Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Natural Fit" Clothes? So not!

            It is a fact of life that as women get older, we sag in places where we’d rather not sag, and stick out in places where we’d rather not stick out. Some women choose to surgically alter these endearing signs of aging, but most of us hope that our clothes will hide a multitude of sins. The rest of us decide we simply don’t care and let it all hang out.

            It is obviously for the latter that Coldwater Creek has targeted its new line of “Natural Fit” women’s wear.

 Now tell me, where are breasts “supposed” to be? This is a little too “natural” for my tastes. I want to keep up the pretense that my boobs are right where they always were, even if I now require a whalebone corset to keep them up there.

            I may be getting older – all right, I AM getting older - and I need some help here from the fashion industry. “Natural Fit?” Give me a break!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

High School Graduation

            As we all have heard, in real estate the 3 keys to success are “location, location, location.” I’ve come to believe that these 3 keys are vital to a lot more than just selling your house or opening a restaurant. Take my son’s high school graduation, for example.

            The seniors were given the opportunity to vote on where their graduation ceremony would take place. Their choices were the high school football stadium or the Gwinnett Arena. The high school football stadium has metal bleachers, a tiny parking lot, and is exposed to the elements; it’s your average high school stadium. The Gwinnett Arena, on the other hand, has comfortable cloth-covered chairs, a huge parking lot with attendants directing traffic, and air-conditioning. Guess which venue the students chose.

            So there we were, crowded into the high school football stadium. For four years, students and their families had attended raucous football games, band performances, and other assorted sporting events. It has always been noisy, crowded, and fun.

            Now in my opinion, an occasion as important as graduation should not be noisy, crowded, and fun. There should be a certain decorum to it. At the very least, parents should be able to hear their child’s name read and see their child walk across the stage to receive that hard-earned diploma.

            Such was not the situation at the BHS graduation last Wednesday. Even if you ignore the fact that many family members and friends came dressed in clothes better suited to football or the beach than to a graduation ceremony, many lacked what I consider to be basic manners. Air horns and loud cheering for one child meant that the parents of the child who came next were out of luck. There was no way they could hear their child’s name announced.  Miss Manners certainly would not approve of such impolite behavior.

            I suspect she would also disapprove of families leaving as soon as their child’s name was announced. Many rude families whose name started with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet rose at a leisurely pace, obscured the view of everyone behind them, and inconvenienced those seated next to them as they tried to push their way out of the packed bleachers.  Is it really that hard to sit politely and respectfully for an entire 2-hour graduation ceremony?

            It occurs to me that this rude behavior may have been a result of the expectations associated with the venue. Yelling during football games is expected, and so is getting up and leaving at halftime. These behaviors are expected at a football stadium during a football game. Apparently, there are people who don’t understand that there is a difference between a football game and a graduation ceremony if they’re both held in the same stadium. How disappointing for those of us who are not etiquette-challenged.

            Despite the lack of common courtesy on the part of some attendees, the graduation itself was a successful event. We saw Alex and his friends get their diplomas, a very satisfying conclusion to 13 years of education. The graduates enjoyed being in their stadium for the important moment and, after all, graduation is about them, isn’t it?

(You’re thinking, “Really, Vicki? It’s all about the kids? Are you sure?”

 The truth? Nah, it's really all about the awesome parenting job that resulted in the child receiving the diploma.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

What do I have in common with Buddhist monks? You'll be surprised!

Several years ago, Gloria and I met while visiting China and South Korea with a group of teachers from the University of Georgia. (We live a few miles from each other, but we met for the first time in Beijing. Small world, huh?) It was a remarkable trip in many ways. We toured museums, temples, historical sites, little villages, and became lifelong friends.

Perhaps the most physically demanding, albeit interesting, experiences we had was spending a night at a Buddhist monastery in the foothills of the Taebaek mountains in South Korea. We arrived in the afternoon, climbed to the top of a steep rock outcropping to see the carved Buddha figures in niches along the way, and climbed back down. I have to admit that it had been worth the climb to see the art.

We were then encouraged to participate in a “physical training” session. Unfortunately for Gloria and me, it wasn’t tai chi or yoga, which we might actually have been able to do; the exercises were obviously designed to turn us into ninja warriors. The head monk appeared to be highly disappointed when we ended up sitting on our mats, breathing heavily and refusing to move another muscle.

From there, we went to dinner. Again, I proved to be a disappointment. The day before our visit, I had become acquainted with a nice South Korean doctor who gave me some pills for the stomach problem I’d acquired in China. Despite a day’s dose of antibiotics, my stomach was not likely to happily digest kimchi or anything else that was on the menu except the rice. I took a small scoop of rice, and ate it slowly. I did finish every last grain, which was important to the monks, but I’m afraid I ended up looking like the ugly American who refused to eat local food.

There was another exercise session after dinner, and finally we were allowed to retire for the night. We were each given a blanket and a small section of wooden floor. There was a toilet and sink, but no shower. If the object of the monastery visit was to make us miserable, it was completely successful. However, we certainly understood more about how Buddhist monks live than we had before our visit.

It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise for me to learn this week that I might actually have more in common with Buddhist monks than I had thought. Reuters reports that “South Korean TV networks aired shots of monks playing poker, some smoking and drinking, after gathering at a luxury lakeside hotel in late April for a fellow monk's memorial service.” Where were those monks when I was camped out in austerity exercise hell?

Of course, the moral of this story is that American tourists and South Korean
Buddhist monks are all human beings. Although we strive to be whatever our version of “best” is, we sometimes fall short. C’est la vie.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So I'm all like, "Yeah, I'm cool with that."

            So Chris and I walked up to the Lakewood Amphitheater gates on Saturday night and I held out my purse to be searched. The woman eyed my purse for a moment, and then waved the two of us in without checking anything else. The boy in front of us had been asked to empty his pockets a la TSA, and the girl behind us was shaking out her Hello Kitty blanket to show that she had nothing stashed in it. Chris and I were all like, “Huh?”

            We had lawn “seats,” so we followed the crowd up the stairs. The amphitheater was an actual hill covered in, like, grass and ant mounds, if you can believe it. I checked our tickets to make sure we were in the right place because I was sure that we must have accidentally stumbled into a Roman gladiator arena instead of the concert venue for the Zac Brown Band.

            Chris took my elbow and carefully helped me climb the hill. We decided to sit in the very back, so we could lean our backs against the wall. We spread out our blanket and sat for several minutes before I decided I had to use the restroom. So I was like, “I have to go use the bathroom. Do you want me to get you anything while I’m up?”

            Chris was like, “Sure. I’d like a bottle of water.”

            The line for the ladies’ restroom snaked around the concession area. I swear I waited like 30 minutes to get in. I was doing my thing when the girl in the next stall started barfing. I have that sympathetic barf reflex thing, you know? So it was all I could do to keep my dinner down long enough to flush and unlock the door. Unfortunately, the girl hadn’t made it to the stall in time. There was upchuck all over the area by the sinks. I’m like, “That’s so gross,” but I managed to hold my breath long enough to wash my hands.

            The water line and the beer line were one and the same. It was long. I stood in it. Young people in various degrees of intoxication bumped into me, splashed beer on my shirt, and burped in my face. I finally made it to the front of the line and asked the woman for a bottle of water and she was all like, “Really? Just water? You know I have to take the cap off of that.”

            I was like, “That’s fine,” but it wasn’t really fine, because I spilled half of it on my shoes while I was climbing back up the hill. I collapsed next to Chris and closed my eyes. He gently waved the gnats away from my face.

            It started to get dark, and that’s when we noticed that the young couple sitting/lying next to us was, like, you know? They were totally oblivious to everything but each other. Chris smiled at me, and I thought he was fondly remembering when we had been like that, but then he whispered in my ear, “Do you think he remembered to bring protection? Maybe I should ask him.”

            The Zac Brown Band started to sing at 8:40PM. At 8:42, it started to rain. It hadn’t rained in Atlanta for 6 weeks, and now it was raining. Hard.

            The music was awesome. And when the rain let up a bit, we could see the band almost as well as you can see them on YouTube. I’m pretty sure Zac Brown was wearing his signature ski cap, anyway. It was, like, cool.

            Up on the hill, the angst grew to fever pitch. The girl half of the couple slapped her boyfriend and he stomped off. She promptly began wailing and, like, texting, and in no time, girls from all over the amphitheater had flocked to her. We could hear her sobbing over the music. Boys shuffled past, eyeing the girls in their short skirts and cowboy boots squatting on the ground next to the heart-broken lover. It was, like, an impressive sight, I’m sure.

            At 10PM, I decided that I had to stand up because I was feeling stiff. I grabbed Chris’s hand and managed to half-stand. A few creaks and groans later, I could actually stand up straight. We couldn’t help it; we started to laugh. Chris folded up our blanket and we pushed our way through the throngs of drunken young people to the exit.

            What did we learn from this experience? First, neither of us uses the word “like” correctly – you know, instead of “said.” Second, we think like parents when we see a young couple making out. Third, we have already met our quota of angst for this lifetime, and we don’t care to see more. Fourth, fifty-year-old bodies don’t like to sit on Georgia clay in the cold rain for an extended period of time. And finally, despite the physical discomfort we endured, neither of us would choose to be 18 again for anything.

            We drove home, happily tapping our wet toes to Zac Brown on the iPod. “Life is good today.”    

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Serious Comma Malfunction an Epidemic

           Do you know when to use a comma and when not to use a comma? If you do, then you’re way ahead of the masses. It’s pretty sad, really, because a comma can often change the meaning of a sentence.

       For example, check out this headline from Yahoo! a few days ago:

            Romney and Obama dead, even in poll

            Now I would have expected the deaths of Romney and Obama to have major front-page status, but I could find no confirmation elsewhere of this horrible news. The statement also led me to wonder why people would have been polled about the deaths of these two men. What is really going on in this sentence?  Serious comma malfunction – that’s what’s going on! This is a perfect example of when NOT to use a comma.

            Here’s an example of when you absolutely do need a comma:

            Let’s eat Grannie!

            This is an old example, but that doesn’t make the impact of this sentence less terrifying.  Someone is planning on eating Grannie! You can save Grannie’s life with a little comma. Don’t you want to save Grannie? Of course you do.

            Yes, you should use commas in a list. But be careful, please.

            (on a menu) Goat Cheese Salad – lettuce, tomato, goat, cheese

            Now wait! There’s goat on it? Darn, I had goat for breakfast. Think I’ll pass on that one.

            (my shopping list) dog, food, bananas, bread, milk

            All right, Mom! You’re going to get us another dog? Woohoo!

            I’m obviously not the only one who finds improper comma usage disturbing. The Onion sums up the whole subject this way:

Commas, Turning Up, Everywhere
APRIL 25, 2008 | ISSUE 44•17
WASHINGTON—In the midst of a crisis that may have reached a breaking, point Tuesday afternoon, linguists, and grammarians, everywhere say they are baffled, by the sudden and seemingly random, appearance of commas, in our nation's sentences. The epidemic of errant punctuation has spread, like wildfire, since signs of the epidemic first, appeared in a Washington Post article, on Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben, Bernanke. "This, is an unsettling trend," columnist William Sa,fire, told reporters. "We're seeing a collapse of the grammatical rules that have, held, the English language, together for, centuries." Experts warn, that if this same, phenomenon, should occur with ellipses…

Have an example of a comma blunder to share? I’d love to see them!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Caused Dinosaurs to Become Extinct?

            There are many people who do jobs that I would not care to do. I’m not talking about jobs collecting trash, serving people at McDonald’s, or digging ditches; those are decent jobs, and I would (and have) gratefully accept a paycheck for doing them. Heck, I taught seventh grade for years and I know many people who would rather be shot out of a circus cannon than spend an hour in a seventh grade classroom. (Teaching middle school is a calling, not a job.)

            Anyway, I was reading an article about dinosaurs today when it occurred to me that the person doing the research had a job that I would not want. I like reading about dinosaur research, but quite frankly, spending time calculating the effect of dinosaur flatulence on global warming seems horribly boring.

            It turns out that plant-eating dinosaurs, like modern cows and sheep, produced methane gas as part of their normal digestive process. Dave Wilkinsen, that unfortunate researcher at Liverpool John Moores University, stated that “our calculations suggest that these dinosaurs could have produced more methane than all modern sources – both natural and man-made – put together." And this is important because…“the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate."

            This poor researcher will most likely spend the next year explaining his findings in scientific journals. He’ll lecture about dinosaur flatulence at conferences and, if his significant other is truly unlucky, at dinner parties. Then he’ll begin the next step in his calculations to try to solve the question that all of us are asking, namely: “Did dinosaurs fart their way to extinction?”

          I'm glad that researchers who care are looking into this matter. Someone probably should. As for me, I'm just as glad to have a job more suited to my talents than measuring dinosaur emissions. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Graduation Blues

            “So what are you going to do after you graduate from high school?”

            Alex swallows his chewing gum with a gulp. He doesn’t know how to answer, even though he has been asked this same question by his grandparents, his friends’ parents, neighbors, and teachers.

            He knows what he doesn’t want to do. He doesn’t want to sit in a classroom. He doesn’t want to take a dead-end job. He doesn’t want to join the military. He doesn’t want to continue to live at home with his parents.

            Alex, like many others of his generation, is in just-graduated-from-high school hell. He sees the rest of his life stretching ahead of him, a long empty road that he’s going to have to fill with…something.

            On the plus side, Alex has a supportive family, good friends, a diploma from Brookwood High School, a 16-year-old Geo Prism that runs, good looks, natural intelligence, and a puppy that only rarely bites his friends when they come to visit. What more could a guy ask for?

            I suspect that Alex will have to try several paths before he finds one that suits him. That’s okay; he has time. What I do know without a doubt is that Alex will make me proud, whatever he decides to do. He’s a fine young man, and I’m proud that he’s my son.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lining up Teachers in Alphabetical Order aka Herding Cats

Alpha Delta Kappa sisters are great at organizing classrooms and students, school activities, conventions, and charity events. However, this weekend at the Georgia State Convention, I discovered one area in which we lack organization.


There were about 60 chapter presidents milling around in the hallway. We were about to be presented at the formal banquet, one at a time, in a “Parade of Presidents.” Our names would be read, and then we would walk across the banquet hall to be greeted by the State President. Simple, right?

“Sisters!” Our Sergeant-at-Arms, the poor woman in charge of lining us up, desperately clutched a clip board to her chest. She had 30 minutes to get us in alphabetical order by district, chapter, and last name. I had questioned the allocation of half an hour for this process on the agenda, but it was apparent to me now that we would need every minute if we were to be in order by 7PM.

A few teachers nearby stopped talking and waited for instructions. The sisters farther away were still talking and hugging and laughing.

“Albany district over here!” The Sergeant-at-Arms used her teacher’s voice, and some 5 women strolled over to the corner where she was waving her clipboard. There were supposed to be 7.

“Atlanta district next!” A couple of sisters moved next to the Albany ladies and began to chat with them.

All I can say is that I’m glad that the job of herding these teachers into the correct order was not mine. Honestly, we needed an experienced Australian shepherd dog to round us up. The woman lining us up ran her hand through her hair and gestured weakly. “Decatur district line up here!”

My sisters and I grouped together and started to introduce ourselves to the sisters from Albany and Atlanta. We figured we were in the right place, so we saw no need to stay quiet.

By the time the Valdosta sisters were grouped, Albany and Atlanta had wandered off. 20 minutes had gone by, and the Sergeant-at-Arms had run her hands through her carefully coiffed hair so many times she looked like “a woodpecker on crack,” in the vernacular of one of our more rural sisters. She got louder.

“Sisters. Please get back to your district groups so I can make sure you’re placed in order by chapter.”

We moved back into groups slowly; we were in no hurry. We had 10 minutes left before the parade started, after all. Five minutes later, Albany and Atlanta were in line in the correct order.  25 minutes had ticked by, and there were quite a few districts to go.

A voice down the hall asked, “Ladies, are you ready to go in?”

What happened next was totally awesome. My sisters quietly spoke to each other and lined up in the correct order. It took 30 seconds. The Sergeant-at-Arms walked down the line, checking off names. There were no errors. We were ready to go.

It turned out that we didn’t really require 30 minutes to line up correctly – and we knew it. We needed about 30 seconds. That left us 29 ½ minutes to socialize, right? Maybe at the next convention, we could spare the Sergeant-at-Arms some trouble and assemble a minute or two before we were needed. Either that, or provide her with a well-trained sheepdog to nip at our ankles. I like the latter idea. You know how I love dogs.