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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Tower of London and Other Old Things

            “Did that sign really say that this wall was refurbished in 1221 A.D.?”

            “Yes it did.”

            “That means that it had been built earlier and needed to be repaired in 1221?”

            “Uh huh.”

            “William the Conqueror put up the original wall sometime around 1066?”

            “Yes, that’s right.”

            “You’re putting me on.”

            “It’s no big deal, really. In Britain, we have walls that are much older than these in the Tower of London. Over here is where Anne Boleyn was beheaded. She’s buried under the altar in that church right there. She was Henry VIII’s second wife, you know.”

            “I know; I watched The Tudors on Showtime. What year was that again?”

            “In the year of our Lord 1536.”

            “That was before European settlers landed at Jamestown.”

            “Yes, I believe it was. Over here is the chapel in which Henry VI is reputed to have been murdered. We’re not really sure about the details, though.”

            “Why don’t you know for sure?”

            “Well, it was in 1471, and the time period was rather turbulent with the War of the Roses going on. Some of the records from that time period have gone missing.”

            “That makes sense.”

            “Thanks for your understanding.”

            “Are you laughing at me?”

            “Me? Absolutely not. I love Americans. You look at history from a totally different perspective than the British do.”

            “We do?”

            “It’s refreshing, really, the way you see everything here as ancient. We Brits have to go to Egypt to see really old stuff.”

            “I get your point. It’s all relative, isn’t it?”

            “Exactly. You Americans aren’t as slow as everyone says you are.”

            “Golly gee whiz – thanks a bunch, mister. That’s mighty kind of you to say.”

            “No problem, love.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Heartfelt Advice for the Delta SkyClub

            If you are willing to pay $300 a year and are a silver medallion member or higher, you too can have the privilege of waiting for your flights in comfort at the Delta SkyClub. At the Atlanta airport (a.k.a. Delta Airline’s “ mother ship”), it’s a lovely place, with free beverages and snacks and cushy armchairs. You can plug in your laptop, get free WiFi, and check up on “da family” on Mafia Wars.

            Last night, my family ended up spending more time there than we actually wanted to, due to a mechanical problem with the plane. We really did want Delta to fix it properly – the flight to London is long and over lots of water – so we just waited. And waited. And waited some more.

            Luckily, it was Monday night, and there are televisions in every one of the little seating areas. We settled in, only to realize that CNN was on in that lounge. We picked up all of our carry-ons and moved to a different room. The offering on this TV was much worse; there was some kind of entertainment news/Hollywood gossip show blaring away. The next small area was tuned to QVC. Who sits and watches QVC, for heaven’s sake? There were people sitting in there, staring at the screen with blank expressions on their faces. I swear I even saw one of them drooling. My sons now call QVC “the Zombie Network”, which I thought was pretty clever.

            The four of us looked at each other. My husband, our two sons, and I always spend quality time together on Monday nights. We were ready…for some FOOTBALL!

            We were in Atlanta. The Falcons were playing the Saints – a huge rivalry – and we weren’t watching the game. It was a big one, too, in terms of play-off positioning in the league. What is wrong with this picture?

            There was one TV in the very back of the lounge showing the game, and our hearts melted in relief as we pulled in chairs from another room and joined all our rowdy friends. We enjoyed the game, even if the Falcons didn’t win, but…uh…Delta? Maybe you could tune two TV’s to the big game next time. I’m pretty sure the QVC zombies wouldn’t even notice.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Boxing Day: A Really Fun Tradition

            “This shirt doesn’t fit, Mom.”

            I winced. “Gee, that’s too bad,” I answered.

            “We have to go exchange it,” my son replied. “I want to take it on the trip. We’re leaving tomorrow, you know.”

            “So I heard. You don’t have other shirts you can take?”

            “Not as cool as this one. Gram can really pick out good ones.”

            I muttered under my breath, something sarcastic about my mother and her choice of shirts in the wrong size.

            “What did you say?” he asked, coming into the kitchen wearing his new ‘I got this for Christmas’ shirt. The shirt was awesome; unfortunately, it was also too small.

            “Nothing, honey.”

            “Can we go now?”

            “Um…OK,” I reluctantly replied. It was Boxing Day, for heaven’s sake, the day after Christmas. There was nothing I wanted to do less than stand in line to exchange this shirt. I had a million things to do. I could set up my new IPod touch so I could get on Farmville. I could read the book my niece had given me, or listen to the Brad Paisley CD’s PJ gave me while delicately wolfing down the Ghirardelli chocolates from Alex.

            I dragged myself out to the car, a couple of Ghirardelli peppermint bark squares in my pocket, just in case. It was cold out here; it would be hot standing in line at the store.

            “Did you say something, Mom?”

            “No.”

            “OK. After we exchange this shirt, can we go see if the skateboard shop put their boards on sale yet? I got that gift card from Auntie M, and it’ll be just enough to buy that skateboard I wanted if they put it on sale.”

            “Why not?” I was in the car now anyway, resigned to my dismal fate. I pulled out onto the highway, and soon realized that traffic was moving at the rate of molasses flowing uphill in winter. I knew it; we were in line for a parking spot at the mall.

            Cell phones that allow your husband to call you while you’re standing in the exchange line are dangerous. “Are you going to be home soon?” 

            “I don’t think so,” I answered shrilly. “There are at least 30 people ahead of us in line.”

            “Too bad,” he replied sympathetically. “Would you mind stopping at the….”

            “Don’t even go there,” I warned him.

            “Well, I guess I could go get it myself, but you’re already out and….”

            My son grabbed the phone from my hand. “Um, Dad? I don’t think this is a good time for you to talk to Mom. She’s…” he looked at me and then cupped his hand around the mouthpiece and whispered, “having a meltdown. Sure, we can pick that up for you. No problem.”

            I narrowed my eyes and glared at my offspring.

            “You OK, Mom?” He smiled at me innocently, his big blue eyes and blonde hair giving him the appearance of an angel. I wasn't fooled.

            “Couldn’t be better,” I snarled.

            “Good!” he answered cheerfully. “I love shopping, don’t you?”

            “Oh, you do not either.”

            He just laughed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Joyful Christmas Morning

            It made her laugh to see the television commercials where the children eagerly wake up their parents on Christmas morning. It was usually the other way around in her house, and this year was no exception. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, but she couldn’t sleep. “It’s Christmas,” whispered in her head; how could they sleep so soundly?

            She put on her robe and tiptoed down the stairs at 5 AM. She plugged in the tree lights, and stood still for a moment, hugging the Christmas magic to herself. It took her breath away to see the presents mounded under the Christmas tree, proof that Santa had already been and gone. Somehow, she never seemed to catch him filling the stockings, no matter how early she came downstairs.

            She had put the teakettle on the stove when her mother padded into the kitchen. It was always this way, she and her mother, drinking tea together on Christmas morning. It was a ritual, one she wouldn’t give up for anything. She looked forward to spending this time with her mother all year. It’s not that they didn’t spend time together at other times of the year, it’s just that this was special time, Christmas time.

She and her mother would wait until they couldn’t stand it another minute, and then they would wake up the rest of the family. The kids would bound down the stairs the minute they were properly awake. The dads would come down, bleary-eyed but happy. The last one down was always her sister, pushing at her bed-mussed hair and grumbling under her breath like a humbug.

            Christmas was special, a day given to her as a gift. She treasured every moment of it, pulling it into her so that she would always have the memories to keep her company. She loved her family – each and every one precious to her – and she loved Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Perfect Christmas?

            It was Christmas Day. She knew that it was Christmas Day, even though, for her, each day was the same as the one before and the one before that.  Days, weeks, they all ran together until she was never really sure what day of the week it was, and, if she were to be perfectly honest, what month or season it was, either. What’s more, she didn’t care.

            It was quiet in the nursing home. This early in the morning, it usually was. It was her favorite time, when no one came into the room to poke at her or chatter nonsense to cover the blessed silence. She turned her head and looked out the window. The sun was just rising on the horizon.

That same sun had risen on Christmas Day for more than 2000 years now. She had seen the last 83 of them. Her mind drifted into the past, and she closed her eyes, visualizing the freshly cut pine tree adorned with her young sons’ artwork that had filled the living room of the house in which she had lived her entire married life. She had loved the smell of the fresh pine; it meant Christmas to her.

She opened her eyes now, and sighed. Unfortunately, she also remembered the arguments with her husband and her impatience with the boys as she tried to cook the big meal it would take them less than 20 minutes to eat. Why hadn’t she sat with them, read their new books to them, played the board games that Santa had brought them? Why had she yelled at them when they stepped into the kitchen? For some reason, she had always ended up crying and choking down aspirin with her fourth glass of mulled wine at the end of the day.

Christmas Day, she thought now, was highly overrated. She had had so many unrealistic expectations; it had never occurred to her to simplify the day. Tradition was tradition, after all. Changing long-standing traditions would have been unthinkable. It was only now that she realized that focusing on family, instead of presents, food, and decorations, was what would have made past Christmas Days treasured memories.

Today her eldest son and granddaughter would visit her. She now had the time – and the wisdom – to enjoy their company on this special day. She looked around the small room, the Christmas cards tacked to the window blinds, the poinsettias and the tins of homemade cookies brought by friends, and the tools of the medical profession that had kept her alive to see this day. Live and learn, she thought, smiling wryly to herself. Today will be a Christmas Day to remember.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Take Care of Your Pet Opossum

            Is your pet your favorite family member? I’m not surprised. Dogs have been companions to humans since caveman days. I must confess to being a dog lover, myself. Cats, once worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, continue to be adored by families today. Dogs and cats are such special animals that living life without them is unthinkable.

Small furry animals such as gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and mice hold a place in our hearts, too. Some people even care a great deal for their reptilian pets. I personally have been known to shed a tear as I was flushing a pet goldfish. (Few people realize that winning a goldfish at a fair can be a life-altering experience, but take my word for it, it’s a big deal.) Life is just not as good when you don’t have a pet.
 
            Non-traditional pets, such as opossums, are no less important to their owners than the pets I’ve named above. Such owners have to search to find pet care tips for their unusual pets. What should I feed my opossum? How can I teach my opossum to walk nicely on a leash? How do I care for my elderly opossum? These are important issues for the loving opossum owner.

            Luckily, ME Pearl has the answer to these burning questions. In her latest video, ME Pearl shows the viewer how to massage an elderly opossum to keep it flexible and comfortable. She tells you how to align the opossum’s chi, and how to clear its aura. This video is a must see for every opossum owner.

            If you don’t own an opossum, I recommend that you simply take a few minutes to enjoy watching this video. Please do watch it to the end, so that you don’t miss the clearing of the opossum’s aura; I have honestly never seen anything like it before. I know you’ll find the love of the woman for her opossum to be as heart-warming and touching as I do.


          

Monday, December 20, 2010

Got the Christmas Blues? Gloria has the cure!

            “Callaway Gardens has a package deal for their Christmas Fantasy in Lights. We could stay in a cottage and take a tram in the evening to see the lights. Want to go?”

            Stephanie and I both nodded enthusiastically. Whenever Gloria asked us if we wanted to go somewhere, we always said yes. She could make the most mundane trips into memorable adventures. Remind me to tell you about the time we ended up sitting in a vat of boiling tea together.

            Callaway Gardens is a lovely resort about an hour south of Atlanta. The golf courses are beautiful, the accommodations are stunning, and the food is divine. In the spring, the azaleas make you wish you were talented enough to paint the scenery to take home with you, but you know you’d never capture the brilliance of the pinks, reds, and whites nestled between the greens and browns of the Georgia pines. Even photographs don’t do justice to the beauty of the landscape. The resort also has a spa, which is a major drawing point for me. After my massage on Saturday afternoon, I felt so good I was up for anything.

            For several years now, I’ve been a bit of a humbug about Christmas. Put it this way, my favorite Christmas sweatshirt has a picture of Disney’s Grumpy on the front and the heartfelt sentiment “Fa La La Yourself” underneath him. Enough said.

            But on Saturday night, I found myself sliding across a muddy parking lot/cow pasture so I could wait in line to take an open air tram to see some Christmas lights. It was cold and breezy, but it had stopped raining earlier in the day. Boy, was I…um…lucky.

            A cheerful young man directed us to the correct line. Since we were staying at the resort, we were VIP’s; that always works for me. Gloria, huddled in front of me so I could block the wind, toted her blanket. “Good idea to bring that blanket, ma’am,” the young man approved. “You might could need it out there. It gets mighty cold.”

            I didn’t roll my eyes, I swear. I wanted to, though. As an English teacher from Pennsylvania, I didn’t find the whole “might could” Southernism particularly charming. There was a high school English teacher somewhere in central Georgia who might could have taught a little better. I’m just saying.

            We got on the tram, and Gloria adjusted her blanket. The recorded track started, explaining that we were in a one-horse open sleigh, and that the horse’s name was Fred. We were then encouraged to sing “Jingle Bells” as our sleigh took off, headed for the 18 lighted scenes that were sure to put us in a holiday mood. If my hand wouldn’t have frozen solid if I’d taken it out of my pocket, I would have tried to rub away the headache threatening my temples.

            I had to admit, the first few scenes were cute. Mrs. Santa playing the fiddle in her country band was adorable. Who knew Santa Claus is Coming to Town would sound so great in bluegrass? The young children around me were wide-eyed with wonder at the lights, and were enjoying singing along with the Christmas carols. I was starting to melt, even though my toes were beginning to freeze.

            It was the scene with the lit snowflakes that finally shattered the frozen shell of “I hate Christmas” that I’d pulled around me. It was quite simply one of the most magical places I had ever seen. The glade in the pine forest was a fairytale come true.

“…and the grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day,” Gloria murmured in my ear through frozen lips as we climbed off the tram.

I frowned at her.

“I heard you singing along,” she laughed. “You had a good time.”

I didn’t bother to deny it; she knew me too well. “Whatever.”

Stephanie laughed and linked arms with us. “Hot chocolate!” she declared. “We need some hot chocolate right this very minute.”

“…and a deep-fried Snickers bar,” Gloria added in the tune of ‘…a partridge in a pear tree.

We took our hot chocolate and fried Snickers bars back to our cabin, lit a fire in the fireplace, and enjoyed the peace that comes when you relax with good friends.  

It was another memorable weekend, Gloria. Thanks, sweetie.

Friday, December 17, 2010

TSA Groping: A New Holiday Tradition

            “Hey, come listen to this.”

            “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” is not, and never has been, my favorite Christmas song. That said, the latest parody “Grandma Got Molested at the Airport” is terrific. I mean that in the sense that watching a tornado touch down next to your house is terrific or that spying a bear rummaging through your food at your campsite is terrific. These events inspire terror.
 
            I recently took a trip to England. I had a wonderful time, if you don’t count the time spent in either the Atlanta or London Heathrow airports. For some reason, security takes one look at me and decides that I am a threat. Admittedly, I do fit into an easily identifiable profile. If you are looking for the stereotypical white American female schoolteacher of a certain age, well, that would be me.

            Now I always thought that I inspired terror only in middle school students who hadn’t done their homework. Such is not the case. TSA agents at both airports singled me out for special tests designed to prove that I was not a terrorist. I was considered guilty until they were able to prove without the slightest doubt that I was innocent. It occurred to me to wonder if I’d been teaching the American Constitution incorrectly all these years.

            I had my little bottles of shampoo and tubes of toothpaste in my quart-sized zip bag. My Reeboks were off and tucked next to my jacket in the plastic tub provided. My laptop and cell phone were out and in a different plastic tub. All of these things and my carry-on suitcase went through the scanner with no problem. I walked through the metal detector without tripping any visible bells and whistles. So why was I singled out for an intense grope? Search me.

            The TSA agent in Atlanta quickly learned that my bra was not padded and that I was using a feminine protection product. Believe me, even my husband and my mother don’t want that much information about me. Unless TSA wanted to warn the flight attendants that I might be prone to mood swings at that time of the month, I really didn’t see how the information was at all useful to anyone.

            In London, the Brits do not grope you. They are way too civilized for that.  I’m wondering, though, what they’re going to do with the naked pictures of me taken with the body scanner. Do you think I’ll receive royalties if those pictures sell well on the British porn market?

            My entire family is meeting in London for Christmas. We’ll be coming from airports across the U.S. My 14 year old niece and my sons will be subjected to these indignities as part of “routine” security measures. I will not be allowed to intervene on their behalf, or I will be treated as a criminal. The song “Grandma Got Molested at the Airport” is just a little too true to be funny. Listen to it yourself. I bet you’ll think it’s terrific, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Long Distance Christmas Shopping

            The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season;
            Now please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason.

“I know why.”

“Really?” I smiled at my 11-year-old son. “Why did the Grinch hate Christmas?”

“I bet his sister moved away and he missed her.”

A tear came to my eye as I nodded agreement. “I bet you’re right, Alex.”

“That’s why you hate Christmas this year. Last year, you loved Christmas.” My brother-in-law had been transferred to Kansas, a two-day drive from Atlanta. They had lived 4 miles away from us, and our children had grown up together.

“I don’t hate Christmas,” I protested weakly.

Alex looked around at the undecorated house. The Christmas tree was up and decorated because my husband and the boys had put it up; I had conveniently made other plans while they did that. There were no Christmas cookies baked, no piles of wrapped presents on every flat surface, and the all-Christmas-all-the-time radio station was silent.

I sighed. He was right. I hated Christmas this year. My parents were going to Kansas to be with my sister and her family and my in-laws were coming early and leaving before Christmas; we were going to be alone.

Alex kissed me on the cheek and went off down the street to find his skateboarding buddies.

I put on my coat and grabbed my cell phone and went Christmas shopping with my sister - electronically.

“Did you get the picture I just sent? Do you think Mom would like it? No, you’re right. Do you have any ideas? Oh, that’s a great one. Sounds expensive. Want to go halfsies? What size is Nica wearing these days? I can’t believe she’s grown so much in just a few months. Alex wants a new skateboard, if you want to get him that. PJ wants that new video game. Which system? I have no idea. I think this’ll be perfect for David. What do you think?”

            Arms loaded down with packages, I collapsed into a chair in the mall food court. “Hey, Beth? Thanks for saving Christmas for me. I love you.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Everybody wants to go to heaven, but....

            “Wow! That’s really bright!”

            I squinted up at the top of the stairs, shielding my eyes with my hand. A sense of uncertainty filled me as I climbed the first two.

            “Vicki?”

            I swallowed uneasily. “Y…” I cleared my throat. “Yes?”

            “Are you coming up?”

            I was being given a choice? Really? That was totally cool. I bet that doesn't happen very often.

I sat down about halfway up, my back to the light. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir started singing Handel’s Messiah. It was beautiful – heavenly – and I wondered if John Williams was conducting. Then I wondered if John Williams was dead, which was important to know under the circumstances, if you get my drift.

The choir stopped abruptly in mid-note. I took that to mean that it was time for me to make my decision. It was easy.

I stood up and turned around to face the light. “No, I can’t come up right now,” I answered, my voice quavering and my knees shaking. “I haven’t finished my tasks down here yet.” I thought about my sons, who still needed me even if they were nearly grown. My husband, parents, sister, close friends counted on me. Besides, I hadn’t even started on that PhD I wanted to earn.

“OK. When you come up, though, would you please bring a Phillips head screwdriver?”

Huh? I thought you couldn’t take anything with you when you went. Hand tools must be a little-known exception.

“Sure. Uh, no problem.” I backed down the stairs, feeling relieved when I got to the bottom. That had been a close call. I sat down abruptly in the nearest kitchen chair and wiped the sweat from my forehead. I thought of all the things I still hadn’t done in my life, and more importantly, of all the people I hadn’t said “I love you” to in a long time. I was still sitting there when my husband walked into the kitchen.

“I didn’t realize it was going to take you an hour to bring up the screwdriver,” he joked, choosing the one he wanted from the kitchen junk drawer. “Aren’t you ready to come up to bed yet?”

“You wanted a screwdriver?” I asked. I was definitely confused.

“What’s wrong with you? You told me you’d bring the screwdriver when you came up,” he countered. “I fixed the stereo in the bedroom, but I need the screwdriver to change the bulbs in that fixture in the stairway. I accidentally put in 60 watt bulbs instead of 40 watt this morning. Didn’t you notice that it was as bright as a summer day in Key West in there?”

“Bright as a summer day….” I parroted.

He patted my head and hauled me to my feet. “Come on, my love. It’s bedtime for you. You’ve obviously had a long day.”

I followed him, frowning and still confused. Had I just had a close encounter with death or hadn’t I? I pondered that question while I put on my pajamas and brushed my teeth.

            It was only at the very last minute before I fell asleep that I realized that it didn’t matter. I got it.


BTW: John Williams is very much alive.  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002354/bio 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where is Your Office?

            “You need to get out of this house.”

            “I’m fine,” I answered impatiently. I have my office set up in the dining room, and I’m perfectly happy there. For 16 hours a day, my posterior can be found resting in a back-pinching rolling chair that my grandmother wanted to get rid of back in 1983. It was one of the first pieces of furniture we owned when we got married.

            “I bet you won’t be able to stand up straight when you finally get up,” my husband predicted with a frown.

            “You’d lose that bet,” I argued, stifling the involuntary groan of mortal agony that hit when I stood up as straight as Barbie in her packing box. So there. I win. Kind of.

            “How much writing did you get done today?”

            “Not much. I’m having trouble thinking of a topic.”

            “That’s not surprising,” he replied. “You need to be around people to get ideas. Why don’t you spend part of the day at Starbucks? They even have free WiFi.”

            “I don’t think so,” I sneered. I used to shake my head in disbelief at my colleagues who actually got up early enough to stop at Starbucks for the privilege of paying $5 for a cup of coffee. And on a teacher’s salary! That’s just nuts, right?

            What’s even more insane is the fact that a few years ago I bought a green tea frappuccino at the Starbucks inside the Forbidden City in Beijing. I found the irony delicious. Regrettably, that Starbucks is no longer there. Seems the Chinese had some slight problem with what they called the “desecration” of a valued historical site.  Go figure.

            But how many days can you sit in front of a computer screen writing nothing? How long can you suffer for your art by sitting in the torture chair?

            So a few months ago, I decided – all on my own, mind you – that I’d get out of the house for a while and check out my local Starbucks.

            “It’s a great day at Starbucks in Snellville.” (That’s in Georgia. The city motto is “Everybody is Somebody in Snellville” and I swear to you that it’s the absolute truth. If you want to be Somebody, just come to Snellville.) My barista was smiling at me from behind the counter.

            “What can I make for you?” she asked.

            “Tall nonfat chai latte, please,” I answered, smiling for the first time all day.

            “Coming right up.”

            I took the bag with my computer to one of the armchairs and got it out. By the time it was up and running, Bethany had my chai ready. “Thanks, Bethany,” I called to her over my shoulder as I headed back to my chair. She gave me a half-wave, already busy making someone else’s day great.

            Now I nod to the regulars – those people who use Starbucks as a daily office the way I do. I settle in to do some serious writing. When it comes down to it, that $5 latte is the cheapest rent I’ve ever paid – and I can drink it, too! It’s here, in this cafĂ© bustling with people, that I do my best work.

            Even the chairs are comfortable. I’m so glad I thought of it!            

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dawn and the Ancient Shoes: More Weird Quirks

            “What size shoes do you wear?” I held the phone away from my ear and looked at the caller ID just to be sure.

            “Dawn?”

            “Yeah. What size shoes do you wear?”

            “9.”

            “Good. Do you have a pair of black flats I could borrow?”

            “Sure. You don’t have a pair of black flats?”

            “Not exactly,” she answered. "When I dug them out of the back of the closet, the soles were…sticky.”

            “The soles were sticky? How old are these shoes?”

            “Let’s just say Reagan was president when I bought them and leave it at that.”

            I chuckled. “Maybe you could rub the sticky stuff off,” I suggested.

            “I tried that. I put them on and walked around the house.”

            “That didn’t work?”

            “Oh, the sticky stuff came off all right. There are black footprints all over the living room. Luckily, Mom doesn’t see too well these days and she hasn’t noticed them yet.”

            I laughed out loud as Dawn continued, “Then I walked up and down the driveway to scuff them up.”
 
            I pictured Dawn marching up and down her driveway outside, wearing her usual baggy shorts and a T-shirt that advertised the high school science fair, thick socks, and a pair of dress flats that had been stylish in 1980.

            She patiently waited for me to stop roaring with laughter. “So can I borrow your shoes?”

            “Of course you can,” I replied. “But it sounds like you need to buy a new pair, too.”

            “Nah,” she answered. “I’ll just have the cobbler put new soles on these and they’ll be good as new.”

"The cobbler?"

           “Yeah, you know – a guy who fixes shoes. Manny does a great job.”

            “I know what a cobbler is. Who uses a cobbler? And who uses a cobbler often enough to be on a first-name basis with him?” She is so killing me. My sides are aching. “Do you rinse out your used Ziplock baggies, too?”

            “Maybe I do. But at least I don’t use a bench vise to squeeze the last bit out of my toothpaste tube.”     

Monday, December 6, 2010

Toothpaste Tubes and Other Weird Quirks

            “I’m going to throw this away for you.”

            “Excuse me?” I mumbled around the toothbrush in my mouth.

            “This tube of toothpaste is empty. I’m going to throw it away.” My husband picked up my tube and headed for the bathroom trash can behind me.

            “Nah uh!” I protested, inadvertently spitting white flecks of toothpaste on the mirror.

            “It’s empty!” he responded, dangling the tube by thumb and forefinger over the can.

            I rinsed once. “Not empty.”

            “You can’t possibly get even one more toothbrush full out of this tube.”

            I rinsed again and spit with gusto. “There’s at least a couple more days of toothpaste in that tube. You just have to squeeze it the right way.”

            “No, you just have to squeeze it the right way. I would get a new tube of toothpaste.”

            “I like to make sure I use it all. I don’t know why you’re giving me a hard time, anyway. You continue to use rechargeable batteries when you only get 10 minutes out of a full charge.”

            He was immediately defensive. “Rechargeable batteries are expensive. Toothpaste is cheap. It’s not the same thing at all.”

            “If you say so.”

We smiled at each other in the bathroom mirror, and he handed my nearly empty tube of toothpaste back to me. “You’re weird.”

“Right back atcha,” I answered. “Wanna kiss me? My breath is minty fresh.”

            He laughed. “How could I resist an offer like that?”

Friday, December 3, 2010

It is better to light one small candle than to change the light bulb....

            The invention of the electric light bulb has had a dramatic impact on the American way of life. I know what you’re thinking – it’s something along the lines of “Duh!” Just stay with me for a moment.

            At this very moment, there are 4 fixtures in my home that have burned out light bulbs. These bulbs have been burned out for more than a week, and quite possibly for more than two weeks.

            One of the burned out bulbs is over the stove in the kitchen. While I guess this might be a problem if you’re actually cooking something, I haven’t found the lack of light at the stove to be an inconvenience at all. Enough said.

 However, the lack of light from the other three bulbs causes me some little distress. I pick out my clothes in the dark because there isn’t a working light in my closet. (No, I’m not going to show you a picture of what I’m wearing today. I don’t care that teal and red dots and yellow stripes don’t match.)

            The light over the mirror in my bathroom is also dead. At least I have the comfort of knowing that no one is looking past my bizarre clothing choices to check out my make-up. My lipstick is bound to match one of the colors I’m wearing anyway.

            The fourth burned out bulb is in the living room, in a lovely standing lamp placed strategically next to my favorite armchair. Unfortunately, the flickering light of the lavender-scented Yankee candle that I’ve been burning since my lamp went out is woefully inadequate for reading. Now I know why people used to go to bed at dusk.

            But there’s a simple solution to this problem, you’re thinking. Why don’t you just change the bulbs? After all, how many teachers does it take to change a light bulb?

            Ah, my friends, if only it were that simple. It takes one teacher to change a light bulb as long as that teacher isn’t me. Just reaching out my hand near a lit light bulb will cause the bulb to blow, usually with a loud pop. And there I am, left in the dark wondering why this always happens to me.

As for actually replacing a bulb myself, boy is that an expensive exercise in futility. I can unplug the lamp, remove the dead bulb, put in a new bulb, plug in the lamp, and turn it on, only to watch it blow out immediately, if indeed it lights at all. I have such a bad track record with light bulbs that my family won’t even allow me to buy them – and, as you can easily surmise, we buy a lot of bulbs!

So here I sit alone in the deepening twilight, wearing mismatched clothes, my lipstick applied somewhere near the proximity of my lips, waiting hopefully for some kind soul to come give me the gift of light. Perhaps my husband or one of my sons will take pity on me soon.

            In the meantime, I’ll take Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice to heart: “It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” Hey, do you think she had the same problem as me? 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

God and the NFL

            My mother taught me that it’s dangerous to bring up religion and politics in polite conversation, and she was right. However (sorry, Mom), I find that I must weigh in on the tweet from Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson following last Sunday’s game.

            The tweet was this:

I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...,"

            Yes, this tweet was directed at…God.

            You see, Mr. Johnson dropped what would have been the game-winning pass in overtime. He was in the end zone, the ball was thrown to him, and he – there’s not really a nice way of saying this – let it slip through his fingers. The Bills lost the game. And it was…God’s fault.

I find this fascinating (and funny) for several reasons:
1.      Twitter allows celebrities (and anyone else, for that matter) to share their private issues instantly with millions of people, and it does not in any way require those celebrities to think before pressing the send button. (This is a general observation, not specifically directed at Mr. Johnson although it does apply to him.)
2.      I didn’t realize that God accepted prayers via Twitter. I really need to get with the program. Do you suppose Allah and Vishnu et al read tweeted prayers as well? I guess they must.
3.      If God personally directs the action in NFL football, does it follow that he wanted the Buffalo Bills to lose? If so, what have the Dallas Cowboys done to deserve the wrath of God this season? Cowboys’ fans are tired of the plagues of locusts and boils already.

I would like to offer this advice to Mr. Johnson, and I mean this in the nicest possible way: GROW UP! Sometimes you’re going to make a mistake and drop the ball. It’s YOUR fault. Man up and accept responsibility. You might try apologizing to the rest of your team, too. Maybe that’s the lesson you’re supposed to learn. Oh, and I’m pretty sure God would like it if you would think twice before pressing the send button on your tweets from now on.

You can read more about Steve Johnson and his highly-publicized Twitter prayer at: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2010/11/29/buffalo-bills-wide-receiver-blames-dropped-pass-god/?test=faces


Want to watch the game-losing drop? Try this website: http://thebeatofphilly.com/sports/1003thebeat/buffalo-bills-wideout-blames-god-on-twitter-after-dropping-game-winning-pass/