Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Priceless Christmas

I’ve been watching a lot of television lately – must be the winter “veggies” settling in already. And so I’m also (unfortunately) watching a lot of advertisements. Now because of my situation I’m making a concerted effort not to let the avalanche of holiday commercials turn me into an emotional wreck (like they usually do). And because of this effort I’m not “feeling” the commercials, I’m just viewing them.

And I have to admit, once you remove the sentimental business, the ads are disturbing.

Now I know the economy has been just plain awful, and I’m certainly not against stimulating it…but I watched those news videos from Black Friday and I’m pretty sure that the woman who slugged her fellow shoppers in the face to get at the two dollar waffle iron wasn’t really doing much for the gross national product.

Shoppers were mashed, squished, stomped, elbowed, stampeded, shoved, pummeled and pepper-sprayed. People camped out in sub-zero temperatures to be the very first shopper in the door at 5:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. or midnight. Some people even abandoned Thanksgiving altogether to spend their family holiday on a quest for the best bargains available.

I know it’s a cliché to remind everyone about the real “reason for the season,” but I can’t help considering that phrase and what it really, really means…and comparing it to the event that started all of this.

Mary and Joseph were poor. I mean poor. And because of Mary’s pregnancy their trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem took longer than they had anticipated. When they got there they discovered every available space in every available lodging was already taken. They found room in a stable...with livestock.

(Imagine you’re headed for your alma mater’s homecoming weekend and you have car trouble…when you get to town the only place available is a garage. Nice, eh?)

I just have trouble envisioning Joseph sneaking out to Zales, while Mary was in labor, to get her the latest celebrity-designed diamond pendant. And I’m fairly certain that Mary, in between contractions, wasn’t frantically surfing the ‘net to find the best deal on Black & Decker’s latest super-saw for her hubby. (Although I’m sure Joseph could have put that present to good use.)

And the very first bed that the Savior and Redeemer of the world slept in was not an Ethan Allen cherry-wood crib with coordinating linens by Martha Stewart, with a Fisher-Price mobile hanging over it from Toys “R” Us and a hand-painted tree mural dotted with twinkle lights on the wall behind it. It was a feed box. Full of straw.

Even thinking along those lines seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? And yet all you hear about is finding “the perfect present for her,” or “the ideal gift for Dad,” or making sure your kids have the latest X-box game. As if the not finding of these things will make Christmas somehow less meaningful.

What is meaningful about Christmas is love. Plain and simple. Pure and unadorned. We celebrate at all because a Child was born to bring salvation to a world enslaved by sin. It was the supreme gift of love. And it changed the world forever.

Perhaps if we really thought about that…stopped to remember the why and wherefore of Christmas, there would be less pushing and shoving, less crass commercialism…more comfort and joy.

More love.

I’m not suggesting that anyone slap a “Boycott Retail” bumper sticker on their car or avoid the mall as if there really were zombies hiding in the food court. But I’m suggesting we remember that it’s not what’s in the box, all wrapped up in foil and ribbon and tinsel, that matters…it’s what is in the heart of the giver. And when we remember that, then the smallest gifts of love can have the most meaning…and Christmas will become again what it once was…what it was meant to be... 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Distractable Me

I’ve told this to people for years, but apparently I really do have the attention span of a walnut. Maybe it’s an age thing…I don’t know. I am, after all, turning the BIG SIX-OH in two months. (Good grief, when the heck did that happen??? Last time I checked I was fifteen…)

In my last post I mentioned that I’d gotten hooked on Facebook and happily accepted it as a second home after the pirate messageboard thing died. I can chalk my recent declining interest up to the changes that the FB Geeks (with obviously nothing else to do) have made to the site. I don’t like it…I’ve tried to get used to it…but I’m not having as much fun there anymore.

Then I mentioned that I’d become enamored with a site called Pinterest. (Notice the Pinterest “blinkies” on the blog?? Okay, so pin me...or follow me, or something! D'you think those blinkies are there for decoration??)

Wow…I just couldn’t get enough of that site. But I’ve noticed the last couple of days that my interest in Pinterest (don’t you like the way that rolls off the tongue?) is also waning. (Maybe it’s just that I see the same old stuff all the time. I suppose that I should feel validated that the stuff I like is also the stuff that a lot of other people like…but truth be told, I'm finding myself kind of bored at seeing nothing but recycled pallet furniture, burlap wreaths and table runners, mason jar-whatevers and dozens of breathtaking, beautifully designed bedrooms and dining rooms and living rooms…well, maybe not bored but sated might be a better term.) And while I did get some really cool ideas for the house, I’m not on Pinterest as much as I was.

(I’m sure my boss would see that as a good thing.)

Hmm…I wonder if I’ve got Early-Onset Alzheimers.

That…or maybe I just need a vacation. (One of my co-workers recently (and pointedly) mentioned something called “emotional burnout” to me...whatever that is…)

However I am, indeed, planning on taking some time off this month. There are several urgent reasons to do this: 1) I will lose about sixty hours of vacation if I don’t take it before the end of the year; and 2) there are “house things” that need done. The flower beds need to be winterized. Ditto the house. The furnace/swamp cooler man is coming in a couple of weeks. And I’m seriously thinking of hiring a pest control company to do a “black widow sweep,” because I do not want to spend the winter cocooned with a colony of husband-devouring arachnids with chips on their shoulders because I’ve already dispatched several of their number.

I also need to figure out something to do with the panel of wallpaper that the cat has used as a scratching post. Do I just plaster more wallpaper over it? Will it look funny because it's newer? Do I remove all the wallpaper and paint the lower wall a darker blue? (These are the burning questions that keep me up at night.) Additionally, one full bathroom needs repainting, and the ceiling of another does, as well. Mini-blinds need cleaned (badly, I might add), and I’m thinking about (finally!) relocating my computer from the basement to the office on the top floor.

It makes me tired just thinking about it...

I would love to spend that week and a half of vacation lazing on a beach in Exuma with my girlfriends, waiting for Raul the pool boy to bring me my virgin colada…but the reality is I’ll be spending my vacation with people like Ms. Swiffer, Murphy and his Wood Soap, Mrs. Libman and Mr. Clean.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Strange Addictions

It’s funny what one can be accustomed to. It’s taken me several years to get over missing the daily contact via my pirate group’s messageboard, but I am now almost as hooked on Facebook – I don’t spend nearly the same amount of time, though. (I mean, after you’ve read your News Feed and posted a status, what’s there to do?? I’m not into Farmville or whatever the latest cyber-world-game is – and quite frankly, never understood the attraction.)

Of course, having said that, I’m sure there are going to be people that don’t understand the attraction of my newest addiction: Pinterest.

(You may have noticed the Pinterest buttons/gadgets on the blog page. Don’t, I’m begging you, go on there…really. Seriously. It’s evil. Well, not evil…but it can be very…um…time-consuming.)

Pinterest is a website where you can “pin” something you’ve seen online that you like to your "board." Could be a dress or a handbag, a cute picture of a puppy or a kitten, or some wonderful craft or photo from someone’s blog. (BTW - You are welcome to pin any of my stuff…honest. Promise I won’t sue you for copyright infringement.)

On Pinterest, I’m mostly interested in the Home+Furniture Discussion Board. They have got some killer ideas for home décor and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Which I’m dying to try…but then I wonder if I should put forth the effort…seeing as how I’m going to be selling the house (*fingers crossed*) in the not-too-distant future.

So, with that in mind, I’m posting something on my blog today that I made, actually, last year. I did them for quick and cute Christmas gifts for the ladies here in the office, some other good friends and neighbors. I confess that I didn’t come up with the original idea, I "borrowed" it (PIRATE!!), but I also admit the ones I made were...*ahem*...way cuter than the original idea. (Look, if I don’t blow my own horn, who will???)

It’s a message board made from a cookie tin. I went to the dollar store and got a bunch of cheapos (because you’d be amazed how much the good ones cost!!). Then it’s just a matter of decorating it with patterned paper, ribbon and embellishments. I did some with the magnetic clips you can pick up at Office Max or Staples…with some little decorations glued to them. I also made some with extra-large colorful buttons, with magnets glued on the back, for the board's magnets. (There are also designer magnets you can buy. Really, you’re just limited by your imagination.)

I used picture-hanging hardware on the back of the tin - the adhesive that I used to attach this was E-6000, which lasts forever. And then tied matching ribbon, from which to hang it...and ét voila!

I like the look of this one, because it’s kind of vintage, and I loved the patterned paper I used. The sheer ribbon bows were added by the friend who received the gift…and I think it makes it “pop” that much more. (Who said that perfection can’t be perfected on, eh??)

Anyway, I’ve seen several cookie tin magnet boards on Pinterest…but I’m hoping someone will “pin” this one…because...well, just because! ! LOL

Friday, August 5, 2011

Looking Back at Merced

The other day I was watching TV. I don’t remember whether I was channel-surfing or the image appeared during a program. But it was a high school dance in a gymnasium. Now I’ve had moments of déjà vu – we all have, but this was a little more intense, somehow. I was instantly transported back in time to the Welcome Dance at Merced Union High School my freshman year. It was the first Friday night of the school year after the first football game. Back then we had to play our games at the grandstand at the county fairgrounds. Then everyone traveled back across town to the high school.

It’s amazing how much detail I remember about that night. I remember what I was wearing. I even remember dancing with James Blauert, a kid I knew from junior high. I was very nervous because the weekend before school started I fell while skating and fractured my right wrist. I didn’t have a full cast – just a half-cast, sort of splint-like and wrapped with an ace bandage. I was nervous because I was afraid that the cast would be too heavy on poor Jim’s shoulders. I remember the darkness of the gym and the loudness of the music…and I remember how I felt. That teenaged angst, the fear no one would ask you to dance…and conversely, the fear that someone would ask you to dance. That “new” feeling, first week of high school, first football game, first high school dance. All those anxieties when the biggest part of your life seemed to be social.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my home town this week. I joined a new Facebook group: You Know You Grew Up in Merced When??? (Apparently it’s becoming a Trend – I’ve seen people on my Friends List posting to pages like You Know You Grew Up in Auburn, AL or You Know You Grew Up in Pasadena When.)

I discovered this page when a friend posted something on it, so I’m not sure how long it’s been up…but not long. So far they have more than 4200 members and there have been almost 11,000 posts.

Lots of memories are being posted, inquiries about long-lost friends, pictures shared. It’s been fun (and somewhat addictive) wandering down memory lane – which in Merced’s case would be 17th – between G and R Streets (our version of Cruising Main).

We seem more able, or more apt, to remember all the happy memories. Time seems to color our past in a soft, fuzzy, golden glow of nostalgia. I remember the houses I lived in…some very vividly. I remember the oppressive heat of summer in the Central Valley of California and I remember the “tule” fog in winter, when often you wouldn’t see the sun for weeks.

I remember swimming at Lake Yosemite.

Playing on the swings and merry-go-round, and hanging with my friends at Applegate Park.

All-day Saturday movies at the Merced Theater.

I remember sneaking into the Country Club and going ice-sliding on the golf course at night.  Church bazaars and spaghetti suppers, getting to go to the big social event of the year - the Job's Daughters/DeMolay New Year's Even Dance. Early morning bike rides - before it got too hot. Slumber parties and girls camp. Toilet papering houses and egg fights on Halloween. High school plays in the auditorium at old East Campus.

And of course, I remember the people. My friends and neighbors, teachers from school and church, people who owned restaurants and stores, the major "players" in town.

We are what we’ve experienced and where we’ve been. Merced formed a lot of what I was and what I am – for good or bad. I think of it with a certain sense of longing, for the good that was, for an opportunity to re-live and perhaps re-form the past that wasn’t so good. There is an ache of homesickness for the place…and the time.

But there is the knowledge that Merced has changed (a lot) and so have I…and you can never really go home again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Five O' Clock Shadow: Get the Look!

My father has been obsessed with electric razors for some time. I cannot figure out how millions of American men can buy shavers and have no problem and Dad has had seven or eight in the last five years…and none of them work. (According to him.)

So a couple of weeks ago he told me his (cheap) Remington (that I bought him last year) wasn’t working and could I please have it fixed. There were several reasons for procrastination. One, it would probably cost almost as much to fix the thing as it would to buy a new one. Two, I’ve been fairly busy (and stressed) with home maintenance issues…and dental issues and other Dad issues (don’t get me started on the subject of pants), and fixing a “back up” razor is not at the top of my list. Three, and this really puts me in a bad light (and I apologize in advance but if you don’t have an elderly father in assisted living don’t judge me too harshly okay?), but I was hoping he’d just forget about it. (Sometimes at 94 they do…but apparently not my dad.)

Then Saturday morning he called and woke me up from a sound sleep. (Yes, I was sleeping in, but my neighbor and I had enjoyed a Girls’ Night Out and got home very late the night before.) He telephoned to tell me that his primary razor had bit the dust. (Why he couldn’t have waited until at least 8:30…I’ve no idea.)

I decided to go grocery shopping before I went to see him Saturday afternoon so I could pick up a new razor for him. Fortunately Target carries Braun products (his razor of choice), and while I didn’t want to spend too much money (he’d just break it relatively quickly, after all) I did want to get him a nice one. So I settled on mid-price at $129. (“Mid-price” used to be forty bucks…but I digress.)

It took me ten minutes just to get the plastic box off the cardboard box. (WHY??? Why do you need a machete to open packages these days?????) Then I got the parts of the razor out. It had a very substantial-looking charger…that according to the advertising on the package charged, cleaned and “refreshed” the shaver. (?) I thought it looked a little complicated…until I started reading the instructions and realized it was a lot complicated. MIT Graduate-nuclear physicist-rocket scientist-type complicated. It was so complicated I had to turn off the TV in order to understand what I was reading. And the additional realization came over me that a 94-year-old man could not possibly deal with the International Space Station-level of technology this stupid electric shaver required.

I took it back today.

The lady in customer service was very nice. She gave me a gift card with the refund and I trotted back to the personal care appliance aisle to get another one. A simpler one.

I had glanced at the three shelves full of razors on Saturday, but narrowed the search quickly so I didn’t really look at what was available in depth. Oh. My. Gosh. I was looking for a razor. With a cord. That charged via the cord. PERIOD.

Who knew there could be such variety of implements designed and manufactured with the purpose of scraping the facial hair off a man’s head? Er…face. Er...both. They had models with charging stands. (That was dismissed out of hand. See above.) They had floating heads. Triple heads. Heads that had little vacuums that sucked the shavings into little compartments for easy disposal. They had trimmers and clippers and buzzers and bells and whistles. One had so many attachments...I swear it had a nose hair trimmer, a goatee shaper, a sideburn swiper, a mustache flicker, a chest hair swather, an earlobe fondler and something that would shine shoes and wax a car. (It also got Dish Network…but I already have cable.)

And there was one that was made especially for stubble.

Excuse me??? You buy a razor so you can have stubble? Isn’t that kind of counter-productive?

Back in the day you either had a beard and/or mustache or you were clean shaven. A guy who ran around with a five o’ clock shadow was either one of those lazy types who wore tank-style tee shirts, had a pot belly and drank Lucky Lager for breakfast or they were criminals. (Or both.) If a man had such a heavy beard that he started getting stubble mid-day he’d just shave again. I remember all those Aqua Velva commercials where the sultry blonde would smooth her long-fingered-highly-manicured hand along a fellow’s jaw line and purr. (Seriously, they purred.) Shoot they even have commercials like that today.

But the world has changed. Men have changed. Apparently men’s looks have changed. They now want bald heads and bristly faces. (And there are shavers for both.)

I don’t understand anything anymore.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The True Purpose of Life

My fridge died over the weekend. (Why do these things happen on a Sunday, when businesses are closed???) You don’t need to answer, that was a rhetorical question. And I think I know the reason…something to do with a Law named after some guy who was christened Murphy.

It had started making little clicking noises. Not regularly, but often enough that it was concerning. My brother, bless his heart, tried to diagnose the problem from 900 miles away and told me it was most likely a bit of dust or scrap of paper caught in the fan. He told me to either vacuum the coils myself or call on Monday to have a repair guy come out and service it.

Unfortunately, the patient didn’t last until Monday.

I opened the freezer, sending a spray of bright pink liquid all over the floor. (Popsicles.) Nothing else was “messy” in that way, but everything was thawed and somewhat gooshy. I saved a bottle of freezer jam – which would keep in the refrigerator (now on its own slow decline to terminal warmth). But everything else would have to be tossed…because my chest freezer in the garage was more than full. (And, of course, the floor would have to be mopped.)

I admit I had a moment when the tears came…it seems like this summer it’s just been one crisis after another…and occasionally you reach (what you think is) a breaking point.

But Monday came and I went down with my friend Kay and bought a new refrigerator. While it was an expense I certainly wasn’t planning on, and while it ratcheted my credit card balance up to a lovely new high, the problem was solvable…and survivable. On my way back home, after everything had been taken care of, I asked God how He thought I’d done on this particular challenge.

And then it came to me in a flash – The True Purpose of Life. (I guess on one level I knew this, but somehow the situation made it very real and immediate.)

I’ve mentioned that I love The Next Food Network Star…I’m hooked, can’t help it. (And not just because it’s about food.) Each week the contestants are given at least one challenge, most of the time two. And of course, these are tough challenges (because otherwise what would be the point?).


Stand in the middle of Times Square at noon with a teakettle and a hankie and film a 30 second commercial about puff pastry.


Do a nouvelle cuisine twist on Beanie Weenies in under 6 ½ minutes and serve it to Wolfgang Puck in a gorilla costume. (You can take your pick – the contestant, wearing a gorilla costume, serves Mr. Puck, or Wolfgang, wearing a gorilla suit, gets served upscale franks and beans – either way it would be interesting!)

Well, I’ve decided Life is just one endless Next Food Network Star episode. Only with different kinds of challenges. The challenges change as we get older…from “Throwing Up in Front of the Entire School Right Before Your Band Concert,” to “The Family Van, Filled with Eight Six-Graders Breaks Down at the Entrance to the Oakland Bay Bridge at Rush Hour” to “You Accidentally Swallow Your Contact While Camping and Can't Go Buy a New One.”

Some challenges are not the kind that can be given a humorous (after the fact) spin that you can use as a self-deprecating anecdote down the road. Losing a loved one or a best friend to Death. Being forced to place a parent in a nursing home. Going through a bitter divorce. Discovering a lump or an odd mole or something equally frightening. Watching a child spiral out of control into drugs. Losing a house to foreclosure. (Since I’m a veteran of the first two, I can vouch that there’s really no way to try to temper the difficulty of these kinds of trials. No way to make them sound less harrowing than they really are.)

The whole point of a challenge is to test someone. On reality programs the contestants are either cut at the end of the episode or allowed to move on to the next set of challenges. Sometimes in Life an individual is “cut” early, but more often we just have to continue on to the next challenge and then the challenge after that and so on…hopefully along the way growing in maturity and getting stronger because of the testing and trying we receive.

(I’m really praying I won’t get any stronger this summer.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

And The Walls DON'T Come Tumblin' Down

I had a fabulous opportunity on Saturday. I got to go to Jerusalem. Not the real Jerusalem (boy I wish I could afford that trip!!), so don’t get all envy-stricken on me. I went to the Jerusalem that’s being built in the boonies of central Utah.

My neighbor is over the LDS Church’s Motion Picture Studio (hereafter referred to as “MPS”). They are going to be making a film on the life of Christ next year...and what with travel costs (location shooting is so expensive!) and things like terrorist bombings and such, they thought that it might be easier to bring Jerusalem here rather than going there…um…so to speak.

It wasn’t just me going on the tour, there were a group of us from the ‘hood, and we carpooled the 35+ miles to the site. (By the way, you won’t be able to find it, even if I told you kind of where it is…so don’t bother. Besides there’s a really nice guy in a security booth that probably wouldn’t be so nice if you showed up unannounced. Just sayin’…)

Now if you’ve ever been on a movie set (and you’re at all like me) you’re always struck by how real everything looks. (They actually try hard to get it that way.) And it’s always been kind of magical for me to tour back lots and studios. On this particular set they’re going for more of an “aged and distressed look” if you know what I mean. After all, the city was at least a thousand years old when Jesus was there…so a lot of it looked pretty…well, ancient.

David told us how they construct the stones for the walls and steps… they build them out of STYROFOAM. Seriously! They framed them, of course, but basically these enormous, huge stone walls are the same stuff the last shipment from whatever catalog place you ordered with came packed in. Polystyrene foam. Who knew?? I mean, they look massive and pretty danged indestructible. But looks can, as we all know, be deceiving.

Yesterday at church someone noted a lady whose ankle was wrapped in an ace bandage. (She was on the tour…and we walked a lot. I’m surprised both of my ankles (and knees) weren’t wrapped, too!) Then that person made the comment that there were probably a lot of “wrapped ankles” in the classroom…but we couldn’t see them. And it’s true…we all try to carry on, wearing the best face we can, hiding our troubles and challenges as much as possible.

But we all have them.

I was sitting, yesterday, by my neighbor (who I’ve written about before) and we were commiserating in that same class. I found out some new challenges she’s going through, she listened to mine. And then, fortunately, we made each other laugh…and somehow shared laughter makes the burdens a bit lighter.

We might be Styrofoam underneath (squooshy and squashable and vulnerable), but we’re framed and supported by other people in our lives – our families, our friends and neighbors, and most of all, by God. He does his best to buoy us up, if we let Him. That support keeps the walls from falling down.

We might sometimes look indestructible on the surface, but knowing just how utterly and completely destructible I really am, I’m grateful for all those moments of support and commiseration that helps keep my walls from totally going all Jericho on me.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: By the way, this is NOT an actual picture from the tour. There were subtle implied threats against posting any pics on-line…they wouldn’t kill me, or anything. But I would like to keep on good terms with my neighbor…and not get kicked out of the Church!  This is just to illustrate the concept, savvy?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Anything With Fur

PETA would have a field day with me. I love animals…all animals. (I don’t include reptiles or amphibians in this category…they are…well…reptiles…and...um...amphibians. I did have a frog once and a turtle (and my brother had a horned toad - or horned frog if you're a TCU fan). And I actually don’t mind handling snakes – as long as I’ve been assured they are non-venomous. But I would not consider either species for a pet. My definition of pet is something that you can hold in your lap and PET…have you tried to pet a snake? In your lap?? Right, my point exactly.)

I have every confidence that I will someday end up in the newspaper:

"Eighty-six year-old woman found dead in apartment with seventy-four cats, three dogs and a goat."

(The cats are a probability, the dogs a possibility...the goat just sounded good for the story.)

I have had pets my whole life. I wouldn’t know what to do without a little furry presence around the house. I think I would be considered a “cat person,” because I’ve mostly had cats. But I love dogs, too. We had two when I was growing up, a black Cocker Spaniel that I don’t remember, and a Pekingese named Minka when I was in high school. But mostly cats.

Although I am fairly non-discriminatory…I like anything with fur – even rodents. I love hamsters, they’re so cute and fuzzy little guinea pigs (every time I see one I expect it to talk like Rodney from Dr. Doolittle) and even rats. I think rats get a bad rap…they make excellent pets.

I gravitate to animals. If I walk into someone’s house and there’s a dog or a cat, the people can fend for themselves…I engage in conversation with the furry critter. People think I’m anti-social…but I’m not, I’m just more social with animals. So…I guess that would make me anima-social”….hmmm….

We went through a period a few years ago when Cleo (my current furry roommate) was a great huntress. And she wouldn’t just bring me a dead mouse as a present, she’d invite them into the house to play. My rule is, if it’s survivable it gets caught and returned to the wild. If it’s beyond help, the cat can have its way with the poor thing. (I used to scold my cats…but I understand this creates severe psychological problems for Kitty – hunting is instinctive behavior and should therefore be praised, not condemned. I worked on that for a long time, and while I just couldn’t bring myself to praise my cats for slaughtering helpless creatures (and they didn't eat them, they just slaughtered them), I don’t discipline. I just try to remain neutral.)

One day a very small, gray mouse was invited over for a visit. I discovered this addition to the household when it skittered across the living room and ran up the drapes behind the couch. While I’m not afraid of mice, per se, it is somewhat startling when one runs across your toes. So I did let out a yelp. When I’d calmed down I found myself staring up at the valance, where the little guy was staring down at me, breathing heavily (and little heart pounding...assumably). Teeny and furry and gray...twitchy pink little nose...twitchy pink little ears...

What to do? What to do?

Well, it looked like it was in excellent health, so the “catch and release” rule was obviously in effect. I got a large Tupperware container, the step stool and proceeded to stalk the mouse. I carefully moved the lamp table away from the drapes, slowly stepped up on the stool…and the mouse immediately ran down to the other end of the valance. I was concerned that this would probably happen again…and again and again…and we’d get nowhere. So I started talking to the mouse. In a very quiet, calm tone of voice I just kept reassuring the mouse it had nothing to worry about, I wasn’t going to hurt it and I definitely was not going to give it back to the cat.

I went to the other end of the couch, carefully moved the other lamp table away, slid the step stool up to the drapes…all the while carrying on this quiet, gentle one-sided conversation with the mouse. I stepped onto the stool and very slowly lifted the container up to the mouse. It just sat there for a moment and then, incredibly, it hopped into the container. I kept talking (and kept the container away from my body so it didn't freak out) and just as slowly stepped down. I walked to the kitchen door and as soon as I’d reached the threshold, the mouse leaped out of the Tupperware into the garage and disappeared.

That guy…what’s his name? Monty Roberts? The one they call the Horse Whisperer and based the Redford movie on? Well, eat your heart out, Monty. I’m a MOUSE WHISPERER!

For now,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Utah Motorists, Let’s Review: R.O.W.

Pet Peeve. Great term. Means something that annoys or irritates you…to a degree greater than it does to other people. We all have them. I have a lot, but there are a few that top the list.

Recorded telemarketers/political campaigners/poll-takers. Stated simply: I hate them. And I know I’m not alone. If you want to talk to me, if you want my opinion, if you want to try to sell me something (try being the optimum word here, because you won’t succeed. Trust me.)…then for heck sake do it in person. Having to take the trouble to get up and get to the phone and answer it and then hearing a canned spiel makes my blood boil. You won’t get past “Hello, this is So-and-So…”

Right up there at the top with the automated dialers is real, live telemarketers that won’t take “NO” for an answer. I make every attempt to be courteous, I realize they are trying to make a living…but if I’ve said “no” politely twice, that’s all you get. After that I turn nasty. And you don’t want to make me nasty on the phone.

One of my biggest (work) pet peeves is the junk mail I get here at the office. I get junk mail at home also…and that ticks me off, too…but I don’t have to distribute that. There’s only one recipient at home…and it’s black, tall, round and made of plastic. And the lid swishes up and down as I distribute the junk mail into it.

At work I have to sort the junk mail and take it around to people’s offices. It is university-generated junk, mostly. Advertising sales at the bookstore or the creamery outlet, or theater productions, or lectures, or HR classes and seminars, or athletic events. The ads usually come on half-sheet or quarter-sheet pieces of colored paper and they invariably flutter out onto the floor when I take the pile of mail from the mailbox, which increases the irritation exponentially. I think…no wait…I know that the irritation is because of the enormous waste of university resources these seemingly innocuous little slips of paper represent.

Within minutes of distribution, these pieces of paper end up in the recycle bin (hopefully) or the trash (usually). And it’s not just the fact that we’re killing perfectly beautiful forests for the paper…that’s just the half of it. It’s the price of man power involved, as well. It takes someone time to design the thing, to print the thing, to cut the thing into halves or quarters or whatever. Then there are the distributions costs…to over two thousand people on campus. Not to mention that there are people paid to pick up the recycling or dump the trash. Now we all have computers…or most do, anyway. The university maintains a website and a list-serve for bulk emails. There is also a fancy, four-color glossy “newsletter” that goes out once a week to all faculty and staff. Surely there are better ways of getting the word out that don’t involve tons of paper (and my sanity) each year!!

The last one I’ll mention is referenced in the subject heading. R.O.W. Don’t know what it means, do you??? Well, nine out of ten Utah drivers don’t know what it means either!

Right Of Way. (Traffic term.)

Why is it that people behind the wheel of a car lose all sense of community? They are in a potentially-deadly half-ton heap of glass, rubber, metal and fiberglass and believe me, most of them are only out for themselves. If they want to go there, they go there. Someone in the way? Someone wanting to go the same direction? Tough. They also don’t realize or remember (if they ever learned it in the first place – doubtful) that if you are turning across a lane of on-coming traffic you are supposed to YIELD. [Yield: to give up or over; relinquish or resign…to give place or precedence to… The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged] (Really unabridged…it weighs a ton and has its own little podium-thingee).

It’s called RIGHT OF WAY, people…get with the program!

A corollary to this infuriating non-practice would be the refusal to recognize a yellow light (sometimes even a red light) at an intersection. Yes, I know the old joke: Red means Stop, Green means Go and Yellow means GO LIKE HELL. But there’s this one intersection in Orem…a busy one…State Street and University Parkway. (Sounds major, doesn’t it?) Right by the mall. I don’t know why this is always worse than any other intersection…but it is. Especially if I’m heading west and the cars are turning left, going north. I have counted six or seven cars turning against on-coming traffic after their light has turned red. (Not just pink…Red. Fire Engine Red. Cardinal. Scarlet. CRIMSON.) Sometimes you get lucky and only two or three will turn against your green light. (Hallelujah.)

This practice, of course, leads to everyone else going against a red light because they didn’t think they got their turn at the last go ‘round.

I suppose almost all of my pet peeves – or at least the really pernicious ones – have to do with civility and consideration. I think I’m a considerate person. I try to give way if someone was incredibly stupid and forgot to think ahead and get into the correct lane, and is frantically signaling to merge. I am nice to sales people, even when they’re incompetent. I answer the phone with a smile in my voice, even when I know it’s another inquiry about hall advisor positions from someone who doesn't know what "2 years college or equivalent experience" means or thinks it’s just a cushy job that pays you money to stay home and play with your kids. I practice good etiquette in restaurants and on airplanes. I'm patient when waiting in lines. I try not to complain or make a fuss. And in reality, most people do, too.

It’s those darned motorists turning left in front of me…

For now,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Who The H*LL is Kim Kardashian & Why Do I Care??

Maybe I’m not particularly “with it” (wait…who am I kidding…I’m definitely not “with it”), but anyway I just don’t get it. I watch my share of “reality” TV – I love watching Project Runway and The Next Food Network Star and Iron Chef America and Chopped. I guess it’s my competitive nature. And (to me at least) there’s point to those kinds of programs. (Most of them make me hungry, but I’m not sure that’s the producers' objective…then again, maybe it is.)

I don’t include “vote me out of the house/off the island” types of programs…because I think those are just cruel and stupid. But I am absolutely dumbfounded that people would actually watch programs about Jersey girls who are bitchy and spoiled or about rich sisters and their family squabbles or women who are willing to prostitute themselves to wind up with a flower at the end of an episode.

Other than shopping, fighting, applying (too much) makeup, dressing up in slutty clothes, partying or swabbing tonsils with a stranger, what do they really DO?? And why do people find this interesting?? (In current "text-ese" WTH???)

It would be different if people like Snooki (what kind of idiotic name is that anyway??) went around donating to children’s hospitals or spent time reading to the blind or handing out trophies at Special Olympics games or organizing food bank drives…that type of activity would be worthwhile and worth our attention. But what did she…or Paris Hilton or Kim Kolciak (I didn’t know who she was either – Real Housewives of Atlanta) or Tori & Dean or Jessica & Nick (yes, I know they broke up...weren't you just devastated???) or any of a multitude of other current “celebrities” really, really do to merit such fame and press exposure?

Hmm…well, I suppose it’s because they’re all willing to expose themselves…every unpleasant, petty, banal aspect of their shallow lives to a nation-wide audience. They say everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame, but unless you’re terminally narcissistic, that’s a tough way of achieving it.

Maybe I don’t have enough time on my hands…or perhaps I have too much, but either way I can’t see spending the hours and hours a week it would take to keep up with people like that.

Now I know that there are people who are passionate (notice that I didn't say "obsessed") about their favorite reality show…and that’s fine, and I suppose there are reasons to get emotionally invested in this season’s latest Idol or who dropped the most poundage this week or who remembered the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing” last night. Basically they are glorified game shows and it’s nice that people get a chance to do that.

But when you stick a camera (or a multitude of cameras) in somebody’s over-priced, over-decorated house and record the day-to-day doings of people who do nothing to contribute to society except broadcast their indecorous and unseemly behavior, that’s when my remote goes CLICK! and I go find something – anything! – else to do.

If that’s reality I’d rather live in Fantasy Land.

For now,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gardening...by the seat of your pants

I had someone hurl a vicious accusation at me the other day. As a matter of fact, it was at church! You’d think that in church, at least, you’d be safe from verbal assaults.

I took a week and one day off of work last week. (With weekends, that was ten glorious days of freedom. Well, not freedom…the whole point was to stay home and work around the house – mostly outside.) I had to go in for an hour on Monday to make sure everyone got paid, but after that I went to Wal-Mart and Lowe’s…and a really wonderful local nursery called Vineyards. I looked for bedding plants at Lowe’s, but was severely disappointed. Everything looked like it had been sitting there for six months. Vineyards is kind of expensive, but I know their plants are good…and since they have several large greenhouses you can find a lot of plants in a lot of varieties…all in various stages of growth.

I bought three lavender plants, four day lilies, a flat of purple alyssum, a flat of dusty miller and two flats of pink petunias, a couple of large bags of potting soil, and a new (kink-free) hose. (The one in the front yard is an absolute piece of crap – it kinks it you look at it cross-eyed.)

Fortunately, there are some perennials already doing their thing, and until about mid-June, early-July the bleeding hearts are beautiful. It's been too cold for all but one of the hostas, but the rest are peeking their little noses up and should be coming on soon.

Now I’m not a really enthusiastic gardener. I used to be. But that was before three knee surgeries and two degenerating disks in my back. I am forced to sit on my butt while planting. Kneeling is so much easier…because butt-walking around the flower bed can get pretty messy (not to mention incredibly stupid-looking). And since getting up from sitting on my butt nearly requires a block and tackle, I prefer to work in the yard when no one is watching. Hence, taking time off during the week…rather than putting on a Gong Show appearance for the entire neighborhood on Saturday.

I also had plans to stain the gates and clean out the Kitty Diva’s litter boxes. My neighbor was also going to start painting the trim.

The actual work part didn’t thrill me, but I was really looking forward to the end result…and feeling like I was pretty close to having the realtor do a walk-through prior to putting the house on the market.

So on Tuesday…it rained. And it rained on Wednesday. And Thursday. Oh, and it also rained on Friday.

Guess when it cleared up and got sunny? Yep, Saturday…and the Gong Show was on.

Okay, okay...I know it doesn't look like a lot got put in...but remember, it's "Butt Gardening." Much more difficult!

I managed to plant everything but the two flats of petunias. I’m really hoping to do those tonight, but it’s starting to cloud up again after a beautifully sunny, warm day. (Ah heck! I’m going to plant them tonight…come h*ll or high water! If I'm late (and muddy) for Book Club...oh well!)

You’re wondering where the verbal assault comes in. I mentioned to someone that I’d taken the week off to work in the yard. “Oh, so that's why it rained all week!!” I guess someone had to take the blame. You can’t really cuss out Mother Nature…she always gets even.

Oh crap, I think I just heard some thunder…

For now,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Four Years Later

Four years ago I never planned to be at home this weekend. Four years ago, in Hollywood and from the (then) CEO of Disney Studios, I found out they were going to make a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Everyone in our little pirate group was excited. Everyone assumed we would be doing the same thing in 2011 as we were doing then – getting together to celebrate Johnny, pirates and our incredible friendships…and having a blast doing it.

And the friendships were incredible…and pretty unlikely. We were quite a diverse group – different life experiences and circumstances, different ideologies, different religious backgrounds…but somehow we came together (over the internet) and something just clicked. It was actually quite amazing. There was a depth of feeling and kindred-ness and sisterhood. We supported each other through all the bumps in our individual roads...with laughter and with tears. We were able to get together (in various sub-sets…we were never once ALL together) in different places around the world.

I would love to say that everything was peaches and cream all the time…but it wasn’t. There were a few disputes…some hurt feelings…a couple of blow ups…and there really isn’t a “group” anymore. I mourned that loss for a very, very long time…beating myself up for a lot of the problems. Now I think I have healed and can look back and appreciate what happened for what it was – quite a magical confluence of individuals and time and purpose. We did have some really wonderful experiences together. Exciting things happened.

Some of us were able to sail on The Lady Washington (used as The Interceptor in the first pirate movie) all dressed up as pirates.

 Some of us were able to attend a casting call for the second and third movies.

Some got together for the Toronto Film Festival.

Some attended conventions together.

There were get-togethers in Oregon, Mississippi, Florida, Canada, Utah and two premieres in California. We were privileged to meet (and party with!) several of the actors from the films, and we held a few fundraisers for the charity of one of the actors.

And, as one of my co-workers once said, I achieved the "Mt. Everest of Johnny Depp-dom" when I got to see him and actually touch him, and thank him for what he'd done for me...for all of us.

Seriously magical. All in the space of just a few years’ time. And I suppose magical things don’t last long. That’s why they’re magical. And I think I've finally come to accept that.

I miss my friends. I miss the daily contact, the phone calls, the emails…I miss the excitement and the belonging. I miss the shivery anticipation of planning another trip, another party, another event. But I’m glad it all happened. I’m glad I was able to meet these wonderful women (and a couple of really terrific husbands) and get to know them. They made such a difference in my life.

And most of all I’m grateful for the Pirate who brought us together…even for a short time.

For now,

Friday, April 29, 2011

Denim Jumpers, Tote Bags and Here Comes the Bride

It’s Womens Conference here on campus. Every year during the week after April Graduation, thousands of women descend on campus to attend workshops and classes designed to edify, uplift, enrich and educate Mormon women. I suppose it’s a good thing. It would be a good thing if I were just a Mormon woman…because I would probably enjoy attending. But I am a Mormon woman who works on campus. And as such I don’t enjoy Womens Conference…at all.

These are good women – they really are. But for some of them, this is likely the first time all year they’ve been allowed away from home (with a car) without husbands and/or children. Imagine thousands of kids who’ve just gotten out of school for the summer…and then turned loose at Disneyland.

Same exact thing.

They are all in a super-hyper holiday mood and for some reason do not recognize little things…such as traffic lights…or rules of the road…or parking signs. You take your life in your hands just driving to work. Going from one end of campus to the other (either on foot or in a motor vehicle) is just evidence of an obdurate and determined Death Wish on your part.

I don’t even leave the building to go to lunch for two days. Because it’s a jungle out there…an estrogen-charged jungle.

My department assists in housing a good percentage of these conference attendees on campus. We get lots of strange requests and questions anyway, but this year a lot of the questions revolved around the availability and/or proximity of televisions.

Most of the time these women are too busy to watch TV. There are humanitarian projects set up that attendees can assist in. There’s an “instant choir” that attendees can participate in. There are author and artist book signings. And then there’s just plain old Girls’ Night Out (or in, actually) where you spend time with friends.

But television is very important this year…because there’s a wedding going on. A big wedding. A royal wedding. (In fact, it’s already happened…but a lot of these women were planning to watch coverage…which started about 3:00 a.m. this morning).




Now I confess that thirty years ago I got up in the middle of the night to watch Charles and Diana tie the knot. But I was in my twenties and was used to carousing until the wee hours and still managing to get to work on time. I’m almost sixty now…I get sleepy at 10:00. Lately I can’t even manage more than five pages in the book I’m reading before I find myself reading the same paragraph four or five times and retaining none of it.

So more power to those ladies who set their alarms and glued themselves to the telly to watch Kate and Wills march down the aisle in Westminster, and who still made it to all the classes they’d registered for today. I managed to see the vids with a clear head and a good night’s sleep…only seven or eight hours later. (And complete and utter dishrag that I am, I got all moist and teary during the vows. Can’t help it, I’m a total romantic. Fairy tale. Handsome prince. The whole nine yards.)

Good luck to Kate and William.

And to all those bleary-eyed, dozey and knackered conference ladies: YOU GO, GIRLS!
For now,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Being Wanted

Some time ago I had a friend say something that really hit me. She said, “The people in my life are more important to me than I am to them.” The reason it resonated was that I have been feeling much the same way lately.

Years before this I had a roommate who told me that she had this weird sense that people only “came to life” when she walked in a room.

Two very different individuals with very different self-images.

I’m not going to sink to the cliché that the second person was narcissistic and self-centered (although she did have one heck of a healthy ego), but both views are two ends of the same brush. (Am I mixing my metaphors again??? Sheesh.)

What I mean is that both people are relating to the people around them in a very fundamental, elemental way. Just at different ends of the spectrum.

There are people who light up a room whenever they enter, who maintain friendships their whole lives through, who have myriads of people who count them as “best” friend. (I know someone very like that.) And then there are those who always seem to take a back seat, who often fade into the woodwork. Whose presence, (and conversely) lack of presence, seems to go unnoticed.

The reason this came to mind is the last song on the radio this morning. I find myself mentally playing an endless loop of the last song I hear before I switch off the clock radio…and this morning it was The Foundations, “Baby, Now That I Found You.”

“Baby, now that I found you I can’t let you go. I’ll build my world around. I need you so, baby even though you don’t need me. You don’t need me.”

How sad is it that he’s willing to center his whole world around someone who doesn’t seem to give a rodent’s rump about him?

And yet, I do understand. You find yourself feeling foolish that you’ve made that person or that group of people so important to you that not being included is devastating. What’s equally mortifying is when not only is your absence not lamented, they’re not even aware you’re not there. Or if they are aware, they don’t care. (ACK!! Even worse!)

In Mary Stewart’s book, Nine Coaches Waiting, the heroine talks about being wanted:

“And if I was ever to have a place, in whatever country—well, nobody ever wanted you anyway unless you damned well made them. And that was what I would have to do.”

However, I seem to be the opposite. If I sense that I’m not wanted I withdraw. I could never be a stalker. Ever.

Well, okay…once I was a sort-of stalker. (I mean, I never took it to extremes…well, okay I did…a little.) I fell head-over-heels with a football star in college – Golden Richards.

And he was gorgeous…totally. And he (of course) never knew of my existence…oh, except for the constant hanging around after his classes, or the numerous evening walk-by’s of his dormitory. Oh…and then there was the cake. A football cake. Green frosting, with white piping made to look like a football field. The little goal posts were made out of pipe cleaners. Don’t laugh…you should have seen the basketball cake that I made a couple of years later for his brother (the college basketball star). So cute. Blue frosting, with white piping to show the court markings…and the baskets were the absolute best part. I bent those little wire egg-dipping thingees and had my roommate crochet little baskets for them.

( I guess I should’ve gotten some professional help.)

I know…


But that was when I was very young…and apparently very stupid. I don’t do those things now. I’m super-sensitive about wearing out my welcome. I don’t push, I don’t impose and I don’t go where I’m not wanted. Trés uncool. And humiliating.

Just like a hermit crab. Or a turtle…in her shell.

(Except for that annoying echo I think I could get used to it in here.)

For now,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April Showers Sometimes Bring...the Blues

It’s April 26th. That date conjures up mental images of flowers blooming, trees leafing, birds chirping…bright blue sky and puffy little white clouds…balmy breezes and a feeling of hope and renewal. Here are some pictures of the blooming business…my daffodils and a lovely cluster of my yellow tulips.

What the pictures don’t show are the teeny little snowflakes that are swirling around me, as I stand in the middle of a very wet lawn with sandals on. (Sandals, of course, because…it’s...um...well, Spring.) We’ve had unusually wet weather (and cold, did I mention cold?). It’s causing a lot of concern because we’ve got a very large snowpack in the mountains, and that puppy’s gonna blow when we go immediately into 90 degree summer weather. Which we will. It’s inevitable. (Do you have your inflatable raft ready? Are you filling your sandbags even as I speak?) Fortunately I live on the Orem hill and flooding isn’t likely.

Normally (what with the date and all) I’d be longing for the chirping, blooming, leafing, blue-ing, puffing and balming. But the current weather is actually a suitable accompaniment for my on-going mood. I should probably move to somewhere gray – like Seattle. I’ve actually thought about it…but Mt. Rainier really scares the crap out of me. I might experience times where life doesn’t seem worth living (see paragraph below)…but I don’t particularly want to drown in a molten river of lava or be fried by a pyrocastic flow. (I saw all those pictures of the excavations at Pompeii and I know what I'm talking about.)

I’ve struggled for years and years and years with depression. Clinical depression. The official diagnosis is Dysthymia. It isn’t as severe as MAJOR DEPRESSION (that just somehow needs caps, doesn’t it…I mean it’s MAJOR)…but Dysthymia is often never overcome. Sometimes dysthymics can sink into a "major depression" – this is known as “double depression.” (Oh boy, two for the price of one…what a deal!) I seem to do this on occasion. I call them “POH’s”. (Pit of Hell depressions.) I eventually re-surface from these, but while I’m submerged it ain’t pretty.

Most of the time I can, if I try hard enough, sort out the “trigger” – what it was that specifically sent me spiraling to the bottom. And quite often a dysthymic’s condition can worsen due to circumstances. I’ve mentioned all the cleaning out I’ve been doing and the reality facing me of having to sell the house, the impending loss of my elderly father and an uncertain future…and thus there are many triggers currently.

These kinds of things can contribute to the average person’s bad mood or sadness…but depression isn’t ordinary sadness. And those suffering from depression aren’t average. There's a reason...and it's chemical.

I watched The King’s Speech on Sunday. (Yes, I thought it was a good movie. Colin Firth was brilliant. So was Geoffrey Rush. And I adore Helena Bonham-Carter. But I’m not sure it was really a “Best Movie.” ) Anyway, there is a particularly painful scene where King George V (well played by Michael Gambon) is berating his son, Bertie (Colin Firth) because of his stammer. He’s irritated and impatient as the poor man agonizingly struggles to get words out. He keeps yelling things like “Get on with it!” and “Just say the words!” (I wanted to scream, “If he could he would, you beastly, arrogant ogre!!”)

People who don’t understand depression are often the same. “Oh, cheer up!” OR “Just get over yourself.” OR “Why don’t you look on the bright side?” (Believe me, if we could see the bright side we’d look there!) It’s not like we want to feel awful and hopeless, we’d prefer to be happy and optimistic. Honestly. (I mean...do you really think this stuff is FUN??)

And very likely (maybe) my spirits will lift (hopefully) if the sky miraculously turns blue and those birds begin to chirp and those clouds begin to puff. (If they ever do!!!)

Are you listening, Mother Nature???

For now,