Friday, December 10, 2010

Present Perils

When you’re a child, let’s face it, Christmas is all about Santa and the gifts. What is he going to bring you?  Boys wondered if they were going to get that air-soft rifle they’d been dreaming of…No childhood could be complete until a boy’s mother worried that he’d shoot his eye out.  Ladies, I bet when each of you was a young girl, you didn’t hesitate to tell people what you wanted for Christmas when they asked you.  There was none of that, “Oh, I don’t know,” stuff. It was more like, “I don’t care that Barbie has the equivalent of a 13 inch wasp-waist, and I’ll probably break off one of her legs when I try to put on her ultra-suede cowboy pants so she can rustle up some cattle on her dusty mare, I’ll just DIE if I don’t get Cowgirl Barbie this year.” When you opened that last box and Cowgirl Barbie was inside, it was like you’d died and gone to heaven.
As soon as we leave the Santa stage, however, things change.  Maybe that’s because Santa just LOVES to buy us presents.  He LIVES for gift giving (It also doesn’t hurt that he lives in a compound fully stocked with free labor).  All he requires is that we are “good” each year. (His idea of good is pretty generous.)   Of course, he’ll always appreciate a few cookies and some milk, but he’ll still leave us presents even if we forget the cookies.  Other people… now that’s different.  Friends and relatives might buy us gifts, but they usually appreciate receiving a nice gift, too.  And let’s not even discuss the gifts that come with strings or messages attached, “I’m buying you this set of POTS so you can COOK more often.”  We might as well call these MESSAGE PRESENTS because actually, the gift giver is using Christmas as a vehicle to hit you over the head with some personal criticism that you’ve apparently not been able to absorb before. 
My mom frequently trots out the story of how my dad got her an electric can opener for Christmas one year.  The message was either, “Cook my dinner” or, “Hey, you might not like it, but I sure do like gadgets!” I don’t think that’s the only thing he got her, but really… an electric can opener? And oh, by the way, she already had one.     
Eons ago, when I was barely out of high school, my first boyfriend gave me a Message Present.  He was one of those annoying Scandinavians who says the weather is “great” when it’s barely touching the double digits on the Fahrenheit temperature scale.  I was (and still am) cold almost all the time.  He decided I needed a down coat.  Never mind that this is the least romantic gift you can give someone, it’s WARM, dammit, and when I got it, I could Stop Mentioning That I was Cold.  And maybe like winter.  Yeah, RIGHT. 
And this leads right into another kind of present:  The Even Trade
I found out I was getting The Coat that year, because my thoughtful boyfriend decided he wanted me to go shopping for, and purchase this coat for myself.  He thought I should pick it out, but why did he have to go with me?  I should go and pick it out, buy it, and then tell him how much it was, and he would give me the money for it.  Oh, and wrap it for myself, and bring it over his house when we celebrated Christmas Eve with his family. 
So I got myself a coat, and then I thought, Jeez, this thing is 100.00 – what am I going to get him?  I sewed a lot at the time, so I decided to make him a wool shirt.  I bought the materials and made the shirt (which came out rather nice, if I do say so myself) but I couldn’t bring myself to give him just that because I knew he had spent more on me. (Actually, I had spent more on me.)  I had to Make it an Even Trade.  I dragged my mom with me to the mall on Christmas Eve so I could buy a few more things.  I almost didn’t care what I bought, as long as I bought enough.  And you know, I didn’t really want to see him anymore, but how could I tell him?  It was Christmas, for God’s sake.  Just make it an even trade. 
There are presents that make you squirm with guilt, such as my Corsage Story.  Although it wasn’t a Christmas present, I think this story is worthy of inclusion here.  When I was in high school, my mom made me a GIANT corsage for my 16th birthday.  Corsages had been THE thing when I was 6, 7, and 8 years old. Girls walked around sporting corsages loaded with various candies, a different candy for whatever age you were turning.  But by the time I was 16, that fad was looooonnng gone.  Unfortunately, my mom must have remembered me mentioning it years before because on the morning of my birthday, she presented me with this corsage.  It was about as big as a grapefruit, and loaded with white peppermint life saver candies springing out through the loops of blue and white checked ribbon.  It really was cute, but it was BIG.   And she wanted me to wear it to school.  Why hadn’t she made this for me YEARS ago?  I would have loved it then.  I was embarrassed to wear it.  We had an argument about it that morning before I got on the bus, and that corsage hung on a hook in my closet for years before I could bring myself to throw it out.  Years.  I talked to my mom about this recently.  She claims she doesn’t remember the episode, but I do, and I’ll remember it till I die.  My wish for you is that you never receive a gift that makes you squirm that much.   
Of course, it’s entirely possible that you will GIVE a gift that makes you squirm, such as when I gave my cousin a puzzle car when he was about 5 years old.  Here we were, cousins, grandparents, etc assembled for the holiday, and he opened this present, took one look at it, and his lip started to quiver.  Someone asked, “What’s the matter, don’t you like it?” and he yelled, “I HATE it.” “You hate it? Why?” and he said, “LOOK at it!”  I suspect he hated it because he was a bit too old for that sort of present, and he thought I was making a statement that he was a “baby.” In reality, at that time, I just had no idea what to get for a boy that age.  We still haven’t lived it down, though.  Just mention the words “I HATE it, LOOK at it!” in my family and everyone knows EXACTLY what we’re talking about.

I know everyone had present horror stories, so please, I invite you to share them! 
Here’s a quick story to end this on a positive note: Today, is Friday.  My little friend at school had a good week.  She did not get written up or sent to the office all week, so in the morning, I told her that if she had another good day today, I wanted to give her a little present at the end of the day.  Well, she came down to the office at the end of the day, and I gave her two Mint Ghiradelli Chocolate squares.  She said, “Thank you SOOOOOO much,” and stuffed them in her pocket.   That present trumps all of the above.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Merry Christmas to me...

"I always like to start Christmas shopping with a generous round of personal shopping first," a relative and friend said to me years ago.  "What a riot!" I thought at the time, but she had such a great point.  I buy things for myself now and then, but I am not a huge shopper.  Still, at Christmas time, it's hard to go out and buy large quantities of stuff without slipping in a little self-serving purchases, too. Who better than me will know EXACTLY what I want this year?  WOW, and in just the right color, too!  Even better, everything is on sale!  Best (or worst?) of all, I don't even have to leave the house to shop.  So, Merry Christmas, everyone! And uh, Merry   Christmas to me, too.  

(my new Tignanello handbag in "brass" - a Today's Special Value from QVC - isn't it nice?)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Going out on a limb

I've had this idea for a couple of weeks, and today I just decided to give it a go.

We have a student at school who is, shall we say delicately... edgy.  She's been suspended several times and was out of the building for several months last year - I can't remember exactly why.  She seems to have a hairpin trigger of a temper, and she seems to be very sensitive (as we know, that can also sometimes be a hinderance in life), is easily offended, but is very smart.  Schoolwork comes easily to her when she decides to do it.  Let's call her "Rose." 

Rose is in the grade that the AP I work with is in charge of, so she has been in my office a few times both when she's been in trouble or when she's serving a detention, and we've had some pleasant conversations.  The last time she was in, she told me, "See, I can have a conversation with you, and you give me respect, and I give you respect, so why can't these teachers give me respect?" (I thought, if I tell her I'm actually a teacher, too, will she turn on me like a rabid dog?  I kept that piece of information to myself for the moment.) I tried to explain to her that they weren't meaning to disrespect her, but they are very focused on getting their job done, which is trying to teach her and others, so it's possible that she perceived disrespect when none was intended.  I said that they were trying to get her to do her best work.  I'm not sure she was ready to hear that, but I think my comment got scooped up for possible digestion at a later time.

Since then, I've been thinking, this girl needs to see herself do really well at something.  She needs to take pride in something she's done... see herself in a different role.  I am going to be the set designer for this year's school  play, and it occurred to me that she might be interested in working with me to create my sets.  I've rolled this around in my head for a while...  She might be interested, but then again, she might rank on me and think I'm trying to buy off her good behavior.  (Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained). Worse, she might accept and then behave attrociously when she's under my watch.  The could be a problem, but then, that would be the last day she'd be helping me. 

Today, as typically happens with Rose's freak-outs, I heard her from way down the hall.  Imitating the adults who were trying to talk... cursing like a sailor... refusing to come in the room or sit down. Other kids were in the office at the time, so they finally sent her to sit down and cool off in another location. 

About 15 minutes later, I thought, well, it's not like I'd just LOVE to hang out with her now, but if she has something to look forward to and maintain good behavior for, maybe she'll be able to get herself together.  I proposed my idea to my AP, and he brought Rose over and put the idea to her.  "You know, we want to see you have some positive experiences, be successful at things.  You know my secretary," he gestured to me, and she nodded.  "She knows that you're interested in art, and she wants to know if you want to work with her to make the scenery for the play." She looked stunned.  Almost speechless, actually.  Did I detect some wateryness in her brown eyes?  "I thought you might like to help me.  If you're interested."  I said.  She nodded yes.  "Great!" I said.  This should be a learning experience for both of us. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Decorating

I hate decorating for Christmas.  When I was a kid, decorating was fun, but now, it seems like such a painful chore. First, there's the lugging of the boxes from all corners of the Earth.  Then there's the rearranging, and the inevitable thoughts of "How did I ever accumulate so much stuff?"  (Don't tell my husband I've had that revelation.)  Next, the unpacking of breakable items, and inevitably, more things get broken.  You can't sweat it, it happens. Someone, maybe an underage someone, grabs some tissue paper and realizes too late that is contains something can just imagine the ornament flying up... and the lunge... both in slow motion, like a collasal spill in Bounty commercial, upsetting but unstoppable.   Of course, if you're lucky, someone will break that ornament that you secretly hate, but feel too guilty to get rid of - YAY! There IS order in the universe.

You can't worry about the broken stuff, though.  I remember my Italian grandparents always had a beautiful tree, but from what my parents told me, they argued every year when they set it up. I loved them dearly, but that must have been the perfectionist in each of them. There's something hyporcritical about fighting while you're putting up a Christmas tree, isn't there? 

This year was pretty painless, though.  The kids assembled the artificial tree (they like the assemble-by-color system), my spouse put the lights on (a stroke of luck for me - I was out drinking Starbucks with my two best buddies) and then the kids put on most of the ornaments.  All I still need to do is put some festive ribbon around it, give it some kind of crowning glory, and then sit and with the family and admire our handiwork.   Ahhhh... that's the best part. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How do I love thee, recorded books? Let me count the ways...

     I want to say a few words about my love of… recorded books.  “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?  Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May…” alright, alright.
     But seriously, before you go thinking, “only old, blind, or people who have a 2 hour commute listen to recorded books,” think again, my friend!  I’m a recent convert to the recorded book arena, but I was an instant addict. There were looooong stretches of my weekdays (my weekdays... yes) in which I was listening to the radio.  I very quickly got sick of the top 40 rotation.  I tried other stations, but to no avail.  I even tried NPR (INTERESTING, mixed with long stretches of BOOOOORRRIIING!!!)  I started listening to my CD collection, but even that became old very quickly.  One day in the library, I had a “eureka” moment.  I saw a shelf marked "Playaways."  These little digital recordings take AA batteries (as I quickly discovered, because EVERY time I borrow one from the library, the batteries are dead), and your own pair of headphones or ear buds.  I liked the idea – they were cute, easy to operate, and best of all, inconspicuous!  
     I started with The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.  I was immediately hooked on Playaways (and by the way, the book was great, engaging and beautifully written, if I little gut-wrenching).  I can’t think of anything bad to say about Playaways, except, there just aren’t enough of them. I can’t afford to buy these things so I borrow them from the library, and there’s just one scant shelf of Playaways in my rather large local library.  But hey, there are books on CD, and those are great too.  Their only real drawbacks are sometimes scratched CDs and the more obvious fact that when you listen to them, everyone can hear what you’re hearing.  "Duh!" you're thinking.  Well, give some consideration to the fact that since everyone in the room can hear what you're "reading." You might not want to have your narrator reading an R rated paragraph while a G rated audience is in the room with you, so if you don't want to limit yourself to G-rated books, keep the volume faily low and position yourself within easy reach of the volume and pause buttons.  
     There are still times when an actual printed book can be indispensible, such as when I was learning the French names of the characters in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  I had to replay the first chapter of the book about 4 times before I got the important details of the main characters.  Once I had it straight, though, it was easy listening.  I've given up (for now) on the recorded versions of The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask because of those French names.  I may start each of them at home with the actual books as well as the recordings, just until I get the characters straight. 
     I had no such issues with these books, though: Angels and Demons, and Deception Point, by Dan Brown, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, World Without End by Ken Follett, Helen of Troy by Margaret George, Atonement by Ian McEwan.   Pride and Prejudice, Lady Susan, and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin may have been a bit difficult if I hadn’t read two of the three of them in the more traditional way years before (and seen the movies, too).  Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt was hysterical at points, even though his poverty was harrowing.  And I just LOVED that Frank McCourt was the narrator.  I loved his oft repeated line, “they didn’t give the steam of their piss,” especially when I heard it in Mr. McCourt’s wonderful Irish accent.  The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns was also narrated by its author, Khaled Hosseini, and his accent lends a certain authenticity to the descriptions of places that held no appeal for me whatsoever until I listened to these two books.   Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey was fun, easily digestible fluff, as was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austin Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler.
     I just borrowed two more recorded books (on CD) and I’m already well into the first one.  They make boring chores like folding laundry and cooking dinner much more tolerable, and sitting in traffic is almost a pleasure.  Almost. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween Idiot

I am what you might call, a Halloween Idiot.  I invented the term approximately a week and a half ago, as I was frantically arranging my schedule to accommodate trips to the fabric store and to block out time on the sewing machine.  This year we were invited to a Halloween party, and as I was madly sewing one night, I thought, “I’m going through all this crazy effort to sew the PERFECT costume, and everyone else at the party is just going to buy theirs. What’s wrong with me?  I’m a Halloween idiot.”
I blame the start of this costume obsession on my mother because when I was a kid and all of my peers were wearing ugly plastic jumper costumes with plastic face masks and emblems on the chest of what you were supposed to be, my mother sewed us homemade costumes.  We’d walk up to each door and wow the neighbors. 
My costume obsession was cemented as soon as I learned to sew.  First, I was a mermaid (revisited with gusto and success a few years later), Cleopatra, Catwoman (a little risqué I must admit, even though I was completely covered), a Wild Thing (from the children’s book - complete with paper mache head), a medieval lady, Miss Spider (another children’s book and another paper mache head) which won me a gift certificate to dinner, by the way, and most recently before this year, 5 members of the cast of Jimmy Neutron, each with his or her own very large paper mache head.  What can I say?  I like to sculpt, and my medium is paper mache.
So this year, when we were invited to this Halloween party, I was kind of excited to flex my costume-making muscle.  But I don’t have a lot of time (this writing is subtracting from my snooze time, for example).  My dear spouse suggested we be Sonny and Cher, and I said,
“No way, I’m not going to be Sonny.”
Why do I think like that? 
I decided to be a pirate.  It could be a nice mixture of creativity and found items.  But of course, I tend to get obsessed with costumes.  I found a jacket in the thrift store and sewed lots of pirate-like trim on it.  I cut down some velour sweatpants so they would show my boots (I really liked that sweatsuit, but you know, sacrifices had to be made).  I made two necklaces, and then I made the lace-up vest from scratch, which came out great (thank you dad, for helping me with those grommets!) but was a pain in the ass with boning and lining and 3 broken sewing machine needles.  And here’s a secret that hints at my obsessiveness… I truly considered making the sword out of wood, then sanding and painting the blade silver and gluing large rhinestones on the hilt… wouldn’t that have been AWESOME?  But ultimately, I’m just not THAT nuts.

So in the end, the costume really did come out great.  Lots of people said so.  I hate those times when you have to explain what you are…  I always want it to be PAINFULLY OBVIOUS what I am.  The irony is, in my pride and glory I drank ONE nice, large Cosmo and had to be taken home by my husband after only about two hours.  Some pirate, eh?  I am truly a Halloween Idiot.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I love my new phone.  I now text.  Texting took so long on my old phone that I tried never to do it.  My old phone looked like this:

My new phone is a “slider” with a full, QWERTY keyboard.  I can take pictures and send them with ease.  I can upload pictures to Facebook (they’re usually upside down or sideways, but still).  Get this: I actually cut my thumbnails shorter the other day so they didn’t interfere with my texting!  I have begun to really appreciate my phone’s calendar (I’ve entered new appointments while standing still standing in the vicinity of the counter where I booked them – AWESOME) and I’ve used the Memo tool for my Costco and Wal-Mart shopping lists.  Plus (and this is very important) my phone is a nice color pink and it has decorative squiggles on the back

– the only way I might like it better is if it was a nice periwinkle blue with sparkley squiggles and it talked to me throughout the day when appropriate like a positive personal assistant.  “Don’t forget you have physical therapy for your shoulder this afternoon and by the way, that new ring of yours is GORGEOUS!” 
I have a limited number of people who call me on the cell phone and I still do NOT want to be accessible all the time.  I know that some people do this.  Kids especially.  How do they do it?  Better yet, WHY do they do it?  It must take forever to do everything…  “morning. What r u wearing?” “IDK yet. im taking a poo right now.” Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s got to be close.  I remember in high school, spending HOURS on the phone with my friends, and we were in the same classes as well.  My dad always knew where I was because all he had to do was follow the long phone cord (We had 2 twenty foot cords connected together. YES, those were the days before cordless phones.)  He sometimes had to yell at me to get off the phone at 9:00 p.m. because I had been talking since dinner ended, but at least when that happened, there were no midnight consultations, no comparing and contrasting of gossip when I should have been sleeping, no "he said" "she said" at the bleary eyed hour of 2 a.m.  I remember reading an article a few years ago that said that most teenagers are sleep deprived because they send text messages into the wee hours of the morning.  It can’t be THAT bad, I thought.  I asked a class of 9th graders, just for curiosity’s sake, how many of them regularly stayed up past 2:00 a.m. sending and receiving text messages, and HALF THE CLASS raised their hands!  Yikes.  Did their parents know?  I wondered.
I love my new phone, but not that much. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

My New Best Friend

Meet my new friend…
I’ve been acquainted with coffee since childhood.   I used to sip my dad’s demitasse cup of black coffee after dinner when we ate over my grandparents’ house.   I liked it, but only a sip at a time.  The tiny cup… the tiny spoon…  the mountains of sugar my dad added to it.  In my eyes, it was coffee made for a kid.  Plus, it really pleased my relatives to see me drinking espresso; they thought I had really Italian sensibilities.  But I could never get into brown coffee.  It was just so bitter.  It always came in such a large cup, too – who could drink that much?  So instead, for a long time, I copied mom.  She liked tea.  But then she started doing weird things with her tea as she got older, like dipping the teabag for only about 10 seconds before taking it out.  The lighter the tea, the better.  It was like drinking hot, colored water.

But that’s another story altogether.  Coffee is not colored water. 
When I was student teaching, I also had to take a statistics class on Saturday mornings. Class started at 9:00 a.m.  I went to the first class (three consecutive hours of math – just shoot me) and I struggled to stay awake.  I remember when I was driving there the next Saturday, I had an epiphany…  I got a Starbucks Café Mocha, hoping it would keep me awake, and eureka, in those moments I had discovered the wonder of caffeine.  I stayed awake for the whole class.  Awake, alert, and ready to learn, baby!
Still, I converted to daily coffee drinking in small steps.  At home, we signed up for Gevalia, mostly for the free coffee pot.  What a pleasant surprise!  If you haven’t tried Gevalia, you should.  I think it’s the best coffee around, overall.  Then again, I’m not a professional coffee drinker, so what do I know, really?  I just know that Gevalia is great, and my aunt’s coffee, for example, tastes like Draino, even if you try to disguise it with lots of sugar and a quarter cup of milk.  Anyway, eventually, we moved on from Gevalia (which is pretty expensive, and it’s hard to make a pot of coffee when you really want just one cup) to a Keurig coffee maker with my new favorite coffee:  Green Mountain Columbian Fair Trade Select.  I love it.  A just opened box of k-cups from Costco is a beautiful sight. 
I’ve noticed that coffee is more than just the taste, it’s the whole experience… it’s the sound of the pot in the morning (whatever sound your pot makes), the smell, the warmth of the cup in your hand.  Holding the cup as you walk around at work (if you’ve gifted yourself with a travel mug, like I have) is like wearing your comfy bedroom slippers at work.  I ask you, who cannot use another few minutes of comfy slippers in the morning?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wishin' it was still summer...

We are in the middle of one clammy, nasty week, weather wise.  It's dark, dreary, and misty (somehow Stephanie Meyer made this weather fashionable in her Twilight series, but Edward/Jacob or not, I still hate it)  The humidity is so high, my hair looks like a giant puff-ball, and it's that in-between temperature that makes you alternate between feeling hot and feeling cold. 

I've been wanting to post pictures, but last time I attempted such an endeavor, my picture was horribly fitted to the page, and I couldn't figure out how to fix it.  For this (I think, fairly successful attempt!)  I've chosen a picture I took at a local beach a little over a month ago.  The weather was great and the beach wasn't too crowded.  I was relaxing while the kids caught fiddler crabs in a bucket when  my daughter suddenly said, "Mommy, LOOK at those seagulls!"  I took loads of shots but somehow every time I managed to miss the seagull on the right sticking his head right into the beach bag and fishing out potato chips.   What a riot!  I probably should have shooed them away, but it was way too funny, and I was too busy trying to take their picture...  Ah, I miss summer, don't you?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Groin Strike - YIKES!

First, I want to say that I really like karate.  Maybe you’re wondering what kind of karate I’m talking about so I’m going to state for the record that I started out doing Kempo, and now it’s Shoren Ru or some other such name like that, but for all I care, it’s just Regular Karate.
Regular Karate is the kind where you learn how to punch and kick people, and you feel like you’re TOUGH.  You can kick some ASS.  You can take someone out (Not that you would, but technically, you could.  Although, I’m not sure I could, but that’s the theory.) It’s especially cool if you get to wear the black gi pants, but if you have to wear the white ones (let’s face it, what girl really prefers to wear white pants, especially baggy ones, unless you’re getting paid lots of money to do a Tampax commercial?) you will still feel cool when you do things like roundhouse kicks and elbow strikes.  I’m noticing, though, that the further I get into this, the more I run into things that strike fear into my heart.  Things like:  BREAK FALL.  TWO MILE RUN.  And most recently…
Oh my GOD!  Am I actually going to have to hit someone in the groin? Worse, is someone going to groin strike me??  You know, not that we actually hit each other hard when we’re practicing, but when you’re doing a chin strike for example, you make contact with the chin.  GROIN STRIKE.  YIKES!!
When the sensei was demonstrating, I paid careful attention.  How was he handling it? Although, could I even use him as an example?  He’s the SENSEI, for crying out loud, of course he can handle a groin strike with aplomb! Ah, I saw that he pretended to strike, but stopped just short, which was convenient for the other person (in this case, the victim, or was that the attacker?) who then had to grab the wrist to prevent the groin strike. 
Oh, did I tell you that I have personal space issues? 
I have personal space issues.
And my partner for the day was a young man.  Oh my.  I could do this.  I was not a wimp. The drill began with a two handed bear hug (personal space!) by the attacker to pin down the victim’s arms.   I stood in front of my partner, ready to pin down his arms.  Suddenly, a pair of black belts (conveniently, a young man and a young woman) came to our rescue.  Whewww…  I don’t have to pretend to grab the groin of a young man, but you know, pretending to grab the groin of a young woman is just as bad (worse?  Just as bad in a different way?).  Now, boobs were an issue.  I don’t want to hug someone with boobs unless it’s one of my sisters or a really good friend and one of us is really happy or having an emotional meltdown (Did I tell you…?  Nevermind.)
I got past the awkwardness by concentrating on remembering the next step and feeling awkward about that instead. Those black belts – in addition to having mastered all sorts of ways to kick ass, they have also mastered the issue of personal space.    
I’ve done this drill a few more times since that first time, but it’s still not my favorite.  I’d rather pretend to chop someone in the bicep, hyperextend their arm, or even bend them over and get them in a headlock while they turn and pretend to bite my leg.  The next time the bear-hug-then-groin-strike drill comes up, I’m going to try and concentrate only on the fact that I’m learning to kick ass.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

DISAPPOINTMENT - 11 year old style...

     My son is extremely disappointed that his game, Halo Reach, didn’t arrive in the mail today, as scheduled.  We special ordered the game from for his birthday, which was last week on the first day of school (the poor kid).  In spite of playing video games way too often (is this the case with most 11 year old boys?) he wanted this game like kids in the early 80's wanted Rubic's cubes... Smurfs... Cabbage Patch dolls, oh you know, he HAD TO GET IT.  According to my son, this stupendous, miraculous game had its world wide release TODAY, September 14, 2010. (Is he SURE it’s today?  I think it must be tomorrow.)  But when he got home from dischool, he checked the mailbox.  Nothing.  Checked the front porch, where the UPS man usually leaves packages.  Nothing.  There were no Post-It-like notes stuck to the front screen door, ala, Fed Ex. Man.  This being the case, I ask you, what is a newly-turned-11-year-old boy to do?  He’s been pacing the floor since he got home from school.  He did his homework in a microsecond, anticipating the delivery of the videogame package, knowing I wouldn’t let him open it until the homework was done.  All for nothing.  (Who cares about education?  Not my son!)  His life was a total disappointment, he informed me.  (Yeah, who cares about the bike he got this summer, and all the great things we did in the past two months?)  I joked with him, "Yeah, it's the end of the world.”  “It IS,” he tells me.  He starts a negative rant about Costco, telling me he’ll never buy another thing there again (… which is no big loss for Costco, since it’s really ME that does the shopping there, and I have no intention of boycotting.)  As a matter of fact, he’ll never even set FOOT in Costco again.  I imagine him standing just outside the wide open doorway of our local Costco, arms folded in front of his chest, and chin up in the air, as a few employees try to coax him inside to no avail.   I chuckle. “My life is over.” He informs me.   We are sitting in the parking at his karate dojo when he tells me this.  He’s flopping around the car, venting his disappointment and frustration.  Ok, It’s time for karate, I tell him,  He gives me a joking glare and states dramatically, “I’m not going in there until my video game is delivered!” but when I glare back at him he knows I’m serious and he heads inside. 
     In my boring, adult mind, I keep thinking, I can't believe he's making such a big deal out of this, but you know, tomorrow, when the game does arrive, he's going to be the happiest little man in the world, and I'll be marveling (and appreciating) the pure simplicity of boys.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Wimp, or Just a Pint Low?

I donated blood the other day.  I've been meaning to do this for years, but I've managed to avoid actually doing it until just last week.  The karate dojo I attend was having a blood drive, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to try donating again.  I haven't donated blood since I was about 25 and all I remember from that experience is: 1. In the time it took me to donate my one pint of blood, three other people donated their pints, 2.  the needle was frighteningly large, and 3.  I was sick for two weeks after that. 

Anyway, I am now older, wiser (not to mention, heavier) and most of all, long overdue to try this again.  I signed up for a spot. 

When I showed up, I felt totally ready.  I had hydrated myself well all day, and I had just eaten a big plate of pasta for dinner.  Ready to go, I thought.  Ready to bleed for the good of mankind.  I filled out my questionnaire, talked to the nurse, and passed the iron test.  My blood pressure was pretty low, though (100/60). 

Is that too low, I worry?  How low was too low?  What if taking away a pint of blood lowers my blood pressure even more - will I pass out?  That would be embarrassing.  I sit on the bench to wait my turn and try not to think about it.  I watch the black belt nearby play with his cell phone as he donates his pint.  The automatic blood-slosher tilts the bag of his blood back and forth, mixing it constantly.  (Why?  So it doesn't clot in the bag?  IEWWW.  Think about THIS when you dream about Edward Cullen, girls.)  I drink my bottle of juice before my donation, as the nurse has suggested.  Is this stuff really going to make a difference? I guess I should have drank more water today. I look around.  Wow, this is just a modified camper trailer.  What if someone actually passes out? The aisle is so narrow they'll take half of these tubes and equipment with them on the way to the floor.  I look up the aisle.  One of the senseis is done, and she is holding her arm in the air, pressing on the bandage.  They never have you do that when they just take a vial of blood for tests.  I wonder if that's because the damn needle is so big and it makes a big hole?  GOD, It's hot in here!  And why are the windows are covered with dark tinting?  Is that really necessary?  When is it going to be my turn?  Another nurse has me recline on one of the bench/tables.  I watch the black-belt's blood continue to fill up the bag and slosh around.  460ml.  Slosh. Slosh. God, that really DOES look like a lot of blood.  470.  slosh.  Mine is going to look like that, too.  Glad it's so close to the table I won't be able to see my own.  490.  Slosh.  500.  His monitor starts beeping, and the nurse comes over.  She tells me I'll have to wait a minute, because she has to unhook him first before she hooks me up.  No problem, I say, but secretly, I just want to go NOW, cause I want to this to be over.  Finally, she turns to me. She sets everything up and when she takes the needle out of its packaging, I steal a glance at it.  It's BIG.  I can clearly see the hole in the end of it, and I can even see up the inside of the hole a few millimeters.  Ugh. I looked away from it, toward the tubes she's filling.  Are those for testing my blood?  I ask.  Yes.  Then she takes out a small bag and hooks it up to my tube.  First, you'll fill up this small bag before you give your main donation.  Ok.  She hooks it up and walks away.  This is going to be way more than a pint, I think to myself.  I try not to move my arm.  I don't want to jolt the big pipe she has shoved into my vein.  That's all I need... the blood stopping, and her coming back here to move it around, the way I think it happened last time I donated blood.  UGH!  Is it hot in here, or is it just me?  She removes the small bag and connects me to the main donation bag.  I don't feel so well.  I think of my husband, who practically passes out when they draw a couple of tubes of his blood.  I think I'll just lie down here, he tells them.  Wheew, that seems like a good idea right about now...

"Are you alright?"  one of the nurses asked me.

If they have to stop this blood donation in the middle, I bet they're going to have to throw my blood out, and I'll be damned if my blood's getting wasted.

Tell me now if you're not feeling ok because we don't want your blood to go to waste.  If you can finish the pint it won't go to waste.   Exactly!  I think.

While I was trying to decide if I was alright or not, she was walking over to me, at the same time asking another nurse to help her flatten my bench.  In about 10 seconds, I was lying flat on my back and another nurse was putting ice packs behind my neck.  The other one added an ice pack to my forehead for good measure. 

"You're going to give her brain-freeze,"  the one nurse said to the other.

I felt like a baby, but I was glad to be lying down. 

Soon, (but not soon enough) I was done.  A nurse disconnected me and brought me another juice and some salty crackers.  I drank it and tried to sit up.  Whoah, not yet.   I reclined again.  I watched them putter around.  Someone should tell them not to say things like, "there's blood all over the place," for a multitude of reasons.  They escorted another donor to the back of the van, telling her to walk sideways or so she doesn't knock over the blood bag from the slosher of the new donor next to me. 


I imagined.  It wasn't pretty. 

Finally, FINALLY, I was able to sit up without feeling woozy.  I was able to leave the donation van an hour and a half after I had entered it. As the sensei who had organized the blood drive walked by me, while I waited in my chair, she told me we got 30 pints. 

"How many pints in a quart?"  I asked.  "Two, right?"


"I was wondering how many gallons that is.  30 pints.  How many gallons is that?"

She grimmaced.  "Ugh. I never thought of it that way."  she said.  "Ugh.  You just skeeved me out." 

We both laughed. 

I watched the next karate class, and then my friend drove me home.  I'd like to say for the record that my blood donating career has officially ended.  If, in another 10 years or so, I feel the need to be heroic in this particular manner, someone, please talk me out of it.      

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take my glasses, PLEASE!

     I am at the age where, sadly, I need reading glasses. I had been hearing for years that this need for reading glasses would suddenly sneak up on me – give or take a year or two (or, three?) but the general consensus was that it happened sometime around age 40. As if 40 isn’t enough of an issue. Anyway, the glasses took me quite by surprise. One year I was teaching English, reading extensively every day and not having a problem, and the next year, I was teaching preschool, naturally holding the books like Goodnight, Moon, and How to Be a Pirate, far away from me as I read so that the kids could see the pictures. Then suddenly, I was teaching high school and I discovered that somewhere in the last year, I had gone blind. I got a pair of glasses and it was a miracle – I could read again! Just in time, too. I had been holding the books farther and farther away from my face, and I realized that soon my arms would be too short.

     They were terrific until my husband started “borrowing” them for his sessions on ebay… and for reading the newspaper… and for… well, let’s just say that he borrowed them for everything. And he left them everywhere. On his nightstand. On the coffee table in the living room. In the garage. In the bathroom. He needed his own pair, because he was destroying mine… throwing them around, stretching them out on his big head. He did get his own pair (from the dollar store) but still he continues to borrow my glasses. He says he’s going to buy twenty pairs from the dollar store, and leave them all over the house so that he can always find a pair, but he really doesn’t have to do that because somehow, I have become the Designated Person in Charge of Eyewear. Now he actually gets ANNOYED with me when I forget the glasses, or I want to use them first. He’s used my long-arm trick, but his vision is a bit worse than mine (he’s further past 40) so his arms aren’t long enough anymore.

     A funny thing has been happening lately, though. I’ve noticed that EVERYONE needs glasses. Everyone in my age bracket, that is. We go out to dinner with friends and I notice THEM holding their menus too far away. “Do you wear reading glasses?” I’d ask casually. No, he or she would say, “I don’t need them.” Haha, I snicker to myself. Sure you don’t.

     I discovered a very good friend of mine needed glasses as well when, after handing her an article to read, she took it and held it at arm’s length.

     “Do you need reading glasses?” I asked her.

     “Probably.” She said.

     “Here, try these.” I handed over mine.

     “Wow.” She said, impressed and at the same time, slightly disgusted. “What a difference!”

     If you recognize yourself in this situation, you may be embarrassed, but don’t be. We’re all in the same boat together. We’re not getting old. Really. I’m not the only one who suddenly needs glasses, and neither are you. I won’t tell if you don’t want me to. But next time someone shows you something with tiny print, or lots of little details, just take the glasses, please.