Monday, February 28, 2011

Evidence that I am a sloth and need to get out more

  • There are popcorn kernels in every crevice in my home, including my decolletage.
  • We hardly ever eat Jello, but all that's left in the cupboard are five boxes of it - strawberry, lemon and lime. The strawberry might go well with the daiquiri mix under the counter. 
  • When I emerge from the house to drive Thing 2 to Hebrew school wearing my vampire-repelling garlic necklace, all I can think of is adding sour cream dip and potato chips to the mix.
  • My most often-used excuse for why dinner is not yet on the table is that I don't want to disturb the cat sleeping soundly on my lap.
  • For weeks I couldn't get to the side of the house to put the garbage in the garbage cans because of the piles of snow.  Now that the snow has melted, I no longer have that excuse -but realize that I liked it.
  •  I've just started to watch the latest in the Real Housewives franchise - Miami.  That's seven cities worth of plunging necklines, plastic surgery  and women who claim to put their families first, but who, between their lunch dates, fashion shows and lingerie parties, never seem to spend any time with them.  (Yes I am jealous).
  • I've forgotten my ATM password - and that is perfectly okay with me.
  • My muscles have atrophied to the point where - scratch that, those were ganglion cysts.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hair now

My hair - both strands of it - is the bane of my existence.  From my youthful cowlick, to my inherited male pattern-balding (thanks Dad!) to my (fortunately only temporary) chemotherapy-induced baldness, my hair and I have been through a lot together. 

As a child I looked like this - check out that cowlick on the left hand side of the photo.  (And yes - that really IS me!).

The years took their toll.  This winter my hair has been particularly wild and frizzy.  I've been looking more like this:

So, the other night, after a 10:30 p.m. temper tantrum (mine) that left me no choice but to hop into the car in the middle of an ice storm and drive around aimlessly, I decided to stop by the 24 hour CVS to find something to help me tame my unruly locks.

I am not a night person, so I have often wondered about those cars one sees parked outside retail establishments in the wee, small hours of the morning..  Who are these people?  What kind of business brings them out?  Why don't they buy mangoes and lettuce on a Sunday morning like the rest of the world?

Now I know.  These people are the kind who, very late at night, decide that they absolutely, positively cannot wake up yet another day looking the way they do.

People like me.

I'm happy to say that I found the holy grail of hair products at CVS - it's a secret Chinese recipe with natural elements and "calming qualities."  I'm feeling much more manageable and in control than I was that icy night and so is my hair.  Here's a picture - what do you think?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Victoria Beckham's not the only Spice Girl around here

No one ever told me back in eighth grade Home Ec that spices don't get better with age, the way wine does.  So when my mom gifted me with her still full vintage 1960 McCormick and Durkee spice containers when I moved into my first apartment in 1980, I thought I was the favored child.  The spices were already 15 years old and with any luck, I would have them for another 30 years.  If I didn't cook that much, I might even be able to pass them down to my own two Things!

I learned how wrong I was about the spices with my first pot of chili (which tasted like tomato flavored sawdust) and I've been avoiding the spice cabinet ever since.  But this past weekend I ate in a Middle Eastern restaurant and in the four days since, I have become obsessed with making Chicken Tagine - at home.  It's a very spicy dish and I had most of the ingredients at home - except for 21st century spices.

So off to the supermarket for coriander and tumeric and saffron (a "pinch") and cumin.  Which are all crazily expensive and will probably depreciate in taste and value as the previous crop of spices did.

No matter.  By the time I had paid for the spices, I didn't have any money left for the chicken.  So I think the kids' inheritance is safe.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's all becoming clear....or maybe not

I stopped wearing my contact lenses and my progressive bifocals a couple of years ago when I drove my van into a fruit fly perched on the windshield, thinking it was an exit ramp on the turnpike. 

Other than that, I've had relatively good luck with my eyes.  I didn't wear glasses at all until I turned 30.  They were big glasses, overwhelming my petite frame and making me look like a stick figure encased in a snowglobe.  I was nearsighted, which meant that while I could comfortably read, I couldn't for the life of me find my way to the bookstore or library.  Over the years, I tried different styles of frames, but never quite found one that complemented my Audrey Hepburn Herman Munster good looks.

So I finally decided to try contact lenses and it might be an understatement to say that in them I found religion. When after three weeks I finally became accustomed to the continuous sensation of three million grains of sand in each eye, I felt light and free (or as light and free as you can with the Hamptons floating in your vitreous humour).

This worked for a few years, until I turned 40 and developed presbyopia.  You might not know the term, but you can spot the sufferers in any restaurant.  We're the ones sitting at the table against the wall, while a kindly stranger holds our menus up across the room so that we can order dinner.

The problem (there's always a "problem") was that if I wore contacts, I couldn't see both near and far. When my obstetrician opthamologist suggested that I wear $10 drugstore reading glasses over my contacts to counteract this problem, I grew despondent, finally agreeing to wear progressives, which, with a mere shift of my gaze up or down, allowed me to take advantage of the specially calibrated glass:  distance on top, nearby on the bottom.

Except (there's always an "except") dividing the lens in two meant I had only 50% of the usual lens surface  to peer through, whether reading or driving.  This felt limiting, so I finally threw away both glasses and lens and am currently going without.

See?  Good.  Cause I can't.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Putting out fires at work

I’m not into Feng Shui like some are, but I do like to have a nicely appointed personal space in which to work. So now that I’m working from home for real (my new job is a telecommunting one - yeah!), I’ve arranged the area around my desk in an inspiring, yet professional and motivating, way.

There’s my radio (from which alternately issues forth NPR and jazz), photographs of Things 1 and 2, postcards of quilts, the dozen roses my husband gave me for V-Day, meaningful personal mementos like the amigurami Domo I crocheted up last summer, dying plants, my files, my rolodex, etc.  It's a pretty inviting, space:  professional - yet personal; tidy - yet lived in; functional- yet quirky: a place where I am motivated to move mountains and write mission statements till the cows come home.

Today, to complete the look and to ensure a calm, Zen-like day (like I've seen on tv) I decided to light some candles.

(You know where this is going, don't you?)

Dear Reader, before I could shout "Town Hall meeting!" I had set my Bounty paper towel - a remnant of my two-Diet Pepsi business lunch - on fire. At first, it merely darkened the edges of the “Quicker Picker Upper,” but then the paper towel was quickly enveloped in flames, reminding me that I'm a contract employee and lack disability insurance.

Fortunately, there's an "en suite" bathroom in my "office" (reserved only for the most senior - or most incontinent - of employees). I rushed the burning mess over to the  bathroom where I pushed aside my wet pantyhose, ignored the globs of toothpaste in the sink (what kind of slobs work here anyway?), tossed it down and turned on the faucet.

This is a true story.

I’ve had to put out fires at work before, but never literally (I wrote that last line by myself, by the way).

So, no more candles for me. From what I heard at my performance review, they may not let me play with scissors in the future, either.  I just can't be trusted.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Married. So very married.

Valentine's Day kind of snuck up on me, because I'm so married.  After 23 years, one doesn't need or expect the kinds of gifts or attention that we needed to nurture our relationship back in the day.  It's enough for me that he doesn't ask for milk when I serve him Froot Loops for dinner.  And it's enough for him that I no longer question that VERY ANNOYING HABIT of his wherein ... oh wait, Hi honey!  Didn't see you sneaking up on me back there.

When two hearts beat as one ... and all that jazz.

Or maybe it's just because I don't make a fuss about ANY occasion, including, or maybe especially, birthdays. Growing up, we weren't one of those families that planned elaborate shin digs for every holiday, accomplishment or season and when we did celebrate,  it wasn't unusual for our gift to be "wrapped" in the crumbled paper bag in which it came from the five and dime toy store. 

So I always find myself scrambling to remember to celebrate occasions that deserve to be celebrated.  For the first birthday of Thing 1, our eldest, we did what every new parent does:  we rented out Madison Square Garden and booked KC and the Sunshine Band to provide the entertainment.  We were also pretty excited when Thing 2's first birthday rolled around, but celebrated at home instead, with a pony and a clown who looked like Pennywise from Stephen King's It and scared all the toddlers into therapy. 

Now, I'm lucky if I remember to grab a card and make a jello mold.  By the time I realize that it's a loved one's "special day" it's often too late to order a custom cake.  At that point the only cakes available are the half price ones that were never picked up by the person who ordered them and which are decorated with "Felicitaciones on your Quinceanera, Maria Teresa!!!"  I once tried that on my (male) teenager and, needless to say, it took me a very long time to scrub all the pink icing off the wall and ceiling.

So don't expect a card from me on your birthday. Or a gift for your graduation.  And if you're "very married" the way I am, just be glad that Valentine's Day comes but once a'll only make that particular mistake once.  Feliz cumpleanos to all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stay In Touch

It’s not the lines on my face, the grey in my hair or the wisdom ill-timed advice spouting from my mouth that reveal my age.

It’s the Rolodex on my desk.

I didn't know that I was an artifact, possibly the only human left on the planet who doesn't store her business contacts on her phone or on her computer, until a friend texted me that it was so.  I keep my contacts in a contraption that looks like this (for the benefit of my younger readers):

I've carried my Rolodex from desk to desk, from job to job.  Flipping through it guarantees me access to the movers and shakers who faciliate all those very profitable business deals for which I have become known -like when I convinced the cashier at the A&P to give me the dented can of sauerkraut for half off.

So why do I live on the flip side?  Because my phone isn't cool enough to allow me to easily tap all both of my friends' names and numbers into its database.  I do it because I never know when my computer will freeze or when my cell phone is going to die.  Like in the event of a nuclear conflagration or an alien attack.

But I will have the last laugh.  When all of you are trying frantically to remember the number for 911 as aliens mill about, turning everyone into pod people, or to find a taxi service to arrange for A WAY OUT, I'll be sitting pretty, flipping through my Rolodex, and ordering myself a pizza.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You Da MAN!

That's what I said to my husband today when he looked at me and asked what we should "do" about our microwave.  A few hours earlier, when I tried to pop my afternoon popcorn, I heard the sound of a jet airplane revving up in the kitchen and caught the distinct whiff of, if not jet fuel, then definitely something burning. 

I asked him to take a look, fully expecting my prince to hone in on the problem before I could say, "Due to the faster evaporation of liquids at high altitude, microwave cooking may take less time than at sea level." But he couldn't figure out what was wrong, and instead turned to me and asked, "Well,what do you want to do about it?"

That's when, erasing a hundred years of hard-won suffragette-type victories, I said to him, "I don't know.  You're the man.  You're supposed to know what to do about appliance-like things."

It's true that I look to him for appliance fixes, oil changes and advice on practical, but ugly upgrades to the house (e.g., new gutters) and he looks to me for our social calendar (which is not a particularly busy job) and dinner.  But it seemed to me that this microwave conundrum involved a combination of these two gender roles.  And it didn't answer the question:  "How does one live without a microwave?"  I use it for everything from reheating my coffee five times in the morning, to sanitizing my sponges, to drying out the cats when they've tripped over my reheated coffee cup. 

We talked about getting a new microwave, because it probably wouldn't pay to fix this one.  Then we talked about whether it should be stainless steel or "almond."  We pondered whether it made sense to then replace the oven and the dishwasher with matching stainless steel because they might otherwise look "funny."  Pretty soon we had turned a $280 microwave replacement into an entire $50,000 kitchen remodel, complete with granite countertops, an industrial grade oven with six burners,100-bottle wine cooling system and a natural foods chef.

Unfortunately, after I noticed that the round glass plate that normally sits in the microwave was in the sink, waiting to be washed (it was that time of the year again) and replaced it, the jet engine noise and the burning smell abruptly ceased. 

The good news is that I fixed it myself.  The bad news is that we're not getting a new kitchen.

But come to dinner anyway.  I'll make you some popcorn.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's a Kardashian?

I have a pretty good vocabulary, and have been known to throw around words like "concomittant" and comorbid" in places that really count, like the unemployment office.  But there's a word that's been getting a lot of play lately in the media and I have no idea what it means.

It's "Kardashian."  It's often paired with the following words:   perfume, sex tape, reality show, sisters, and jewelry line.  Often, the mention of "Kardashian" is illustrated with photos of tanned, long-haired women in low cut tops and with big lips looking really pissed off.  I wonder whether "Kardashain" an adjective (e.g., "A Kardashian complex") or whether it could function as a gerund ("Kardashianing is a fun way to spend a rainy day.").

In any case, I suppose it's only a matter of time before "Kardashian" enters the New Oxford American Dictionary, joining 2010's new words.  These include bromance (a close but non-sexual relationship between two men), tramp stamp (a tattoo on a woman's lower back) and unfriend (if you don't know the meaning of that, you're probably dead.  Or else you're my mother).

But much as there are new words,  words also become obsolete and eventually die away. How often do we use the word "hi fi" anymore?  Or "mimeograph machine?"  Then there's the ultimate defunct word, the long suffering and now extinct  "dodo bird." 

In fact, of all existing and extinct words, "dodo bird" may have more in common than any other word with this "Kardashian" of which you speak.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dear Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mark Zuckerberg:
I love you and your little invention and I'd like to bear your child.  (That might be kind of icky for you, but it could work out very well for me, what with liberal child support and all).

That said,  I'd like to suggest a few little tweaks to help Facebook improve the "user experience" for me and my merry band of friend-thieves.  I am also including some marketing tips. To wit:

  • Make it possible to conduct "branched" discussions.  So if Friend Laura makes a witty remark five posts up and my response is "WTF?" then Friend Julie, who posted just above me, doesn't need to wonder why I am responding so rudely to her "Have a nice day."
  • Enable multi-person chat.  I wonder why we can put a man on the moon, but we can't arrange for my mother, my sister and me to all chat simultaneously, rehashing that argument about the mango from 1975.
  • Improve your marketing.  You're just not getting the exposure you the Kardashians. Do you even have a mission statement?  Here's an idea: develop "Facebook Coffee" (regular, decaf or fair trade) and package it along with a Facebook mug.  I know that all my friends would place an order, given that we do a lot of our chatting in the morning, while ignoring our kids, our bosses and our personal hygiene.  It wouldn't cost you much to get started.  Go to  Trouble navigating the Internet?  I'll show you how.
  • Arrange for more appearances like your SNL gig with Sandburg and Eisenberg.  Getting more in tune with popular culture can only benefit you.
  • Shut down operations after 10 or so. So we can go to bed (not you and I, but the rest of us).
If you want to discuss any of these ideas in more detail, I'm available.  Just send me a friend request - or poke me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is it cold enough for you? Meet Karla Telega!

I'd like to introduce Karla Telega, who is guest posting today!  Karla is an award winning humor writer who blogs at Telega Tales and Tart Cookies.  I enjoy her writings and know that you will too! (When you visit her blog, scroll down past the first entry as I'm guest blogging over there today and you want to read more of her, not of me). 


The barometric pressure is dropping, there’s a cold front moving in from the North, and snot has frozen in my nose. Yes, I think it’s cold enough for me.

Why do complete strangers feel the need to ask me for a weather report? I just want to smack them in the head and say, “look around!” Obviously, no one in the U.S. or Canada feels that they can trust a trained meteorologist for an accurate forecast. Hence, we celebrate Groundhog Day.

It is on this day that Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his burrow in Pennsylvania and predict the coming of spring. I’m curious as to how Phil, who has no calendar or alarm clock, knows that February 2 is his appointed show time. Do the good folks of Pennsylvania gently coax the little rodent out with a cattle prod? Does PETA know about this? Is it possible to fit the address, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on a standard number 10 envelope?

I’m kind of a wienie about the cold, so four years ago I took my aging anatomy and moved to South Carolina. Motto: Kind of like Florida, but without the hordes of angry mosquitoes. (Caution: double entendre ahead!) For those of you who are proud of your huge mosquitoes, remember that size doesn’t matter. The little guys can poke you just as hard. (Behave yourselves!)

But I digress.

I’m sorry for you folks around Chicago who are being blasted by the worst blizzard in recorded history. If it makes you feel any better, yours truly has to suffer through a little chilly weather too. I’ll leave it to you to check the weather channel, but just know that I have to put a robe over my underwear to go outside.

Whether you believe in it or not, the groundhog will have his say again this year. Personally, if someone poked me with a cattle prod, I’d leap back into my hole as six-week winter revenge. I’m thinking that we should change the holiday into Chipmunk Day. The little fellows are much more forgiving, and they love to hang out with nuts.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brown Bag Lunch

If one ever needed any evidence that I took mothering lessons from Joan Crawford rather than from Florence Henderson, it came this morning in the form of a brown bag lunch.

It was a typical morning and I was barking out directions to Thing 2.  Clean up noodles off floor?  Check!  Remove underwear from ceiling fan and stuff into drawers (i.e., out of sight, out of mind)?  Check!  Take my bra off the cat and return to me?  Check! Check! Check!  All was going well.

Except when the schoolbus pulled away, I noticed that his brown bag lunch was still sitting on the kitchen table.  Surprisingly, this happens quite infrequently.  This was the first time I ever drove to school to deliver his brown bag.  (Most of the time I just let him beg table scraps from the other kids).

The school secretary pointed me to a small wooden table just inside the door of the school where I was to place his lunch.  There was already a bag there, with a child's named calligraphied on it in thick black Sharpie and with edges folded so precisely it made me weep.  It looked like this:

I quickly grabbed a pen  and started to scribble "Thing 2" on my son's bag.  Since I wasn't leaning on anything, the pen poked through the bag, piercing the rotten apple inside.  The Fluffernutter and Skittles sandwich got soaked and the wine cooler?  I don't even want to go there.