Friday, October 31, 2008

There Oughta Be A Surgeon General's Warning

So there's this site that takes two of my favorite things--blogs and quotations--and smushes them together in a wildly addictive fashion. It's called Blogtations and this week, there's a quote from my blog. But that's not why I'm telling you about Blogtations--I'm not so vain and shallow and approval-seeking as to need to call attention to myself in that fashion (Ha! Like I'd even HAVE a blog if I weren't vain, shallow and approval-seeking).

No, I'm telling you about Blogtations because Blogtations is having a 500th quote party and simply by telling you about Blogtations and showing you my favorite quote from the site, I could win a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

To review: Not vain, shallow and approval-seeking. But greedy, definitely greedy. (Greedy, yes, but generous enough to point out that anyone can play the 500th quote party game. The rules are

So Blogtations. Quotes from blogs. It's pages and pages (almost 500, hence upcoming 500th quote party) of delicious nuggets of brilliance and wisdom and hilarity and I compulsively clicked through the alphabetized categories when I should be doing something more constructive. Picking a favorite is like trying to pick a favorite finger--if you had almost 500 fingers and they all lived on the Internet, independent of you.

After much agonizing deliberation, I settled on this

"The heart makes its own choices, we simply decide whether or not to follow through with them..." from the blog
Dragonfly Dreaming (whose post today is about sex addiction so click with caution).

...because it seemed to apply to so many things--including selecting a favorite from almost 500 quotations.

Anyway, whether you play the game or not, you definitely should check out the site. It's a bunch of great stuff from blogs distilled into one compulsively clickable format.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Politics With Fifth Graders

When it comes to politics, I'm pretty much a preach to the choir kind of girl--never unleashing the full fury of my opinions on anyone I'm not reasonably sure agrees with me (or at least is bound, by law or genetics, to tolerate me). It may seem a little chicken-shit, but I've learned the hard way that it preserves important business and personal relationships. Odds are you're not going to change anyone's mind so the frustration level is just not worth it.

The other morning, though, I was lured into a discussion of politics by the unlikeliest of fellow conversationalists: two fifth graders. On Tuesdays, I help a friend cover a child care gap by sitting with two eleven-year-olds (one hers and one her sister's) and two eight-year-olds (one hers, one her sister's) for twenty minutes or so until their bus comes. Somehow during the usual morning stuff, Eleven-Year-Old Boy was talking about some celebrity he didn't like and I said, "Yeah, he's not on my list of favorite people."

Eleven-Year-Old Boy says, "Yeah, there's a lot of people not on my list of favorite the president for example."

Then me: "Yeah, he's definitely not on my list of favorite people..."

We're interrupted by Eleven-Year-Old Girl who says, "You know there's going to be an election soon so we won't have to put up with President Bush much longer." Then, warming to the topic, speaking in that breathless way unique to adolescent (and slightly pre-adolescent) girls. "I guess I don't really care who gets elected except my grandma says if Barack Obama gets elected white people are doomed."

Wow. Just wow. What the hell am I supposed to say to that?

While I'm formulating my reponse--looking for something non-committal that will still somehow convey that I don't agree at all without saying something that might offend her family members should it get back to them (which means not using the words "paranoid bigot" which were actually the first thing to pop into my head)--Eleven-Year-Old Boy slings his backpack over his shoulder, looks me dead in the eye and says with a slightly raised eyebrow, "Hillary Clinton has a penis."

I sputter, "Um...uh...good to know." (I mean what the hell?!)

Eleven-Year-Old Girl, suddenly the voice of wisdom, says, "We really didn't need to hear that."

Eleven-Year-Old Boy says, "Well it's true! I heard it on Family Guy. If you pay really close attention you'll hear it on one of the episodes."

So, from the show featuring a talking baby with a subtle yet inexplicable British accent and an IQ higher than everyone in his family combined but who is still somehow not potty trained and whose companion is a talking dog who's almost as smart as the baby yet still hangs out with this whacked-out family, Eleven-Year-Old Boy has gleaned the apparently inarguable information that Hillary Clinton has a penis.

Before we could get into a discussion about whether or not Hillary actually does have a penis, and in what way that might affect her ability to serve as president (would men be doomed? women? Or, because she's a woman with a penis, neither? Or maybe both?), the bus came.

What really scares me is not eleven-year-olds thinking these things, but the adults--in their lives and elsewhere--who are thinking the same way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(Dis)Comfort Food

Like many bloggers, I have a meter attached to my blog that measures hits, lets me know where people are logging on from, and, most entertainingly, allows me to see what search may have led them to my blog. Unlike many bloggers, the searches around here are pretty pedestrian, with "neglected husband" and "uvula stuck to tonsil" vying for first position and "Carole Radziwill" coming in a solid third. The Top Ten is rounded out by seemingly random things like "Jill Taylor, meteorologist" and "long-lost boyfriend."

The other day, though, I noticed a hit from Burlington, Ontario, where someone had apparently searched for "hamster instant mashed potatoes."

Let me say that again: hamster instant mashed potatoes*.

WTF** doesn't even begin to cover it.

*You may wonder, as I did, what I had ever written that would lead someone looking for "hamster instant mashed potatoes" to my blog. The answer is I mentioned hamsters in one post and then instant mashed potatoes in two entirely separate posts.

**Daughter-Only's catchphrase of the week: "WTF and a half?!" comes a little closer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I have a close friend who, like many of us, is juggling a demanding job, husband, children (two teenage daughters and a five-year-old son), plus all the push and pull of her extended family. Unlike me at least, she always seems fairly together:
nicely dressed, appropriately accessorized. Even though she's being yanked in a dozen different directions by the demands of her life and she's always hurrying from one thing to another, she projects an air of confidence and professionalism that I'm sure serves her well in all the different roles of her life.

This, however, is not the story of how she "does it all" in heels and the perfect shade of lipstick. This is the story of what happens when the facade cracks. She's always very together--right up until she's not. I've known her for fourteen years and can count those times on one hand. One of the times she "fell apart" involved sucking her engagement ring into one of those industrial vacuums at a car wash. There followed frantic phone calls and several hours of general hysteria before the ring was retrieved. This is the story of a different time.

As part of her job, she frequently travels within the region to give presentations to various groups. Recently, she was asked to drive to a city about an hour and a half from home to give a forty-five minute presentation on a Saturday. After the presentation, she would be done for the day so she brought along her husband and son, thinking they could have lunch together and maybe see a movie--make a day of it. And, as a bonus, she could drive the company car and not have to pay for gas.

She dropped husband and son off at a nearby mall and went to the hotel where she would be giving her presentation. She told them she would meet them back at the same entrance in an hour or so.

The presentation went smoothly and as she was gathering her things she realized she should probably make a stop in the ladies room before she left for the mall. While in the restroom, she somehow managed to drop the car key in the toilet. This is the key to the company car, mind you.

She's sitting there, contemplating her options. She realizes almost immediately that the only option is reaching in for it. After all, it's the key to the company car, she's stranded an hour and a half from home, not to mention her husband and son stuck at the mall waiting for her, and her cell phone is locked inside the company car because she never brings it in during presentations. So even though it's icky*, she takes a deep breath, stands up and...the toilet is an automatic flusher and the key is gone.

I imagine there was a moment of staring in awe and wonder at the toilet before she went to find the contact woman from the hotel who had helped her with the presentation earlier. While they were waiting for maintenance to see if there was any way to get the key back, it suddenly occurred to my friend that her husband and son were still at the mall, probably on their way to the entrance to meet her so she borrows the hotel lady's phone and calls her husband. She says, "The hotel shuttle is going to pick you guys up."

He says, "Why? What's wrong?"

She says, "Nothing. But the car is locked and the key"

"Unattainable? What do you mean unattainable?"

"Uh, it's just, um, unattainable. I'll explain later..."

Give her credit--she did explain later--not only to her husband but to everyone at work, where they all laughed hysterically. And then she told me, so I could laugh hysterically and now I've told you. Laughing hysterically is strictly optional, but she really went to a lot of trouble so it might be nice if you could at least titter politely.

*Doesn't "even though it's icky" strike you as the awesomest motto for parenthood EVER?

A PS to Brunette Best Friend from high school--I know, I know, you have a way better locking something in the car story. But it still (24 YEARS later!) makes me wince to talk about that...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Signs of the Apocalypse

Forget, for a moment, the global economic crisis.

Forget wars and famine and disease.

Forget the upcoming elections which feel like a matter of life and death.

Forget, even, that the Republican party has so little regard for the American public that it nominated someone wholly unqualified (and as we get to know her better, it would seem completely unsuited) as its vice presidential candidate.

John Mellencamp and Stephen King are collaborating on a
musical together.

If it gets any scarier than that, I don't want to know about it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Do You Really, Really Want To Haunt Me?

[We now return you to your regularly scheduled program of ghost stories. The last one was more story than ghost. As you will see, the jury's still out on this one:]

Unlike Daughter-Only, Son-Two has always approached conversations about potential ghostly goings-on with a sort of open-minded skepticism. He believes in "hauntings" generally while viewing reports of specific incidents through a cautious--even dubious--lens. Daughter-Only's breathless exaggerations of her experiences instigated much eye-rolling on Son-Two's part. Even Son-One's much more reserved accounting of flashing lights in the dark hallway was greeted with a shake of the head and Son-Two's standard pronouncement: "Bullshit."

Son-Two also rejects any woo-woo explanations--those involving "lost souls" stuck between the Here and the There, for example--in favor of the likelihood that "ghostly" activity is something perfectly logical and natural that just can't yet be explained by science. (In much the same way that we once experienced the effects of germs without being able to isolate and identify them, Son-Two thinks that these unexplainable activities will one day be attributed to something we can't yet measure or define.)

His scientific approach served him well on the night in question. Someone less scientific might have run screaming from the room.

A little after 11 one night toward the end of summer, Hubby and I were reading in bed when Son-Two knocked on the door. He looked around our room and shook his head.

"Okay. This is really weird. I've been hearing this weird noise and I thought maybe your fan was on and the noise was just carrying into my room in some weird way. But the fan's not on."

He went on to explain that he had been lying in bed in the dark for the last ten minutes listening to what sounded like breathing about two feet from his head. It was like breathing, but he could only hear the puff of the exhale--not panting, just a slow rhythmic "huh." For ten minutes. Next to his head.

At first he thought it was his own fan. Maybe the motor had gone and the blade wasn't turning and the noise he could hear was the straining of the blade...or something. So he checked--his fan was unplugged. Got back in bed--more breathing.

It was too steady and rhythmic to be the wind. So then he thought of the fan in the bathroom. But that wasn't on. And, finally, the fan in our room--also not on.

Hubby--possibly the only person more skeptically open-minded in our house than Son-Two--jumped up to investigate. After a few minutes of dead (ha ha) silence in Son-Two's room, Hubby shrugged and offered this (decidedly unscientific) hypothesis: "The only thing I can think of is that there was some kind of animal out on the porch roof. Maybe it smelled Son-Two and was just curious."

If curious possums panting from the porch roof outside Son-Two's window is the best debunking we can do, I'm thinking we might have to roll out the "h-word" after all.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Intermission II: More Politics, This Time Without The Threat of Poop, Pelican or Otherwise*

During a conversation last weekend with Son-Two (who called from college to discuss politics, of all things), he said he thought Palin was going to "get toasted" in Thursday night's debate.

In response, I said, "Yeah, she's Political Barbie."

Hubby sitting nearby deadpanned, "After Thursday's debate, it's going to be more like Political Barbecue."

*The promised absence of poop in no way implies the absence of crap which is an entirely different thing and seemingly unavoidable in politics.

**Before you cry sexism please note that I am not calling her "Barbie" simply because she's a woman. I am calling her a Barbie because she seems to me to have been chosen for her spunky, perky cute-tough persona rather than anything of any substance whatsoever. I don't believe for one second that women should be judged on a higher standard than men, but neither should we get a pass simply because of our gender. With something as vital as the presidency it's especially important to be sure that no one is so dazzled by the gender of a candidate that they forget to ask the questions that really matter--and actually listen to the answers not be impressed by the kind of one-liners^ Palin dished out at the Republican convention. Stumbling down off the soapbox now...

^One-liners not unlike those that a '90's edition of Barbie said when you pulled a string on her back. The most famous one was something like "Math is hard." or something like that and lots of people got mad then because that was enforcing a stereotype that girls aren't good at math. I didn't really think it was enforcing anything other than that Barbie thought math was hard which only makes sense since she's a friggin' doll, for cryin' out loud.