Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Belated Christmas Present--Sort Of

When the incident I am about to share first happened, I was going to post about it--I could hardly wait to get home and post about it, in fact. But then, I talked myself out of it--because I wasn't sure what I would say about it and how it would come off. Then last night, I'm catching up on blog-browsing and come across a post about a similar incident at Jenandtonic and I figure if it's good enough for Jen, it's good enough for me.

All this is a long-winded way of introducing a story about how the day after Christmas, I was out to lunch (literally, which is rarer than the metaphorical way I am so often "out to lunch") with my three youngest (Son-One is antisocial and recovering from a nasty sinus infection) children. The place was packed--it's one of those regional greasy spoons that people go back to more for the nostalgia than for the food and during the holidays, everyone who's home from somewhere else crams themselves in there--my kids and I have no such excuse.

Anyway, as we were getting up to leave, an older woman* at the next booth patted me on the arm and said, "Are you their mother?" Apparently her companion, who looked to be about my age was convinced I was their sister. I mean, maybe she meant their MUCH older sister, who knows?

The older lady said, "I told her it would make your day to hear that."

I thanked her profusely but as I told Hubby, when I got home, "Why would it make my day that a total stranger was so badly in need of an eye exam?"

*This woman had already drawn the attention of our table when Son-Three noticed her putting salt and pepper in her glass of milk. Maybe we all need to get out more but this was a new one on me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: A Holiday Tune

(Sung to the tune of "O, Christmas Tree")

Ne-glected blogs, ne-glected blogs,
We're sorry we've ignored you,
No time to post, no time to browse,
No time for clever commenting.
With gifts to wrap and trees to trim,
Our blogging time has been slim.
But January's almost here
With its holiday-free days
And we'll all be back to babbling.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Exhausting.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ho Ho How The Hell Did It Get To Be December 21?

Last year for Christmas, one of my gifts was a Trivial Pursuit page-a-day calendar. Once in a while during the year, I couldn't help thinking that Trivial Pursuit was not merely the trademarked game the calendar was based upon but also some sort of philosophical commentary on the state of my life.

As I ripped off pages, I began thinking that a page-a-day calendar is a concrete reminder of how fast the days really pass. Somewhere around November 10, I began focusing on how few days remained to be torn off. It seemed like we were zipping through the year at an unprecendented pace.

And now here we are four days before Christmas. My gift-buying not quite complete, a few straggling cards left behind still awaiting their personal notes, some baking left to do, extra hours at the shop to fill up what little time there's left between now and the Big Day...

Ah, crap, just call me Ebenita Scrooge.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Inflatables

They are a fungus upon the land.

The end.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Fungal.

(Exceptions can be made for people with children under, say, seven in their lives. Everyone else--cut it out!!!! I mean seriously--I've seen yards with 18 or 20 of the damn things. Wouldn't it be way more time, energy and cost efficient to just put a big billboard up that says, "I have way too much money and way too few brains." Shoot, we can do it in neon if it'll make 'em feel better.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Hard Sell (& I Ain't Buyin')

So, remember how I said Wal-Mart's the Debil? Well, at the moment, that other big (well, used to be big and now has been in and back out of bankruptcy) mart is on my list. I went in last week and as I stepped through the second set of sliding doors, I spotted the dreaded Olan Mills hard sell table set up right in the middle of the path to the rest of the store.

They do this every once in a while--set up a table with all these sample portraits of other people's children and man it with some barely out of adolescence girl who can rattle off whatever special they're pushing all in one breath. I do whatever I can to avoid it--because it's a waste of my time and theirs and I also bitterly resent the feeling that listening to the spiel is a requirement for the privilege of buying socks at buy one, get one 50% off.

This time was no different, with Son-Three in tow, I executed my patented duck left and across the line of registers and up past the one-hour photo counter and on into the safety of the store (where, for goodness sake, I just wanted to buy a printer cartridge, some cheapo Christmas cards and a little bunny food). So Son-Three and I are perusing the Christmas card selections on the $2.99 a box rack when we're joined by Daughter-Only (who'd been at the store next-door) and, right behind her is the Olan Mills Chick, who immediately begins giving me the breathless spiel.

At the end of each of her sentences (which I could spot only by context, because as I said, she never paused for breath), I said, "Okay." In what I hoped was a civilized but clear-cut signal that I wasn't interested. She persisted through a paragraph of information as though I had never spoken and then walked off.

Daughter-Only actually stood there with her mouth hanging open. "Mom, you kept saying 'okay' like you were wanting her to stop talking and she totally ignored you, like completely, just ignored you. Wow." (Why the person who ignores me like no one has ever ignored me before would be so amazed that someone else would ignore me is completely beyond me.)

I have never seen anything like it in my life. I would've thought she was wandering around giving her spiel to everyone, but, no, she didn't stop anyone else. That little twit had seen me execute my patented move and come after me.

Listen, I work retail. I know it's tough out there. Okay? I get that she's trying to earn commissions and how much it must annoy her that people don't even give her the time of day. But guess what? It's not my job to humor her. It's my job to go to the discount store and buy socks, and printer cartridges and electronics made in China with a lead content long ago deemed unsafe in the US*. So here's what I'm gonna do instead of taking her up on her breathless offer of overpriced portraits...I'm gonna write on my blog what an idiot she was and how I will never, ever, no matter what use Olan Mills in this town again.

*It's not only electronics of course. Have you checked out your Christmas lights--do they have that fancy sticker that warns you to wash your hands after touching them? Isn't that nice of them? You know, if we're going to allow unsafe lead into our country and into our homes, at least we're gonna put a teeny, tiny sticker on it with a barely legible warning. That oughta keep people safe, huh?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Benefits Package, Or One Reason I Haven't Quit My Job Even Though I'm Often Sorely Tempted To Do So

Customer calls today, says she wants to send flowers to her "natural mother," who lives in a town several hours from here.

I start to take the information but when we get to the natural mother's phone number, the customer says, "Well, I don't actually have it. See, I met her in person when I was in my mid-twenties and now every year I send her flowers at Christmas, but the only time we ever talk on the phone is after she gets the flowers and she calls me to thank me when she's five sheets to the wind*."

Now, where else are you going to get to hear stories like that without a degree in psychology or having to stand all night behind a bar?

*There ensued, as there so often will at my place of employment, a mini-debate over whether the actual expression is "three sheets to the wind" as I thought, in which case five sheets to the wind is an extra two sheets drunk, or "six sheets to the wind" as Cranky Boss Lady thought, in which case (as CBL said) the natural mother's "missing a sheet." This evening, Hubby came down on the "six sheets" side and, as he's no stranger to either drunkenness or sailing, I was willing to concede defeat--but a quick Google check reveals that although both "three" and "six" are used, "three" is far more common. I say we quit all the bickering and just start using "sheets" as a unit of measurement for drunkeness. So you can be one sheet to the wind or six sheets to the wind. It's not as scientific as a blood alcohol level but it's way more poetic and colorful.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Celebrity Gossip

Cranky Boss Lady: Did I tell you Kimberly Williams-Paisley is pregnant?

Masked Mom: Yes, you did (...what you neglected to tell me is why I should give one teeny, tiny crap about someone I've never met).

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Overrated. (Celebrity gossip, that is, not Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who seems very likable except for the fact that if the song Brad Paisley wrote about her is anywhere near accurate, she's setting the bar a little high for all the rest of us. And, truthfully, I'm not entirely against celebrity gossip, and may even occasionally indulge in it myself. It's just that early on a Monday morning is probably not the right time to be asking me (for the third time) if you've told me Kimberly Williams is pregnant because A) It's Monday morning. B) I find your "pronouncement from the mount" voice especially annoying and intolerable on Mondays. C) I can barely care about people I know well and in some cases am related to by blood early on Monday. Hell, maybe it's not even Celebrity Gossip that's overrated so much as Cranky Boss Lady, (unpaid, unacknowledged, unauthorized, unwelcome and unnecessary) publicist to the stars.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weather Report

Cranky Boss Lady (looking out the back door): Hey, we have a little flake activity out here.

Masked Mom (looking around the shop at assorted shop groupies): Yeah, we've got some flake activity in here too but you don't hear us bragging about it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

He Just Doesn't Get It*

[Blurt Alert: It's pretty much all TMI here today.]
After twenty years of marriage, you would think Hubby and I would know one another pretty well. And it's true that he can tell you lots of things about me--that I hate canned peas (they are vile and I hope they die**), love Diet Dr. Pepper, read an insane number of books, magazines, etc on a wide variety of subjects, have a fantasy of opening a writer's retreat out in the back woods somewhere and raking in big bucks to hang out with people I'd gladly hang out with for free (and that my alternative fantasty is to drive an ice cream truck--not to make my living that way, but to be independently wealthy and drive an ice cream truck for a hobby).

He can accurately predict that four out of ten times when he tells me, "I'm going to go jump in the shower," I will say, "Be careful not to slip and fall." Neither of us can tell you why this remains funny to me, but it's probably related more to his consistently giving me that opening than to the fact that I am in dire need of psychiatric attention. (Have no doubt, I am in dire need, just not about this particular thing.)

So, yes, he knows some stuff about me.

How, then, can he fail to notice that by the end of many days, I feel rubbed raw--emotionally, physically--so that any touch, any contact feels like bare hands on scraped skin? Ever stick your finger in the middle of a fresh brush burn when you were a kid, just to see how it felt? Yeah, it's like that.

And why, oh why, does he insist on taking it personally when my response isn't entirely positive?

In addition to all the stesses of the day that make hiding under the bed sound way more appealing than rolling around on top of it, Hubby and I have always been on different schedules. He's naturally programmed to stay up late--really late, like 2 a.m. is average bedtime for him--in fact when Daughter-Only was in first grade and they were learning about nighttime animals versus daytime animals, she came home and said, "Mommy, Daddy is nocturnal, isn't he?"

Though I have struggled with bouts of insomnia, my ideal bedtime is in the 11 o'clock range. So by the time Hubby comes to bed, I'm usually (ideally) not at all conscious so these moves he's hoping to impress me with are way less impressive. The rare nights I happen to be conscious when he comes in, I am usually bitterly resentful about being awake in the middle of the night and, therefore, not interested in anything that might keep me awake in the middle of the night even longer. None of this seems reasonable to him.

Not only does the "I'm asleep" argument not move him (or stop him moving?), but my being in the throes of a life-threatening (or so it seemed) cold also didn't sway him. One night a few weeks ago, he came to bed and there I was hacking away, obviously tubercular and typhoidal or at the very least cranky and uncomfortable and it didn't even slow him down. I think I croaked, "Are you kidding me?" before he rolled over in a huff that night.

I guess I should take it as a compliment***, and I try, I really do, but I also feel misunderstood at a fundamental level. Like somehow, even twenty years in, he really doesn't know me or see me at all.

*Pun acknowledged though not entirely intended.
**YS--I'd spare the asparagus if someone could just take out the peas.
***That's a lot easier on the nights like the one last week when we'd been bickering most of the day and he came to bed at 1:30 or so and began his "vigorous cuddling" routine and I said, "What the hell planet do you live on?" And he said, "I live on the Damn You Smell Good Planet." It was kinda cute. Woulda been way cuter at a decent hour, but hey you take what you can get, right?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: This I Believe

The library is automated now--all fancy, shmancy and I can search from my bedroom while still in my pajamas for books and authors I'm trying to track down. Then I can go to the library, directly to the shelf they are on and pick them up and be in and out in a few minutes. (Or if the book is interloan, from another library, I can just walk to the desk and have it handed to me practically on a silver platter.) It's all very modern and convenient, but sometimes I miss the Library Accidents that used to happen while doing a card catalog search. I'd flip through the little cards looking for a specific book or author and stumble across an intriguing title. (I'm pretty sure this is how I ended up reading Saddles For Breakfast in fourth or fifth grade. I mean who could resist that title? And who knows how many other books I would never have had the pleasure of without the act of flipping through title after title in the catalog?)

I do keep lists of books I want to read--lists I compile by reading book reviews and taking recommendations, but I don't kid myself that every good book somehow magically makes it to my list. So, every once in a while, I set aside time for Library Accidents to happen and wander around the shelves and stop to look at the books on the new non-fiction tables just inside the library door and just wait for something to catch my eye. Suffering, as I do, from some sort of compulsive reading disorder, it never takes long.

This I Believe was one of those Accidental Books. It is full of essays from the NPR project of the same name, which was originally begun in the 1950s and was restarted in April 2005. Being from my media-deprived little corner of the world, I didn't know anything about the radio show (of course we don't have a local NPR station!) so the book was an eye-opener for me and led me down the rabbit hole of the website, where I've spent some time happily clicking from one essay to another.

The project asks participants to write short essays stating their core beliefs--the essays are a few hundred words in most cases and both the book and the site showcase a wide variety of people from well-known to unknown. What's amazing to me is how much true wisdom is out there in the minds of otherwise very ordinary people. I can't help but think that having a forum where people can discuss their personal philosophies can only be beneficial. It's also comforting to see essays from the 1950s reflecting some of the same issues we are facing now--it helps soothe that panicked feeling I sometimes get in thinking that things are dramatically worse at the moment than they've been in a while.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Extraordinary.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Perfect Post for November

Son-Two had to go to the doctor last week--he had some virulent varient of whatever had Daughter-Only's uvula stuck to her tonsil a few weeks before that and after three weeks of suffering and hacking and looking all the wrong colors--gray and green and yellowish--I finally convinced him that going to the doctor didn't make him a wuss in any way. At the doctor's office, she pronounced his lungs a little "tight" and asked if he'd ever had an inhaler and if he was allergic to any antibiotics.

She was stunned that he'd never had either an inhaler or any antibiotics. I said, "We've been very lucky in the antibiotic department especially--I have four kids and we've had three prescriptions for antibiotics in 18 years."

"Wow, that's really impressive but it's probably not just luck. I'm sure hygeine played a role as well."


Anyone who's ever been inside my house knows that anti-hygeine is way more at work around here than hygeine. Chaos reigns--mess and untidiness and clutter and, even sometimes things that would be called "filfth" by other, more fastidious, moms than me reign. We don't roll with the antibacterial stuff around here. Look under my kitchen sink (if you dare), there's not a single product that promises to kill 99.9% of anything.

I have a theory (don't I always) that by attempting to provide a nearly bacteria-free environment for our children, we're actually doing them a disservice. There's some support for this theory--science says that the more antibacterial products (including antibiotics) that we use, the more quickly bacteria are going to adapt and become resistant to the products and to our natural defenses. So what we're doing by being too fastitidious is helping to create a super race of mega-bacteria that will probably start carting us all off in our sleep.

I believe that by exposing children to small amounts of a variety of pathogens at an early age, we can build their immune systems to be better, stronger, faster...I also believe that I would way rather curl up with a good book or go to the park with the kids or, or, or, or than make sure every nook and cranny in my house is germ-free.

Sometimes I hate myself for not trying harder, for not being a "better" example for the kids, for failing to provide a floor clean enough to eat off of (though why eating off the floor is some kind of gold standard in cleanliness, I'm not sure--I mean we have a table, after all. I'm perfectly content--ecstatic some days--to just provide a floor clean enough to walk over.). But still, I think my way is really the only way for me.

While browsing blogs this month, I found my sloppy soul sister over at 24/7. In her post, "What Do You Do When Your Dishwasher Stops Working," ECR speaks to the pressure of outside expectations and the desire to live by her own priorities and she wraps it all up with a Phyllis Diller quote--as someone who collects notebooks full of quotes to support my "unsupportable" positions that spoke directly to my heart.

So, here's my button:

The Original Perfect Post Awards

And, ECR, it's all yours!

(Browse other winners at Suburban Turmoil and Petroville.)

Thursday, November 30, 2006


It's over and I'm glad, but I'm also glad I did it. It made me realize what might be possible in my "real" writing (this is fake, right?)--that I can make myself write something every day--even when I think I can't, even when I don't want to, even when the thought of sitting in front of the computer for even two seconds makes me want to cry, I can write anyway. (Now, whether that's useful knowledge or not--and whether what I'm likely to produce under that kind of duress is really worthwhile or not is a whole other question and one for a time when I'm not so tired and cranky.)

See, I've always meant to be the kind of writer who writes every day. I've read expert after expert who swears daily (or at least very regular) writing is key to your development as a writer--Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, Anne Lamott. Shoot, even Mr. High School used to tell me, "I think you'd be so much better off if you just wrote a little every day--ten or fifteen minutes. It would be good for you."

But I've never been able to manage it for any length of time. No matter how much time I spend on the pep talks and the "Just do it" speeches in my head, I spend just as much time talking myself out of it, "There isn't time. You're too tired. You don't have anything to say. You're not in the mood." It's always something.

For NaBloPoMo, maybe because "someone" was looking over my shoulder, I didn't let any of those somethings get in the way of writing every single day (writing crap some days, maybe even most days, but writing something). Now I know that not only can it be done, I can do it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Getting My Hopes Up And Right Back Down

So I'm flipping through Reader's Digest and I see this:

"Get rich quick," it says. Right away, there's visions of touring the world on the competetive Boggle circuit dancing in my head. I mean, get rich, playing Boggle--a game my sisters, mother and I played until we had writer's cramp? A game Hubby refuses to even play with me anymore? I am soooo in.

But, no, they just mean you can spell "rich" in the cubes. (You can also spell: fast, cast, rib, bat, chat, clue, saw, was, lab and a whole bunch of other words, but none of them are gonna get me the big bucks either, huh?)

Guess it's back to playing the lottery for me.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Too Bad I Wasted The Basis of the Basis Four Days In...

...because I could use a good cop-out tonight.

Practically every night since the beginning of NaBloPoMo, I have wandered into my bedroom knowing I "had" to post and having only the vaguest idea of what the hell I was going to write, but then I sat down and somehow the babble began flowing.

Tonight? No babble.

Well, maybe a little.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Steven Wright

I was first introduced to Steven Wright's deadpan humor in an HBO special in the '80s. I was babysitting for this lady and she had the special on while she was waiting for her (very late) date to show up.

Steven Wright, if you've never seen him, has a delivery that takes some getting used to--and there are probably a few people who never do get used to it. The lady (I use the term somewhat loosely as later that evening I would stand in the hallway outside her room while she vomited in a bowl. I was concerned she might asphyxiate on her own vomit and then I would be forced to decide between saving her with my Red Cross CPR skills and saving my sanity by not having to give mouth-to-mouth to a recently vomiting person. She made the decision somewhat easier by drunkenly screaming, "Get away from here!" between heaves, but anyway while the HBO special was on) the "lady" sat there, nervously tapping her foot and never cracked a smile. Just before her date showed up, she said, "Wow, this guy isn't funny at all."

Well, I thought she was wrong and I used the money she paid me for the evening to buy a comedy album (on cassette) of Steven's called I Have a Pony. I loved that tape to death, literally, memorized whole portions of it, forced everyone I know to listen to it and made quite a few converts along the way. Eventually, I replaced it with a CD version as I waited impatiently for new Steven Wright material.

I had just about given up hope when I was channel-surfing last month and came across a new special (new to me anyway) called When The Leaves Blow Away on Comedy Central. I watched it twice the first time and then recorded it so I could watch it some more.


--"A friend of mine has a trophy wife, but apparently it wasn't first place."

--"I have to be asleep by one in the morning because my dreams are going to start then whether I'm sleeping or not."

--"I asked my girlfriend if she ever had sex with a woman. She said, 'No.' I said, 'It's fun, you should try it.' So she did, and now she's gone."

--"My doctor told me I shouldn't work out anymore until I was in better shape. I said, all right--don't send me a bill until I pay you."

--"In school, they told me practice makes perfect and then they told me nobody's perfect so I quit practicing."

...all of this delivered in Steven's signature monotone--rarely do you see him even start to crack a smile. Some people may find his delivery distracting, but to me it's part of the package--and, in a weird way, his jokes have to be stronger because he doesn't use any of the bells and whistles other comedians rely on.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Long-awaited. (And worth the wait, I'd like to add, but can't 'cuz that's just way over the word limit--I was probably cheating a little just using a hyphen, but, hell, Steven's worth it.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

'Scuse Me While I Crawl Into the Dairy Case and Hide Behind the Hummus and the Swiss Miss Puddings

I come from a steadfastly unsqueamish family, most of whom aren't afraid to cross the occasional "gross" line in pursuit of a laugh. Many years ago, a friend gave me a "recipe" for a cracker spread composed of tiny shrimp, seafood cocktail sauce (which I swear is just ketchup with horseradish in it, but maybe it's just me), and cream cheese. Served with crackers, it's quick, easy, and pretty tasty, but kind of funny looking.

[Blurt Alert! Pretty much the rest of this post.] The first time my father saw it he said, "What the hell is this? It looks like afterbirth!"

My family being the family we are, the name stuck--not only was it memorable but it was a much more succinct name than "that stuff with shrimp and cream cheese and cocktail sauce that you spread on crackers."

So, many years later--this weekend in fact--Daugther-Only and I are standing in front of the display of crackers in our local grocery store. Undecided on the best crackers to serve and wanting not to alarm nearby shoppers, I leaned in to whisper to Daughter-Only, "I'm trying to decide which crackers would go best with afterbirth."

Apparently, my attempts at subtlety were a bit too, um, subtle and Daughter-Only shouted, "Afterbirth!? We're having afterbirth!? Wow! I love that stuff!"

A word to the wise: If you ever need to hide in the dairy case (and if you have kids it's a safe bet you someday will), the milk section provides considerably better coverage than puddings and hummus.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Best Advice I Never Took

My first year of high school Spanish was taught by a fresh-from-Spain import named Fidel Roderigues. He spoke English with a thick accent, had the stereotypical swarthy complexion and thick, dark mustache of a cartoon Spaniard--the kind of Spaniard you could easily imagine running from the bulls in Pomplona or some other equally stereotypical Spanish enterprise. He would also often scratch his butt while writing on the blackboard at the front of the room--and he wasn't delicate or subtle about it either: he stuck his hand right in his pants (one unforgettable time I swear it was in there up to his elbow) and scratched merrily away. Needless to say, this did nothing to make us take him more seriously.

Anyway, in addition to all his other charming characteristics, Senor Roderigues had a short temper and was given to barely intelligible outbursts that often seemed completely unprovoked.

One morning during a vocabularly drill, he called on a kid named Bill.* When Bill didn't immediately respond, Senor Roderigues shouted, "What is wrong with you, Bill?" (Only Bill came out "Beeel," of course.)

Bill mumbled, "I'm thinking."

And then the fine Senor uttered something I've been quoting for twenty-odd (very odd) years now: "Bill, don't think too much because chances are you will understand nothing and your head will explode." Maybe it loses something in the translation--you know without the thick accent and the visual image of a dark, lanky, poorly-dressed immigrant whose hand was often down his pants--but I think it holds up pretty well. Granted, it's kind of fatalistic to assume that we'll never understand anything, but the truth is a lot of people do way too much thinking to no avail. I know I overthink practically every aspect of my life. (For example, I spent the afternoon with my siblings and their significants and my dad and his significant and for the last two hours, I have been replaying moment after moment from the afternoon wondering if I was too loud or too brash or too pushy or talked too much or not enough, or, or...And what's the point because even if I do come to some worthwhile conclusion, the afternoon can't be redone?)

So, I'm going to say it again: "Don't think too much because chances are you will understand nothing and your head will explode." and hope maybe this time, it will take.

*Though Bill was pretty innocent the morning in question, Roderigues's attack on him couldn't be considered completely unprokoved as the two of them had an intense and ongoing mutual provocation that lasted the whole year. An example of one of Bill's offenses: for an assignment we were told to "create" something that illustrated our knowledge of Spanish culture. Some people made salt clay models of famous Spanish buildings or drew maps of Spain, that kind of thing. Bill brought in a gigantic pile of brown modeling clay in a pie plate. When Roderigues snapped, "What is that?" Bill said, "It's bull shit--you know from a bullfighting ring?" Is it any wonder that the following year found Mr. Roderigues out of the classroom and on a sales floor at Sears? The pay was probably almost as good and the grief considerably less.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Perspective, Courtesy Of The Guy From The Bridge Crew

I live on what is basically a dead end street--there are two side streets off of my street, but both of them come to a quick halt, ending just before the banks of a creek. The second of the two streets used to continue across the creek, but that bridge was washed out in the flood of '72 and never replaced, which really has nothing to do with my story but is a fact I find sort of interesting as a comment on governmental inefficiency--governmental inefficiency which in this case I'm actually quite grateful for because I'm sure my kids couldn't have played so much street hockey safely or uninterrupted if the bridge had been replaced.

But the washed-out-in-the-flood-of-'72 bridge isn't my subject for the evening. It's the other bridge I want to talk about. When I first moved to this street, there was a steel deck bridge I crossed every day to get home. Writing for the county paper, I had covered town meetings in which the state of this bridge was discussed and weight limits imposed--basically, only passenger vehicles were light enough--no garbage trucks, no ambulances or fire trucks. These meetings included speculation on what would happen if the bridge were to collapse and someone were to file suit against the town. (This is how the phrase "non-specific migrating back pain" came into my vocabularly--a phrase I love but (fortunately, I guess) don't get to use often.)

Finally, a year or so after I moved in, state funding came through, and the bridge was scheduled to be replaced. In order to re-route traffic, the town appropriated an access road that a business at the dead end end of the street had put in place when the weight limits were imposed--this business had heavy trucks coming and going and no way to get them there without cutting a path through the woods. So this path through the woods--literally a rutted dirt road on which I regularly saw deer right in the middle of town--was how all the cars on our street were supposed to connect with the rest of town. We were all okay with it, though--sacrifice in the name of progress and improvement--it could only be a good thing that fire trucks might now be able to reach us without falling into the creek--and, anyway, they said it was going to take six weeks.

Six weeks. Well, the first four weeks, they were right on schedule. The weather cooperated, the old bridge came apart and was carted off without a hitch, the footers (or whatever they are) were placed without a problem. Then came time to lay the deck pieces. We heard they were very fancy, made of some composite material, the wave of the future--long-lasting, easy to work with, on and on and on. They were also cut to the wrong size. It would be at least another six weeks--more likely twelve before the replacements could be manufactured and shipped.

It went on like this. The new pieces were finally shipped and placed but by then it was too cold to apply the (also experimental) surface material so they had to build a gigantic tent and bring in those big heaters that look like jet engines and try to warm it up enough in there to spread this miracle material. Material which, once spread and set, began chipping up in gigantic pieces within a few days. So six months after the first six weeks which had become close to six months, there was a crew again, spreading what looked to the untrained eye like plain, old traditional asphalt. And that crew has been back three or four times a year in the four years since the bridge was "completed" to fix "mushy spots" and all sorts of other fun stuff like that.

One day last spring, I was walking to work and there were the poor bridge guys again*. As I passed the one directing traffic, I smiled sympathetically and said, "This bridge must be such a nightmare for you guys."

And, he said, "Oh I don't know, we sure have learned a lot about how not to build a bridge."

When I grow up, I want to be just like the bridge crew guy. I want to not only learn from my mistakes, but to be able to embrace those mistakes for the opportunities they are--opportunities to understand more about myself and everyone else, about the world and my place in it.

*It's been a good year--they've only been back once since then. Of course, that time, they were here for a week and a half and had to dig two six-foot squares all the way down to the deck level, but still.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful But

I'm thankful that I have the ingredients to prepare a nice meal for my family...but not really looking forward to spending half the day in the kitchen.

I'm thankful that I have four mostly happy, mostly healthy children...but I wish they bickered less, and worked to their full potential at school (or at least met their potential halfway), and helped a little more around the house without arguing over every single chore.

I'm thankful for my almost twenty-year-old marriage...but I wish there were fewer days when I thought to myself, "Why is this still so hard? When is it gonna get easier?"

I'm thankful for my job--in this economy (nationwide, but especially our little corner of New York State) any job is a blessing, but...I wish my boss was a little less psycho and less needy and that she understood boundaries a little more and that she maybe could stop calling me at 7:13 a.m. to tell about the story she's watching on Good Morning, America at that very moment, failing to understand that a) if I gave one good crap about Good Morning, America, I'd find some way to watch it myself, b) I have four children to get out the door on time so don't have time for GMA or her phone calls regarding it, and c) at 9 a.m., I will be her captive audience for eight full hours so why can't she save it until then?

I'm thankful for my extended family--my dad and siblings and my nieces and nephews (not my aunts, uncles, cousins)--and that we are all close and mostly get along...but sometimes it's a little overwhelming to be in the same room with all of them and sometimes I wish that Baby Brother (who doesn't have Internet access and wouldn't be surprised or (I hope) offended to read this even if he did) could ask a little less of me, for his sake as well as my own.

I'm thankful for the blog world and the opportunity for connection that it provides free of charge...but how come everyone got more comments than me today?

I'm thankful for my ability to write...but frustrated by my inability to manage my time and energies better so that I actually could write for extended periods (somewhere other than the blog) and overwhelmed by the odds (glutted markets, cranky editors) against writing ever being anything more than an elaborate and all-consuming hobby for me.

I'm thankful for the library and all the books in it...but I think my chronic reading habit really eats into what could be my writing time and, on the more philosophical side, the long list of books I want to read has a tendency to remind me of my mortality--'cuz there ain't no way I'm ever getting to the bottom of that list.

I'm greatful* for so much to be thankful for...but wish I could be more of a grown-up and just be thankful with no strings attached.

*That one's for Daniel.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Be Careful What You Whine About Wish For

Dear Star 102.5 in Buffalo:

If I promise never, ever to complain about your 9-to-5 No-Repeat Workday (and how repetitive the work week ends up being), will you please, please, please, oh, please lay off the Christmas/holiday* music?

I guess I understand trying to get folks in the Christmas/holiday spirit--though I'm not quite sure why it's so damned important to you. Are you getting kick-backs from Santa Claus or the major retailers? I can even see sneaking the occasional Christmas tune in a week or so after Thanksgiving. But 24/7 Christmas tunes beginning a week before Thanksgiving is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Sadistic and wrong and horrible. Add to that the fact that this is at least the third year in a row you've done it and I think you're really building up some bad karma.

I know what you're thinking--no one is making me listen to your station and you're right and, honestly, I haven't been listening to your station. But yours is my station of choice the whole rest of the year and when I can't listen to it, my choices here in my rural county are extremely limited (two country stations--one of which is "The Big Pig" WPIG, because "size matters"; one "oldies;" and one religious). Not having satisfying musical accompaniment in the delivery van and in the car makes whole portions of my day significantly less bearable. And I'll bet you a copy of Britney's "My Only Wish (This Year)" that I'm not the only one.

As Bruce Springsteen says (and says and says and says, especially on your station), "Santa Claus is comin' to town" and I bet there's some folks in programming that ain't gettin' nothin' but coal.


*It's not straight Christmas--they throw in Adam Sandler's "The Hanukkah Song" occasionally.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If I Could Be Two Places At One Time...

I left work for a few minutes this afternoon to pick up the boys at volleyball practice (it's a weird affliction--they're capable of practicing volleyball for hours on end but completely incapable of walking a couple of blocks home) and when I returned, I went to park in the same space I had been parked in before I went to get them. That was foolishly optimistic since I park in the muncipal parking lot and the good spots always fill up fast, but I wasn't really paying attention and started to turn into the spot I'd been in only to find a car the exact same model, make and color as mine already parked there.

My brain processed that as, "Wow, I'm already there." and immediately leapt to the (incorrect) conclusion that I must be driving the shop van and I started to back into the place directly behind the shop (just off the muncipal parking lot) where we park the van only to find the van already there. My helpful brain's take on this? "Wow, I'm there too."

Okay, I'm there twice, but still I'm somehow out in the middle of the parking lot without a parking space and just for a split second I lose complete track of what I'm driving and, practically, who I am.

It passed quickly, but while it lasted, damn it was weird.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Heroes

At first glance NBC's Heroes isn't the kind of show I would usually get into. Oh, I might sit in the room while the kids or Hubby watched it, but I'd have a book open on my lap and if anyone asked my opinion of something that just happened or was about to happen, my answer would most likely be, "Huh?" Actually, that's exactly what happened through the first episode and a half and then, all of a sudden, with no conscious thought on my part, I realized I was actually paying attention to the show.

Sure, it's got a science fiction bent with a Japanese guy who bends the space-time continuum (simply by thinking hard about it) and a heroin addict whose paintings (under the influence) are prophesies of a coming apocalypse and, of course, the flying politician (c'mon now, tell the truth, who hasn't wanted to see a politician take a flying leap?), but it's got just enough campiness to let you know it doesn't take itself seriously.

One of the best characters is single mom Niki Sanders whose "power" is an ass-kicking alter ego who does a lot of very dirty work protecting Niki and her son, Micah (who may or may not have powers). It remains to be seen whether Jessica, the alternate, is a good or bad guy in the grand scheme, but what mother hasn't wished for a stunt double to do the dirty work--of course in most of our cases, the dirty work is dishes, laundry and groceries while in Niki's case the dirty work is killing off loan sharks and other nasty types, but still.

The character I most identify with, though, is Hiro, the one who can bend the space-time continuum. On the one hand, he takes his responsibility very seriously but is positively gleeful at moments, bringing a boyish charm sorely lacking from most "End of the World" scenarios. It's not Hiro's charm I can identify with, though, it's his power.

You see, I, too can bend the space-time continuum. Witness: I left my house at 8:47 this morning, dropped the boys off at volleyball practice, swung back around for Baby Brother, made a pit stop for Diet Dr. Pepper (Breakfast of Champions, I'm tellin' ya'), dropped Hubby and Baby Brother at work, and still was only three minutes late for my 9:00 job. And I did all of it without Hiro's scrunchy-faced trademark bending the space-time continuum expression--a look which Matt Lauer described this morning as "like you just ate a bad oyster." Well, I didn't look like that at all--I'm sure I looked like I ate something much worse than merely a bad oyster--this was pre-Diet Dr. Pepper, after all.

Anyway, yes, there are some science fiction elements, but there's also humor, and intelligence and enough suspense to keep you guessing. And then there's the catchphrase: "Save the cheerleader; save the world." How can you not love the show that gave us those immortal words?

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Fun. (On Monday--now that is heroic!)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hardly Worth The Effort

Brilliant* observation:

You know what gets me is all those people who talk about "killing two birds with one stone" like it's a good thing. You know what you get when you kill two birds with one stone?

Two dead birds and a rock.

*Masked Mom cannot guarantee that this observation will appear brilliant to everyone. Brilliance is yet another thing that is in the eye of the beholder.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thanks for the Memories

When you have a mind like a lint trap, a mind that catches meaningless bits of fluff and saves them forever and ever and ever, hardly anything happens to you that doesn't remind you of something else. Two examples:

--This morning I read in the newspaper that there is supposed to be a meteor shower visible from New England and parts of New York State tonight. This reminded me of being twelve, the summer between sixth and seventh grade and going over to my friend Tracy Thomason's house where we laid out on those lounge-type lawn chairs for half the night, bundled in blankets (even though it was August--it was damp and chilly) counting meteors together. Then I tried to imagine staying up late enough tonight (they start at around 11:45--but they could be late and who knows what time the "peak" will actually be?) to see the meteor shower and I knew I could try but odds were there was no way I would be able to keep my eyes open. (In fact, I tried to stay awake for a meteor shower at a family campout/get-together over the summer and failed miserably.) As if Rad Daly in an apple suit weren't evidence enough--I am soooo old.

--Daughter-Only told me a long and breathless story about a kid on a school bus mooning everyone driving and walking by. She found it a little gross but she was less traumatized by the exposed flesh than she was by the concept that the kid might have gotten paid to do it (she was convinced he did get paid). Just before the conversation devolved into a debate about why she thought someone must've paid him and who the hell would pay someone to drop their pants, etc, I was reminded of a time when Little Sister was a senior and I was just out of high school. We had gone into town and were coming out of Burger King when a flasher came around the corner of the building. [Blurt Alert! The rest of this post!]

He had his fly unzipped and his erection (let's hope it was his--if it was someone else's that's a whole other level of disturbing) in his hand. Before I could even register what I was seeing, my sister said, "Okay, so where's the rest of it?"

Friday, November 17, 2006

One More Reason Wal-Mart is the Debil*

Let's get this out of the way up front--I do occasionally (two, maybe three times a year) shop at Wal-Mart and I do realize that the unfair business practices that Wal-Mart is so frequently accused of (and by all reports (except their own) guilty of) are "business as usual" across the discount retail board, at least to some extent. So yes. I believe Wal-Mart is the debil and I still shop there and I am also aware that shopping at Wal-Mart is probably not significantly worse than shopping at K-mart or Target or whatever. So I'm a hypocrite, but I'm a hypocrite with a strong distaste for Wal-Mart and everything they get away with.

Anyway, I found my hypocritical self in line at Wal-Mart a couple of months ago, chatting with a very friendly and pleasant cashier who was asking us about back-to-school purchases and when my daughter started back and so on. As she began to bag our purchases, she picked up a computer keyboard that Hubby had bought and asked us if we wanted it in a bag. It was long and probably wouldn't have fit all that well in a bag and was just as easy to carry without one so we said, "No, thanks, that's okay."

And she said, "Well, good, because they've told us to be really careful about using that size bag."

So I chuckled sympathetically and said, "Isn't it funny the things they want you to worry about?"

"Well, the bags are really expensive--they're thirty cents each." (I almost gasped out loud--they are sooooo not thirty cents each--I have worked in retail for 20+ years and even now I have access to suppliers of bags, etc. There is no way a see-through thin plastic bag is thirty cents and even if it were, you can bet your sweet ass Wal-Mart isn't going to pay that. They would "negotiate" a better price (by which I mean threaten and strongarm until they got the price they wanted).)

"Yeah, but you know they're not going to pass the savings along to you in your paycheck."

She was appalled that I had even suggested that. "No, but it will really have an effect on the shareholder's paychecks in March, though." Completely sincere. No trace of sarcasm. She's getting ulcers over the shareholder's checks in March when her check is probably barely enough to keep the lights on in her apartment--if she even has an apartment of her own and not a basement room with her parents. I wanted to cry a little.

*With thanks to Kathy Bates--whose pronouncement that every other thing is "the debil" was the only reason I made it all the way through The Waterboy.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

First Desperate Housewives and Now This

I'm pretty sure my youngest son has been abducted by aliens and replaced with an almost identical replica. First he was watching Desperate Housewives (because his girlfriend told him to) and then, he says to me:

"Mom you can return that Stephen King book to the library for me*, I'm done with it. Oh and can you get out The Iliad and The Odyssey?"

The kicker? It's not even for a class. He just wants to read them. Aliens, has to be.

*I'm the library mule for my household. Everyone likes to read but no one (except occasionally Daughter-Only) likes to go the library. Part laziness and part not wanting to be seen there--not good for the "image", ya' know?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just Wondering...

Have you ever wanted to grab hold of someone who totally doesn't have a clue and give her one? Forcibly?

Yeah, me too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How Do You Like Them Apples?

For a long time growing up, I always zigged when others zagged--it wasn't about being myself so much as insisting on being different from everyone else. When it came to celebrity crushes, I always insisted on traveling a little off the beaten path. When all my friends were cooing and giggling over Shaun Cassidy, I was more of an Andy Gibb fan (Andy had chest hair!!!! So much more sophisticated!). And when all my friends were ooohing and aaahing over Leif Garrett, Willie Aames and Scott Baio, I had it bad (real, real bad) for a guy most of them had never heard of. His name was Rad Daly and he played Buford Pusser's son Michael on the very short-lived TV series version of Walking Tall. For a couple of months, I was madly, passionately in love with him. I fantasized that my parents were going to get me him for my thirteenth birthday--what I might do with him once I had him was kind of vague, but man, did I want to make it more specific.

The TV show was cancelled and I moved on (to soap hunks--that's a post for another day) and I haven't thought about Rad Daly for a bazillion years. Then one day, I was watching some sports thing with one of the boys (tennis? soccer? not sure) and saw this:

Yup. There he was--Rad Daly--hotter than ever--you know in a dressed in a totally dorky costume hawking men's undies kinda way. I have no idea what it was about his middle-aged face (especially set off by that ever-so-attractive apple costume) that clicked with me, but I checked him out on IMDB and we have a confirmed Rad Daly sighting. Once I'd confirmed it was him in the Fruit of the Loom commercial, it hit me that it's also him in the dippy Grape-Nuts commercial where his friend is being attacked by a bear but he is obliviously chowing down a bowl of the (loud) crunchy cereal.

Wow. I'm old.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs

Read this over the weekend and it truly made me laugh so hard I cried. I laughed so hard stuff flew out my nose that I had no idea was up there. The only complaint I have is that it was published in 1997 and it has somehow escaped my attention all this time.

It is a collection of the worst songs ever recorded--between 1960 and 1990--as compiled by Dave and the readers of his syndicated column (the column he's no longer writing--oh, Dave, we miss you so much--the blog is cold comfort but I guess we'll take what we can get). My favorite part was the chapter "Songs People Get Wrong" in which Dave lists songs whose lyrics have often been misheard and misunderstood. Songs like the Beach Boys' "Help Me Rhonda," which Dave is pretty sure contains the lines "Well since she put me down/There's been owls pukin' in my bed" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," which some astute reader claims goes "The chair is not my son."

Of course, this reminded me of songs I and those closest to me have gotten wrong. Here's my top three favorites:

1. When Little Sister and I were seven and eight (or six and seven or eight and nine), we were pretty sure that line in "You're So Vain" with Carly Simon about "You're where should be all the time/And when you're not you're with/Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend" actually said "Some underworld spy or the wife of a clothespin." I was never really sure why a clothespin would have a wife, but I thought it was just in keeping with the sophisticated vibe of the song.

2. When Rob Thomas released his first single from his solo album "Lonely No More," Son-One said, "Mom does he really say 'Open up to me so I can do your girlfriends'?" No, but that would be quite ballsy of him, wouldn't it? He actually says "Open up to me LIKE you do your girlfriends." I'm pretty sure. That's what the lyrics in the liner notes claim anyway.

3. It's kind of embarrassing to admit (probably as much for them as for me) but when Coyote Ugly came out, the kids and I watched it more than once. (Yes, I know my pubescent sons had ulterior motives, but hey, there's worse motives, right?) I also played the soundtrack a lot. There's this one song on there called "The Power" by a group called Snap, who I'd never heard of before and haven't heard of since. Over and over again, in the background, the words "It's gettin, it's gettin', it's gettin' kinda hectic" are repeated. At least that's what I think they're saying. The kids, however, voted for "Skinny, skinny, skinny diarrhea."

Runners-up: Don Henley's "New York Midget (Minute)" and Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light" with its immortal lines, "Wrapped up like a douche/ another boner in the night."

Anyway, get the book. Read it. It'll make you snort, I promise.

Masked-Mom's One-Word Review: Snort-worthy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

True Love or Truly Whipped?

I'm half-reading, half-listening to something mindless on television (so mindless, in fact, that I can't even vaguely remember what it might have been and it was only 2 hours ago), when Son-Three comes into the living room.

"Mom, are you watching anything?"

I snorted, "Um, no. Why, is something on you wanted to see?"

"Well, I was going to watch that show we watched last week at this time." He's hedging but I can't figure out why.

Okay, I can't remember what I was watching two hours ago, how the hell am I supposed to remember what we were watching a week ago? I said, "And what show was that?"

" know, that show that we watched last week at this time. Do you know where the phone is?" (Cordless phones are a true marvel in so many ways--I remember when you were stuck in one place while you were on the phone for hours on end, this is way better--but they have a tendency to go missing especially in a house full of teenagers desperately seeking some semblance of a quiet, private place to talk.)

Suddenly it clicked. Desperate Housewives. Last week was the first time any of us had watched an episode and the reason we watched it last week? Son-Three has got a girlfriend and she told him to watch it. They watched it "together" over the phone last week and this week as well.

So, in case you were wondering what could possibly drive a fifteen-year-old boy to watch a chick show, it's a chick, naturally.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

In Honor of Veteran's Day, I'm Gonna Pick On Darryl Worley Again*

Actually, I don't mean to attack Darryl, who very likely had good intentions of honoring the sacrifices made by our soldiers in times of war when he recorded his latest single "I Just Came Back (From a War)." Nor am I really attacking the song itself--instead, I am concerned with the unexamined ideas behind the song. The chorus in particular is very upsetting to me:

"...I just came back from a place where they hated me
and everything I stand for
A land where our brothers are dying for others
who don't even care anymore."

I am certain that there are many American soldiers in Iraq who really do feel hated and feel that they are risking (and, frighteningly often, losing) their lives for people who don't care. I am sure, too, that the hatred our soldiers feel from Iraqis in general is very real and not imagined--the Iraqis "not caring" is a whole other matter, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Let's consider the hatred first. Let's ask ourselves why our soldiers are so hated in Iraq. Let's do something those in secure government offices in peaceful neighborhoods seem incapable of or unwilling to do. Let's put ourselves in the Iraqis' position.

How would we feel about an uninvited foreign military crashing through our borders, killing (if not indiscriminately than not quite discriminatingly enough) our friends and family members, toppling our government with no satisfactory, workable plan for replacing that government. (Listen, no one thinks Sadaam was a nice guy (for example, I wouldn't want to have a beer with him), but there is ample evidence that the quality of life in Iraq--especially in its cities--has dropped drastically since the U.S. forces arrived.)

How would we feel hearing the government behind that invading force repeatedly justify the violence and destruction with ever more transparent lies? Wouldn't hate be a mild word for what we would feel toward those soldiers--the only representatives of that government with whom we would ever be face-to-face?

And what is it that our soldiers "stand for" that Iraqis hate so much? Is it our freedom, our liberty, that they hate--as this song seems to imply and as our national leaders have said over and over again? Does that make even the remotest bit of sense?

If it makes sense to you, my apologies, but to me it sounds like empty-headed paranoia at best and a hollow excuse for reprehensible behavior at worst. Maybe the Iraqis actually hate us for something the vast majority of Americans never meant to stand for--opportunistic bullying? Intolerance in the world arena? Condescending and incompetent (not to mention violent and destructive) foreign policy?

As for the Iraqis "not caring", I just don't see any truth in that idea at all. What I see in that kind of thinking is an effort to dehumanize Iraqis, to pretend that they are somehow less fearful or desperate than we would be in their situations. It shows a lack of compassion and inability to empathize that's not only cold-hearted and dysfunctional, but outright dangerous in the world today.

So, now, I'll stumble down off the soapbox before Rummy comes and kicks me off--I hear he's gonna have some free time on his hands.

*Previous attacks on Darryl, among others, can be found here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Maybe It's Just Me

Blurt Alert! Attention James Blunt fans, if you don't want your feelings hurt, please skip this entire post.* Thanks.

Am I the only one who completely doesn't get James Blunt's appeal? Am I the only one who thinks he sounds like Carol Channing with tonsilitis or like Meatloaf as a preoperative transsexual with his/her foot wedged under something heavy? Am I the only one who finds the lyrics to "You're Beautiful"--a song of devotion to a woman he's seen once and is NEVER GOING TO SEE AGAIN--pathetic and pointless?

If I am the only one, if I am alone in my firm belief that this guy is some sort of joke being perpetrated by the music industry upon an unsuspecting public, then so be it. Taste wouldn't be special if everyone had it.

*It seems sort of a shame to "waste" the inaugural blurt alert on something so minor, but something tells me that James Blunt's fans may get their feelings hurt pretty easily. After all, they like a guy who can whine like a girl over a hot chick he saw on the subway.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Possible Side Effects...

NaBloPoMo participants may suffer from dizziness, nausea, heartburn, and panic attacks (particularly in the form of sitting bolt upright in bed at 4:16 a.m. thinking, "I forgot to post! I can't believe I forgot to post!" Only to crawl out of bed, stumble to the computer and realize that a post has indeed been made. Crisis averted--this time!). Participants may also experience sweaty palms and increased anxiety and be prone to obsessive thoughts such as "Did I post? When can I post? What the hell am I gonna post about?" Paranoia about posting is rare but has occurred in a small number of participants.

NaBloPoMo should not be combined with hormonal fluctuations of any sort and should, therefore, be avoided by pregnant or nursing women or those who may become pregnant, and those with PMS.

PMS combined with NaBloPoMo pressure is especially dangerous and may lead to bouts of uncontrollable rage. Should this occur, you should post about it because you have to post every single friggin' day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Almost Twenty Years Later & The Romance Isn't Dead

Phone rings this morning, just as I'm on my way out the door. It's so-and-so with the County Health Department wanting to let me know that the dogs that bit me while I was out on deliveries a week and a half ago finished their "confinement" yesterday and they're both fine so there's no need to worry about rabies. I hadn't actually been worried about rabies since the dogs' owner had supplied the emergency room with the dogs' vaccination records, but I told Mr. So-and-So that I appreciated the call.

When I hung up, Hubby said, "What was that?"

I said, "That was the Health Department letting me know I don't have rabies."

He said, "Well, then, we need to figure out what is wrong with you."

(A confidential PS to Rummy: I always thought my fondest wish regarding you was that you would resign, but now that that wish has been fulfilled I realize that my true fondest wish for you is that you will live long enough to suffer as much heartbreak and endure as many sleepless nights as your irresponsible and thoughtless actions have caused so many others. I realize this is statistically unlikely and pretty close to mathematically impossible--given your advanced age and the large number of lives you've ruined, but a girl can hope, right?Don't let the door hit ya' in the ass on the way out.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Didja Vote?

"Didja vote?" is how I was greeted this morning when I walked in the door at work. I hadn't yet, as a matter of fact--and there was something about the tone of Cranky Boss Lady's words that just struck me as wrong. She's one of those people for whom voting is not merely a right or even a responsibility but some kind of contest--she actually asks people, "What number were you?" And when they say, "117" (or "I have no friggin' idea nor do I give a crap 'cuz I didn't know there was gonna be a quiz") she will say in this boastful voice, "Well, I was 64." (Or whatever.)

She's one of those overenthusiastic voters who not only make speeches about the importance of voting but actively nag people around them to vote. (I was far from the last person greeted with "Didja vote?") I'm all for getting out the vote but there seems to be a fine line between encouraging voters and haranguing them. Of course, Cranky Boss Lady is often on the harangue-side of the line in this and other matters (hence the Cranky nickname), so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I guess one of the things that gets me about Cranky Boss Lady in particular is that she seems to take such deep (and competitive) pride in voting even though it is her only involvement in politics and in her community. She's not signing petitions or staging demonstrations or even answering the surveys her elected representatives send to her house. Basically she thinks she can vote once or twice a year and wash her hands of it--content in the knowledge that she's done her share.

The other thing that bugs me about CBL is that her education on political matters is built on a foundation of political ads and gut instincts--this guy looks "nicer" or more "honest" than that one; that gal (yes, she actually uses that word and no, she's not 86, only 55, so I have no idea...) has a better commercial, etc. Forgive me, but that gut instinct thing, especially, is dangerous--wasn't there a poll a few years ago saying that more people would want to have a beer with George W. than his opponent and that a stunning (and frightening) number of people actually took that into consideration at the polls?

Which brings me to what will no doubt be a spectacularly unpopular opinion on this fine Election Day--I said earlier that I'm all for getting out the vote, which is only partly true because I think the last thing we need is more voters who are chosing candidates for the sorts of reasons CBL is choosing hers.

When I called home this afternoon to ask Hubby if he wanted to go vote with me, he said, "Well, honestly, I know I should, but I don't feel I know enough about the candidates in most of the races to make a really informed choice so not this time." When I got done teasing him for shirking his civic duty and offering to give him a cheat sheet so he could vote for all the people I was voting for so I could get two votes for the price of one without having to resort to Ann Coulter's tactics, I realized he was actually making a noble and sensible decision.

The fact is that not only do not enough people vote, but way too many people vote as well. This is by no means a partisan statement--just an obvious truth.* As for the people who are eligible and educated and don't vote anyway, I have a theory about them as well (surprise, surprise).

Much is made of "voter apathy" (328,000 hits on Google), but I think we might not all be as apathetic as we're made out to be. I think a lot of people care but are at a loss--look at the candidates, look at the lack of quality debate, look at the ads that seem to talk only about how unqualified the other candidate is rather than talk about how qualified the touted candidate is--I think what we feel is "voter despair."

I know that part of the reason I didn't vote this morning before I went to work was I thought, "What the hell's the point?" (That and I hit the snooze alarm way too many times.) I know that a lot of my friends and family who vote do so with a sort of "I did it, but I'm not sure it really means anything" feeling. Imagine how many more people are thinking it doesn't mean anything and then not showing up. But that's not the same as not caring--that's something else altogether. It's knowing the system is broken and feeling powerless to do anything about it.

Once, a couple of years ago, I saw a debate on CNN between a group of pundits and the chairperson of some state's lottery commission. They were talking about how irresponsible it was of the state to sponsor something that causes so much financial and emotional hardship for so many.

The chairperson spoke up about the importance of differentiating between chronic gambling addicts and your average citizen who just buys a couple of tickets a week--for that sort of person, she said, lottery tickets provided entertainment and a sense of hope. One of the pundits retorted: "Yes, but look at the odds--it's false hope."

The chairperson said, "Well, sometimes false hope is better than no hope at all." That struck me as both callous and profound.

So I voted. And I voted because I guess false power is better than no power at all.

*If you made even a cursory attempt to educate yourself on the issues, and you still want to vote Republican, have at it, baby. I personally don't understand it, but that's the way things work in our great land.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: PostSecret

I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume most of you have seen PostSecret--the site where people send in their secrets on 4" x 6" cards, which may or may not get posted to the site and/or included in a book (there have been two books so far and a third is on its way). For those who haven't, check it out. It's disturbing and fascinating and awe-inspiring and sometimes you can't look away from it even if you want nothing more than to not look at it at all.

The secrets are updated on Sundays--at least in theory, though it's quite often updated by Saturday evening, when I log on to begin obsessively checking to see the new secrets. Every week, I scroll down the entire page and by the time I get to the bottom, I think, "What the hell do I do this for?" and I make a half-hearted pledge to not be sitting there the following Saturday evening, obsessively refreshing. I never promise not to check back, but you know, there's no reason it can't wait 'til Monday or whatever--the secrets are up all week.

What's even more fascinating to me than the individual secrets (which themselves range from the fascinating to the mundane), is the impulse so many people have to make a card and send it in. Is it that confession is good for the soul? Is it that there are that many people hoping for their fifteen minutes (or week) of anonymous fame?

Are there people who send in secrets not sincerely, but ironically, as a prank? There's no doubt in my mind, but the interesting thing is that these people are revealing something just as intimate about themselves as the people who send in sincere secrets--they're revealing their cynicism, their mean-spiritedness, their (perhaps misguided) faith in their own superiority, their willingness to put in a relatively large effort for what I can only imagine is minimal reward. In their insincerity, they are just as revealing as others are in their sincerity.

The fact that there's absolutely no way to tell if a person is sincerely revealing a deep (often, though not always, dark) secret about himself or just goofing on us all is part of the bargain you make in scrolling through all those secrets. I like to think most of the postcards we see--and the e-mails in response to them--are sincerely meant and that there is some comfort to be found in finding you're less alone in your little secrets than you might've imagined. And until the site collapses under the weight of its own fame, or I just get bored of it, you know where to find me Saturday evenings between 9 and midnight. (Jeez, I need to get a life.)

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Fascinating.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

How Much "I" is "TMI"?

When I'm not toiling away in BlogLand, I'm at my Day Job in the retail flower business. Like a lot of people employed in small businesses (teeny, tiny might be more accurate), I cover more than one base. Part of what I do is bookkeeping, part flower arranging, part running interference between Cranky Boss Lady and the rest of the world, and part fielding an enormous amount of incredibly personal information from complete strangers and almost acquaintances alike.

For most people, flowers are a major event sort of purchase--birth, death, marriage, new job--and for whatever reason, people have a tendency to chatter on about whatever major event provoked them to purchase flowers. (Pointless aside: one of my favorite customer babble moments can be found here.) I've heard about pancreatitis and apendectomies and other more "intimate" medical problems. I know about people who have died at home alone and not been found for weeks and about a man who died the way Elvis did--on the toilet--but ended up wedged between the potty and the wall so that his wife had to call the plumber to remove the toilet so the coroner could remove the body. I know way too many husbands/boyfriends and a few wives who think it's easier to make amends with a couple of roses than to just act like a civilized (and loyal and faithful) human being in the first place.

Mostly, I think of these glimpses (deep) into other people's lives as a privilege--an opportunity to study human nature, to take notes, to gather material. Occasionally, though, I find myself struggling to maintain professional composure while someone rambles on about something I find disturbing, offensive or just plain gross.

The only thing worse than being on the receiving end of TMI is unknowingly dishing it out. I imagine each of our TMI indicators is modulated to a different sensitivity--something that makes you blush may barely register with me.

So in the interest of protecting the faint-hearted or squeamish among you (those few faint-hearted or squemish who haven't already run screaming from their monitors), Masked Mom will be utilizing the "Blurt Alert" in future posts--a warning that will appear before potentially offensive, distressing or just plain icky information, letting the sensitive types know how many paragraphs to skip ahead.

So read at your own risk--no crying, no whining and don't say I didn't warn you. I have a feeling a post a day is going to require a whole lot of "I."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Cop-Out? (Already?!)

I came, I saw, I posted (sort of).

I'll try harder tomorrow.

(Even though the rules don't mention a minimum word count, I do feel a certain pressure to produce more than just a line or two. It kind of reminds me of those essay questions on tests in high school, where you felt you had to fill a certain amount of space (or worse, the teacher had actually printed ten or fifteen lines you felt compelled to fill). In my humanities class senior year, this resulted in one of the best opening lines ever--so good the teacher read it out loud (laughing hysterically the entire time) to the class & I have quoted it for years as an example of blatantly obvious bullshit*. The question was something like "Explain the basis of classical Greek architecture." Allen H's reply began: "The basis of the basis is based on the basis that...")

*The reasons I might need to have an example of blatant bullshit on hand are numerous and varied and something we can use to fill space some other time.

Friday, November 03, 2006

At Long Last

So, I'm gonna talk about boobs, now. Anyone who might be offended or uncomfortable with the topic is hereby excused. Feel free to return tomorrow when we may or may not have a more wholesome topic.

I wasn't one of those girls who anxiously awaited my first "real" bra. I was in no hurry to grow up, or for that matter out, and in a brilliant stroke of biological irony, I was a C-cup by eighth grade. As an early bloomer--one who kept right on blooming so that at this point, I have to buy the bras that come in boxes, not the pretty lacy ones that hang on dainty hangers--I never really understood what the fuss was about.

With the exception of the time I spent nursing my four children (which, granted, was a considerable amount of time), I've never really understood what my boobs were for--what purpose they possibly served. Sure, they've earned Hubby's undying affection and puerile admiration, but, I somehow felt that I was failing to use them to their full potential.

I understood that there were other women out there putting theirs to much better use than I was putting mine, but I was at a loss. Help finally came from those friendly folks at Hasbro in the instructions for their game "Upwords:"

And I tried, I really did, but those damned tiles slipped off every single time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Thing No One Should Ever Have To Hear Or Say But Which Is So Much Fun To Say I've Repeated It To Everyone I Know & A Few People I Don't

"Your uvula is stuck to your tonsil!"

This was said upon inspecting Daughter-Only's throat last week, three days after the provisional strep diagnosis, that, as it turned out, was incorrect. Three days into treatment, she wasn't showing any real improvement (and in some ways--in the uvula stuck to the tonsil, adhered there by mucus and/or pus way, for example--she was worse) so I called the doctor's office to double check on the strep culture they'd taken Monday morning. Secretary says, "Nurse says it came back negative, so there's nothing to worry about and you're all set. Thanks for calling!" To which I said, "No, um, wait, she's not any better so the fact that it's not strep really makes me concerned about what it might be. Can I set up an appointment?" all the while thinking, "No, um, having your uvula stuck to your tonsil is not my idea of 'all set.'"

During the initial uvula conversation, Daughter-Only had what can only be adequately described as a spaz attack. "Mom! Why did you tell me that? It's going to drive me crazy now." Despite the fact that she wasn't suffering any physical discomfort from her uvula being stuck to her tonsil, the mere thought of something being someplace it isn't technically supposed to be was making her extremely emotionally uncomfortable. She tried gargling to get it to pop loose and drinking lots of water and jumping up and down the way you would to dislodge water stuck in your ear. I wasn't actually in the same room while she did all this, which kind of makes me sad, because I'm pretty sure if I'd had a video camera rolling we'd have been $10,000 richer.

Finally, she resorted to going to the bathroom and unhooking her uvula herself with her finger. After which it immediately latched on to the opposite tonsil sending her into yet another spaz attack.

I'm happy to report that, although we never did receive a definitive diagnosis, Daughter-Only and her uvula have made a full recovery. The downside of that is that I've lost my excuse to say the word "uvula," which really is one of my favorite words--easily in the Top Ten. I know I'm a word geek, but aren't some words just way more fun than others?

PS--Anyone seen Monster House? I haven't, but this moment in the trailer makes me want to pretty bad: Jenny: [waves flashlight at chandelier] Look! That must be its uvula! Chowder: Oh. So its a GIRL house Jenny: What?

PPS--Second day in on the NaBloPoMo thing and I've already gratuitously used the word "uvula" nine times. I'm not sure that's a good sign.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Perfect Post for October: A Higher Level of Breast Cancer Awareness

I've had mixed feelings about Breast Cancer Awareness Month for years now--partly because it doesn't seem like enough, but still somehow seems like too much (Where is colon cancer awareness month? Ovarian? Lung? Are these not pretty-pink enough?) and partly because it, like so much else in our fair land, seems to have been hijacked by corporations for their own greedy interests. But, mostly, I'm uncomfortable with it because I don't like that corporations and individuals can pat themselves on the back for being "aware" once a year, while there are so many people living right in the middle of the cancer day in and day out the whole rest of the time.

Minerva is one of those people. I "met" her last October, when she visited my blog (my last year's post about Breast Cancer Awareness is what brought her here) and have been following her battle with cancer ever since. She has been so open and generous as she has made her way through treatment and finally, there's this.

So, for being more aware of breast cancer than you ever meant to be, and for having the generosity and strength to share your journey with the rest of us, here's my button:

The Original Perfect Post Awards

And, Minerva, it's all yours!

Browse other winners at Suburban Turmoil and Petroville, homes of the creators of these awards.