Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Press One Now

This is your 358th notice that we are trying to waste your time with some special offer that you have absolutely no desire to hear about or respond to.

Your factory warranty, that you didn't know you had, on your outstanding credit card debt of an outrageous amount that we totally made up just to get your attention is set to expire soon. We know we told you that when we called the first time and every time since then, but this time we really mean it.

We need you to call your congressman, neighbors and everyone else you ever met in order to get this vital legislation passed. Please hang on the line to listen to a short, 30-minute recording that will make absolutely no sense but is designed to mentally beat you into submission so that by the time it is finished you will beg for the opportunity to send us any amount of money just to make us go away.

We know we interrupted your dinner, caught you just as you were walking out the door or on your way to the bathroom, or woke you up from your nap. We know that you are standing there with a toothbrush in your mouth and foam dribbling down your chin, or counting the seconds until the smoke alarm goes off because you left dinner to burn on the stove hoping this might be that important phone call you've been waiting for all day. We think this will make you more receptive to our sales approach.

We realize the only reason you are still on the line is that you think we will give you the opportunity to have to your name taken off the list. Before we get to that option we will continue to drone on and on about how your life, the lives of those around you, your money, and the fate of the entire United States is at danger without the excellent protection we offer. By now you have probably forgotten what this offer was even about. That is probably for the best.

To find out how we can fleece -- I mean help -- you, please press one now. You will be put on hold until you can be connected to a bored customer service representative who may or may not speak English, but who will be extremely angry that you interrupted his or her game of Spider Solitaire. He or she will hang up rudely if you say that you want to be taken off our call list for this spectacular, once in a lifetime opportunity which you will receive calls about every day for the rest of your life and even longer than that. Do not even try to argue with them. They are lifeless pod people who are paid by the hour, not by the response. They are not actually listening to you and couldn't care less about your response.

If you wish to be taken off our contact list, tough nuts to you. You can press two if it will make you feel better, but this will not accomplish anything. You may get a recording that says you will be taken off our list. This is a lie. Pressing two will just put you on our re-call list, because obviously you didn't realize what a wonderful program this is and how it will make your life richer and more fulfilling. We will continue to call until you surrender your soul and sign up.

Thank you, and have a nice day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Get Away Replay

Things I learned in Chicago:

1. Kindergarteners are nothing like piranhas. According to the Shedd Aquarium guide, the whole wild, thrashing, feeding frenzy, little fish taking down a cow thing is a piranha myth. Sort of. He said that was the impression given to Teddy Roosevelt during a trip to the Amazon, but what T. R. didn't know was that the piranha he observed had not been fed for a week. Makes sense, I'm a little cranky myself without my latte, which brings me to (quite possibly the most important thing I learned)...

2. The coffee you brew in the hotel room is nas-T. Ew. Even the memory is bitter. (HA! That was a good one. I'm pun-stoppable!) I don't even want to think about when that pot was last washed. Still, that was all that stood between me and a mythic piranha frenzy, because...

3. They charge out the whazoo for coffee at that hotel. Me, pay $3 for a cuppa plain Joe? Uh, what part of "Say Wha?" don't they understand? BTW, everything else at the Four Points by Sheraton (on Rush St.) was excellent, including it's proximity to...

4. Starbucks! That's right, the Mother Ship was on the corner. Perfect, no? No. What were all those people doing there at 9:30 a.m.? Doesn't anyone in downtown Chicago work? And don't they have coffee makers at home and/or work? Helloooo, I was on vacation. It wasn't like I had all morning to stand around waiting for my latte. Fortunately this was after I had learned that piranhas don't attack or I would have bitten someone, despite my new-found peace and tranquility acquired dirt cheap at...

5. Trader Joe's! Yes, Trader Joe's Market was squished in between the hotel and The-Pit-of-Desperation-Formerly-Known-As-Starbucks. Yay! I now have my very own, genuine Trader Joe's canvas shopping bag. At last I can show all the plebeians at Hy Vee how incredibly cool I am. I may even start walking around downtown Iowa City, just because! I am one of the beautiful people now. Bask in my hipness.

Oh yes, Trader Joe's had a full variety of Three Buck Chuck. TBC has restored respectability and good taste (that tastes good!) to a price range of wine whose reputation has been sullied by the likes of Mad Dog 20/20, Boone's Farm, and Night Train. But not everything at TJ's is good, for instance...

6. Using Trader Joe's Premium Quality Facial Tissues featuring 100% recycled paper is like blowing your nose on sandpaper. And I don't mean the Super Fine Finishing Grit, either. The King and I both know this because we were both hit with the Mother Of All Colds just as we backed out of the driveway. If you have not yet experienced the kick-assedness of this particular virus, you will soon. If you stop reading this blog every 30 seconds so you can blow your nose or pop another aspirin, you know what I'm talking about. You have my sympathy. 'Nuff said.

7. Speaking of kick-assedness: A couple of 20-oz. beers at ESPN Zone in the afternoon makes shopping sooooo much more fun!

8. Speaking of shopping and beers: Unfortunately there still is no bar/lounge at the American Girl Store although, as the King pointed out, sales would sky rocket if the Dad's didn't have to schlep around the place whining like little children (Can we go yet?). Also conspicuously absent: the "Molly's First Drunken Party" play set.

9. Speaking of All-American, I dragged the Royal Family to the top of the Sear's Tower. Yes they still call it that, although Sears hasn't owned it for quite a while as they point out in the pre-flight movie. Those are some fast elevators. I loved the view! The Prince and Princess? Not so much.

10. What else can I say? Great time. Definitely deserves the "Windy" nickname. Excellent pizza at Pizzeria Due (across from Starbucks!). Had to drag the family (especially the husband) out of the Museum of Science and Industry.

Can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trippin' Over Tripping

I've been planning a short getaway for the Royal Family. I must say, if the allies had spent a proportional amount of time planning D-Day, it would have been called Z-Day and we would all be wearing lederhosen.

We're talking three, four days tops. To Chicago. It's not like we'll be spending a year in Zimbabwe. We don't even have to get passports. Do we? (Note to self, check on passport requirements for Illinois. You can never be too prepared.)

Yes. yes you can be too prepared. I passed too prepared a long time ago. I just didn't realize it until I Googled "Corner Bakery, Chicago" then wished I had done that before booking the hotel. (Looks like the nearest one is a good four blocks away. I suppose the walk might offset the calories from the blueberry muffins.) And I'm not even sure "Corner Bakery" is the right name. I just remember seeing a lot of them, they were all on corners, and they all featured a bakery.

It should not take four days to plan a four-day trip. Especially not when the big attractions are all set: Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, and Michigan Avenue. With the power of the internet at my fingertips, you'd think planning would be a breeze.

And it is. But the internet also makes over-planning a breeze. Each attraction has its own web site showcasing and highlighting and encouraging you to Plan Your Visit! I've taken so many virtual tours, I'm not sure I need to see the real thing.

I've downloaded maps, planning routes through the exhibits I think the Prince and Princess (and His Royal Kingness) will most enjoy. I've saved us valuable museum time that would otherwise be wasted standing around looking lost and arguing over where to go next, or how to find the nearest bathrooms.

Except that you know nothing will go according to plan.

First off, I'll probably forget the maps in the car and not think about them until we've hiked half a mile from the parking lot to the lobby. Oh yes, I Googled parking, directions to the parking lots, and parking prices, too. If I could reserve a parking spot, I would.

I've planned around the permanent, temporary and closed exhibits as listed on the web sites, but it would just be my luck for Sue, the T-Rex, to be out for dusting. Or for me to be the only one excited to see SUE!!! The T-REX!!!

I've used a nearly scientific method of determining the likes and dislikes of the Royals, based on their likes and dislikes for seven-, 11- and 40 some odd-years. But you never know when someone will suddenly develop a previously unexpressed desire to see the obscurest of the obscure. Like a collection of Chinese rubbings. Which is not on my list.

In the end, all my planning may be for naught. We may not face the same hurdles near 12th Street Beach that they did at Omaha Beach, but it could get pretty ugly. Especially if I don't get to see SUE!! The T-REX!!

Of if Corner Bakery isn't within walking distance.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Lightning" Up for Lent

So here we are in week three of Lent, and I'm, uh, still deciding on a penance.

Whew! Did anyone else feel that lightning bolt strike? It seemed so... close. Like it was... right beside me.

Maybe "still deciding" is a little strong. I've pretty much, like 95% of the time, except in times of extreme duress, given up pop. Or soda. If you narrow that down to "cola," my success rate goes up to 98%. It feels like a hollow victory, though, because cutting out pop would have been my New Years' resolution, if I made resolutions. Which I don't.

At Cathecism class I announced my plan to quit swearing. Unfortunately, for this to be possible I'd have to give up driving. And cooking. And my accounting class. And, well, pretty much everything.

The problem is that everything I consider as a penance either has unintended consequences, or isn't much of a sacrifice.

His Royal Highness, the King Husband, has suggested I give up coffee. I tried to explain that if this were to happen I would also have to give up the Prince and Princess as they wouldn't be allowed to visit me in the Big House which is where I would be after I killed someone (most likely him) in a rage created by caffeine withdrawal.

I could give up TV, but I never get to pick the shows anyway. I'm not sure giving up Disney Channel would count as a sacrifice.

I could give up being a smart ass. Ha! Oh, that was a good one! Woo hoo hoo! But seriously. No.

I could give up being right all the time. But that's not really a sacrifice on my behalf. It's not like I enjoy being right. It's a burden.

I could stop giving other drivers advice, but they don't seem to take it anyway. And they really, really need it.

I suppose at this late date, I should stick with giving up pop. Besides, drinking a Coke is soooo much more tempting when I think of it as a sacrifice, instead of just something to avoid.

And Lent is all about sacrifice and temptation, right?

And I'm all about the loopholes. St. Peter's going to have to meet me at the Pearly Gates with a squadron of lawyer angels. Of course, if the jokes are true, the lawyers will be stationed elsewhere.

Was that thunder I heard?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Not So Static Cling

When the Prince and Princess were wee little ones, they would occasionally have "clingy" days. All they wanted, all day long, was to be held, rocked cuddled, and played with. In short, to be the center of Mom's attention all the time, all day long.

Now that they are asserting their independence, they can go nearly all day without needing dear old Mom. That is unless they need food, clean clothes, or a ride somewhere. Mom can referee the game, but she can't play it.

Back in the day, I used to get so frustrated thinking about all the things I wasn't getting done: the laundry, the cleaning, the dishes. I used to long for the day I could use the bathroom by myself. I still do. Nothing draws a crowd quite like heading off to the throne room with a good book.

These days I have a lot more time to myself to do chores. Just mention the possibility of work and the children who were about to die of boredom miraculously find something to do. I feel a bit like the Little Red Hen, if she had been a washerwoman instead of a baker. I wash the clothes, I fold the clothes, I put the clothes away, but everyone wants to get them dirty!

Yesterday was a throwback.

Yesterday was a "clingy" day.

The little Prince had two teeth pulled, and he needed a little TLC. On his own terms, of course. He didn't want hugs or cuddles. But he did want Mom to fix his drinks and snacks.

He didn't want Mom to hover, but he did want to have contact every 15 minutes or so. He needed to ask me a question, to give me an update on his Wii scores, to show me his latest creation. Short, but frequent interruptions that made it nearly impossible to concentrate on the work I'd brought home, or my on-line accounting class, or on finishing that book I was reading.

When the little Princess arrived home from school, she sensed the game and upped the ante by wanting not only my attention, but my participation. She wanted to know where the finger nail polish was and if I would paint her nails. The Prince countered by needed help finding the teeth that he had kept in his possession all day long. The Princess needed help with her homework. The Prince wanted to read with me. The Princess couldn't figure out how to use the TV guide by herself. They both took a sudden interest in learning how to cook and needed to be right beside me while I was making dinner.

I wish I could say I put aside all my chores and basked in their attention -- with a smile on my face. I wish I could say I didn't obsess over all the things I wasn't getting done. I wish I could say we all sat on the couch together and cuddled and read a book. Yeah, right, like that would happen.

I wish I could say I didn't snap at them out of frustration when they wanted me help them get ready for bed. I wish I could say I didn't feel relieved after hugging and kissing and tucking them in. Finally, a little alone time!

I wish I could say that relief didn't quickly turn to guilt. I wish it wasn't then that I realized how few and far between these "clingy" days were, and that they won't last forever.

I wish that evil little part of me hadn't thought "Someday, children. Someday I will have my revenge, and you will be waiting on me hand and foot!"

I wish that thought hadn't grown: "Someday I'll ask you to delete the messages on my voice mail, and I'll ask you to explain -- for the umpteenth time -- how to do that. I'll ask you to move a picture just a fraction of an inch, putting it right back where it was the last time I asked you to move it. I'll show you the angel I think someone just brought me, because I won't remember it's the one you gave me for Christmas."

I wish I hadn't realized those "clingy" days won't last forever either.

Touche', Queen Mother. Well played.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Vanity Is My Name-o

I'm depressed.

Blue, sad, in a funk. Add to that irritated and annoyed. All over a photograph.

Well, not just any photograph. The photograph. Quite possibly the defining photograph of my life. The photograph that divides my life into two distinct, separate parts: Happy Me and Sad Me.

Why allow a photograph to wound so deeply? It's not just the picture, although it is one baaaad picture, let me tell you. What really bothers me is how much it bothers me.

Let's start with the picture itself. Ohhh, is it bad. So bad, that if it wasn't of me, I would laugh. With evil glee. Then, after snorting and wiping the tears from my eyes, I'd say, "Oh, poor dear. What an awful picture. She's really much better looking than that." Then I'd start laughing again.

There are logical reasons for my thinking it is a bad picture. I know there are, because I Googled it. That's how upset I was. According to on-line experts, this photo looks different than the me I see in the mirror because "blah, blah, blah, 3-dimension, 2-dimension, flip-flopping right and left sides, yadda, yadda, yadda." Or something like that.

I blame poor angle, poor lighting and poor caffeination. The photographer (who obviously hates me, although I don't know why) shot this from slightly below eye level, guaranteeing a good view of the turkey waddle starting to form under my chin. The crappy lighting forced the use of a flash and the red-eye eliminator pre-flash, guaranteeing a mid-blink picture of any contact lens wearer.

And it was taken after 8:30 a.m. Mass, so I had drank just one cup of half-caff an hour earlier and was running on fumes. Probably fumes from the decaff-half.

Oh, did I mention that this marvelous photo was going to be in the church directory? The adult equivalent of, say, a yearbook? I should be glad I didn't have a mondo-huge zit or that I wasn't wearing my "I'm with stupid" t-shirt. You'd think -- with the photo being shot in a church and all -- that God would have taken pity on me. But apparently he was siding with the photographer.

This brings me to part two of why the picture bothers me so much:

I can't believe it bothers me so much!

How vain! Who is this vain person obsessing over a silly picture? I'm not that vain! Am I?

Am I?

Crap. The truth sucks.

It double sucks, because not only have I been smacked upside the head with my own vanity, I finally have to admit that yes, I do look as old as my high school classmates. Let me tell you, some of them look like the birthday fairy beat the youth right out of them.

Holy Crow's Feet, Batman!

Of course, I only saw a poor quality, black and white, proof sheet copy of the photo. Everyone knows those are crap. And I'd been feeling a little under the weather. A little flu-ish. That would explain why I look so tired. Did I mention Mass starts at 8:30 a.m.? And that I haven't been sleeping well?

That part about my high school classmates looking old, you know I didn't mean you, right? Just those other people.

The old-looking ones.


'Cause you and I? We still look go-od.

Maybe even mahvelous.

If the lighting is right.