Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Christmas Food Poisoning Story

I trust everyone out there had a lovely 25th?  I did too!  From the 23rd thru the evening of the 25th, everything was great.  Lots of fun, lots of family, very little drama (first time in years!).

And then it hit.  Sometime in the wee hours of the night, I started dreaming that I was puking.  Multiple, varied dreams.  I specifically recall one where I was hugging a nice clean toilet. By the time I cracked my eyes open on Monday morning, it was evident that the source of my dreams was very real.

Since then, this has been the view from my bed:
(just so we're clear, the bed protector wasn't for me.  Even though I know you don't believe me.)

I've had lots of time to ponder how this illness befell me.  Five family members have been struck at exactly the same time.  A sixth just got hit last night.  It could be food poisoning, but plenty of people around us on the 23rd had also been sick.  So it could be flu.  Either way, the symptoms are the same, and the misery as intense.

But I have another theory.  This one involves GOD.

Now this theory was hatched while in the lowest part of my illness, so it might be somewhat delusional. Let me know what you think.

I'm not an especially religious person, I don't go to church, and I haven't read the bible in years.  But I believe in God, and I do my nightly thanks to Him and talk to my boys about him regularly.  So I'm not completely remiss.  BUT, this year, I completely forgot 'the reason for the season,' if you know what I mean.  It wasn't until Christmas afternoon, on the way to visit family, that it occurred to me.  It took hearing mention of it in a Christmas song to remember.  Umm, yikes.  I felt a little guilty as I turned to my kids and said, "You guys, I totally forgot about why we celebrate Christmas!  Did you?"

They all shook their heads and said they remembered.  And my husband nods in agreement, giving a story about how much our 5 year old has been talking about it lately.

I remembered this, as I was lying in bed moaning and feeling like I was dying from the stomach out.  A short while later, this crept into my consciousness:  on the way to a Christmas Eve party Saturday night, my mom and I got distracted (as usual), and I completely missed the turn-in to the street where the party was.  I took the next turn available, which just happened to be a church parking lot, filled with people going to Christmas Eve mass.  At the time, we all thought it was terribly funny, and we joked about those darn religious people making my drive through their parking lot more difficult.

Maybe He was mad at me for the whole "forgetting Baby Jesus" thing.

Now that I'm past my lowest point and am on the other side of the mountain, I'm feeling more positive about things.  Maybe I was a little delusional, induced by the pain and nausea.

But I remembered one last thing this morning:  for Christmas I wanted to lose about 5 pounds to fit back into my pants (I've been eating a lot lately).  I'm now more than halfway there. there a higher meaning to all this?

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis The Season To Be Merry

Happy Holidays Folks!

It's December 23rd, and I still haven't figured out what to get our 12 year old for Christmas.  He has repeatedly asked for the same three items over the past month, hoping against hope that he'll wear us down and we'll cave.

 An Airsoft gun

Modern Warfare for the PS3

 A box of fresh donuts

Apparently, "all the kids" in school have airsoft guns and are allowed to play Modern Warfare to their hearts' delight.  And poor P is the only one in middle school with overprotective parents.  Sigh.  Not happy with being able to do these things at his friends' houses, he wants to be able to host his own war-themed events.  Maybe we are the most conservative parents in 7th grade, but we're sticking to our guns (pun intended).  He won't be getting these kinds of gifts from us any time soon.

That just leaves a box of donuts.  I'm all for getting him the donuts for Christmas, but I can't find a single donut shop that will be open on Christmas morning!  The clock is ticking and I'm getting desperate.

I've been devoting all my brainpower to figuring out what to get this kid, and as a result, the blog has suffered for it.  Please accept my apologies.

So today's post is a bit of a cheat:  a video of my neighbor's over the top holiday light show.

The first year they put together this light spectacular, I thought we had moved in next to the Griswold's.  It has a slightly Las Vegas feel to it, and it took a good 3 days of driving past the flashing house before I noticed a sign out front with a radio station painted on it.

I turned on the radio to discover they've got...their station.

The music filling my ears synched up to the house lights, and suddenly little Las Vegas made sense to me.  The songs are corny, and the loop is pretty short, but the kids love this holiday display, and I guess it I like it too, in all it's flashing glory.  We look forward to it every year now.

This year they really pulled out all the stops and added sound bytes from, appropriately enough, Christmas Vacation.

I'll close this post with one last video I came across this morning.  I couldn't believe it when I saw it, but here it is, in it's entirety, The Star Wars Holiday Special.  This thing is painful to watch, and I dropped out at about minute 5.  Hoping it would get better, I jumped over to minute 40 and was mildly entertained by the flashback to 1978 with the commercials for All in the Family, Alice, and Dallas.  As awful as this show is, I'm compelled to post it.  How can I not?  It's a Star Wars Holiday Special!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I Heart The OC

Last weekend, we took a drive down south to Orange County to spend the day at the South Coast Plaza. Being from the OC, my better half always enjoys spending time back in the old neighborhood, and I jump at every chance to go because I’m a big ol’ sap.  Even though I grew up 2 hours north, Orange County is where I lived for many years.  When bundle of joy #3 arrived 5 years ago, we moved back up north for a better career opportunity.  We bought a home in a neighborhood we never imagined we could afford, and the feeling of community has been unbelievable.  We can’t appreciate enough what good fortune we’ve had to be able to raise our kids in this kind of environment.

But I still miss Orange County.

I miss the average of three freeways it would take to get anywhere (and everywhere) I wanted to be. 
I miss Shirley’s Bagels on 17th in Costa Mesa.  And that Chinese restaurant with the red door in Brea.  Pumpkin City in Laguna Hills, the Back Bay in Newport Beach, and Wild Rivers in Irvine.

For the select few of you out there who can appreciate my unnatural attachment to an entire county, I’m so glad we’ve found each other!  For the rest of you, I'll try to explain it.  My adulthood was formed in this place.  I had no ties, my responsibilities were my own to manage, and I was completely self-sufficient.   I started my career, my marriage, and my family here.  I’ve got many positive memories of this place, punctuated by lots and lots of good food.  We’re talking authentic, ethnic, hole-in-the-wall eats.  Ahhh, the memories of it gives me the warm fuzzies.

Our connection to this is place is strong, and our kids are not immune to the feeling.  At 12 years old, P is starting to get too old for the day-cations, but L and M are still 100% on board with any trips back home.  So last weekend, when M asked if we could go to Orange County to see Santa (because that’s where he thinks Santa lives), we were all over it.  We’d make a day out of it, visit Santa, go eat somewhere fun, and make a stop at our favorite toy store.    

The day started off better than I had hoped: traffic was light, and the mall wasn't too crowded.  Everyone was having a good time, and I was wandering around, looking for gifts, when I came across a trio of friends in their twenties.  I hovered, hoping they’d notice and move so I could walk by.  One of them noticed, and said to his friends, “move over so the (old) lady can walk by.”  Ouch.  It stung a little.  That happy “I’m having a great day” feeling went a little gray.  Really?  From something so benign?  Yes, really.

I was totally unprepared to be faced with the politeness of a twenty-something as he sees me:  an older woman.  It kind of sucked.  So I did what any normal, neurotic female would do in such a circumstance.  I took a sad-face photo of myself to commemorate the moment.  And then proceeded to delete it, because the lighting in that store was not being my friend.  Now I see what prompted his respect for his elders.  He was literally faced with one (an elder, that is).  Tragic.

I shook it off, determined to enjoy my day.  We spent hours, going from toy store to toy store, enjoying the sights and stopping for lunch at the Rainforest CafĂ©, before we finally headed over to see Santa.  Along the way we lost a jacket, went for a ride on the carousel, and got separated from each other (without a phone…what on earth did people do before cell phones?).  

Santa was a little uneventful, probably due to the hour wait.  P refused to pose with him.  L thought his yellowed beard was kind of creepy.  M asked him if he remembered the chocolate milk we left him last year.

By the end of the day, we threw in a train ride and hot apple cider before heading back to the car.  On the way out, we passed through the money wing of the mall, where the Tiffany, Valentino, and other expensive stores reside.  It’s here where M decided to show his blue blood upbringing.

Good times.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What I've Learned From The BravoTV Housewives

I like reality tv.  I’m not especially proud to admit this, but it is what it is.  I have a particular weakness for the BravoTV suite of offerings.  I’ve got my Top Chefs, Real Housewives, Millionaire’s, Rachel’s, Tabatha’s, Jeff’s, Bethenney’s, and WWH's tivo’d to catch every new season.  To say that Andy Cohen has me in the palm of his hand (the one that’s not holding the cocktail) is somewhat of an understatement.

Before you jump to judge me (and there’s a lot to judge here), let me clarify something.  I’m selective with my reality viewing.  Yes, I, of all people, have standards that I adhere to, however loose (and ever-shifting) they may be.  These standards have less to do with the show and more to do with my mood.  Or maybe it has to do with the show being on hiatus...hadn't thought of that.  Anyway, because of my fickle high-horsedness (combined with my irrational hatred of re-runs), it turns out I don’t spend as much time as you would think watching trash tv.  There’s plenty of time for intellectually stimulating television such as Modern Family, Spongebob Squarepants, and Battlestar Galactica. 

Battlestar Galactica probably needs a little explaining.  Every Friday night, we get together with our neighbors to watch a couple of BSG (that’s what the cool kids call it) episodes, and I’ve got to say (this is perhaps even more embarrassing to admit) that I am totally into it.  Frak yeah!  Right now we’re up to the part where Starbuck gets kidnapped by the cylons and is introduced to the child they created from her egg when she was earlier abducted and sent to be harvested at The Farm.  So good.  I’m a total nerd.

Anyway, let's get back on track.  A highly esteemed colleague and I were discussing the trials and tribulations of the latest cast of Housewives (namely Kyle, Kim, Lisa, Taylor, and Brandi…hello…Beverly Hills, dahling), which led to a discussion of the utterly raunchy Atlanta Housewives episode I stumbled upon last week.  As we debated the authenticity of Kandi’s mother’s reaction to Phaedra’s choice of birthday entertainment, it occurred to me that (being the student of human nature that I am) there are a number of learnings I think we can all benefit from, thanks to the many housewives we’ve seen come and go over the years.

And so follows my guide to navigating those Housewife potholes, should Andy ever ask me to join the franchise:
  • ·         Physical theatrics, such as high-pitched “woo-hoos”, repeated leg splits, and cowboy-roping ponytails will be perceived as attempts to get attention; keep these to a minimum, and preferably off-camera.
  • ·         Constant hair-touching is one of those nearly subliminal “I’m insecure” messages that everyone picks up on. 
  • ·         Lucky enough to be well-received in your first year as a housewife?  Don’t get too comfortable, because you’re sure to crash and burn in your second year.  Each location has a story to tell:  Jill in New York, Kyle in Beverly Hills, Tamra in Orange County.  Play your cards carefully, my friend, and don’t get a big head. 
  • ·         Poorly-received in your first year as a housewife?  Consider yourself lucky.  Bad blood seems to magically disappear, friendships bloom, and message boards are suddenly kinder in your second year.  A combination of friendlier editing and improved personal filtering seems to be the culprit for the second year shift.  Alex in NY is a good example of this.  I can’t think of many more examples than that, because, honestly, it’s more fun to remember the ones that crash and burn (see previous bullet) rather than the ones that rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
  • ·         With great wealth comes great responsibility.  Should I ever be fortunate enough to amass wealth as great as these housewives, I promise to give back to the community and help those less fortunate than me.  As long as it doesn’t intrude on my lifestyle or personal spending habits.
  • ·         Love scenes, ranging from a foot rub to a private lingerie showing to a bathtub scene are gag-inducing to all viewers.  They’re probably gag-inducing even to the participants (who are watching at home, months later).  Don’t even kiss on tv.  Let the real actors do their jobs.
  • ·         Do not brag about how everything is so attainable.  When you’ve come from a privileged environment and were groomed to be everything you have turned out to be, claiming “you can have it all” is a little insulting.  Same goes for the wives who married into wealth.  Find me a successful housewife who had no help filling out her state college application, and then I’ll admiringly listen to her say “you can have it all”.
  • ·         Money can’t buy you class.  But it can buy you a clothing line, a singing career, and a modeling contract
  • ·         It is never in good taste to accuse another female of being a crack head, a thief, a liar, or a man, no matter how deep the voice.
  • ·         Wigs and weaves are easy targets, both in verbal sparring and in physical attacks.
  • ·         The BravoTV audience is like a wild herd of spirited mustangs.  They’ll turn on you in an instant.  This can either work in your favor or against you.
  • ·         We’re all flawed, money or not.  Editing will only magnify these flaws.  It’s part of the deal.
  •  ·       Never treat your pets like they're humans.  This includes, but is not limited to, sharing your fork, spoon, knife or plate with them.  Or encouraging them to drink from your neighbor's best crystal. 
These guidelines are based on years of housewife slip-ups, fights, and regrets.  But it’s not comprehensive.  I’ll bet you can think of more.


Monday, December 12, 2011

My Google, My Friend

Google, oh Google
You are my best friend
You're there when I need you
You're like a godsend

I call on you daily
With demands on the fly
You always deliver
You try not to lie

Allergies, Asthma,
Conversions and Time,
Finding phone numbers
And spelling l'chaim

My life is much better
With you by my side
What else can I do
I can't quit you, I've tried

What would I become
If you failed to appear?
A productive employee
Or Mom of the Year

That time when I needed
To clean a blood stain
You were right by my side
You had nothing to gain.

Remember that person
I wanted to meet?
You showed me the way
To his very own street.

And while others may come
And others may go
My love for your engine
Continues to grow.

So Google, continue
To show me the way
As I stumble and fumble
Through e-ver-y day

To give thanks in return
As I grow to old age
I promise to make you
My only home page

Friday, December 9, 2011

If I Can Sell This, I Can Sell Anything

From NW Studios of California, introducing the newest creation to come from this prolific studio.  Appropriately enough, the artist has named this work of art Metamorphosis.

Twice kiln fired and made of the highest quality resin/tin components, this nouveau-inspired piece is a delight to the senses. Allow your hands to linger on the luxurious curves of this sculpture as your eyes marvel at the glorious colors that seem to spring to life.  With each angle, you will feel as though you've discovered a new spectacle.

The magnificent Metamorphosis is hand-crafted and one of a kind; and for a limited time only, NW Studios of California is giving you the opportunity to own a true masterpiece for the unbelievable price of $129.99 (plus shipping and handling).

For this low price, you will receive your own original work of art.


Size:  approximately the size of a 14 oz. can of corn
Weight:  approximately the weight of an empty 14 oz. can of corn

At no additional cost to you, we will enhance your sensory experience with your choice of corn, black bean, or pea scent.  Please specify your requested scent when placing your order.

Note:  as these are hand-crafted, one of a kind works of art, there may be variances in the nature and shape of your final masterpiece.  But the scent is guaranteed.

As with all NW Studios works of art, each piece is designed and created in the USA. 

A Message from NumberWhisperer:  This is not really a retail ad, and there is no such business as NW Studio of California.  My 9 year old and I created this mishap when I forgot to take it out of the oven last weekend.  Dad is going to love it though.  Guaranteed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Laugh and I'll Laugh With You: Hillbilly Handfishin'

Last weekend, I was doing chores around the house, when I heard laughter coming from the tv.  I stopped to listen, and whatever was going on sounded like a whole lot of fun, so I walked over to see what the kids were watching.  I've already got a smile on my face, as I wander over, curious.

So the image on tv is this:  a group of people standing in muddy water, watching one guy who appears to be crouching low to feel something under the water's surface.  He's got a huge smile on his face, and periodically, he screams, then cackles, and says ouwwww, ouwwww, ouwwww.  He doesn't really look like he's enjoying it, the laughter is more nervous than anything else.  But the rest of the folks....they are laughing like it's the funniest thing they've ever seen.

Here's a link to what I'm talking about

It's called Hillbilly Handfishin'.  If you've never seen this show, and are easily amused, this show deserves at least one viewing.  The premise is pretty straightforward:  vacationers pay these two guys, Skipper and Jackson to take them noodling in what looks to be the muddiest lakes, rivers, and streams Oklahoma has to offer.  What is noodling?  Not sure why it's called that, but it involves sticking your arms or legs into the cracks and crevices caused by rocks and trees and whatever else that might make a nice home for catfish.  The goal is to tick off the catfish enough so that they bite you, get strung up, and pulled out of the water.  That's noodling folks.

These fish can be huge.  12-15 pounds seems to be pretty common, but I saw one guy pull out a 42 pounder.  Tell me again, why would anyone want to stick their foot into the home of a forty-two pound catfish?  Oh right, for the fun of it.  To add to the thrill, there are snapping turtles, snakes, and alligators to keep an eye out for.  But no one seems to ever get hurt, except for some broken skin from the repeated biting.

Being the fraidy-cat that I am, I'd never go for this type of vacation, but that doesn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying watching others do it.  The one episode with all the cackling has to be the best of them all.  These guys had me laughing for days.  I was laughing so much, just from watching them (and the other noodlers) laugh, it made me feel like those babies that laugh when they see other people laugh and cry when they see other people cry.  I guess I pretty much have the emotional maturity of a child.  Sounds about right.

As a bonus enticement, Skipper is perhaps the hairiest man I've ever seen.  Most episodes, the female noodlers end up wrapped around him in their efforts to get a fish to bite.  Which usually makes me stop to ponder which is more uncomfortable:  sticking your foot in catfish mouth or bear hugging that wet rug?

Animal Planet's Hillbilly Handfishin' is on Sunday nights.

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Email About My Dog

To keep your eyes occupied while I fix my computer, here's an email from this week that will give you a glimpse into my glamorous life.

Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 12:35 PM
To: Family
Subject: Charley is disgusting

Today the people behind us have been drilling concrete.  I noticed that Charley was barking at them, so I went to the sliding door to let him in.  Turns out he wasn’t barking at the neighbors.  He was barking at something on the ground.
A humongous, beady-eyed, yellow-toothed, dead rat.

Charley was clearly feeling playful, as he leapt back and forth, nudging it with his nose, barking and wagging.  Once he realized it was safe, he got a good grip on it and started whipping his head around, like it was his new favorite toy.  From across the yard, all I could see was that huge rat tail doing what could only be described as an Olympic ribbon twirling routine.

That dumb dog would not leave it alone, even with me shaking his bag of treats at him and quietly (so the neighbors wouldn’t clue in) calling, “Charley, want a treat? Want some food?  Charley!!!”  So I had to walk through the minefield of you-know-whats on the grass and smack charley on the head with his bag of treats.  And then trap him and take him inside to be quarantined until I’ve decided he’s groomed himself enough to be back with the regular population.

As much as I didn’t want to, I disposed of the rat all by myself.  And picked up the you-know-whats.

P.S. DH, there’s a big rat in the trashcan, and the shovel is now a health hazard.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Technology Strikes Again

Computer problems.  :(

Current virus count:  18

For now, trying to do things the old fashioned way.  With a pen and paper, gasp.

I haven't forgotten you, my 5 loyal followers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Gift Idea: Bulletproof Clipboard

Work can be a killer.  You never know when you might to need to tuck and roll behind the pothos to avoid crossfire.  Fortunately for us, the folks at ThinkGeek have got it all covered.  Introducing the Bulletproof Body Armor Clipboard:

For the low price of $44.99, you too can feel peace of mind when you walk into your next board meeting.  Perfect for Christmas, what better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than by stopping a 9mm dead in it's path.  Makes a great secret Santa gift!

Made of Level 2 body armor, this functional gift holds paper and stops bullets.

Order now, while supplies are in stock.

*NumberWhisperer is not affiliated with ThinkGeek.  This is purely tongue-in-cheek, folks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Thanksgiving Day

I opened the fridge
On this Thanksgiving Day
To make me some turkey with yam

But all that was there
To my utter despair
Was a fatty, cold serving of spam

I couldn’t believe
I’d forgotten to plan
For this yummiest day of the year

So to quiet my nerves
And to settle my mind
I guzzled a bottle of beer

With a false sense of strength
And a steely resolve
I determined to still find a way

To get me some turkey
And maybe some pie
And salvage what’s left of my day

Like any good child
In a pinch or a jam
Who needs her when feeling bereft

I called on Dear Mom
And was saddened to hear
That a carcass was all that was left

What’s that you say?
I’m in shocked disbelief
“You told me you bought a big bird!”

I’m hungry, no, STARVING
And feeling so weak
As I chug down my second (or third)

Whatever she said
I paid her no mind
As I hung up the phone with disgust

Went back to the fridge
With a sigh of defeat
Guess I’ll settle for spam if I must

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Girls Bathroom Safety Hazard

Saw this yesterday at the middle school where P and L play basketball.  Don't we all have to learn this at some time or another?  When drying your hair with the hand dryer, stay upwind of all wall plates.


Closer still.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekends are Made for Working

A couple of weeks ago, my boss announced that our team would be implementing “on call” weekends.  Not sure what his definition of “on call” entailed, I asked for clarification.  Did it mean having our blackberries on us as we went about our regular weekend routines?  Turns out the answer to that was a big, fat “no”.  It meant staying close to our laptops, logged onto the company network for two days straight, checking in periodically to make sure nothing had broken.

My reaction, of course, was less than positive.  Springing a lost weekend on us once a month was the last thing I wanted to hear.  Plus, I was somewhat panicked at the thought of being responsible for evaluating and communicating statuses on things I had limited experience with.  But to paraphrase Tennyson, mine is not to question why, mine is but to do or die.  So I swallowed my  bitter pill and re-arranged my plans for the dreaded weekend.

This past weekend was my first weekend on call.  Rolling out of bed at 8am on a Saturday so that I could read work emails was hardly my idea of kicking the weekend off right, but that’s precisely what I did.  Thankfully, nothing had fallen apart while I had slept.  So with the business under control, I decided to skip the cold cereal and make a pancake breakfast for the family.  After all, for this weekend, I had all the time in the world. 

The pancakes were memorable...fluffy, buttery, and delicious.  As was the warm pasta lunch I whipped up for the family and the crispy baked chicken I managed for dinner.  

With nothing but time on my hands, I helped P with his Colosseum art project and M with his Student of the Week poster.  We turned the tv off and listened to music as the kids worked on their homework.  We watched Cool Runnings, Narnia, and Once Upon a Time.  I surfed the web for Christmas ideas and shopped the weekly ads for the best deals on meat and produce.  All this in between the regular check-ins with work.  It was eye-opening that I could accomplish so much with so little stress.

Is this what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom?  I could totally get into this.

Imagine what it would be like to not have to squeeze a day’s worth of personal life into the 5 hours that fall between clocking out and hitting the pillow?  And to use the weekends spending time relaxing instead of catching up.  During the week, I’d be able to pick up the kids after school to get them started on their homework before dinner and basketball practice.  And I’d also be able to clean the bathrooms regularly (clean bathrooms would no longer be a luxury reserved only for company).

This weekend gave me proof that I am capable of relaxing.  Being forced to stay home the entire  weekend gave me a glimpse into what life could be like, if I didn’t have so much crammed into it.  I could relax.  I could spend time with the kids.  I could remember to tell my husband I love him.  I could do all these things instead of getting wound up tight over all that needs to get done and all that will not get done. 

I'm sure this is simply a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side.”  That grass was looking pretty green, but I know myself enough to recognize that my crazy, hectic life suits me well.  I'm not looking to trade it in.  I'm just looking forward to my next "on call" weekend a little more than I was before.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sometimes It Just Gets To Me

Horror.  Disgust.  Fear.  Anger.  I'm sickened as I learn more about the Penn State scandal.

I feel for these victims.  My heart breaks for the children that they were, for what they experienced, and for the memories they’ll always carry with them.

I find it difficult to reserve judgement on those who knew and said nothing.  Or those who knew and didn’t say enough.  Particularly those who were firsthand witnesses.  The physical sickness that must’ve swept over these eyewitnesses, reinforced by the graphic visual, must've surely burned that memory onto their souls.  And yet they failed to act.  

Is it because I’m a parent that I feel so strongly?  If I were childless, could I be certain that I would’ve hurled my puny little body at him, fists a flying?  I hope so.  And would I have been content and clear of conscience in walking away and merely reporting it to my boss?  No.  Absolutely not.

Could there ever be a legitimate reason to cover up something like this?  Did everyone keep quiet because they truly didn’t believe it happened?  Or did they keep quiet because they stood to lose something?  It’s hard not to prejudge.

These were innocent, defenseless kids.  Ten years old.

Ten years old is fourth grade.
Ten years old is Spongebob.

Ten years old is Star Wars.

Ten years old is recess.

 There's no debating what ten years old is not.  These men needed to remember that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Birds of a Feather...Halloween 2011.

Some people know when to keep their embarrassing moments to themselves.  I'm not one of those people.  I like to share the cringe with anyone who is willing to listen.  This is probably a trait that doesn't go well with the age of electronic documentation.  When you commit it to the world wide web, you commit it to an eternity of documented bad judgement.  I need to keep this in mind as I explore this world of blogging.

So let me tell you about the tragic fail that was this year's Halloween costume.

I LOVE Halloween.  I gleefully anticipate my costume about two months in advance; but to be honest, I'm keeping mental notes all year long.  How to decorate my house, my kids, myself, my husband, my dog.  Truly, with this holiday, the anticipation is more fun than the night itself.

But this year wasn't all hearts and flowers for me.  The stars were not in alignment these past couple of months, so I wasn't really feeling it this year.  Which is a pity, in retrospect, because come October 30, I was hurting for a genius Halloween costume, and it was slim pickings in my costume closet.  But then I remembered an idea my better half had suggested for the kids.  We have a Cardinals jersey for one of the boys, and IF they had done poorly this World Series, one of the boys could be an Angry Bird by simply wearing the jersey.

The idea itself was pretty pathetic, but I felt like it had potential.  I could finally put to use that bird feather shirt I picked up at the thrift store a few years back (you never know when you might need a feather shirt), and those Angry Birds are pretty big this year. I felt like I could really make something out of this idea.  After a quick google, I confirmed that this was the costume for me.  All I needed was some big eyebrows and a tuft of hair on top.
Sadly, as they say in Project Runway, it was a great concept, but there were some serious problems with execution and styling.

Here's what I'm talking about:
I do have to say, I enjoyed myself immensely during my photo session.  There were some H-O-R-R-I-F-I-C photos that came from it that had me laughing my hiney off.

I wanted to keep the laughs coming, so I sent the picture to a select few (everyone I had an email to) and asked them to guess what I was for Halloween.  Here are some responses:

"Tweety Bird after a run on meth"
"Big Bird's paid escort"
"Club Kid"
"Lady Gaga waking up with a hangover"
"Black Swan gone awry"
"A Drag Queen"

I'm going to have to go with Drag Queen as the winner. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Madden NFL Breast Cancer Awareness Mode

I overheard my sons tonight, as they discussed which Madden game they were going to load.

"Do you want to play Superbowl or Breast Cancer Awareness?" asked P (my 12 year old) to L (my 9 year old). They decided on Breast Cancer Awareness. 

My, how times have changed.

At first, it didn't even register that my boys were throwing around the word "breast" so unaffectedly.  But then it occurred to me.  These are boys who are using a word that I never dared utter without blushing when I was their age.  And sure, I was raised Catholic, so that may play into the modesty that seems to be a part of my core.  But even still, kids just didn't say certain words back in my day.  Words that now are so accepted that they're no longer taboo.

I love it.

And as I type this, I can hear the Madden announcer give a plug about the importance of regular screenings...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Cube With A View

Did you ever hear that myth about cold cereal being devised to keep unruly children under control?  The thinking was that, by giving them bland food for breakfast, it would leave them so numb they would be perfect angels for at least the first half of the day.  Or maybe it was to defeat the Russians.  I'm a little fuzzy on the details (possibly because I made them up entirely), but the moral is that "something" was devised to keep "someone" down.  Throughout history, we've seen this happen over and over again.  It's so commonplace, we often don't even notice that it happens anymore.  So let me remind you with some of the more obvious ones.

Math was devised to keep girls down.

Wheat was devised to keep celiacs down.

Zantac was designed to keep acid down.

I can see I'm starting to wander here, so I'll reign it back in.

I want to talk cubicles.  Cubicles?  Yes, the grown-up equivalent of a big bowl of mind-numbing cold cereal.  If you are among the lucky few who spend their days confined to beigy-gray views, you know what I'm talking about.  Cubicle walls are what you get when a think tank comes together to answer these hard hitting questions:
  • What is the optimal color (or non-color) to promote resigned defeat, without inciting homocidal rage?
  • Can a pattern be incorporated in such a way as to mask or camouflage stains, ranging from bodily fluids to sweet and sour chicken glaze?
  • What thread count would be needed to support the weight of a phone being thrown at it, full force, from a distance of 32 inches?
 The result is a complete array of the most nondescript fabrics ever to grace the workplace.  Gray and beige tend to be the most popular colors, and the mental image alone is enough to send me into a functional coma.  Is there such a thing as a functional coma?  I don't know, but I tell you, I fall into one every day of the week, Mon-Fri, about 8am to oh, let's say 5pm.  Completely functional, I am productive, yet still manage to feel absolutely comatose.

Or that's the way I used to feel, until the day I discovered that my walls could actually entertain me.  Turns out some clever designer at the cubicle wall textile shop decided to pay us all a little favor by designing a pattern that could only be described as interpretive.  Behold my cubicle wall:


 At first glance, you're probably not impressed.  But let me tell you this:  listen in on a boring conference call long enough, and you will begin to see what I'm talking about.  These are some of the images I've been able to detect in this wall of mine:
  • a gnome
  • a chinese dragon head
  • a lady's face
  • an owl
  • a row boat
I'm not unconvinced that my cubicle is hiding one big 3D image in it.  I wonder what it could be.  I haven't cracked it yet.  Have you seen those tricky 3D pictures?  My cube could easily be hiding something mind-blowing, if only I could loosen up my eyes enough.  Here's an example that actually does have a 3D image in it.

I've given myself a headache from all this staring, so I'll have to end this post soon.  But for the record, I don't do drugs at work.  Or anywhere else, for that matter.  I just have an active imagination.  A very active imagination.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food Day 2011

I fell for it again.  Curse you, Food and Wine photographer, for making every dish look delicious and oh-so-attainable.  I'm talking about November's Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy.  I don't know what I was thinking.  The kids have never liked my experiments, let alone ones swimming in creamy onion gravy.  But it sounded so good.  Onions, celery, garlic, and carrots, softly cooked and stirred into a ketchup, worcestershire, and dijon sauce, before hand-mixing into a mix of meats and bread crumbs.  And the secret ingredient:  Monterey Jack cheese cubes!

But wait, I don't really like mustard.  And will the family be receptive to gooey cheese pockets inside their meatloaf?  There's also the onion sauce that I'll need to sell them on.  But it looked so good in the picture.  So I threw caution to the wind and made 6 pounds of meatloaf for my unsuspecting family.

As I began mixing the worcestershire/ketchup/dijon sauce, the smell that floated up was slightly repulsive, and I had to hold my breath.  But there was no turning back, the money had been spent.  And if you know anything about me, you know that I'm cheap; so this meal was going to happen, whether we wanted it to or not.  I forged ahead, hoping the baking process would magically transform the stink into aroma.  And it did.  About 40 minutes into my bake time, the house started smelling divine, almost Christmas-like.  I began having fantasies about re-engerineering this recipe into turkey stuffing.  How decadent and completely genius.  I could hear the raves now.

While the turkey meatloaf baked, I got started on the onion gravy.  It was about this time when my better half came downstairs and said to me, "I'm not feeling too good, and the smell is making me want to throw up."

I cut him some slack, since, in all fairness, he was nauseous before I started cooking.  Unfortunately, this now meant that it was me against the 3 kids in what was sure to be a dinner battle.  And then it happened.  I blew it on the very last step:  Season with salt and black pepper.  Why couldn't they just give a measurement?  I don't want to season to my taste, I want to season to the way it was intended to taste.  So, of course, I over-salted the onion gravy.  Why, oh why did I have such a heavy hand?  I knew that gravy had been one step away from spectacular until I screwed it up.  Again, why couldn't they have just provided a measurement?  I work best with numbers!

Resigned, I called the kids to the table.  Here are their initial reactions to what they saw on the plate.

L:  Do you know what that looks like?
M:  I'm not eating that.
P:  Mom, I can't do it.  Can I just eat the green beans?

My kids are really good about eating their food, so after some mild threatening, I gave them fresh servings, sans creamy onion gravy.  Surprisingly,  L went back for seconds, and M ate his entire serving.  P, well, he still had to choke it down.

And here's where I wish the story could end.  But it can't, because I have over four pounds of meatloaf left to consume.  Curse that Food and Wine photographer...

Princessa Leia

I love me some Halloween. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hello HAL. Do You Read Me, HAL?

Last week, I experienced what can only be described as The Perfect Storm (minus the water and George Clooney).  It happened when, after being away from my desk, I returned to discover that Windows had decided to call it a day.  I noticed that there was a message on the screen, but I gave it no thought as I shut down my computer.  I'm clearly no computer genius, but I know enough to reboot, reboot, reboot.  When in doubt, REBOOT.

Well, rebooting didn't work.  Instead, things got worse.  So I broke down and called I.T.  Now calling IT is usually a lesson in humility for me, because, more often than not, they need to pull out their plain folk manual to walk me though something as basic as looking up my IP address.  And since I had completely disregarded the warning message that was displayed on my monitor when I so cavalierly shut down, I knew I was about to be schooled.  It's common knowledge that IT helpdesks everywhere think us users are the time I'm done with them, I've firmly cemented that belief.  This call was certainly going to be no different, but I had to get back onto the network stat, so I forged ahead and dialed that 888 number.

As usual, the guy was very nice and professional as he grilled me with questions.  Questions that, of course, I didn't know the answer to.  Stuff like, "and what did the message on your screen say?", "when did it happen?", and "do you know if anyone else is having the same trouble?"  Why couldn't he just ask me for my IP address and take control of my computer to see what was wrong?  I wanted to suggest he do just that, but I was afraid that doing so might open doors to other questions I wasn't prepared to answer.  So I waited patiently, hoping he'd stop asking and start doing.  I guess I answered enough questions correctly, because he soon wrapped up our phone call with, "I am going to escalate this ticket to an onsite technician.  Can I please have a phone number where you can reached?"

And with just those words, I felt like I had achieved SOMETHING.  As if it proved that it wasn't just "error above the keyboard."  I had been escalated.  Knowing an onsite technician was coming to the rescue incites those same feelings that being in a hospital brings.  You may die, but you've got a better chance of surviving here than anywhere else.  The best kind of help was on the way.

So I waited until that special phone call.  "Hello, this is Steven with technical services, I've received your ticket...." spoken in that emotionless, monotone voice that we all know.  That noncommittal, completely uninterested voice is exactly the one you want to hear at times like these.  It's the voice that tells me, "I'm here to clean up your mess, you idiot.  And I welcomed that voice.  Steven made his way over to my area, and I met him half way, determined to keep him from getting sidetracked by any other idiots who might waylay him.

Steven turned out to be perfectly delightful.  He was friendly, helpful, and most importantly, he was a problem solver.  Which leads me to my perfect storm.  After all was said and done, I am happy to report that I played only a supporting part in the mess that became of my computer.  Here's what happened:

Someone in the computer room accidentally turned off my port, causing me to lose connectivity to the network.  By the time I arrived at my desk to see that things had gone awry, a software push had been kicked off, causing my computer to slow down.  Those two things together, made me think I needed to shut down, but the problem is, you can't just shut down during a software push.  And that's when things got really messed up.  Coincidentally, my password chose just that moment to expire.  Not the beginning of the day, when I logged in, but that precise moment, when my port was switched off, the push was in progress, and I shut down.  Yes, that's right.  THREE things went wrong at exactly the right moment.

A couple of hours later, and I was back in business, with a new friend to say hi to in the hallway.  Ah Steven, my I.T. buddy, I'll never forget what you've done for me.  Or where you sit.  For the next time.

I still get a strange error message pop up every once in a while, but Steven has a plan to fix that one day.  Until then, whenever I get that message, I just reboot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't Hate the Player

I was going through my son’s cell phone the other day (this only sounds invasive to those who don’t have kids), when I came across some texts that had to be documented, for posterity’s sake.  It seems a friend of his needed help wooing the ladies, and he came to my boy for advice.  Ah, the glimpses into my son’s mind are priceless.  As I followed along the string of ridiculous texts, I was entertained by the wisdom of my 12 year old, who doled out these golden nuggets:

“Don’t ask to hold her hand, that would make things awkward.”

"This is my motto:  don't b romantic unless u hav 2"


“Think like a player.  You’ve gotta ask yourself, ‘what would P do?’”

Hugely entertained by the advice he was giving, part of me hoped he wasn’t really serious.  Knowing what a goof-off my boy is, combined with him being one of the youngest AND smallest kids in 7th grade, I felt pretty confident that he was speaking about something he had no experience with.  But to be sure, I had to ask him.  I waited until that night, as he finished his homework. 

Me:  P, how many girls have you held hands with?

P:  One

Me:  And how many girls have you kissed?

P:  None.  Well, one, if I count you.

Me:  So what makes Kevin want to come to YOU for advice with the ladies?

P (smile spreading across his face):  I don’t KNOWWW.  But I went with it, and told him all kinds of stuff.  (smiling even wider) I told him to think like a player and that he needed to ask himself ‘what would P do’ (breaking into laughter).

We had a good laugh, while P reveled in his own cleverness.  He’s a fun kid, when he’s not driving me nuts.

Fortunately, Kevin didn't take P's advice.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pitbull Is Teaching Me Spanish

I have a few fears.  One of them is Alzheimer's.  My dad's dad had Alzheimer's when he died, as did a few others on that side of the family.  It may be true that I'm basing my fears on faulty logic, but I figure if alopecia is an inherited trait from your father's side, Alzheimer's could be too.  And for that reason, combined with the feeling that I am constantly losing my mind, I have done some research on the subject.  The articles and papers themselves are too boring to post, so I'll paraphrase:

Eat healthy, exercise, have an active, social lifestyle, and keep your mind challenged; and then MAYBE you'll hold onto your brain until you die.  Oh yeah, and be blessed with good genes.  

It probably boils down to good genes, but seeing as how I'm not blessed in that way, I'm going to have to cross my fingers and hope that my lifestyle can make up the difference.  So I started zumba in January (that requires a whole separate post), I feel guilty every time I eat junk food, and I've started taking Spanish lessons.  From Pitbull.

Who's Pitbull?  He's a Cuban-American rapper who is hugely popular these days.  He's been around for a while and is known for his utterly inappropriate lyrics and completely danceable tracks.  Did I say his lyrics are inappropriate?  It bears repeating.  Despite that, I cannot keep myself away from his music.  It's a totally illicit, guilty pleasure.

I was going to paste a video for you to experience his music for yourself, but I couldn't besmirch this lovely blog with such filth.  Pity.  Shake Senora is genius.

Fortunately for me, Pitbull is helping me stave off Alzheimer's in more than one way.  I'm keeping fit (he's a zumba favorite) and I'm learning Spanish at the same time.  I've learned so much already, it really is an effective way to pick up a language.

Unfortunately, most of it I can't repeat.

And now I sound like a Cuban rapper when I speak to my grandma.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Making Gatorade Out of Gators

Disappointment is an inevitable fact of life.  We're human, we feel emotions.  And because we're imperfect souls with free will, we are bound to come across conflict and disappointment in our lifetime.  Depending on your state of mind at the time, that feeling can be hard to overcome.  It can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.  Other times, it can roll right off your shoulders, with little more than a mental shake.

It's the "last straw" variety I've been thinking about lately.  No different than anyone else, I've had times when I felt as if I'd been given a raw deal.  I've sat around, feeling sorry for myself, wondering "why me?"  Eventually, I'd pick myself up, wipe my tears, and move on.  I think pity parties are good and appropriate, when thrown in moderation.  Sometimes it's good to just let go and wallow for a moment.  And being the self-centered creatures we're inclined towards being, a pity party is the easiest kind to throw.  It's the picking ourselves up and moving on that we seem to have trouble with.

Which leads me to today's original thought.  I've got an idea that the key to managing life's disappointments is Control.  It seems like the most successful individuals--those who have triumphed despite life's disappointments--are those who have faced their challenges with an arsenal of coping skills.  Skills that allow them to take control of their disappointment and transform it into something productive or meaningful.  Without any sense of control, life's disappointments can become magnified and debilitating.  It is Control that allows us to rebound from life's curve balls.  Control allows us to feel empowered.  It creates a calm purpose, as well as a sense of hope.  And it motivates us to move forward.

But how do you transform those negative feelings?  I don't know.  Sometimes life gets so overwhelming that knowing what you need to do isn't enough.  Emotions are such weird things.  They can work for you and they can work against you.  How easy life would be if we could turn them up and down, like we do the bass and treble on our car stereo.  Then we could adjust ourselves to give us just enough kick in the pants needed to keep us moving forward. 

I like the expression "making gatorade out of gators."  My challenges feel more like alligators than lemons.  And since we're speaking metaphorically, Gatorade is also more replenishing than lemonade.  Now if only I knew the recipe...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Blog Year Equates to 7 Cat Years

I spent some time this past weekend sharing a meal with a friend of mine who has been blogging for while.  I asked her how I should go about attracting followers to my new blog. She suggested I start by following other blogs.  Find people whose blog I like, follow them, and research who they follow.  Then start commenting on their blogs.  Eventually, people will find you, if the wind is in your favor.  Sounds easy enough.

Except that I'm a blog snob.

I'm not interested in fashion blogs.

Sames goes for gossip or celebrity watcher blogs.

Salty language and crass humor can make me laugh, but it gets old fast with me.

The only cute pet or kid stories I can stomach for very long are my own.

Technology and political news are too dry, even for me.

Too many pictures, and my mind starts to wander.

Looking back on my "ideal blog" requirements, I'm a little embarrassed by how narrow I sound.  Am I really so critical?  Umm, on a bad day, probably.  The rest of the time, probably not.  Which led me to revise my "ideal blog" requirements.  Scratch the entire list above and replace it with this:

I like well-written, insightful, and clever blogs on a variety of topics ranging from current events to personal development.

With my newfound knowledge of the company I'd like to keep, I set out to find my fellow like-minded bloggers.  Not being particularly high-tech, I relied on my good old-fashioned, organic search skills to find the five blogs I am now following.  I hope as I get better at this, it'll get easier.  I also hope it gets easier before I, like the bazillions of other bloggers out there, lose my mojo and give up on blogging.

Which is really where I'm headed with this post.  There are a lot of dead blogs out there, floating around like little grammatical corpses, littered along the internet highway.  It's a little discouraging, for sure, and also a little unnerving.  So I decided to do some research.  Just what is the life expectancy of the average blog?

"According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled."

Here's the 2009 NY Times article that little stat came from:

So the prognosis is not good for this blog, statistically speaking.  Add to it my tendency to eat, breathe, and sleep my latest obsession until sudden, spontaneous burnout, and I'd say my blogging days are numbered.  So I need to act fast, if I want to maximize my learnings from this pet project of mine.  Forget the self-improvement goal, forget the helping mankind goal, I'm on a limited time frame.  Let's aim lower and just focus on understanding the inner workings of the world of online social media before my time is up.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

About My About Me

It's not uncommon for me to use random movie/tv quotes in every day conversation.  For some, this can be mildly entertaining, particularly when the source of the quote is known.  It's like a shared moment, an open invitation to join a select clique of fellow pop-culture lovers.  And let's face it:  everyone loves to be part of something.  But if you're like me, sometimes those random quotes mean absolutely nothing to the rest of the world.  You'll know those moments when you're on the receiving end of a questioning stare or there's an awkward pause in the conversation.  But the worst is no acknowledgment whatsoever of your genius.  I say that's the worst, because it means that clearly no one is listening to you.

Anyway, when that has happened to me in the past (and I'm  not saying it happens often), I have to either keep moving forward or stop and explain myself.  Explaining definitely takes the wind out of those figurative sails.  But sometimes it's needed.  Which leads me to my "About Me" description.  If you are the few who happened to a) read it, and b) recognize it was a play on a pop culture reference, then you deserve kudos for that alone.  If you also KNEW the quote source, then I believe I may have found a kindred spirit.  Here's the original, unedited source:

The Ghost Whisperer?  Really?  Yes, well, it turns out that her opening intro was pretty easy to mess with.  And given my interest in numbers, the About Me seemed so obvious.  Well, obvious to me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Awkward.  That's how I feel right now.  Not one to rush to embrace this world of social media, I'm clearly not what you would call an early adopter.  I like to sit back, watch how things play out, and then decide my move.  So I've been sitting and watching, and finally...I'm making my move. 

Funny how something as benign as deciding on your blog title can make you feel unoriginal, uninspired, and a total hack.  I won't go into the details, but it turns out I'm not as clever or as original as I thought I was.  And that's how this title was born.  These thoughts may not be new to the world, but they'll be new to me.  Kind of like thrift store clothes; and just like thrift store clothes, it'll be my interpretation and expression of these thoughts that makes them fresh and on trend.  Ha, that was pretty bad.  But it stays.

I read somewhere once that that truly successful bloggers are truly successful because they blog about their passion.  That passion translates into informative and interesting posts that appeal to similarly minded individuals.  With some smart marketing, a following is developed, and like they say in that old Kevin Costner movie, "if you build it, they will come."  In this case, the "it" refers to blog followers, and the "they" is advertisers.    Considering I have no followers at the moment, and I tend to be slightly Attention-Deficient, this whole blog idea might end up one hot mess.  But it's a fun endeavor.  At the very least, it's teaching me something new.

Which leads me to my first goal of the blog:  to highlight and document my life learnings.  Now, that is one loaded goal.  And I'm not going to sugar coat'll get the full gamut of my learnings.  For example, yesterday I learned quite a bit about the warning signs of when your cat is about to die.  And then I learned that if you choose to skirt the law and bury your cat in the backyard, you should go at least three feet deep or the dog might dig it up.  Another thing I learned yesterday was how to set up a twitter account and send a tweet.  I have to thank my friend Suzanne for that one...she is teaching me the ways of social media.  I still don't get what there is to gain from tweeting and following other's tweets.  Seems like a waste of time.  But I'm going to hang in there and see what informative nuggets Suzanne can impart on me.

My second goal of the blog is to put to paper (or monitor, I suppose) the deeply insightful thoughts that float around in my head.  Again, a loaded goal.  Between work, the kids, the marriage, the family, and me (yes, I deserve my own call out), I have plenty of opinions worthy of penning. 

My final, and most relevant, goal of the blog is to improve myself as a person, one post at a time. 

As you can see, I have high hopes for this endeavor.