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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Big Brother is Watching. Get Over It.

A lot of people seem to be all up in arms about privacy and how we don’t have it anymore. It seems like almost every day, I’m alerted to the fact that Facebook is stealing my  info/identity/photos/soul and using them for evil and profit.

I don’t care much. I know, I know, I am just like my son, Jack, who blogged recently that he’s not bothered by the revelation that he is being tracked by his own iPhone. He posted a map of all the places he’s been in the past year, carefully pinned by Apple, and he said he doesn’t mind that his privacy is being stormed by a corporate giant, or that everyone now knows he got lost looking for the oral surgeon’s office last winter and, according to the map, drove like a drunken fly all over south Florida. He was taken to task by an online commenter who was extremely upset that Jack was not more upset about Big Brother. He called my son a liberal Nazi. (I’m not even sure what that means, but I don’t think he meant those two things cancel each other out.)

I love when people get mad about other people not getting mad enough. If I’m speeding up my own death because of worry and anger, it’s not fair that you aren’t, too!

What’s to be upset about? If Apple wants to track me back and forth to the grocery store and Panera, have at it, media giant. And don’t tell me there’s a larger issue here, one of privacy and freedom and individual rights. I know that. Don’t think I don’t know that.

People who freak out about their email addresses being posted on Facebook remind me of this guy who used to show up at public meetings in the ‘80s in Ohio. He was a budding conspiracy theorist who was forever getting up at public forums and yelling that the government was taking over our lives. During one hearing he claimed that enhanced 911 instant address notification was just a way for the “government to get our phone numbers.”

I think it was a county commissioner who said, “Uh, sir, the government already has your phone number. Shoot, I even have your phone number.”

I continue to be fascinated by how much The Man knows about me and that he even cares. I’m slightly flattered when an ad shows up on my Facebook page for something that I was just thinking of buying. Creepy, yes. But also useful.

And entertaining. Sometimes when I’m looking for a diversion between Facebook posts (don’t want people to think I have nothing better to do than update my status every 15 minutes) I look at the Google Analytics for this blog. Did you know that when you type in keywords into a search engine, it’s reported to the person who maintains the site where you eventually end up.

Because of The Man and non-governmental privacy invasion, I know that people have gotten to my blog using the following keywords:

  • bachelors beans barney and beany
  • can i bring a craft show tent to the infield at the kentucky derby
  • can you change it from “so and so just poked you” to something you wanna say?
  • cars disney snot rod christmas
  • chinese verson song i can still remember lyric
  • do starletts wear pantyhose anymore
  • does everyone have hair growing from corner of eye
  • does lexington legends games sell beer
  • how messy are normal peoples homes
  • leave it to beaver & outdoor grilling
  • le leche league militant bitches
  • mall easter bunny overheat
  • mammogram run car 10 humor list
  • man eat
  • movies putting on whalebone girtles
  • my husband likes my square dance dress
  • old ugly toenail picture
  • once you mentally get over a fear of flying, what is next
  • pictures of people with lots of toes
  • skype skype me grandma
  • what if you really have something to cry about?
  • what i’m wearing underneath my jeans is none of your business, mister
  • what wearing pantyhose means
  • what would be a reason for approaching a sharp curve slowly
  • where is michael caine that used to play on then came bronson
  • where is needle placed when nose is numbed to remove a wart
  • who block me

I actually have blogged about all these topics in one way or another, so they rightly ended up on my site. (Except for cars disney snot rod christmas. I have no idea where that came from.) Knowing what people searched for in the privacy of their own homes or offices, I feel like I’m eavesdropping on strangers.

I even the score by using my real name in my blog and not giving nicknames or false identities to my family. If you want to look up my phone number and find out how many times I went to Panera last month, knock yourself out. Call me if you want to. But don’t call me a liberal Nazi.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ladies, Start Your Engines

Years ago, in my past life as a SWF newspaper reporter, I was a racing fan. It doesn’t seem possible now, because I’d rather sit through a Head On commercial than to watch a single droning second of a car race. I guess it just goes to show you that people can change.

Racing dropped into my lap, much like hockey did years later, when we moved to New Jersey, right across the street from hockey star Joel Otto, and instantly became Flyers fans. Watching Ben and Kasey’s daddy beat the living crap out of guys on the ice until blood splattered up against the Plexiglass was the thing to do, so, yeah, we were hockey fans.

I became a racing fan when, as a reporter in Coshocton, Ohio, I was offered free tickets to Mid-Ohio race track by the sports editor. He handed me a press pass and said I could eat for free, drink all the free beer I wanted, and get into the winner’s circle, as long as I gave him a photo to run on Monday.

So, yeah, I was a racing fan.

And - bonus - the first time I went to Mid-Ohio, Paul Newman was racing. I snapped some photos of him. Also took some photos of Joanne Woodward, who was walking two little fluffy dogs outside a trailer.

I became a semi-regular there, along with my friends Helen and Steve. Helen, an ad rep who I worked with, was an actual racing fan, in that she knew some of the driver’s names who weren’t Paul Newman, and she could recognize their cars. Steve was Helen’s friend who, as far as I know, was independently wealthy and spent his days having lunch with Helen and me, and going to movies. Steve could always be counted on to come along to anything that anyone was doing. Anywhere.

Let me take a minute here and describe what it was like being a young, single working woman living in a town in rural southern Ohio. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Coshocton, a town known mainly for a canal that had been turned into an historical village. You could get a dulcimer repaired easier than you could get a martini. I spent a lot of my free time at the library. Thanks to my employer, I didn’t have a lot of hours in the day where I wasn’t working. The paper I worked for didn’t pay overtime, but gave us comp time when we covered meetings at night, but there never seemed to be a good day to take some time off. There was always something going on down at the canal that had to be covered, or the vo-tech kids were up to something newsworthy, plus the county fair was, at the most, 11 months away. When I left the paper, I think I had 620 hours of comp time built up.  So, heck yeah, I was a racing fan.

The actual races are kind of a blur. Other than following Paul Newman around, I don’t remember much. There was a lot of food in the press tent and some of it wasn't covered in flies. And there was keg after keg of beer. I think there were some cars, too. I always made sure I snapped a couple of pictures for the sports editor, so I could keep my sweet deal going.

As soon as I left Coshocton, I stopped going to races. Couldn’t even remember what kind of car Paul Newman drove (although I think it might have been a Datsun, weirdly . . . Can that be right?) Watching car races just wouldn’t be the same without the free food, beer, and movie stars in the middle of rural Ohio.
Sunday, May 15, 2011

Last Day of School, I Salute You

My daughter’s last day of school was this past week. Woop-de-freaking-do and I mean that in all sincerity. I’m not being sarcastic. I could not be happier. I just don’t use exclamation points much.

If you’re younger than me (and you know you probably are) and you have young children in school or you’re still popping them out, I know that you have your doubts that you’ll ever find yourself at your youngest child’s last day of school forever.

Well, trust me, you will. I hate to be one of those Just wait parents, but I’m telling you, Just wait. You’re gonna love it. I didn’t think I would ever be done helping with vocabulary word searches, covering books, signing permission slips, and having an arrhythmia when seeing School on the caller ID.

Not only will it happen, you won’t be as upset as you think. Is this the first time you’ve heard Empty Nest portrayed in such a glowing, rosy light? That’s because the other moms didn’t want you to know how cool it was. But I’m here to spill the beans. It rocks.

By the time you get to this point, you’ll have grown accustomed to closing out phases. The last bottle, the last diaper, the last bike training wheels, the switch from “Mommy” to “Mom” to “Hey, yo,” it’s all practice for the last day of school, when you can close out not only a chapter but a whole set of encyclopedias.

There was a time when the last day of school just for the year was worthy of a party. Our Last Day of School parties were fun and fabulous. We invited all the kids’ friends and all the neighbors and we let them run half naked through the sprinkler, use up all the sidewalk chalk and bubbles, eat all the candy they wanted, and spill chocolate milk all over their clothes. One year it rained and the kids all played in the front ditch, which had filled with filthy muddy water. It was a celebration of all things not-school. Once or twice we invited the kids’ teachers, and that’s when I learned that the last day of school is even more fun for teachers. They didn’t play in the mud, but some of them celebrated right into a designated driver for a ride home.

As a mom, I loved the last day of school, because I loved having my kids home with me. They were the funniest, most entertaining people I knew and when school was out, I got to spend the whole day with them for a couple months. Plus there were tons of things I didn’t have to do, and very little that I did have to do.

So right now, I’m enjoying this last last day of school feeling and celebrating that I will never again have to:

  • Wait impatiently for the school board to release the school calendar, which they dangle in front of you like methadone to an addict. Then transfer all the half-days, late start days, early dismissal days, and days off onto my calendar, including all the tentative make-up days for weather, holidays for religions that haven’t been invented yet, and block scheduling days when selected grades are feathered in and out according to a schedule that only Einstein and John Nash can understand.
  • Run around town like an escaped mental patient looking for materials to build the foreign language project. My kids always chose the ‘build a model’ project over any of the written or multi-media choices, because they knew I would make it my Christmas break mission to find the materials perfect for building a scale-model of Fuensaldana - complete with moat, horses and drawbridge - lightweight enough to get it into the school in one piece.
  • Check Edline, the online grade posting designed to keep parents in the loop. In actuality, Edline just makes parents wish they had remained childless. Many of my kids’ teachers didn’t report grades until it was too late to do anything about them; the ones who did keep up with their grades made mistakes or didn’t quite get the concept of grade reporting.  (One teacher entered all the future grades for the grading period and gave everyone zeros, explaining that she would give the points that they earned as the assignments came up. Starting out the year with an F- is enough to give a parent a small stroke.) Checking Edline never made you happy with your children; it only made you worry and want to ground them or trade them in for more studious kids.
  • Buy cheesecakes, cookie dough, frozen pizzas, $1 candy bars, magazine subscriptions, coupon booklets, Christmas ornaments and other crap I don’t have room for. I was always happy to buy school fundraiser stuff, but I’ll be happier to not buy school fundraiser stuff.

I know this makes me sound like I didn’t like being the mom of school-age kids. I did, really. There were good parts - more than the bad parts even - that I will miss terribly.

But the last last day of school is another reason for a party and I’ve got a ditch that’s filling with rain, so life goes on.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Uh-Buh-Bye

I have one more day of high school until I’m done forever. That is to say, my child has one more day of high school, but I’m more excited about this than all of the seniors put together. I would do the Last Day of School Dance of Joy but I have a bad hip.

I’d like to say that it’s bittersweet and I’ll miss it, but the fact is, if I never again have to be in the high school parking lot at arrival or dismissal time, I’ll be a better person. Being in that parking lot has actually screwed up my relationship with Jesus, because of the mean thoughts I formulate about teenagers who won’t move their Size 0 asses out of the way of my car. The longer they take to move out of my way, the more horrible my thoughts of their morals, their futures and their hair.

“Don’t beep, Mom.”

“I’m gonna beep. I swear to god, I’m gonna beep.”

“Mom. Don’t beep. Mom.”

“I’m gonna beep. I’m gonna beep . . .”

I’m too old for this. In addition to the bad hip, my patience levels are in the near-empty red zone. I’ve actually worked through the scenario where I hurt one of them and - I gotta tell you - the consequences aren’t that bad. I understand there are some accomplished authors teaching creative writing in women’s prisons now. It could be my big break.

So yesterday, there was a big front-page story in our paper about these drug busts at four local high schools, including ours. Dozens of kids, ranging from 15 to 18, were arrested on drug charges and how did they catch them? Undercover cops posing as high school students the entire school year.

A police academy graduate whose job it was to go to high school and hang out with the stoners for an entire year: This concept fascinates me to no end. I thought about almost nothing else yesterday. (I rough-scripted and cast an AMC drama about it and it’s Emmy-worthy, trust me, especially if I can get James Franco and Lindsay Lohan on board.) And then in today’s paper was a follow-up story where one of the narcs talks about it. What a great morning I had, reading this.

She said the hardest part was taking the FCAT test. “It was long, a really long test,” she said. Also, the cafeteria food sucks, she got a dress code violation for wearing a skirt that was too short, and she had to do homework. In between buying drugs and turning down offers to go to the prom, she had to go to classes every day, write English papers, and sit through the pep assemblies. I bet there’s a diorama in her locker right now.

When she goes to the police academy reunion picnic, and everyone’s telling war stories of being shot at, chasing down pimps, and working nights, she can tell about when her pencil broke during the language essay portion of the FCAT.

I think she and the other cop-fake-students deserve a medal. It’s commendable that as adults, they could go to high school every day and not slap everyone silly, especially the ones in the parking lot.
Monday, May 9, 2011

This Just In: Brooks Brothers' Mom Sends Them to Their Room to Change Clothes

Just when I thought I had run out of things to make fun of, my husband got a Brooks Brothers catalog.

He buys shirts and suits sometimes from Brooks Brothers. I’ve been in the store once, but couldn’t get past the front display: mannequin-torsos wearing pink and lavender suits. This store is not for me or anyone in my life, currently or in the future, I thought.

Last week, my husband ordered shirts from Brooks Brothers and the catalog came in the box.

What the hell, Brooks Brothers? I know you’re the spokesmodel for preppy (which is now called ivy style, just in case you were wondering), but your models are high school and college age; you can’t possibly think that anyone under 60 would show up in public wearing this: 


And I’m talking about the boy. The women’s clothes in the Brooks Brothers catalog are perfectly fine. Apparently, women are encouraged to stay classy but still keep up with the times. Guys, I’m sorry to report that you have to wear Truman Capote’s bow ties and jackets that are two sizes too small for you.


What’s more preppy than a popped collar? A popped collar that’s stamped with the year your favorite clothing company started doing business.



I had a skirt made out of this patchwork material. In 1966. When I was 8. And a girl. Oh, and hey, that’s my bike.


Nothing says My dad has oodles of disposable income better than a jaunty sweater ($145), a hastily tied bow tie ($65, but it’s reversible!), and a pair of “playful hula girl embroidered shorts” ($89.50). And a mint condition boat.



I think the brother might just get into the country club in this disguise. Why else would he be wearing it?

This catalog got me to thinking: Has Brooks Brothers always been this way? So I went looking for old Brooks Brothers catalog shots.

I found this one from 1979:

The multi-colored paneled pants might be a tad hum-drum, but on the shirt, you can sport the Brooks Brothers’ logo, a sheep being hoisted up by a giant ribbon.

And then I found these two gems:


Well, shoot, I have a pair of cropped pants in a similar pattern that I actually wore up until five minutes ago. Now that I’ve seen them with saddle shoes, it won’t be the same.



Ringmaster meets English-school-boy meets every-dork-who-ever-got-his-ass-kicked-after-school.

I don’t know what year it’s from, but this one features the popular “wool flannel fun pants.” That’s fun as in people will be making fun of you.




This is the same sweater as worn by the guy in the boat, but Clark Kent here had the foresight to  pair it up with the pink playful whale fun pants.





I hear that the first Brooks Brothers Catalog came out before 1920, but I couldn’t find anything that far back. I did find this one, though, from 1939. 
 
Those three shirts look just like the ones my husband just got. Does that mean that in 70 years, normal guys will be wearing pink pants and bow ties?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twitter, Go to the Head of the Class

I’m glad to see that Twitter got some love this week. It wasn’t looking good, when it was announced that the royal wedding would not be live-Tweeted and that an actor in the Facebook movie The Social Network, Armie Hammer’s grandfather personally knew Prince Charles.

Facebook 1   Twitter 0

But then Osama bin Laden got whacked and Twitter got pushed to the front of the social network line, thanks to a neighbor guy who was up late, bored out of his skull, and itching to use his fly-swatter references.

Facebook 1   Twitter Infinity

I’m happy for Twitter, but I’m still not a huge fan. I don’t like #s and RTs and I only barely tolerate @s. Plus Twitter is based solely on mutual back-scratching: Unless you’re famous and funny, no one really reads your tweets. They only follow you so that you’ll follow them. Everyone’s posting and counting followers and no one’s reading. I’d be kidding myself if I thought that PetGroomerie really gives a rat’s ass about me. He follows 1,328 people, a motley crew of personal trainers, singers, marketing execs and a self-proclaimed “guy with a desk.” And me. I’m going to have to tweet the next coming of Jesus to stand out among his followees.

Isn’t it funny that the guy who accidentally Tweeted the raid on Osama bin Laden’s house, Sohaib Athar, now has 102,916 followers? (Woop, just checked again and it’s now up to 103,391.) The raid only took 40 minutes and now he just lives in a regular neighborhood with a mansion that is screwing with the property values. By the time we knew who we should be following, we were left with the scraps. Give him some credit, Athar is really scrambling to make it worth your while - Yesterday he posted a cell-phone photo of a rabbit with this comment: “A guy who used to live in la Den gave this bunny (two in fact) to a neighborhood kid.”

LinkedIn was watching from the sidelines and said, Hey, we can play at this game, too. We’re important! We’re relevant!  On today’s LinkedIn home page was this headline: WHOOPS: HP Exec Spills Huge Company Secret on LinkedIn Profile. But it was just something about cloud computing and block storage, which put me in a boredom coma before I was through the third paragraph. That’s just sad.

Facebook 1   Twitter Infinity   LinkedIn -3

And then there’s MySpace. Whoever took over for Tom appears to have had his headphones on while the world was being turned upside down. The MySpace home page features a photo of Will Ferrell kissing a man, Chris Brown, and Saoirse Ronan (Who? “She just nabbed the lead in a Stephanie Meyer’s [sic] movie.” OK, again, Who?) MySpace tells me to “get your dance on!” What’s Trending? Lindsay Lohan, Justin Beiber, Thor, and Conan O’Brien’s Beard. Breaker breaker, whoever runs MySpace, wake up and pick up a newspaper.

Facebook 1    Twitter Infinity    LinkedIn -3    MySpace ...Who?
Monday, May 2, 2011

Under the Influence of the Babysitter

It’s not easy raising worldly kids in white-bread Ohio. I stumbled upon a solution years ago, when I was raising my first child: Get babysitters who are very different culturally from your own Anglo background, and your kids will get a little multi-dimensional upbringing.

We hired Willie shortly after my son was born. She not only taught my son how to count to 13 (the number of steps in our house) and how to say yes instead of yeah and how to say May I please have some appa juice, but she also taught him some Youngstown-area-African-Americanisms that he used for years after Willie was gone.

“Scat!” is what Willie said when someone sneezed. Apparently, it’s a way of verbally chasing away germs and evil spirits. And it makes more sense than “God bless you,” which I always thought should be followed up with “you poor sap.” So “Scat!” is what my son said when someone sneezed.

Willie didn’t “live” at an address, she “stayed” at an address.

 
“Where do you stay?”

“I stay on McGuffey Road, on the East Side.”

That kind of thing.

So my son stayed on Youngstown-Pittsburgh Road, getting the maximum African-American upbringing from Willie until he was 2 and then he stayed on East 236th Street (or as he said, East Do Dirty Dick Street).

When we moved to East Do Dirty Dick in Cleveland, we had to find a new babysitter. I was advised to get him into a home-based Jewish daycare, because, as my Jewish advisers told me, “The Jews are the best at pushing kids to achieve to their limit while still spoiling them rotten.”

I was willing to look around for another African-American woman, but the Jewish thing sounded pretty good, too, so we started taking our son over to Dianne’s house, where he learned to eat kosher, spin a dreidel, and talk like a South African.

Dianne had her own child, red-haired Anna, and two wards, my son and Marc, a boy whose parents were from Capetown.

Marc was trouble. His mom or dad had to stay long after drop-off time because Marc didn’t want to stay at Dianne’s, and then when they went to pick him up, they had to stay for a few hours longer because Marc didn’t want to leave Dianne’s house. Marc needed a good swat, but that wasn’t for me to say, so as a result, my son spent about a third of his time at Dianne’s house with Marc’s parents, who taught him many South African pronunciations.

A battery was a batt’ry.

The fire department was the fahr brigade.

“Cool the fahr brigade! Cool the fahr brigade!” Marc’s dad screamed one day while I was sitting at Dianne’s kitchen table.

“What’s he saying?” Dianne muttered to me. We had gone to the front window and were watching Marc’s dad flail his arms. There was a tiny wisp of smoke coming from the hood of his car.

“I think he wants us to call the fire department,” I said.

There was always some kind of excitement going on, usually followed up by someone saying, “Oy vey,” sometimes my son.

Eventually, I quit working and didn’t need a sitter anymore, so it was more difficult to expose my children to ebonics and other cultural experiences. I had to seek out people of color at the library story hours, and learn some recipes from Betty Crocker’s International Cook Book. It’s not easy being a WASP and raising worldly kids. Sometimes you need to bring in an expert - the babysitter.



Related blog posts:
“My Jewish Roots”
Thursday, April 28, 2011

Here's Something That Sucks

My husband and I are trying to lose a couple of pounds and get into shape. It shouldn’t be that hard. We are smart, relatively drug-free people. We support each other. We live in Florida, where most people are blond and toned and a lot of the fat and/or ugly people have been driven out, so we don’t have the disadvantage of looking around and fooling ourselves into thinking we look pretty good, relatively speaking. (I understand it’s like this in California, too.)

But losing five pounds is harder than you would think.

Here’s a snippet from a conversation my husband and I had in our bathroom yesterday morning, while he was getting ready for work. He had gotten on and off the scale without saying anything. (Always a bad sign.)

Me: “Are you losing any weight?”

Him: “No, and I’m not going to until I can stop drinking wine. And that’s not going to happen until things stop sucking. And that’s something I don’t have a lot of control over. It’s kind of out of my hands.”

Things sucking is the new glandular problem. We’d love to lose weight, really we would. If it were up to us, I’d be a Victoria’s Secret model and my husband would be that guy from that movie with Diane Lane, the guy who was killed when Richard Gere bopped him on the head with a snow globe. But we can’t help it. We have a things-sucking problem. Which requires us to drink the wine, and there you have it.

I stopped weighing myself with any regularity. Because I’ll tell you one thing that sucks and that’s my bathroom scale. The little beeyotch sits there while I’m at the gym pedaling away on the bike, lifting weights, and running on the treadmill, and then I come home and drink about 70 liters of water - last week I ate prunes, for crying out loud - and then it tells me I’ve gained a fifth of a pound. Shut up. You suck.

I have two weddings coming up. Because I’m very event-goal-oriented (I can’t even vacuum without dinner guests on the calendar), my weight loss and fitness goals are enmeshed in these two weddings and the dresses I’ll be wearing to them.

The purple dress I bought for my nephew’s wedding is perfect for standing, walking, even sitting, but I’m not sure I can get into a car without ripping something.

The green dress I bought for my niece’s wedding might as well be a sweat suit; it’s stretchy and has lots of give. I could not only stand, walk, sit and get in and out of a car, I could also do the chicken dance, roll into a fetal position, and attempt a couple of round-offs at the reception. (Don’t worry Amy: I’m not going to do that.) However, it accentuates a roll of extra fat around the middle (meaning the dress doesn’t have enough starch or discipline) so I just look matronly in it.

The gym, the bathroom scale, the prunes, nothing was helping. So I broke down and bought a spandex slip. It’s made out of a thin wetsuit material. In fact, it looks like something a Bond girl would wear, in the way that famous people can wear underwear out in public and look perfectly normal.

Remember when I made fun of people who wear girdles? I take it all back. My stretchy Bond girl slip is not a girdle, but it may as well be. It’s tight enough to keep everything where it belongs and might even allow me to exit a car without being on a stretcher.

Putting the thing on my body, however, is a feat. If I try to slip it over my head, it tightens up around my neck and threatens to cut off my air supply, which is scary. If I step into it and try to pull it up, it binds my legs and I could topple over. I need a spotter to get dressed now.

I wonder how many emergency room visits are the result of someone getting stuck in their Seamless Tunic Shaper.

I’m hoping that sometime between now and these weddings I’ll lose those few pounds and I won’t have to wear any constricting undergarments. That wouldn’t suck at all.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mad About Middle Names

I’m making an effort to remove myself from people who are negative, mean-spirited, and not at all fun. I try to spend a lot of time around funny people, because I’m convinced that my good health is due primarily to the fact that I laugh a lot. I love when I go to the doctor and they ask, “What medications are you on?” and I get to say, “None.” And then I laugh and laugh, just so they know that’s part of the package. It’s a challenge to laugh a lot and not seem ditzy, but I’m up to it.

So last week, I had to remove myself from a Facebook conversation where someone brought up - in all capital letters, which is another favorite of mine - the fact that President Obama’s middle name is Hussein.

Who is still talking about that? Anyone who’s fixated on the fact that our president has a Muslim middle name needs to move along, folks. Nothing here to see. Now, if you want to talk about funny middle names, then I’m right there with you. Let’s start with Joe Biden’s: Robinette.  SEE? ISN’T THIS MORE FUN?

I’ve never been a fan of middle names. They’re nothing but trouble. From what I can tell, they only come in handy if you become an assassin. Not having one could keep you out of a lot of trouble.

When my kids were born, I was more interested in choosing the hospital photo package than picking out a middle name for them. I had absolutely no interest. Once their first name was chosen, I happily moved onto the 5-by-7 vs 4-by-5 decision. My husband doesn’t have a middle name, so he was no help. We finally decided to pick a middle name and give it to all of our kids.  Kinda like pulling a George Foreman, but not as creepy. On the other hand, we have two boys and a girl, and they all share the same middle name. Even George didn’t do that.

My middle name is Carol, and my mom said she was always being asked if I was named after “that black actress on Julia,” Diahann Carroll.  My brother was given my dad’s name for a middle, and my sisters got Joyce, Patricia and Sue. Weirdly, none of us were burdened with Marie or Ann, the two most popular middle names for girls for going on four generations now.

Very few people use their middle names, so I’m a little surprised that we’re still giving them to babies when they’re born. It’s just another thing for kids to wish their parents hadn’t done to them. Barack Obama and Joe Biden probably have whole conversations about it. Barack: “At least your middle doesn’t conjur up images of WMDs or the lack thereof.” Joe: “Hussein, Huschmein . . . At least you don’t sound like a French can-can dancer.”
Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Charlie Sheen Economic Indicator

I’m beginning to doubt that our country is in such horrible financial shape. I know the national debt and the imbalance of our budget is so outrageous that we’re nearing the kajillion mark. I know that somehow, someday that might affect me and my life, possibly as to how cheaply I can buy the Chinese crap at Walmart. But as long as people are purchasing tickets to Charlie Sheen, I just don’t believe that Americans are so bad off.

Charlie and his Violent Torpedo of Truth tour are coming to Miami. According to today’s paper, many South Floridians are opting instead for Jimmy Buffett. On one hand I’m happy, because Jimmy Buffett is one cool cat, who deserves every cent in our entertainment budgets. But on the other hand, if more people were going to see Charlie Sheen, it would mean that we as a nation are richer and freer with our money. Irresponsible spending is a good economic indicator.

On the TicketsMore website, we are encouraged to hurry up and buy Charlie Sheen tickets before they sell out and we’re forced to just read about it in the paper the next day. And then we’re reassured that there are plenty of tickets left.

“All fans of Charlie Sheen in Miami have been awaiting this concert. Tickets for Charlie Sheen in Miami are in high demand and now that tickets for Charlie Sheen in Miami are on sale, people are ordering cheap Charlie Sheen concert tickets.

“Many tickets for Charlie Sheen in Miami are available. This year, Miami will have some great concerts (such as Charlie Sheen). If you've ever been to a Charlie Sheen concert, you know how much fun it is! Charlie Sheen fans from Miami are purchasing tickets quickly. We have tickets still available for the Miami show but make sure you order yours before they are sold out!”

From what I can gather, tickets to Charlie Sheen are either selling like hotcakes or there are a lot still available. Either one. You decide.

If, in fact, they are selling like crazy, then the people of Florida should just smack themselves. If you buy a ticket to Charlie Sheen, you forfeit your right to complain about the economy or whine that Social Security and Medicare are in danger. In fact, I think one way to raise some dough for U.S. coffers is to write down the names of all the people who bought Charlie Sheen tickets and just take their Social Security right now and use it for something useful. Because anyone who has $30-$246 to listen to Charlie Sheen for however long he’s on stage before he offends or is offended and walks off (I’m giving it 45 minutes in Miami), doesn’t know the first thing about financial planning or wise spending. They probably won’t even remember that they were supposed to get Social Security.

All Charlie Sheen ticket buyers also must abandon all arguments that the federal government isn’t fiscally sound and isn’t making the right cuts. Who are you to say that anybody isn’t spending money wisely? Also, you’re gonna hafta stop saying the word taxes at all. And no complaining about corporate fat cats and the fancy parties they throw.

I wouldn’t say this about any other form of entertainment or vice. I believe that poor people and Tea Party ranters alike should be able to spend their money on cigarettes, booze, movie theaters, comedy clubs, concerts, whatever. Go at it, have-nots. Immersion in laughter, drunkenness, music and general good times are good for the soul and everyone deserves a little of that.

But Charlie Sheen? He’s not funny, he doesn’t sing or dance or even do skits or dramatic readings. From what I’ve read, his routine involves:

  1. lots of complaining, but not about anything that we can relate to. I don’t think he rants about the deficit or the cost of oil per barrel. I think he focuses mostly on how he’s been screwed by Hollywood and the press. All positive talk is reserved for prostitutes and blow.
  2. showing clips from his dad’s movies.
  3. two women who he calls goddesses awkwardly kiss each other on stage. (Girl-on-girl action is so last decade.)
  4. trying to hide the fact that he’s a badly aging gasbag by wearing a baseball cap and low-rise jeans.

Winning? Maybe. But in a sad, Hugh Hefner kinda way. Nobody wants in on that.  For my $30-$246, I’d rather be in Margaritaville with Jimmy Buffett.
Saturday, April 16, 2011

Welcome Back, Cooking Mojo!

Ladies and gentlemen! Put your hands together and give a nice, warm welcome back to your friend and mine, Cooking Mojo!

You left me about four years ago, without warning, while I was making a vegetable lasagna that had to be renamed Chunky Gray Soup because of all the liquid that came off the mushrooms. I knew better than that, and I would have done something about it, except I always relied on you, Moj, to tap me on the shoulder and say, “Shouldn’t you cook those first to get the juice off?” or “Better not put those eggs in yet or you’ll end up with lumps” or the one I always forgot - “Capers taste like formaldehyde and have no place in your digestive tract while you’re still alive.”

We ate that lasagna but even my teenage son, who would eat literally anything and everything, hesitated before getting seconds. Later the peanut butter and bread were quietly passed around. This is as close as my family gets to telling me they hate my food.

I thought you had just taken a brief vacation. You deserved it, having worked around the clock nonstop since I got my first apartment and bought the Marian Burros Keep It Simple cookbook. Remember when we made Fish Bon Femme in that little kitchen in my apartment? That place was a crappy little box with plywood walls and ceiling, and freaking freezing in the winter, but we hid the smell of sour milk that wafted from the kitchen sink by making spaghetti carbonara and chicken on a bed of ______ (fill in the blank with your favorite on-sale produce item). That apartment smelled so good that once an evangelist came to the door and partway through his spiel said, “ . . . uh, what are you cooking?”

You were right by my side when I got my first subscription to Bon Appetit magazine, shopped with me for my cast iron skillet so I could make blackened fish, and helped me find the perfect garlic press. You high-fived me when we got that gig making pound cakes for The Coffee Station. (I quickly forgave you for not wanting to have anything to do with the angel food cakes, though. You were right. That would have been just too much work. Plus, I was drinking a Bud Light at 10 a.m. just for the bottle to hang the cakes upside down. Not the path I needed to be on at that point in my life.)

And then, one day, you disappeared. I didn’t know you were gone until I made rubbery scallops for the second time and it occurred to me that I hadn’t wowed anyone with my cooking for quite a while. Plus, I didn’t know you were gone because you’re Cooking Mojo and you’re invisible. Imaginary friends are easily forgotten, sadly.

I muddled along for the next couple of years. Not everything was a complete disaster. I made some OK meals, but cooking had lost its vitality for me. Without mojo, it’s hard to have fun.

The low point was a couple weeks ago when I made a casserole to give to a friend. The recipe looked pretty good, so I doubled it and kept one for myself. See, without you here to read recipes with me, I didn’t recognize the unpleasant combination of tomato sauce and spinach. The casserole was so bad, I toyed with the idea of trying to take back the one I had given away. I’d make up a story about losing a jagged piece of glass in it. Anything to avoid the shame of having someone say, “Ew, who gave us this?”

Then, last week, I made a delicious Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant and Tomatoes. The next night, a pork roast with rosemary, green beans with mushrooms, and a mixed greens salad with homemade dressing. For breakfast one day, I made oatmeal with bananas, apricots, walnuts and brown sugar. Last night, I made fish tacos and Cuban black beans for dinner. I was thrilled when my husband took a picture of his plate and posted it on Facebook with the caption: “Best. Cook. Ever.”

Cooking Mojo! You’re back! I hope you’re well rested, because I have a party coming up and -- remember when we made pâté that one time in Cleveland? I have big plans.

You and me, baby. We’re back in business.
Friday, April 15, 2011

What's in a Chinese Name?

My son, who is a teacher in China, has the cutest stories. His students range from adorable little first-graders who still have their baby fat and who I’d like to adopt; to sassy, clever tweens; to studious, watch-me-kick-American-ass adults.

I love to hear him talk about what it’s like to live in China, how Americans are viewed, and how different his way of life is there, especially compared to the college apartment he lived in before moving there. (Less beer, more money, to sum it up.)

But lately, I love hearing about his students’ names.

Chinese people have an English name that they use whenever they’re in an English speaking situation. When they’re at English school, or if they’re doing business with English speaking people, or in any situation when their real name is sure to be badly pronounced or the user is unable to write or understand Mandarin, which is pretty much every situation involving an American.

They sometimes don’t choose English names like Mary or John, instead they choose English words that sound nice when they speak them. I’m pretty sure they don’t care about the meaning of the word, because once it’s their English name, that’s what the word means.

I was laughing at some school papers my son showed me and noted that a large number of his students were named Tom. “And what’s with Die Van Gogh?” I asked.  “Is that really his name?”

Yes, that’s his name. And that was only a sample. One of the teachers made a list of all the funny names that the students at their school have. In addition to Die Van Gogh, some of the boys’ names are:

Marker
Clever
Pizza
July
Rainbow
Garchomp
Celine Dion
Jacket
Mello
Mr. Bean
Mr. T
Dragon
Meghan
Stone
Rock
Anakin
Elvis
Gandalf
Satan
Supervisor
Poni
Dracula
Tiger
Tide
Vito
King
Bobo
Hermione
Aggie
Amy
Sunny
Washington
Columbus
Go-go-boy

And here’s a sample of the girls’ names:
Renee (pronounced Rainy)
Abby (pronounced A.B.)
Rainbow
Mermaid
Cool
Snow
Wonderful
Mushroom
Elodia
Eisley
Sweety
Shadow
Echo
Coco Chanel
Mumu
Stop! (with exclamation point)
Hepburn
Tulip
Oliver
Hellothere
Anna2
Ice
Luna
Happy
Dimples
Pirate's Baby

My son’s own students include boys named Apple, Dracula, Doomsday, Lupinelee, Stroumedere, Caesar, Clinton and Report, and girls named Louisiana, Wasabi, Yummy and Clevery. And a bunch of Toms.

I can imagine the teachers have some fun with the names when grading papers.

“Great report, Report!”

“Ice, Ice, baby, what were you thinking with this essay?”

“Keep up the good work, Stop!”

“Renee, Snow and Sunny should not be working on group projects together. Too much conflict.”

“If Yummy, Rainbow and Dimples should ever team up to go up against Dracula, Doomsday, Satan and Dragon, call Disney studios: There’s a movie in that.”
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Oh Fail, Toe Nail

Good thing I look up gross and ugly photos online before I start writing my blog. Before I sat down here this morning, I was feeling like my feet were really unsightly. A quick Googling of ‘ugly toenail’ and I’m feeling much better. And, no, I’m not going to show you any of the pictures. This is a funny blog; it’s supposed to make you laugh, not wretch.

A lot of people with cameras and no sense of shame have extremely ugly feet, as it turns out. Human feet even at their best look pretty weird if you look at them long enough. The ones with long curly yellow toenails and bones sticking out at weird angles make you wonder how these people can walk around.

The ugliness I can understand. There’s a lot of weight put on our feet. We cram them into 6-inch heels with pointy toes and old running shoes. But according to the Internet photos, lots of people are just not cutting their toenails. What’s with that? Sure, it will take a small power saw, but for cripe’s sake, fire that thing up and get rid of those talons.

My only-moderately-unsightly feet are because of my big toenails. For being so big and hard, my big toenails are apparently super sensitive. They got pushed on by my running shoes for two work-outs last week and they just up and died.

After the second day at the gym, I decided I better switch shoes. But it was too late. My toenails were hurting and hurting and hurting. By the seventh day, I decided I better take off the nail polish and see what was going on under there.

A lot was going on.

My big toenails are dead.

I’m not sure I could get any of the Vietnamese nail salon people to give me a pedicure. I don’t want to be the subject of the tales they tell when they go home at night. I’m looking at the calendar and hoping I don’t have anywhere I need to be in the next few months, where I can’t wear a pair of fuzzy slippers.

My friend Kathy tells me the same thing happened to her from wearing ill-fitting ski boots once. She said it was a year before her toenail was normal again. 

Looks like that foot modeling job I had my eye on is out of the question now. But I might post some photos on the Internet just to join the fun.
Monday, April 11, 2011

Beer, Baseball and Band Moms

I was all ready to write about Barbie and her new occupations, or my self-destructing toenails, or the EV I drove last weekend, but my friend Tara came to visit and I was reminded about when I had to work as a slave selling beer at the Lexington Legends games.

I was a band mom, which means I would do anything that I was told to do by someone wearing a name tag. In the name of fundraising, I sold and bought fruit, knick-knacks, sausage and cheese that can sit unrefrigerated for months and not go bad, frozen pizzas, plants, candles, and gift cards to restaurants I don’t go to.

And because of some crazy fundraising contract that some overzealous committee chairman had signed in blood, I also had to work behind the concession stands at the minor league baseball games. We didn’t get paid, but we got a checkmark after our kids’ names, indicating that we had worked at the number of games required. And the number was 15.

I never stopped to think about what would happen if I didn’t work those 15 games. Would my daughter’s instrument be filled with the beer that I didn’t sell that night? Would we be ostracized at the band banquet? Would I know the difference?  To tell you the truth I was too scared to put that to the test.

We weren’t allowed to put the high school kids on the beer taps because of some stupid international law to prevent child abuse, so all adults had to pour beer. We all fought for the nacho cheese pouring station or the pizza oven or even hot pretzels - all of which were harder, hotter and more dangerous than pouring beer - but those jobs had to go to the kids, so that the adults could serve the alcohol. (There was also ice cream and popcorn, but I’m pretty sure you had to sleep with someone to get those jobs.)

Rumor had it that a couple years before, some parents claimed they wouldn’t sell beer for religious reasons, but it didn’t take long for every band parent to claim they were Mormon or Baha’i or Jehovah’s Witness or Southern Baptist or Muslim. Some may have even made up new religions that were too hard to check into. By the time I got there, there were no exemptions. I, who had been seen both in a Catholic Church and in bars, had no chance: I had to man the beer tap.

The Legends games were popular drinking hang-outs for college frat boys. Some math major figured out that it was cheaper to buy a ticket to the game and buy $1 beers on Thirsty Thursday than to go to a bar. And with a bunch of reluctant band moms behind the bar, being overserved was a piece of cake.

I hated those punks.

We had to keep remembering who we had served and how many we had given them. Twenty-one-year-old frat boys all look alike. Their fake IDs all look real. We were supposed to engage them in conversation so we could determine how drunk they were and if they should be cut off. It shouldn’t surprise you that there are very few topics of discussion between a college kid and a tired band mom whose shoes are sticking to the floor.

Some games went into extra innings, we’d be working seven or eight hours, and no matter how fast you served and rang up the sales, the lines would just get longer.

Occasionally, we’d get a regular adult to wait on and that was a relief. They would go check and tell me what inning it was, tell us we were doing a good job despite the fact that we were just regular moms, and some of them even tipped us.

That was three years ago. Now, every so often, someone will suggest that selling concessions at the local baseball stadium would be a “really great way to raise money.” I threaten to resign whatever office I hold or committee I chair, because I’m done serving beer to frat boys. From now on, it’s funnel cakes or nothing.
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Laundry Detergent, Where Art Thou?

It’s happened to me again: A product that I love and use and buy regularly is off the market. About every other week I buy Arm & Hammer laundry detergent. It’s in a green semi-transparent bottle and it’s called something environmental . . . Wait, let me go look at the bottle in my laundry room . . . Oh yeah, I can’t because it’s not in my cupboard because they stopped making it.

I can’t imagine why they would stop making this particular type of laundry soap. I was buying it all the time, whether it was on sale or not; whether the price went up or not, for years and years.

(The reason for that is I have a fear of switching laundry soaps. Almost every time I go to the doctor and describe symptoms of anything, the first question I get is, “Have you switched laundry soap?” This leads me to believe that switching laundry soap could cause everything from a simple rash to bleeding ulcers to infertility.)

So to avoid a health crisis in my home, I always used the same laundry soap. I stuck with it when every housewife in America jumped on the Tide-wagon (I can smell that on your clothes, you know), or when buying the Martha Stewart all natural laundry soap was the politically correct thing to do, or when I was trying really hard to save money and had to pass up sales on the off brands.

I tried to buy it three times at two different stores when I got the message that it wasn’t just out of stock or on a special display. It was gone.

That’s when I noticed that Arm & Hammer has a ridiculous number of flavors to their laundry soap. They’ve got Lavender + Linen, “For Sensitive Skin,” 2x Concentrate with Highly Effective Clean Burst!, Skin Friendly with Fresh Scent, Power Gel, Oxi-Clean, Power Gel with Oxi-Clean and all combinations of all of the above. I guess they ran out of room on the shelves for mine.

The last time I was this upset about a discontinued item, I wrote a letter to Quaker and tucked it inside a consumer survey I was taking. The letter said, “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BRING BACK WHEAT CAKES. YOU’VE GOT ALL THESE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RICE CAKES BUT THEY ARE SPONGY AND THE WHEAT CAKES WERE CRUNCHIER. Let’s face it, wheat cakes are an entirely different product. If you were going to remove one type, you should have ditched the low-salt cheese flavored ones. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BRING THEM BACK OR AT LEAST TELL ME WHERE I CAN BUY THEM ON THE BLACK MARKET.”

Like then, I now am wishing I could go back in time and buy a huge amount of laundry soap, so that the people at Arm & Hammer would go, “Hmmm, this laundry soap in the green bottle with the tree on the label is quite a big seller! Weirdly only in the Sea Plum Plaza Publix store in Jupiter, Florida . . . but still. We better keep this baby around for a while!”

I won’t go crazy with the capital letters if I write a letter to Arm & Hammer, but I might say something like this:

Dear Arm and/or Hammer,

I don’t know what you were thinking in discontinuing the laundry soap in the green bottle that had some kind of environment word in the name, like Clean or Fresh or something that starts with an E. (You can look it up.) It was the best. For health reasons, I really don’t want to have to switch to another of your sub-types of soap.

I was one of your best customers, so I think you’re going to want to at least think about bringing it back. Because now I’ve got my eye on a bottle of Seventh Generation.

Sincerely,

Florida housewife who is by now either covered in skin sores or buried in dirty laundry.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Great-Grandma is on Skype' and Other Signs That the Rapture is Near

When my oldest son first started making noise about moving to a foreign country and traipsing around Asia to teach English, learn Mandarin Chinese, and eat things with feelers and tentacles, Jim, a high school friend of mine said, “You’ve got to get Skype.”

He has lived in Czech Republic for many years and as his children graduated from high school, he sent them to college in the States. He said the only way he was able to do Olympic feat of heart-wrenching parenting is because we now have things from The Jetsons.

Skype, if you live in a cave and don’t know, is like a video phone call that you see on sci-fi movies and a couple of Twilight Zone episodes. I think George had a couple of video conferences with Mr. Spacely using a crude version of Skype. The person you’re talking to shows up on your computer screen, sitting at his computer, and he can see you sitting at your computer.

So now, when I call my son in China and my other son in Arizona, I have to go put on makeup. Hey, Future Man, thanks a heap.

I had to issue a warning to my mother-in-law when she was setting up Skype on her new laptop. “Be really careful,” I told her. “When you first click on this, a camera view will pop up on your screen and you’ll see yourself. If the screen is tilted funny, you’ll look like you’re peering down into your own grave.”

It’s always a shock to me to see myself on the screen when it first pops up at the start of Skype. Of course I’ve seen myself on my computer. I have Photo Booth and I’ve spent many, many, many minutes posing for potential Facebook photos (oh, you’ve done it, too) and experimenting with the effects (Stretch, Bulge, Dent, Squeeze, Glow, Twirl and X-Ray - sounds like a new Seven Dwarves). For some reason the 'Skype me' is older, saggier and my hair is downright lackluster.

But back to my mother-in-law getting Skype. How cool is that? Not as cool, when you find out that she has been on Facebook for more than a year and also has Twitter. She has a sweet little Macbook Air that she carries around in her Paris bag. 

I won’t tell you how old she is (other people are always telling her age, bragging about her because she won’t do it herself) but let’s just say she is the only one at her class reunions who goes to the gym every day, swims laps for 30 minutes straight, walked all over Paris and Rome last summer, and keeps getting hired back to her job. She’s retired four times now. Also, I suspect she has a secret life in espionage, since she doesn’t have fingerprints and has no explanation for it. She just laughs and says, “Maybe they just wore off!”

She was pretty excited about getting Skype. Now she can talk face-to-face with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who live all over the country. While the other great-grandmothers are knitting afghans and sending Hallmark cards, she is firing up her Air on her wireless network and video-chatting with people a fraction of her age.

As my sister Kathy says: “I love living in the future.”
Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Was A Homely Newlywed

I’m working on a late anniversary present for my husband (not late as in, our anniversary was in December, but late as in, our 25th anniversary was 2 1/2 years ago) and after several hours of sifting through old photos of the two of us, I have the following announcements to make:

1. If I attended your wedding/graduation party/baby’s baptism between 1987 and 1996, please discard all photos of me and my dress. I’m blaming it on Delayed Chronic Postpartum Fashion Choice Hysteria and an experiment with shopping from the Chadwick’s of Boston catalog. I am wearing the most ridiculous get-ups, including the blue and white flowered dress that kept coming unbuttoned in front.

2. My husband and I both are not only better looking now but we have a lot more fun. The pictures of us when we were dating are lame. In the pictures of us within the past five years, we are laughing and smiling, we’re tan and healthier, and in the background there are other happy people, confetti, blenders and other signs of wellness.

3. How anyone could find a mate in the ‘80s is a mystery to me. Two words: Hair and glasses. My husband and I seem to have had a contest going as to who could have the biggest and dorkiest glasses. (It was a tie.) And unfortunately, the year he had me beat in the glasses, I was experimenting with a perm. At his college graduation and party following, I sincerely wish everyone had left their cameras at home or in their cars. Because of photo evidence of a short perm, I can’t pretend that I was hot when I was in my 20s.

4. I always had fat ankles. If you’ve seen me lately and, like me, thought that I could stand to lose a few pounds around each ankle, put it out of your mind. Looking at a picture of my husband and I dancing at our friend Tim Roberts’ wedding in 1985, I can see cankles under my off-white hose and I was only 26 and was only 8 weeks pregnant with my first baby. I’ve still got the perm from hell, and my husband and his glasses are smoking a cigar. We are dancing what appears to be either a polka or a square dance. I think I understand why no one said anything about my ankles.

5. I’d like to snarkily thank my sisters for putting my hair dryer in my big suitcase and not my overnight bag on my wedding day. (I can’t remember why I needed someone to pack for me . . . was that an old Irish tradition or something? All I know is I didn’t have access to my big suitcase until after I arrived in New York late the next day.) In all the photos of me from the morning after my wedding until we got to New York, my hair looks like shit. But, seriously, thanks for packing for me. That was a nice thing to do, even though you made mistakes.

6. My kids were the cutest babies and toddlers that you ever saw. Honestly, I was looking at these photos and practically crying, they are so cute. If you ever wonder why a woman would leave her career and embrace poverty and sweatsuits seven days a week, just take a look at my pictures from when my husband and I had little kids. God, they are so cute.

7. My mother told me once: “You married well.” At the time I didn’t think she meant “You married someone that you’ll always have fun with, and someone who will stay with you despite how you adopt fashion trends." But now, I wonder. She was a pretty smart lady.
Friday, April 1, 2011

Cameron Diaz, Me and Our Skin Disorder

Remember The Heartbreak of Psoriasis? I have that. I have a little patch of skin on my left elbow that is psoriasis-y. But I’m happy to report that I’m not heartbroken, yet.

I received the psoriasis diagnosis at a recent visit to a dermatologist for a bevy of other skin-related things I was stressing over. I was actually relieved, since I thought it was a dreaded Sore That Won’t Heal. I’d had it for about two years. I had figured I either had a psychological condition that compels me to pick at every scab and piece of skin that is half hanging off the mothership, or I had AIDS. Psoriasis wasn’t as heartbreaking as it could have been.

Don’t image-Google heartbreak of psoriasis, because you’ll see photos of people that have what looks like infected leprosy so bad that they would have been voted off the leper colony island. Ew. And a photo of Obama scratching his head once. Also, some photos of Cameron Diaz, who reportedly had it and it was all over the Internet. The whole search was kind of heartbreaking.

The commercial in the ‘60s had a man’s voice saying, in a very serious tone:

Eczema. Seborrhea. Psoriasis.

Eczema is an easy-come, easy-go kind of skin condition. I used to get it on the insides of my elbows all the time. It’s nothing to brag about. Seborrhea must have gone out of fashion because I haven’t heard mention of it since the early ‘70s. They must’ve found a cure for that around the same time they found a cure for Getting Overheated, something my mom used to warn us about whenever we got too wild in the house.

But psoriasis has risen to the top of the heap of skin conditions. Everyone seems to have it, including Cameron Diaz. So it only makes sense that there are some hilarious TV commercials urging the use of a new drug to treat it.

The ad for the psoriasis drug Stelara needs a lawyer bad. I know drug ads have to disclose every bad thing that could ever happen if you took it, and many drugs go to great lengths to be very up-front about the nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, dry mouth and gas that we’ve come to expect from taking anything that’s advertised on TV. But Stelara ad guy, come on! At what point after writing in the script These may be signs of a rare, potentially fatal brain condition do you just throw up your hands and say, “You know what, we don’t really need to put this on TV. Let’s just sell it the doctors through our drug reps like we did in the good old days.” Save your advertising dollars and invest in stress balls and paperclip-holder freebie hand-outs and catered lunch for the staff. Because as heartbreaking as psoriasis can be, I’d rather have rough, red patchy skin than having my own brain kill me.

I am not faced with that choice, yet. My dermatologist is treating me with a white substance that comes in a tube and if I could remember to apply it liberally BID, I think I can be psoriasis-free.

Cameron probably had people to do that for her.
Thursday, March 31, 2011

Watch That Florida Person!

For a people-watcher like me, living in Florida is a dream come true. This is the World Series of people watching. Only in Florida will you see an 80-year-old woman in a bikini, and a 90-year-old man in a Speedo; dogs wearing clothes and accessories, and humans wearing dog collars and leashes (although I saw one of these in Phoenix once, too, and the get-up was so kinky that I haven’t felt the same about the Southwest since). And you’ll see more untucked Hawaiian shirts over beer bellies than anywhere, including Hawaii.

The people watching is so good, in fact, that I’ve begun doing themes and games. I’m considering my own late-night cable TV game show called Watch That Florida Person! but it might involve staying up past 10 p.m. and I’m not sure I could handle that.

So just to stay in practice, I play it with myself. You can try this at your own mall or amusement park or car wash. Pick a theme and park yourself in the food court or another crowded place (like far away from the kiosk guy who is operating a remote-control helicopter, since people avoid him like the plague) , and look for people who fit your theme.

Here are some suggestions that I’ve found to be fun and profitable:

Mismatched Couples
Some couples start to look like each other after a few years of being happily married, some people are just wrong for each other, and some people start to look like their pets. But for this game, let’s concentrate on No. 2. The tall girl with a little butterball boyfriend, the princess with the kid who barely passed power mechanics, the nerdy guy with the beautiful blond cheerleader, you’ve seen them. Collect them all!

Girlfriend or Daughter/Boyfriend or Son?
Once, at my daughter’s basketball game, one of the moms was sitting across the way with what appeared to be her older son, maybe a guy who had just finished college and was home to visit mom and see li’l sis shoot some hoops, and, oh wait, why is this boy putting his hand on his mom’s knee? And . . . and . . . oh god, why is Mom putting her lips on his neck. GAH! Yeah, as it turns out, it wasn’t her son, it was her new boyfriend. Here in Florida, you see a lot of that. And you see even more old guys with young blond girls who are younger than their daughters. This is a fun game to play at the mall, but don’t think about it too much or you’ll lose your food court lunch.

Plastic or Real?
This one would be perfect for a competition between you and a friend or neighbor, except that a definitive answer would require asking strangers, “Are those real?” Feel free to play it anyway and just make up the answers. Plastic surgery is as common as eyeliner is up north, so you’re going to find that plastic is the correct answer more often than not. I’ve seen women in the grocery store with face and body parts so swollen, I’m pretty sure they’re on their way home from their appointments. Either that or they’ve been beaten by an angry spouse.

Cover That Up!
I’m torn about this one. On one hand, when I see an older, overweight woman wearing a bathing suit that is any more revealing than a wet suit, I go ew. But on the other hand, a part of me says you go girl. If I squint enough so that the tattoos disappear - they just seem incongruous with the whole my-body-is-beautiful-the-way-God-made-it thing - a normal looking woman really is very normal looking. And I love to see people showing off their high self-esteem. But there are bodies that really do just need to be told, Cover that up! For this game, be sure not to say it aloud. People with high self-esteem are often very strong.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Babies Bring Out the Superpowers in Me

I think I might be getting too old to have a baby. Not that I didn’t know that before, but I’ve been holding onto fantasies that I would have a freakish medical condition resulting in a baby, or I would find one wrapped in swaddling clothes in the brush while walking to the gym, or that I would be babysitting and the parents would just forget to pick up the baby. Any of these things are possible. Although the path-to-the-gym thing might just be a way to get out of exercising.

But this week my 15-month-old nephew and 5-year-old niece were at my house and while I did great while they were here, I was a dead man walking when they left. Running after a baby is hard.

It never ceases to amaze me how much young parents can accomplish in a day. When my kids were babies and toddlers, I was cooking three meals a day, making birthday party invitations with stencils and jewel tone colored pencils, and was this close to mastering tying a shoe with one hand when Velcro was invented. I baked homemade bread, planted annuals and remembered to get all my kids their immunizations, all while nursing a baby and raising my hand to volunteer to do more.

Having a baby around makes you feel like Batgirl. You can do anything and everything. And then when the kids go to bed, you fall asleep at 7:45 with your hands in a sink full of soaking sippy cups and all your powers are drained away.

This week, I almost forgot to make the pitcher of margaritas, which I’m pretty sure was the whole point of the trip down here.

I was really out of my league, because not only am I 15 years older since I had babies and little kids running around my legs, the products and accessories have changed.

James, my nephew, was eating yogurt that came in little pink, solid, puffy droplets. I found one on the floor and thought it was a chair foot pad or a piece of a pool toy. I was smooshing it into a cube shape and looking around for something to stick it on when his dad said, “Uh, that’s a yogurt.” It probably had lost all of its yogurty taste.

Baby food is so much better than when my kids ate it. He ate tiny ravioli and chicken with noodles and there was not a single trace of pinkish-gray meat paste. It’s a good thing. I gag just thinking about that stuff. What meat industry lobbyist convinced Gerber that we should feed our babies beef-in-a-jar from 1948 through 2000?

I was really in my glory when those kids were here. They’ll wear you out, but they are so cute and soft and funny and they wear such adorable little outfits, that you almost want to wake them up again when they finally fall asleep.

Fortunately, before I could fully form that thought in my head, I was asleep.
Sunday, March 20, 2011

Do You Have a Photocopier? I Don't Know, Do You?

Have you non-Ohions seen this? It’s an entertaining deposition from that comedy factory the Ohio State Supreme Court. Two Ohio friends of mine, John and Cindy, both journalists, drew this to my attention. It’s 10 pages of questions and non-answers in a deposition in a case about whether the recorder’s office should have to make copies for pesky outsiders who come in and want to make print-outs of their research. Or something. I don’t know. What I do know is that this brought back memories of when I was a reporter and I had to sit through meetings and hearings in which lawyers would ask questions and other guys in suits would answer because they liked to hear the sound of their own voices. And I always suspected they purposely dragged out the questioning, because they loved being the center of attention.

I used to fantasize that if it was my turn to question a witness in a deposition that day, here would have been some smacked heads and someone would have been grounded.

If you want to read the exchange, be my guest. It’s right here. If you don’t, please allow me to summarize and re-create the deposition.

Question: Do you have a photocopier in your office?

Answer: Get off my case! Leave me the hell alone! Why are you tormenting me with these questions? I have a headache. Good day, sir. I said good day, sir.

I made that up. He didn’t say that. But, gosh, it felt good to write that. I’ve been looking for an excuse to write I said good day, sir for ages and even though this was a stretch it did the trick.

Seriously, though, when it starts out, you get the distinct impression that the guy answering the questions is trying to stall by wearing everyone down without having to admit that there’s a photocopier in his office.

Question: Do you have a photocopier in your office?

Answer: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

. . . couple of pages later . . .

Question: Do you have a photocopier in your office?

I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

. . . continuing . . .

Question: Do you have a photocopier in your office?

I'm sorry. I didn't know what that meant. I understand that there are photocopying machines, and there are different types of them just like --

Me/The Mom/ Substitute Lawyer: Alright mister, get in your room. You’re grounded. No Red Bull for a week.

By around page 5, you want to track this guy down like a dog and toilet paper his front yard trees right  before a nice, steady rain. Just so you can imagine that when he’s painstakingly picking off the wet pieces of toilet paper, it’s almost as frustrating as listening to his testimony back at the courthouse.

When I was a reporter I used to fantasize about standing up and yelling AGHHHH! Answer! Answer the question! GAHHHH! If I wasn’t fighting off that urge, I would be slipping into a coma. I once fell asleep during a meeting in East Liverpool, Ohio, and I’ll admit that even though my boss at the time is my Facebook friend and might be reading this. Yes, I fell asleep. Everyone at the meeting knew it, too. I set back what little journalistic integrity our little paper had about 20 years that night.

But can you imagine how boring and unproductive that meeting was? I was young and idealistic and needed my job because I was living small paycheck to small paycheck, plus was wasting tons of money on going out every night after work. So if it was so monotonous that the reporter was falling asleep, it was simply too boring to tolerate.

If I was a reporter today, I could record the meeting, transcribe it on my iPad, have it posted online before the last person at the meeting fell asleep, and be a YouTube rock star by deadline. Reporters have it so easy, these days.
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Maul Shopping

For a lame shopper like me, our trip to the sixth largest mall in America this week was overwhelming to say the least.

I went with a carload of friends and relatives to Sawgrass Mills Mall - my first visit to the legendary outlet-heavy shopping mecca of South Florida. Wikipedia says it’s the sixth largest mall in the country. Which means it’s like the Phoenix of shopping malls (or Philadelphia, depending on who’s winning that race today . . . Oh wait, some crazy Arizonan just left the door unlocked and one of his wives escaped; Philly takes it.)

Sixth largest? Really? That means there are five other malls in this country that are larger? I’m having a hard time with that.

The largest mall in the country is the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. The Mall of America in Minnesota is #2, but it has the most stores with 522. I’m wondering if they counted the kiosks.

And speaking of kiosks, the wandering minstrels that walk around the Sawgrass Mills Mall selling their wares and trying to run hand cream down our pores rank No. 1 in being obnoxious.

Attention wandering minstrels: Report back to your kiosks immediately. Look at yourself in those little mirrors you have and write in lipstick 100 times: I will not accost innocent people and say things that make them feel unattractive and make them wish they had gone to Walmart instead.

One wandering minstrel hijacked my daughter’s shopping experience and kept lowering the price of a fingernail treatment until my previously nice daughter said, “I don’t want it” whereupon the minstrel got snippy and mean.

And when I tried to politely ignore one, he turned to his partner and said: “She’s from Canada.” (Is that bad? Canadian friends, please spill it: Do you people part with your dollars less often than we do?)

I’m thinking the freedom to venture away from the cash register and stool to try to drum up sales with nationality insults is one of the advantages of having a kiosk instead of a real store in a mall. There must be a radius limit, though, because the minstrels won’t come running after you, no matter how close they are to making the sale. If you keep walking, they’ll eventually step back inside the invisible line and try someone closer.

At home in our regular mall, when trying to avoid them, I just put my phone up to my ear and carry on an imaginary conversation. It keeps them away like a garlic necklace. I am clever and witty and a sparkling conversationalists in those pretend phone calls. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my call, I have to hover outside Macy’s and finish talking before I go in.

But at Sawgrass, I was with other people, so a phone call to my imaginary friend would have to wait. I had to fend off the kiosk minstrels with my bare hands and an Ann Taylor Factory Store shopping bag weighted down with a chunky necklace.

This mall is so big, it took us 20 minutes to walk from the end of Avenue 1, home of Bare Feet Shoes, to the far end of Avenue 4, where the Lids store was. Before you think that this mall was organized in order of where you would put things onto your body, no; it was organized by making a list of every possible thing you could ever want to buy and then putting the list through a paper shredder and then feeding the scraps into the central air conditioning vent. Where they landed the racks were set up and stuff was sold. There are five sunglasses stores. There are two Elegance Perfume stores, one on each end. There are 15 stores that sell athletic shoes.

For you hardcore shoppers out there, this might be kid’s stuff, but for me, it was all so overwhelming. I just kept thinking back to the days when I would take my kids school clothes shopping and they would whine that they couldn’t find anything. If we had lived near the nation’s sixth largest mall, I would have just parked myself at one of the Cinnabons and sent the kids off to shop with the order: Don’t come back until you’ve got five outfits or a part-time job at a kiosk.