Thursday, December 31, 2009

Law and order

posted Thu, 24 Feb 2005

I didn’t get to watch a trial today. Today's jury duty thingamajig was just the general corralling of potential jurors. It was at the coliseum – the one built two coliseum/arenas ago.

I don’t know if this one is paid for. Neither of the other two are, including the brand-new one, and the basketball team we were so lucky to lure here has the right to tell the coliseum and the other arena that they can’t have an event the night of a basketball game or other event at the new arena.

But I digress.

I showed up on time, carrying a newspaper (I smuggled it in despite signs forbidding newspapers) and two novels. Then the hundreds of us there on time waited for all the latecomers, but Clyde Somebody, commissioner of jurors, warned everyone that lateness would not be tolerated in the future. He didn’t specify the punishment, but I wonder if people get thrown in jail for being late to jury duty.

Clyde said he expected that a lot of us were hoping to get out of jury duty, but that it was highly unlikely that we would, as there are no exemptions in this state. Most people are very glad to have participated once they have done so, he added, explaining (music to my ears) that jury trials were a unique part of our system of government and it was a privilege to participate. “There are no coliseums filled with potential jurors in Cuba, I can assure you,” he said.

There is a dress code for court, Clyde explained. No tank tops. Nothing vulgar or political written on shirts. No shorts. “Let me tell you how the judges define shorts,” he said. “It’s not like everyone else. Shorts are any clothing that go onto the body one leg at a time where the fabric does not go below the ankle.”

Miss Sophia, my Polish trainer friend who wants to be a lawyer but who has not registered to vote because she does not want to be called for jury duty, will be very surprised to learn that the county pulls potential jurors from driver’s licenses, the phone book, property tax rolls, and other sources.

Then the judge swore us in. After he explained the legal requirements to be a juror – citizen of the US, over 18 and under 70 (although you can serve if you want to if you are over 70), “not convicted of an infamous crime,” “not a habitual drunkard,” and “not of unsound mind,” – he told us it was “a crime to give bogus information,” meaning if anyone lied about not meeting the legal requirements, he would be in big trouble.

Once you’ve served on a jury in this county, you can’t serve again for another ten years, even if you want to. “That’s vigilantism,” the judge said dryly. “We abolished that in 1920.”

By 8:45, they had us starting to line up for the week we wanted to serve. Clyde had promised to have us out by 9:30. “After you get your week, you are free to go,” he said. “You’re done here for now. I would recommend you return to work because your employers know how long this process takes. They call us!”

Am I being a Pharisee?

posted Sat, 19 Feb 2005

Does medicinal chocolate count for someone who has given up sugar for Lent? What about sugar-free peanut brittle? How about the edges of a Pop-Tart?

These are the dilemmas I find myself facing. I have given up sugar and chocolate for Lent. (And telling other people what to do.)

Of course, they never had to worry about going without chocolate for 40 days.

So if a sweet is made with a sugar substitute, does it meet the criteria of ‘verboten for Lent?’ At the candy store on Tuesday, I held the sugar-free peanut brittle in my hands for a good three minutes the other day before I decided that although it might not violate the letter, it certainly broke the spirit of my sacrifice.

I don’t consider diet Coke a violation, as I do not drink it for sweetness but for caffeine. No, I don’t wish to give up caffeine for Lent. I don’t enjoy caffeine – it’s something I do because I must.

The edges of a Pop-Tart – the part without frosting or filling – is probably pushing it. Maybe I won’t do that one any more.

I was forced to eat some M&Ms (two!) yesterday after I took an imitrex on an empty stomach right before I left work. I started to feel shaky and cold and sweaty as I drove home. I stopped at the shoe repair place to drop off some really cute black spike-heel pumps that need heel taps and grabbed a handful of M&Ms from Mr Galtelli’s M&M machine in hopes that the sugar jolt might counteract the effects of the drug.

They didn’t really help. Maybe because they were so stale and nasty. I certainly didn’t enjoy them.

This guy told me he gave up gin for Lent a few years ago. Every evening, he was in the habit of going to a small neighborhood bar for a nightcap. He went in after Lent started and told the young bartender to give him a vodka – that he’d given up gin for Lent.

The bartender leaned forward and said in a slow, sincere drawl, “Ah don’t think that’s the sacrifice the Lord is asking for, sir.”

Ah, the wisdom of Communist youth

posted Thu, 17 Feb 2005

I talked with Sophia, the Polish trainer at my gym, today. She’s 28 and studying to take the LSAT. She is quite worried about not doing well on the test as she doesn’t have a good college GPA to make up for a bad test score. And she doesn’t even have a good college with a not-good GPA; she has a fifteenth-rate school with a lousy GPA.

She explained that she had to work three jobs while she was in college because her parents would pay only for her tuition, books, computers and other school-related expenses, but not clothes and makeup.

That’s just so unfair, she told me. It really affected her self esteem that kids laughed at her clothes when she was a kid. She would never let her children go through the same thing.

So when your teenage daughter wants $200 jeans, will you buy them? I asked her.

Sure, she said. If that’s what her friends are wearing and what will make her happy.

So as long as her friends are doing it, that’s what makes it acceptable?

Yes, she told me.

What if your 13-year-old daughter wants to get her bellybutton pierced?

That would be OK, she said. If her friends were doing it.

What if she wanted a tattoo?

Sure, if that’s what it would take to make her happy.

What if all her friends are sleeping around and she tells you she wants to go on the pill so she can have sex?

Hesitation. Well, now you’re talking about a health risk, Sophia said.

Not even a moral issue or “13 years old is way to young to have sex!”

Unfortunately, this was where our conversation was interrupted. I am dying to continue it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Duty calls

posted Wed, 16 Feb 2005

I am so excited! For the first time in my life, I have been called to jury duty.

And it’s on a day when I was going to have to go to a stupid, boring, all-day meeting at work!

Could I have had better luck?

I wonder what case I’ll be deciding. A big one, I hope. I am ready to dispense some justice. Although I couldn’t give the death penalty, I don’t think. I could, however, lock someone in jail and throw away the key. I think life in prison is worse punishment than death.

Maybe I’ll be elected jury foreman. I’ve never run for elected office. I’ve never thought I was electable. But I think here, my natural leadership abilities would shine. Don’t you?

What do you think we’ll get for lunch? How often will we get potty breaks?

What if the lawyers need help? Should I tell them that I aced the LSAT and was admitted to the University of Texas law school? (I didn’t go, in case you haven’t figured that out.) They might want my opinion. I wouldn’t give it unsolicited – Lent and all that – but if they ask, I would be happy to share.

This is going to be fun!

I better not try snake handling -- my faith is just not strong enough

posted Wed, 09 Feb 2005

Apparently, the strategy I mentioned just last night of turning the radio volume up does not always cure a car.

Why, just this morning, my car refused to start.


It was 5:30 a.m. I was ready to get to the pool and get a lane before the weird rabbi or any of the triathlon dilettantes showed up, but when I turned the key in the ignition, nothing happened.

That is such a rotten feeling.

I thought about going back to bed and trying again in a few hours, but then I got out my car binder and discovered it had been almost five years since Sears had last put in a five-year battery. Well. That might explain the slight hesitations the car had been having the past few days. Hesitations that I thought were solved by louder music.

I looked outside again to see if any of my neighbors were up. Nope. Rats. I would have to get Harpo, which I didn’t want to do, because he always goes to bed so late. I didn’t want to call him because he sleeps through the ringing phone, so thought I would try walking to his house. This would also give me some of the exercise I was going to miss by not walking.

I walked to his place – about a mile from mine – and amazingly enough, the doorbell woke him. We drove back to my house. We had to push my car out of the carport into the street because the jumper cables wouldn’t go from the front of his car over the back of mine to the front of mine.

My plan was to leave the car running then while I showered, but Harpo insisted on waiting in case the car didn’t last. I didn’t want him to do that, so I decided to go straight to Sears, hoping they might open at 7:00. There was no answer when I called – not even a message giving the hours, but I was hopeful that I might get a new battery early enough that I could still swim before work.


Turns out they don’t open until 7:30. I sat in my car at the Diehard Express lane door from 6:50 until 7:35, which was when I finally went around to the front asking when they were opening already.

I griped at the guy about not being able to swim and being late for work and about the battery having 11 months on the warranty still and why wouldn’t the car start. I was a right pain in the neck.

So of course when the mechanic tested the battery, there was nothing wrong with it. It was corrosion in the battery cables, which he cleaned for free.

Basically, it was my fault for not maintaining my car properly.

(Actually, I blame this on my dad for being dead. Maintaining cars is a dad responsibility.)

Then I had to apologize to the clerk to whom I had been cranky, which put me in a worse mood. I drove to my gym, showered, dressed, and came to work. And have not been able to eat any chocolate to take the edge off my grouchiness.

Begone, thee battery-infesting demons!

posted Wed, 09 Feb 2005

More about why this is important later, but don’t you think it would be good if jumper cables were long enough to reach battery to battery even when the jumper car is parked behind the dead car? As in when the dead car has died in its own little one-car carport and there is no way to put another car next to it or head to head with it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the cables would reach that way so you wouldn’t have to push the dead car over the slight (but seems like a mountain) rise in driveway back 20 feet into the street? At 6:00 a.m.? After getting your boyfriend out of bed?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The meaning of life, perhaps?

posted Tue, 08 Feb 2005

My usual strategy when my car starts to make weird noises is to turn the radio up louder. Usually, that works and my car miraculously heals itself.

But the other day, I discovered a spring coiled and waiting to strike on the floor of my car. Whence the spring? I asked myself. But turning the radio louder gave me no answers.

This weekend, I found two big white buttons in my washing machine.

I have no idea of their provenance.

I avoid clothes with buttons as they usually imply fabric not stretchy enough to get onto my body without being unbuttoned and hence implying further the need for ironing. I have hardly anything with buttons. My jeans – and that’s about it.

Has someone been sneaking into my house to do laundry?

Are the buttons and the spring connected? Are they a secret code? Are spacemen trying to communicate with me, give me the secret to world peace, and am I ruining it all by listening to Rush talk a little louder?

I want to know.

Happy new year

posted Tue, 08 Feb 2005

Big times at the Vietnamese grocery store that sells the persimmons and the great apples. I stopped in tonight and there was a party going on. The store was crowded and there were decorations all over, including small flowering trees and flowers.

The music was blasting. Someone was singing – I am not making this up – a Chinese version of “Oh Susana.” (I thought it was Vietnamese, but I was corrected.)

I asked the cashier how that song became part of the Chinese repertoire.

“This is Chinese New Year music,” she said, as if that explained it.

I can run, but I cannot hide

posted Mon, 07 Feb 2005

I don’t mind if complete strangers see me naked, but I don’t want the people I work with to see me without clothes. Is that so odd?

I don’t even want them to see me in my swimsuit or my gym clothes.

So why do they insist on joining my gym and invading my space? Do you know how disconcerting it was to walk out of the shower into the locker room and find “Elaine,” whom I am accustomed to seeing only in the halls at work, getting her shampoo and towel out of a locker? She had on a bathing suit, but I was naked. Talk about a power imbalance.

I didn’t like it.

And I don’t like it when she shows up in the weight room at lunch, as she did today. There are a few guys from my floor who have joined, too. Great. Just what I want. People from work to see me at 6:00 a.m. in a swimsuit or to see me at lunch in a baggy T-shirt and shorts getting sweaty on the weights.

Technically, they have as much right as anyone else to join my gym, but man – of all the gyms in the world, why’d they have to pick mine? I mean, besides the fact that it’s two blocks from the office and a great price.

I go to the gym to escape from work, not to hang out with colleagues. Is there no safe haven?

Monday, December 28, 2009

But I didn`t inhale

posted Sun, 06 Feb 2005

I have figured out what to do about the newspaper problem. I can’t put a vacation stop on the paper every Wednesday and Thursday – I’ve tried and they won’t let me. There is not a subscription option for just Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the only other Sunday paper options around here are USA Today and The New York Times, neither of which I would ever pay for and neither of which I would read unless I were stuck on a plane without anything else to read and no one interesting sitting next to me.

You remember my gripe about the extra papers – in addition to having to slog through the wet yard after dark in my high heels to find them, my recycle bin fills too quickly and I must drag it to the curb more frequently.

Well. You don’t have to take the recycle bin to the curb if you put the papers into the huge wheeled trash can instead.

Yep. That’s what I did. I put the newspaper in the trash instead of recycling.

I know. I know. I am walking on the wrong side of morality here. My friend Jessica, the atheist UU seminarian, jokingly said that was about the only sin she could think of for Unitarians – not to recycle.

But I gotta tell you – it felt good to throw that newspaper in the trash can! It’s fun to flout convention! I can see why a life of crime would be seductive. It is liberating to take that first step on the road to rebellion. I recommend that everyone try it at least once – throw those newspapers into the trash instead of the recycling. Come on. Just try it.

The Big Factotum has a birthday

posted Sat, 05 Feb 2005

Tomorrow is the Big Factotum’s birthday. My mother is an amazing woman. And I’m not saying this just because she’s my mother. At least three or four men have wanted to get hitched with her since my dad died.

She was her class valedictorian and went to the University of Wisconsin on a full scholarship, but dropped out to get married. That was how things were done then.

She got married three days after she turned 20, then got pregnant right away (between "Gunsmoke" and the pizza, as my dad joked). She had three babies by the time she was 25, then her husband went away to war for a year. She got to be a single mother way before it was fashionable.

She had her own business when we lived in Panama. She baked bread and other yeasty things. Neighbors called and begged to know when the next baking day was. If I had my own business, I would want her to be the Chief Financial Officer. When she is in charge of the details, they are done right. Nothing gets by her, although she thought she had hidden her chocolate so well when I was a kid. In her closet -- in the shoe box. In the grandfather clock. Like you could hide chocolate from me.

I didn’t understand the magnitude of all the things she did when I was growing up, but now I really appreciate them. She was the class room mother. She headed my brownie troop, along with Mrs S, our next-door neighbor and friend to this day.

When I was twelve, she became the assistant coach for my soccer team, even though she had never played soccer before. (Neither had I. She made me join the team.) She also made all the uniform shorts for the team because she decided that the league charged too much for the store-bought ones.

She sewed most of the clothes for my brother, sister and me, including the blue kitten flannel nightgown that I wore until it was threadbare, despite the teasing of my college roommates.

She made Barbie-doll cakes for my birthday. When she made chocolate chip cookies, I got to stir the dough, which required that I sit on the kitchen floor and hold the bowl in my legs. She always let us kids lick the beaters, an act of major generosity that I don't think I would be able to do if I had kids.

She drove me to violin lessons and orchestra practice. When we moved to Spain, she made sure I had my own bedroom for the first time and decorated it with me, making one of those yarn octopuses to match the bedspread. I think she made the cute pajamas that matched the spread, too.

She taught me how to do long-division when I was in second grade because I was bored with the math we were doing at school. She taught me to sew, knit and embroider. When I went to cooking school in France on vacation, they taught us how to cut up entire chickens and the right way to chop onions. My mother taught me how to do thess things when I was 12, I thought. But there were people in the class who didn't know this stuff!

I feel sorry for kids today whose moms are too busy to be moms. I am very lucky to have mine! Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!

Death by chocolate

posted Sat, 05 Feb 2005

The cake was incredible. Neither Harpo nor Chuck complained about the slight lopsidedness. Neither could even finish his piece – and I cut small pieces. Harpo said it looked like solid fudge.

He asked if I were trying to kill him -- said they've decided his mother died of a chocolate overdose.

I cut the leftover cake (like 98% of it) into seven chunks and wrapped them for freezing. I also packed the leftover stuffed shells and the bread and sent everything home with Harpo. Now there will at least be food in his house, although I have tried that strategy before. You can lead a boyfriend to food, but you can’t make him eat.

Harpo and Chuck have left to get Chuck a t-shirt commemorating the International Blues Competition. They may return later for more activity, but I am pretty pooped. I don’t know how those women who cook meals every day do it. I even cheated on the salad and the chicken, buying stuff that was already made. I would not be a good mother. My children would eat a lot of peanut butter and tuna fish. (But they wouldn’t eat junk food – so I guess I would be a better mother than a lot of others.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Shadow knows

posted Fri, 04 Feb 2005

The real action in eBay happens in the last few minutes of the auction. This week, I was watching a cute pink suit. I had bid $11.72 on day two, but was outbid right away.

Last night, 20 minutes before the end of the auction, I decided to bid again. $17.87 was the highest I would go – the suit is mostly acrylic and I am a fabric snob. But for under $20, I will buy synthetics.

I entered my bid, thinking I had the suit, but ten seconds later, I was outbid. Too rich for my blood. I decided to forget it, although I was sorely tempted to try to push the price just a little higher.

Yes. This is the temptation that torments you when you start to play eBay. You decide that if you can’t have the item, whoever does get it is going to pay.

Not nice, I know. But I have never claimed to be a nice person.

The risk, of course, is that you will get the item, but pay a lot more for it than you wanted to pay.

So I pulled myself away from the computer and went to bed. I noticed this morning that the bidding got even more frenetic after I quit – the suit sold for $28, more than $10 higher than my high bid.

For acrylic.


But the auction ends today for the gorgeous French wool and mohair suit. I will get that one. And I will pay more than $20 for it.

I sacrifice for science

posted Fri, 04 Feb 2005

I learned something important about my oven and baking last night.

Just because two of the three cake layers appear to be done – they pass the toothpick test – does not mean the third layer is done. Even if you have rotated the pans halfway through the baking period to account for hot spots in the oven and airflow differences.

This is not immediately obvious, of course. You don’t notice it until you have taken the cake layers out of the pans, let them cool, then tried to wrap them in plastic wrap.

Then is when the one layer breaks apart.

This is not a complete tragedy. What happens is that it breaks into two large pieces with a middle chunk of gooey, mostly-cooked, dense, fudgy chocolate left over.

That part had to be sacrificed.

It was the only way.

Perhaps to dream

posted Fri, 04 Feb 2005

I woke up at 1:15 a.m. last night and couldn’t fall back to sleep for two hours. Here’s what I thought about and what happened in that time:

• How I am going to frost Harpo’s cake, make a key lime pie, make the stuffed shells, go running, and get my laundry started by lunch on Saturday?
• Why can’t I sleep?
• Why haven’t I gotten an issue of Oprah magazine lately?
• Why can’t I sleep?
• What if Brad Pitt were sitting next to me on a plane? Would I even recognize him? If I did, would I pretend I didn’t? I don’t find him that attractive or interesting, so really wouldn’t want to talk to him.
• Why can’t I sleep?
• If not Brad, then whom? Is there any actor I would want to talk to?
• No.
• Why can’t I sleep?
• Then which famous persons? The Car Talk guys, for sure. Bill Bennett. Rush Limbaugh. Sean Hannity. Thomas Sowell. William Safire. Dave Barry.
• Why can’t I sleep?
• Wouldn’t some of the broken pieces of Harpo’s cake taste great right now?
• Yes. They did.
• When did that Oprah subscription expire? Let me check. I get out of bed and go online to renew the subscription.
• I wonder what’s new on eBay.
• Has anyone left any comments on my site?
• What does Harpo have to say?
• Ouch. The gig didn’t go well. I hope it goes better tomorrow night. I hope I’ll be awake for it.
• Why can’t I sleep?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chinese trickery and deceit

posted Sat, 24 Dec 2005

Not just a fake tree, but a fake fake tree.

I defy you to find the species “Richmond pine.” Go ahead. Try.

I did an internet search. Couldn’t find it. I tried to find it in the tree book I keep in my car, but after six years of throwing it off my back seat onto the floor, it has mysteriously disappeared.

You’ll find Loblolly pine, Scotch pine, Ponderosa pine and all sorts of other wonderful pines when you google “pine.” (BTW, did you know that Microsoft thinks that “google” is a misspelling? Big surprise, huh?) But you will not find “Richmond pine.”

Why not? Because it is not a true species!! Kind of like the poor Siamese I got last spring wasn’t really a Siamese, only the cat actually was a real cat and he was part Siamese, so it’s like not the cat situation at all, now that I think about it.

What was our first clue that the tree was a fake fake?

Look at this photo. Note that some of the branches have short needles and some have long needles. This is not something usually found in nature. Trees are usually fairly consistent in their leaf types. Or at least this is what I have surmised in my contact with tree people, both in the Peace Corps and at work.

Note the short needles on one branch and the long needles on the other. Have you ever seen this on a real live tree? I have not. Honestly. Maybe they mixed the branches up in the box.

So it’s bad enough that the Chinese are making Christmas trees for the American market. (Does anyone else use Christmas trees? When we lived in Spain, the Three Kings brought the Christmas gifts on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany – I don’t remember that the Spaniards had Christmas trees. Of course, that was 35 years ago.)

But if they are going to do it, couldn’t they at least be accurate? The box claims that this tree is a “Richmond pine.” I can find no evidence that the “Richmond pine” is a legitimate, extant tree. If you are going to put American workers out of jobs, by God, at least get your facts right.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just a spoonful of sugar -- doesn`t help

posted Thu, 03 Feb 2005

I am having a hard time finding gratification cleaning my house. I worked from home this afternoon, packing my briefcase full of stuff and emailing myself a bunch of files, so I could bake Harpo’s birthday cake today.

I had planned to bake the cake early tomorrow afternoon so I would be able to watch Harpo perform in the Blues challenge in the early evening, but my boss decided that 3:00 to 5:00 Friday would be a great time to have a meeting. Actually, it was probably the evil project manager who had that idea. Even though I am trying to get out of the meeting by pointing out that I have already committed to two other meetings at the same time – which is true – I know I am going to get stuck having to attend.

So I decided to work from home so I could bake the cake today. Yes, when I say I am going to work from home, I really do work from home. It just takes longer to do everything because dialup takes so long compared to being on the network at the office.

I took advantage of the long download time for the files I needed to do some housecleaning. Tomorrow would have been Esperanza’s day to come, but she is now fired. The burden of cleaning my house is now upon me.

I dragged the vacuum cleaner down from the attic. It’s an old Electrolux that the previous owner left in the house. It must be from the 50s, but it still works. I ran it over the floors, then emptied all the trash cans into a cardboard box that tipped over, spilling the contents onto the vacuumed floor.

I noticed when I was vacuuming under the dresser that there were a bunch of dustballs stuck to the underneath of the bottom drawer.

More than a month’s worth.

That is, more than should have accumulated from the last time Esperanza cleaned.

But despite the vacuuming and dusting and trash emptying – I haven’t gotten to the window washing and bathroom cleaning yet – I do not have that feeling of great satisfaction one should expect from a job well done. Instead, I feel resentful, bitter and angry.

Is this why so many women in the 50s had to be drugged?

Think of England

posted Wed, 02 Feb 2005

I’m in a boring meeting at work yesterday, admiring my red wool boucle Benetton suit from Italy that I got on eBay for only $23.87 when I notice something on my thigh that shouldn’t be there. A long piece of dark hair is trapped under my pantyhose.

Oh ick.

I am not a squeamish person, all my fainting to the contrary. It takes a lot to gross me out as long as tripe, my own blood or eyes are not involved. I have peed in really disgusting conditions, including the public restroom at the bus station in La Paz where the toilet was nothing more than one of three holes in the ground next to each other. I had to balance over one of the holes with my backpack on my back because I did not want it to touch the ground. An old Aymara woman and her little granddaughter watched me in fascination.

I have eaten horsemeat. Knowingly. I didn’t want to, but was forced into it for diplomatic reasons.

I think three seconds is way too strict a time limit for food on the floor. Three minutes is OK with me, although I do keep a very clean house, so it’s not like my floors are disgusting. The rule might vary in someone else’s house.

I have stayed in nasty places in Latin America – the “Fs,” for those of you know The South America Handbook. Some of these places doubled as ‘love hotels’ that rented by the hour. Apparently, no one but me cared or maybe even noticed that the sinks were encrusted with mildew, soap, toothpaste, whiskers and who knows what and that the showers reeked of urine. Sometimes it is a really good thing not to have perfect vision.

My point is that I really don’t get bothered by a lot of the things that bother other people. (I do, however, get really annoyed by things that no one else minds, like when a news reader says, “has pleaded” instead of “has pled.”)

But I don’t like other people’s hair touching my body when the hair is not attached to the other peoples.

It is one of the few things that grosses me out. In the pool, I have positively visceral reaction to being brushed my stray floating hairs. The ones that have coalesced to form hairballs repel me – I will stop in the middle of the deep end to try to push them into the next lane rather than risk the chance of touching them.

And I had to sit there, in this meeting, looking at this hair – I don’t think it was mine – I think I must have picked it up in the locker room at lunch when I was changing clothes (they do not clean frequently enough in there) – on my body.

Oh, the suffering.

In heaven there is no beer

posted Wed, 02 Feb 2005

I am a little sore today. A lot sore, actually. I tried a new exercise I found in one of my fitness magazines. I am forever on a quest to counter sagging butt syndrome (scientific name “droopius gluteus”). My main reason for exercising is so I can eat, but the secondary one is to look like a supermodel.

OK. I know I will never look like a supermodel, but I would at least like my butt not to reach my knees, at least not while I am standing.

This exercise is a variation of a lunge. You do it with weights in the Smith machine (a weight machine that holds the bar that goes across your shoulders so if you drop it, the machine catches it). You hold the bar with however much weight you want across your shoulders, step forward with one foot, then put your other foot up on the bench behind you. Then you squat down. Switch legs and repeat a gajillion times.

Trust me. It is not as easy as it sounds. But it’s all part of the quest for a body that is not yucky.

There are two schools of thought about women’s bodies and what men think of them.

The Susan theory is that it is best to be naked when a guy arrives to pick you up for a first date. That way, if the chubby thighs are going to be an issue, you can figure it out before you get too attached.

The Anita theory is that you wait until the guy is so attached he doesn’t care what you look like naked.

Nice theory, but doesn’t hold water. The Anita theory was developed by my college roommate, Anita, whose husband, Eric, fell in love with her when they were both in high school. She had a taut, unravaged by gravity, 125-lb 17-year-old body. It’s easy “not to care what she looks like naked” under those conditions.

At 41, it takes a little more work.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You can be darn sure the trains would run on time if I were in charge

posted Tue, 01 Feb 2005

Last night, I considered leaving my recycle bin on the sidewalk, just to spite my neighbors across the street – the ones who have left their trash can on the sidewalk for about the past six months.

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. It’s so – tacky. It’s so low class. (It’s probably low class to even talk about something being low class.)

I don’t understand how they can bear to have their trash can out there like that. The only reason I haven’t called the city about it is that Harpo told me I was on the path to facism if I did so. Of course, this is from a man who thinks that anarchists are too organized.

But they are violating a city ordinance!

They are scofflaws, miscreants, bad elements, bad for property values. I want them and their stupid, ugly cars gone.

In this house, we don`t put our shoes on the couch

posted Mon, 31 Jan 2005

The good news is that yesterday was the day they gave away all the Christmas poinsettias at church. I got a white one and a red one. I can keep those things going inside until spring, then plant them outside, then keep them alive until the next fall. They are actually a tropical plant and do quite well in the warm, humid (well, what they think is humid) summers here. In Honduras, I saw them alongside the road, eight feet high!

The bad news is that the dry cleaner doesn’t think he’ll be able to get the ink out of the pillows from my couch. Even if he can, that doesn’t mean I can get the ink stains out of the couch itself – the solvents he uses have to be rinsed out of the fabric or they will stain. So unless I am prepared to throw my couch in the washing machine, I am SOL. (Mom, that means “Sorry, out of luck.”)

I was able to get my $5.89 back for the miracle spot remover from the grocery store. They must have felt sorry for me after I told them the whole story. That, or they just wanted me to shut up.

The only thing that remains to be done is to fire Esperanza. I have never fired anyone before. Well, not so that the person knew she was being fired. I fired my previous cleaning lady, but I lied to her – told her I was cutting back on my spending.

I don’t think it will be hard to fire Esperanza. Not that hard, anyhow. I was thinking about how all the scribbled-on pillows were turned with the scribbled side upside down. Statistically, the odds of that happening are one in eight (three pillows, two sides each). Not outside the realm of chance, but come on – how could she have missed it? Methinks she saw it and tried to conceal it. Although she has really bad vision. Maybe she really did miss it. Darnit.

It might be hard. I need to keep reminding myself, “One thousand dollars to re-upholster.”

Martha, you have some `splainin` to do

posted Mon, 31 Jan 2005

I have a confession to make.

I am not really a very good cook.

Yes, I have been to three cooking schools on vacation in the past five years. I subscribe to several cooking magazines. I love to think about food, to look at it, to read about, and, of course, to eat it. But if I ate as much food as I wanted to, I would be as big as a house, so I think about food a lot more than I actually do anything else with it.

Part of being a good cook is actually cooking.

If you try to avoid eating too much, cooking is not a good hobby.

So I am not a good cook.

Which makes my attempts at Harpo’s birthday supper laughable at best, I think.

Martha’s recipe for the Six-Layer Chocolate Cake with Tangy Chocolate Frosting – the one with a pound of butter, nine eggs, and 1 ¼ lbs of chocolate in the cake and 12 oz of cream cheese, 1 ½ sticks of butter, 18 oz of chocolate, and 1 ½ cups of crème fraiche in the frosting – is a professionals-only recipe.

Why do I say that?

Well, she wants me to do impossible things like mix 4.5 cups of powdered sugar in the cream cheese and butter. My mixer is not strong enough for that. I need a stand mixer for that sort of activity. Martha should have suggested that I melt the butter. Then the sugar would have dissolved and mixed more easily. But this way, it was too stiff. By the time I figured it out, it was too late.

Then, when I tried to get around the problem by mixing the crème fraiche in early, the chocolate (that I had also mixed in early before all the sugar was mixed in) started to get cold and make little chocolate chips.

There are not supposed to be chocolate chips in the frosting! There are not supposed to be powdered-sugar chips in the frosting!

Man. This is so annoying. The frosting is in the freezer, awaiting the cake on Saturday. I might try to melt it a bit in a double boiler to see if I can dissolve the rest of the sugar and melt the chips of unsweetened chocolate.

But it tastes just fine. I have tested it many, many times, just to be sure.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The apple doesn`t fall far from the tree
posted Mon, 31 Jan 2005

My mom scanned this note she found that my dad had sent when he’d been on TDY at Minot AFB in North Dakota a long time ago. (This was back in the olden days when people wrote letters – you know, put words on paper using a pen, then put the paper in an envelope with a stamp, etc…)

What’s scary is that I don’t know if it is my mother or I who is the standing, scolding character. We are both bossy, finger-shaking, have-to-be-in-charge dames.

It`s so hard to get good help these days

posted Sun, 30 Jan 2005

I know this whine is going to make me sound like a spoiled rich kid (which, trust me, I am not), but here goes anyhow.

I’ve decided to fire Esperanza. I hate to do this because I love having someone else clean my house, but I realized that the disadvantages now outweigh the advantages.

(By the way, this is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance.)

At first, Esperanza was incredible, but then she became careless. For a while now, she has been doing things I find annoying, but I have let them go because I hated the idea of spending my Saturday mornings doing heavy housecleaning so much.

Some of the things she has done that I don’t think someone should do if she is being paid $60 to clean a house include

• Leaving the pictures knocked askew after dusting them
• Leaving bookcases, cedar chests and beds five inches from their normal positions
• Leaving dirty rags on top of the radiator
• Leaving dirty rags in the kitchen sink
• Not cleaning the lint trap in the dryer
• Not bothering to put the trash in the trash can outside and leaving it against the side wall instead
• Dusting pictures so vigorously that the plaster crumbles around the nails, requiring me to re-plaster, re-paint and then re-hang the pictures
• Hiding the dishes (well, OK, maybe not hiding, but not bothering to put like with like, so I can’t find anything – if all the Tupperware is in one place, don’t you think that’s where you would put any other Tupperware?)
• Leaving a dryer full of clothes because she is in a hurry
• Not cleaning the cobwebs from the ceiling

OK. So I am looking for excuses here. I admit it. Esperanza is so nice and cheery and has such a great attitude. But dammit. I tried hair spray and a magic cleaner on the most-scribbled-on pillow this afternoon (figuring it was already ruined, so was I going to ruin it any more?) and I couldn’t get the ink out.

If it were just the pillows that had ink on them, it wouldn’t be such a big deal because I could just get new pillows, but how am I supposed to get the ink off the couch? I know I told Esperanza that she is going to have to pay to fix everything, but I am not going to make a cleaning lady who makes $60 a day (maybe $120) give me $1,000 to re-upholster my couch, even though it’s her fault that it is ruined.

But neither am I going to risk further damage to my house. She has no one to watch Isabel while she works, so of course she will bring Isabel with her. I don’t think I should have to childproof my house when I have no children just in case someone else’s kid gets a ballpoint pen – how did she get her hands on it, anyhow? All of my pens are way out of reach of a toddler.

This is maddening. I do not want to have to spend my precious little free time doing heavy housecleaning – but the time I have spent cleaning up after Esperanza is probably as much time as I would spend washing the floors and cleaning the windows. And at least if I destroy my house, I have only myself to blame.

She might be the next Picasso

posted Sat, 29 Jan 2005

Am I being unreasonable? Read the whole thing and let me know.

When I turned the pillows on my sofa earlier today, in preparation for sitting down with a good book (rather than doing chores), I noticed that someone had scribbled on one of the pillows with a black pen.

At first, I thought maybe Harpo or I had sat on the sofa with a pen in our pocket, but then I realized that the pattern was not that of an accidental, one-time pen leakage. Then I saw that another pillow was defaced in the same way. And the sofa itself – several lines about eight inches long right in the middle of the seat back and little circles in each of the buttons.

This was not my doing.

Let me give you a history of my sofa. I got it at an estate sale in Houston after I got out of college. It’s an old, antiquey sofa. Probably no value as an antique, but I like it. It’s built really well – good bones. When I got it, the upholstery was faded and worn. I couldn’t afford to re-upholster it, so I threw blankets over the bad parts.

When I moved to Miami, I found an old Cuban guy who worked out of his garage to do the upholstery work. I scrounged through fabric shops for remnants for the covering. When I told my mother I had had the couch re-done in white, she sighed and asked, “I’m never going to be a grandmother, am I?”

When I moved to M’town, the movers damaged the couch. For a mere one-inch tear in the fabric, the moving company paid to have the sofa completely re-upholstered. Yes, I took advantage of the situation and got really nice fabric. I think the whole thing cost about $1,000, fabric and upholsterer’s charges together.

Now I have ink stains on my lovely white sofa. On the expensive fabric white sofa. And I know how they got there.

I called my cleaning lady. “Esperanza, I just found that someone drew on the sofa pillows with a pen. And on the sofa. I think it was Isabel.” Isabel is Esperanza’s two-year-old daughter.

“Oh, yes,” Esperanza said. “Don’t worry. I’ll clean it next time I come.”

“No!” I said sharply. “Don’t touch it. I’m going to take the pillows to the cleaners and see what they say.”

“OK,” she said cheerfully.

“You could ruin it. It cost $1,000 to have that couch covered. I need to know the best way to do this,” I explained.

“OK,” she said.

“I expect you to pay for everything,” I continued.


“It was your daughter who did this,” I told her.

“OK,” she said again, not so cheerfully this time.

“Do not bring Isabel with you here any more if you are not going to watch her,” I said.

Remember that Esperanza repeatedly left the gate open at Holly and Patrick’s house, despite their warnings, until their dog got out and was hit by a car. I still kept Esperanza because she does do a decent job of cleaning the house, but if I am going to have to worry about a toddler running around with pens, scissors or other instruments of destruction, along with a somewhat careless mother, I might have to reconsider.

Monday, December 21, 2009

That`s the one you get from kissing too much, right?

posted Sat, 29 Jan 2005

One of the things I crossed off my list this week (of course I keep a list – don’t you?) was making dentist and optometrist appointments for Harpo. I wanted to make him an appointment with his regular doctor, too, but Harpo is convinced that his malaise is of his own doing.

He asked, “What would the doctor tell me that you haven’t already told me?” I am always telling him he needs to rest more, eat better, and take care of himself.

I suggested he might have a virus or an infection – maybe mono.

He just looked at me and rolled his eyes.

I don’t understand this aversion men – well, maybe just Harpo – have against going to the doctor. He did finally go to the dentist last year after I nagged him for months, found a dentist for him and made the appointment.

With the dentist, it can’t be a money issue because dental exams are free with most dental insurance. It’s not a pain issue with Harpo because he endures more physical discomfort without complaint than most people. He’s pretty tough. So I don’t know what it is.

I myself am paranoid about my teeth and have not missed a dental exam since college, when I told my mother I was not going to the dentist with whom she had made the appointment because I didn’t like him. In my defense, this is the guy who started to extract my wisdom teeth but had to stop his prep when I passed out. It turned out that I needed to have the extraction done under anesthesia, so he was not the guy to do it.

Anyhow. Even when I was in grad school and in the grips of post-Peace Corps job-search poverty without dental insurance, I still shelled out that $85 once a year (not every six months) for a dental exam because I was so scared of something horrible happening to my teeth. Some of my fear came from stories I’d heard from an old boyfriend who had been a dentist, but some of it was entirely rational – I have had teeth break apart in my mouth with no more provocation than my flossing them.

Maybe Harpo doesn’t worry so much. I know he doesn’t. He is not the worrying type. I do enough of that for both of us. But I do wish he would go to the doctor. Even if there is nothing wrong except that he is not eating right or resting enough or taking care of himself, at least then we can rule out something awful, like beri-beri or mange. And maybe he would start eating right, resting enough and taking care of himself.

Birthday blues

posted Sat, 29 Jan 2005

Harpo is being very cranky about his birthday. He wrote the other day, “Birthdays are not a big thrill to me. Of course I am a year older if I lived a year. Big deal. People make much too much of an issue out of it.”

Well, tough. We spoke about this very issue earlier in the week. I told him that the main reason we are celebrating his birthday is because we didn’t celebrate mine. If he doesn’t want me to make a big deal about his birthday, then…. I told him if I have to tell him what the answer is, then there is no point in telling him. Women, you understand me here, don’t you?

Besides, I like making birthday cakes for other people. It’s fun. Even if he’s going to be a grouch about it, he’s not going to ruin my fun.

Sales strategy

posted Sat, 29 Jan 2005

If you were trying to sell a suit on eBay, do you think the best answer to a potential buyer’s question of “what are the measurements of the suit?” is “the skirt is 38” wide at the bottom?”

Don’t you think perhaps the reason the potential buyer asked the question is because she wanted to know if her big ole butt would fit into the skirt, not if her knees would?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tie me up! Tie me down!

posted Wed, 26 Jan 2005

Before the bodacious red-headed pediatrician met the Cheese Guy, she put an ad in the local subversive counterculture paper personals section. One of the questions for the profile was “What five items can you not live without?”

Ilene said that she immediately ruled out suitors with prosaic answers like “air” and “water.” She wanted someone with a little more imagination.

She got me thinking about my list. What would it include?

1. Swiss Army knife
2. handkerchief
3. electric bed warmer
4. schedule 2 drugs
5. duct tape

That’s good for now. Cheese and chocolate are right up there near the top, but in the long run, these other items make my life a lot easier.

It’s a good thing that duct tape is still allowed on planes, because that’s how passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight today subdued a violent passenger today.

"’They used duct tape to tie him up,’ FBI spokeswoman Judy Orijuela said.”

The sad thing is, I would not have been able to help in this situation. I don’t carry duct tape with me and I wouldn’t have been allowed to take my SAK on the plane.

But I think I am going to re-consider the duct tape policy. I just need a bigger purse.

Call me Imelda

posted Wed, 26 Jan 2005

You know, it’s just been one of those good shoe days. What can I say? After years of ugly, painful shoes, the tide has turned and the stores are overflowing with gorgeous, sexy-yet-professional, quasi-comfortable as long as you don’t have to walk too much shoes.

I feel the way I think one of the guys who survived the Bataan death march did. His daughter said that that he always had the house full of food, even if it was yucky stuff. She thought he bought inedible food on purpose so the kids wouldn’t eat it. That way, the food would just be there and he would have the security of knowing that he had it.

I have not suffered like that, but the past several years have not been nice shoe years. I have had to wear ugly shoes, which is its own kind of suffering. So now, when I see beautiful shoes, I buy them. I don’t know when they will be snatched away from me again. I must seize the day.

Today was beautiful and warm. No coat required, hence, easy to maneuver around a store. I took the opportunity to go shoe shopping at lunch. What a bonanza! I found four pairs of splendiferous shoes and a lovely black and white spring hat.

I love the Discount Shoe Warehouse. All the shoes right there – you don’t have to find a salesperson to get the shoes for you and wait and wait.

Even better, you don’t have to risk getting a salesperson who doesn’t understand you. When I lived in Miami, I was once looking for a pair of fancy yet comfortable heels to go with a navy blue evening gown.

The salesman brought me flats.

Yes. He was that clueless. His two female colleagues, who were admiring the dress (I had brought it with me to make it easier to match the shoes), had to intervene, gently suggesting various models for him to bring me, rolling their eyes as soon as he was out of sight.

He hit on me as he was ringing up the sale. I remember thinking, “You can’t even relate to my shoe problems and you think I would want to date you?” He was hopeless.

Fashion advice #2

posted Tue, 25 Jan 2005

My skin is not peach. If I wear a peach bra (I got really adventurous at Target a few weeks ago and bought underwear that was not white!), the color will show through my cream-colored sweater. It does not blend with my skin.

The things you learn when you get dressed at the gym in the morning and go straight to the office.

It’s probably better to try these things at home first.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

They say it`s your birthday

posted Sun, 23 Jan 2005

Harpo’s birthday approaches. I asked him last night what kind of cake and what special meal he wanted me to make to celebrate.

He pointed out that he and the band will be performing in a festival on his birthday so he won’t be available.

That’s not the point! I told him. We can still celebrate. We can share the cake with the band or have it later. We can celebrate a day early or a day late.

Last year, I surprised him with a German chocolate cake at a gig. The rest of the band was in on it. They sang “Happy birthday” and we lit the candles (that took a while) and we all had cake. This was after we had already spent his actual birthday in Key West with his brother and sister in law.

The year before that, I took a cake to the airport and I had another one at my house after the big lunch we had with Stephen and Leigh and Megan and Steve.

Honestly. Some people and birthdays. (I was going to say “men” and birthdays, but BethanyC has a great post today about a woman she knows who completely blew off her good male friend’s 30th birthday today. The woman didn’t think he wanted anyone to make a big deal about it, she explained. Even though this guy is stationed at the Air Force base near where BethanyC lives so is far from his family and would have no one else to celebrate with except his friends.)

Anyhow. Birthdays are to be celebrated with your friends! Even if you are getting to the point where the prospect of turning another year older is not something that seems so much fun, it makes it a lot less unfun if you are with your friends eating good food and having a good time.

I finally got Harpo to admit that perhaps a dense chocolate cake might be good. I cheated a bit by showing him a cake in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living. It’s a six-layer chocolate cake – dense, fudgy cake with thick, buttery frosting. Oh man.

Then he said he might like a Key lime pie, instead.

You may have both, I told him.

I am not entirely altruistic here. Harpo is my excuse to bake. He forgets to eat and can’t keep weight on. I figure anything to get calories past his lips is fair. And if I get to lick the bowl in the process, well, that’s the sacrifice I make.

And for the meal, I asked?

Now he was getting into the spirit of the thing. Lasagne, he answered. Or stuffed manicotti. That’s food that keeps well and is good to eat on for a few days.

Well, OK. That’s the plan, then.

Stick a fork in me because I`m done

posted Sun, 23 Jan 2005

I am wearing my new electric socks.

Please. Try to contain your envy. You, too, can have electric socks if you just go to and search on ‘heated socks.’

I got them because I cannot fall asleep if my feet are cold. My house is cold when I get home from work and it doesn’t usually warm up enough for my feet to be toasty by bedtime, which is usually only about two hours or so after I get home.

I am already partially prepared if I decide to take up a new hobby involving the cold outdoors. Not that I would. But if.

I have flannel sheets and flannel PJs (which makes me sometimes feel like a giant flannelboard character). I also have an electric mattress warmer, which is like an electric blanket, only it goes on the mattress underneath me instead of in a blanket on top of me.

But I still have not conquered the cold feet problem. Even wearing regular socks to bed does not get my feet warm quickly enough. I hate lying in bed, wanting, willing myself to fall asleep but unable to get there because my feet are size 9 blocks of ice.

So I got these heated socks. I think they are really for hunters, but I don’t care. I am not proud. I will wear hunting fashion if that’s what it takes for me to get enough sleep.

I wore them last night for the first time. They are not fashionable. The D battery on the side of each one precludes a streamlined appearance for my legs and also makes certain positions unworkable. But the combination of the mattress warmer, the radiator, the central heat and the socks helped me not be cold.

The problem was that by about midnight, I felt as if I were halfway done. I had to turn off the mattress warmer and shed the socks.

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that the socks had never even been turned on.

Yes. That’s how good they are.

It should have been a clue when I showed them to Harpo yesterday afternoon and he noted that I could turn them to either “high” or “low.”

I turned them on this morning and have been wearing them all day. It’s hard to tell if they are working because it’s not like they are hot to the touch, but my feet have been warm all day even though it is very cold outside. The true test will come tomorrow when I get home from work and the socks will have to thaw my pantyhose-shod dogs. I’ll let you know.

Today the US, tomorrow the world. Hahahahaha!!!!!!!!!

posted Sat, 22 Jan 2005

My sweetie Harpo had a great post yesterday about public service ads and what a waste they are of taxpayer money. He says that we are paying the government to be a bunch of busybodies, telling us what to do.

I agree that I don’t want the government spending my money to have someone else tell me what to do, but what if I got to have the job of chief bossy busybody?


I would be perfect. I already tell people what to do (most times under my breath) as a hobby. To get paid for it would be a dream come true.

Really, it would be my ideal job. Even Ilene, the BR-HP, noted in a comment a few weeks ago that I would be great as a protocol officer because I like so much to tell people what to do.

This job would be best as a cabinet-level appointed position – the Busybody Czar – but if it had to be an elected position, I still think I could get the job pretty easily. Just off the top of my head, here are some planks for my platform that I’ll bet would get the agreement and votes of most right-thinking people. Remember that I would have the power to deputize.

1. I would confiscate any cellphone that rang in church or at the movies. If the possessor of said phone actually answered the phone and didn’t say, “I am on the way to perform the heart transplant,” I would throw the phone against the wall until it broke, then jump up and down on the remaining pieces. If words similar to, “Nothing. What are you doing,” emerged from the speaker’s mouth, I would vaporize him.

2. Did I mention I would get superpowers as part of the job?

3. Anyone who tried to get around a traffic jam by driving on the shoulder then sneaking back into the regular lane would find all his tires flattened.

4. I would remove the hat of anyone wearing a hat indoors.

5. I would jab long needles into the patooties of people sitting during the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance.

6. If you get into the express lane at the grocery store with more than the allowed number of items, be prepared for the consequences. That’s all I’m going to say about that one.

7. Remember freeze tag? I would have the power to “freeze” and make mute any kid acting obnoxious in public. If the parent(s) was not making any effort to keep the child’s behavior fit for civilization, the parent would be frozen as well. Parents making the effort would probably be grateful to have their tired, cranky kids muted for a while.

8. If you hog two parking spaces in a crowded parking lot, I will flatten all your tires. But not until you have left the lot and are on your way to somewhere important.

9. Same thing if you take a handicapped spot and you aren’t handicapped. Even if you have your grandmother’s handicapped sticker in the car so you technically aren’t breaking the law.

10. Any woman peeing on the seat in a public restroom and not cleaning it behind her would be forced to clean toilets for a month. With a toothbrush.

See how many good ideas I have? And this is just what I came up with while I was ru –walking my eight miles this morning. Imagine what I could do with a little more time.

I could have this place whipped into shape, I tell you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sanitation engineering

posted Sat, 22 Jan 2005

Here’s a hypothetical:

You are a maid, paid to clean someone else’s house. Part of cleaning a house is emptying the trash and putting it all in the trash can in the back yard. Said trash can is right outside the back door, just next to the stairs.

What do you do if you can’t get the back door open?

1) Take the trash out through the front door and walk around the house to the back to get the trash can
2) Leave the bagged trash next to the back door with a note explaining you couldn’t get the door open

OK. Here’s a second situation:

You are still a maid (a different one – maid #1 has been fired), but this time, the trash can is not in its usual place. Instead, it is at the end of the driveway at the back of the house, clearly visible from the front porch. (The back yard was muddy, so I didn’t want to walk in it with my work shoes.) When you open the back door and discover the trash can is not in its usual place, you do figure out to go out the front door to get to the trash can. Once out the door and on the way to the back, you can see the trash can. What do you do?

1) Walk ten yards on a paved surface to get to the trash can and put the bag of trash in it
2) Leave the bag of trash sitting next to the wall

If you chose the second answer, you are qualified to be my cleaning lady. I would like my cleaning lady to choose the first answer. I don’t know why it’s so hard. But perhaps cleaning does not attract the best and the brightest.

I keep thinking I could make a killing if I started a housecleaning business, but then I remember that the real wealth would come from scale and how could I ensure that my employees would do as good a job as I wanted? I know that I would do a great job cleaning house. (Why is this supposed to be so demeaning, according to the feminists? It’s honest work.) But I wouldn’t be able to micromanage properly.

Anyhow. The latest drama with the box I wish to discard at work just reinforces my view that sanitation is not attracting the quality of employees that it used to. Remember that after a week of having the empty cardboard box outside my office – the only thing in the hall that wasn’t hall – I finally put a sign on it saying, “Yes this is trash?”

Well, they still didn’t take it. When I got to work yesterday morning, the box was still there. A colleague stopped at my door, looked at the box and said, “They’re mocking you.”

“This is war,” I said.

I will prevail. Just watch.

Get me Dorian Gray`s phone number

posted Fri, 21 Jan 2005

I am starting to understand the desire for plastic surgery. I’ve always sort of understood the breast enlargement kind and maybe nose jobs, but I’d never understood face lifts or eyebrow lifts – until now.

I’m looking for new glasses. It’s a ritual I go through about once a year. I don’t ever want to be that lady you see in the grocery store whose glasses tell you she graduated from high school in 1975. There might be other things that identify my age – like wrinkles and gray hair – but my glasses will not.

The problem with looking for new glasses is that one must look at one’s face in the mirror. That is not something I enjoy doing. So I have been trying on frames and sneaking looks, trying to see just the frames without looking at the rest of my face (yes, it is a pathology), but I cannot avoid seeing my drooping eyelids.

When did I start to look so tired?

When did I start to look so old?

I would never have an eyelift. Remember I am the one who passed out at an eye exam. I would not voluntarily have my eyes cut on.

I am also way too cheap to spend money that way.

But if I could wave a magic wand and have my eyes be bright and tight again, I would.

Trash talking

posted Thu, 20 Jan 2005

The trash guys have won again.

I put a big cardboard box just outside my office over a week ago. It’s empty. It’s sitting next to my door on its side. I didn’t think I needed to put the word “trash” on it because it seemed obvious that it was trash.

But every day since, when I arrive at work in the morning, I have seen the box there, a symbol of the trash guys’ mockery.

WHY would I leave a box in the hall if it weren’t trash? WHY, I ask you?

This morning, beaten into submission by the tyrannical project manager, I surrendered.

I put a note on the box saying, “Yes this is trash.”

One of my office neighbors walked by, read the note, shook his head in disappointment and said, “I can’t believe you gave in to them.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I see France

posted Thu, 20 Jan 2005

I surveyed the women in the locker room this morning about the $140 underpants.

“Are they made of gold?” Number one asked.

“Do they do anything – special?” Number two asked.

“They’d have to do it all day long!” said Number one.

“And then wash the dishes and do the laundry,” I said.

“That’s what I meant,” said Number two, giving me a wide-eyed look of innocence.

I see London

posted Wed, 19 Jan 2005

In the February issue of More magazine, there is an article about underpants. One pair they show costs $140.

For. One. Pair.

That’s one hundred forty dollars. For one pair of panties.

And they aren’t even silk. They are polyester.

They are made by a French company called Eres. I couldn’t get into the site because I didn’t have the patience for all their flashes and thingamajiggies to download. I’m on dialup, for Pete’s sake. But someone check it out and let me know.

Who would pay that much money for one pair of panties? How rich – or how stupid – would you have to be to waste that kind of money? It might be different if you only had to buy panties once in your life and could get 20 years’ use out of one pair, but panties are like white t-shirts – you never get the expensive ones because you only wear them a few times before you have to throw them away.

But this company is in business. Someone is spending this kind of money. Maybe I should start selling expensive underwear to rich, stupid women.

Perro malo

posted Wed, 19 Jan 2005

I know this might not seem like something worth complaining about, but I can make a mountain from any molehill.

It’s a gift. I try not to brag.

Anyhow. My paperboy insists on giving me a newspaper every day, even though I only have the weekend subscription.

Why is this a problem, you ask?

Because during the work week, I leave my house before the paper is delivered anyhow. Because even if I had the paper before I left for work, I would still prefer to read it online at work.

Because I recycle my papers, so my recycle bin fills up twice as fast, which means I have to drag it to the curb twice as frequently.

Because my paperboy has this amazing ability to throw the paper into the most inconvenient place in my yard, especially if it’s raining, which means that unless I want to let newspapers accumulate in my front yard, I have to collect said paper, which means squishing into the mud and wet in high heels after dark to find the darn thing.

This issue of newspapers collecting in the yard is a sore point with me. When I lived in Miami, I asked my neighbor Martha, who lived in the other half of my duplex, if she would collect my newspapers for me the two weeks I was going to be in Ireland. I didn’t want to a vacation stop, because the Miami Herald had had some little problems with customer service providing that information to burglars.

Martha demurred, telling me she didn’t read the paper. Then just put it in the trash, I suggested.

I’d already asked if she would water my plants and take my mail inside the house, both of which seemed to be enormous, insurmountable tasks. I could see the problem – she was going to have to walk ten steps past her front door to mine about five times during my absence to do me this favor. But she rolled her eyes, sighed and said OK.

I realized when I returned from vacation that “OK” meant “I heard you but I have not agreed to do what you ask” as opposed to “I am in complete agreement with you and will grant your wishes.”

I walked through the gate to our yard and saw two weeks’ worth of newspapers strewn on the grass. Martha burst out of her house. “They tried to break into your house while you were gone! They broke into your car a couple of times! We heard them jump over the fence and try to get into your house, so we called the police! Then we yelled and they ran away!”

She was very proud that she and her husband had foiled the robbery attempt.

Gee, thanks, I told her. But how do you think they knew I wasn’t home – that it was safe to try to break in?

Her brow furrowed. She just didn’t know.

Do you think it could have been all the newspapers in the yard? I asked her.

“Oh!” she answered, surprised. “Is that why you wanted me to pick them up?”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fire and brimstone sound pretty good right now

posted Mon, 17 Jan 2005

It is still cold in my house. I cranked the thermostat this morning, but then discovered when I returned from my walk (bad idea when it’s only 23 degrees) that not only had all the flames gone out in the boiler but so had the pilot light. Which, technically, I suppose is included in “all the flames.”

I have never lit the pilot for the boiler before. I am not comfortable with fire. I took to heart the admonishment that only I could prevent forest fires and have never been one to play with matches. I don’t like fire. It’s not my friend.

This is the book. Note that I found it on an “antique” website. I swoon for men who can fix things, too.

I gingerly waved a lit match in the direction of what appeared to be a pilot light thingy. Nothing happened. I tried again, but got spooked at the idea of holding a match next to two dozen gas jets.

I looked in the old home repair book my father had bequeathed to me. It’s the “Better Homes and Garden’s Handyman’s Book,” published in the late 1950s.

I figured I had a better shot of finding information about radiator heating systems in this book than in my new Home Depot home repair book. All the Home Depot book tells you about radiators is how to paint around them.

But apparently, radiator heat was not common enough even in 1957 for it to merit mention in the book.

Then I tried calling the guy who installed the new pump last summer. I couldn’t find where I had filed his card and the invoice. They weren’t in “receipts” or “house stuff” or “electricity.” I finally found them in the “appliances/warranties” folder. But when I called him, I only got an answering machine.

I had to resort to asking my shoe repair guy, whom I had gone to see about my purse, how I should light the pilot light. He drew me a little diagram and explained that there should be something to depress (besides me, thinking of $6,000 for a new boiler) for several seconds while I light the pilot.

I must have looked so pathetic and so incompetent that he offered to come to my house and light it for me if I couldn’t figure it out by the time he closed his shop for the day.

Stop! It wasn’t like that at all. He is this gruff old Italian guy who has had this shoe repair business since his dad died. I always call him “Mr” shoe repair guy. He must have felt sorry for me because he couldn’t fix my purse, either.

I finally got the pilot lit and turned the thermostat up almost to 11. But when I returned from the movies, my house was still cold. Guess what? If you leave the little door open in the boiler, the flames will get blown out. I didn’t realize the sirocco reached into my basement, but there you go.

I re-lit, closed the door and crossed my fingers. The flames have stayed lit and the radiators have warmed, but they are still not hot. I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t think it’s the boiler. The flames are jumping, so I would think the boiler is doing its part.

Oy gevalt. Now I have to track down a repairman, then take time off from work to wait for him at my house. First the purse, now this. Was I someone really awful in a past life or what?

I`m going to the kitchen

posted Mon, 17 Jan 2005

When I awoke this morning, it was only 55 degrees inside my house. Still warmer than outside, which was about 20, but not at the 68 where I had set my thermostat.

I am hoping, hoping, hoping that my thermostat is just out of calibration and not that something else is wrong.

I have two heating systems in my house: the old radiator heat that was installed when the house was built in 1922 and the central heat installed by the contractor who bought the house from the original owner, rehabbed it and sold it to me.

I prefer the radiator heat. It is a nicer quality of heat, if that makes any sense. It is cosier, warmer, just nicer. And I can dry sweaters and towels on the radiators.

The central heat comes from the attic and is exuded from ceiling vents, which right away is a problem. Remember high-school physics? Heat rises.

It is also dry and patchy and just not nice.

If something is really wrong with the radiator heat, I am not in trouble because I have another source of heat, but I would rather have the radiator heat.

I’m not mechanically inclined, but I think it can only be the thermostat or the boiler. I had the pump and motor (the part that pushes the heated water through the pipes) replaced last summer for – gulp -- $800. Yes. That’s how much I like the radiator.

The only other two working parts (I think) are the thermostat and the boiler. There is some heat coming from the radiators, just not enough, which makes me think the boiler is working just fine, but that it is not getting the proper instructions from the thermostat. I have cranked the thermostat and crossed my fingers. All of you out there, please cross your fingers as well.

A new boiler would cost $6,000. I don’t think I could do that.

Important fire safety news

posted Sat, 15 Jan 2005

When they say not to leave a burning candle unattended, they mean not even in the next room. Who knew?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why hasn`t the NOW done anything about THIS?

posted Fri, 14 Jan 2005

I must be about the only person in the US who does not own stock in a company that sells pantyhose. Everyone else seems to have an interest in destroying pantyhose, thus increasing consumption.

At lunch, I tried on some boots – actually, just one – at this swanky resale store. Ruined my hose. I’d forgotten boots will do that. The boots I have are fine, now that I have painted all the rough edges with clear fingernail polish. I thought I was going to make it through an entire day without snagging, running or tearing my pantyhose, but no.

I thought I had snag-proofed my world. I covered the rough wood in the dresser drawer with duct tape. I covered the screwheads underneath my desk at work with duct tape. (Add duct tape to the list of items I would not want to live without. Other things include my Swiss Army knife, a handkerchief, toilet paper, and cheese.)

I removed offending screwheads from the underside of a conference room table. Philips head, if that matters. The screw wasn’t securing anything. That’s when I became convinced that there really is a conspiracy between the office furniture manufacturers and the pantyhose makers.

I’d had a vague suspicion the shoemakers were in that cabal as well. It was already clear that they hate women. Why not hate them and make more money at the same time? Now I am sure they are part of the group.

I wonder who else is in on this?

I can`t believe some women shop FOR FUN

posted Thu, 13 Jan 2005

Oh man. It looks like it might be time for me to buy a new purse. This one has served me well for a year and a half, but I did get it used, so I guess I can’t expect it to last forever. But the trauma of finding a new one is going to leave me deeply scarred forever.

Yes, I know for some women, buying a new purse is an easy, sometimes even fun, experience. Actually, there is a new website called Bag, Borrow or Steal – a club that lends you the latest purses (for a fee, of course). That way, you can have a new purse as often as you want.

The only good thing about the movie “Le Divorce” was the Kelly bag. I want one. I want one so badly. But it doesn’t have a long shoulder strap. For up to $17,000, you’d think they’d give you a shoulder strap. But I guess if you can pay that much for a purse, you have someone following you carrying all your stuff and looking for your car keys, so you never need to use more than one hand. One hand can be dedicated to holding your purse at all times.

But I don’t want a new purse all the time. I want the one I have now. (Are you starting to sense that I might hate change? Yes, I know. Hard to believe that I am inflexible.)

My sister tells me I am too demanding in my purse quest. I don’t think so. All I want is something with a strap long enough for me to open the purse while it is hanging from my shoulder (at least 48”), a flap closure (so when I throw the purse into my car, the contents do not spill), a fastener I can close with one hand, an outside pocket where I can keep a pen, my calendar, and my list, and inside dimensions of at least 10” high (taller than my glasses cases – all three of them), 12” wide and 3” deep.

And it must be made of leather. None of this tacky plastic.

Am I asking too much? I don’t think so.

But try finding a purse that meets those specs. It’s as if the purse designers, who obviously work with the shoe designers – a bunch of misogynists – think that women don’t need to be able to actually carry anything in their purses.

Well, I do. I need three pairs of glasses, a wallet, a Swiss Army knife, car keys, a handkerchief, drugs, face powder, and lip gloss. That isn’t even a lot of stuff compared to what I have seen other women carry!

As if I didn’t have enough stress in my life, now I have to shop for a purse. Will the torment never cease?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hey -- you wanna smoke?

posted Wed, 12 Jan 2005

Did I mention the part about Target refusing to sell me more than two packages of Sudafed?

The cashier kept getting an error as she scanned packages three and four, but finally figured out – by reading her screen – that I couldn’t buy more than two packages at a time.

“I’m not thin enough to be a meth user,” I told her.

I have yet to see a single photo of a meth lab bust with the users in front of it to include a 40something woman in a pink wool dress with a matching blazer, brown crocodile Ralph Lauren slingbacks and all her teeth.

Yep, that’s me – the person who breezes through customs everywhere without being challenged – the one no one would ever suspect of any illegal activity – forbidden to by pseudoephedrine in large quantities.

What`s the penalty for wringing someone`s neck?

posted Wed, 12 Jan 2005

The two guys who work for me are behind on our projects “because they have to go to so many meetings.”

This is true. They have knowledge that no one else has, so their participation is essential.

Yet just now, as I was listening on a conference call, going through emails as I waited my turn to talk, I discovered they don’t seem to have a lot of common sense.

There is this conference call we have once a month with the factories. We repeat it four times in two days, the idea being that smaller groups lead to better participation.

Yesterday, after the first call, in which all the corporate people sat together in one room, I returned to my office. For the second call, I kept the phone on mute until it was my turn to talk, then I hung up.

I suggested to my two guys that they do the same. It’s not like they don’t have plenty to do at their desks that they could do WHILE they listen to a conference call.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered yesterday that they had STAYED in the conference room for call number 2.

This morning, I repeated the message. “Why don’t you just call in from your offices so you can get to work on this project that we are already behind on?” I suggested. “That’s what I’m going to do.”

No. When I called in, I realized they were sitting in the conference room. And they didn’t even have anything to SAY this time!

I am going to go nuts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I want to be like Martha, before the Big House

posted Tue, 11 Jan 2005
Last week in the same day, two female colleagues, in separate, unrelated, and completely unprompted incidents, said to me that this career stuff was highly overrated and whose stupid idea was it for women to work outside the home anyhow?

“Who thought it was such a bad deal to stay at home, have lunch with friends, work in the garden, and cook fun meals?” asked Greta. “They burned their bras so we could deal with the hassles of corporate America? Thanks a lot, ladies!”

Really. Who wouldn’t want to have the freedom to stay home and make coffeecake or tend to the roses? The feminist movement has sold us a pig in a poke. And now men are scared to open doors for us, too. They ruined it for all of us.

Catherine saw me later and sighed. “It’s been a horrible day. Why do I do this again?”

I suggested that being a stay-at-home mom might not be such an awful thing.

“I did that for five years when my daughter was young,” she said. “It is fun, but remember, you can end up with the same bunch of catty women.”

Like a Junior League meeting that never ends, I thought.

We agreed that the ideal situation would be being a stay-at-home with a part-time volunteer commitment with significant responsibility. Enough to get you out of the house and accomplishing something independent of the house, but not so much that you didn’t have time to do the fun things at home.

One day in the locker room at the gym, I saw a mom with three kids. The kids were running around, yelling. The mom looked at me getting dressed in my suit and gave me a wistful look.

“I used to wear a suit,” she said.

“Listen,” I told her. “The only difference between you and me is that the poop you deal with is literal. I promise there is no glamour in the work world. I do this to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. I do this because I have to, not because it’s fun.”

Duck etiquette

posted Tue, 11 Jan 2005

Do you think I am supposed to eat the duck head? Is it a Vietnamese delicacy – the choicest piece of the duck?

If I were at a formal Vietnamese dinner party and found the head on my plate, would I be giving grave insult to my host if I didn’t eat the head?

What if I shrieked at the sight of it? Or threw up?

This and so many more reasons are why I did not pursue a diplomatic career, despite my father’s wishes.

Donald, we hardly knew ye

posted Tue, 11 Jan 2005

I went to the Vietnamese grocery store on Sunday to stock up on persimmons. Unfortunately, it is the end of persimmon season. They have gone from 69 cents a pound to $1.39 apiece. I only got a few. Sigh.

I saw they had roasted ducks stacked above the apples. I had thought of going to my regular grocery store for a roasted chicken from the deli, but decided I’d try this cold duck instead. Half a duck, actually, split lengthwise down the middle.

When I got home and unwrapped the package, I discovered that neatly tucked underneath the back and breast was the neck – and the head.

The head was cut in half. Lengthwise. There was one eye and half a beak.

There is nothing to kill the appetite like being watched by half of the head of the creature you are eating.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ancient Chinese secret, huh?

posted Mon, 10 Jan 2005

Part of the bodacious red-headed pediatrician’s therapy for her little problem is telling her story. It’s better when she tells it, but almost as good when I do.

Ilene and I met at a Rice alumni party. It was a BBQ/potluck to send off the new freshmen from M’town, but really just an excuse for the alumni to get together. And have the alumni office pay for it.

Ilene brought this divine appetizer. (Yes, I know you are so surprised that the woman who has shrimp escabeche, puff pastry twists with pesto, homemade toffee with chocolate and pecans, and mulligatawny soup in her fridge right now -- in addition to everything else I listed the other day – made a delicious appetizer.)

So she brought little toasts with spicy hummus. Each one was sprinkled with paprika and topped with half a black olive.

When I asked her for the recipe, she smiled and said it was an old family secret recipe from Israel.

Oh. Well, if it’s a secret, I guess that’s that.

Rats. It was really good hummus.

We continued to chat. By the end of the evening, I knew – I hoped, anyhow – that I had found a new friend.

Ilene must have felt the same way.

“I can tell we’re going to be friends,” she sighed. “And I can’t start a friendship with a lie.”

I wondered what deep, dark secret she was going to reveal. I was not ready for true confessions, even though that is how women establish relationships.

“I bought the hummus at Wild Oats. It’s Rachel’s Spicy.”

She is getting better. Now she tells me when she has bought something instead of making it from scratch. It’s been a tough program, but I am proud of her.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No shirt, no shoes, no mullets

posted Sun, 09 Jan 2005

My cousin Ann owns a beauty shop. One of her mantras has always been “no yard art.” She is equally dead set against mullets.

What do you do if one of your customers wants one? I asked her.

Ann sighed. “You can’t really tell a customer ‘no,’ but I just pray when she walks out that she doesn’t tell anyone where she had her hair done.”

No rest for the weary

posted Sun, 09 Jan 2005

I’m not usually given to conspiracy theories, even though if I had a card, I would be a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, but I am convinced, after years of being forced because of a medical condition known as TWB (teeney-weeny bladder) to use public restrooms, that there is a conspiracy against women.

Or, at least, that not a single woman has ever been involved in the design of a public women’s restroom.

Let me elucidate. I am AT THE AIRPORT in Atlanta. It is winter. I have a coat. I also have my luggage (because when you travel space available, you don’t check bags). I have stuff. Most people traveling have stuff.

Yet, when I get into the tiny stall in the ladies’ room, not only is there almost no room to bring my bag in with me (I don’t dare to leave it unattended), but there is not a hook from which to hang my purse or my coat.

Hello. I don’t want to put my stuff on the FLOOR of a public restroom.

So I throw my coat over the door, but still have my purse and my lunchbag, which also contains my book. There is one of those trays that folds down from the wall. I pull it down and set the lunchbag on it, because I cannot remove the purse from my shoulder until I have taken the lunchbag from my hand, but the weight of the lunchbag is not adequate to keep the tray down, so the lunchbag gets thrown into the air and upended.

It is not until I get onto the airplane to M’town that I realize I have lost my apple (not so important, because I still have my bagels and chocolate) and my book.

The book is a big deal. I was halfway through Seabiscuit. Now I am stuck on a flight without anything to read and I am sitting next to a jerk, so conversation is out of the question.

I blame it all on the Atlanta airport.

I know no one wants to waste money, but I will spot the Atlanta Airport Authority the $20 it would cost for hooks for each of the stalls in that one ladies’ room. They could call it the Class Factotum Memorial Restroom. I bet other women would rally to the cause for the remaining restrooms.

A few years ago, my church built a new parish center. The ladies’ room toilet stalls lacked hooks. I mentioned something to the two parishioner/architects who had designed the center, but nothing was done.

In frustration, I finally bought some plastic hooks that hang over the top of the door and took them to church with me. After mass, I hung a hook over the side of every stall. Those hooks remained for months. Metal hooks were not installed for another six months after that.

We can put a man on the moon, and figure out a way for him to pee on the way there, and have toilets that flush themselves, taps that start themselves, and towel dispensers that work by magic, but we can’t put hooks in the ladies’ room? Where are our priorities?

We are family

posted Sun, 09 Jan 2005

Reading this now -- December 2009 -- I want to go back in time and slap myself and Nicole. Nicole for being so rude and myself for putting up with her rudeness. I mean, really. The woman had never met me and she felt free to comment on my life like that?

Pat and Hank invited everyone to their house after the lunch to continue the party. That was where my cousin Ann, my sister, Ilene, and my cousin Kim and Kim’s friend Nicole all roundly condemned me for not bringing Harpo to the funeral.

“You’ve been dating three years and you didn’t invite him?” Ann asked in disbelief.

“You must feel like a complete schmuck,” Nicole observed.

Well, I sure did by then.

I tried weakly to explain that I hadn’t wanted him to spend his days off traveling and not getting any rest, that it is a lot harder for two people to fly space available than one person and that he would have had to find someone to work for him on Sunday because if we didn’t get back by 2:00 for him to start his shift, he would have lost flight privileges for six months, but they weren’t having it.

“You should have at least asked him,” they scolded.

So I called him and told him that the next funeral I had to attend, he was invited. And really, it would have been fun to have him at this one. He met Sylvia a few years ago when we went to a family reunion. She was her sassy, witty self then.

I am also inviting him to my uncle Larry’s fish fry next August, the weekend before Labor Day. There. It’s on record.

The bodacious red-headed pediatrician, who is now an honorary member of my family – I have 29 first cousins, 14 aunts and uncles, and she doesn’t have enough, so I can share – and her Cheese Guy are also invited.

I am also taking him a bunch of the rice krispy/peanut butter/fudge brownies that my aunt Pat made for the funeral.

There. Am I forgiven?