Sunday, January 31, 2010

I wanna put on my my my my shoes de boogie

posted Thu, 16 Jun 2005

My cousin Becky and I took a salsa class last night. The dancing kind, not the chips and kind.

I thought I would tear it up, as I took salsa dancing classes for a couple of months when I lived in Miami. But I hadn’t been in years and this teacher, Alex, was awful! He started the class 25 minutes late (in true Latin fashion) and then, he tried to rush through everything to make up for it. Frustrated the heck out of me because I don’t like to be rushed. I like to be the rusher.

In Miami, I had a great teacher. She made sure everyone had the step before moving on to the next one. This guy was going so fast that I was tempted to sit on the floor and go on strike in protest.

It got better, though, once we actually got to dance with partners. Alex did that part right. He had us change partners every few minutes so we would learn to dance the step, not just to dance with one particular partner.

I took lessons once where apparently (not that they put this information in the class description), you had to bring your own partner. I had never taken a dance class like that before. Ever other time, the teacher had us share partners. But this teacher, when she saw I was unaccompanied, told me that I would have to practice the steps by myself in the corner. For all four sessions of the class.

Then, when she would see someone not doing the step right, rather than correct that person, she would stop the music, look up at the ceiling, and say, “Someone isn’t rocking back on the two count.”

We would all look at each other, wondering who she was talking about, wondering, “Is it I?” Why wouldn’t she just tell the person? We were paying to learn, after all. Our egos were not going to be devastated by a little corrective instruction.

Back to last night. We started having more fun when we got to dance with partners and to music, even though there was a lot of difference in the men. Some were good, some were not so good. And some were downright weird.

One guy wouldn’t start dancing until I looked into his eyes. I couldn’t figure out why we were standing still. I finally looked at him quizzically. He pointed his index and middle finger at his eyes, saying dramatically, “It’s easier to dance if you are looking into my eyes.”

Well, no it’s not. I don’t know you and I find that level of intimacy with a stranger very uncomfortable.

Every time I looked away, he would stop dancing. I was quite relieved to get to an ordinary bad dancer with sweaty hands who counted out loud and who wouldn’t look at me.

If you can`t have kids like Jordan and Jillian, then don`t have any at all

posted Wed, 15 Jun 2005

Jordan and Jillian hard at work, cleaning my car with a dustbuster, paper towels, and rainwater.

These girls have been raised right. All children should be taught to ask for chores when they have dinner at the homes of their parents’ friends. What a charming thing for them to do. The next night, when we met for dinner at Café Ole, Jillian tugged on my dress. “Miss Class Factotum, when are you going to give us that list?”

“List?” I asked.

“Of chores!” she said impatiently.

I remembered. I had told her the night before that I didn’t have any more chores after the car and the pile of grass and sod in the front yard that they had moved to the compost heap in the back, but that I would keep a list for the next time they visited.

I don`t have time to be everywhere

posted Wed, 15 Jun 2005

My friend Susie met this guy online a few weeks ago. For their first meeting – I am not even going to call it a date, she went to his house. She did not consult me beforehand, because I would have advised her against it. I would have told her to meet him in a crowded public place, but that’s because I am convinced that any man who has not been vetted by friends or is somehow otherwise known to you -- work, church, other organization -- is an ax murderer.

She goes to his house and it turns out he is really wealthy. He claims he has never been married. (He also claims it’s really his house.) First red flag. Mid forties – wealthy – and never been married? Better to have been divorced at that age than never married if you ask me. After 40 and never been married for a guy and there’s usually a darn good reason.

Never married – or if he did, it was well after he was 40. I rest my case.

They have a nice evening, then several phone calls over the next week or two. I think they meet for lunch once.

Then he calls her and tells her to be waiting for him at his house that evening.

Without any clothes.


“That’s where you hung up, right?” I say.

“Only after I told him I didn’t appreciate being treated that way,” she sniffed.

Her first mistake was not to insist on being treated properly from the outset, I think. But she never wants men to treat her like a lady – like they are on a date.

Last year, she met a guy in her motorcycle group. He called her up, asked her to dinner, picked her up at her house, took her out, tried to pay (she wouldn’t let him – she never lets men pay for her), then, much to her shock and surprise, “he kissed me!”

“Well, Susie, you were on a date! What did you think would happen when he took you home?”

“That wasn’t a date! We’re just friends from riding!”

I rolled my eyes as I enumerated the points to her. “Susie. He called you. He asked you out. He picked you up. He took you to a restaurant. He tried to pay except stubborn you wouldn’t let him. What exactly about that is not a date to you?”

“Well, I didn’t think it was one!” she sputtered.

She had a point. If both parties do not consider the date to be a date, it’s not a date. It’s that simple.

The waiting is the hardest part

posted Tue, 14 Jun 2005

If any of you were ever to meet me in person, you would undoubtedly be very surprised to learn that I am a bossy control freak.

Yes, it’s true.

I couldn’t find any women dictators when I searched google! I asked my colleagues and all they could suggest was Evita Peron and Imelda Marcos. I pointed out that all their power was derivative. At least Imelda, poor homely thing, got some good shoes out of us UN contributors. There is no woman who has made it on her own as a true dictator. Where are those diversity programs when you really need them?

I like to be the one in charge, the one giving orders.

It just comes naturally to me. It’s a gift, really.

But not everyone appreciates this quality. I don’t know why, because usually, my way is best.

So I have been working on keeping the inner dictator in check. It’s one of the many self-improvement projects I am working on (on which I am working?).

I had a lunch date today – my second – with this guy who wanted to know if we could meet again this week for lunch. He will be out of town next week. I told him that unfortunately, I am already booked for lunch the rest of this week.

I waited for him to suggest an evening engagement, but the idea did not occur to him.

I tried to think of a way to prompt him, but "subtle" is not an adjective anyone thinks of when they think “Class Factotum.”

My usual MO would be to say, “How about supper on Saturday, then?” but I bit my tongue. I am supposed to let the man do the asking. The Rules said so.

Who writes this baloney? Patient people?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ditch the bitch and make the switch

posted Mon, 13 Jun 2005

Ilene and I started wondering: if we were lesbians, with whom would we want to sleep?

Or, even better – even if we weren’t lesbians, with whom would we want to sleep? Or whatever. You know. My mom reads this blog. I have to keep it somewhat clean.

The only bad thing about being on the same team is that another woman will steal your chocolate. The good part is you can share shoes and clothes.

Because really, I think I would make an exception for Angelina right now. She is that hot.

But I have been running names through my mind all day of other women (or, should I say, “womyn”) and I can’t think of anyone else who inspires that reaction in me. Yes. I have been doing this instead of working. I owe my employer a refund. But considering that on Friday, they eliminated the jobs of everyone in my building except the ten in my group, I don’t feel too bad.

Ilene suggested Sharon Stone, but blondes have never done it for me. Even female blondes.

Then again, I never saw “Basic Instinct.”

Maybe Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat.” That was pretty steamy. I saw it when I was a freshman in college and I thought it was a porn movie. Mom, it wasn't. Don't worry. I had just been very sheltered.

None of the others in the current crop make me want to make the switch, though. Yeah, if I already went the other way, they’d be fine. For sure, I would want someone pretty like Cindy Crawford or Eva Mendes or Gabrielle Union. (What is it with those mullet-headed, flannel-shirted, mannish types? Why not just get a man if that’s what you want? Even though I cannot possibly think of any circumstance where I would find a mullet acceptable in a man or a woman.) But I can’t think of anyone on whom I would want to nibble right now.

But Angelina. Man. That chick smolders.

Coke kills

posted Mon, 13 Jun 2005

Saturday morning, I was at the grocery store at 6:15 a.m. Not for fun. Not because it’s the most efficient time to shop for groceries, because it’s not – there are a lot of stock outs at that hour and not a good selection of produce. In Miami, it actually was the best time to shop. There was no traffic and no one else in the store. I would get in and get out. On my way there, I would see people stumbling out of nightclubs.

No, I was there because the Coke distributor had run me out of diet Cherry Coke.

I had warned the guy the weekend before when I saw him stacking a bunch of lime diet Cokes. “Don’t run me out of diet Cherry,” I said.

“Uh huh,” he said absent-mindedly, as he unbuckled that silly back brace they make them wear. The corporate safety guy would be furious if he knew that no one ever buckles those things.

Last Sunday, I ran out of diet Cherry cokes. I put it on my list. Tuesday evening, I went to the grocery store after work for a few things. I checked the soda aisle. No diet Cherry coke. This was not yet a problem, because I had two cases of it at work for a.m. consumption. (I don’t drink coffee.)

What I needed was a case to have at home for the weekend. But the weekend was not yet nigh. I had time.

Friday night, I didn’t go to the grocery store. Why? I don’t know. I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking. So when I awoke Saturday morning, I had no source of caffeine. I had to make a trip right away to the store. I was not in a good mood when I got there.

See, this is all just the warmup for the real story. Now we’re getting to the actual plot. That was just the introduction. This is the man vs self, man vs man, man vs nature part (at least for anyone educated before 1980).

So I get to the produce department. I have had no caffeine and nothing to eat. I have already checked the soda aisle and there is still no diet Cherry Coke.

The rhubarb (an absolutely delicious Midwestern fruit -- vegetable? stalk?, for those of you who have not had the privilege) has been in stock for over a week.

Yet they still haven’t put out a price for it.

I find a clerk.

“I’m just curious,” I say. “Why is there a price up for beets – even though are no beets in stock – yet there is no price up for rhubarb?”

The clerk yells. “Andre! This lady wants to know much the rhubarb cost!”

“No,” I say patiently. “That’s not what I said. What I asked is why there is no price posted for a product that has been sitting in the bin for over a week?”

She looks at me as if I am nuts. Andre approaches us.

“It’s cheap. Two ninety nine a pound,” he says.

“That’s not cheap,” I say. “Why haven’t you posted the price?”

He shrugs. “You hafta ask the manager that. He’s not here.”

The woman looks at me. “Why do you care?”

“Because every time I walk into a store, I think how I would run it better. If I were in charge here, that price would have been posted when the rhubarb was stocked. The prices for the items not in stock would be removed. I wouldn’t make it so hard for customers to buy things. Last week, it took me forever to find someone to tell me the rhubarb price. It shouldn’t be hard for me to buy something from you.”

She stepped back.

I took pity on her.

“Look. I haven’t had any caffeine yet, OK? I’m a little testy.”

But she didn’t come any closer. I gave up and got diet Dr Pepper instead. I’ll have to visit my mom for the rhubarb. If I am going to pay that much for it, I might as well buy a plane ticket.

Brave new world

posted Sun, 12 Jun 2005

Minor Clergy, a lawyer studying to be an Orthodox priest, is one of my favorites. I read his site daily. I didn’t know until I read his post about it that Jesus didn’t just give the blind man sight – he gave him eyes. See for yourself here.

We have a reader in my parish who is blind. I didn’t even realize it until I noticed that someone always guides him to the lectern – his white cane isn’t adequate for this situation. Instead of looking down, he looks out at the congregation as he reads. Someone must translate the reading into Braille for him.

A few Sundays ago, we had a diocese-wide mass for the handicapped. The altar servers, the ushers and the readers were all handicapped in one way or another. Most were mentally handicapped, although one man who used crutches looked as if he had had polio – he was the right age.

The first lector read the Old Testament passage with grim determination, sounding out every word, repeating the hard ones until he got them right. He had rehearsed, but reading in front of an audience is not the same as practicing at home. I could tell everyone wanted to clap when he was done, but applause after someone has read is really not appropriate in church, although I think most of us would have gladly made an exception.

For the Our Father, one of the altar boys, who had Down’s syndrome and who must have been deaf, too, signed the prayer. I couldn’t sing because I was too busy trying to hide my tears.

Another altar boy couldn’t stop smiling. He was so happy just to be included in something so ordinary – to be part of everyday life.

Where am I going with this? Not sure, except that for someone as against mainstreaming in public schools as I am, I am for mainstreaming in life. That is, there are all sorts of people in life. Not everyone is born with eyes – or with a mind or body that works the way it is supposed to. But that does not mean that person does not deserve to live.

I was horrified to read in the Guardian that a baby in Britain had been aborted at 24 weeks because it had a cleft palate!

My sister is a neo-natal nurse practitioner.

She takes care of babies born at 24 weeks.

Cleft palates can be fixed.

Babies are aborted in this country for being handicapped.

There is a difference between letting a severely handicapped baby be born and letting nature take its course (which does not include starvation) and killing it in the womb. There is also a difference between letting a Down’s syndrome or other mildly handicapped baby be born and letting it live and killing it.

I cannot begin to know what life must be like for the parents of such a child. But is imperfection a reason to kill? How perfect do you have to be to be allowed to live? My insurance company would probably like to see me go. My migraine drugs cost hundreds of dollars a month – way more than I pay in premiums. (I am so lucky to have a good health plan.) Who gets to make these decisions?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Race for the cure

posted Sun, 12 Jun 2005

I had no idea my whiteface inspired such curiosity amongst my fellow boot campers. On Friday, we split into small groups for self-directed exercise, which I really didn’t like, because the main reason I am paying to be in this program is I want someone to tell me what to do. If I could get a decent workout by directing myself, I would still be swimming.

Anyhow, Tony, the DI, made some smart-aleck comment about my kabuki face, as he always does – he calls me “Kabuki Chick” – and I said something back about how he wasn’t going to hurt my feelings talking about my sunblock.

Another woman in my group gasped, “That’s your sunblock?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Why? What did you think it was?”

“We thought maybe you had poison ivy. Or some weird skin condition or disease.”

I laughed. Of course, this being the South, no one would ever have asked me about it. That would be rude. (Not a bad quality, actually.) I had a horrible black eye a couple of years ago – I had fallen and hit my eye on the windowsill in the middle of the night – and no one would say anything. I took pity on one woman and told her, after 15 minutes of conversation, “I fell.”

“Oh honey,” she said sympathetically, as she leaned forward and touched my arm, “My ex used to beat me, too.”

I explained to my boot camp friend that I get icky brown blotches on my face if I get any sun on it, so I wear as much sunblock as I can.

“We just thought you were being really brave in the face of an odd disease,” she said.

“I had no idea everyone was so interested in this,” I laughed. “It’s just zinc oxide! Diaper rash ointment!”

“Don’t tell anyone,” she said. “Maintain the myth and have some fundraisers!”

Lead or get the heck out of my way

posted Thu, 09 Jun 2005

I just finished one of my favorite work tasks: packing boxes of chocolate for shipment to the customer service reps at the factories. I work with a couple hundred service reps at over 50 factories. I am in charge of a project that requires their cooperation, even though I have no authority over them.

I give them tons of extra work – ask them learn new processes and procedures – and I am not even the boss of them. But they do it. It’s amazing what people will do if you give them a clear objective, a good reason for reaching it, the tools and the training to do the job, and appropriate incentives.

The tiaras have been an enormous hit. I had no idea. At one plant, the service rep sent me an email that she and the other reps decided they would all have to take turns wearing the tiara, even though it was rightfully hers. “Every woman should be a princess,” she wrote.

Our customer service departments are understaffed. These women (mostly women) are not paid very much and get little recognition or appreciation. Yet they are our main contact with the customer. My company has the money for corporate jets and swanky offices for the bigwigs, but can’t pay an extra $25,000 a year per factory to have another person on staff to take the burden off the existing service reps. Go figure.

So I do what I can with my corporate American Express. I load up at the Godiva store. If I am going to ask these women to do extra work, I am going to reward them for it. When a factory has made significant progress on a project, I send them a box of chocolate. They deserve it.

But it’s not just the chocolate. Do you know what a difference it makes to write someone a personal note telling her she did a great job on something? Or to send an email to a factory with the graph showing all the factories and their relative progress on a project and the words, “Great job, Boise team!” You make sure you copy the factory manager and the division director, too. Praise in public, punish in private.

Now is the part where I totally out myself, but anyone from work who has stumbled across this site and has read more than two entries has figured out who I am anyhow.

I am the SAP Queen. I didn’t give that name to myself, but the moniker has stuck.

If I am the queen, I can create princesses. When a service rep does something noteworthy, I write a note praising what she has done – and I tell her she is an SAP Princess.

Whenever I see something at Target that is princess related, I buy it. Recently, in that dollar section up front, they had a bunch of princess pens, wands and tiaras. I bought all they had. I have been sending them out, along with a handful of Baci chocolates and the handwritten note, to individual service reps for individual recognition.

I am very interested in the questions of how you lead people and what makes one organization succeed and another fail. It has been fascinating to see how easy it is to work with this bunch of great service reps – over whom I have no authority – to implement my goals yet watch the rest of my division be run so – differently. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Stripping: acceptable profession for my little girl or not?

posted Wed, 08 Jun 2005

When I worked at Ryder, I overheard a woman in the locker room at the onsite gym complaining that her boss had taken her entire group to Hooter’s for a meeting during work hours. She thought – and I agreed – that this was inappropriate.

When I told the Hooter’s story to my VP, who was only in his early 40s – young enough to know better, he was befuddled.

“What’s wrong with having a work meeting at Hooter’s? I like their food. They have great wings.”

“George,” I asked, “You don’t see why maybe some of the women might have felt uncomfortable?”

“No,” he answered, genuinely puzzled.

“So you think this is the sort of place women should feel comfortable.”


His daughter was seven at the time.

“Would you like your daughter to work there when she gets old enough?”

All the color drained from his face.

“Oh,” he said. “I see what you mean.”

At work today, a guy and I were talking about strippers. “I wouldn’t want my daughter to work at a strip joint, but I wouldn’t mind if she worked at Hooter’s,” he claimed. “If you look at women on the beach, they are wearing a lot less clothing than the women do at Hooter’s. What’s the difference?”

I have been trying to figure that out. The difference is, I think, that the women on the beach aren’t trying to make money by selling their bodies. But I guess that’s only bad if you think selling your body and prostitution are bad things.

I don’t care if Hooter’s is in business. It’s not the same as a house of prostitution – don’t get me wrong here – but we are at the beginning of a continuum. Don’t kid yourself. People do not go to Hooter’s for the food.

And really, I’m not sure I have a problem with a pretty girl with a nice figure working her way through college at Hooter’s. But it would be a tough call, because she would always be on that razor’s edge, dodging the groping hands and leering eyes.

It is the commoditization of the girl herself that bothers me. What does it do to her soul? I don’t care if she takes the money from those guys. But it’s the way they just see her as nothing more than a pretty face with a pretty body and nothing behind it – a body there to serve them – that bothers me. She becomes a means rather than an end in herself. And a person is never supposed to be a means to an end.

Whew. I am getting way too philosophical. Better stop.

I remember the FedEx pilot I met in the Atlanta airport who told me his daughter was an “exotic dancer.” I was so shocked that I blurted out, “Wow. I’ll bet that’s not what you hoped for her when she was a little girl.

He just shrugged and said, “You can’t help how they turn out.”

Well, yes and no. Much of personality is hard wired, but there is a lot you can do to put a child on the right path. There are many choices between the convent and stripping.

What was really creepy was that later, I saw him working on his laptop. The background image was of a very scantily-clad, very busty (like GGG cup) young woman who looked like a stripper. That is just not right, as in it is quasi incestuous.

I asked Joan and Steve if they would mind if Jordan and Jillian worked at Hooter’s when they were grown. Steve shook his head and rolled his eyes. Joan said, “We really have much higher aspirations for them than that. We think they can achieve more than that sort of work.”

That’s the right answer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Plane ticket -- $280, Hotel -- $90, Being hit on by captain of the high school football team -- priceless

posted Wed, 08 Jun 2005

More high school stories. Some of you have heard this one before, but it’s so good it bears re-telling.

You have to know this first, though.

This will come as a big surprise to most of you, but the CF has not always been the bombshell you see before you today. Nope, there was a time when she was a nerd.


You read that right.

A nerd.

A nerd who was not asked to a single high school dance. Well, except for when Mike N. asked me to the ROTC winter formal and I don’t think that counts because he asked every other girl in our chemistry class before he got to me.

Not one.

Yes, I know this is a great shock, but for whatever reason, smart girls on the swim team who sew all their own unfashionable clothes are not usually on the top of the social ladder. Go figure.

So. When I went to my 20-year high school reunion, I was not expecting any boys – well, men, I guess – to pay any attention to me. I was going to the reunion only because my therapist thought it would be a good idea, not because there was anyone I wanted to see. None of the high school friends I kept in touch with were going.

(NB I had gone to see the therapist after a bad breakup. I took a spreadsheet of all my boyfriends up to then, thinking she should be able to look at the data – length of relationship, age of boyfriend, job, religion, and other info, and tell me what I was doing wrong after a few sessions. I was paying $60 an hour, after all. I didn’t want to waste my money. I thought three sessions ought to do the trick.)

I was sitting next to Scott K, on whom I’d had a crush from ninth through 11th grade, trying to get his attention. He was trying to get Elaine R’s attention. Elaine was just as nice and just as stunning as she was in high school, only now she had a PhD. Meanwhile, Ricky R was on my other side, talking to me. I was paying him hardly any attention.

Finally, Ricky said, in frustration, “Hey! I’m trying to flirt with you!’

I looked at him in bewilderment. “Who are you?”

“Don’t you remember me from school?” he asked.

“No,” I told him. I wished I remembered him. He was very nice looking – dressed well.

“I was the president of the senior class.”

“We moved back to the States after my junior year.”

“I was the captain of the football team!” he protested.

“I didn’t care about football.”

“My uncle was the president of Panama!”

“I wasn’t interested in politics back then,” I explained.

I looked over at Scott. He was still mooning over Elaine. I looked at Ricky. He was obviously interested in me. It might have been 20 years too late, and I knew I shouldn’t have been as excited about it as I was, but darnit, the captain of the football team was hitting on me!

And I had no idea what to do about it.

You might be able to, but I can`t go home again

posted Tue, 07 Jun 2005

Let me explain why it is such a big deal to me to see a friend from high school.

Except for my relatives, I have no connection to my past before a few high school friends. Military brats lose their history every time they move. Between kindergarten and my senior year of high school, I went to ten different schools. In fifth grade, I changed schools three times.

I don’t keep in touch with a single friend from before high school – not because I don’t want to, mind you – but because you lose track of people. Youngsters, there was a time when it was really hard to keep up with people. Yes, there was an era when you couldn’t just google someone. I could google friends from back then now, but their names have changed.

I don’t even have the luxury of returning to a place to learn how the story ended. If I returned to Torrejon Air Force Base in Spain, no one who was living there when I was a kid would be there now. (Not to mention I think it is now the property of Spain’s Air Force.) I can’t go back to a hometown and find the parents of my second-grade classmates.

So I have been burning the candle at both ends to see as much of Joan and her family as possible. I met them for dinner on Sunday, had them over to my house last night and will see them again tonight.

Joan and her husband Steve have two really cute little girls: Jordan, who is seven, and Jillian, four. After dinner last night, we were sitting on the front porch eating watermelon. Jordan asked me in her melodious, lilting voice, “Miss Class Factotum, do you have any chores for us to do?”

Just to tease her, I said, “You see that pile of grass on the sidewalk there? I need it moved to the compost heap in the back yard.” It was the grass I had dug out of the flowerbed on Saturday.

“OK!” she said brightly and jumped out of the swing.

Not to be outdone, Jillian scrambled out of the swing and grabbed her shoes. They marched out to the pile and started carrying the grass, handful by handful, into the back.

Steve took pity on them and got the wheelbarrow and the shovel and took care of most of it.

When they finished, they asked for the next project.

“Well,” I said thoughtfully. “My car needs to be vacuumed and cleaned.”

“OK!” they said enthusiastically and jumped to the task as soon as I got the dustbuster and some rags.

“You’re doing a great job!” I praised them.

“I’m only four!” Jillian boasted.

“Most four-year-olds can’t do this caliber of work,” I told her.

“And I used to be three!” she said.

When they finished the car, they asked for the next project.

“I need a new roof,” I mused.

Jordan’s face fell. “We don’t know how to do that yet,” she said.

I might have been an English major, but I understand the laws of physics

posted Mon, 06 Jun 2005

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Call me crazy, but I think my time should be respected. If I make an appointment with a doctor, I will show up on time. Heck, I will even show up early so I can have all the paperwork completed before the scheduled appointment time.

Today, I had an appointment with a new doc. The appointment was for 12:45 – first appointment after lunch, so no excuses of anyone running late. I got there at 12:30 and completed all the paperwork, even doing a little copy editing to correct the grammar on the form. (Am I nice or what?)

At 12:45, I was still in the waiting room, waiting. Waiting. Started talking to another guy waiting with me. Discovered he, too, had a 12:45 appointment. With the same doc. Hmm. How can that be? Indeed, there were ten of us in the room. For two docs.

At 1:00, they took me into an exam room. I read through an old Biography magazine and learned the tragic tale of Joy Adamson, who wrote Born Free, which was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid, then did some work I had in my briefcase.

Waited, waited, waited.

I finally had had enough.

I left the room, went to the receptionist, and asked her to return my copay. “But the doctor is almost about to see you.”

I said very politely, “I need to return to work.”

I will find a different doctor.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Paula Bunyan, baby (bird) killer

posted Sat, 04 Jun 2005

4:30 in the morning on day three of insomnia is probably not the best time to make a mental list of what you are going to do once it is light, but it is too late for regrets now.

But let me say first that arborists are big fat liars.

As in a tree planted in the middle of my yard will kill the flowerbed on the west side of my yard.

Yes, it will. Yes, it did. I suffered for two years. I watched all the foxglove die, then the coneflower, then all the stuff I can’t remember. It all went. Died for lack of sun. Eventually, I gave up. Transplanted what little remained alive and planted grass in the now-rich soil that I had dug, tilled and fertilized. The grass grew quite well, even though it doesn’t match the rest of the yard grass, which is bermuda. I am very, very good at growing grass in places where I want to grow flowers.

But darnit, it just didn’t look right. And then the tree started to kill the flowers I planted in the beds I created on the east side of the yard.

Basta! I said. Enough! I want flowers in my flowerbeds, not grass!

This morning, I got up (well – out of bed – “up” implies I awoke) and started digging. I am going to clear out the grass and plant flowers again. I got about one-third of the bed cleared before the sun got over the big trees to the east.

Then I got my handy little Stanley SharpTooth saw. It only took me about five minutes to cut down the tree. I didn’t even get to yell “timber.” Honestly, I don’t know why lumberjacks have the reputation of being such macho men. It’s not like cutting down a tree is such a hard thing! I’m a girl and I did it in no time at all with a 15”, nine-point saw.

It took me another 15 minutes to cut up the branches and stack them on the sidewalk. I used pruning clippers for that. Lumberjacks. Feh. Lumberjack breakfast? I had a banana smoothie and a diet Coke. Please.

When I got to the inner branches, I saw a nest. I was relieved to see it was empty. But then, as I cleared branches and could see the street, I saw shattered robin’s eggs.

Ooops. That robin that was hopping around in the dirt I had already turned eating the worms and bugs is going to find me and peck my eyes out.

Bible trivia du jour on the country music station

posted Fri, 03 Jun 2005

[music: singers – “Bible trivia! Bible trivia!” to the melody of Handel’s “Messiah”]

[music: organ – “Rock of Ages”]

DJ 1: How did the Lord part the Red Sea?

DJ 2: With Moses?

DJ 1: No! You know the story, right?

DJ 2: Right! The one with Charleton Heston.

DJ 2: Yeah, except Charleton Heston was an actor.

Caller 1: Was it Moses’ staff?

DJ 1: Nope. That’s not right.

Caller 1: Was it Moses’ hand?

DJ 1: Nope. That’s not right, either.

Caller 2: Was it Moses?

DJ 1: No, it was not Moses.

Caller 2: Was it Moses’ hand?

DJ 1: No, Moses’ hand would be part of Moses.

Caller 3: Was it a wind?

DJ 1: That is correct! “The Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind.” Exodus 14:21 and 22.


posted Thu, 02 Jun 2005

I called the garden mash note guy, Danny G. He asked me what the funny tall purple flowers were. Verbena. Could he have some, he asked. Sure – I yank ‘em out like weeds, I told him.

He offered me strawberries in exchange. I said that wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. A woman he had dated only a week and a half had given him the plants and they had proliferated. Well, OK.

Nobody with any gardening savvy pays for black-eyed Susan, evening primrose or lambs’ (lamb’s?) ear. They are like kittens: there is always someone who has some to give away.

He also told me about his two marriages and two divorces and gave me a lot more information than I really wanted. I didn’t realize that gardening is the real way to meet men -- multiple divorced, old serial-murderer men, but men. Who knew?

He showed up at my house about 6:00 in an old pickup truck. He was a big ol’ guy – looked like Santa Claus in overalls. Well, a middle-aged Santa in overalls.

He showered me with bedding plants: a dozen strawberries, 18 dusty millers, three castor beans (which are poisonous but no one ever suspects castor bean poisoning!), a moonflower, six hummingbird vines, five tomato seedlings, and six something I forgot.

So of course I felt I had to offer more than just a few verbena. He admired my shamrocks, so I gave him some of those. I really don’t have much more that is invasive or proliferating except for my black-eyed Susan and offering someone black-eyed Susan is almost like offering him dandelions. I mean, you can’t give that stuff away! My friend Holly begged me to take more when I was taking black-eyed Susan from her to get my garden started.

Still, just to be funny, I asked if he wanted some. “Sure!” he said. “I’ve tried to grow it from seed, but I can’t get it to take.”

He dug up a big shovelful, which was fine, but I noticed to my dismay that there was a huge hole left.

Not to worry. Any man who shows up bearing strawberry plants is not going to leave holes in a garden. He went to his truck and returned with a bucketful of dirt. “Prime potting soil,” he said. “The rest of your garden will be jealous.”

He gave me his email address, too, but I think I have enough information.

Topic du jour

posted Wed, 01 Jun 2005

Thong underpants. Padded bras. Appropriate for pre-teen girls? Discuss amongst yourselves.

This almost makes up for not being asked to the prom -- or a single high school dance, actually

posted Tue, 31 May 2005

It is about damn time that my garden started getting the attention it deserved. It got a mash note today. I found this note in my mailbox when I got home from work:

Pls, call me concerning your beautiful flower garden
Danny G
1:30 pm -------

Ha. Let the Yard of the Month Committee take note of that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Le mot just

posted Sat, 28 May 2005

It has been pointed out to me that I am not a garden slut but a garden hoe. That is all.

Now we are merely negotiating price

I originally put Bubba's real name in this post. He googled his name and found this post. He had emailed me the photos he took, so had my email. After finding his name with the implication that he might be a murdered, he emailed me again, very insulted. I learned my lesson about using real names. I was more than ashamed.

posted Sat, 28 May 2005

I am a total garden slut. All a man has to do is talk nice about my flowerbeds and I will bend to his will. This morning, I was weeding and winnowing and doing other gardening stuff – I won’t use all those technical gardening terms because I don’t want to make you non-gardeners feel bad – when this late-middle-aged Asian man drove up. Came to a screeching halt, actually, right at my driveway, and got out of his car.

I removed my walkman earpieces – reluctantly, because they were on number 467 of the Memorial Day Weekend countdown (Alice Cooper, “School’s Out”) – so I could hear him.

Good thing I did, because he began to lavish praise upon my flowers. At last, a man of intelligence and perception.

“Your garden is beautiful!” he gushed.

I didn’t bother to try to deny it, because the man, he spoke the truth.

“Are those poppies?” he gasped.

Yep. In Flanders field the poppies blow…

“How did you get them to grow? I’ve tried and tried but I have never been able to get any to come up. I even took photos of your garden last summer.”

Well. This was the gardening equivalent of, “You are the most beautiful woman in the world and if I can’t have you, I will throw myself off the bridge.”

He hesitated, then plunged in. “Do you think – do you think I might have some seeds from those poppies?”

Sure! I told him. And here! I’ll even give you a baby poppy plant!

Then he admired my verbena. Verbena is like black-eyed Susan and kittens: you never pay for it. Someone is always trying to get rid of it. So I dug some of that up for him, too. I even gave him the plastic sandwich bag to put it all in.

He left, but 15 minutes later, he returned with his camera. I thought he wanted more photos of my garden, but no, he wanted them of moi. Either he has exceptionally good taste, or he is a serial garden killer planning his next strike. Mom, if they find me dead in the garden with a trowel through my heart, tell them to look for Bubba Jones.

Mel Gibson, dream gynecologist

posted Sat, 28 May 2005

When I made the appointment to see a doctor about that problem whose name shall not be spoken (or written), the receptionist asked which doc I wished to see.

“I don’t know any of them,” I told her. “But this is already humiliating enough. Not a cute one.”

“All of our doctors look like movie stars,” she deadpanned.

I wouldn`t mind if Frank Langella bit me

posted Fri, 27 May 2005

At PE this morning, Tony was hassling me – as usual – about my kabuki face sunscreen. “This is the result of the medical advice I give,” he told one of the black students. “Be careful. It’s Michael Jackson syndrome.”

When I was harassing him about a story he was telling, he told me to be quiet or he was going to yank my hat off and show my nasty hair. “I have great hair,” I told him.

Once the sun is up, I must retreat to my coffin.

“Then I will throw you in the sun,” he warned.

“I will die if you do that,” I answered.

“Tell her you’ll lock her in a tanning bed,” yelled the guy next to me.

Tickle me Elmo

posted Thu, 26 May 2005

My mom wrote that she saw a girl of about 13 or 14 at mass last week wearing clothes she (my mother) thought inappropriate for church. The girl was in a very short skirt and a cropped shirt. You could see the tattoo on her back because the shirt did not cover her midriff. It also appeared that the girl had forgotten, in her rush to get to the church on time, to put on undergarments.

My mother commented to the man holding the door open after mass that perhaps the girl’s outfit was not the best one for church. The man answered icily that Jesus wore sandals, my mother should not be judgmental, and that the girl was his beautiful daughter.

I agree with my mother. Not that she should be commenting on someone else’s outfit to a stranger – she should save those comments for her friends and family! – but that semi-nudity is best reserved for – for – well, you know, the beach or someplace like that.

Not only that, but to quote the great Manolo, “Manolo says, the Kelly Clarkson, she must learn that the public baring of the belly it is the privilege, not the right.”

Heck, at St Peter’s in Rome, they won’t let you in if you are wearing a sleeveless blouse or a short skirt! I was told my skirt was too short when I was there the first time in 1992. I tugged it down a few inches so they would let me in.

The dad here is the big problem. The girl should know better but the only way she would know better is if her parents had taught her. Instead, her father, who should be protecting his daughter, is flaunting her sexuality. How many good fathers prefer to see their daughters in miniskirts instead of burlap sacks? This poor girl is going to have bigger problems later.

A colleague told me that when his three girls got into junior high, they would try to sneak out of the house every morning in little shirts that would show their tummies. He wouldn’t let them leave before they had passed his test: they had to raise their arms completely over their heads – and their tummies had to remain covered. If the tummy became exposed, it was back upstairs to change clothes.

“There are enough creeps out there trying to get my girls,” he explained. “I don’t need to wrap them up with a bow.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

SWF seeks challenging opportunity to contribute to growing company

posted Wed, 25 May 2005

A headhunter finally called me! Finally finally finally! OK, so she is a rookie who has only been in the job for three months, but still. She saw my resume on and thought I was great, great, great.

We spoke for about 20 minutes yesterday. She said I must get called a lot by other headhunters.

No, no headhunter has ever called me before. No, I didn’t get asked to a single high school dance, except for one ROTC dance by Mark N in my chemistry class and I didn’t accept. No, I have never been married. Really. Never. No, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, OK? so quit asking!

Well, no.

Really! Oh, come on! Someone like me! I must get calls all the time! Top schools, top grades, great work experience and accomplishments at top companies.

Um, no. Actually, you’re the first headhunter who has ever called me.

Really. Her tone gets a little flat, but then she brightens. Well! We’ll market you, even though we usually don’t have people of your caliber!

I do start to feel a bit like she is trying to sell me a used car, but figure I have nothing to lose.

She asks me to write a paragraph describing myself – because I can do a much better job than she can! I tell her that maybe an improved version of my resume might be a better idea.

This morning, she sent me an email. Perhaps I could give her some the titles of some jobs I might want?

Well, Ms Recruiter. Now you are starting to understand why I don’t get called by recruiters. It is really hard to classify me. But tell me exactly what it is that you are supposed to do for me if I am doing all the work? Where is it that you are adding value here?

When a man is tired of Willie and Waylon, he is tired of life

posted Wed, 25 May 2005

This will come as a great shock to the four of you readers who do not know me in real life or who are not my mother’s friends (my mother, my syndicator), but I am not as perfect as I might appear to be in my writings. But everyone gets to be a hero in her own story.

At the dry cleaner last night, the clerk asked if I was going to watch “American Idol.” I told her no. She asked why not. I finally had to admit I don’t have a TV. It’s something I usually don’t tell people because of the reaction I get.

Step back and Gasp of Horror. “You don’t have a TV?”


“What do you do? How do you keep up with what’s going on?”

I refrained from pointing out that watching “American Idol” is hardly “keeping up with what’s going on.” I didn’t quiz her on her position on the latest judicial nominations, the filibuster, the Republican sellout, fetal stem cell research and federal funding, illegal aliens, M’town’s budget deficit, the proposed increase in property taxes and other current issues.

I didn’t ask her what she does besides watch TV. I didn’t ask if she reads, if she gardens, if she exercises, if she blogs (God knows that can eat your time), if she fixes things around her house, if she goes to the movies, if she does any volunteer work, if she meets her friends for lunch.

When I lived in Miami, I wasn’t as polite. I would ask, “What do I do? I take Portuguese classes twice a week. I tutor algebra. I swim before work. What do you do?”

All those celibate (OK, castrated) moths so that we might have woolens

posted Tue, 24 May 2005

Walgreen’s needs to hire me as a merchandising taxonomist. Maybe my friend Lenore, who is consulting with them right now, can put a bug in their ear. They have no sense of logic about where to place their items.

Remember when I was looking for a flyswatter? I looked in the section containing plastic equipment used for household cleaning.

That’s not where they were. They were by the roach motels and other pesticides, which had a certain logic, although I’m not sure that chemical and mechanical bug killers belonged in the same section. But OK. Put flyswatters there and put them in the common plastic household items.

Today, I sought mothballs. Thinking of my previous experience, I went straight to pesticides. After all, the purpose of naphthalene is to kill moths, or their larvae, right?

Nope. No mothballs.

Maybe by the laundry detergent?


I finally had to ask a clerk.

Aisle 8b. Things to hang clothes: hangers, hooks, clothespins.

Excuse me???????

OK, yes, these moth balls are on a hook that can hang in your closet, but the principle of the product is to kill moths – that is, pesticide. Therefore, this product belongs with the other pesticides.

Damn. Where is Linnaeus when you need him?

It`s neither the heat nor the humidity

posted Tue, 24 May 2005

Sissies, sissies, sissies. That’s what they are here in M’town. They think the weather is hot and humid here? They don’t know from hot and humid.

Yesterday at the dry cleaners, the man behind me in line was complaining about the weather. Oh, it’s so hot and so humid! he was whining. At 6:00 p.m., it was 86 degrees and 41% humidity. I called him a sissy to his face.

No, my mother did not raise me that way and no, I am not proud of my behavior. But really. I lived in Houston for six years. We would have wept for joy at 41% humidity. 41% humidity is dry.

My first week of college in Houston, I changed clothes three times a day. I was getting soaking wet walking around campus. And this was just moving from San Antonio to Houston. Before that, we were in Panama. You would have thought I would have been accustomed to heat and humidity by the time I got to Houston, but no. Houston is worse than Central America. Hell is just a staging area for Houston as far as I am concerned.

Every May now, I hear the dire warnings. “It’s going to be a bad one.” “Oh, summer’s going to be so awful!”

Yeah. This is while I am still using a quilt and a bedspread at night to keep warm. Even in late June, I will use a light jacket in the morning. I have a space heater under my desk at work. I have used the heat in my house in the past week. We might have a dozen two- or three-day stretches in July and August where it gets above 90 degrees and where the humidity becomes uncomfortable. But that’s it. The rest of the time, it’s very nice.

I have used my air conditioner maybe five times since I moved into my house four years ago. The rest of the time, I use my attic fan. That’s all I need. I have no pity for these people.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don`t try this at home

posted Tue, 24 May 2005

Remember the couple that works out at my pool? The ones who are married but not to each other? Everyone says there is nothing going on between them, even though they meet each other at the gym every morning at 6:00 a.m.


I swam a couple hundred yards this morning after PE. (Bad idea.) Anyhow. Dick and Jane, the nothing going on couple, were there, being their usual rude, lane-hogging selves.

When they got out of the pool, Dick draped Jane’s towel over her shoulders.

But there’s nothing going on.

Joyous and lively, merry, happy

posted Mon, 23 May 2005

This morning, I heard that classic song, “Please Don’t Go,” by KC and the Sunshine Band. I remember this song – which you can hear at – because I had my first Slow Dance to it, with Keith, my First Boyfriend in high school.

We were at the Halloween party at Julie and Robert’s carport. Keith’s mom and dad circled us, snapping photos, which I guess is what it's like with movie stars and the paparazzi.

Keith never seemed to be that attracted to me, really, which for years I took as an indication of my pulchritude. He kissed me all of two times in our entire relationship, even though he would pick me up to drive me to school every morning, which was a big deal in the Canal Zone, as you had to be 17 to get a driver’s license (he had gotten his before leaving the States) and most families had only one car. The military won’t pay to ship more than one car per family overseas, but he was an only and his dad was a colonel. His parents had paid extra to bring his car.

I should have guessed something was wrong with Keith and me by the way my next boyfriend, David, acted. We would spend most of lunch necking behind the chemistry lab. My mom asked me about the rash on my chin one day. “That looks like whisker burn,” she observed. I had never heard of whisker burn, but I figured it out right away. “You need to shave,” I told David, “or I’m not kissing you any more.”

Well anyway. For years, I thought there was something that made me so unattractive that even my own boyfriend – or, at least, Keith – didn’t want to kiss me. One of the times that he did, he observed that I tasted like macaroni (I had just eaten dinner – a dinner that included macaroni) and that he did not like macaroni.

A few years ago, I googled him.

Well, well, well. I already knew through military brat connections that he had joined the Air Force, become a navigator and was a swim coach at the Academy.

What I did not know was that he was…



Gay, gay, gay.

I found a site for gay athletes where he had posted about his coming out. He has a very distinctive last name. That, along with some other information about his job and hobbies, clinched it.

I was thrilled. It wasn’t me at all! It was never about me! He didn’t like any girls! At least, not for kissing.

I’ll bet this explains a bunch of my old boyfriends.

No matter what happens, I mus` not cry

posted Sun, 22 May 2005

I took the (my – already distancing myself) cat back to Mewtopia yesterday.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, considering I had started to wake up every morning needing ½ a tablet of imitrex (prescription painkiller for migraines), of which I get exactly nine, yes that is nine, tablets a month, which means I would be running out of pills before I would run out of month. Strange how you can want to hold on to things even when they cause you pain. I got a lot more attached than I thought I would in just two weeks.

Before I took him back to the rescue place, I gave him a cigarette, a steak and a bandana. OK, I didn’t give him a cigarette. He’s way too young to smoke.

I then spent the afternoon de-catting the house. That cat shed enough for me to knit a sweater. I do not remember O’Malley shedding. I do not remember ever even brushing him. Mom, did we even own a cat brush?

This cat left hair everywhere. I had been scraping cat hair off the rugs with the magnetic cat hair scraper from Petco daily (it really works), but still had to make another run with it, then vacuum the entire house, then wash the Oaxaca rug and my bedspread.

As a coup de grace, I had accidentally closed the cat in the closet while I had gone grocery shopping in the morning. In his panic, he had clawed his way up my suits, pulling threads out and leaving cat hair all over them. I had to clean all that, too.

Now my house is more or less cat-hair free – but I don’t have this sweet cat, either.

Agency theory

posted Sat, 21 May 2005

At the frozen yogurt store, after I had sampled several of the real ice creams, I decided I was not going to undo all those PE classes just for the fleeting pleasure of ice cream, so reverted to the original plan of yogurt, which I know is not much better, but hey, every little bit helps and I will neutralize it with diet Coke anyhow.

I asked the teenaged clerk the difference between the 96% fat-free frozen yogurt and the sugar-free yogurt.

“The 96% fat-free is 96% fat free and the sugar free doesn’t have any sugar in it,” she explained.

Taking a deep breath and unclenching my teeth, I smiled and asked as politely as I could (which I’m afraid was not very), “What is the difference between the two that I cannot read for myself?”

At this point another clerk jumped in and said that although he didn’t know the difference in the ingredients – Splenda, perhaps? – it was taste that mattered and would I like a sample? Oh, and on that large? Oh, I only want a small? Sure about that? OK, well, on that small, would I like some nuts? How about some chocolate chips?

When I was putting together Jenny’s birthday package, I wanted to include a coupon for a pizza. (Said pizza to be put in the refrigerator, then consumed cold at 3:00 a.m.) I went to Papa John’s for a pizza card. The cards are available on the website, but you pay a $7 handling fee for a $20 card.

At the store, there were six employees behind the counter. I was the only customer. $20 in my hand. When I told the clerk what I wanted, she said it would be at least 15 minutes. I can’t wait that long, I told her, and walked out.

When I told the story to Jenny, she said, “That made you nuts, didn’t it? That she didn’t take an ownership attitude?”

“Exactly!” I answered. “Her attitude was that she was paid to stand there a certain number of hours and that was it. Whether a customer left satisfied or not didn’t matter. She’s not the owner. She doesn’t care if Papa John’s makes a profit or not.”

You can tell which of these kids are going to advance and which are not. I’ll bet Sam Walton would never have told me to wait 15 minutes for a pizza card.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I walk the line

posted Sat, 21 May 2005

There is an immediate kinship between military brats. We understand each other in ways that civilian kids, who go to school with the same friends and live in the same houses from kindergarten to 12th grade, never can.

I remember the shock of recognition I felt when I read the opening scene to The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy, himself a military brat. The book is sort of autobiographical. It was the first time I had ever read a scene in a book that described my life. The dad is a Marine. He gets everyone up at 4:00 a.m. to get an early start for a trip, then, a few hours later, turns the driving over to the mom.

That is exactly how it worked at my house! (Except my dad didn’t beat us.) For any trip – vacation, moving, a day fishing – my dad would get up really early, make potato pancakes or scrambled eggs, put the Sousa marches on the record player at high volume, and get us going. After an hour of driving, he’d tell my mother he was tired and ask her to drive.

Last night, I took a cooking class – Tapas and Sangria – a Christmas present from my brother. (Greg always picks the best, most creative presents.) The more another student, Kathy, and I spoke to each other, the more we clicked. Finally, we discovered we were both military brats, which I think explains a lot of the connection. (That and the fact that we are both smart, well traveled and witty, if I do say so myself.)

Kathy’s dad was a Navy fighter pilot (now retired). (Are Navy fighter pilots just coming out of the walls these days or what?) She was asking me about boot camp, telling me that she had pulled out all her old fitness tapes – Kathy Austin, Jane Fonda. “Does your dad know you have a Jane Fonda tape?” I interrupted curiously, remembering how my dad reacted when my mom brought home a Jane Fonda exercise book.

“Oh no!” she said, shaking her head. “It was in a box in the attic before. He never saw it.”

Civilian kids never get it when I say anything about Jane Fonda.

Maybe the heartbreak of psoriasis is next!

posted Fri, 20 May 2005

Well. As if needing two pairs of glasses weren’t enough. As if not being able to eat a jar of pickles – or even a few pickles! – before bed without puffing up like a blowfish the next day weren’t enough. As if the little lines around the eyes, the gray hairs (and not just on the head, if you know what I mean and I think you do) weren’t enough.

I have just discovered another one of the indignities of hitting the 40s.

After a week of PE, I was planning to rest on my laurels this weekend, but this is what it feels like when my laurels touch the seat.

I am not going to go into gory detail. Suffice it to say it involves buying a lotion that starts with the word “Preparation.” But not until after I spent one very uncomfortable, almost sleepless night trying to figure out just what the heck was wrong with me.

If you laugh, if you even snicker, then when this happens to you – and it will, I assure you, for I am the most fiber-eating, water-drinking, exercising fool you could find and I do not deserve this – then may a double pox be upon you and your house.

And how about this? I wanted to call my doctor about this but wait! I don’t have an office any more! I can’t close my door and speak privately! Every word I say can be heard by my colleagues. Great. Just the sort of information I want made public.

Instead, I spent a day emailing questions to an expert who shall remain anonymous out of respect for her privacy but trust me, she has reason to know. I know as much as anyone can about this issue now.

I just can’t wait to see what happens when I hit 50.

And for you Marines, the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the five

posted Thu, 19 May 2005

Still sore. Still exhausted. But fun.

There are about 40 in the class. I am one of the few who yells back at Tony, the DI. Most of the others suffer in silence, but I am there for fun.

This morning, Tony was hassling Sally about her shorts. I asked what the problem was. He didn't like that they said "USAF" on them. Being an Air Force brat, I took offense. "Weren't you good enough to get into the Air Force?" I asked. "You know, if you put on those shorts, your IQ goes up 50 points."

"You've been asking for it, haven't you, Class Factotum?" he answered. "Keep talking -- I can make it hard on you if you want."

"Bring it on," I said.

“What’s that pink mat you're using?” he demanded. “Barbie’s first exercise mat? What’s that all about?”

“If you use a pink mat,” I told him, “your IQ goes up 100 points.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Your lips say no, but your eyes say no

I can't even remember this guy's real name. I guess the mind has a way of erasing disgusting memories.
posted Wed, 18 May 2005

I went to a quasi-social, quasi-work thing last evening. When I arrived, I saw this guy “Lurch,” whom I hadn’t seen in a few years. I didn’t even remember his name. I barely recognized his face, but he greeted me right away. I chatted with him briefly, trying desperately to remember the context in which I had known him.

“What group are you working for now?” I asked casually.

You’d think I’d know better after living in Miami and in Chile, where saying “hello” to a guy in the grocery store or on the train means “let’s go back to your place and get busy.”

“I was laid off!” he answered indignantly. “Don’t you remember?”

Obviously not.

He told me the whole story, which I did not want to hear. I managed to extricate myself from the conversation and talk to the people next to me, who were far more interesting and nicer.

As I stood to leave, Lurch asked, “Don’t I get a hug?”

I thought his request highly inappropriate. I do not hug men at work. I said that I wasn’t going to go behind the table to get to him. “No problem! I’ll come out!” he said. Oh great.

He emerged and hugged me. Yippee.

I did ask him a business question – told him we might need someone like him on our current project. He said he would send me an email in the morning.

On my drive home, I was remembering more. It had been years since we worked in the same office building – at least four or five. I thought he was hitting on me. He had sent me a series of emails that finally culminated in my telling him to stop – that he was married. (Even if he were single, I would not have been interested.)

“But you showed me your thigh!” was his answer.

Um, yes. I had lifted the hem of my longish skirt slightly to show a few people the number written on the back of my thigh after I did a triathlon. I promise I did not mean it as a come on (I do not flirt at work), but apparently, that’s how it was taken. After that, I was cold and distant with him, as I did not want the slightest gesture – “but you made eye contact with me!” – to be taken as an invitation.

This morning, I got this email from him.

Thanks for your card, and now you have my email address..

It was really good to see you last night. I had forgotten what great legs
you have... are you still running a lot? You looked great in the skirt you
had on...

Hope I don't have to wait two years to see you again...

Gross. I am going to have to disinfect my computer.

I will be the crazy cat lady who doesn`t even have cats

posted Tue, 17 May 2005

I’m going to have to take poor Boomerang back. I didn’t realize that the Snowshoe Siamese is a cross between a Siamese and the American shorthair domestic. One of the reasons I wanted a Siamese is because there are supposed to be fewer problems with allergies with Siamese cats (perhaps because Siamese do not shed).

I had a long-haired cat a few years ago – just for a week. Someone impressed upon me a stray she had pulled in. After a week of waking up every morning with a splitting headache, I had to give the cat back.

Considering I am one of the lucky few for whom all current migraine prophylaxis does not appear to work – B2, topomax, corgard – having a cat that sheds (as my cat has been doing copiously) does not seem to be a good idea right now.

Yes, I feel horribly guilty. I am a very bad mother, I know. I do not deserve to have a pet and will never try again, so don’t even bother to leave me any nasty comments, OK?

The Few, the Proud, the Completely Exhausted

posted Tue, 17 May 2005

This morning wasn’t so easy at boot camp. We were with Alpha Company again. This was calisthenics and weights day. I have been working with weights for a few years now. I bought ten-pound hand weights yesterday. I didn’t get 12-pounders because they were $3 apiece more and as you know, My People Don’t Waste Money and I just didn’t think they were worth that much more. It was a dilemma, though, because I thought I might be wasting my $90 boot camp fee with such wimpy weights.

Ha. It was to laugh.

For years, I have been patting myself on the back just for showing up at the gym.

I have also been wondering about these women who write to fitness magazines raving about miraculous changes wrought in just six months of working out. They send photos.

“I’ve been working out for years and haven’t seen that level of transformation,” I’ve grumbled to myself.

“Drugs,” I’ve muttered under my breath.



No, sometimes I am not a nice person.


Now I know why I haven’t seen step changes in my physique. It’s not because there is nothing more that can be done to improve my bod.

It’s because I do a little work, then stop to chat with my buddies, the little old Jewish men and women at the JCC. For every three minutes I spend working out, I spend four goofing off.

This might be a fun way to spend a lunch hour, but it is not an efficient way to exercise.

In addition to making us yell “Marine Corps!” (something no self-respecting air force brat can do with a straight face), Tony did not let us rest. He made us do pushups. He made us do sprints in between every few sets of weights. Jumping jacks after every set. He didn’t let us rest at all. There were no conversations about good books or Judeo-Christian ethics or what sorts of foods one prepares for pesach. (How about an all-chocolate seder? It can be done.)

How am I supposed to stay current on Important Life Issues if I am being rushed, rushed, rushed this way?

I don’t know about all this. I know I spent the money, but really.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Queer Eye for the Straight Cat

posted Tue, 17 May 2005

This morning, I found my trash can on the other side of the kitchen from where it usually resides.

As I have never had a habit of sleepwalking or sleep redecorating, the only other explanation is that Pablo/Gaudi/Frank Lloyd (yes, I know these are architects and artists, but I don’t know any famous interior decorators) moved it to suit his tastes. Maybe he thought it would look better there.

I didn’t. I moved it back. It’s my house and I get to make the decisions about décor.

He’s tried the same thing with the rugs and some things I have been thoughtless enough to leave on the floor. We are going to have to discuss this.

We thought we joined the army with the condos and the yachts

posted Mon, 16 May 2005

This morning, my friend Isabel and I started Boot Camp.

No, I have not quit my job to join the Marines, although I tell you the thought has crossed my mind.

Well, not really. I mean, the thought has crossed my mind to quit my job, but not to join the Marines.

I wonder when we get our guns!

Boot Camp is an exercise program run by an ex-Marine DI, Sgt Tony. It starts at 5:30 a.m. You pay for the privilege of having someone telling you what to do for an hour. I figure it can’t be worse than PE. After all, this guy can’t be too mean, or else no one’s going to return. We’re not enlisted. We have a choice. Sir.

So Isabel and I get to the track at the local college. I am surprised at the number of people willing to exercise before the sun is up, but consider it a good sign that people are arriving late, carrying Starbucks coffee with them.

Sgt Tony starts barking out warm-up drills. Isabel and I do our stretches on the grass instead of on the basketball court because we forgot to bring mats as instructed on the website. When Tony notices us, he comes over. “Why aren’t you on deck?” he asks.

“Because we don’t have mats,” I answer.

“Why not?”

“Because we are not prepared, sir,” I reply.

“Did you hear that?” Tony shouts. “They didn’t try to blame me or anyone else. They explained that they weren’t prepared.”

Tony wanted us to work with Bravo group, but we didn’t have hand weights, either, so with a deep sigh, he put us with Alpha group, who was running that day. We ran around in circles while Bravo did weights and calisthenics and shouted, “one, two, three, four, one two, threefour!”

That was the easy part.

Then Isabel and I had to find the locker room.

That was the hard part.

We wandered around the fieldhouse seeking anything that looked like a women’s locker room. We had no one to follow: None of the other women who had worked out were headed that way. After ten minutes of walking up and down stairs and through hallways, we finally stumbled across the women’s showers. And then we understood why no one else bathes there. Grotty is the word. Or maybe gross. Icky. Yucky.

Tomorrow, we will have weights and mats and we will each return home for bathing. And we will still be at work by 8:00. Already exercised. Ready to put in a full day of work. Superior.

The Great White -- and black and grey -- Hunter

posted Sun, 15 May 2005

Now that Loverboy has become my new best friend, I can get close enough to him to put on his collar, which I did last night.

Big mistake. I had to remove it almost immediately. I wanted to sleep and it was making too much noise.

Whose stupid idea was it to put a bell on a cat’s collar?

Some idiot who does not understand that cats are hunters and that hunters do not need to warn their prey that they are about to pounce.

I can see how this played out in the collar company marketing group. Some silly animal-rights activist said, “Let’s put bells on the collars so the cats won’t be able to sneak up on birds, squirrels, rats and mice!”

Right! Because what we really want is for the rodent and bird population to grow! We don’t have enough rats and mice, especially in our houses.

Good grief.

And birds. Yep. Sure don’t have enough of those eating the tomatoes I am trying to grow in my garden.

Anyhow. I put the collar on the cat, then realized my mistake immediately: I hadn’t removed the bell. I will cut it off, then put the collar back on. Later, if he gets really, really good, I might want to put it back on, just to make hunting more challenging – a handicap, if you will, but for now, I want any rodents in and around my house dead.

The next big project is to put a cat door somewhere in the house, probably in a window, so the cat burglar has egress and ingress to the great outdoors and the litter box can become but a fond memory.

They call it puppy love

posted Sun, 15 May 2005

We had a major breakthrough last night. My cat, Abelard/Petrarch/Romeo, decided that he is in lo-o-ove with me.

Yep. He jumped on the bed while I was reading, pushed his head under my hand, and demanded to be petted. When I did, he collapsed in ecstasy. When I brushed him, he was in absolute bliss. Oh, the purring. Oh, the rolling and the stretching and the positioning of the body to make sure the belly and the back and the behind the ears and every part was touched!

I think it was because he finally made the connection between me and his food supply. He had seen me clean the litter box, but hadn’t seen me put food in his bowl before. Last night, he saw me refilling his food and water bowls. Quelle dilemma! He was hungry, but I was still next to the bowl and I wasn’t budging. I was taking a stand. If he wanted to eat, he could risk getting close to me, dammit.

I could see him evaluating the danger in his mind. She’s been cleaning my litter box, but she’s also been giving me food. She’s the one who got me out of the cage at Mewtopia. Has this all been an elaborate plot? Can I trust her? Did those toys appear by magic or is she the source of the purple sparkly balls and the catnip mice? She’s thrown them for me. What to do? What to do?

He made a decision. Keeping low to the ground, ears back and eyes on me, he crept forward toward the bowl. When nothing bad happened, he relaxed slightly and ate.

That must have been the turning point. I’m not sure if this was good or bad. Once he got a taste of loving, he didn’t want to stop, even though I wanted to sleep. He got right next to my face and meowed plaintively. When that didn’t work, he lay next to my hand and nudged it. When I got up to use the bathroom, he followed me into the bathroom, meowing piteously.

I finally put in earplugs so I could get some sleep. It’s hard to find balance in new relationships sometimes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Word problem

posted Fri, 13 May 2005

You have a 1,000 square foot house with wood floors. The bathroom floor is tile. There are only two rugs in the entire house. One rug, which your mom and dad got for you in Ankara, is 2.67 ft x 5.34 ft. It is wool and silk, handmade, with rich blues and reds in a beautiful traditional Turkish pattern.

The other rug measures 2.72 ft x 6.42 ft. It is a Zapotec, wool and cotton, that you got in Oaxaca on your overland trip back from Chile when you spent 332 hours on buses, trains and ferries. It cost about $35 – definitely the less valuable of the two rugs.

Your cat has yet to let you brush him. He only jumped onto your bed – with you in it – for the first time last night and that was just a touch and go.

Calculate the odds of your cat hacking up a hairball on one of the two rugs as opposed to easy-to-clean wood or tile.

For extra credit, figure out which rug.

Cats who should be on Jerry Springer

posted Thu, 12 May 2005

My brave cat, William Wallace/Sydney Carton/Patrick Henry, who now will dare to get within two feet of me as long as I do not look at him, is not at all bothered by the instrument that strikes fear into the hearts of most cats.

United against a common enemy.

The vacuum cleaner – and its derivative, the dustbuster – bothers him not at all. This morning, I dustbusted the scattered litter around the litter box. (That thing is going as soon as I can get close enough to Roger Bannister to put a collar with an ID tag on him. Then I can let him outdoors, where he is dying to go, based on the way he stretches against the back screen door as he watches the birds.) Much to my surprise, rather than running away, he sat in the doorway and watched.

A friend at work told me that her mother’s cat used to love the vacuum cleaner – she liked to be vacuumed – kind of like a combination brushing and massage.

Can you believe these guys get stock options and profit sharing?

posted Wed, 11 May 2005

So two colleagues and I met at Starbucks this afternoon about this work problem we are trying to fix.

Why not? We each started in separate buildings ten miles apart, so all were going to have to drive anyhow. Might as well meet there as anywhere else. The important thing is to get away from anyone’s office where the phone rings or someone comes by and you never get anything done.

Maybe their next career move could be taking orders at McDonald’s.

It’s been hot and muggy here the past few days, so sitting outside was not an option – not when we were all in pantyhose (even the guys). I walked inside, where it wasn’t much better. After a few minutes of fanning myself, I finally asked one of the barristas (isn’t that what they call themselves?) if it might be possible to make it less hot.

If you know me in real life, you know this is not a question I ask frequently. I am the canary in the mineshaft when it comes to being cold. It’s one of the main reasons I wear suits to work instead of that odious “business casual” – I have more layers and get cold more slowly. Everyone else is comfortable and I am freezing. I have learned to suffer in silence (as opposed to loud desperation, as my friend Racehorse Rebecca, the brilliant barrister, would say).

The barrista (not to be confused with Rebecca the barrister) told me that the thermostat was digital and you had to have a code to change it.

“OK,” I said, expectantly.

None of the barristas had the code, he explained, as if I were just a little bit slow.

I looked at him. “Do you know how to find someone who does have the code?” I asked politely.

His eyes flew open – well, as much as eyes can fly open on someone who moves at half speed. “Oh!” he said, as if the idea had never occurred to him. He turned to a fellow barrista. “Do you think we could call Dirk?”

The other barrista’s jaw dropped in amazement.

Fifteen minutes later, the temperature was pleasant.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Pharisee postmistress

posted Tue, 10 May 2005

My grandmother (I have one who is still alive) lives in Dorchester, Wisconsin, a town of 800 people and zero stoplights. She has been in the same house since 1974. Before that, she and my grandfather lived on their farm.

Until a year ago, her weekday routine was to go to 8:00 a.m. mass, then to the post office for her mail. In the summer, she walked. In the winter, she drove. Her house is a block and a half south of the church. The church is two blocks west of the post office.

About a year ago, she started having her mail delivered to her house rather than to a post office box. She is 92 years old. I think she’s allowed to cross something off her list.

It used to be that I could send her a letter addressed simply

Helen J
Dorchester, WI 54425

I didn’t even have to put the box number on the envelope. The postmistress knew everyone in town. She knew what my grandmother’s box number was. When I would get the mail for my grandparents, the postmistress would hand it to me. “Oh, you’re Helen and Ernie’s granddaughter! I heard you were in town!”

OK. Now I have set the stage. Small town. Everyone knows everyone else. My grandmother had the same PO box number for over 30 years.

Last week, I mailed a letter to my grandmother. By mistake, I wrote her box number on the envelope instead of her street address.

The new postmistress – who has been there ten years now, plenty of time to learn everyone’s name – sent it back to me with the stamp “Forwarding order expired.”

Excuse me!!!! If you knew there was a forwarding order and that it had expired, you bitch, (sorry, mom, but that is the appropriate word), then would it have been too much trouble to hand the envelope to the one postman in town to carry it the three blocks to my grandmother’s house along with the rest of her mail? You know who she is – you know her address – and all you have done is waste taxpayer money by sending the letter back to me rather than getting it to its intended destination.

I am livid about this. My postman, Lawrence, is wonderful. I bought my house four years ago. It is on the same block as the apartment I used to rent, but on a different street. When Lawrence sees mail addressed to me at my old apartment, he just delivers it to me at my house. Not a hard concept – he knows who I am and where I live. Isn’t the point of the Post Office to deliver the mail to the person to whom the letter is addressed? This Dorchester postmistress (my mom tells me that she does this sort of thing all the time) seems to think that her mission is to teach everyone a lesson. The postmaster general will hear about this. (I am not joking, either.)

They did not burn the ships in Mexico

posted Mon, 09 May 2005

My intrepid cat, Balboa/Ponce de Leon/Vasco de Gama/Cabeza de Vaca, emerged from under the couch yesterday afternoon – when I could actually see him do so. He had roamed the house already, but not while I was around. He must be getting more comfortable around me. He got within six feet of me once, but when I looked at him, he ran away.

He let me pet him and hold him at the shelter, so I know this is just temporary shyness, but he is a mellow cat, which is what I wanted. I did not want a playful, demanding all my attention cat. I did not want a walk across my computer keyboard while I am trying to type cat. I did not want a kitten. Kittens are baby cats and they need a lot of attention. They are not ideal for someone who is away from the house all day. I wanted a lazy cat who wants nothing more than to laze about in the sun all day and sit in my lap when I am at home and let me pet him.

My cat will probably need therapy

posted Sun, 08 May 2005

How on earth did O’Malley ever survive life with us without all the necessary cat accessories? I went to Petco this afternoon to get a collar, a tag and a brush for Homer/Virgil/Donne/Shakespeare and could hardly find these basics for all the toys, the beds and the climbing contraptions stacked in the racks.

The volunteer at Mewtopia was a masterful saleswoman. She almost had me buying cat toys and a cat bed. Petco has a kit for clipping a cat’s nails. It has a cat brush that costs $29. I’ve never spent that much on a hairbrush for myself.

A cat does need a bowl and a collar and a brush, but it does not need a bed. It does not need toys. A cat can sleep on a concrete (cement? I can never keep the two straight) floor. A cat will play with anything. I would like Newton/Einstein/Fibonacci to play with and then kill any insects or rodents he finds in my house. A cat will climb anything, including, from the evidence I saw this morning (broken trinket I had on the window sill), the kitchen windows.

But Lydia, the volunteer, was just doing her job. Those cat rescue people are doing this work out of love. Most of them are OK. They are all sincere. Very sincere. Some of them are a little too sincere – as in bordering on didactic. The lady at House of Mews – the one who turned me down because I was going to let the cat go outside spent five minutes lecturing this poor guy – who just wanted to go feed a stray cat – on the difference between “stray” and “feral.”

Fairy tales

posted Sun, 08 May 2005

When I pulled into my carport, Julia Claire was in her front yard with her mother. “Miss Class Factotum,” she yelled as she ran toward me. “Look!” She held a box out to me and opened it.

“It’s empty,” I said.

“No it’s not!”

I looked closer. “Oh! You lost your first tooth! Did it hurt?”

Julia Claire shook her head. “Nope.”

“Was there blood?”


“Did you let your dad pull it?”


“Did you make him beg first?”

Puzzled expression. “No.”

“How are you going to eat without a tooth? You can’t chew your food now. You’ll be like those old Eskimos that someone else has to chew the food for them or else they put them on an ice floe and push them out to sea. Do you think your mom will chew your food for you and then spit it in your mouth?”

Julia Claire answered indignantly, “I’ll eat my own food!”

I looked over at Karen. “So what’s the going rate for a tooth these days?”

She shrugged and said, “A quarter? A nice, new, shiny quarter?”

“Sounds good to me,” I answered. Karen and James fight the battle of having the only grandchild of two sets of grandparents who are determined to spoil Julia Claire rotten.

As they were walking in the house, I yelled, “Careful, Julia Claire! I hear that there were a lot of teeth lost today. I hope the tooth fairy can find you!”

I love having a kindergartner for a neighbor.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Did anyone else ever wonder about George?

posted Sat, 07 May 2005

My used, imported cat is still hiding. I prefer imported cats over domestic. My uncles Denny and Hank, who own a Chrysler dealership, get very upset with me about this, telling me I am taking food from American workers’ mouths every time I get an imported cat, but I say as soon as American workers can make a cat as good as the Siamese can, I will get one.

I know that Giovanni? Giuseppe? Sergei? Clarence? Francoise? Alphonse? Sebastian? Jean-Marie? Bob? did explore the house last night after I went to bed. I found clues. It’s not surprising that he is still hiding. When you have spent the last year of your life in a small cage, it must be terrifying to be thrown into a box and moved into a house with someone you have never seen before. I would hide, too, while I tried to figure out what was going on.

I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I was a little girl. It still seems like a pretty good gig. I especially like the titian hair.

Here is the evidence that whatever-his-name is (not that the name matters – it is not as if cats come when you call) traipsed about the place last night:

1. Asok was hiding under the couch last night and was hiding under the guest bed this morning.
2. I heard Charlie clumping about the kitchen last night. He must have missed the part of his training where they taught him to be sneaky and quiet.
3. Zorro used the litter box last night. Whew. One of the questions on the cat rescue place was what would I do if the cat did not use the litter box. (It was phrased more cutesy as “What if the cat has an ‘out of the box experience?’”) I answered that I would clean it up. Really, what are the options here? Am I supposed to leave it? Fly into a rage?
4. Helmut ate some of his food.
5. I was about to fall asleep last night when I sensed a presence. I opened my eyes to see a furry face staring at me. Lorenzo had pulled himself up on the side of my bed with his front paws to see what was going on.
6. I found footprints on the toilet seat this morning. Malcolm must be kin to BethanyC’s Milton.

Dickens is still hiding under the bed. I check occasionally to see if he is there, but haven’t tried to get him out. He’ll come when he is ready.

When I picked him up yesterday afternoon, another lady was there getting a cat for her dad. His cat had died suddenly at the vet’s. He had left the cat there while he had gone out of town to a convention. He thinks the vet gave the cat too much diabetes medication.

The daughter drove all night from Florida to be with her dad. “He’s heartbroken,” she explained. “My mom died a couple of years ago. Prince is the only company he had. He had that cat for 12 years. I told him he has to get another one right away, but he said he didn’t think he could bear to pick one out. So I am getting one for him.”

People who have never had pets have no idea what it is like to lose one. When O’Malley died, I was a sophomore in college. My mom and I cried for days. My college boyfriend, who had never had a pet, had no sympathy. He did not understand at all.

But my family still talks about O’Malley. When my dad was dying, we had a bon voyage party at the hospice, complete with champagne and my aunt Pat’s Old Fashioneds. My dad’s brothers were there, along with my aunts, my grandmothers, my family, and some of my cousins. We talked about all the people my dad would see in heaven, including his dad, who had died when he was only in his late 50s, his best friend Harry Schantz, who had died in a ship fire, and O’Malley. Yes, I know theologians might dispute that, but how can it be heaven if your pets won’t be there?