Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don't Hate Me Because I'm So Accomplished!

You might assume my days pass in a pleasant orgy of sleeping late, leisurely lunches, shopping jags and tv watching, due to the fact that I'm not currently working outside the home.  Not true!  (Except for the tv part...)  In reality, I'm up early and on some days, just raring to go.

Take yesterday, for example.  Here is what I had already accomplished by the time I deposited Thing 2 on the school bus at 8:45 a.m.:

  • Self administered three intravenous cups of coffee.
  • Called out the name of a recalcitrant Thing 2 approximately 100 times - the first three times tenderly, the next five times sweetly, and the next 92 times with my teeth clenched, choking back increasing degrees of impatience, fury and desperation.  (By the way, I love the word "recalcitrant" and so rarely have the opportunity to use it - so thank you).
  • Read a chapter from The Psychological and Social Impact of Illness and Disability for my social work class.  Yes indeed.
  • Forgot everything I read in the chapter from The Psychological and Social Impact of Illness and Disability.
  • Cleaned out my refrigerator, including scrubbing the syrup-encrusted shelves and throwing out three months' worth of science experiments.  The last time I cleaned the fridge was in late May, the day after losing my job.  At the time I worried that without a paycheck, DH would want to replace me with a younger and more employable model - so I sought to prove that I was still the workhorse he married by scouring and purging. 
  • Cleaned out the bowl of the FISH THAT JUST WON'T DIE.  I won't go into what this entails, but suffice it to say that if I ever invite you to dinner at my house, don't eat the steamed broccoli.  (I warned you).
  • Made lunch for Thing 2.  I won't have to do this again tomorrow because he will bring home the same lunch -- untouched -- at the end of the day and I will slip it back into his knapsack tomorrow. 
          It's a pretty efficient system until the Wonder Bread starts growing mold.

  • Washed last night's pots and pans and put them in the dish drain.  Where they will remain until I cook dinner again next year, completely circumventing the need for kitchen cabinets.
  • Rearranged the papers on my kitchen counter (for a more detailed explanation of my officially sanctioned method of filing, see

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Wrong Hummingbird

In the 13 years I have been living in this loveshack, moneypit house and staring blankly out the window at the yard, I had never seen a hummingbird. I had seen monarch and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, hummingbird hawk moths, bumblebees and goldfinch, even the occasional deer and possum. Until yesterday.

Midmorning I spied a hummingbird hovering by my purple butterfly bush and I got so excited that I ran outside to take a closer look. But it was the WRONG hummingbird.

I vaguely recalled that only one species of hummingbird is common in the Northeast and this one - with its brown body -- didn't look the way I remembered from pictures I had seen. So I consulted and this is what I learned:

"East of the Mississippi, it is well-known that there is only one expected hummingbird--the familiar Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Ruby-throateds typically arrive in April and the bulk have departed by the first of October. However, any hummingbird seen after about 15 October is more likely to be a rare western species than a Ruby-throated!"

My visitor didn't look like a ruby-throated hummingbird and it wasn't yet October 15, when these "rare western species" arrive. And, in comjunction with the record 113 degree heat recorded in LA several days ago and the shocking news that Lindsay Lohan has re-entered rehab, I am wondering whether this sighting represents something more sinister than a mere hummingbird gone awry. Something like The End of Days.

You be the judge. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Report from the Bison Aisle at the A&P

I managed to convince myself that my reluctance to buy a package of either "ground bison" or "bison medaillon steaks" at the supermarket was because neither was marked with a price and there was no butcher handy to let me know how much they cost. 

But upon further reflection I realized that I was not experimental enough -- from a food perspective -- to try to figure out how to cook bison, nor persuasive enough to convince DH and Thing 2 to eat the hairy beast.  I don't know precisely where bison roam (in my mind it is probably where no Jew has ever gone before) and while I could certainly google that, it would take time away from more important daily tasks, like updating my Facebook status and obsessing about my vacuum cleaner attachments.

Although I have long assumed that if I were ever home for an extended period I would be cooking and baking up a storm like a "real" wife (including fresh challah every Friday and all kinds of comfort foods come the cold weather), four months later we are still winging it with Triscuits on Shabbat and warmed over pizza bagels and ice cream when we need comfort.

I thought that I wasn't a very creative or enthusiastic cook because I didn't have the time.  Now I know that it's just not in me.  And neither, tonight, is the bison.

Monday, September 27, 2010

All I Really Need to Know I Learned at the Townwide Garage Sale

I am a garage sale fanatic, meaning that I enjoy sprinting across people's dewy lawns at dawn to rummage through their underwear, Tupperware and Mikasa wedding crystal.  Some of my friends consider this intrusive and disgusting (particularly the Mikasa).  But I've also learned a lot about life by interacting with my neighbor's castaways and I'd like to share some of this wisdom with you:
  • The 1970s weren't a particularly good idea.  The idea that they weren't a good idea is catching on.

  • You should know your friends really well before gifting them with anything meaningful.  The feeling may not be mutual.  I realized this when I found a copy of The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood - that wonderful ode to female friendship - inscribed with a heartfelt "To Our Own Ya Ya Sisterhood" and tossed by its "giftee" owner onto the 50 cent table.

    Three Bucks
  • Howard Stern's Private Parts is the most discarded book in New Jersey. I don't know whether this makes me proud or ashamed of my state.

  • You need to peel back the onion to get to know your neighbors.  Like the prodigiously tatooed Goth women with pure white skin and jet black hair who was selling both VHS chain saw slasher movies AND baby blue Smurfs.

  • Nothing announces "The shop is closed" to the broader neighborhood quite like attaching a "$1.00 or Best Offer" sign to your breast pump.  
  • You can never have too many Star Trek or Tweety Bird glasses.

  • Don't trust people who claim that their electronic items "work."  They are lying.  THEY ARE LYING.  I don't know if this is particularly endemic to people selling waffle irons (we bought one on two separate occasions) and you may wonder why we didn't ask them to plug the machine in before handing over our three bucks (twice!), but it's not easy to convince a stranger to make you Belgian waffles on their driveway. (Believe me, I tried).

  • Life is full of surprises and you may find a surprise in the cracked Jason Bay bobblehead with tomato sauce on its base.  But you probably won't.
Heaven on a Lawn
Come with me on my dream vacation - 75% off!
The World's Longest Yard Sale

Friday, September 24, 2010

What if you could have a second chance?

Given that today is the scheduled release of "Money Never Sleeps" - the sequel to Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" -  I've  been thinking about financial matters A LOT.  And the thought of finances - shady or otherwise - brings to mind Donald Trump.

Here's what I know about "the Donald," along with my MBA-type evaluation of his balance sheet:

  • He skewered Rosie O'Donnell.  He called her a "loser" and made inappropriate comments about her weight.  This was in response to Rosie calling him a "snake oil salesman."  Internal Rate of Return:  Zero.  All allegations from both sides were appropriate. 
  • He was mean to Martha Stewart.  Unconscionable.  Despicable.  The Donald is mean to Martha 
  • Ivana, Marla and Melania.  You be the judge.

Last evening I decided to give the new season of the Apprentice a go, because I’d heard that this season’s contestants were unemployed professionals seeking a “second chance.”

I’d stopped watching the Apprentice several seasons ago because I…well, because watching Donald Trump in action makes me want to put a bullet through my head.  But being an unemployed “professional” myself, I thought that the show would resonate with me, that I might have something in common with the contestants.

In fact, I knew I had NOTHING in common with this group as soon as I spied the parade of unemployed sales reps, grad students, attorneys, publicists, and bankers, struggling property developers and business owners, former construction engineers and fledgling entrepreneurs with really good hair and cool Prada sunglasses declaring:
  • “I will take her down!”
  • “Game on!” 
  • "It’s getting personal.”
  • “I kicked some butt!”
I assume the passion with which the contestants approached their task - selling ice cream bars in New York City - was prompted by the gravity of this assignment.  On a hot New York City day, if you don't sell that melting ice cream quickly, you never get a second chance.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Note to Self

When tired or frustrated (at this point in life), must remember to rub face in an upward motion.....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yo. Dude. Beer.

When I lost my job last spring, I was forced to relinquish the company supplied Blackberry and laptop from which I derived my (false) identity as a "Road Warrier Executive."  Because I'm cheap, I replaced the Blackberry with a basic cell phone that came with nothing but a phone number.

And that phone number used to belong to a guy named Darren.

I know this because the minute I activated my phone, I began to receive text messages addressed to Darren.  Often the messages contained obscenities.   They invariably contained at least one of the following  words:  Yo.  Dude.  Beer.  (And sometimes all three).

The texts often arrive in the wee hours of the morning and I don't see them until I wake up - which means that I'm missing out on an awful lot of keg parties somewhere.

Last month, my phone rang while I was standing at the edge of the Hoover Dam.  It was for Darren and the caller wanted to wish him a happy birthday.  I explained that Darren no longer had this number, but asked his friend to send along my very best wishes for an awesomely rad day. 
I like to fantasize that when Darren's friends hear my voice on the other end of the line, they can't help but think that Darren is one lucky dude.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Since I started this blog, I’ve been inundated with questions about its origins and goals and the inspirations for my writings. I thought I would put the answers to these questions together in an easy-to-read column. So here are the answers to your most Frequently Asked Questions.

Have you really been inundated with questions about this blog?

  • Uh….no. But my mother frequently asks me questions about how to get rid of the blinking numbers on the front of her VCR and demands to know when I am going to start wearing a “little lipstick.”

When are you going to start wearing a little lipstick?

  • None of your business.

What do you hope to achieve through your blog?

  • My goal is to hone my writing skills and gain some discipline over my time, in case I ever decide to start a ….blog.

In the blog, you use what appear to be code words or inside jokes. Can you share their meaning?

  • Sure.
          DH = dear husband, MY dear husband who didn't ask for....and doesn't deserve...any of this.

          Things 1 and 2 = are my two children of unspecified age and gender. I call them thusly to protect their identities - in case they ever decide to run for political office, no one need ever know that their mother blogged while rocking in a chair like Norman Bates’ mother.

          The Devil’s Playground = Walmart and Sam’ Club, which are very dangerous places in which to dawdle if you have some money in your pocket.

          Martha = Martha Stewart. But I only whisper her name.

Does your blog have a mission statement?

  • Don’t even go there.

Any objectives or goals?

  • I want to be a blogonnaire.  The reports that Adsense sends to me indicate that I earned 4 cents in my first week, so I'm excited to be on my way. 

How truthful are your postings?

  • Every.  Word.  Is.  True.  Especially the dirty ones.

Are any topics off-limits?

  • I will never make fun of people who are less fortunate than I am, unless they are more attractive or successful than me or have nicer clothing.

Does your husband know you blog?

  • He does not. And if you tell him, I will have to kill you.

What do you do when you are not blogging?

  • I study psychopathology, sip and reheat the same cup of coffee until noon, vacuum up cat hair and answer my fan mail.

You get fan mail?

  • No. So it’s not very time consuming.

How frequently do your readers ask you these questions?

  • How do you define “frequent?”

If you have any more burning questions for me, please post them under "Comments" or email me and I'll be sure to answer them in an upcoming post.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Strange September

One of the oddest incidents in my life occurred late one afternoon several years ago.  Alone in the house, I heard a continuous "thunk-thunk-thunk."  It sounded like a basketball hitting the pavement and it sounded very close - like right outside on the driveway where we have a basketball hoop.  The reason this was so strange is that both Things were at school, DH was at work and there was no reason - and no precedent - for anyone to be playing basketball in my driveway.

But there was.  I looked out the window to see an elderly Chinese woman taking jump shots.  She wasn't familiar to me (as in neighbor down the street) and she wasn't particularly good at basketball (I don't hold that against her, by the way, as neither am I).  And she wasn't leaving.  So I gingerly approached her to ask "if I could help her."  Apparently I couldn't, because she backed away, waved to me and disappeared down the street.

Lately, I've sensed a quickening of the strangeness meter in my life (keep in mind that in my case "strange" is a relative term…but I digress).  I attribute this to being alone in the house -- and with my thoughts -- most of each day. And not only am I becoming stranger, but I am also becoming more aware of the odd stuff that goes on at home when most people are at work or at school.

Here are some examples of the curious happenings chez moi:

• I take digital photos of my supermarket register receipts (who DOES this???).  This is presumably to document how much money I save with my club card and by timing the use of double coupons to store sales.  But I suspect that I'm also collecting evidence to show my doctor that I do eat Boca Burgers in case he ever corners me about my cholesterol.

• I’ve become obsessed with my vacuum cleaner and its attachments, contraptions which, until now, saw the light of day only in the early years of my marriage when company was coming. I get great pleasure from sucking up the cat hair on the stair risers (and the cats get great pleasure from redepositing it the very next day).

• Among the stranger happenings - in a Twilight Zone kind of way - is that at least twice a day, when reading a book or magazine, I'll notice that a word I'm reading is being echoed on the radio or tv playing in the background just as I'm reading it!  For example, typing this sentence, it wouldn't be unusual for the NPR announcer to say the word "sentence" just as I'm writing the word.  (I don't know what this means, but it probably has to do with the End of Days).

Even the cats are acting strange. Vesper has taken to grabbing a mouthful of plastic bags from the stash between the washer and the wall and depositing them at our feet (this is strange because she used to go for shiny digital photos).  I go downstairs in the middle of night to find Macbeth stretched out in front of the sink, intently watching the cabinet housing the garbage, as though there were an interesting movie playing. (I think at one time the movie involved mice behind the sink, but I can't be sure and I don't want to know).

My sleep patterns have changed since I lost my job, propelling me into a perpetual state of jet lag, and I suspect this is contributing to the strangeness. As an adult, I've been a consistent early bird, waking up at 5:30 or 6 -- even on weekends -- and falling into a state of unconsciousness in front of the tv before 10. Since May, my patterns have gradually shifted, to the point where I sleep late enough to be able to catch the 11 p.m. news.

Last night, I couldn't sleep at all, so I slipped downstairs just before midnight and turned on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting - the reality show starring the conservative Christian, homeschooling, debt-free Duggars of Arkansas.

I like the Duggars -- they are kind and fun-loving, the kids are always dressed nicely and they each play a musical instrument. And despite the fact that a house with 19 kids can get claustrophobic, they all get along famously and choose to spend their free time together.

Now THAT'S strange.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Healthy Snacks

Thing 2’s elementary school instituted a new district wide school nutrition policy which was explained in detail at Back to School Night. It aims to combat the childhood obesity epidemic afflicting this country, where one out of three American children under the age of 18 is overweight.

It’s a good policy, one that prohibits snacks whose first ingredient is sugar (i.e., everything in our pantry) and encourages others like low fat cheese sticks, raw veggies and fruit, low sugar apple sauce and rice cakes.

I haven’t had the chance to cavort in the Devil’s Playground since I learned about the policy, so I am scrambling to put together permissible snacks. This morning Thing 2 asked me for a fruit kabob. So I looked around the kitchen and pulled together what I could. Here is what I concocted:

It’s made up of (five day old) grapes, (not quite ripe) honeydew and bottled cherries. The bottled cherries are for color, to make the kabob appealing to a 10 year old. The second ingredient listed on the label is high fructose corn syrup (just linked to pancreatic cancer), while further on down the list is Red Dye #40, aka “Coal Tar Dye.” Those of you with really sharp eyes will notice my red cutting board (likely crawling with poisonous microbes and deadly bacteria). Also of note is that I didn’t have any long skewers, so I used toothpicks which I found stored in a bag with a drippy bottle of Elmer’s glue.

I just want people to know that I am making good use of my time during unemployment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Will Martha Stewart Be Leaving the Building?

Along with the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, I received a notice that my subscription is "over" if I don't send $29.94 ("that's like getting 6 FREE issues!").  Martha will be unable to send me any more, unless she hears from me...and soon.

I never actually subscribed to Martha Stewart Living in the first place.  It (she?) was a replacement for another magazine that ceased publication partway through my subscription.

As I am out of work -- and frugal under any circumstances -- I am thinking hard about whether to "place the seal on the Reinstatement Form."  So I'm carefully considering what I have learned from being a reader of Martha Stewart Living:

  • If you have floral wire, spray paint, a hot glue gun and a little arugula, there is no entertaining situation you can't meet head on.
  • I should never have discarded anything from the 1960s.  Heck, I should never have discarded anything, ever.
  • Every month should have a theme.  And a front-door wreath to match.
  • With just a few simple steps, I can keep my spanakopita from emerging soggy.
  • Light and flaky phyllo dough pastries topped with seasonal fruits are a more appropriate dessert for company than my specialty:  Jello mold and Twinkies and milk.
Truth be told, the beautiful photos in the magazine make me weep; reading an issue is like wrapping me in a hug of domesticity.

And if not for Martha, how would I ever know that October 25 (our wedding anniversary) is when I am supposed to install heat lamps and water heaters in our chicken coop?  Maybe I'll send in my money.....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Filing System

Each morning, after launching Thing 2 onto the schoolbus, I walk to the side of my bed, flex at the knees and reach down for the pile that is accumulating on the floor.  This pile typically includes bills, statements of benefits, crochet hooks, articles that I have ripped out of magazines or newspapers, bandaids, spools of thread, textbooks (the DSM-IV TR), pencils, post-it notes, mutual fund statements, unaddressed birthday cards, and, most recently, six postcards of paintings of the Titanic that I bought at the Luxor in Las Vegas.  I place the pile on my bed, with the intention of dealing with each and every item.

Each night, before getting into bed, I place my hands around the ever growing pile and settle it on the floor at the side of my bed.  That way, I won't miss it when I get up the next morning, rinse and repeat.

I believe this is called "filing."

Monday, September 13, 2010


More disturbing than watching the centipede crawl along the wall above my bed (so large that even the cat watched its progress) was its sudden disappearance from view.  I am left to wonder where it went.  Or maybe I don't want to know.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Note to self:  No good can come from stirring a steaming, ripe compost heap with a toe freshly painted with Revlon's Really Rosy, #110. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Schedule for Today

Rock, paper, scissors, brisket, haircut, challah, resume....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


When we toured Temple University, the school that Thing 1 now attends, among the many scholarly and lifestyle features that the student-guide highlighted to us was E-Suds -

According to the website, e-suds is a online program that helps students to manage the following very difficult, time-consuming and mentally exhausting tasks :

  • check if washers and dryers are available in specific laundry rooms.
  • Receive notification that their wash and dry cycles are complete via email, cell phone or PDA.

Thing 1 completed his first week of school - and apparently his first load of laundry.  I asked him about his experience doing laundry, and how he managed the onerous tasks of gauging when the machines were free and when his laundry was done.

He replied, "I walked over to the laundry room and took a look."


Monday, September 6, 2010


My New Year's resolution is to write down and hide every user name and password I create for each website I visit.  This is to ensure that I don't waste 90% of my online time trying to undo the damage I have done by locking myself out of important sites, including the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development - the source of my unemployment checks.

How is this Jewishly relevant?  I will spend less time cursing and more time making matzoh balls.

What's YOUR New Year's resolution?

Steve and Edie wish us all a happy New Year!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Little Learnin'

I am taking a course in Psychopharmacology (i.e., clinically significant -- and negative -- behavioral or psychological patterns) and am mortified to realize that I have personal experience with nearly every syndrome I have read about thus far.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Freak Accident

Thing 2 spent 20 minutes this morning in front of the mirror combing, re-combing, gelling and styling his hair in preparation for the first day of fifth grade.

Last week he was practicing a jaunty toss of his hair to the side of his face.  He tossed his head so hard that he wrenched his neck.

This is a true story.