Monday, November 7, 2011

Weathering My Moods

My Grandparents had a “Mood Barometer” hanging in their enclosed breezeway. It was a round, wooden plaque, about six inches across, decorated with cheerful, tole painted flowers. The names of several different moods were written around the outer rim and a little red arm fixed to the center could be rotated to point at any of the moods.

I don't remember if it had Grandma's name on it or not, but it was understood that the barometer showed her mood just as it was understood that the quarter affixed to the glass in the window of the door next to it showed Grandpa's sense of humor. He had won the quarter in a friendly bet, and glued it there as a constant reminder to his unlucky friend. The Mood Barometer may have been another example of his mischief, but given the longevity of their marriage, I doubt it.

By the time I came along, Grandma and Grandpa were in their late 60s (which isn't nearly as old now as it was then), and babysitting me was quite a change from their regular routine. After getting on Grandma's last nerve, I would head out to the garage to bother Grandpa.

As I passed through the breezeway I would usually stop and move the barometer hand to “Grumpy.” If Grandpa caught me he'd chuckle and say “Ohhhh, we can't leave it that way. That would make Mommy cross.” This only supported my assessment, but I would dutifully move the little red pointer back to “Happy” or “Loving,” as Grandpa suggested.

I thought of that barometer as I was driving in to town this morning.

The long, long list of things that I need to get done was running through my head, at odds with the limits of a 24-hour day. The more I thought about it, the bigger the black cloud of crabbiness surrounding me grew. I really should warn people when I'm this crabby, I thought. I need Grandma's Mood Barometer, or maybe I should just wear a button that says “Warning: Crabby.”

I imagined how my kids would react to this idea and started to laugh. The high pressure system moved out, crabby clouds parted and all murderous thoughts cleared. The arrow on my mood barometer swung to “Happy.”

When I picked up the Princess after school, I told her about my idea for the warning button. She didn't say anything.

“I figure you and the Little Prince would probably make me wear it all the time,” I laughed.

She didn't answer.

“Um, so, what do you think?” I asked.

After a long pause she looked at me, sighed, then turned her attention back to the road.

“I was thinking you should have it embroidered on all your shirts.”

I'm sensing a drop in barometric pressure.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reporting from the Uncommon Cold Front

Officials from The University of Iowa, US Center for Disease Control and NASA confirmed today that an Iowa woman had been quarantined with an uncommon strain of the common cold.

“It's not like anything we've ever seen before,” Dr. Gus Undheit, UIHC, said. “Really. It's snot like nothing ever reported.”

The hallmark of this uncommon cold appears to be a particularly viscous strain of mucus. “It's like rubber cement right out of the bottle, but with more elasticity,” Undheit explained.

“And more slimey,” added CDC spokesperson Tia Shue. “It's just plain gross.”

Researchers have dubbed the new virus “Yo-yo Cold,” in light of the progression of symptoms and the stretchy nature of the mucus.

“It began as congestion in the left sinus cavity, advanced to irritation of the throat, and then lodged in the upper respiratory system,” Undheit recounted. “Just when we thought it was under control, it reversed direction, once again irritating the throat before withdrawing up into the right sinus cavity. It's a tenacious little booger.”

The mucus reportedly also displays enhanced tensile qualities in resisting the patient's efforts of blow it out via nasal extraction.

“The mucus seems to originate so deep in the nasal cavities, it has actually grabbed hold of and wrapped itself around the patient's brain stem,” Undheit says. “Any attempts to remove it by force – by blowing her nose – causes the mucus to respond like a recoil starter on a lawn mower. As the lead end of the mucus advances out the nostrils, the main stream of mucus uncoils, spinning the brain at approximately 33 1/3 RPM. Just when we think we have a tissue full – fwoop! A goodly portion snaps back into the sinus cavity, slapping the brain stem silly. Obviously she becomes quite light headed and dizzy.”

“It's really weird, man,” a lab assistant reported on condition of anonymity and the promise of an extra-large box of lotion tissues and a warm blanky. “I listened to a recording of the blow played backwards, and I heard a voice saying 'the walrus is Paul'.”

It was the extreme elasticity of the mucus that captured the attention of NASA officials. In light of recent budget cuts, researchers for the space program have been struggling to find low-cost alternatives to the conventional solid fuel rocket engines used for launches. Unconfirmed rumors suggest researchers plan to use the mucus to create a giant sling shot.

“Currently she's producing more than enough mucus to create a new sling shot every day,” said Robert Band, who claims to be a NASA spokesperson. “We have high expectorantations for Operation Sling Snot.” Other NASA officials claim not to know Band.

Government officials would neither confirm nor deny reports that the virus is being considered for use as a low-tech, non-lethal biological weapon.

“It would certainly be an effective way to incapacitate the enemy,” General N. Fluenza said. “It would be really easy to track infected enemy combatants by their tissue trail, too. But this illness makes the affected very crabby, and a crabby enemy is an unstable enemy. And our enemies are unstable enough as it is.”

Senators Conrad Gestion and Dray Nage, (I; CO, FL) unrecognized members of the Senate Committee on Ethics issued the following joint statement on the subject:

“Mild as it may be, knowingly infecting a sentient being with this communicable contagion would be an unspeakable act of cruelty, bringing to mind Nazi experiments on par with the horror of the small pox epidemic unseen since the proliferation of Disco and home perms. In short, at this pivotal point in mans' epic struggle for humanity, clarity and freedom from personal responsibility, it would be irresponsible and reprehensible to introduce this particular weapon in the ongoing, unending and literal, Cold War.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Life's A Ditch

Things I Learned From Putting My Car In The Ditch This Morning:

1. A light skiff of snow on top of ice may make the roads may be a bit slippery. Duh.

2. Anti-lock brakes do not guarantee an anti-slide car.

3. Swearing will not make your tires suddenly gain traction. It doesn't matter if you are slowly sliding toward the back end of someone's van, slowly sliding the passenger-side tires of your car into the ditch, or slowly trying to drive out of the half-ditch position (in low gear). Swearing will not change any of this. No matter how creative it is. Trust me.

4. On the other hand, swearing as you walk 0.3 miles into a "there's a blizzard comin'-"force wind will keep you warm. (Thank you, kind Samaritan for giving me a ride the rest of the way home!)

5. It's not enough to merely think "Gee, I really need to make sure I put my cell phone in my purse before I leave." You need to actually put your cell phone into your purse.

6. Mom was right: you should always take along a hat, gloves and boots when driving in winter. Even if you are only going a mile and a half into town. Not even going to speculate on the clean underwear advice.

7. Wow. I am really out of shape.

8. It's much easier to walk 0.8 miles with a "there's a blizzard comin'-"force wind at your back, as you swear and stomp back to meet the tow truck.

9. Wow. I am really out of shape. Wheeze, gasp, wheeze.

10. Swearing and stomping 0.8 miles with a "there's a blizzard comin'-"force wind at your back will give you time to calm down (a little) and put things into perspective. You will think deep thoughts such as: "I would have never know this was a 0.8 mile walk if it weren't for Googlemaps directions and navigational systems"; "Who knew pheasants made that funny sound when they fly"; "Whenever I vow to stick to a schedule and be less flexible crap like this happens"; And, "Dang, I could have made an easy buck if I'd brought a trash bag with me to collect cans".

11. The air is really, really fresh and invigorating when driven by a "there's a blizzard comin'-"force wind.

12. I may have to stop using the cold weather as an excuse not to exercise. Wearing snow boots, snow pants, a sweat shirt, coat, mittens, scarf, and a mad bomber-style hat -- and swearing -- will keep you surprisingly warm.

13. There is a good reason why I give up swearing for Lent. Every friggin' year.

14. If you put your car in the ditch before the blizzard hits, the tow truck response time is really quick!

15. Someone in the legal department at tow truck headquarters has a good sense of humor. I know this because the waiver I signed said "I acknowledge that I have put my vehicle in a situation not intended by the manufacturer." Ya think?

16. Seeing that the fateful, slippery intersection has been freshly sanded three hours after you've been pulled out of the ditch will not make you feel any better.

16. Neither will reading your horoscope three and a half hours after being pulled out of the ditch, only to find the stars recommend (honest!) "It's a good time to stay home."

Now they tell me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just Another Service Moms Offer

Dear Princess,

I know that I have annoyed you. Yes, despite your best efforts to hide your feelings this morning as you stomped down the stairs, then turned to glare at me before slamming the door, I picked up a subtle vibe of unhappiness.

By the way, the foul cloud of doom that followed you as you drug your backpack to the drive way left scorch marks across the lawn. A skull and crossbones is permanently etched in brimstone where you stood and grumbled while waiting for the bus. I can only hope the heat of your ire didn't permanently weld the doors of the bus shut.

I know you think I'm being unreasonable. You can not understand why (yet again!) I have not given in to the argument that "everyone else gets to." Or its corollary, "no one else has to." Or the "no one else's mom does that" argument. Or the "that's so unfair" argument. You have yet to play the "I hate you" trump card (out loud), but let me advise you, that won't work either.

I annoy you because I love you. There are spoiled-rotten children everywhere who would love to have a Mom that annoys them. No, I don't have any proof of that, but my "Mom-sense" tingles whenever I see a pack of teens roaming the mall texting the person walking next to them because they can't carry on a conversation with ear buds in and the volume turned up so loud I can hear it over the music pouring out of Abercrombie and Fitch. Sure, they're all giggles and smiles on the outside, but inside they are crying out for a Mom Who Says No.

I took the full series of "Annoying Mom" classes at Mom School: "Annoying Mom 101," "How to Annoy Simply by Breathing," "Advanced Annoyance Techniques," and "Annoying Moms in History" (George Washington's mom annoyed him, and look how well he turned out! On the other hand, the vast array of current pop culture "celebrities" is evidence of a decline in the ranks of Annoying Mothers.)

I graduated at the top of my class. SummAnnoy Cum Laude. The Queen Mother, an Annoying Mom herself, was so proud. We come from a long line of Annoying Moms. It's that strong German heritage -- big butts and Annoying Moms.

All those tales you've told me of other people who have "lost this expensive, electronic gadget," "broken that expensive, electronic gadget," "had such and such expensive, electronic gadget taken away," have put me on High Annoyance Alert. I never got to take even a single expensive, electronic gadget to school. Granted, that was because the carrier pigeons weren't housebroken and the console stereo didn't have wheels.

Some day you'll thank me.

No, not really.

That's just something they taught me to say in "Annoying Mom 101."

Some day you will forget about this. Yes, really. Of course, it will be only because I will have moved on to bigger and better ways to annoy you.

But I hope you will remember I only annoy you because I want you to grow up to be responsible and well adjusted, without having to mortgage the house or sell your little brother to help pay for repairs and replacement plans.

And because I love you.

What could be more annoying than that?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Snooze Year Eve

Every party needs a pooper. That's why my family keeps me.

By some strange twist of fate, the New Year arrived without me on hand to toot a horn, raise a toast or toss confetti. I was snug as a bug in my bed by the time the calendar switched over -- in Nova Scotia.

I haven't been a big fan of New Year's Eve since I matured enough to realize it combines two of the things I dislike most: cold weather and staying up late. Add the potential for a hangover and you get the anti-fun trifecta.

Sure, I remember when I thought I had, had, HAD to go out on New Year's Eve. But eventually the complimentary sip of warm champagne and $5 cover charge for the chance to pack the bar with the other sardines -- I mean revelers -- just lost its luster. Did I mention how cold it gets in Iowa on January 1? Or how we always had to park and hike to find a bar that wasn't over capacity (or pretended they weren't)?

Not all my New Year's Eve memories are bad. There was that time in Jr. High when Princess (now Queen) K. fell off the top bunk because she was laughing so hard at Slim Whitman singing "Una Paloma Blanca --ahh AHH" (on the Johnny Carson show, on the black and white portable TV). I believe that was followed up by running out into the front yard to shout New Year's greetings into the peaceful, frosty, Iowa night sky.

Only to realize that it was midnight in New York.

Not Iowa.

Our bad.

You see, that's the thing about New Year's eve that has always rubbed me the wrong way. Why should New York get to celebrate it at 11 p.m.? You get all excited watching the ball drop in Times' Square, and then you have to sit around waiting for another hour. It just kind of loses its luster. I mean, it could be worse. We could be in California. Those poor saps have to wait two whole hours to toss their confetti. By then Times' Square is just a barren wasteland.

Think about it.

Anyway, I woke up this New Year's Eve morning with a resolution to make New Years fun for the Little Prince and Princess.

At 10:30 a.m., when I searched for "Fun New Year's Eve Crafts" online, I fully intended to stay up until midnight.

At 1:30 p.m., when I was shopping for snacks and craft supplies with the entire population of Eastern Iowa, I fully intended to stay up until midnight.

At 3:30 p.m., when I stopped at yet another store to search for the sparkling grape juice that EVERY store was selling last week but which I didn't buy then because "pffft, you can get that anywhere," became "arrgh, you can get that anywhere, but not at 3:30 p.m. New Year's Eve," I still fully intended to stay up until midnight.

At 5:15 p.m. when I was the only family member still gluing sequins on the "Festive New Year's Eve" sparkle ball, the craft billed as "simple fun for the whole family," I fully intended to stay up until midnight to enjoy the heck out of my sparkly handiwork.

At 7 p.m., when I realized the TV offerings on New Year's Eve were pretty slim, I started to have my doubts, but I still fully intended to stay up until midnight.

At 8:30 p.m., when the King fell victim to the power of the Puppy Dog Eyes and let me watch "Men In Black" again, I still fully intended to stay up until midnight.

At 9 p.m., when I made the fatal mistake of stretching out on the couch to watch "Men in Black" again, I wasn't so sure I still fully intended to stay up until midnight.

At 9:53 p.m., when the credits started to roll on "Men in Black," I was up the stairs and in my jammies quicker than you can say "Arquillian Battle Cruiser."

I guess you could say I beat those New Yorkers at their own game.

Happy New Year from me and Nova Scotia.