiple projects, jobs and volunteer positions. And I don't want to be.
I recently read an article about a man who noticed he was being pulled in too many directions and decided to make a bold move: He decided to spend an entire month single-tasking.
He didn't talk on the phone while putting away dishes. He didn't try to supervise homework while making dinner. He didn't fold laundry while surfing the net.
When he spoke with someone he gave them his full attention. When he worked on a project, he worked only on that project until it was complete. Then, and only then, he moved on to the next task.
Wow. What a concept. I was fascinated. I was ready to convert. I could single task. I could! And I would!
Then the Little Prince knocked on the bathroom door and asked if I could help him.
It took a couple of days, but eventually I finished the article. The author must have had some serious single-tasking time to dedicate to writing, or maybe his own room full of monkeys, or maybe he had just trained his children not to bother him while he was in the bathroom. Whatever his secret was, I wanted it.
The author warned that it took him a couple of days to adapt to single-tasking. He even enlisted the help of his wife keep him focused. I considered asking His Royal Highness, the King, to help me stay on track, but that would be asking him to multi-task and seemed like cheating.
In other words, trying to single-task cold turkey didn't work. In fact, I'm not sure I have ever had a sustained single-tasking experience lasting more than a min- (gotta switch the laundry) -ute. But I have become more aware of my multi-taskingness. I think I have cut back from capitol "M" Multi to lowercase "m" multi. And best of all, I have actually finished a few projects!
That first feeling of accomplishment was so sweet! And it encouraged me to focus on another project and finish it! And other, and another.... It was like a row of dominoes falling, or the leading edge of an avalanche.
In fact, I was so efficient I decided to take on a few more projects. So tomorrow, between doing loads of laundry, I'll be getting the crafts ready for CCD, and while I've got the glue gun out I'll work on a new wreath for Mom, so that will be done when I run to the bank on my way to the post office before picking up the kids for piano lessons to check on the information for PTO and finishing the newsletter after cross-checking the mailing list.
I think I'm getting the hang of this single-tasking.
Monday, November 30, 2009
NaNoWriMo has very few rules, you can check it out at nanowrimo.org, or just take my word for it. Write fast, write furious and write often, with the goal of producing a 175-page novel. Quantity, not quality. No plot? No problem. What's not to love? That Nov. 30 deadline, that's what. One little rule that has been my downfall the last three years.
But no more.
Rules? I don't need no steenking rules! I'm the Queen. I issue the rules around here. And so, by Royal Decree, I am ordering a re-do on November. Well, maybe not a re-do, exactly. I'm not sure November was good enough to repeat. It wasn't bad, but hey -- been there, done that, crossed the days off the calendar already.
It's not like I have anything against December, either. It's been waiting patiently -- through 11 long months -- for its turn. Repeating November would be like cutting in line. And I hate line jumpers.
Instead of a repeat or a delay, let's just call it "Nocember" and split the difference. If stores can market Christmas in July, and all but trample over the turkeys in their rush to welcome Santa, I can create Nocember.
Handy, don't you think, that Nocember starts the same day as the Gregorian calendar's December? Yep, that's my OCD showing. I have enough trouble remembering the dates of appointments and events without trying to figure out some sort of exchange rate between calendars. Once I get a little more comfortable in this new role of Queen of Everything, Including Space and Time, I might adjust the numbering or naming of days. A Monday by any other name would still smell just as rank, but troubled spellers the world over would thank me for changing Wed-nes-day.
Quite frankly, I'm tired of this 24-hour, 7-day a week schedule. The rest of the world can conform to my schedule for a while. Some days you just need an extra hour or two to get things done. And sometimes things need to move along a little faster. Ooops, sorry, Thursday has been canceled this week, we'll have to schedule that meeting for another day.
After all, isn't our entire concept of time just an artificial construct? Hours, days and weeks are just units of measure created to give structure to man's existence. They create the impression of order while ultimately limiting our experience to the here and now.
By the way, I spent my Augtober getting my PhD in BS.
But this is not a time to look backward, nor a time to wax philosophical. Now is the time to make plans for Nocember, and more specifically my own personal NaNoWriMo. So I suppose you could call it JoNoWriMo. Hmmm, that sounds a little too much like the way my November actually turned out -- Jo no write month.
Since my goal isn't to create a novel there's no "No" no mo'. Instead I shall challenge myself to blog everyday of the month, making it JoBloWriMo. That sounds vaguely... weird, but it will have to do.
Now for that word count. To reach 50,000 in 30 days I would have to write about 1,667 words every day. Considering this is number 537, this project may run into Nocemburary.
What the heck. I've got all the time in the world.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Well, I was trying to explain to someone the other day how that could probably be my theme song. I know of no silver lining too shiny to dispel a dark cloud. But I've come to accept and, to some degree, expect that thunderhead. Instead of moping (too much) about the hole in my umbrella, I just look for the humor in the tarnished silver lining.
They didn't get it.
You see, in the cosmic storms of fortune and fate, I'm a lightening rod for bad luck, catastrophe, inconvenience and misfortune. It's no one's fault -- just the opposite. People try to do nice things for me, but once I get involved it turns out all higgledy-piggledy. And when I try to do nice things for me, it's "Whoa Nelly! Bar the door!" Which brings me to what I thought was a funny story.
About a year ago I had to go in for a follow-up mammogram because of a shadow on the initial x-ray. Given my family history, I wasn't too surprised. In fact, I had an eerie feeling when I left the imagining center that first time.
Happily, the second x-ray was clear. (Yay me!) I decided to treat myself to a little caffeinated goody to celebrate. I was in downtown Iowa City anyway, and I needed to go to the library, so I figured I'd visit one of the hundreds of coffee shops on the ped mall.
The shine of my silver lining must have been absolutely blinding, because I found an on-street parking spot only half a block from the library. I fed the parking meter, slipping but not falling on the icy curb. Did I mention it was February and colder than a witches' mammogram?
After a quick (but careful) sprint to the library I decided it would be best to limit my outdoor exposure, so I popped in to the adjacent coffee shop. My silver lining was frosted but still shining, and Lady Luck favored me with a comfy chair near the window, toasty warm from the sunlight.
I enjoyed -- nay, savored -- my latte and sinfully delicious blueberry muffin, while losing myself in the trials and tribulations of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood of "Sense and Sensibility." At length, my cup was empty, the crumbs cleared, and the Dashwoods had reached the end of a chapter.
I headed back to the car, filled with bonhomie. My tummy was full, caffeine level high and the girls had received a clean bill of health. All was right with the world.
I also had a parking ticket.
Take that, you silver lining!
Most expensive coffee I've ever had. And worth every penny.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Not because I need to be available by cell phone at all times. Duh. Why do you think the ringer is usually off? OK, it's because I forget to turn it back on, but that's not the point.
Not because I need an outward symbol of how important I am. I think the tiara pretty much says it all.
No, I need a headset to disguise my crazy ramblings and outbursts. Oh sure, talk to yourself a little and people thing you're eccentric. Talk to yourself a lot and they lock you up. Give random strangers constructive criticism and they take offense!
But! Talk into a headset and no one bats an eye!
This morning I saw a woman carrying on a conversation all by herself outside the ice cream parlor -- which is closed for the season by the way -- in beautiful downtown West Branch. We assume that she was talking to someone on her headset, but how do we really know that? Sure, she had her Franklin Day Planner in one hand, and she was dressed in comfortable yet professional-looking business casual style. But how do we know her cell phone was even on?
This hands-free headset fetish has its place, but leave them in the car, people. I don't give a crap if they're hard to connect and disconnect and it's easier to just leave them on when you go in the store. And don't give me that "Oh, I forgot it was there" crap. Hellooo, it's a growth sticking out of your ear. You know it's there.
Yes, you do look like a crazy person talking to yourself in line at the grocery store. It is almost, but not quite as annoying as the people who talk on the phone in public restrooms. Do me a favor people, don't answer or -- God forbid -- place a call while in a stall. It will save me from repeatedly flushing in an attempt to annoy you and drive home a point to whoever is on the other end of the line.
Don't even get me started on how much I don't want to hear your conversation.
But since you brought up the subject, no! I don't want to hear your conversation. In fact, I don't want to hear your conversation so much that I usually just tune out anyone around me who is talking. Someday I'm going to be run down by a truck because I ignored the people shouting "LOOK OUT! THERE'S A TRUCK ABOUT TO RUN YOU DOWN!" because I thought they were talking to someone else on their cell phones.
On the other hand (and I would have both available!), I could use this to my advantage. I already feel perfectly free to offer much needed advice on driving (and, occasionally, fashion) from the enclosed and nearly soundproof comfort of my car. They can't hear me, but on some level -- whether it is psychic or body language -- I think I get my message across.
The headset would give me a similar sense of freedom to offer advice while outside my car. The random pedestrian would never be quite sure if I was talking to them or not, but subconsciously they would absorb my advice and use it to better their lives.
The moron blocking traffic in the cereal aisle would hear "Aisle hog on lane 3." He would look around, sheepishly, then decide to stand behind his cart instead of next to it, allowing other shoppers to pass.
The lady with the screaming kid at the mall would hear "future juvenile delinquent" and would probably assume I was talking about someone else. However, one day in the future while she's talking to Junior via a whole different type of "cell" phone and remarking on how that orange jumpsuit really brings out the blue in his eyes, she'll have a flashback and think "I really should have tried a more proactive approach to discipline when you were younger."
Viola! Another problem solved, another life improved.
All thanks to hands free technology. And me.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
But oh no. The answer was "Teacher."
These are the same insightful people who brought me such meaningful (and accurate) time wasting quizzes as: "Which Peanuts Character are You?" (Snoopy, of course), "Discover Your Birth Number" (2, a natural born diplomat. Well, duh), and "Which TV Mom Are You?" (Peg Bundy. Girl's got style). How could they let me down with "Teacher"?
Sorry. Been there, done that, warped a few teenage psyches along the way.
I can turn the most mundane occurrence into a "sign" of something, so I knew that getting "Teacher" as my quiz result was a sign. A bad sign. An omen of end of the world proportions. It was just a matter of time.
Today my time ran out. My second day of substitute teaching during the 2009-10 school year. The day that I learned without a doubt, that "Teacher" is not my ideal job.
If I wasn't feeling so melodramatic, I would amend that to "'Kindergarten Teacher' is not my ideal job." But after the day I had today, I deserve to be melodramatic. And technically I should amend that to "After the two and a half hours I had today, I deserve to be melodramatic." It was the longest two and a half hours of my life.
In my defense, kindergartners this early in the school year (12 days in) are basically tall preschoolers. And the preschool teacher has at least one aide. I would have settled for a roll of duct tape. With that I could have not only taped their mouths shut (Please be quiet, pleasebequiet, bequietbequietbequiet!), but also taped their little hands to their sides (No touching, notouchingnotouchingnotouching!)
The phrase "herding cats" kept running through my mind, but only as an example of a much easier job.
It's not a matter of adapting instructional techniques from high school to small fry. It's the whole caretaker thing. Here's an example:
As I was herding -- I mean escorting -- little "Regan" (name has been changed to protect the guilty and to insert a sly reference to Linda Blair's character in "The Exorcist") back to his seat, he sneezed a mighty sneeze. Being a thoughtful and polite child, he covered his mouth and nose with his hands the way you do when you sneeze.
At this point, everything went into slow motion.
Little Regan lowered his hands slightly, took a look at them, then turned to look at me, eyes wide in amazement. A snot/spit mix puddled in his hands and ran down one arm to his elbow. Another drippy strand connected the puddle to twin rivulets coating his nose, lips and chin. I quickly handed him a couple of tissues, turned him toward the sink and told him to wash up.
Then I wiped down the faucet, the soap dispenser and the paper towel holder. And washed my hands. Several times.
I seriously need to re-evaluate my career choice.
Is anyone hiring cat wranglers?
Monday, August 24, 2009
She still dispensed driving advice from her royal carriage. But her heart just wasn't in it. She still had trouble finding just the right glass slipper to wear with her ball gown. But instead of pitching a royal hissy, she quietly submitted to the geriatric loafers without the stroke-of-midnight clause. Many, many, many times her fashion police and grammar police alarms went off. But instead of cutting the offenders down to size with a snarky remark, she merely sighed and went about her royal business, not even bothering to refer to it as "bidness."
Then one day she registered for a prize drawing because one of the prizes was a free latte. "Free" and "latte" are two of her favorite words. Put them together and how could she resist?
Flash forward to after the drawing. Much to the Queen's surprise she won the Grand Prize! At first the Queen was disappointed because she really, really wanted a free latte. Then she decided it was rude to look a free gift horse in the mouth (carelessly disregarding the hard-learned lesson of the Trojans). Besides, it was a "Grand" prize, and she really should cut back on the caffeine, anyway.
So the Queen started to get a little excited about the Grand Prize. (This is where the Greek Chorus hiding in the horse whispers "wait for it, wait for it.")
"Guess who's a Grand Prize winner! Woo Hoo!" the Queen asked the Little Princess. There may have been some car-dancing, singing, fist pumping, and gloating involved. Just enough mayhem to mask the sound of the trap door opening in the big wooden horse.
"This certificate expired last month," the Little Princess said. Oh yes, the Greeks had most certainly arrived in the center of Troy. That's right, the certificate had expired about three weeks before it had been awarded.
The Queen, who had lost her sense of humor, did not find this funny.
So she sat, prize-less, latte-less and humorless, brooding and moping in a most un-royal manner. She wondered WWDAALD? What would Dear Abby and Ann Landers do? Nothing, that's what, because they are both dead! She was going to have to figure this one out on her own.
She thought about calling someone, but who? And asking for something, but what? Because every time she played the conversation in her head the words FREE and GIFT kept coming out in ALL CAPS, and it always sounded RUDE and GREEDY. Especially since what she really wanted was a free latte.
Then she finally smiled. Because in a really twisted, sick, perverse, it-could-only-happen-to me kind of way, the whole thing was sort of funny.
Sort of. Not much, but a little.
To recap: The Queen did not get the Grand Prize. She did not get a free latte. But she may be on her way to finding her sense of humor.
So maybe she did get the Grand Prize, after all.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I was reminded of the "Interstate 80 Iowa" song by Heywood Banks. If you haven't hear it, you simply must rush to YouTube -- after you finish reading this, of course. The lyrics are simple, yet painfully honest: "Corn, corn, corn...." If you've ever traveled I-80 through Iowa you can probably guess the rest.
I'm a big Iowa booster, but even I have to admit Banks' depiction is close. It would be better with a few "soybeans" at least one "dead deer." I'd also get rid of his "what's that smell? line." Iowa is not without aromatic treats, but if you can smell 'em while traveling down the interstate, you're driving too darn slow, and I'm probably behind you. Besides I-80 doesn't even go through Cedar Rapids.
Boring scenery aside, it was a lovely, green, relaxing Sunday afternoon drive. Much to my surprise, His Royal Highness the King, who is typically an interstate/shortest route/what's a scenic byway?-type of guy suggested taking the two-lane state highway 92 on the return trip. I was so excited I nearly wet my pants! (Or maybe it was the Big Gulp I drank on the way out there.) I figured this would be our chance for a little sight-seeing. We could see small town Iowa at it's best, view the rural countryside in all its charming farm splendor.
Wow. Was I wrong.
By the time we got to Ackworth (at least I think it was Ackworth) I was nearly comatose. The only thing more boring than seeing endless cornfields go by your window at 70 mph is seeing endless cornfields go by your window at 55 mph, up close and personal without a nice wide ditch between you. Traffic on the interstate was pretty heavy, obviously because no one else was taking the 2-lane road.
We were out there all alone, surrounded by all that green. Soon I thought I heard music. Hmmm, what was it? The dueling banjos from Deliverance? The "Duuhh dut' duuhh dut" from Jaws? The "Eeeh- eeh, Eeeh- eeh" from Psycho?
No, not this time. It was the "Corn, corn, corn, corn..." from "Interstate 80 Iowa" song.
In a desperate attempt to hold on to my last shred of sanity, I changed it up a little to create "Iowa Highway 92" song. The tune doesn't really matter, but if you absolutely must have music to go with your lyrics, think of the hypnotic whir of tires on a straight, flat, endless road. Enjoy.
Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, soybeans, corn.
Corn, corn, whew pigs! corn,
corn, dead deer, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans, corn,
rusty farm implement, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans, corn,
corn, whew cows!, corn.
Corn,, corn, mini mart, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans, corn,
corn, dead possum, corn.
Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, church and cemetery, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans,
corn, dead coon, ditto, ditto, corn.
Corn, corn, weed field,
corn, old school house, more corn.
Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, dead skunk, corn.
Corn, DEAD SKUNK!?, corn,
corn, SKUNK SMELL, corn,
still smells like skunk, corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans, corn.
corn, dead ...somethin', corn.
Corn, corn, soybeans,
corn, windmill, corn.
Corn, corn, corn, corn,
corn, abandoned house.
Oops not abandoned,
corn, corn, corn, corn.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
This would be the same Little Prince who inherited my lack of coordination and grace. The same stubborn little boy who has decided he doesn't want to learn how to ride his bike because "balancing is too hard."
Youth, cuteness and big, brown eyes have a way of wearing down even the most nervous of mothers. And so, last week while the Little Princess was learning to be an astrophysicist at College for Kids, the Prince was learning to be a skateboarder at the Muscatine skate park.
Muscatine has it's share of drawbacks, but they have great parks and playgrounds. The skate park is no exception -- clean, well maintained, and completely empty at 9 a.m. To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of parks, it was the worst of parks; it was a young boy's dream, it was a mother's nightmare.
The worst of it: there was a coffee shop right across the street. A drive-thru coffee shop. My idea of heaven on earth. But (!) this was during the Iowa Late-June Heat and Humidity Wave. Temperatures were in the mid-80s by 9 a.m. Sweat was rolling down my sides as I sat in the shade of the half-pipe watching the Little Prince. A bath in hot coffee would have been cooler. Drinking hot coffee seemed torturous, sort of like the Devil serving coffee in the third ring of hell.
It didn't take the Little Prince long to figure out skateboarding on a flat surface is hard work and not much fun. He was really looking forward to doing X-Game style tricks. He had researched his moves by watching endless You-Tube videos and playing a multitude of on-line games. In his mind this more than prepared him to master the half-pipe. An evil, mean, little part of me thought the skate park might provide a wallop of reality up-side the head. I just hoped it wouldn't be a very hard wallop.
In fact, there wasn't a wallop at all. His sister might have been the one at "college," but the Little Prince is no dummy. All it took was rolling backward down the bottom of a ramp to make him realize doing skateboard tricks is harder than it looks.
If you are standing up, that is.
Stubborn-streak firmly in place, the Little Prince quickly adapted and spent his time "butt boarding" or sitting on the skateboard. In no time at all he went from tipping cautiously over the top of the ramp to sailing down the ramp and zipping across the court -- a blur of helmet, pads and smile.
A big, big smile.
While the Little Prince was learning to skateboard (sort of), I was learning the lingo (sort of). Some of the definitions on the web were a little incomplete, so I've fixed them:
Quarter pipe: A ramp used in extreme sports to allow the rider to break bones quickly and efficiently.
Half-pipe: Two quarter pipes facing each other across a flat transition, allowing riders to break bones coming and going.
Grind rail: A square or round rail or bar used for performing tricks, featured prominently in videos of riders clutching their genitals.
Banked wedge: A small ramp which lures its victims by looking harmless, proving the old saying "the smaller they are, the harder you fall."
The Little Prince used his new vocabulary this way:
"Mom! Watch me fly down the arm breaker totally out of control! Then I'll slide across the elbow skinner and over to the skull cracker. You have 9-1-1 on speed dial, right? Thanks for bringing me here, Mom. You're the greatest."
At least I think that's what he said. It's hard to hear when you're blinded by the smiles.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Catalogs also show me a wide variety of items that I hadn't realized I couldn't live without. Items so specialized, so unique that they never actually make it to stores. Merchants realize they are never going to sell enough of these items to justify shipping them out to the stores where they would just take up valuable display space while gathering dust.
Things like the Margaritaville Trio frozen concoction maker.
I do love me a good margarita, but I don't make them very often. Crushing up the ice for a frozen margarita is just too noisy and time consuming. When I want a margarita, I want it now! I lusted after the original Margaritaville frozen concotion maker, which combined a high-powered ice-crusher with a blender.
I fantasized about building my own little Margaritaville-themed bar on the deck. I imagined a little grass hut-type awning, a string of parrot party lights, a neon light shaped like a palm tree, a pink flamingo just because, comfy chaise lounge chairs and music by Jimmy Buffet, natch. The centerpiece would be my shiny, stainless steel Margaritaville frozen concoction maker.
The only problem? I have a one-margarita limit. Two margaritas and my head is pounding like a, like a, like a really loud pounding thingy. I just couldn't justify all that snazzy-ness for one margarita every now and again.
Now there is the Margaritaville Trio frozen concoction maker. An even larger ice shaver with three -- count 'em THREE -- "independent blending stations" for a combined 72 ounces of margarita-liciousness. Available for your very own home usage.
It boggles the imagination! Of all the things in the Williams-Sonoma catalog that I desire but have absolutely no need for, this one takes the cake. It is the apex of margarita technology. The perfect blending (as it were) of consumerism and consumption, of impracticality and, well, that pretty much sums it up.
And I am lime-green with envy.
It's not just the Margaritaville Trio frozen concoction maker, it's the lifestyle that would cause someone to need the Margaritaville Trio frozen concoction maker. Who really needs to make a combined 72-ounces of frozen drinks at the same time, at home, often enough to justify the cost of such a machine? Other than Jimmy Buffet, that is.
And if you could afford it and needed one, would you really want to spend all your time standing around making 72-ounces of frozen drinks? Or cleaning up after a bunch of people who could drink multiple 72-ounce batches of frozen drinks? And if you could hire people to run the machine and clean up after your friends, would you really spend your time looking through catalogs?
I think not.
I think this is one of those products destined to be in the sale catalog next time around. And so, to save the good people at Williams-Sonoma the stress of worrying about how they are going to get rid of a warehouse full of Margaritaville Trio frozen concoction makers, I will volunteer to accept one at no charge.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
"Darling children, what would you like for breakfast?" I called. "Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch?"
"Our Kellogg's Pop Tarts are already in the Kitchen Aid toaster, Mother dear," the Little Princess and Prince replied. "Would you please pour our Sunny D for us?"
"Of course, dears," I said. "It's right here in our GE refrigerator, right next to my Tropicana orange juice. I'm glad I remembered to pick up more Eggo Nutrigrain waffles."
"Hey, save the sports section for me," His Royal Highness said with a chuckle, knowing full well that we always do. "My heart-healthy bowl of Quaker oatmeal is almost done cooking in the Kenmore microwave oven, then I'll join you around our table from the Kalona Furniture Mart."
"What are you planning to do today, Mother dearest?" the Little Prince asked.
"I think I will do a few loads of laundry in our Maytag washer and dryer this morning, "I said. "Then you could help me make Kraft Mac and Cheese for lunch."
"Can we have Oscar Meyer hot dogs, too?" he suggested.
"I'd much rather have tuna casserole, made with Velveta Shells and Cheese, Chicken of the Sea tuna and Green Giant peas," said the Little Princess.
"That sounds good," the King said. "I see we're out of Campbell's soup, so I'll have to grab a sandwich at Subway. Maybe I'll get a bag of Sterzings and a Coke, too."
"According to the weather report on WMT AM600, this would be a great day for a ride on our Schwinn bicycles," the Little Princess said.
"I'd much rather stay home and play on the Wii," the Little Prince complained.
"If you'll put on your Nikes we'll walk into town for a Well's Blue Bunny ice cream treat," I offered. "But first it's into the shower for you two! The Dial soap, Suave shampoo and Cannon towels are all ready for you. And don't forget to brush your teeth with Crest!"
"Oh my goodness, look at the time on my Timex watch!" I said, turning to Hubby. "Honey, you'd better lace up your Timberland boots and drive the Honda Ridgeline to work."
"But first I wanted to draw your attention to this interesting article in the Gazette," said the King. "Did you know that some Bloggers earn money by mentioning product names in their blogs?"
"I am shocked! Shocked, I say," I said. "More than that, I am shocked and appalled."
"Shocked and appalled that you didn't think of this earlier?" he asked.
"No!" I said, vehemently shaking my head. "I would never compromise my principals by shilling for a product for cash!"
Not when they could write me a check.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
My friends have been trying to get me to color my hair for a long time. I must admit, the gray really "pops" with this cut. And it looks totally natural! If you didn't know better, you might think it came from years of worrying about and looking after kids, a husband and an aging mother.
I think the new color makes me look more mature. And to be honest, I was getting tired of looking so darn young. It was such a hassle being carded all the time. Having to wear the "teacher" badge at the high school so no one would think I was a student. Assuring strangers that the Prince and Princess are my kids, not my brother and sister.
It had only been a couple months since my last style change -- which I loved, loved, loved. But I was feeling restless and, as I'm still afraid of needles, a tattoo was out of the question. An Ahm naw ge-in my tuh pier! Ah doe cahr wah deh seh, you tah fuh-y wih a pier tuh. (Sound it out, people.)
Besides, I enjoy trying out new haircuts. It's a thrilling little battle of wills between me and my hair. I want it to curl this way, or poof up that way. My hair wants to lay flat, or stick straight out at odd angles. Eventually we come to agreement -- meaning I give up and let it do what it wants. Then it's off to the hairdressers for a new cut and a rematch!
My new 'do is supposed to look like pop-singer Rhianna's, although the gray reminds me more of Jamie Lee Curtis's hair. It's a toss up. I could easily be mistaken for either one. OK, I might have to add colored contacts, but then, for sure.
When it's not humid and the nozzle on the hairspray isn't all gunked up and I have beaten my hair into submission, it's kind of "poofy" at the crown with a straight "swoopy" over one eye. This is not to be confused with the mullet, which is "party" in the back, "business" in the front. However, the swoop over the eye does add a "business" element to it, as it reminds my family of Kate Gosselin of "John and Kate Plus Eight." Channeling Kate has really helped me get in touch with my inner bi... I mean, inner assertiveness.
The Royal Family likes the new hair cut. Or they've been too afraid of my inner-Kate to disagree. It's a win-win. His Royal Highness reserved comment, looking at me nervously until I confirmed that yes, I had gotten my hair cut. At least he noticed this time, although we do need to work on his enthusiasm and sincerity.
The Little Prince took one look and asked "Whadup wid' da' hair, Mom?" as he headed off to become a rock legend on Guitar Hero. Who is this little hoodlum, and what happened to my English-speaking boy? Maybe I should see if they have Baroque Hero, or Orchestral Hero for Wii.
The Little Princess didn't get the whole color thing. She suggested I replace the gray with blond highlights.
"Gray is the new blond," I said.
"Wow, you have a lot of blond hair," she said.
Who says blonds have more fun?
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Flash forward to now: I still haven't heard from that casting director and I've learned my brother (have I ever mentioned how talented and handsome he is?) will be directing a local production of The Music Man this summer. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Here is the cover letter I should have sent.
Dear Casting Director,
After missing the recent casting call in Cedar Rapids, I was excited to see you would be accepting applications by mail. This will give me a chance to put myself out there without actually, you know, putting myself out there.
In person, I can be rather reserved. But believe me, beneath this shy exterior beats the heart of a true ham. But enough of that dull, wallflower stuff! I'm ready to grab the spotlight with both hands and shake it until I'm on the cover of every supermarket tabloid!
This letter will give you a chance to slowly get to know me. You can keep it around, moving it from pile to pile, referring back to it. It will give me a chance to grow on you. I'm kind of like a pebble in your shoe: easy to miss at first, but impossible to ignore in the long run.
I think most people secretly wish for a little attention, even as they toil away in relative obscurity, keeping their heads down, trying to blend in, establishing a new level of anonymity. Except for that Unabomber guy. He really, really wanted to be left alone. Then again, if that manifesto wasn't a cry for attention, what was it?
Back to me. I realize my acting experience is limited and old. I was in all the usual high school and college productions. I played such roles as: Lady Walking Dog By Window, and Girl Number One. Speaking of that part, there is no truth to the rumor that our production of "Fieffer's People" caused IWC to close its theater department. It was merely a coincidence. Bad timing. Really.
However, to quote The Bard, "All the world's a stage," and since then I have taken on many different roles. My performances have been making people think I'm competent for years. Any Jen, Brad or Angelina can read a script and make it seem convincing. With me it's all improvisation. Extempore. All day. Every day.
You want me to act like I know what I'm doing? Hey, I'm a mom! I haven't had a clue since that first contraction. I'm a substitute teacher, for Heaven sakes -- Spreken ze Espanole? You want me to act interested? I've been to more board meetings than I can shake a stick at, and no one's ever caught me sleeping. You want me to act dumb? "Why no, Officer, I don't know what the speed limit is through here." You want me to act smart? "Yes, those pants do make your butt look smaller!"
In conclusion, all I can say is my "One Grecian Urn" will have you on your feet. "Two Grecian Urns" will make you cheer. And "A fountain"?
Trickle, trickle, trickle.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I know you weren't laughing right then, as you wiped spit off your thighs, but someday you will. Because someday you'll be out shoe shopping by yourself, and you'll hear a little voice in the next aisle say in a loud voice "Wow, those shoes are ugly." Then you'll hear an embarrassed Mom hush the child.
It will be your turn to laugh. And you will. Trust me.
You'll laugh because it was not your child that said it. It could have been. It has been. But this time is wasn't. And you'll be grateful.
I still remember dragging my two little demons through Target, wondering if I could stamp a bar code on their butts and leave them on a shelf. Just as we were about to leave I saw the World's Most Perfect Mom, along with her four adorable and well-behaved young girls.
What she would think of my two uncontrollable, arguing children? I was ready to tuck my head and run past when I realized they were having their own little "Come To Jesus" meeting -- complete with rapid finger shaking right in front of the girls' little noses, and threats of "If you ever do that again..."
She was human. Her daughters were human. I wasn't alone.
We've all had those days. I've had so many of those days that I no longer look on them as a source of frustration or embarrassment, but rather a source of encouragement and support for other parents. Whether it's an awkward child-rearing moment, or some other domestic disaster, these incidents give us all a chance to laugh at ourselves. Eventually.
All that just to set up my latest run of bad luck. A calamity of previously unimaginable proportions. A series of errors so convoluted, it could only happen to me. Or you.
We were facing a daunting evening full of activities, but I had drawn up a battle plan: Dance pictures in WL, change and race back to WB for Little League pictures, then home to change clothes and hand off the Little Princess to Dad for transport to a softball game in Cedar Rapids with the other team while I took the Little Prince to t-ball practice. I even had the first two changes of clothes with me in the car, the third was laid out at home.
What's that? The sweet sound of smug superiority? Perhaps the off-key overture of overconfidence? Whatever it was, it was soon drown out by the discord of disaster.
Oops! Missed the note about contributing to the dance teacher's gift.
Oops! The time for Little League pictures was changed, then switched to another night. Ran home to get the change of uniform while Little Princess stayed to practice.
Oops! Forgot cleats and Little Prince's t-ball gear. Back home.
Sent the Little Princess and the King off to the game. Tried to help out with Little League practice while keeping an eye on t-ball practice. Ate more than my share of gnats.
Oops! Realized Little Princess didn't have her glasses. Considered hot gluing them to her head.
Ran home to get glasses.
Oops! Forgot Little Prince's homework which would now have to be done at the ball field. Back home.
Oops! Out of gas. Filled up, drove through McDonald's.
Oops! They put the "slow" in "fast food." Made it to Cedar Rapids in time for the second game.
Somewhere along the route I managed to escape from the black cloud of doom that had been hovering over me. Perhaps it floated off while I was crawling through the one-lane, reduced speed No Work Zone on I-380. It's not like I went looking for it. I'd had enough of bad luck.
Judging from all the "thbbbbs" at ice cream parlor, that black cloud has found a new home.
For a little while.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I don't even remember what the fuss was about. It was morning, she was being 11, I was being a Mom. Do you really need more reason than that?
It was one of those days I could identify with the wild animals that eat their young (bet they taste like chicken). Or at least those that push the pups out of the den before they become teens.
No matter what the nature shows tell you, I'm betting it's the mommy animals that run off and hide behind the trees hoping their little girl wild animals won't find them. The daddy animals are out showing the little boy animals how to operate power tools without opposable thumbs, and saying "Oh, now. You girls play nice."
Makes me wonder why the Queen Mother didn't slap a "return to sender" sticker on my forehead and arrange to ship me back via StorkEx. You see, I have reached a certain level of maturity which allows me to realize I might not have been perfect as a child. It took years for me to achieve perfection.
Maybe there's something about little girls reaching pre-adolescence that causes some sort of "Freaky Friday-" type switch. When she turns 11 (or 10, or nine?) the little girl's ability to empathize is zapped into the mom. But before anything can be zapped back, the little girl's brain holds up its hand, rolls it's eyes, says "Whatev," and stomps off.
I look at the Little Princess and all I can remember is the awful, horrible, awkwardness of being 11. The Little Princess looks at me and thinks "Yeah, right. Like you were ever 11."
But I was. And I remember what it's like to try to find a place to fit in. To want to be popular. To hate piano lessons. To have a life. To think the world revolves around me.
Of course, the world does revolve around me. Now. It took years for that to develop, too. Believe me, when you're the Center of the Universe, there's a whole asteroid belt of annoying people orbiting around you. And it's an elliptical orbit than really gets in the way when I'm driving. Or shopping. Or just about any time I'm in public.
I've read that most children go through a stage when they fantasize that the plain, ordinary people they call "mom" and "dad" aren't their real parents. Their real parents are movie stars, rockers, secret agents, or some other famous, exciting and glamorous people. They cling to the belief that some day their real parents will sweep in and rescue them from the embarrassment of "Mom" in her polyester pants. Oh yeah, today's children just think we dress dorky. They don't know the horror of pants with a sewn-in crease.
Yesterday I fantasized that a hospital official would knock on the door and say, "I'm sorry. There was a mix up in the nursery. Some children were switched at birth. These quiet, well-behaved, children who follow directions are actually yours. We'll just return those stubborn, surly kids you've been raising to their rightful parents. Sorry for the mix up."
"And by the way, Colin Firth will be along later in his Porsche to whisk you off to a private jet for a flight to a private villa in Greece, where you'll be meeting with a book publisher about your multi-million dollar contract."
Eh, as long as I'm fantasizing, might as well go all the way.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
My "I'm a bad daughter" guilt was nearing bone-crushing proportions, so I borrowed a lower-riding chariot to take the Queen Mother for a ride. The QM has always enjoyed getting out to observe the kingdom, but her current lack of "up" motion and limited ability to stand once "up" has made it impossible for her to get into either of our vehicles.
It was a combination errand/lunch/sightseeing trip and the first two went pretty well. I managed to get QM into, out of, and back into the chariot without mishap and, most importantly, the coffee shop would still be open when we finished up. I was feeling a little smug.
We drove into West Branch from the west and had nearly reached the center of town, when she asked me to drive by the bank.
After I drove by the driveway, of course.
I continued on to the corner by the post office so I could go around the block and head back the way we came. She said she wanted to see the new bank, so we retraced our seven-block route out to the western edge of town. After driving out to and around the new bank, she decided that wasn't what she was looking for.
Back into town (seven blocks) and around the "old bank." Nope, this wasn't what she was looking for either. By now we were back at the corner by the post office, which I pointed out again.
We turned south toward West Liberty, and increasingly more important, toward my stress-relieving latte.
"That new building is out this way," QM said. Nope, nothing new out this way, I said. "Yes, the new post office," she said. "It's just out this way a little bit."
I "nope, no new post office"-ed and she "yes, a little bit further"-ed the entire 3.5 miles to Downey, at which point she conceded there was no new post office out that way. To erase any doubts, we retraced our route, returning to West Branch.
Back into town. Back past the Hoover Museum. Back past the post office. Around the block one more time, bringing us full circle to the post office. We turned south to head out of town once again.
I was starting to wonder if I could take my latte to the bar two doors down for a little extra stress relief.
This time we made it 1.5 miles before she asked where the Hoover Museum was.
Back into town, past the museum, past the post office, around the block, back in front of the post office. The only one we have.
Hoping the third time would be a charm, we headed out of town to the east. While she didn't say anything, I had the feeling she thought maybe the elusive new post office was out that way. However, we made it through Springdale and all the way back to West Liberty without another mention of the you-know-what.
As we entered WL from the north, she asked me to turn west. The guilty feeling returned, and I figured a short drive around town was a small penance.
"This road goes to Iowa City, doesn't it?" she asked. Yes, I replied.
"Well, maybe that new post office is out this way."
I decided to skip the latte and head straight for the bar.
When I told the Little Princess about our drive -- with my usual understated delivery -- she was overcome by the giggles.
"Keep laughing," I said. "In about 40 years, I'll be asking you to show me the new post office."
It's good to have something to look forward to.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
A little bigger.
Since we can't have a pet, I'm thinking of petitioning His Royal Highness, the King, for a Smart Car of my very own. I have my approach all planned out:
"Look what followed me home, Honey. Isn't it cute! Can I keep it? Please, please, puhhh-leeeze?
It doesn't shed or bark, and it would be cheaper to feed than the kids. Look at those little tires, it's never going to be very big, so it won't take up as much room as the kids, either.
Remember that playhouse we never built for the Princess? We could park the Smart Car in there and she would still have room to play. Or maybe that tool shed you've always wanted. OK, that I always wanted. There'd be room for the Smart Car and the lawn mower that we don't have. And the weedwacker, and the snowblower, and the bikes....
But it might get lonely out there all by itself. We'll have to get a ticking clock or a radio to keep it company. What am I saying? It already has a radio!
Yep, it would be pretty dark and lonely out in the shed. And cold. Maybe we could fix up a place for it in the family room. I'm sure it would fit through the patio doors. We wouldn't have to worry about the carpet, either, because it's already house-trained. I mean, they do call it a Smart Car.
I promise I would take good care of it and play with it and wash it and exercise it. I'd only drive it in to town and only on paved, two-lane roads. You didn't think I was going to drive it on the interstate, did you? Pppfff. Please. Are you trying to get me killed?"
Smart Car are being marketed as super fuel-efficient. But I'm not sure how practical they are for a family. I mean, it's only a two-seater, so if I wanted to take the Little Prince and Princess with me, I'd have to make two trips. So much for saving fuel. And there's only room for about two bags of groceries in there, so I'd have to go to the store every other day.
Practical, schmactical. It's still cute.
The real reason I want a Smart Car is because last year's quest for a motor scooter was unsuccessful. I had images of me flitting around like Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday," wearing a flouncy skirt, tasteful ballet flats, a jaunty scarf around my neck.
His Royal Highness had images of me with road rash covering 90 percent of my body. He said something about me not being able to walk across the street without tripping. Coordination is so overrated.
I promised him I would always wear a helmet. (Change the image to blue and white striped sailor shirt, white capris, white Keds, white helmet. I would still be stunning.) Maybe I can sell the Smart Car as a whole-body helmet! Much safer than a scooter. As long as I don't hit a car. Or a squirrel. Or a grasshopper.
The Smart Car would also be a lot more enjoyable to drive than a scooter in the rain and cold. Snow wouldn't be a problem either.
If I got stuck in a snowbank, I could just pick up the car and carry it home.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
In an attempt to leave a more accurate record of my cheerful demeanor for posterity, today's posting will be unrelentingly positive. No more Gloomy Gus here! I'm on the lookout for silver linings. I'm fastening on my rose-colored glasses with duct tape. You've been warned.
I felt just like a Disney princess this morning as I awoke to the melodious chirping of the birds outside my window. At 4:30 a.m. The little darlings couldn't wait to herald the dawn. Oh! To live without the restraints of measured time enforcing arbitrary concepts like: sunrise isn't until 6 a.m. Oh! To be as cheerful as they, lifting my voice to greet the promise of a new day. At 4:30 a.m.
Our newspaper delivery person obviously shared the birds' joy. His concerto of car stereo, faulty muffler and door slamming brought me back to consciousness when slumber dulled my attention to the songbirds. Happy was I the birds increased their volume to ensure my rapt attention.
Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. The sun shone brightly. The grass sparkled like emeralds, tossed about by a breeze bearing greetings directly from our generous, frost-bitten brothers in Alaska. What folly to expect spring weather to be warm. Such narrow-minded thinking!
It was a perfect day to enjoy nature. Or better still, to run time-consuming errands requiring driving. If I hadn't been out on the road today I may have forgotten that just because someone puts their turn signal on, they should not feel obligated to turn. Good for you, unknown driver! Defy conventions! Turn wherever and whenever you want. Or not.
Those energetic, mucus-enhanced, exuberant youths in the dentist's waiting room? Such a pleasure to share their company! I had no idea snot bubbles could get that large. It's true, America's Got Talent!
So what if the appointment ran a little longer than expected. So what if I didn't have time to stop in at the coffee shop. Who needs a little, pick-me-up latte when they are feeling stressed? Not me. No siree. I'm high on life! I'm no slave to Mr. Caffeine or his little buddy Mr. Brown Sugar Syrup, floating around all nice and warm and smooth under a soft cloud of foamed milk.
Pardon me. It just gets so hard to type when I can't see the screen because of (snif) the tears. But, like I was saying, getting up to go after a tissue is a good thing, and ..., and ..., yes, I think I'm OK now. Because I've saved the best for last! The perfect ending to the perfect day, brought to you the Visa commercial way:
Making three trips to the softball fields because I forgot the chairs and then the team's checkbook? $1.90 in gas money. Loosing feeling in my fingers and toes because of those air-sharing Alaskans? $7.50 for ultra-delux sweatsocks. Sitting behind a dog making the exact same sounds as Snot hacking up a bone in Christmas Vacation? $25 for a new pair of jeans. (I just about wet mine laughing). Watching the Little Princess' team crush the opposition? Priceless.
Whew. A whole day of cheerful. That wasn't so bad.
But I am reminded of the old saying, "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
You are all hereby sworn to secrecy or something very near like it until I can apply for a patent, registered trademark, and copyright. I just can't decide which to do first, fill out those forms or call Billy Mays and tell him to box up all that Might Putty 'cause we're goin' big time, baby! I tell you this idea will make my name synonymous with Ron Popeil and the Ronco Pocket Fisherman. It's not just the best thing since sliced bread its..., well, it's way better.
Anyhoo, about the new idea. The mind-numbing brilliance of this invention can best be appreciated when you start with the inspiration. Get ready, 'cause you are going to bruise your butt kicking yourself for not thinking of this first. But you didn't. I did. And the title of "World's Best Inventor" is not plural.
There I was, making my leisurely commute (8-minutes in heavy traffic) from the 'burbs into the thriving metropolis for another morning of church secretary-ing. Heaven knows I am typically a model driver. I sit up straight in my seat, hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, attention focused entirely on my surroundings, radio and cell phone set to mute so as not to distract.
But that day I was slouched in my seat, left hand pointer finger curled around the steering wheel at approximately the 7:43 position, right hand cradling my travel mug of coffee which was balanced on my right leg. As I crested a hill I met a friendly Iowan, giving me a neighborly wave. By the time I adjusted my grip on my mug and raised it in a half-assed wave/toast, they were just a speck in my rear view mirror. There is no way they could have seen my friendly reply.
Unfortunately, this has happened before. There are probably tens of people, maybe even less, out there wondering who is that snotty beyatch in the black Honda and why didn't she return my wave? This is Iowa, after all, where most people drive around with one hand on top of the steering wheel in a perpetual half-wave.
I am not a beyatch. Ok, maybe I am. But I am not a non-waving beyatch. It's just the coffee, and the holding, and the timing, and the potential for spilling. It's complicated.
Oh sure, some might suggest that I stop drinking coffee while I'm driving. Hellooo, this is me we're talking about. Why not just suggest that I stop breathing while driving? Obviously another solution is needed.
Something like (drum roll) the Auto-Auto Wave. (Applause, "Ohhs" and "Ahhs" are all appropriate at this time). You'll never again fail to return a friendly greeting when you use the Automatic-Automobile Waver (patent pending, all rights reserved).
Just attach the fake hand and cleverly disguised hinge to the top of your steering wheel. A rod made of space age polymers connects the stub end of the (fake) hand to an comfortable and stylish harness on the driver's (real) knee. All it takes is a gentle wiggle of the leg to cause the hand to raise up off the steering wheel in... a friendly wave!
Never again be thought of as inconsiderate. Show the world what a friendly person you are. Make someone's day with a cheerful greeting.
But wait! Call now and we'll include the Auto-Naughto Wave for those times when you don't need to use all five fingers to get the message across.
Because one good turn deserves another, but cutting me off in traffic deserves it more.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
We call those rare, beautifully warm, late autumn days "Indian Summer," so why not have some nickname for those brief stretches of warm weather in early-early spring? Those days that trick us into putting away the snow pants, boots, heavy coats, hats, mittens and flannel jammies. Those intoxicatingly sunny days that Mother Nature follows up with a smack upside the head mix of snow, rain and wind? Or as I like to call it, Crap In A Cloud.
It fools me every year. A couple of nice, warm days and I move the turtlenecks to the bottom of the drawer. The Little Princess fell for it this year, too. Every morning for a week I had to send her back to her room to change into long pants and real shoes. Finally, with my Mom of the Year stock falling faster than the S&P 500, I let her wear her flip flops to school.
It snowed that day. Not much, but still.
That was also the day I also sent the Little Prince to school without his hat or gloves. I'm sure there were a few non-Mom teachers who were eying that Child Protective Services speed-dial button on their phones. On the up-side, the children now listen to my weather predictions with awe and reverence and don't even roll their eyes when I tell them to put on long sleeves.
Global warming be darned, this is not a new weather trick. When I was a kid, those first few warm spring days would lure all the little old ladies out of their houses to putter around in their yards. They'd rake leaves off flower beds and pick up sticks, their floral house dresses and chiffon scarves ruffled by gentle breezes.
Then in a colossal April Fools joke, Mother Nature would laugh, turn the thermostat back to 35 degrees and crank up the wind machine. The ladies would venture out again, floral hems peeking out from beneath woolen overcoats, knit scarves securing the chiffon scarves, rubber overshoes flopping about their ankles as they replaced the Styrofoam igloos covering the roses and spread sheets over tender flower buds.
Today their counterparts wear shiny, bead-dazzled warm up suits and flock to the casinos. You can't blame them, the weather in there is much better.
Fool me once spring weather, shame on you. Fool me over and over again and obviously we need government intervention. A task force must be assembled, funds must be appropriated, commissions appointed. But first we need a catchy title, which I would be glad to furnish (for a small consultant's fee, of course).
"Fake Spring" is brief and to the point, but a little harsh. "Faux Spring" has a nicer ring, but is a bit snobbish and hoity-toity. It needs to be a name that captures the essence of promises made, but not made good.
Like Politician Spring. Or more accurately, Candidate Spring.
Maybe even Office of Spring-Elect.