Top 10 Tips for your Next Power Outage

I’m a willing slave
To amps, volts, joules, things with plugs;
So lost when they go…
Around 5pm Friday, a mere 30 minutes before I made my way home through fallen branches and strewn-about leaves, the power left my street. Gone. Caput. Not a downed tree in sight, but that didn’t matter. We were on our own.

As with most calamities, one of which I describe in this posting on a car breakdown, there are several stages one goes through as the event continues on. This post is really an after-event learning summary… tips I’ve gleaned from 21 hours of a power outage.

1. Give your house some credit. By the end, the temp was only up 5 degrees downstairs and 7 degrees upstairs. Mind you such temperature shifts have caused ice ages in our evolutionary history, but in an old house, with no insulation, these thick plaster walls did us a favor. Thanks house.

2. In spring and summer, when strong storms are common, I recommend checking the weather channel before going on a big grocery shop. It will minimize your losses considerably.

3. Don’t assume the dog won’t jump out the front, screen-less window just because she won’t jump out of the parked car.

4. Never lose hope that electricity will mysteriously return to just a single room. Keep flicking the switch each and every time your enter it. Statistically speaking, you are bound to be right at some point.

5.  Go ahead and open the damn fridge. By hour 15, when you are emptying the thing into coolers, your trepidation at opening it a half day before will seem silly.  At hour 1, open it. The thing will either come on soon enough that it won’t matter, or so far from now that you will have solved the problem by then. Either way, the outcome is the same.

6. Don’t drink all the beer too early in the process, or make sure you have enough to take the edge off for a while. You need to buzz to take you all the way to bedtime, not just help you navigate request after request to play “paper airplane versus king kong” with your 5 year old, his imaginative, no-plug-required game just for just the two of you.

7. Never, ever, inspect your skin in a magnifying mirror in the dark with an LED flashlight. You will find more facial hair than a Russian weight-lifter, decide it is all pitch black and that anyone who says you looks great for your age is a lying bastard. Don’t do it. No good will come from it.

8. I cannot recommend walking past an open bedroom window naked, silhouetted by a flashlight. You thought you looked like crap in the bathroom…

9. When, during your mad scramble to save food into coolers at hour 15, you purge year-old salsa, mustards, 3 bottles of half full Italian dressing, and some strange Asian sauce, try not to dump 2 jars of pickles down the disposal before you remember there is a power outage.

10. Once the power is back on, and you decide to clean the fridge for the first time in *mumble* months, resist the urge to inspect the crumbly bits in the back or the sticky stuff in the bottom of the meat drawer. You really don’t want to go there.
There you go. Upon reflection, apparently the only thing I really cared about during the last day was keeping food cold and proper flashlight positioning. And beer.  That isn’t too far off a normal day after all…

Get off the road

Alone, I travel,
Amongst the idiots, dazed,
my foot on the brake…


There are some people who are just too stupid to drive. Yesterday, while merging onto the interstate, I encountered a convention of them: A charlie foxtrot of about 25 of the worse, most inane drivers in the history of motorized travel. Here is what I encountered in a mere 2 miles of highway driving.

1. Daydreamers. These are the people I’d like to believe are merciless, but who I really think are just so totally air-headed they don’t realized they are driving stupid. When I’m in the right lane and come upon an on ramp, what do I do? I look around, see if I can pull over to give the mergers room, or slow down/speed up so they have a good area to merge in. Daydreamers do none of this. And by some sadistic coincidence, they match my speed and location leaving me nary a place to merge either in front or behind them. I’m forced to slow way down, creating a dangerous merge, and then try to jump in behind them before I run out of road. Since today I was, as I said, in a CF of idiots, this was not easy. I’d like to believe they were limited to the slow lane, but alas, they were scattered across all three lanes of traffic. How each managed to fire enough synapses to actually drive a car is a mystery.

2. Mario Andretti wanna-be’s. These are the people who lease cars they can’t afford so they can drive something badass… and then drive like an ass, badly. High speed lane, middle lane, wait, you can’t pass me, high-speed lane, fasterfasterfaster, wait, middle lane, hey! what’s that mini van doing, coming over, screw the blinker, oh crap, there’s my exit, screech, I made it… how cool am I. You aren’t cool. You are a prick. And there were 4 of you in front of me today. Thanks for the blood pressure spikes.

3. Mr. I”m Going the Speed Limit, So There. This is THE most immature driver on the planet. Their speed limit induced self-righteousness makes me want to slam into their trunks at 55 mph.  They say things like “I’m going the speed limit, who cares if I’m in the high-speed lane” all the while people pile up behind them who want to (shockingly) go faster than the speed limit. I’m not advocating speeding (although I do it regularly). I’m simply saying that if you are in the high-speed lane you should be going, gee, I don’t know, high speed?  Can you count? If there are more than 2 cars visible in your rear view mirror and they seem exceptionally close, GET OUT OF THE WAY! Thanks to the ding-a-lings of this breed yesterday, the Mario Andretti’s were gamed into being even more ridiculous than usual. I’m not sure who is worse.

I was ever so grateful that my journey only required a few miles on the interstate. That was long enough to wonder if I had entered some parallel dimension, where some new force, stronger than gravity, had somehow brought all these cars together in a single grouping.  A single grouping of idiots hell-bent on making me scream obscenities and gesture mutely inside my car.

My request: if you recognize yourself above, please take some remedial classes or something. You are a danger to yourself and others. If you choose not to repent, then promise to let someone else teach your children how to drive — or better yet, no breeding at all; let’s nip that gene pool right now.  Thank you.

Oh my god… I’m an adult

Personal insights
At war with reality…
Well, this should be fun.

To my friend… surely you will know this is about you. But it isn’t about you. It is how ‘you’ led me to a great personal insight that lends itself to a blog post. I sincerely hope you (and your family) won’t be offended.

To my mom… no comment necessary. I can hear you laughing from here.

I have always considered the day I gave birth to my first born as the day that I reached full maturity. Yes, I had been employed for 12 years by that time and married for nearly 10. Yes, I had a mortgage and 2 car payments; three cats and 7 houseplants looked to me for survival. But for some reason none of those ever made me feel mature the way having a child did. A switch seemed to literally flip on somewhere in my reptilian brain that could never, ever be switched off again.

So imagine my surprise when this weekend another event happened that seemed to take me yet another step toward maturity.

My family went to a celebration for a dear friend who is about 20 years younger than me and single. (I am changing all sorts of descriptors to protect the innocent and my friendship.) She was celebrating an important milestone and we wanted to be there, with her parents, aunt and cousins, to mark the occasion.  My family arrived at her apartment a little early – she was still out with her mom, aunt and cousins, but her dad was there so we made ourselves comfortable. Well, Frank and the kids did. I was antsy. I wasn’t sure why… I couldn’t bring myself to sit down; I was unusually restless given I was actually a little tired. I wandered room to room, looking… for what I couldn’t say.

And then it hit me. I wanted to straighten her apartment. I wanted to organize things and empty trash cans and go to the Container Store and buy matching bins. She had stuff e v e r y w h e r e, and I couldn’t find a uniting theme to things no matter how hard I tried … and believe me I tried.

There was a dining room, but it was home to such a variety of items that my natural tendency to look for patterns went all wonky.   Her dining table clearly was meant to host food for the party — there was food on it already — but there were also other things, many of which I couldn’t identify at all.  This from a woman who can tell if the little part is playmobil, polly pocket or littlest pet shop with ease… I was stumped.

Her living room was quaint, also doubling as office and pet sanctuary. I loved how everything was at an angle (I think to take advantage of the limited wall outlets and the somewhat unhelpful non-working fireplace). Yet I wanted to stack all the items on her desk. Wanted to rearrange the bookshelf to be more efficient. I kept examining the traffic flow of people and imagining how it might be more effective with a tweak to the furniture arrangement.

It was about at this point that my awareness turned internal and I thought to myself, with horror — oh my god… I’m acting like a grown up. A real grown up. So I wandered into the kitchen — really cute and retro, given the age of the house.  But 20 seconds in I was once again imagining the perfect shelves and racks for a corner, which would allow her to…

“STOP!” I cried to myself.  “You have a problem! Her home is perfectly fine. If your own mother were here she would be rolling on the floor laughing at you and saying something sinister like ‘paybacks are hell, sweetie!’ She would be retelling (for the ump-teenth time) stories about how your room was knee deep in clothes growing up and how your first apartment was so messy that it required two days of cleaning before company came.’  I took a deep breath, steadied myself, reminded myself of her age and lifestyle (more like that of a student) and sat down.

I was up again in an instant, as if I hadn’t just had a personal insight. Well, I said to myself, if I can’t attack the entire apartment, I can at least get the table cleared for the rest of the food that was about to arrive. I grabbed a small, cute and empty container (why is it empty? she could put stuff in here!), put everything from the table that wasn’t food related into it, and sat it on a random shelf. I arranged things, put out more food, made some assumptions and generally felt better having made just one small something organized.

Once I had done this, once I had felt useful and satisfied my need for order, I was able to enjoy the party, which started in earnest shortly after this. It was only on the drive home that it hit me: so this is what it feels like to be an adult, all grown up. This compulsion to take care of and make organized (at least from my point of view!)… surely this was a sign of either illness or maturity.

When I arrived home, I humbled myself by looking at my desk and my table, both of which could use some of my own medicine. Those who know me know that I don’t keep a tidy house – there are toys everywhere and loads of knick-knacks which make the place feel a little cluttered. So I can’t yet reconcile my compulsion to straighten her house with my own failings in the keeping-a-straightened-house department.  It could just be further evidence of god’s wickedly good sense of humor, or something I should get treated for as soon as possible.

A New Definition of Normal (Not for the Squeamish)

First the dog threw up…
on the kid…. and then the kid
threw up… on the dog.*


When work gets a little nutso, I tend to call my husband. His voice just seems to lower my blood pressure and remind me what really matters. Today was like that: I called him as I was heading to a meeting and told him “I just need a little normal”. He laughed, wondering how bad it must be if the happenings at our home seemed normal, but proceeded to tell me about his morning, AB’s morning, etc. And then he told me about our “normal” dog.

Seems Lily the wonder poodle went out to poop this morning, very normal indeed, but then she pooped two or three more times while in the yard. That’s not normal. When she finally came back in, Frank noticed that she still had poop hanging out of her bottom. Again, not at all normal; in fact, a little alarming since this has happened a few times in the last few days.  Then he shared the best part of all: as he was pulling the poop off her bottom, he pulled a paper towel out of her ass.

Half sheet.

Totally intact.

And after he did this, he proceeded to pull a second half sheet paper towel out of her ass. It appears that just like a canister of wet wipes, when you remove one, the next one pops up, waiting to be extracted.

Oh my god. I don’t think normal will ever be the same again.

We then had a great time with the puns. It is no longer “select a sheet” but “select a shit”.  Plus, the new selling line is the “quicker pooper-upper”. This went on for several minutes and I encourage you to add your own thoughts in the comments section.  He then threatened to rinse them out and lie them side by side with other slightly used paper towels to see if I could tell the difference. The call ended soon thereafter.

(For those of you wondering why I feed my dog paper towels… we caught her red-handed on Sunday licking the “breakfast-bacon-draining-paper-towels” which she had fished out of the garbage; had no clue she had already scarfed down two.)

Anyway, before I ended the call, I proclaimed my continuing appreciation for my husband and his willingness to deal with these types of situations. (I would have collapsed immediately upon noticing the fluffy end sticking out; he doesn’t rattle near as easily.) I returned to spread sheets and conference calls, but kept reflecting on the visual image of him, with the kids mesmerized by his side,  pulling out the paper towels like a magician fishing scarves from inside his clenched fist. I’m sure people wondered why I kept smiling.

(Note: Thanks to Frank for the wet wipes and magician metaphors! Stolen with his full knowledge.)

(*by the way, only the first 8 syllables are truth; the rest is just funny to visualize)

Dreading Tomorrow – A Ski Virgin’s Report

Yoda was right: “Too
old to begin the training.”
I should have listened…
There are some blog postings that are quick to write – seem to come out and need very little editing. Others take more time as I hem and haw about sentences for what seems like hours. Today had better be a quickie, because in about 27 minutes muscles critical to my mobility are going to seize up and render me unable to move, and I really would rather be in front of the fire or watching TV than here in the office.

Why, pray tell? Because today was my first time ever on skis. And I feel fairly comfortable declaring that it may very well be my last.

It started as a good idea, really. The kids had a 4 day weekend and I thought that it would be fun if we all went to Perfect North, the ski establishment about 45 minutes away, to learn how to ski. I was thinking that skiing is a useful skill – opens up lots of vacation options – and kids who learn it early seem to get it and use it their whole lives. And why not try it myself, huh?  Seems reasonable, right?

I am insane.

First, for the uninitiated and ill-equipped, you require a lot of crap to ski. Boots, skis, poles, helmet, plus ski bibs, gloves, hats, sunscreen, layers of clothing, etc.  Boots seem a simple thing, but they aren’t. They have 4 buckles, did you know that? And you know what else is important? To put your ski bibs on BEFORE you put on your rental boots. And wait, before you get too much further, you have to go to the bathroom just in case. And then you come back and get the boots back on. But wait, be sure you have the bibs on.

Then you try to walk in the boots. I felt like an astronaut on the surface of the moon. I was walking in extreme slow motion, with my knees bent because locomotion wasn’t possible otherwise. I watched in awe as others moved quickly around, while I seemed unable to keep pace with a nursing home resident. This was the first sign.

Getting the skis wasn’t too bad, nor the poles, or helmet, except that these were located in 3 different places. Although the route there was more or less linear, it required more moon walking, which was inexplicably getting harder, not easier. Regardless, we continued forward.

Did I mention there were 4 of us? Because there is something exponential about the work required to outfit 4 people for skiing. The first one isn’t too bad, but the next one takes twice as long as the first… by the fourth person, you are quite sure you’ve entered some bizzaro parallel universe where you are much hated.

Then we left the building. Let me summarize what happened from here.

  •  Tried to find a place to put all our “stuff”, which seemed to multiply since we left the car. In the end, left it all under the stairs and hoped for the best.
  • Found the ski instruction area.
  • I returned to the rental place because my boots were killing me. No really, they were killing me. Got a larger size.
  • Waited 20 minutes for ski instruction. For the kids, this was the equivalent of 4 hours and 52 minutes.  I searched repeatedly for a brick to knock myself out with. Unsuccessful.
  • Sent the kids off for private instruction.
  • Frank and I met, with Harv, our group ski instructor. At the time, he seemed to be a nice, a 60-year-old man.
  • I strapped on my skis.
  • The longest 45 minutes of my life began.

In the end, I refused to do the final bunny hill trial for the class (“I am a danger to myself and others,” I told Harv), sat on the ground (the larger size ski boot having not at all helped since I have the world’s widest feet) and seriously pondered whether I should walk in my socks across the snow to the rental area instead of wearing the boots.

The kids didn’t fare much better. When we located them, they, too, were sitting on the ground. My girl was in tears, her boots also rendering her immobile because they were now too small (“I think I broke my toe… it bends backwards now, see”) and my son was bleeding and also a little tearful – “cut his hand on the snow when he fell” is what the instructor said (say what? Cut his hand on the snow??).  She looked exceptionally uncomfortable and quite eager to deposit the kids with us.

What followed then was even more pain: the second longest 15 minutes of my life, as we made our way back to the rental place to undo everything we did 90 minutes earlier. The kids were insanely miserable. I wasn’t much better.

At last, it was lunchtime. Ahh. Food, water, dry places to sit, no more boots.  I could hear angels singing over the din.

And you know what happened next? We had a ball. Did I mention that Perfect North also has a tubing area that was a-freakin-amazing? Great fun! Spent two more hours there enjoying their runs and it saved the whole trip. Kids left happy, we left happy.  The disastrous ski elements long forgotten*.

In the end, we spent an insane amount of money (especially if you do the cost per hour…) to learn that we are not ski people but tubing people.  I’m really ok with this. I can now say that I have skied. No one needs to know that I never left the instruction area/baby bunny hill. No one needs to know that Harv thinks my IQ is in the double digits.

*Post script: The ski trip really isn’t long forgotten. Frank and I can’t move. For our mere 45 minutes on skis, we both have managed to hurt muscles we didn’t know we had. I’ve walked a half marathon before and hurt less than I do now.  God help us tomorrow morning…

Doing My Taxes Sucks

Hell defined? Tax Prep.
Sob… Moan… I picked a bad day
To stop sniffing glue.
I am so grateful that I’m related to CPAs. Three of them in fact. My mom, dad and sister are all CPAs. I spent most tax seasons and summers working in their CPA firm too, but when the time came, I bolted from that profession quicker than you can say schedule C.

But this time of year I am ever so grateful to be related to them. I’m working on my taxes right now (well, right now I’m avoiding working on my taxes because, well, they suck, see the title above).  We have a fairly simple financial set up. We own a home. No one is currently self employed. We donate a fair bit to charity. We itemize. Oh, and this past year, we sold some property we had acquired in a tax free land swap (also called a like-kind exchange) for which we now need to compare the original basis to the net proceeds less deductions for improvements made since acquisition.

Say what??

Yes, you read that right. Those are all actual words used to describe what I’m now trying to sort out in Turbo Tax. The problem is, I purchased Turbo Tax Dummy edition. With this type of property sale, however, they keep trying to get me to upgrade to the diamond edition for a further $163.61, so that that program can walk me through this type of transaction. No, thanks, I don’t want to upgrade.  I’d just like a simple way to reflect all this without going out of my effing mind!

Call in the CPA-alvary. Mom is usually the best to talk to in these scenarios. Although they all can answer my question, Dad tends to use short sentences and lacks a certain amount of TLC as he talks me through it.  My sister hates being a CPA, so my calls about taxes only serve to depress her which makes me feel guilty, so that’s not an option.  So it’s up to mom… and with her, I only have to live through the 14 associated tax related statues that impact my situation… and since I learned to tune her out in about 1981, I can still handle it.

But mom is currently at Wal-Mart. Dammit. When I get into my taxes, I don’t want to stop until they are done. My desk looks like a complete mess… the paperwork, prior year tax returns, closing statements (which are copied on legal sized paper just because lawyers like to annoy regular people) are spread all over the floor and desk but I understand where everything is, what I’ve already gone through and what is left to do.  But if I get up to do something (say, go to the bathroom or feed my hungry children) I will immediately forget where I was in the process and have to start the *&#$ over.

So instead, I’m going to sit here and wait for her to return and call me back. And she will call me back… about 30 seconds after I give up and finally go to the bathroom. Mark my word…

Thanks for the Nominations! Now it’s my turn…

Will they or won’t they…
Read me, follow me, like me…
Perilous, blogging.
I have been very fortunate in my first few months as a blogger. A lucky posting that got Freshly Pressed has resulted in me connecting with more fellow bloggers than I would have imagined at this point in my writing “career”.  That good fortune has resulted in several of you nominating me for blogger awards, and to date, I’ve done nothing but say thank you… have not “passed it on” to others I’m enjoying reading.

So, now I’m going to do this all at once. I know that this might make me seem brag-gy, but that isn’t my intention. I work full-time, I mother as much as possible, and I work on the writing in between, which means I must economize.  If you have a problem with this, then likely you haven’t enjoyed much of my blogging anyway, so let’s just part company now…

First, some thank yous: (Thanks too for the 7×7 award!)

Thank you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I really appreciate it.

Thank you for the Liebster Blog Award. Very thoughtful.

Thanks Barb for being a fellow traveler as we have some fun with this blogging stuff!

Each of your blogs is inspiring to read and I’m a better writer for the time we spend together.  Thanks for reading and awarding.

Now, on to the particulars. Each of these awards has some rules.

First, all of them require that I thank the award-er. So thank you!!

Some require you to post 7 (Versatile) or 10 (Kreativ) things about yourself. I’m just going to start typing and see how far I get…

1. I was raised in a small Georgia city. Even though the accent is long gone, most of the words I say that end in an -ing only get the -in pronounced. E.g. I was thinkin of you the other day. How’s it goin? Otherwise, my accent is as midwest as they come. That’s what happens after 20+ years gone.

2. Related to #1, I believe y’all is perfectly ok to use in any context. I often combine it with “you guys” just to confuse people.

3. I met my husband via the personal ads, nearly 20 years ago. That was before there were computer dating sites. His was in the newspaper, and frankly most of them were creepy at that time (“large, strong,  ex-Marine, 58,  seeking petite Asian woman, 21-29,  for discrete fun…” ewww). I am really thankful I found a good one. (By the way, my dad still doesn’t know this is how we met, unless my mom finally spilled the beans. Let’s see if he reads this… I don’t think he does…)

4. I don’t really like other people’s kids, for the most part. I like my own, but that’s about it. (There are a few exceptions, and those reading this know who you are…) The older my kids get, the more of their friends I like, but it’s been touch and go for years…

5. I’ve kept my toe nails painted for 90% of my life since I was 13 years old.

6. I really like men.  I enjoy their company and think they are delightful. Despite their pig-headed-ness at times, they are worth it. Don’t interpret this to mean I sleep around or have an open marriage – not my style at all. Rather just know that if I were trapped in an airport, I’d be just as happy to be with a man as a woman.

7. I hate being asked if having children was the best thing that ever happened to me.  They are one of many spectacular things that have happened to me, but to rank order them does a disservice to them all.

8. I really don’t have a favorite movie or song, but if you made me pick: Star Wars and The Incredibles would be in my top 10 movies. Music:  March Slave by Tchaikovsky and any violin piece by Joshua Bell (try this Puccini; it will make you cry, plus Joshua Bell is dreamy).  It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls and Enough is Enough by Barbra Streisand are great in the car and when I need a pick me up. Can you say “child of the 80’s”?

9. I’ve never read the Harry Potter books, but I’ve listened to them all the way through on audio 7 times (I think I’m currently in the middle of my 7th round). The best version is the UK version, read by Stephen Fry. I listen while getting ready in the morning and in the evening, and sometimes in the car.  Whenever I finish the 7th book (takes about 4-5 months to get through them all), I am a little sad that he isn’t keeping me company any more (which is why I usually start them up again in about 6 months or so…). Fry is exceptionally talented in so many venues. I wish I could meet him someday. Watch this tribute to him – great fun and I totally agree. (I know this nugget about me may have weirded a few of you out…)

Enough about me, ON TO THE NOMINEES! Each of these awards require you nominate 7 (7×7), 15 (Versatile), 5 (Liebster) or 6 (Kreativ) additional blogs.  I’m just going to nominate the ones below, doing my own math. Sorry if I’m screwing this up for everyone.  If you read my blog on roles, you know that writing just made it into my top 5 roles I have, and unfortunately blog “reader” doesn’t get near the attention it should. So I don’t yet have a large repertoire of blogs I frequent.  See below for the ones, other than those from the above nominators, that I enjoy and want to share with you.

To those of you I’m nominating: you decide which award you are getting from those above. You decide whether to pass it on or not (some of your blogs don’t really work with accepting awards, I get that…). I won’t be offended if you do nothing with this. Those of y’all reading, please check these guys out because that’s what really matters in this awards business — to share the great work of fellow bloggers. And these are ones I think are pretty great. – a wonderful daily reminder of how to approach the world. Plus, check out her mandalas. This is a dear friend of mine, Lynette, whom I’m grateful for knowing and grateful for her teaching for over a decade. – a companion site to the site above. More Mandalas, and you can see where the pictures originated. There is magic in here. – The Life and Times of Nathan Badley. He is a very funny man. Someone I’d like to get stranded in an airport with for sure. – The Chronicles of Creepy Pants. I haven’t made it all the way through this, but this serial (not sure what to call it, a chapter blog?) makes me laugh, as well as be thankful I work at the company I do.  I also love love love the title of the blog. – His poetry is amazing. If I were a real poet and had more angst in my life, this is what I hope I could write. Please don’t take this to be sarcastic… I really, really like his poetry. Thank you for sharing your work and yourself. – If I were 20 years younger and still on the market, I would read his blog and pretend his insights and commentary about sports were my own, just to impress a guy I liked. I don’t always understand his points since I don’t really follow sports, but they are well said and entertaining. A good read. – I like her writing. Plus, she defended me to someone who was quite negative about my freshly pressed posting. She didn’t have to do this, so bonus points to her. – She just seems to be having fun and I like that. – wonderful writing and a fellow Aquarius… – Fun read (yummy food), plus one of the best blog names out there.

So that’s it. Enjoy!

Will I Ever Eat This? A Tour of our Pantry

He paused, fork in hand,
then “om nom nom nom”, gulp. “ahhh.”
The well fed man smiled.


We recently went an abnormally long time between trips to the grocery.  One night, as we gazed into the pantry for inspiration, I was struck by the extraordinarily bad choices we’ve made in terms of food selection. Let’s take a closer look…

Water chestnuts. There is only one dish these are ever used in and they always seem an afterthought. I’m sure someone who knows how to cook with them will set me straight. In the meantime, I can’t imagine these will ever get used.

2 cans of asparagus. Whoever invented this hates vegetables a lot and the people who consume them even more. I like fresh asparagus. Eating canned ones is like eating a skinned, half alive snake.  No where in the history of canned vegetables are the canned versions so different from the fresh.

Artichoke hearts. I know I bought this in order to make a party dip.  But no one invites me to parties. And if I bring this, no one will ever ask again.

9 large cans of chicken.  I have to chaperone my husband when he goes to Costco from now on. Canned chicken is by far one of the most disgusting foods out there. It has a gelatinous covering and the springy feeling of something you step on in the lake (we called that graw-doo where I come from, don’t ask me why). Ick. He puts it in canned soup to get the protein count up. I put it in the trash when he isn’t looking.

Six cans of baked beans. We clearly hate each other, the children and the dog.

Four boxes of stir fry rice noodles.  Frank dreams of making the perfect Pad Thai recipe. It appears that the recipe starts with “Buy as many boxes of rice noodles as your spouse can tolerate.” Once day, he’ll actually make the damn stuff.

24 oz package of Wild Alaska Smoked Sockeye Salmon. Expiration date of December 2017. This isn’t a shelf life, it’s a half-life. And who eats that much smoked salmon (do the math – it’s nearly 2 pounds! the box is the size of a standard mud flap!). I am so dreading when he does open this in 2016, insisting we eat it before it goes bad (“It’s fish! How can you tell??”).  Exhibit two of why he shouldn’t go to Costco alone.

dinner fork shown to provide perspective

That’s it. Throw in some dry goods (flour, sugar), more pasta (a gross of boxed mac and cheese, also from Costco), some crackers (mega box of Goldfish, the official snack of single-digit kids) and several varieties of tomato based products, and you pretty much have our pantry scoped out.   I’m just going to pretend that we eat mainly from the perimeter of the grocery store, just like “they” tell you to do, and not worry how woefully bland and uninspired (and a wee bit frightening) our pantry is making you right now.

Oh no… It just occurred to me that he’s probably going to buy capers to go with the fish. Which we will forget we bought come 2016. So we’ll need to buy another jar of them. Because everyone needs 2 jars of capers and 2 damn pounds of smoked salmon…

A Letter to the Drive Through Lady

Ah – my breaking point;
Without warning, it arrives.
Run! Hide! Save yourself!


Lady, you annoyed me today. It wasn’t your fault, per se. Frankly, you are one in a long line of people like you who bug me. But for some reason, today I just snapped. You were indeed in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You might be wondering what you did that was so egregious that I am now really aggravated at you… You don’t know, do you? You do this countless times a day. You probably encounter this yourself at least 2-3 times per week. Yet you remain oblivious to the annoying trait that I rant about now.

Please, for the love of God, stop handing me back my change ON TOP of my bills.

Do you have any idea what a pain in the ass it is to manage this? What am I supposed to do with the change on top while I am also clutching the bills? My other hand is busy holding my wallet… even if the change purse is unzipped, there is no way I can slide the change in there and have it actually go inside the pocket. Instead it slides off into “bill territory” or between the seats, but not before I desperately try to grasp for it. (One day I’ll just learn and let it fall without a second thought…) If you would just put the change in my palm, and then cover it with the bills, I could ever-so-easily clasp them all, deftly place the bills in my wallet, then attend to the change.

But noooOOOOOooooooo. For some reason, your training manual doesn’t address this. Perhaps you think that if the bills were on top they might get blown away?  I’m not sure how you could have possibly thought that thoroughly about my money, since in so many other factors, your attention to customer care is so slight. Have you noticed that I am getting hosed from the rain because your establishment has yet to figure out that a small roof over the drive through window might be a convenience worth installing?  Did you ever once notice that your cup carriers are so pathetically shallow that they have no hope of keeping the cups from toppling over as I gingerly hand them to the back seat occupants?  I know bottom lines are tight these days, but I’m tired of the brief cardiac arrest I go through each time the milk nearly wobbles out because I have yet to figure out how to bend my elbow backwards such that it would create stability ahead of my kids grabbing for the drinks.

So today I just snapped.  I wasn’t so rude as to yell at you. I simply made you hold the change while I dealt with the bills (taking my own sweet time, thank you very much).  You had to wait a few beats for me, didn’t you?  You had to hover there, half in, half out of your little window, not quite sure what to do once I said sternly “wait, just hold the change for a sec”.  When I returned my attention to you for said change, you looked at me as if I had a second head, and I’m quite sure you talked about me after you little auto-window whooshed closed. I don’t care. I’m done with the lack of consumer awareness that prevents you understanding what really matters to me.

Or is it really a lack of consumer awareness?  Perhaps it is a complicated, multi-player ploy to get me to tell you to “keep the change”. Damn you… Well, if you would give me the bills first, I would tell you to keep the change. Try me, ok?

By the way, my fries were cold too. Today totally sucked.

(Note: Change on top of bills never annoyed me until senior year, AP English, when Christy Deal pointed out what a hassle it was. I haven’t been able to handle it since then…)

“The Best of” our Christmas holiday (or how weapons, a hand mixer and underwear made for a great few days)

Christmas joyfulness
Cupped in my hands, warm, fragrant,
To be savored, shared.


The buzz of Christmas is giving way to the reality of normal life. Before it gets away, let me share some of the more notable happenings around the Howard household these last few days.

Most surprising: It was one of our best Christmas’s ever. I usually fret each year that the kids won’t like what Santa got them; they will ask “is that it” at the end of the frenzy… that they’ll mention the one gift they had secretly wished for, which I didn’t know about…. All of which would break my heart. I was determined that this year I would be “relaxed and groovy” about everything. And you know what? A funny thing happened. I was relaxed and groovy and so was everyone else. Coincidence? I think not.   It was a wonderful day full of gratitude and love.

Most ridiculous cooking instruction:  Mix for 5-7 minutes until combined.  Are they kidding me? Combined means it is all one color and that takes about 30 seconds.  What happens after that is a waste of time.  I made it 4 minutes and gave up.  The cake was wonderful. 

Best timed cooking mishap:  My hand mixer, which held up so nicely in the agonizing 4+ minutes of cake batter (not to mention the other things I cooked Christmas Eve), died later that same evening. Just as I was finishing Santa cookie dough, one of the beaters stopped working. The other one died a few hours later as my husband was working on homemade yeast rolls.  Lucky for us, that was the end of the need for the hand mixer.  And this is what after Christmas sales are about, after all.

Proof I have the best kids:  At 7:30am Christmas morning, both kids galloped  into the bedroom ready to go. My husband turned over and said “it isn’t 8 o’clock yet. Go back to bed!” and you know what? They DID! Both retreated to their rooms and slept/read/played quietly for 30 minutes. I was astonished. Best kids ever.

Best answered prayer: Christmas day was warm enough that the blasted Cars 2 Splash Car Color Change Track wet-o-rama could be set up outside.  That was a complete mess. If you don’t know what this is, just know that ice cold water and hot water are both required for it to work. No way will that ever be set up inside. Whoever designed that does not have children, hates mothers and lives in a room with a drain in the center of the floor.   

Funniest moment:  My 5 year old boy got an Imaginext T-Rex, which launches projectiles (aka weapons).  My 9 year old girl got a hu-mungo Littlest Pets tree house thingamajig complete with a dozen wacky animals (aka peaceful). I walked in on the boy, T-Rex in hand, stalking the tree house chanting “I’m going to shoot you down… pting, ptchow” and launching all matter of pretend spears at the little creatures. It was like a replay from Avatar – the militant brutes against the tree loving aliens. Classic boy play.

Best quote – unbelievable:  “I can’t wait to try on those shoes,” spoken by my husband, seriously, when the large box from Zappos arrived. I was astonished and didn’t reply for several moments. I plan to remind him of this quote at a future time beneficial to me.

Best quote – concerning: “Mom, can I have 4 skewers?” spoken by my daughter, who was playing with her younger brother. As she disappeared upstairs with them, she shouted over her shoulder “Don’t worry, I’ll be safe, I won’t poke him!” Yeah, right, I thought.

Best quote – embarrassing:  While standing in the crowded checkout line at Macy’s, intimate apparel in her hands, my mom loudly declared: “You know, I haven’t bought underwear in 12 years.”  If silence made noise, the place would have been deafening.  I watched eyes bulge and ears prick, could hear brain cells working, asking themselves “did that woman just say what I think she just said???” My reply: “Mom, why did you feel compelled to declare that in front of this large group of strangers?” at which point everyone laughed out loud. A slightly racy conversation ensued where people speculated as to why my mom hadn’t purchased any underwear in such a long time.  I crept away slowly…

Prettiest scene: My table set with lovely Christmas china, my wedding silver and wedding crystal. I just don’t use this stuff enough, and yet when I do, I enjoy it so immensely.  I even lit candles – long tapers in lovely silver candle holders. It was so peaceful I lit them again for the leftovers tonight – it made an average meal feel special and calm.  Highly recommended.

I would love to hear your stories.  And I hope you had a memorable Christmas with those you love and that you can keep the feelings present well into 2012.

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