We're Ever True To You ...

>> Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Well, another week of football has come and gone, leaving us with the Wednesday Wrap Up. No one has called it this so far, but it was "Upset Saturday" this past weekend, and I know a lot of us were upset. No, really. That wasn't the rain, that was the tears of 110,000 in Happy Valley.

But enough about that. Let's not talk about how the fans at Beaver Stadium didn't respect the white out (red and yellow ponchos, guys? Really?) Let's instead talk about the lighter side of football.

Here in our little corner of Virginia, our ESPN on ABC coverage comes on Channel 7 . For reasons I have yet to understand, ABC 7 News has been running this slogan, "7 on your side." I guess I'm supposed to think there are 7 men and woman fighting for me in the halls of free media or something, but I'm not really sure. Lately, though, this slogan has been shortcut a bit. For example, last night the sportscaster did a brief 15 second advertisement/station identification before the PSU game began. He came on the screen and said, "Remember, I'm Tim Brant, and I'm on your side."

Well, what does that mean? Tim Brant is on my side. Okay .... does that mean I can call him next time I need a babysitter? If I get arrested, will he come bail me out? what exactly does it mean that he is "on my side?" Obviously, he can't make my football team win, and outside of Pennsylvania, nothing seems to satisfy the media more than poking fun at ol' grouch Paterno, so I would probably not have guessed he was "on my side" if he hadn't told me. Good to know ... if I can figure out what to do about it.

Moving on! Let's talk about those crazy football stunts that students do. Have you ever noticed that in the super-hot and humid games in the South, it is a sign of fortitude to show up at football games wearing a sports coat and a tie? If you survive without passing out, you are a real fan. In the frozen north, you test your fortitude by stripping to your skivvies and painting your body blue and white. (Woops! I mean, painting your body your team colors. Silly me.) If you manage to stay for the whole game before heading to the hospital to have your hypothermia treated, you are a true fan. Having been a die hard fan for 20 years, I take these things as a given. What I don't know is how do you prove your mettle in the pouring rain? Some may say you prove it just by managing to sit through the whole game. Or, to be more accurate, stand through the whole game. Those seats are wet! (I did this once, at a PSU-Pitt game. My entire family was at home watching the game on the tube betting on how smart I was and whether I would leave once the game was inevitably won. The answer is no. I am not smart; I am a fan. So long as Joe was there wiping off his glasses, there I was too.)

But, in today's era of super-fandom "color outs" what is a loyal fan supposed to do? Body paint is water soluble (just watch the recap of Saturday's PSU-Iowa game for vivid examples). I recommend that someone needs to invent a waterproof hoodie with pull down waterproof face mask for those games that are just too wet. Champion, Nike, feel free to give me a call.

As far as the "who really understands this stuff anyway" category, the question of the week is this: Where do you spot the ball when the player goes out of bounds? Are you supposed to spot it where the foot exits? Where the ball is when the foot crosses the line? Where? Personally, I think the answer is that you spot the ball where the player was when the ref blinked. Immediately prior to the blink, the ball is in bounds, and immediately afterward, the ball is out of bounds, so the ref probably just spots the ball halfway in between those positions. But hey, that's just my theory, and that probably isn't the way the rule is written.

In the category of Most Outrageous Thing Said By a Sportscaster this weekend, the award goes to Craig James. Mr. James was heard to say something to the effect of, "We are all still waiting to find out how Florida is going to recover from that win over Tennessee last week." Really, Craig? Wins are that traumatic? Want to clarify that sentence? Were you referring to the struggle that Florida went through to put that game away and the fact that they only won by 10 points? Sorry, but since when does a win have to be by 50 points to be meaningful?

The "I'm on TV and Can Invent My Own Words" award goes to Brent Mussburger, who was heard to refer to certain football players as "so determinated." Websters will defer judgment on this new word, but I suspect you can catch it on Wikipedia already.

And as far as that football game in Happy Valley is concerned, we are all still faithful here in the home of "It's All Good if you Can Laugh." As the fight song says, "We're ever true to you, dear old White and Blue!" Miracles can happen. One loss teams can still go to the BCS. It happened in 2005.... I still plan to see y'all in Pasadena, apparently playing Stanford the way the Pac-10 is going.


I Wish, I Wish, I Wish ....

>> Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I've been reading a lot of diatribes about health care recently. No, don't worry, I won't be touching on that very sensitive subject in this blog. The subject is so close and personal to our recent lives that I don't think even I could manage to crack a joke about it. In the process of reading a lot of these impassioned opinions, though, I came across a bit of a sidebar that raised my eyebrow ... and a raised eyebrow on me means you said something I plan to write about.

The tone of this article is that the food industry is the root of all our health problems. If we could only manage our food better, we would all be healthier. People who eat better have fewer chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart problems, cholesterol problems, and a host of other problems. (If this is news to anyone, then you are living in a cave, and you are probably one of those people who buys each new diet pill advertised on late night TV as the one to solve all your problems, and you probably say to yourself, "I'm sure this one is safe and won't end up in litigation for life-threatening complications.")

So, we eat better, we feel better, we use fewer health care dollars. Okay ... I understand that eating poorly and sitting on the couch is a recipe for disaster. I really don't feel enlightened when someone chooses to point out this fact to me. I understand that french fries and potato chips have little nutritional value, and that vegetables are the natural staple of humanity's diet. Where is the revelation in that?

Here is the catch. The idea behind this article is that we need to regulate the food industry so that they aren't allowed to sell us the bad stuff, or at least it has to be taxed very high. In other words, if we don't exercise self control over choices we know are stupid, then this guy wants the choice taken out of our hands. This guy wants to regulate stupidity. Wow. Talk about a slippery slope! If we regulate against every stupid decision, some of us wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning. The majority of our government would have to be sent home, and I'm not sure we could find enough competent people to replace them.

Let's go with this idea for a few moments and see where it takes us, though, because I'm having a little trouble figuring it out. It isn't like you can just ban ground beef, because there is nothing inherently bad about beef. The problem is how you prepare it and what you add to it. (Why do I suddenly feel like I'm justifying the Second Amendment?) So, how do you regulate it? If we want a Big Mac with the special sauce, are we going to have to sign a public register to keep track of how many Big Macs we eat in a given month, like with the whole pseudophedrine thing? Are we going to have an outright prohibition on mayonnaise? (Yikes, I'll need stilts for the speakeasy door! Hey, do you think I could make a legacy family fortune bootlegging mayonnaise like the Kennedys did bootlegging liquor?)

What I think I need is some sort of scientific breakthrough that makes me not want to eat potato chips so I don't have to rely on my will power (which is often at war with my sense of "I deserve it.") So for all of you presumably well-meaning people that want to offer your diet to me as the cure for all my problems, tell me this. Does your diet make me like vegetables and hate potato chips? If not, I'll stick with Weight Watchers, thanks.


Chances Are....

>> Monday, September 28, 2009

Every generation has their culture, and their icons, and has put their stamp on the cultural history of our country. If I say, "sixties" or "eighties" most everyone would get some pretty clear images in their heads. What I find humorous is looking back over the past couple of decades and seeing what has changed -- some things we took so much for granted we didn't even know they were cultural.

Every community and every household changes at different rates and times, but I've taken a stab at a few that might ring some bells for you. I call this list, "Chances Are ..." because if you understand what I'm saying ... chances are you are over 35. I'm certain you will find exceptions and flaws in my list. Some of you will be waaaayy older than 35 and have no idea what I'm talking about, and some of you will be under 20 and know exactly what I mean, but it's my list, and I'm sticking to it.

If you mother ever said to you, "Don't forget to wear your rubbers," and she wasn't being pornographic, chances are you are over 35.

If you still call your cell phone a car phone, chances are you are over 35.

If the words, "saccharine sweet" gives you a bad taste, like the aftertaste of a Tab, chances are you are over 35.

If you remember only watching what was on TV, and if you missed it, you missed it, chances are you are over 35.

Similary, if you still get a thrill when you see the words, "ABC Special Presentation," chances are you are over 35.

If you still think Starbucks is a fad, chances are you are over 35.

If you think football scores are looking a lot like basketball scores, chances are you are over 35.

If you think a quarterback in the shotgun is a sign that the offense is getting pushed off the line of scrimmage, chances are you are over 35.

If you think nail polish is supposed to be in shades of red or pink, chances are you are over 35.

If you still have a record collection somewhere, chances are you are over 35.

If you ever asked a Best Buy employee where the turntables were, to have them ask you, "the what?" chances are you are over 35. Chances are the Best Buy employee was under 20, too.

If you look at the haircolor options in the store and think, "Punk Rock," chances are you are over 35.

If you think that boot cut jeans look a bit like bell bottoms, chances are you are over 35.

If you remember JoePa having black hair ... oh, wait. That one is mostly still true.

I hope you had fun in this little trip down memory lane.


The Reality of Cats

>> Friday, September 25, 2009

We participate in home testing panels, meaning that from time to time, a couple of survey company send us products to try and later asks us what we think about them. We have seen some really nice diaper wipes, and some really dreadful ones. We have received shampoo, frozen dinners, and recently a whole lot of coffee creamer.

Today, we received cat food for the infamous trio. We have 20 cans of catfood that just showed up in the mail. I'm supposed to feed the first 10 cans (labeled, "Use first"), wait for a phonecall, then try the second 10 cans.

So far so good.

Now here is the part of the instructions that leads me to believe that the people who put this study together know absolutely nothing whatsoever about life with cats.

"You may have more than one cat. If you do, please select just one cat and feed this food to him/her. It's important that both of the food products are fed to the same cat so that we can understand how the two cat foods compare to one another." I'm supposed to start this today and keep it up for the next 5-10 days. Even better, I am supposed to make sure that the only cat food the test cat eats is this test food -- nothing else.

Now, excuse my language, but how the *%&& am I supposed to do that? The standard operating procedure in this house is to dump the food into the bowls, enough for all three cats, then walk away. Sometimes we use one kind in all bowls, sometimes we mix it up. If there is food leftover 12 hours later, either the bowl wasn't clean or all 3 of them hated it.

For the most part, meal times start with Big Black Cat twirling around the kitchen trying to coax Darling Husband into opening the cans of catfood early. Then comes Houdini to "help" with the coaxing process. Houdini's job is to sit about three feet from Big Black Cat and twirl around any feet or legs that Big Black Cat is ignoring or can't get to in time. If the food is too late, there might be some infighting. When we travel, which we do often, the food gets put into the multiple day feeder that has an ice pack underneath to prevent spoilage. After so many hours, the lid pops open, revealing the meal. We have more than one of these feeders, but we do not have three popping open at every meal. Neither these feeders, nor the cat food bowls, have the cat's names on them, and even if I had bought personalized cat food dishes, the cats can't read them.

So how, exactly, am I supposed to keep one and only one cat eating this food so I can understand his or her opinions on the food? I don't even know if Girl Cat actually eats wet food at every meal -- she is quite stealthy when it comes to eating time. (That way Toddler won't come running to play, Big Black Cat won't get territorial about the food, and Houdini won't come up to try to get too close and personal.)

Candidly, what this company is asking us to do is not possible. The only way I could ensure that only one cat ate this food, and that same cat ate it every time the food was set out, and ate nothing else, would be to lock that cat in separate room all day. (My 3 cats like to graze on and off all day long.) This forced separation would feel like discipline to him or her, would be out of their ordinary routine, and would almost certainly throw each of them "off their feed." Result? Sorry, survey company, they wouldn't even touch the stuff.

The only option we really have is to use one can at each meal and fill the rest of the bowls as we normally would. If the food is gone before the next meal, then they liked it. Which one liked it? We may never know. Maybe all three, maybe just whoever got to it first, maybe just whoever was eating mop up. I just don't see any other way. I never saw any point to using different types of dry cat food for your different cats either, for the exact same reason. How do you keep the overweight cat from eating the calorie-laden kitten chow? How many rooms is one family expected to dedicate to the feeding of the cats?

Anyone with a multiple cat household is welcome to chime in with additional ideas in case we get any future surveys for cat food.

Oh, and for those of you keeping track, the portable DVD player was returned, safe and sound, with enough cords that we can make it through the trip. Whew!



>> Thursday, September 24, 2009

You may have been wondering how our ongoing battle against the forces of Entropy and Chaos has been going. Then again, you might just not care. Well, either way, I'm going to tell some stories, and you can read or not as you wish.

We've had a lot of skirmishes here in the house and the nearby environs. DH won a major battle in the garage, but ever since then, we have had some painful setbacks and have had to retreat from the front in several rooms in order to regroup. I've recently begun to suspect that there is an alliance between the forces of E and C and the gremlins that keep taking my portable DVD player. I wish I knew the terms of that agreement, because I think I can offer better to get the gremlins back on our side ... or just to be neutral at least.

While Toddler and I were at the funeral, DH made huge strides in cleaning up the garage. We could put a car in it now ... if the door worked. He even cleaned up part of the piles of clothes from last October when we tried our experiment with the "Clean Sweep" method of cleaning a closet. (For those of you who never watched the show, that means taking everything out at once and not putting anything back until you have decided that you absolutely need it. Of course, in this house, that means trying everything on first.) It's been almost a year since we started this exercise. I still have next to nothing in my closet, and since we added the dressers, I have very little in the drawers, either! I lost one of my best pairs of shorts at the bottom of the pile for the entire summer until uncovered by DH during the grand clean-a-thon.

On the "regroup and retreat" front, there has been an attack of the business suit on our vanity. At first the vanity got buried under bags of stuff from our now defunct craft business that I am planning on sending to friends or storing for my own future use, but that seemed okay because the stuff was all in neat boxes and bags. Then, gradually, the boxes and bags disappeared under a week's worth of business clothing. Everyone denies putting them there.

We scored a small triumph by sending a box of outgrown Toddler clothing to my sister and her littlest, but she retaliated by sending back 4 boxes of maternity clothes and 3 boxes of baby clothes. The irony is I swear I only sent her one box of baby clothes. They grew and multiplied in her house. Toddler and I bravely set out to sort all the clothing and combine it with the things that we still had in the attic. I believe it ended up being 9 or 10 boxes being stored in the attic in total. In the process of bringing some of them down to be filled, Toddler spotted a box of toys we had stored a few months ago and reclaimed each and every toy in the box (all 4 of them). Grrrr. Well, I did what I could, and in the process I managed to ship out another box to Sister via our mother. I'm sure when it comes back to me it will be at least 3 boxes. I just don't know how that happened that I ended up the grand repository of all things baby and maternity. If you know me, you understand how weird that really is.

Yesterday I decided that I had had enough of this retreating, and I lashed out first thing in the morning and had the vacuumed and the kitchen floor wiped up (yes, on my knees), before Toddler's appointment at 10 AM. Promptly after the appointment, Toddler dumped a full 8 ounces of milk and pediasure mix on the kitchen floor. One step forward, two steps back.

Yesterday the diaper box arrived from diapers.com in the nick of time. We were down to our last handful of diapers, and I couldn't figure out how we had gone through them in such a short time. I went to put them away in the closet, and, mysteriously, a whole half pack reappeared in the top of the closet. Ok, gremlins, what do you need with diapers?

I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift. We are making good progress in many areas, but Entropy and Chaos are pushing back hard. I have to confess, we are stalemated at the moment.

I have sorted much of the old craft business stuff for donation and shipping, which is good, but the storage of these "sorted" items is more than the "unsorted" volume. I know we will make dramatic strides when I start getting them all to their destination on Monday. Then we will have real progress. I shudder to think what the backlash will be at that time, though. Oh, well. I know I'll have at least a few moments of blissful un-clutter before E and C has time to strike back.

Now ... to finish sorting all the loose pieces in the toybox and matching them with the correct toys ... and to steal back those refugees from the attic that Toddler swiped from the box!


Does Anyone? Football Thoughts....

>> Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Well, another week of college football is under our belts, and I've reached another pinnacle of honesty in my blog.

I don't understand everything about football. I just pretend.

The key is, I think almost everyone is in the same boat as me, but very few people will admit it. After all, refs often go to the sideline and explain the call to coaches. Many times we have to have the NCAA rep come in to the TV coverage to explain some of the more obscure rules. Plus, I'm not sure all the challenges of calls by teams are because they think the call was really wrong -- sometimes I think its because they know no one completely understands the rules anyway.

For example:

1. Does anyone really understand which calls are reviewable and which ones aren't?

2. Does anyone really understand the Kicked Ball rule?

3. Does any one whatsoever understand the logic behind the NFL and the NCAA broadcasting football games opposite each other during this season? They share a large chunk of their audience! Sure, let's take the football season and confuse it all together by having the two kinds of games play at the exact same time and make the limited audience choose. This is not increased competition (the competition is between the players, ha, ha. No, seriously, the economic competition is between football and anything else that is on already....) To me, this decision is like releasing two Tom Cruise movies at the same time and telling people they can only pay to see one of them. Nobody wins! If you hate Tom Cruise, there is still twice as much of him out there. If you love him, you only see half as much as you want to. (Please ... keep your minds out of the gutter here.) If you are his agent, you've lost half your revenue. If you are Tom, your church is ... well, let's not get mean. Tom might start yelling at me in the media and make me as famous as Oprah Winfrey, and who wants that?

Back to football.

4. Does anyone really understand what the term, "Unabated to the quarterback" means?

Now let's get one thing straight. Of course, with a little bit of time and a little bit of thought, I could figure out the answer to most of these. (Well, maybe not number 3.) Google is a great tool, and there are plenty of sports websites for us to peruse these days. But the point is that no one does this. We all just act like we know whenever it comes time to yell at the refs. The really ironic thing is that we all moan and groan in unison in the stadium on a few key plays where it looks like some funky business was happening while the ball was in the air. If a whole stadium immediately erupts in protest at the end of a play, does that say something about the play, even if there is no technical rule violation? Hmmm. Maybe. It means we are loyal fans, I suppose. It also means that we all have the same apparent misunderstanding of the rules, too. Isn't that weird?

What are those college chants?

A rope, a tree...

Nuts and bolts, nuts and bolts ....

Something like that. Happy Football. See ya next Wednesday.


They Are At It Again

>> Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I need to talk about those blasted gremlins that keep borrowing my things. I'd call them the Borrowers, but I think that term is copyrighted. Well, for that matter, so is "Gremlins". I could call them the Denizens of the Universe that Co-Exists In My House and In My Life, but that seems a bit long. Let's go with "gremlins".

First of all, they never gave back the old GPS. I've replaced the old one, already, so ... any day now ... I'm still waiting. This delay is really quite rude. Even worse, they keep borrowing other things without returning the earlier stuff!

Two days ago I was tearing the house up looking for a pair of tweezers. I must perform this ritual at least a dozen times a year, if not more often. Periodically, I get disgusted and finally buy a new pair, and low and behold, the others show up. By this time, we must own at least 6 pairs. To try to cut down on how far and how often these tweezers can travel, I've started to be fairly rigid in where they are allowed to live. For example, at least one pair must be in my makeup kit, and at least one pair must be in the drawer. The rest can move about aimlessly if they wish. Nonetheless, this last time around they were all AWOL. (Good thing we weren't having a true Toddler splinter emergency!)

Well, we solved our problem another way, and sure enough, I found two pair in my makeup kit this morning, right where they were supposed to be. Of course, I don't need them now.

Tweezers are one thing. In the grand scheme of things, tweezers are unimportant. This tug-of-war we are having over the portable DVD player, though, is really getting on my nerves. See, we have been taking Toddler on a lot of long car trips (5+ hours) over the past few months. Sometimes the last hour or so is just torture on all of us, and the portable DVD player is our only saving grace. Trust me when I tell you that DH and I are very motivated to keep all the necessary pieces together for just such a car-ride emergency. We need the player, the wall charger, the car charger, and the all important Bunnytown DVD.

I swear, for the last four trips, one of those pieces has been missing, no matter how carefully we try to keep them together. We have spent the days before each of the last several trips scouring the house looking for one of the two cords and ended up having to travel without them. The one time we managed to find all pieces, somehow the DVD was missing by the time we went to turn the machine on.

Honestly, I don't understand. These pieces all have a home together, and we put them there when we get home from each trip. (Or at least, I'm pretty sure we do.) We even talk about it, noting where they are (and commenting to each other if for some reason we elect to do something out of the ordinary, like leaving some pieces in the glove box for the next trip).

At the moment, a few days away from another long trip, we have two wall plugs that look like they go with the DVD player (although I recall one of them does not), one car adapter to allow us to use the regular plug in the car, and one DVD. Currently missing: the DVD player itself, and the car charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter. We have 48 hours to find them before we have to leave.


I am willing to share my things with the other dimension. To be candid, I have no choice. I wish they would borrow everything that goes together at once, though, and return it all at once. This "bits and pieces" approach to our DVD Player is quite annoying. I mean, what use do the Gremlins have for the DVD player without a cord? I guarantee the battery has completely drained by the time we get it out of the car. And what use can they possibly make of the car charger without the player to plug into? What good is a random cord?



Technology Made Someone Else's Life Easier. I'm Not So Sure About Mine.

>> Monday, September 21, 2009

Well, against my initial judgment, I've managed to adapt to many "simplifying" tools of modern technology. I use a DVR and have given up on live TV (other than football), I text message (although I still think it's faster to call), and I can't live without my GPS.

The library, though, has caused me more trouble than I think modern technology is worth. I've gotten used to checking books out myself using the scanner. I wasn't sure I would, to be honest, because the machine we first had at the library at my old law firm didn't like me, and I got a bit gun shy. The one at the county library seems to have a better temperament ... or at least less of an objection to me. I think it has to do with the librarians standing behind the desk ready to smack them if they misbehave or take over if I start doing something wrong.

So, at our county library, I use the scanner to check out a book, and instead of getting a card, or a stamp, I get a receipt (if I push "Yes" when the computer asks me if I want one). This receipt gives me the name of all the books I've checked out, and the date they are all due. The first trick is to make sure I hang on to the receipt and leave it somewhere conspicuous so I know when I need to take the books back or renew them.

Then there is renewing. I get this neat reminder from the library that tells me (on my email) that my books are due in 3 days, then another one telling me the books are due TODAY. That is where I am right now -- with one library book of mine and two of Toddler's due today. I can renew online, if I have my library card, or I can return them. The trouble is, I'm not sure what to do. I'm not done with them yet. But if I renew them online, then I won't even have a receipt to tell me when they are due. I'll just have the online email reminder service.

I don't know ... I just can't get past not having a card in the back of the book anymore. (And not only don't I know when the book is due, I have to BYOB, too. No, no, that's "Bring Your Own Bookmark." Be sensible. We're talking library books here.) One time when our home internet connection went down for a week, I missed a notice and logged on in time to see my overdue notice come in with confirmation of how much my fine was accruing.

See my dilemma? I'm betting I could return them, go to the shelves, and just check out the same book but a different copy. That would probably work, eh?

While we're on the subject of library books, I have a question. I know we were all taught to be careful with the books and to treat them with respect. But, be honest. I want to know -- do you treat your own books better, or the library's books? I'm notoriously hard on books in the first place -- so much so that I have several books that even I'm not allowed to look at without sitting in my living room, sans drink or food. I'm just wondering what the average Joe(sephine) would do in my case. Do you take your own book to the hot tub, or do you take the library's? I suppose we could ask, WWJPD (What would JoePa do), since he dedicated a library, but he'd probably say there is a time for reading and a time for hydrotherapy. I'm not that one-tracked, nor that saintly. I'll be taking a book, even if I toss it on the towel for later. I don't know ... the other folks in the hotel's hot tub might be dorks I'd rather not talk to.

Well, I'll go flip a coin now. Until next time ....


We're Long Overdue for a "Why" Post: Why, Part 4

>> Friday, September 18, 2009

I was checking back in the post list and realized I haven't given you guys my list of "Why" questions in a long time. I think the last one was "Why, Part 3" on July 13th. So, here are some questions that I have been wondering about in the past 6 weeks.

1. Why does healing skin itch so much? I mean, if we scratch it, the wound gets irritated and worse and possibly infected, so restraint is best, right? Well, if scratching a healing wound is really not good for us, then why does it itch? Why do our bodies tell us to do something so rotten for us? What happened before we were "advanced" enough to know not to scratch? Does anyone think about these sorts of things but me?

2. Why is a muffin considered a good thing to eat? As my niece says, muffins are just an excuse to have cake for breakfast.

3. Why is it that some of the nicest sounding singers are on children's tv shows? Take "Mover Dave" from the Imagination Movers, for example. I certainly understand the desire on a lot of parts to produce quality and pleasing children's programming, but I think this guy could sing ballads and make money at it. Instead, he is acting silly and jumping around in a mechanic's jumpsuit, complete with nametag. I can't imagine he's getting paid all that much to prance around that warehouse, but maybe he is.

4. Have you ever noticed that perfectly ordinary and typical women very often become food pushers the day they become in-laws or grandmothers? Why is that? Are we programmed in some way to begin offering food every few seconds when our children get married or have children of their own? Trust me, this isn't just an Italian thing, nor is it limited to just your grandmother.

5. Why do children talk loudest in church, but when you want them to show off to your friends they clam up?

6. Why does all women's business clothing almost never have pockets? Do clothing manufacturers think we don't have to carry things, or are we supposed to carry purses for our pens?

7. Why do makeup companies phase out their color products so quickly? Let's be honest, I'm not going to buy more just because you altered the color slightly. I'll wait until mine runs out and pick a new one. This means every time my lipstick runs out I need to find a new color.

8. Why do cats show up when there is people food around, even if they are too finicky to eat it? For that matter, what can a cat possibly smell in a Diet Coke?

9. Why will a cat get sick if it doesn't lick itself every day, but if a kid licks a bleeding cut s/he risks infection? Does that mean people have dirtier mouths?

10. Why do pet stores tell people with fish tanks to only put a small number of fish in your tank while they keep 10 or more times as many in their tanks?

11. Why when live television events are rebroadcast in the wee hours of the morning, the show is still called "Live" on the guide?

Well, that about does it for this round of imponderables. If you have any of your own, feel free to send them on to me.


Really, What More Could I Ask? SILENCE?

>> Thursday, September 17, 2009

I mentioned earlier that I recently attended a funeral. Family members who did not attend with me asked me all about it. Was it a nice service? (Of course, the right answer to this question is always, "Yes" but we are here to expose the embarrasing and silly in this world, and not to be "right" all the time.)

My answer to the question, "Was it a nice service," is, "I think so. What little I heard of it seemed nice, and every one seemed engrossed when I was watching them through the glass ...."

You see, I took Toddler with me to the services, including the viewing and the funeral mass. Yep. I took a two year old to a funeral. I drove him 7 hours across 3 states to stay in a hotel without his toys or his tv shows and make him hang out with dozens of people whose knees he has never seen before. What a smart mom I am.

I know we don't talk much about Toddler's prior medical problems in this blog (I have another one for that), but in this one instance, I must mention something in pure self defense. Toddler only got his "voice back" from his tracheostomy when we had his reconstruction surgery last February. Before that surgery, he had very seldom heard the words, "Shush," or "Quiet" or similar concept from us. We were so thrilled he finally had a voice that we have (mostly) let him use it. We try to keep the volume to a dull roar, and we are practicing "inside voices" and "whisper," but this past weekend made it very clear to me that the concepts are not sinking in at all yet.

Now, except for the evening where we had him at the viewing long past his bedtime and he was throwing his toys at random strangers, Toddler behaved himself extremely well. He did anything we asked him to (and a few things we asked him not to do). He stood when we stood, he sat when we sat, and he hugged when we hugged. All in all, his behavior was exemplary. At one point he scared a little cousin by running after him asking to "Hold hands! Hold hands!" but once I explained to him that Little Cousin didn't want to hold hands, he was okay with it.

The problem was, no matter what we did, Toddler had to talk about it and explain it all to us, using many words. Let's take the memorial service before the mass. Toddler had "loaned" his green matchbox car to his little cousin. (Okay, to be fair, they had been snatching each other's toys for two days.) I gave Toddler a yellow car and a white car, hoping he would forget about it for an hour. Nope. We sat in the back of the funeral home, listening to Toddler tell me over and over again, "Green car! I don have green car! I have lello car, white car, no green car!" Well, color me embarrased. We had to step out, at which point Toddler found the offending cousin (still holding the green car), which started the discussion all over again, even louder. Little cousin's dad gave back the car, but by then Toddler was all wound up and soon had to go outside with Grandma. Now, again, he wasn't doing anything wrong -- he just wouldn't stop talking! When Grandma would send him over to stand next to me (I was hovering by the door, craning my ears to hear the service), Toddler dutifully comes over, and promptly announced, "HI, MOMMY!" Oh, yeesh.

With all of this going on, I decided we couldn't take him to the mass. We just couldn't. This behavior was so disrespectful. But, one of the members of the deceased's family asked us to bring him, so, reluctantly, I agreed. I had some hope when he fell asleep on the surprisingly long trip from the funeral home to the church ... but as soon as the car was in "park" he woke up. Rats.

Once again, Toddler and I sequestered ourselves and some brave family members in the back of the church. Even my uncle, who was hard of hearing, had no problems hearing us, I think. I have never said, "hush," "shush," "quiet," "inside voices," "whisper voices," and similar things in my life, much less in such a short period. I even tried covering his mouth, but that seemed to make things worse. He very nicely played with his stickers (a rare no-noise toy that completely captivates). The problem? He kept handing them to the people near him and explaining who was on the picture. "Ernie!" "Bert!" "Big Bird!" "Coooooookiieeeeeeee!" (said in a remarkable imitation of Cookie Monster). We would quiet him down for a few moments, imitating our whisper, but soon he'd forget. When the hymns would begin, he would turn around in rapt attention, then announce to me, "music!" He admired the flowers, "Flooowwwerrrsssss" and he waved to the people he knew. In all, he was perfectly charming ... for an amusement park or a birthday party. Our only saving grace was the fact that 90% of the stickers were of Mickey Mouse ... and the deceased's name was Mickey. In the deepest part of my brain where I was trying not to be mortified, I hoped the mourners would think Toddler was mourning his cousin ... but that is far fetched even for me.

We got a lot of traction out of shoving cookies into the boy's mouth, with the only real drawback coming when he wanted another, "Cookie!" After the longest 20 minutes of my entire life, I finally took Toddler outside because he loudly disputed whether I was going to let him slip his body through the hole between the seat and the top of the fold up chair.

Outside we had a chance to toss crabapples with some other young, evicted cousins, and we even had a chance to play with a truck belonging to the same little cousin who borrowed the now famous "green car." We remained outside until the coffin processed by, at which point we joined the back of the procession. Toddler briefly wailed about being pushed out of the way, but in the mourning procession, this seemed oddly appropriate, so I pretended (and willed everyone else to believe) that Toddler was crying for the deceased. Then, as we followed with our flowers at the back of the line, Toddler dutifully walked along with us. He looked at our flowers, and talked about them, and told us that flowers grow in the ground ... and then he announced that we were all going to "march, march march" (which, in a way, we were). Last, and perhaps most memorably, as we approached the closed coffin to lay our flowers, he announced, "I'm MARCHing!" I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry.

The gathering that followed, thankfully, was not a mandatory quiet-time, so no one noticed any odd sounds coming from our lunch table. Also, everyone seemed quite amused and warmed by Toddler and his near-age cousins (including Little Cousin) hugging when the gathering broke up.

All I have to say is this: It's a good thing the kid is so cute ... and I'm long overdue in teaching him how to whisper. I was up to potty training and jumped right over whispering. Man, did I have my priorities wrong!


You Are What You Do, Because A Talking Head Said So

>> Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Every weekend when I watch football ... okay, wait. Let's start that over. "Weekend" is such a poor term for the football days anymore. I'm like the woman in the Best Buy commercial -- I watch Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and sometimes Thursday. Let's try that again.

Every so many days of watching football during the week, one of the ESPN or Fox "talking sports heads" says something that makes me shake my head.

For example, while I missed this one personally, rumor has it a few weeks ago that Lou Holtz said of a wide receiver, "Isn't it great when a wide receiver catches a ball with his hands?" I'm sorry, Lou, I forgot my Coach to English Dictionary. What do "hands" mean in your language, and what part of the body do wide receivers catch balls with on Planet I Used to Be Irish? Well, at least this wasn't one of the long "Lou-isms" that had Mark Mays staring at the old Coach and saying, "Huh?" Ya gotta love Coach Holtz, but honestly, understanding him is sometimes harder than understanding Toddler. He is starting to remind me a little bit of Yogi Berra ... and sometimes like Beano Cook.

One of my absolute favorite parts about listening to football pundits talk is listening to them decide when to justify what happens on the field. In a nutshell, if a player does something successful, he is brilliant. If he tries and fails, he has made a "crucial mental error." Either he is a rookie and "will have to learn" or he is a veteran and "should know better by now."

Let's take some examples. How many times have we ever heard this:

1. A. Oh, no, look at how close that pass was to an interception! That was a poor judgment call. A quarterback should never throw back across his body to hit a receiver. He's just asking for the ball to be picked off by the defense. He should have just thrown that ball away.

B. WHAT A BRILLIANT THROW! Not many men can make that kind of pass, on his heels, running the other way, throwing back across the field. But he saw the receiver open, and he had just enough touch on the ball to drop it right over his receiver's shoulder.

2. A. That's a rookie mistake, trying to make too much happen. Coach ____ will be after him in practice about that. A player should always fall on the ball in the case of a fumble. Trying to pick it up is just asking for trouble.

B. Man, what presence of mind he had to just scoop that ball up and start running with it! What a great fumble recovery!

Of course, individual plays are not the only place for commentator-reversal. Reputation and player value can change just as rapidly. Just two or so years ago, Kerry Collins (Tennessee) was generally referred to as an aging quarterback and a good backup for an emergency in the remaining few years until his retirement. Now he's a stellar team leader who just might be the man to take the Titans to the superbowl. I take this one personally, because Kerry Collins is a month younger than me, and I am not an "aging" anything.

Coaches, too, are not immune from this phenomenon. Just think about every time the coach went for it on 4th down instead of settling for 3, or each and every decision for (or against) a 2 point conversion and you know exactly what I mean.

When it comes right down to it, as much as I love ESPN's College Game Day, all those talking heads are just ex players and coaches that wish they were still playing and coaching. They are fun to listen to, but the only way to get them on your side is win every chance you ever take, and if that were possible no one would watch football anymore. So, kudos to those pundits who don't start out every sentence with, "When I was playing for Michigan," and watch out for falling metaphors

See ya next Saturday.



>> Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Oh, no, now what do I do. Another one has (finally) been installed, and we are on our way to recording all the cartoons again. This is a good thing because I am already tired of listening to Toddler whine, "Mickey Mouse? Mickey Mouse?"

I know, this whole disaster is my fault. I should never have introduced Toddler to the joys of on-demand television. I should never have put off watching the final half season of Battlestar Galactica. (At least I can buy that one in the store, and I think I can even watch some of them online.) Yes, I missed the last 3 episodes of 90210 when the season ended last spring. True, I was about 5 episodes behind in Warehouse 13 and about 3 episodes behind in Royal Pains. I also had some documentaries saved that I had watched for minutes before being bombarded by Toddler kisses.

But the worst of this disaster is yet to come. I relied on that DVR to pick up all the season premieres of all the shows I watched last season. This was going to be automatic. I wasn't going to miss an episode. If I was recording it last year, the recording was going to restart automaticlly. That way, the only shows I needed to watch for on the internet or the TV advertisements was Survivor, which has a different title each season, so the recording doesn't carry over.

Man, now I actually have to pay attention to what is coming on! I'll have to go research which week the new season of House was to begin. Wow, talk about making me feel like a TV nut! At least with all the stuff happening automatically, and me watching it days or weeks (or months, to be candid) later, I could pretend I was not a lazy couch potato. I mean, for the 24 hours there was no DVR at all, I was proud of myself because I couldn't be bothered to turn on the TV. If the show wasn't already recorded, and I knew I wanted to watch it, why bother?

Now, and for awhile to come, when DH sits down after Toddler is in bed and asks, "What do you want to watch?" He is going to mean only what is on live tv. For us, that means some boring Wednesdays for a long time yet. It's 250 channels and nothing on.


What is the Right Answer?

>> Monday, September 14, 2009

You know, I love staying in hotels. I'm a loyal frequent flier of one of the major hotel brands, and I think for the most part the hotel people know their business. I also understand that they think, to better serve me, they need to know my business. This means they ask a lot of questions when you book a room. I don't object to this, because it usually results in better service or it saves me some time when I get there. I have to admit, though, there is one question that stumps me more times than it doesn't. Often I don't know how to answer it.

"Is this trip for business or pleasure."

Sometimes I know the right answer. Many times I do not.

I mean, let's think about this. What do they want to know? Do they want to know who is paying for it? If so, why don't they say, "Business or personal?" Or better yet, ask me if my bill is being paid by a third party employer. (On the other hand, if they want to know if I were paying myself and deducting it from my taxes as an unreimbursed business expense, then I would probably get that question wrong, too.)

Let me give you some examples of some confusion I have had with this "Business or pleasure" question. Last February a hotel reservationist asked me this question. I said, "Uh ... I'm going to stay so I can be near my kid in the hospital." In my mind, this isn't pleasure, but it doesn't really seem like business, either. That particular employee didn't tell me how she recorded my answer.

Last spring I made a reservation in eastern Ohio. The super cheerful-super helpful woman asked me, "Is this trip for business or pleasure" I said, "Uh ... it's a family reunion." She promptly offered me a group rate. If I had been a little quicker on my feet, I would have said something closer to the truth, like, "Can I get back to you on that? It will depend on who actually shows up." Anyway, I don't know how she recorded my answer either.

I had the sad experience of attending a family funeral recently. To get there, we had to take a car trip that was about 7 hours, so there was absolutely no chance of us avoiding a hotel room. When I made the rather last minute reservation, I got the same question. "Business or pleasure?" With great restraint, I made no snide comments. I just said, "It's for a funeral." I don't think I want to know how she recorded my answer.

Now when I go to Disney World, I think the answer is obvious. This is supposed to be a pleasure trip. Things like visiting family or reunions (especially school reunions) are a much closer call in my book. Tragedies and illness -- clearly not pleasure, and yet to call them business is just monumentally disrespectful.

I think we need more choices. We could have, "Business or personal." We could say, "Company paid or reimbursed, unreimbursed business trip, vacation/pleasure, I'm too tired to keep driving, pure family obligation, my mother/wife/husband/father is making me do this, and I haven't decided yet."

Maybe you have a few more ideas?


May I Recommend Some Improvements?

>> Friday, September 11, 2009

Author's note: I recognize that today is a day of somber reflection, and mourning, to many people here in the United States. I contemplated how you all might feel if I continued this irreverent look at daily life, but then I thought of all the people I have lost in my life. I cannot think of one of them that would begrudge us a little laugh or happiness. And I cannot imagine any of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks would appreciate us changing what makes us happy, healthy, or free in commemoration of their deaths. Not to publish this blog today seemed disrespectful to me, and I don't think that is what they would want, although I know as individuals and as a nation we will miss them forever. So, with all due respect to those that have gone before ... I hope you enjoy today's post.

There is a post of one-liners going around Facebook right now that is quite a riot. One of the lines is something to the effect of this:

I wish Google Maps had an option to "avoid ghetto".

My first thought when I read this (after I stopped chuckling) was, hey, yeah! Then, like so many other things in life, this idea got me thinking. I have a lot of ideas about how we could improve the GPS, too.

This past weekend I learned the difference between old and new generation GPS devices. My new GPS is one of the "old generation" (which is more than adequate for my needs, and I'm content, so this isn't a complaint). This weekend I drove with my mother to Cleveland, with her "new generation" GPS. Both of them are made by the same company, so I'm comparing apples to apples, so to speak. After several days to consider these two devices, I decided that I have some suggestions to improve each of them.

Let's start with my "old generation" GPS. This machine sits in my car and dictates where I am to turn when I tell it where I want to go. When I don't listen to it, or I miss a turn, a snotty female voice says, "Calculating Route." This pithy condemnation is usually followed by the words, "When possible, make a legal U-turn." Most of the time I don't mind, however, there are two different circumstances when this statement bugs me. These two different circumstances have led me to suggest the following adaptations to this device. First, in addition to seeing options for "Fastest Route," "Shortest Distance," etc., I would like an option for "The Way You Always Go No Matter What I Say." So, if to avoid all the traffic lights that last 2 seconds for 27 cars, I always go around the mall, I'd like the GPS to give me directions involving going around the mall, or at least shut up when it sees that I'm going that way. Second, I want a pause button, or a bathroom break button. I mean, seriously, if I've been on 95 southbound for 5 hours, I am entitled to get off the freeway and seek a restroom without being pestered by this nagging female voice telling me to "Make a legal U-turn," don't you think? I mean, seriously, have a heart!

Now my mother's GPS is one of the "new generation." When the driver makes a wrong turn, it never says, "Calculating Route" out loud. It recalculates, but it doesn't tease you with it and it very seldom instructs the driver to make a legal U-turn. At first I thought I liked this options, but I soon rethought my position. See, instead of telling you to turn around, the device tries to route you to the next exit up the freeway, or around a few blocks, or anything to hide from you the fact that you screwed up. By blindly following the machine, I have ended up going several miles out of my way when I would honestly have preferred to turn around. I think this new device needs to say something when I screw up. I suggest something like this, "Hey, you missed your turn. Would you like to turn around now, or would you like me to drive you all over town to get there a different way so you don't have to admit you made a mistake?"

What do you think?


There I Go Making Assumptions Again

>> Thursday, September 10, 2009

I was in the shower yesterday, chasing my random thoughts around. I took a look at the shower curtain and was trying to figure out whether it needed to be cleaned again or not. The curtain is one of those flimsy cloth ones -- the first one I've ever had that isn't plastic, or vinyl, or whatever that thick bendable/foldable clear stuff is.

To be honest, at first I couldn't figure out how to clean the thing. I just watched it grow mold for awhile and figured that if it got too bad, I could always throw it away. Then I decided I was being silly, and we would clean it. I tried a few spray-in-place methods, and they all were just useless. We took it out to the driveway and scrubbed it down -- big improvement, but still not good enough. Finally, DH got the briliant idea of reading the label. (You know, that small "care instructions" thing that is often hidden by the big "DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW" thing. I know they changed the words so if you parse through it carefully, you can conclude that consumers are allowed to remove the tags, but it is dreadful grammar, and we spent our whole lives not removing them, so why start now, right?) Anyway, the care label said we could machine wash the thing. Machine wash it? There is so little fiber in this curtain that my washing machine is bound to tear it apart. But, it's the washer or throw it out, so what have I got to lose?

As it turns out, the washer did a great job at cleaning, and the curtain only looked a little bit more ragged. I was thinking I'd finally found the solution. But then, while taking a shower the other day, I got a good look at that care label, and I saw another part to it. It said, "It is recommended that a vinyl curtain be used when using this product."

Huh? So I buy a shower curtain, and the instructions tell me to buy another shower curtain to make this work? Why on earth would I want to do that? True, it keeps the mold away, but huh? Now don't get me wrong. I've seen all the dual shower curtains in the hotels and all that. I just figured they did it because stupid hotel guests left the shower curtain outside the tub and the hotel people were trying to cut down on water on the floor. Either that or they were just being fancy. I didn't know that you were supposed to use a vinyl curtain with a cloth curtain. So basically, what this tells me, is that cloth shower curtains serve no useful purpose -- they are merely decorations.

Well, what do you know. See, there are a million really nice vinyl curtains that come already decorated. Here I thought vinyl and cloth were competing products but that one was "higher class" than the other. I figured cloth was snazzier because it was a better light blocker -- you know, so that no one can watch you shower and you have the pleasure of showering in the dark (unless you have a light actually in your shower). I didn't know cloth was more elite because it was functionally useless.

Since I'm not renting my place out, and there are no condo rules to tell me what kind of shower curtain to use, and since I know enough to keep the curtain inside the tub, I think I'll just stick with this cloth one until it wears out. Then, I'll replace it with vinyl.


Some Questions About Football

>> Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Author's note: Before we begin today's humorous look at football, I wanted to take a serious moment to publicly thank some Universities for their principled decisions this past weekend. Thank you, University of Oregon, for taking a tough stance on the egregious conduct of LeGarrette Blount. I truly hope your football season improves and that Blount's position is filled admirably by younger players. I am a huge fan of football, but there is no room for viciousness and violence in sports. At the end of the day, this is just a form of entertainment for the public, and I never want to wake up again to read a headline focused on a suckerpunch instead of which team won or lost the game. For those of you interested in learning more, please see this link: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4447247. To Boise State, I am truly sorry that this unfortunate incident has cast a shadow over what was a well-deserved win. I have also heard a rumor, which I have yet to confirm, that Boise State will discipline the player whose remarks provoked Blount's behavior, although I am not aware that we know what this player allegedly said to Blount. If this rumor is true, then thank you, too, for the reminder that we are all responsible for what we do and say, and some things, even in the spirit of good fun, are not worth the harm they cause. To the remaining players of both teams, a public thank you for setting a model example of good sportsmanship. You kept your cool and kept a bad incident from getting much worse. To the students of Boise State, a thought. To an extent, teasing and taunting is part of the game of football, and nothing excuses Blount's conduct. On the other hand, taunting a player that has already exploded in violence over remarks made by an opponent is neither good sportsmanship, nor is it particularly wise.

Now, I will step down from my stump and return you to our regularly scheduled program.

While sitting watching the Alabama-Virgina Tech game last Saturday night, I got to wondering again. Here are some thoughts that I had:

Why does the Alabama Crimson Tide have an elephant as a mascot? I'm sure I could Google an answer, but should I have to? Some things should not require explanation.

The Akron Zips played Penn State earlier in the day on Saturday. What is a Zip? I saw the mascot and I'm still not sure. Doesn't this defeat the purpose of mascots?

Why is Boise State's field blue? I'm sure the novelty of watching us all try to adjust the color on our TV has long since passed. I mean, most of us have figured it out by now.

The Syracuse Orangemen? Seriously, a fruit for a mascot? I did Google this one because I even though I've seen the Orange, I wanted to be sure I was right. The most flattering thing one can say about this mascot is that it is a fruit Another interpretation is that it is just a color. Yep. The mascot is just ... orange. Maybe not even "an" orange.

Some masots make sense -- wolverines, tigers, lions, cougars. But how about these:

The University of Hawaii. (Rainbow Warriors/Warriors/Rainbows) Hawaii is schizophrenic. Some of its teams are known as the Rainbow Warriors or Warriors. One (the baseball team) is known as the Rainbows. Yes, curious physics effects are both romantic, pretty, some believe a promise by God, and apparently intimidating and aggressive, too. Rainbows. Huh. The football team had it right, just go with "Warriors."

The Ohio State University. (Buckeyes) The first question is, "What's a Buckeye?" Wait, I know this one. It's a poisonous nut. This fierce football mascot is supposed to inspire the team to ... what? Slip a mickey in the other team's Gatorade? I don't get it.

While we're on the subject of Ohio State, I have to ask. Why would anyone put the words, "Oh, Ohio! You're a bunch of bums!" in their fight song? (No joke -- see here, bottom left: http://www.alumni-osu.org/sacvalleybuckeyes/html/music.html)

The University of Minnesota. (Golden Gophers) Hmm. Golden ... Gophers. Need I say more?

University of Maryland. (Terrapin) Some mascots are a little less obvious, but I can respect them. Take the Temple Owls for example. An owl might give someone the impression of a bookish school, without a lot of athletic prowess, but owls are predatory birds and can be quite fearsome, just like eagles. An owl will do. But what about a turtle? What is predatory or clever about a turtle? Sure, Maryland tries to disguise its turtle with the fancy name of "Terrapin," but in the end the beast is still just a slow moving creature that hides inside its shell when facing trouble. I see bumper stickers telling me to, "Fear the Turtle" but I can't figure out why I should. Even more puzzling, what are we to make of a school whose fight song is to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree"?

University of Virginia. (Cavaliers) Continuing our sojourn down the eastern seabord, let's stop and talk about the University of Virginia. I have no beef with the mascot being a Cavalier. However, I do wonder why the students and alums want to call themselves the Wahoos. I have been told there is a plausible story behind the nickname, but when your name sounds as potentially derogatory as "Wahoo," shouldn't the story be really, really obvious?

Virginia Tech. (Hokies) The Virginia Tech Hokies almost beat Alabama in this opening week of ball playing. I can understand the ferocity of barnyard fowl and am loath to criticize such mascots as the South Carolina Gamecocks (even though it sounds funny). What I can't understand is the Hokie. I mean, a hokie is an emasculated turkey. Why would you want to identify with that? And, while were in Va Tech country, let's talk about those colors -- orange and maroon. I read that the University chose those colors in 1890-something because no other school had picked that combination. I don't know about you, but I think the fact that the combination was still available should have been a clue to get a second opinion. How can the students and fans wear a color combination their mothers wouldn't let them leave the house in?

I know some of you are saying, "Sure, sure, but what the heck is a Nittany Lion?" It's a ficticious lion supposed to roam Mount Nittany, which overlooks the PSU campus. Don't bother trying to look up the species. It's made up. Get over it.

I'm sure next Saturday I will find myself thinking more about how Universities advertise themselves and their sports programs. As a closing note, I need to make one comment about my own Penn State Nittany Lion's beloved song, "Fight on State!" I know the kids love it, and the music is catchy, but were the last two lines written in a bar late one night, or what? "Fight on, on, on, on, on. Fight on, on State!" Very inspired.

Finally, and totally unrelated, for those of you wondering what happened when I had to go back to the land records, the answer is, "absolutely nothing." I stood in line, paid my fee, got the printout, and went home. It was so uneventful as to be quite shocking. Some things work out eventually, right?


My First Trip to the Land Records -- a Story for My Lawyer Friends

>> Tuesday, September 8, 2009

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I needed to go to the Land Records and record a document.

Now, let me get this perfectly clear -- this document is a License Agreement allowing us to run stormwater from our land, across land owned by a division of the County, into a drainage ditch. It says "License Agreement" on the front, and it is absolutely not an easement. Okay.

Toddler and I went to the courthouse this morning. My first observation of the day was that the GPS doesn't help much in a large complex. It wants to drop me off at the front door, and I really need the parking garage a few blocks away. My second observation was that, per the website, I'm looking for a specific building address. I don't know if this is actually in the courthouse building, or if it is in another building in the judicial complex. Perhaps, say, the "Judicial Administration Building?" My third observation was that the building numbers are really hard to see from the sidewalk. I successfully navigated out of the parking garage, onto the sidewalk, and had a bonus. The big sidewalk maps had a paper sign saying that the new juvenile center has been moved to the same building I'm looking for -- 4110. Cool. I can find my way by following the silly paper arrows. This works up until the last sidewalk junction, where the arrows stop, and I have two choices -- the Judicial Administration Building or the actual Courthouse. I can't see any street numbers. So, there I stand until a helpful bystander asks if I'm lost. I ask her which building is 4110, is it the courthouse? And she says, "I think it is that one" (pointing to the courthouse).

Sure. That makes sense, but this means metal detectors, security guards, the works. I might as well be going into an airport. I was glad to have brought the little umbrella stroller -- much better to have Toddler contained rather than two steps away from a mad dash down the hall. So, I confirmed I was in the right place, I had to give up my cellphone to the front desk because it has a camera (no cameras in the courthouse), and I had the diaper bag searched because I forgot there was another camera in there. Oops! (Well, Toddler and I do look like paparazzi, don't you think?)

So, we finally make it up to the Land Records. I'm acting my part about being clueless very well, apparently, because the lady at information seemed skeptical that I even had a real document to be recorded. She asked me who prepared it. (I think she must have thought I drew it on a piece of paper or something.) She became totally helpful and sweet when she saw the document was real and looked pretty official.

This was one of the last moments that I felt my role easily. After that, things became much harder. I was led over to talk to a rather nice young woman, and then these two ladies stood there and debated what kind of document I had. They decided it was either an "Agreement" or an "Easement" because it was like an easement. They needed to know this for the intake sheet so they know how much money to charge me. Okay, I've seen the boxes on the intake sheet, and "License" is one of the options. I know there is no tax for a license or an agreement, and in most cases not for an easement either, so it doesn't matter to me much.

On the other hand, I all of the sudden understand all those title reports I read for all those years, where the Land Records office calls documents things they aren't. Then the surveyors copy down what the Land Records calls the document, and everything gets all bolluxed up. If there is no easement, and the document is called "easement" just try to get the surveyor to remove the word "easement" from his notes. Just try.

But ... what to do? Keep quiet and risk them naming it wrong (knowing I don't actually get harmed by this), or say something and risk blowing my "naive and uninformed mother" cover? Well, when I heard they were leaning toward, "Easement" I said, "You know, the County division that gave me the document was pretty adamant that this wasn't an easement. They aren't allowed to give easements, but they said this License is like an easement ... it just ends after a bunch of years." My words had little effect on them. I try again. "I read the intake form instructions, and I thought I saw a box for 'License'?" Again, no reaction. I decided to give up. This really isn't my problem, so long as it goes into the records against the right property, I don't care in the slightest what they call it. The title company that insures my house to whomever I sell it will have to deal with that.

I was vaguely listening while they asked yet a third woman what to do. This is when I about lost it. I was very glad I was standing a little way away. The third woman said, "We'll reject it, of course. No 'Prepared by'."

AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! Now why didn't I see that? She was saying that my document was not in recordable form because the face of the document did not identify who prepared it and where the recorded copy was to be returned. Now, does the average member of the public know this? Of course not. Is it easy to find? Not as easy as one might hope. So why was I distressed by this? Because I spent the better part of 10 years advising attorneys to include that exact language on their documents when I issued legal opinions! Of ALL the people in that building, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!

But, they don't give the document back to me. They go over and work on the intake sheet anyway. So, I walk Toddler up and down the long room, in big, big ovals, trying to look everything but like I knew what I had overheard. The question going through my mind was, do I return the document to the County office to correct it, or do I take responsibility for the document myself? I could claim to be the drafter. I am barred in the Commonwealth and have the right to put my name as drafter on a document like that. Heck, I even had my bar number tucked away in my wallet in the diaper bag somewhere. Even better, I am a named party, and there is a little known rule that says a named party can be the "preparer" even if not an attorney. The awkward part is everyone in the building knows I didn't prepare it because I said I didn't.

I stopped to wonder what the nice ladies would do if I suddenly came up with a bar card, wrote my own name down, and turned it in again. I couldn't figure out how they would handle it, but I was sure there would be some surliness. For the time being, I decided to keep on walking and wait to see what they said to me about what I overheard. They finally bring me everything, tell me it will cost $35, and tell me I need to write on the document who prepared it. I said it was the lawyer the division hired, and I didn't know who that was. I told them I couldn't call because the security guards took my cellphone. They showed me to a payphone and said I could use it or come back. I called our counterparty at the County division, and of course, he wasn't in. I came back and said I had to go, when the first woman came back up and said, "You can just write the name of the County agency as the author. That's okay. You also have to write who we are supposed to send the document back to."

I confirmed that writing it in the margin was okay, and they agreed. Then I proceeded to write the formulaic language I had written more times than I have any idea. I wonder what they might have thought if they had looked at what I wrote and saw that it was the standard language inserted by lawyers and title companies.

I'll never know, though, because I didn't get to record the document that day after all. See, one of the reasons they had enough time to help me as much as they did was because the computers were down, and nothing was going to record anyway. We were all stalling for time to see if they would come back up before Toddler had a meltdown. After an hour of being in the building, mostly walking in circles, I decided not to push my luck and just come back. As you may recall from yesterday, I was operating on 3 hours sleep, and Toddler was beginning to lose patience with being patient in the stroller. I figured if I pushed my luck much further, either he'd have a meltdown, or I'd breakdown and tell someone something that let them know I knew more about the legal process of recording things than they did. (I just know nothing about the mechanics.)

Now the interesting news is that I have to go back tomorrow and try again. Ooohh.


This Ought to be Interesting

>> Monday, September 7, 2009

Ugh. I have to go to the County Clerk's office today to record a document we've been working toward for 2 years. I need to get this over with. All the pieces are finally in place.

Now here is the catch. I was up literally half the night (one hour out of every two) with massive and painful indigestion. (Darn that pizza and ice cream cake anyway.) For the past 3 days Toddler has been a real crabapple, so I'm a bit nervous. Today, though, he seems happy and cheerful, but he asked me for a tissue and actually wiped his nose with it -- a rare event indeed, so I'm thinking maybe all that fussing was leading up to something? Well, I certainly believe in keeping the contagious home, I can't seem to justify tying us home with no symptoms. Sure, we'll skip the pool today and no eating lunch out, but I just can't cancel everything on a hunch, right? I've just got to get this monkey off my back.

Why is recording a document a monkey, you might ask? Well, first of all, depite 10 years of being a real estate lawyer, I have ever done it before. Second, listen to some of the advice I've been given. "Bring cash, no checks accepted from individuals. Bring $100 just to be safe. Whatever you do, don't tell them you used to practice law, and they should be really helpful. If you tell them, there might be trouble." Hmmm. This ought to be interesting.

Let's think about this. Sure, I drafted all kinds of documents that ended up in the land records of the very office I am going to. It might be hard to look like I really don't know what I'm talking about. On the other hand, I haven't eaten anything in 14 hours because of this stomache ache, I'm exhausted, running on about 3 hours sleep, I'm blonde, I'm very short, I'm wearing blue jeans and flip flops, and I have a two year old and a diaper bag with me. I'm thinking I might be able to get away with the clueless routine.

To emphasize this point, I just called Darling Husband to ask him what he did with my car keys last night after he brought in the stuff from the trunk. He didn't know, and we went through the checklist that started with, "Are they in front of the microwave," and ended with, "Well, if they aren't anywhere else, check and see if I left them clipped to the shorts I was wearing last night." *Sigh.* Of course. I'll go check. As I start around the corner to go look, I hear a suspicious jingle. I reach down, and there are the keys, clipped to my belt loop. I have no recollection of how they got there. A few moments ago, I was putting Toddler in the car and reached down to get those keys. They were gone. I got a little panicky -- did I just lock us out of the house? No, no. I just moved the keys to my other hand when I wasn't looking. Again, I have no recollection of doing this.

Like I said, this ought to be interesting. Tune in next time, and I'll tell you what happened. I'm sure it will be entertaining.


A Few Random Things to Know About Me

>> Friday, September 4, 2009

Everyone has their "quirks" and things. I imagine after reading this long, you have come to know a few of mine already. I thought we could have some fun, though, if I listed a few that might never come up. Specifically, here are some oddities about me and food.

1. I think "carrot" is a rotten thing to do to a cake. In fact, I could do without carrots altogether. Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate them. I simply would prefer to do without them. Many years ago my mother and I took a tour of England and Ireland with one of those tour companies that provides a lot of your meals. On the plane ride over, the airline meal had carrots. (This trip was back when airlines actually fed you substantial, albeit crappy, meals.) I made the mistake of telling my mother that I would be more than happy to not see another carrot anytime soon. Well, the Universe was listening, and apparently thought I was being sarcastic. Every single meal that the tour company provided, including breakfast, had carrots mixed in so far that I could hardly separate them. There were carrots in the omelets for crying out loud. How mean is that? I mean, it isn't that the English are so enamoured of the carrots or anything. I've been back to England several times since, and I have never ran into the carrot problem again.

2. One vegetable I do truly despise ... no hate ... is celery. I was the only little kid I ever knew who licked the peanut butter off the celery and wouldn't eat the celery no matter what you bribed me with. In fact, I wouldn't even lick the last part of the peanut butter off in case I tasted the celery. I think celery tastes sharp and nasty, and if I had one vegetable I was allowed to eliminate from this planet, that would be the one. I hate it when it shows up in "salad sandwiches" (like chicken salad, egg salad, etc.) In fact, I hate them so much I will almost never order such a sandwich in a restaurant because I'm sure nasty celery will be waiting for me.

3. I think meat and fruit should never be in the same cooking dish. Even more importantly, there is no form of citrus that belongs on a pizza other than a tomato. Pineapple pizza is just plain wrong. Ham and pineapple is very wrong, too.

4. I do eat liverwurst, and I think it is yummy. Go ahead and groan now. Toddler loves it, too. Fortunately for those of you groaning, liverwurst has tons of calories and you can pretend you are skipping it for that reason.

5. Guacamole isn't worth the calories. If something is going to have that many calories, it should be flavorful and delicious, not bland and almost nonexistent. I mean, at least, if something is green it should taste like a vegetable, but guac tastes almost like nothing. What a waste of valuable calories.

6. I am "salt" not "sweet". I can easily give up all the cakes and cookies in the world forever for one bag of lard soaked fully loaded, salty potato chips. If someone ever invents a truly calorie free chip that tastes like the real thing, I will know that nirvana is around the corner. In the meantime, I pretend that I like Baked Lays just as much and am thankful I have no noticeable side effects to fat substitutes.

7. I really do like diet sodas, especially Diet Pepsi, Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, Cherry Coke Zero, Pepsi One, and Coke Zero. I just think they taste great. This isn't a diet thing with me, though lord knows I need it, I just like them. I love Chik-Fil-A because they give me a choice between Diet Coke, Diet Caffeine Free Coke, and Coke Zero. Oddly enough, when Coke Zero first came out I hated it. I don't know if they changed the formula or what, but now I like it. The hardest part about being pregnant was staying away from all the diet sodas. It was torture, I tell you.

8. Pregnancy really does change a woman's taste buds. I really don't care much for Dr. Pepper, although I loved it as a kid. Now it just tastes funny to me. When I was pregnant, though, I could hardly keep my hands off it, and of course with all that caffeine it was not a good idea. And beef, oh, yes, beef. Even better, beef with thousand island dressing -- something else I normally don't eat. But me, who scoffed at the idea of cravings, just dreamed every day that Darling Husband would take pity on my and bring me a Big Mac with a Dr. Pepper and make my day complete. I even ended up slathering Thousand Island Dressing on my hamburger at home to keep me from going insane. It worked, but barely.

Aah, food. I love it. And it shows.


Fire. (Fire, fire!)

>> Thursday, September 3, 2009

We've gone awhile without pondering the mysteries of this crazy world, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about fire.

Let's start out by talking about candles. I love candles. I even tried making a few myself ... and ... well, we'll just say it was a nice try. I know enough from that experiment to say that the wick is just a piece of braided string that needs to be trimmed to fit after the candle sets up. Since it needs to be trimmed during the candle-making process anyway, I have to ask, why can't the candle-makers (or their machines) just trim the wick to the appropriate length before they sell them to us? Why does every candle come with the instructions, "First, trim the wick so that it is only ___ high." Honestly, I think the process of thinking up and printing the instructions probably takes longer than just getting out the scissors and doing it yourself. Ready-to-use candles, that's what we need! No scissors required!

And, seriously, unless the wick is measuring in inches, do you really bother to trim it? Be honest. Do you? While we are on the subject, how often do you let the candle burn beyond the point the instructions say you should, and you light the wax on fire? Be honest. How many times? In a pyro kind of way, it's a pretty neat thing to watch ... but not that I'm admitting anything ... or anything. Where's that frying pan, anyway? Nice, flat bottom ... good for putting out flaming tea lights ....

On the subject of fire, how are you supposed to light a jack-o-lantern, anyway? If you use a traditional taper candle (even a short one), and you light it first, how do you get the candle into the pumpkin without burning your hand? After all, you need to put the candle in upright and your hand still has to fit through the same relatively small hole in the pumpkin's head. Ouch! On the other hand, if you put the candle in first, then light it, how do you get the match in without shooting the flame back up at your fingers? When I was a kid (using paper matches that had a burn time of about two and half seconds), I used the "light the candle and drop it and hope" method that drove my parents nuts. As an adult, if I can't get the lighter through the mouth of the jack-o-lantern, I use the "light the tea light and drop" method. It's much safer than using a taper candle. Then, if all else fails, I ask DH to do it. Sometimes he does ... and other times I find a nice glowing battery operated candle inside the carved pumpkin.

Nice. Wish I had thought of that.

Then you have gas stoves. When the burner doesn't light, do you ever feel weird, like no matter what you do, it might be wrong? If you light a match, what if so much gas has escaped that you light the fumes on fire and burn your hair? Do you skip the match, and try to light the dead burner from one that did light? It's cool ... but would your mother approve? How long do you leave the burner on and not lighting before you begin to choke yourself out from the fumes? (Does anyone else have these thoughts? All this reminiscing makes me almost glad our house has an electric stove.)

Honestly, I love our gas grill, but I do flinch every time I use the electric starter to light the thing. Does anyone else do that? I don't know why I have the urge to duck and cover. I know that flame isn't coming high enough to burn my hair ... but I always act like it is anyway. And then there is the gas tank. Dad warned and warned about turning it off the right way. Now I'm always nervous that I don't remember which way is the "right" way and I'll burn the deck down or something.

Last, but certainly most memorable, there is the unity candle at a wedding. What a dangerous idea. Lots of veils, long hair, and hair spray next to open flame ... brilliant. Just brilliant. Of course, I'm not speaking from experience or anything. No, there was no frantic motions flicking my veil out of an open flame during my wedding ... nothing of the sort. Nope. Not at all. It was your imagination. Trust me. I was there. ...


Children Can Leave You Speechless

>> Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I think we all think kids are cute when they say things, even if they shouldn't. Of course, lots of times we think kids are cute when they are just saying the obvious, just because ... well, they have such high pitched voices and by the time you figure out what they are actually saying, you just have to laugh. There must be something in the human species that makes most of us react this way, otherwise we might not let them grow up. After all, we make great fun of our friends and adult family members when they state the obvious.

Take yesterday, for example. We were at the pool, and I poured a bucket of water over Toddler's head. He squealed, giggled, and wiped his eyes. Then he looked at me and said, "I'm all wet!" Woah. Really? But from him, it was the cutest thing. I don't know why he needed to tell me he was all wet, or why it was such a surprise to him (we do this every day at the pool and every night in the bath), but okay. I can go with it.

Every once in awhile, though, kids say things to you that you have no answer to, or if you do, you should at least check with the child's parents before opening your big mouth. About ten years (ok longer ago than that), I was driving along a highway with a young child in the car with me. A motorcycle swerved around us on the berm, cut us off, and sped obnoxiously on his way. At these times, an insensitive adult, alone in the car might say (or wish silently), that the cops catch that *** and give him a ticket. Such adult might also whisper invectives like, "You'll be in an accident before the day's end, mark my words." (Of course, if s/he were, we would be horrified.)

This child watched this pretty obnoxious biker pass us intently. I think she'd been watching him swerve in and out in the mirror for awhile. When he was a few cars ahead, she said, "I wish he were dead."

HUH? Did I just hear that? So of course, I go into full-blown "adult" mode (I was really only half an adult at that time.) Girl Relative, that is a HORRIBLE thing to say. You should never say something like that." This child turned and looked at me, with the most serious eyes, and said, "Why not? He'll never know."

I was stopped cold in my tracks. She had me there. He never would know. What on earth do I say now? Where are the pearls of wisdom I am supposed to have to convince the child of her great wrongdoing in the moral straight path of the universe? Well, I hemmed and hawed a bit about how we should always try to help our fellow human beings, etc. etc., but it was apparent I was making no impression. Finally, after being unable to persuade her that her feelings were improper, I learned a very valuable lesson.

I finally, finally understood the great lesson of adults (even semi-adults). When you don't know what else to say to a child, stop explaining, and issue a decree. "I don't ever want to hear you say anything like that again. It's mean, rude, and I won't have it."

Guess what miss Smarty-pants said next? "Okay, but you can't stop me from thinking it."

Is it any wonder some people are afraid of children?

(I must say, in defense of this child, that she grew up to be a very sweet young woman who would never wish a single person dead ... at least not without huge pangs of guilt. Either that, or she has kept those thoughts very well hidden all these years, and we are all completely fooled. Hmm. I guess only she knows .....)


My Mom Had Eyes in the Back of Her Head. I Can See Through Walls.

>> Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today (the real today, September 1st) is my anniversary. Eight years ago today, on a surprisingly pleasant and weather-mild day in the mid-atlantic, Darling Husband and I got married. Five years, nine months, and thirteen days later, I received my "Mom" card and promptly got initiated into the Mystery of Omniscience.

What do I mean? I mean the first rule of raising small children is to make them think you can see things when you can't. Somehow, my Mom was pretty good at knowing when I was doing something wrong, even when she wasn't looking. She used to say that she had eyes in the back of her head. I never quite figured out how she was doing it, but as I grew up, it became apparent to me that I was no where near as clever as I thought I was. I knew she didn't have eyes in the back of her head, but this mysterious omniscience she had made me toe the line even when she wasn't around.

Now, I have to admit, I've known the rules -- act confident, show no fear, follow through with your threats, and whatever you do, don't laugh. I have to confess, I have had the hardest time with the last one. Let me share a story.

About four months ago, we had some visitors in the house bringing us some paperwork to sign. Toddler was supposed to be napping, and we had the monitor on listening to him. Napping he was not. For the entire time the guests were there, he was chattering away to himself in his crib. Shortly before the folks were leaving, they asked if they could see Toddler (given that he was so obviously awake). We brought him down and asked him to say "Hi." He waived. We asked him to say, "I was upstairs playing." He looked at me and said, "Sleeping." I suppressed a chuckle. "No, tell them you were playing." He looked at me again, with a big, big grin, and said, "Sleeping." By this point, I was really struggling not to laugh. This was too much. He wasn't even two years old at that point, and here he was, lying to me! After a few more seconds, he gave me a sheepish grin and said, "Playing."

Now, I ask you -- how do you not laugh? How, exactly?

I've been struggling with abiding by the rules and giving Toddler the gift of thinking his mother is omniscient. Honestly, it has been harder than I thought. I recently convinced Toddler that I can see through walls, I've been working on it for awhile, but I finally got him good and believing it now. We put a stop to most of the drive-by toddlerings, but now Toddler has decided that there is no reason to necessarily stay in the bed per se. The bedroom is close enough, right? Unfortunately, with his door closed, my first clue that he is out of bed is usually when he tries to open the door, when he opens the diaper stacker and begins throwing things on the floor, or when he starts pulling the books of his bookshelf. I yell, he cries and runs back to bed. Still, so far it hasn't been enough to convince him not to even try. He's just been testing to see how long he can go before I interrupt his fun. It's all a big game.

The past couple of days I had enough. I was tired of dealing with the "napless wonder" and tired of running up the stairs to put him back in his bed. I decided that I was going to convince Toddler I could see him get out of bed, and that he'd better stay put. So, after putting him back for what felt like the 100th time in 20 minutes, I shut the door, pretended to walk away, and lay down on the floor. I was going to watch his little feet through the crack underneath the door. Problem: The carpet we bought for the house is a little too plush. Either that, or the wood floor in the hallway is a little too low. Either way, I really couldn't seen too well beyond the first 2 inches. I twisted and turned my head, and finally found a position that worked, lying flat on my stomach, with my top eye covered, and my bottom eye turned partially toward the floor. With the right amount of pressure on my eyeball, I could see just far enough to get a blurry view of Toddler's bed. Sure enough, after only a few moments of this (very comfortable) position, I saw little feet start to sneak down from the comforter. As soon as they touched the floor, I yelled at Toddler to get back into bed. You should have heard his answering cry! What a wail of protest! I'm not sure which was more important, that he wasn't allowed out of bed, or that he had been caught? Either way, he cried for a few good solid minutes before finally, blissfully, falling asleep.

I promptly retrieved my eyeball from the floor and went on my merry way, satisfied that I had at last achieved the pinnacle of motherhood. My mom had eyes in the back of her head, but I can see through walls. And it didn't hurt all that much, either.


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