Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holidays from The Dept. of Nance

Merry ChrisMoose, Dept. of Nance readers! Things have already gotten way out of hand here--we've become Holiday Central. Crock Pots have been filled, drapes have been de-cathaired, and the cookies have been brought out of their deep freeze of pre-Christmas hibernation. My house smells like lemon Pledge, Febreeze, Mr. Clean, Windex, Formula 409, and takeout Chinese. That's today. Tomorrow, those aromas will be replaced with glazed ham, Friendship Cake, my three kinds of fudge, Confetti Baked Beans, and all the tangy aromas of the dishes of mixed pickles, shrimp cocktail sauce, and dill dip for the veggie crudites. And once the fam arrive with the trays and trays of cookies, all sorts of indiscretions will occur.

Aaah, Christmas. I hope yours is warm, restful, happy, and above all else, spent with those you most want to be with. I'll see you in the new year. I have such high hopes for 2007, don't you?



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

This Just In: Inflatable Snowman Attack on Video

In the true spirit of journalistic integrity, and because I am willing to pursue the whole story at great lengths for you, my devoted Dept. of Nance readers, here is the link to the actual footage of the previously mentioned, heinous Screwdriver Attack on the Inflatable Snowman.

Just click here.

(It's also because no one is home tonight and I don't feel like reading and glossing the three chapters of The Scarlet Letter that I assigned my honors AmLit students. Yet.)

As you can plainly see from the film, I am not one of the perpetrators. They are clearly: male, tall, large-framed, strong of arm. I, on the other hand, am none of these things. Besides, they caught both of them, and I am old enough to be their mother. And, of course, would punish them. At some point. I'm sure. Enjoy the video.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I Need the Cronkite 12-Step Program--If There Is One

Hello, my name is Nance, and I am a news junkie. I know...admitting you have a problem is the first step. But, the problem is bigger than that. There aren't going to be enough steps in this recovery program. The problem is bigger than I am. I'm hooked and hooked for good. Just the past few days alone have convinced me of it.

It started with this little tidbit, which I read in The Plain Dealer. Up until this story of the python in the Australian toilet, I totally believed--no, needed to believe--that this sort of happening was purely an urban legend. I have a terrific fear of snakes; I will not even touch a photograph of a snake. Once, when I was a little girl, I was terrified that there was a rattlesnake in our toilet. Horrified beyond measure, I screamed for my mother from the hallway. "Mom! Come quick! There is a rattlesnake in the toilet! I can hear it rattling in there! Come listen and then call the fire department to get it OUT!!" My mother came tearing into the hall. She stopped. She listened. Then she started laughing. She tried like hell not to, but she couldn't help it. Her shoulders were shaking with unsuppressed mirth. I was crying---hard. "Nance," she said, her own tears sliding down her cheeks, "honey, that's the wind through the Venetian blinds."

The next news item that gives me pause is one that I heard on MSNBC today. It is the results of a poll given annually for National Kids' Day. Just about 1500 kids under the age of 10 were surveyed as to their opinion of what would be "The Very Best Thing in the World." Number 1? "Being a celebrity." Number 2: "Good Looks"; Number 3: "Being Rich." Now, I realize that "the very best thing in the world" is really broad, and that these kids are very young, but honestly...Number 9 was "Watching Films"!!! Oh, and all those things beat out "God", who rounds out the list at Number 10. Now that's gonna piss off some right-wing conservative Christians, and right at Christmastime, too. I wonder if they specified whose films... 'cause if it's like Adam Sandler or Lindsay Lohan, then it's pissing me off royally.

Finally, we come to an article AND video, the footage of which I cannot seem to get for you but that I saw on both MSNBC and our local NBC affiliate. But before I discuss it, I must digress. (No! Really? La.) It is with great dismay that I observe and note the proliferation of the Inflatable Holiday Yard Decorations. They are no less than an atrocity. What started out as a mere novelty has now turned into an all-out urban assault of not just the standard secular figures of Yuletide; nay, it is now de rigeur to have a yard full of these airy erections in a variety of forms: Sponge Bob in a Santa Hat, the Grinch, a penguin with a scarf, Santa on a Harley, and this year's newest incarnations, the Sno-Globe and the Christmas Carousel. No. I am not making any of those up. They are all in my neighborhood proximity, I am sad to report. The only one I am even remotely flexible on is the Inflatable Eeyore with Reindeer Antlers and that is because, come on! It is Eeyore. If it were up to me, an enormous inflatable Eeyore would be required on every single street. Just not in my yard.

But, I digress.

This report, which I read and saw the shocking and amazing video footage of in no way involves me. I swear it on my life. There is no way, despite my obvious antipathy toward all non-Eeyore yard inflatables, that I would ever stoop to attacking and stabbing one with a screwdriver in the dead of night. Besides, it is clear that the attacker is a man. And I would not go back four times over. Duh.

There you go, as The New York Times' masthead boasts, "all the news that's fit to print."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

All This Testosterone Is Getting to Me

As the only female in the house, I find that it often falls to me to make certain concessions in the interest of Family Harmony. Happily, some of them are trivial...even fun. Others, however, require the diplomacy of an ambassador and the silence of a cloistered nun, two traits that I am not entirely famous for. Allow me to give you some examples of my sacrifice:

1. Fantasy Sports: My husband and two sons are deeply embroiled in this occupation. Rick can spend hours in front of his laptop laboring over his draft picks; Jared spends geological eras in front of his notebook computer, sweating over his nightly lineups in the NBA (er, that's National Basketball Association for those of you in the non-sporting group); Sam disappears upstairs and hollers down to Jared for consults regarding his teams. Jared picked my brain incessantly regarding his bench vs. active rosters until finally, I said, "I'm going to have my own team!" They all stared at me. Naturally, it was too late "to get into a real league," so I logged onto and picked my team. I had one criteria only: looks. I christened my team Cute Boys and my fantasy team was born. I don't give a damn how many points or anything they have. I just want them to look good. And they do. They are darned cute. (Although, if Etan Thomas doesn't get his facial hair under control, even his sexy dredlocks are not enough to save him.) Here is my #1 Cute Boy. Tell me he isn't the cutest thing ever. I love him. He is from Brazil. Or some country that starts with a "B." Who cares? He's cute.

2. The Nativity Scene: Okay, so. My nativity scene has a very special meaning to me. It is carved from olivewood from the Holy Land, and my husband bought it for me for our very first Christmas together in our very first apartment together. Every year, I lovingly wrap it up, each individual piece, in tissue paper, and store it away. Starting last year, the standard figures of the Nativity have been joined by the starting lineup of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team bobbleheads. And LeBron James, whose feet have been broken off, has now supplanted baby Jesus in the manger. But don't despair: power forward Larry Hughes is carrying baby Jesus in one arm--Larry's other arm is holding a basketball, natch. Not only are there Three Wise Men, there are Two Zydrunas Ilgauskases: one is a stretchable, and one is a loomingly large bobblehead. Oh, and there is also a black Santa Claus statue. Only one, though. The other one is strangely MIA. Hey! Don't look at me. I had nothing to do with it. I'm just biting my tongue and wondering who/what is next to join the tableau.
3. ESPN: Are any or all of you aware that this "channel" or "network" or whatever is a non-stop sports thing? Because, really, it's just uncalled for. We must watch "SportsCenter", "Around the Horn", "Pardon the Interruption", as well as the reruns of "classic matchups" which could be, oh, let's say the 1978 North Carolina vs. Mudflap State game. Remember, no one in my family or Rick's family went to either of those colleges. Or even travelled near any of those states. That does not matter, for perhaps Larry Bird's grandpa or Michael Jordan was a peanut vendor at one of those games! That is enough for Jared. So, I grab my Plain Dealer and read or do the crossword puzzle until the news comes on. And get this: Jared says, "The news? All you ever do is watch the news! Nothing ever happens. Besides, it comes on again at 11." Good heavens. "SportsCenter" is on 24 hours a day. Or more.

4. The Christmas Tree: It's a battleground of taste. The polar bear balancing on the circus ball has to be showing its butt. The surreptitious re-hanging of "back of the tree" ornaments on the front of the tree goes on all month. Sam's plastic condiment cup ornament, colored in 1st grade with green and black magic marker and hanging crookedly from a pipe cleaner, keeps mystifyingly reappearing on the front of the tree right at eye-level. The wooden moose and rabbit must be showing their butts also. And any of my crystal drop-style ornaments magically have other obliterating ornaments hanging in front of them. Both boys are almost an entire foot taller than I, so they re-hang uglier ornaments high and in front where they know I cannot reach them. And their father, unless I make a strong appeal, goes along with the joke. This year, I refuse to react. Who really cares? The only people who come over to see my tree know my freakish family and, most importantly, love them anyway. Feh.

Bless them all, my 3 men. In all the insanity of The Holidays, I think they keep me sane. In their way.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sometimes, It Really *Is* All about Meme...

Although my dislike of memes has been previously documented here at The Dept., I am making an exception for V-grrrl, who tagged me for a "5 Things Most People Don't Know about You" thingy. I make this exception for two reasons: one, V. is a friend of mine and two, my other idea for a blogpost is still germinating.

I'll apologize ahead of time, however, that I'm not going to get all philosophical and deep and Barbara Walters-esque on you all. Let's face it; you know the really important personal-type stuff already. It's not like a meme-thingy is going to unearth some Nugget O' Nance that will make you go "Aaaah!"

So! Without any further falderal, here are

5 Things Most People Don't Know about Nance:

1. I've been every size from 0 to 18, and many more than once. And for a variety of reasons. I am now a size 2, up (thankfully!) from a size 0. I plan to stay here.

2. I am an unabashed fan of the lima bean. But it has to be the huge, Fordhook variety, cooked until totally mushy, and served with lots of salt, pepper, and butter. I will eat an entire brick of them myself for dinner, minus the one that I put on Sam's plate. For years, I used to pay him a standard fee of one nickel if he ate that lima bean.

3. I love to watch dog shows on tv but do not own, nor ever plan to own, a dog myself. I know
all the breeds by sight and even know the names of some of the repeat contenders. To me, owning a dog is too worky. You may as well have another kid. YOU, not me. *shudder*

4. I do not, repeat DO NOT, go to the library. See, the thing about libraries is, you have to give the books back. That is, to me, a bad deal. I much prefer to buy books. And they have to be in hardback. I hate, no, DETEST, paperback books. They are ugly and impossible to read. They also convey no gravitas. I buy books. In hardback. If I buy a lousy hardback book, then so be it. Books are like produce: if you get a mealy peach or a nondescript canteloupe, oh well. You did your research, you picked out one you thought you'd like, but it didn't work out that way. C'est la vie.

5. Most of the time when people talk to me on the phone, I don't pay any attention whatsoever. I don't do this on purpose--at least I don't think I do--but I find that I have no idea at all what they have said by the time I hang up. I'm not talking about the "Mom, I'm going to be late; I have to work an extra two hours" phone call. I'm talking about people who unexpectedly call me just to talk on the phone. I loathe the phone. Especially inane cell calls which serve no purpose except to establish that the caller is on the move and on the phone at the same time. Luckily, I don't get many of these. But, I think I have Phone ADD. Or something. I'm not sure.

This is the part where I think I'm supposed to tag other people. But, V, I'm not going to do that. I should have put that as #5 probably: I am not a joiner-inner. I don't go to Tupperware or Pampered Chef parties; I don't participate in recipe chain letters; I don't "forward this email to 10 strong women I know!" My sister Pat would probably laugh and say I was a Parade-Rainer. But she wouldn't do it, either. Hell, I don't even have her email address

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Dept. Presents: "What Not To Wear" Meets "Hardball"

It's December, dear readers, and today we had real snow here in NE Ohio. It was white and fluffy and covered the lawns and tacky inflatable yard ornaments that a shocking number of residents of my town cannot resist planting in their front lawns. All of this made! not get into the Christmas spirit! It made me long for Spring! And what does Spring make us think of? Fashion!

It's time to pay our BFD (Best Friend Designer) Jeremy Scott a visit and see just what whacked-out sartorial psychosis he has in mind for us come April. Ooooooh! I can't wait! Remember last year, he was all about junk food. But not this year. This year, Jeremy is all about The War. That Jeremy! He is still going to have his fun. This is obviously a strong social commentary on the fact that the United States is really running a Mickey Mouse operation over there, and that we had flimsy excuses at best for going to war in the first place. The American people didn't fall for such a sketchy coverup. Ha! ha!

As now-unemployed Donald Rumsfeld so aptly said, we go to war with the army we have, not the army we wish we had. And Jeremy Scott would seem to agree with this fashion statement for women headed to the beach...after they make a quick stop at the beverage store or perhaps the local daycare to pick up the tots!

The United States Constitution is...well, the Pirates' Code, more of a Guideline in the eyes of the current administration. There are parts we need....and parts we don't. Here's Jeremy Scott's interpretation:

War is hard! Fighting the terrorists is hard! We know this from the Kerry-Bush debates; our President told us. It creates the need for lots of down time at the Ranch in Crawford. Those are the times when you just gotta relax, take naps, and phone it in. Jeremy Scott knows this:

But, after all, we're over there, building a democracy! Right, Jeremy Scott?


*Note from Nance: For some reason, this new, buggy version of Blogger that I was urged to "upgrade" to, refuses to link to my previous Jeremy Scott post. So, if you want to read and look at the gustatorial goofiness that Jeremy sent down the runway at Fashion Week last year, search this blog for "Who is Jeremy Scott and Why Is He Torturing Me?" or just click on February and scroll down to that post.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Behind Closed (Classroom) Doors

Each and every day, I strive for a G-rated classroom. I really do. I mean, I don't consciously think about it when I walk in at 7:30 a.m., but at no point in my teaching day do I say to myself, What I have here is a room full of teenaged hormones just waiting for a catalyst. I think it's time to toss out something that is just a blatant sexual innuendo. Yet, it happens. And it's not just me. For example, this from my now-retired buddy Barb in the biology department:

So I've got the kids all dissecting their frogs, right? And, as usual, I'm walking around all the lab tables, looking for the best specimens of each of the organs they have to draw on their diagrams in their lab notebooks. I'm hollering all period: "Over here is a good example of the heart", and "Take a look at the liver at Kim's table" and things like that. And then...I wander to one of the tables in the back where Mike S. is. Remember Mike? He was a football player and was homecoming king that year. Good looking, tall. "Oh, hey!" I yell, all excited. "Mike's got a great-looking set of gonads back here!"

And this from Sue, my department head.

I had been talking about books with my students. We were discussing our favorites and what kinds of books we all like. Some of them are intimidated by long books--one look and they put them down. Other students look for books by particular authors, still others read graphic novels. A few days later, I was eager to share a new book with the class. "I don't know how many of you will like this one," I started out by saying. "But I know Amanda will love it. It's long and thick and hard, just the way she likes them!"

And we thought we could alleviate so much just by shelving the teaching of lie/lay.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Premature EjacYULEation

D isaster averted at the house today.

What was I thinking? I know the rules--hell, I made them! But it's a perilous time of year, this Wad O' Weeks known as The Holidays. This year, it arrived on October 1st! You know I'm right! The little boo-ghosts were jockeying for position next to Santa and Rudolph. Candy corn was nudging the candy canes. And as soon as the Marketing Mafia allowed us that brief, non-profitable moment known archaically and whimsically as "Thanksgiving," people stood outdoors in lines that snaked for fifteen football fields just to be able stuff.

Were things being given away? No. Were things being handed out gratis? No. Would these cold, ridiculous people who were in this ridiculously long line since 3 a.m. have to pay real money for things at the end of it that they would also have to walk around and have to find, heft, and stand in line for again? YES!!

H U H!?!?!?!?

But I digress.

My original point, and I do have one, is this:

Today, I took my mother out to a craft store so that she could buy something which I cannot mention here because it is a Christmas secret thing. While I was there, I found very charming, very serviceable coffee mugs with lids on them to keep the coffee hot whilst one is, say, working the Saturday Plain Dealer crossword puzzle or browsing the Sunday Plain Dealer sports section or ads and one does not wish to keep getting up and rewarming one's coffee in the microwave. I purchased two of them at the fabulous price of one dollar apiece. Later, when I brought them home, I called my sons and husband into the kitchen to admire and, yes, validate this purchase as 1. a great deal, 2. a great idea, and 3. very cute. As they returned to their activities, I busied myself making room for the mugs on the counter next to the coffeemaker. It was then that disaster struck:

Sam: (urgently from livingroom) Mom! Umm...What are you doing?
Me: (merrily, from kitchen) Making room on the coffee counter for our cute new mugs!
Sam: (triumphant) Wrong!
Me: What? Why?
Sam: Why?! You know the rules.
Me: Ohhhh. There's holly and...dammit. There are candy canes on this one!
Sam: Then no way are you putting them out.
Me: But the candy canes are so small!
Sam: Doesn't matter. It's not December 1st.
Me: I want a ruling. Jared?
Jared: (looks up from computer, instantly alert) Holly is seasonal, not Christmas. And same for snowmen, which are just wintry. How many candy canes? I can be flexible.
Me: The candy canes are small. And there are more snowmen and holly together than candy canes. Rick?
Rick: (groggily, from depths of recliner) Isn't tomorrow December 1st?
Sam: No! No! December 1st isn't until Friday. You people! You know the rules! You can't put them out yet. They're Christmas mugs.
Me: You're right. I'll just put out a couple of regular mugs to mark their place until Friday.
Jared: (chuckling) Like ghost runners, huh, Mom? Remember ghost runners? "Ghost runner on first!" Remember that, Sam?
Sam: You people are such idiots.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A New Tradition at The Dept.

For me, blogging is a complicated process. I'm not a fourteen-year-old who plops down in front of the computer at 3:25 p.m. with a bottle of Powerade and a bag of Funyuns and proceeds to type in all lowercase letters about " goin 2 the mall 2day bcuz im 4 sher gettin tha new fitty cd, hun."

Sometimes I mull over blogpost ideas for days, discarding some, stretching out others, cursing under my breath at V-grrl or Neil because they have such a great post up and I want to write about that, too, but I don't want to steal their ideas.

And when I started blogging back in August of 2005, I was pretty much writing in a vacuum. Not many people even knew I had someplace on the web. My own mother still thinks this blog is a message that I only send to my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Dick in Gettysburg. (...and your aunt and uncle say they really love getting your messages and they read them all the time. They let me read some of them while I was there. They're cute. Sigh.) Little by little, though, my humble blog got picked up and noticed. I started finding ways to publicize it, and more people started to read it. How did I know? Only a Non-Blogger would have to ask that.

The Comments!
On August 07, 2005, I got my very first comment on a post. Check it out.

I'm happy to join with Neil at Citizen of the Month and participate in the now Second Annual Thank Your First Commenter Day.

So! Thank You, St. Jim of Southern Maryland for being the very first commenter ever on The Dept. of Nance!

I still don't get very many commenters. I'm nowhere near the 12-15 commenters a day that V-grrrl, the expat in Belgium gets; nor am I even within dreaming distance of the 30-75 daily comments that Neil racks up. And some of the earliest, now big-time bloggers like--hell, why should I give them any more publicity?--get hundreds and hundreds of comments a day! I don't even have close to that many readers, let alone commenters. I'm not going to pretend I don't have Blogger Envy; I sure do. But I'm still a rookie blogger.

But this post is about St. Jim of Southern Maryland, my first commenter ever. Thanks, St. Jim of Southern Maryland. You will be commemorated every Wednesday before Thanksgiving here at The Dept. of Nance for giving me a virtual thumbs-up; that little cyber-pat on the back.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Doncha Think?

The tragedy of Irony Lost on Somebody was implicit in my last post. Alert Reader Danielle commented on it, and now, thanks to her, I have Irony on the Brain.

Apparently, I have Pompous Capitalization Syndrome as well.
But that is beside the point.

Last night Jared and Travis-cat had a major falling-out which was precipitated by Travis's predatory behavior towards Emily-cat. Travis had slept the entire day on Sam's bed and when he finally awoke late in the evening, he expended his energy by picking on and ambushing Emily (who is, as you may recall, 16, arthritic, almost deaf, and has snarkiness issues). Jared defended Emily, and the result was that Travis bit Jared, who retaliated. Travis puffed out like a blowfish and retired, shaken, under a chair for the rest of the night.

Now to my point, and I do have one.

I spent the whole evening concerned about Travis's well-being, because I had never seen him so affected. He refused to come out. Eventually, I went to bed.

This morning, he was still AWOL. Sam informed me that Travis had spent the night under the covers with him. Soon, all my men left the house for the gym or their jobs. Shortly thereafter, Travis loped casually downstairs.

He came into the office where I sat at my computer. He jumped up and I made a huge fuss over him. Many embarrassing kittywittyisms escaped my lips. He purred, bounded down, and went into my bedroom.

And yakked up onto my aubergine carpeting.

And then into the hallway, the dining room, and the kitchen, yakking all the way.

To hell with him.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another Man's Treasure...

The pot to my discarded coffeemaker is sitting on my curb lawn. So is the filter basket. The coffeemaker itself is gone and so is the rest of my trash. But there sit the thermal carafe and basket, stark white and forlorn. They were not even good enough for the garbage-pickers.

Do you have garbage-pickers in your part of the world? We do. And our street is a hotly contested avenue of prime garbage-picking real estate that was the cause of at least one boisterous and noisome argument that I was witness to a couple of years ago because it took place right in front of my home. We are prime trash-gleaning territory, let me tell you. But first, a primer of sorts might be in order for those of you who are not, perhaps, part of the refuse rescue and, cycle.

I live in a charming established neighborhood of mostly colonial homes and some story-and-a-half houses built in the early half of the 20th century. The lots are tiny and the homes are only a driveway's width apart from each other. The streets are lined with old, old gracious silver maples and there is no parking on either side of our narrow avenue. Every home has its mail delivered right to its door; same with the daily news. On every Tuesday evening the neighborhood drags its trash and bluebagged recyclables down to the curb for the next morning's pickup. We can set out anything to be taken: the usual trashcans of household garbage along with appliances, furniture, branches, etc. Many times, I have taken the extra time to arrange certain items rather conspicuously and attractively, such as old tv trays, outdoor furniture, planters, and the like. Then we all go inside and wait for the garbage-pickers to show up.

As soon as it is dusk, we hear the familiar rumbles and clanks of battered pickups. They've arrived. These vehicles cruise slowly up and down the street, checking out what is placed on the curbs. Sometimes the pickers come alone. The driver leaves the engine to idle as he jumps out and inspects each pile. Sometimes they bring one of their kids--usually eleven or twelve years old--or even their wives. Gutters, aluminum siding, any metal goes quickly--it can be sold for scrap. Then the other items are inspected. Once, I heard a woman say loudly, as if she was hoping I was listening, "I can't believe they're throwing these perfectly good plants away! What's a few bugs?"

Once, our basement flooded. Our curb lawn looked like our house threw up. It was a garbage-picker's paradise. I watched fascinated while a kid with an absurdly huge head rode his bike away, somehow balancing two big stereo speakers on his handlebars. I still don't know how, or why, he did it. Don't people realize what's in the water when basements flood?

Anyway, a couple of years ago, two garbage-pickers ended up in a face-off with each other in front of my house. One accused the other, in no uncertain terms, of being in his territory. Seems as though this angry garbage-picker has been scavenging on our street for pretty much his entire career and every other garbage-picker (but this new guy, apparently) knows it and stays away. Much gesturing and posturing ensued, but the Original Garbage-Picker won. I guess you can't argue with Seniority, even if it's in the Garbage-Picking Realm. The other garbage-picker surrendered his stuff, got in his pickup with the scraps o' plywood side panels, and left in a huff. Since then, things have been serene on our little street on Tuesday nights.

But I'm miffed about the coffeemaker. Why take just the maker and not the carafe and the basket? I already know why the city's garbagemen didn't take it. I've had that conversation already. I had occasion to call the city's sanitation department before because the garbagemen left so much crap all over my lawn. Here is what went down on the phone:

Me: Hello. I have a concern regarding the city workers who are supposed to collect my trash.

City Worker: Yes? How can I help you?

Me: Well, they leave a lot of garbage on the lawn. It's not there in the morning when I leave for
work, so I know it's not coming from an animal getting into the cans. They are spilling it
from the cans and not cleaning it up.

CW: Well, ma'am, they can't go picking up garbage at everybody's house.

Me: Excuse me? Did you just say that they can't pick up people's garbage? Isn't that pretty
much their JOB?

CW: Well, ma'am, if they stop to pick up SPILLED garbage on everyone's property, they'll
never get their route done. You'll just have to pick it up. I'm sure it's just a little bit.

Me: Well, ma'am, if they didn't SPILL the garbage, there wouldn't be a problem. How about
YOU come out and pick up their mess for me? It's just a little bit. Or better yet, how
about you ask Mr. _____ (insert mayor's name) to come out and pick it up for me?

CW: Ma'am, you don't understand--

Me: You are absolutely right about that. Good day.

So, today, my carafe and basket are in the garbage can. Waiting for next Tuesday. As part of the regular trash.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Carnival of the Mundane XXIII: Committees Realigned

Taking a cue from the pledge of Nancy Pelosi, The Sam and BeckyBoo Show has wasted no time and, squeaking in at just over the 100 hour deadline, has already realigned some of the Carnival's most influential committees. Click on the link and visit some Mundane posts (a favorite feline one of mine included) about...oh, just any old thing. Then check back. I'm about ready to file one for The Dept.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blue Skies...Shining at Me...Nothin' but Blue Skies...

Now this is the kind of Housecleaning I can get excited about!

When I finally got to bed last night, I knew the Democrats had won the House, but the firewall was still in place--Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, and Montana had yet to be called. And although CNN and MSNBC remained confident in their projections, Steele had yet to relinquish Maryland. I had given up Tennessee, and I was happy enough with the House and the fact that my own state, Ohio, had completely and irrevocably turned a lovely shade of angry electorate
BLUE. The governor, the senate, key house races, my state rep.--hell, even every local seat, judges even, were going Democrat. I felt electrified. I turned off the television feeling pretty damn good.

This morning while getting ready for school, I listened to local radio but was surprised not to hear a single word about the outcome of the Senate. My husband turned on the tv and I stared at CNN and a single word in the upper left corner of the screen. "LIVE", it said, with the balance of power graphic still across the bottom. Virginia and Montana, I heard, were still at stake, with Missouri going to the Democrats. I couldn't wait to get to work and "caucus" with fellow Dems.

All day long, other Dems zoomed down to my room to chat it out and hug and squeal in the hallway. We all had CNN minimized on our computer screens and checked it in between classes or during lulls in our lectures. You could tell just by looking who voted what in our building. The smiles were dazzling for the Dems. It felt good to feel good, not angry. We had gotten it all out at the polls, and evidently, so had everyone else!

But, once the recounts are done and the euphoria wears off, January will inevitably come. The Democrats will have to do a singularly vital thing: they must--they must turn the anger into hope. This country has given them their fatigue, their skepticism, their yearning, and their desperation. This is a weary and resentful electorate. An impatient and mistrustful people. A ready and waiting America. "There is a tide in the affairs of men, " warns Brutus in Julius Caesar, "which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." The Democrats must take this opportunity bestowed upon them by a hopeful America and reward that hope immediately and decisively, not vengefully and foolishly. This is a time to lead forward, not punish the past. It's not enough now to be the party of who we aren't; we must now be the party of who we are.

And make America what it can be again.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Interim Progress Report: Nance

Interim Progress Report:
I'm not working up to my potential at all. I'm a smart woman, but I seem to be getting in my own way for some reason. When I look at my future, it is bright, but if I don't start applying myself, that future begins to look dimmer and dimmer. I know what I have to do, but for some reason, I'm just not doing it. I just don't seem to be engaged...even when I know that it's in my own best interest to be. I can't seem to get motivated, whether it be by intrinsic or extrinsic means.

Basically, I have a bad attitude lately. I just don't feel like doing anything. Anything at all. Oh, and there's plenty that needs doing, believe me. Let's start with my schoolwork. I have a stack of 65 essay tests over Act IV of The Crucible that need to be graded. I've already held them over from last grading period. They've been ungraded now for over two weeks. Students have been asking, legitimately, about them. "I'm still grading them," I answer them honestly. Because I am. I've already graded 32 of them. It's taking me forever. I have to read them carefully, correct them, and comment on them. Then score them. AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!! I HATE IT.

Moving on. Housework. The bathroom. Do you have dark-haired people in your house? Because that makes cleaning the bathroom a distasteful job. And by "distasteful", I mean "hairy." We are all dark-haired except for Sam, who is light-brown with blond tips (my little metrosexual!). And my husband and eldest have beards. And my almost-black hair is long. My bathroom is one big hairpit. And because of styling products and a blowdrier (blowdryer?), there is, sometimes, actually hair on the wall. I often harbor a secret evil wish that my sister would lose her job so that she would come clean my bathroom for money. That is how bad my attitude is. But I would pay her eleventy billion dollars.

Two words. CAT HAIR. Why is it not invisible? Why can they not...oh, I don't know...hold it in!? I want to have friends over this weekend. They are dog people. They do not have cat hair all over their draperies at every conceivable level. They do not have cat hair, period. Oh, don't try to make me feel better by saying, "Nance. They have dog hair! It's an issue!" Not the same! Not the same! Not the same! Their dog does not climb on the back of the couch and drag its entire body across the draperies at scalp level! Their dog does not poke its body into every godforsaken drapery opening to see out of every godforsaken window in the entire house and leave a wadcoating of hair 4 inches deep in one day while they are away! You cannot stop cat hair; you can only hope to contain it for the 4-6 hours that your friends are in your home. I hope my sister gets fired in the next three days so she and her Electrolux can come over....BAD NANCE!!!

Basic home maintenance. I feel like my usual fastidiousness (read: borderline manic OCD) has become, well, not so much anymore. I used to come home and, as I walked from the back door to the front room, clean as I went. I threw away detritus, put stuff in the diswasher, tossed the boys' possessions on their steps up to their room, straightened up the living room, grabbed the mail and newspaper, etc, all before even hanging up my coat. Then, went into the bedroom where I would change out of my teacher clothes into my transitional outfit, hung up my school clothes immediately, made the bed, and went into the bathroom to pop out my contacts and clean up in there. Everywhere I went, I cleaned. Now, I feel like I'm just overwhelmed anymore. I look at the Pit of Disorder that is my home and just murmur something about "I can't do it anymore." What a lousy, defeatist attitude. Perhaps I need to consume one of those new energy drinks with the badass name.

Personal appearance. Oh no, you say, well-acquainted with my vanity. Call 9-1-1. If Nance is allowing her personal appearance to suffer, then she needs Bad Attitudes Anonymous. Let me just say this: I have not bothered to wear earrings for two weeks.

I know. I was letting that sink in. This is Code Red. DefCon 1. Or 5. I forget which is higher.
This attitude thing is serious, I told you.

Someone call my sister.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Politics: Call for Change

Midterm elections are a week away, and here in Ohio (state political motto: we have no idea what we're doing, but we're doing it dirty!), we are what's known as a bellwether state or a battleground state, depending upon how elegant your English is.

The good news is, even the Republican National Committee has given up on the Senate seat, but the Congressional races are tight. There is a Rove-ian stink in all the television ads as mud, garbage, slander, and carcasses of dead integrity are flung by candidates at each other. My mailbox is stuffed with as many as ten pieces of "campaign literature"--literature? oh, that it was!--per day. I am sick to death of what politics has become in the past 6 years, especially in this state with its nonstop diet of scandals, corruption, and governmental abuse. Sadly, it is nothing more than a candid mirror of its enablers in Washington.

Thankfully, there is a low, menacing rumble of true and angry discontent, even in the most pastoral reaches of the heartland. This red state is slowly and steadily, with fists raised, turning and embracing a new, blue ideology.

A few may be uneasy and need encouragement to commit. Not just in Ohio, but in other key states with pivotal seats. You can help. has devised a truly simple and effective method called Call for Change that only takes an hour or two of your time. A small price to pay for true change in direction, away from the crooked path this administration has forced our feet to tread. Please click the icon below to find out more. It's so important. Just get the information and decide if you can help us.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Breaking the Block

I have a confession. The gap between postings here at The Dept. isn't mainly a time issue. Yes, it's true that I'm a busy highschool English teacher with a load of over 120 students, of which 23 are Creative Writing I kids who write every other day. And that I am the adviser and editor of the literary magazine. And that I also teach honors-level classes. (please feel pity or suitably impressed here, your choice)

No, the larger reason for the drought between entries is much simpler and more embarrassing. The plain, unembroidered truth is that sometimes, I just don't have anything clever or worthy to share with you, so I wait until I do.

I am a victim of Blogger's Block.

When I first started up this enterprise, I promised myself that The Dept. wouldn't ever degenerate into rants about my husband/family, or pleas for sympathy about a health problem, or simply consist of endless boring memes, or merely be links to someone else's blog/articles on another site. I mean, this is the Dept. of Nance. Duh. I've always had a habit of making things harder on myself as it is. That's something my mother always told me; one of the few things of hers I actually tell my own children. Wait. Now there's a blogpost:

Things My Mother Told Me That I Also Tell My Own Children

1. Do you see how you are?

2. Don't eat that now; you'll spoil your dinner.

3. The skin of the potato is the best part.

4. Have an apple.

But really, that's all I can think of. I'm not really that much like my mother. I'm more like my father, actually, but not so much in the things that he said. More in a philosophical way. So, I guess a better list would be:

Things I Have Said To My Children That My Mother Would Never Have Said

1. Okay, go ahead and fight, but if the loser goes to the Emergency Room, then the winner goes to jail.

2. Honey, go make Mommy a nice Cosmopolitan, up.

3. Boys, I hope you both know that if either of you even thinks of marrying a Republican, you are so out of the will that your heads will spin.

4. Oh it's fine; a little dirt won't kill you.

5. Call Daddy on the cell and if he sounds funny, offer to go and pick him up. We can get his car in the morning.

6. Let's see if the top of the pepper grinder can fit up Sam's nostril.

Now before you all think that my family are a bunch of drunken, brawling Democrats who live in a mudhole, let me tell you that, aside from our political affiliation, nothing could be further from the truth. Honestly, and I'm sure that someone who knows us will vindicate me in the comments. We are just fun people. Who vote Democrat. And teach our children how to make martinis at an early age. For US. And who have fun at the dinner table. Sigh. Never mind. Which reminds me of another bloggable:

My children swear that, at one point, I threw a baked potato at the dinner table at one of them. I have no memory of this incident. None. This Potato Incident, as it will be called, supposedly occurred as a lark, a fun thing, not a retributive act. I maintain that this is yet one more entry for my Journal of Wrongs--a small book I keep at home of all the bad things my family have done to me--in the chapter entitled "Taking Advantage of Mom's Bad Memory", or "Gaslighting Mommy." You see, for about two years, I had a slight memory deficiency--an actual medical condition--which was troublesome for me but entertaining for everyone else. I would have to take the boys to the mall with me to help me find my car at the end of shopping, etc. Well, eventually, they'd use it against me. Rick, craving macaroni salad, convinced me that I had promised to make it for dinner one evening--had I forgotten? Apologetically, I made it. Come on, Mom, we have to go! Where? I asked. You promised to take me to the mall, remember? No, but okay, I would say, ruefully. They scammed me unmercifully until I finally caught on. To this day when one of them threatens to loft something at someone during dinner, one of them invariably says, "Remember when Mom threw the baked potato?!" I draw myself up in my dignity and say haughtily, "I never threw a potato at anyone. You are a bunch of filthy liars." (Hmmm. I should make that #7 on the above list.)

Oh. Macaroni salad. Here's my last blogbit. Once, I was invited to a bridal shower for an in-law, now an ex-in-law, and I was supposed to bring a dish. I didn't like this woman, I didn't want to go to the shower, and I didn't want to actually make anything. So, I literally put a big dish in my car, a few cherry tomatoes, and a knife. On the way to the shower I stopped at a convenience store and bought a couple pounds of macaroni salad. I sat in the car and dumped it into the big dish, cut the cherry tomatoes into little flower thingys, garnished it, and drove to the shower. A few women actually got really excited about the macaroni salad I brought. They asked me for the recipe. SO I MADE ONE UP AND GAVE IT TO THEM! So there.

Does that mean I can't go to heaven now?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dumping the Contents of My Head

From time to time, I have to drain off some of the more inexplicable thought nerfuls that keep rattling around in my head. I have no idea why these things keep occurring to me; they stick around like little velcro brain hamsters. Now they can take up residence in your mental Habitrails.

1. Every single Brandon I know is a screw-up or a brat on his way to being a screw-up. I've been keeping tabs on this for about 4 years now, and I've yet to meet a Brandon or have one in class that is the exception to this rule. If there are any Moms out there who are contemplating this name for a future son, I'm telling you right now, don't do it. Don't saddle your kid with this name. He will turn out to be a major pain in the ass. Or worse.

2. Every Crystal I know is ditsy. All adult Crystals I know are involved in the cosmetology field in one way or the other as well. Not that there is anything wrong with that. ( My stylist is not named Crystal, and she is not ditsy, for the record. Her name is Nancy.) And that includes all the ridiculous variant spellings of this name, too: Krystle, Chrystal, Christal, Krysstle, Khristall, etc. When I think of the name Crystal, I automatically know she will have stripey highlights, fake fingernails, and call people (including her mother) "hon."

3. I went to Old Navy with my son to shop for jeans. On the door it said "Join the fun. We're hiring!" No one at Old Navy looks like they are having fun. I don't blame them. They spend their whole shift folding clothes, hanging up clothes, organizing things, sorting things, and telling people where to find things or helping people to find things. In short, they spend their whole shift being someone's MOM. But hey, at least they're getting paid for it.

4. If Halloween is such a bigass holiday, then why no Halloween songs? Personally, I hate this holiday. When I was a kid, I loved it. I loved dressing up and going trick-or-treating and getting a ton of candy. But now, it's out of control. Houses around me take this holiday to a new level. A full-fledged graveyard is in the front of one house on the corner as a body hangs from the tree and a witch greets visitors to the front door. Another house is totally covered (both stories!) with enormous spiders whose webs drape over the eaves and bushes. Skeletons, hanging corpses, bloodied bodies, tombstones--are these really "decorations?" I bet these people are a real hoot at funerals. I am seriously confused as to what we are "celebrating". What, really, are these people doing? I find the whole thing distasteful. Why can't this just be a kid holiday? Do adults have to co-opt it because they can't grow up just yet? Geeze!

5. No time for Halloween grousing, though. Christmas stuff is already in the stores! There will be no Thanksgiving this year! Sorry, but we just can't fit it in. No marketing value.

6. Whatever happened to Mallow-Cups? They used to be sold right next to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. They were wonderful. The marshmallow was sticky and there was just a teensy bit of crunchy coconut on the top. Mmmmmm. I love those and they are NOWHERE. And I find that marshmallows, in general, are vastly underused in the confectionery world. And that the word marshmallow is vastly misspelled I'd say a good 85-90% of the time. Oh, and that "Reese's" is vastly mispronounced a good 60% of the time. It is to be pronounced to rhyme with "pieces" not "pee-sees". Sigh.

7. I worry because I do not take photos. Everyone I know takes photos; some of them do it almost every day! They have photos of every single birthday for all of their children, even past elementary school. They have photos of every first day of school for comparison. They document every vacation, every pet, every first of every event. All new cars are photographed, as are gardens, so favorite plants can be placed in the same plots. They have cute candids, family portraits that they did themselves, and photos of astonishing scenery or ironic signs because they carry their cameras in their cars! I am lucky to have my umbrella in my car. Or a CD that I like. And do not get me started about scrapbookers.

8. I have given up on the show "Heroes." Too many characters. Too many places where the script had to do gymnastics with the normal plot events. I wanted to like it. Oh well.

9. Last weekend, a gay guy could not take his eyes off my husband. It was blatant and it was unabashed. (And well-deserved. Rick was nicely dressed and looked lovely.) I could tell that he was flattered and proud that he still "had it" whether it was appreciated by a member of the opposite sex or the same. The guy was only about 25.

10. I had no overtly educational kid tv when I was growing up; at least, nothing like Sesame Street, Barney, or Reading Rainbow. The shows I remember best are Captain Kangaroo, The Jonathan Winters Show, and Lost in Space.

Okay, so! I feel better! Must mean I'm done.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Regardless of What He Thinks It Is, He Sucks at His Job

His handlers should remind The Angel of Death that this is the oath he took:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Men Are from Mars and Women Are...Jealous

There was a box of filled doughnuts on the table in the lounge today. Every guy who walked in said, "Hey, allright! Doughnuts!" Every woman who walked in said, "Oh no! Who put that in here?!" or something rueful like that. The women walked up, peeked in, and then began with the Great Debate.

Should I be good or should I be bad? Can I "afford" a doughnut today? If I eat this now, I'll have to do an extra two laps at the gym; is it worth it? Should I eat my healthy snack I brought or should I just say what the hell and have a doughnut?

As one of the female teachers was debating, a guy swooped in and grabbed a cream-filled doughnut with great relish and took a huge cream-gushing bite. She looked at him enviously.
"Why can't I just be a guy?" she said, almost hatefully. "They don't even have to worry about it. If I was a guy, I would never have to even think about it. I don't think guys even have to worry about gaining or losing weight. If I was a guy, I sure wouldn't. I mean, why would I? It doesn't matter."

"Curt can lose 10 pounds just by laying off the beer," I said, unhelpfully, relating a true story about a male colleague in the math department. "That's why he wins the Lose-A-Thon every year. He signs up to lose 10 pounds, and he does it, just by cutting off the beer."

"That just sucks," Dawn replied, digging into the fridge for her pear. "This had better be one helluva pear is all I'm gonna say."

As I put the lid on the doughnut box, I recalled a moment with my husband a few years back. He had just quit construction and become a "desk jockey" due to severe back problems. As a result, he had started to gain some weight. We were standing in front of his dresser as he struggled a bit with the button on his jeans.

"Wow! I'm gaining weight! I'm getting fat!" he said, grasping his stomach with both hands and pretending to jiggle it. "You know what that means!"

I stood there, wondering which tack to take. Did this call for a wifely disavowal: Oh no, honey, you're not, really...? Or perhaps tough love: You sure are! Now drop and give me twenty! Or how about sympathy: You're not fat so much as you are just a little overweight. But it's okay.
My head was filled with what IT meant if IT were my problem: dieting, deprivation, sucking in my stomach, hitting the treadmill every night, drinking water constantly...that's it! I'd offer my expert advice! If anyone knew how to lose weight, which had been my principal activity for the first 43 years of my life, it was ME!

"I sure do, " I said. "I---"

"Time to buy bigger pants!!!" he said heartily.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Politics Make Strange...

I've used this blog in the past to come clean about my crushes. I've spoken very honestly about the men in my life, such as Rob Lowe, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Johnny Depp. I even shared with you my List. Now it's time for more truth. There is one man for whom I have an almost wistful reverence and obsessive concern. After the tsunami I watched the television news for glimpses of him to see if he was looking wan or exhausted. I fretted over his health and welfare. In the past six years, I have often longed for his wisdom and levelheadedness. And recently, I applauded his fiery spirit and dauntless self-defense.

I'm speaking, of course, about President Bill Clinton.

This man had me at the start of the presidential campaign in his first term. He wore tan suits and baby blue shirts when everyone else was trying to "look presidential" in dark suits and sedate ties. His lilting Dixie accent sounded homespun and soothing and belied the incredible intelligence and sophistication he possessed. His wife wore horrific headbands, but what did I care? I wasn't electing a First Lady fashion icon; I was electing a president! Besides, everyone knew that Jackie O would always be the First Lady of Fashion. I'd like to see a Republican First Lady come close to being a style setter like her. The Bushwomen...well, not even. And do not even try to mention Nancy Reagan. If it weren't for red suits, she'd be a nothing. Feh!

The thing about Bill was, when he spoke, I always got the incredible feeling that he truly meant every single thing he said. And that he truly did care--deeply--about America. And every single American. And that he was smart. He never smirked or snorted behind the Presidential seal. He didn't have to. He was Presidential because he knew what he was doing and it was the right thing because he thought about it, he cared about it, and he wasn't doing it behind everyone's back, including the Constitution's. I could have done without the "thumb up" gesture all the time, but hey, we all have our little idiosyncrasies. And, apparently, that's a good one because John Edwards uses it now. Maybe it's a Southern thing.

I used to watch Bill at big events held in his honor or at which he was a guest of honor. He'd be introduced, naturally, and everyone would clap and all. Sometimes the events would be intensely emotional or patriotic, and the camera would zoom in, and there he'd be, eyes all welled up, but smiling. Almost like he's thinking to himself, "Oh my God. I am the President of this incredible country and I can't believe it. This is just too much."

It was devastating when Gore lost the First Election of the Dark Times. And I started missing Bill right away. I tried giving the Angel of Death the benefit of the doubt, and before September 11th, I thought, "Maybe this moron will just hide out and not do much damage, just play with some toys under the big desk and we'll be okay for four years." But no.

During the Kerry campaign, I was thrilled to hear that Bill was going to campaign. And then it happened: the heart surgery. A flurry of emails flew between my friend Leanne in southern Maryland (only 45 minutes from D.C.!) and me. Relieved to hear he was out of surgery and would be fine, I began to concern myself with his recovery. "This situation is less than ideal, " I wrote Leanne. "After all, Hillary does not strike me as the caring, nurturing type. She will probably not even be home, or , if she does go to him, she will probably be busy on her laptop or cell phone and fax machine. She might stress him out with Senate business. I can't see her fluffing his pillow or arranging the duvet. Likely she will not fill his pill minder or see that he is properly hydrated. Things could go downhill fast and she will not even notice. She might not even see if he is paler than normal. What a terrible thing. When Rick had his spinal surgery, I was home with him all summer. I made the doctor do a thyroid level test because I thought his eyebrows looked sparse! Do you think Hillary even knows what color his eyebrows are?"

Fast forward to the tsunami relief effort. When I heard that Bill was going to be flitting around the world on a plane with Bush41, I almost had a spasm. What was he thinking? And then, the news that he gave up his bed to 41 because the man is older made me almost apoplectic. Bill is a heart patient fergodsakes! I saw report after report where Bill looked tired and listless. I began to perseverate about his health. The pouches under his eyes became more pronounced. I emailed Leanne, "This trip is ill-advised. Very ill-advised. Again, I question Hillary's dedication here. Why didn't she step in and put her foot down? I would have told him that no way is he jetting off, gallivanting and traipsing around, compromising his recovery. He's not eighteen, you know."

Thankfully, Bill made a complete recovery in spite of himself. (AND Hillary's obvious indifference, I have to say.) This was evident in his sparring match with Chris Wallace on the Faux News Network recently. He looked very fit. Quite. And still very Presidential. I may be able to stop worrying now, but I still miss him. Can't he run again? Because, we need him. And I don't want to hear a lot of bullshit about the monica thing--yes, small things deserve small letters, and it was a small thing. I don't give a flying fuck in a rolling doughnut who does who or how or what in the Oval Office, even if it's on my dime. Did it cost 2700+ American lives? Did it destabilize an entire region? Was it anyone's business, really? In the broad panorama of any context, was it anyone's business and did it really matter? Did it make us less safe at home or abroad? Are you really better off now, in the grasp of the Angel of Death and Darth Vader?

Sigh. I miss those Bill Times. Who do we have that can follow him? Who is our next Democratic Rock Star President? I know who I'd like...but I'd rather have Bill.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Testing, Testing...Is This Thing On?

Okay, so I need brutally objective feedback. The following struck me as funny. Really funny. But when I related it at the dinner table, I got pitying looks and rolling eyes for my pains. Here it is:

Yesterday I was playing string with TravisCat. He was really going at it. "Wow!" I told him. "You have amazing cat-like reflexes."
Am I the only one?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Men: Can't Live with 'Em, Can't Afford a Luxury Condo in an Undisclosed Location

On Saturday afternoon I walked out of the bathroom after having dried my hair and wandered into the living room. There, on my couch, was the commissioner of basketball, eating McDonald's food. He was there watching the Ohio State football game with my son. "Hey," he said briefly, looking up.

"Commissioner," I responded, nodding. He merely reached into the bag for another sandwich. My husband was in his recliner with his laptop, frowning at the screen. "What's with all these emails from the Hornets and the Trailblazers?" he complained. "I don't want to get sent all this trash talk if it doesn't concern me! Why do they send this shit to everyone?" The Commissioner turned his attention ever so slightly from the football game. "I don't know," he said, a slight edge to his voice. "They're just idiots. I delete 'em."

I sighed and walked out of the room. This is what it is like to live in a houseful of males. It's Fantasy Sports Season. Right now, all three of them own fantasy football franchises and are busily drafting basketball teams for when that season begins. It never stops. And I mean never. It is the topic of dinner conversation, after-dinner conversation, cell phone conversations, Sunday morning over-the-newspaper conversations, and any other time they can possibly manage it. Oh, sure, they try to include me: "Mom, I need a shooter and I'm stuck between Iguadala and Prince. Who should I take?" But really, I'm so sick of it all. IT'S NOT REAL! THEY DON'T EVEN GET A PRIZE IF THEY WIN! WHAT THE HECK IS THE POINT, THEN? I just don't get it. It's "A Guy Thing." I can't even think of anything in the Female Experience that is analagous to Fantasy Sports Leagues. All this constant fantasy junk is making me want my own apartment.

Listen, that's not all. If you live in my house, you get to hear these as well:
--"It's as hot as crotch in here!"
--"Come ON! Don't sit there and tell me you've never, in your WHOLE life, ever had swamp ass."
--after whiffing own armpit, "Man, do I stink! Seriously, I need a shower."
--"Mom, my head is bigger than your whole torso!"
--"Mom, please. You're so weak you can't even drink from a big-girl glass."
--the word "piss" as noun, verb, and adjective
--farts and burps at the dinner table every night, sometimes simultaneously
--quotes from "Office Space" and "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Rain Man" every single day
--actual meltdowns over poor players' performances in Madden 2007, which is A GAME

And, apparently, if you are male and live in my house, these things are optional:
--hanging up the hand towel
--scraping food off the dishes before stacking them or loading them
--bringing used dishes or drinking vessels back to the kitchen
--putting the cordless phone back on its charger
--hanging up your car keys
--turning off or putting your laptop away or at least off the floor
--bringing up any clean, dry clothing from the laundry, even your own
--putting clean, dry clothing in a drawer
--recycling aluminum cans
--cleaning the catbox
--picking up your change
--noticing and then cleaning up cat yak

Oh, boo hoo, some of my male readers are saying. Or, big effing deal, some of my mommies of toddlers or newborns might be saying. THAT'S RIGHT, I say! I have the right to boo hoo over this big effing deal! After carping after sophomores and juniors all day about the sanctity of the English language and the stature of American literature, the last thing I need is all of that crap!

Wow. I feel tons better now.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

DoN to Hire Fashion Consultant; Apply Within

This is such an iffy time of the year in NE Ohio, climatologically speaking. One day, we are basking in 85-degree warmth with blue, sunny skies; the next, we are cuddling under our afghans while the sky is gunmetal grey and the northerly breezes remind us that we are glad we bought the snowblower last year. It is this type of changeability that wreaks havoc with my professional wardrobe and my fashion confidence.

I know it is September, but on Friday we had 86 degrees! Our building is not airconditioned! All my fall clothes are still in storage! There is no freaking way I am wearing a sweater, blazer, or longsleeved anything when it is almost 90. SO!...What's a woman to do?

Am I allowed to still wear white pants? If so, till when? Am I really, as Stacy and Clinton of "What not to Wear" fame say, still allowed to wear my ferociously cute white backless shoes now that Labor Day has passed? What about my fierce light blue and my flirty pink kitten heels? What about my pastel-colored blazers for sunny yet coolish days, say in the upper 60s? What about open-toed shoes? Is it over for them? Even if they might be black or brown? How long do I have?

See, I used to just cheat. There was a woman I used to teach with who was very uppercrust and very fashionable. I sort of watched her wardrobe's evolution and patterned mine after her. If she was wearing her sandals that week, I was okay to wear mine, and so on. Alas! she retired. And took her Chanel sunglasses with her.

The leaves have not yet started to turn here. I still have pink geraniums in hanging baskets and petunias in my flower boxes. My tomatoes are still producing and my basil is going crazy. I saw a baby cardinal on my deck.

So, what dictates my wardrobe, the calendar or the weather or some rules that I am not entirely sure of that someone made up sometime? I mean, I'll follow the rules if everyone else is because I don't want to look like an idiot. I am that vain, sadly. It's this damned not summer/not really fall season that kills me.

Aside from that, I'm good.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

If We Are What We Eat, Then I'm In Trouble

Thanks to Ernesto, this Labor Day Weekend which is supposed to be Summer's Last Hurrah is turning into The Festival O' Generalized Malaise. Yesterday we had a high temperature of 65 degrees (I officially began the season of Polar Fleece Body Encasement) and nonstop rain; today we have a high temperature of 68 degrees and lowering clouds that look as if we should be ready to grab Toto and head for the cellar.

I am fussy.

And...I am having one of those days where I am hungry, but I don't know what I am hungry for.

Do you absolutely hate that? You know what that's like. You stand in front of the refrigerator with the door wide open (ILLEGAL!), almost as if you are standing on a podium and addressing the appliance's contents: "I suppose you are wondering why I've called all of you here today." I stare for long minutes at the same stuff: bagels? no. cheese? no. pickles? no. leftover mac & cheese? no. jam, jelly? no. chocolate milk? no. SIGH.

Then, the cupboards. Cheetos? pretzels? no. granola? ick. popcorn? you're insane. how long have these Peeps been in here? who bought these jalapeno Pringles? eew. where is the Hershey bar I stashed in here? Oh, yeah, I set it out for the cat-sitter. peanut butter? no.

I end up with 4 Ritz crackers, one of which I drop, blow on, and eat anyway. Completely unsatisfying.

I go back to reading my book about a Dutch she-merchant in the 1600s. She is eating eggs and beef and drinking ale after just having given birth. None of that ( and I mean NONE OF ANY OF THAT) sounds the least bit appealing. Either does going to the grocery store.

I am in a food/mood crisis. Send help.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dept.-Mental Detritus

*Despite my earlier heartfelt pleas and cogent arguments, the pointyheads at Astronomers-R-Us or whatever went ahead and delisted Pluto as a planet anyway. So, for those of us who memorized the handy sentence "My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles" back when we had NINE PLANETS, may I now offer this mnemonic as an alternative: My Very Ethnic Mother Just Served Us Nachos"? When faced with such an exigent, we must needs make do. Sigh.

*I started back to work on Friday. It was made oh-so-evident when I went to log onto my computer. After typing in my username and password, I had to click on the button which said
SUBMIT. I had no choice. !CLICK! Summer was over.

* Thursday night, lying in bed, sleepless as usual the night before going back to school after summer vacation (even after 25 years in the biz), I hear scuffling and scraping out on the deck right outside the bedroom window. "Rick!" I stage-whisper to my husband. "Did you hear that?" Rick, after a pause, says sleepily, "Yes." I wait a moment. Then I say, "Well? Don't you think you better see what it is?" He leans over and grabs the flashlight and directs it out of the window while still lying prone in bed. "I don't see anything," he says, and turns the flashlight off. I lie there, incredulous. I content myself with the knowledge that, if it is a bear that claws through the screen, it will get him first.

*Lots of colleagues who remember I went on an Alaskan cruise this summer ask me about it at school. I encounter severe vocabulary distress due to my self-imposed boycott of the word "amazing." Because, as you know, if anything IS that word, it is Alaska. I vow to make a list of synonyms--good ones--this weekend.

*I sat in meetings all morning on Friday--as expected--at school. I surprised myself with my level of patience and maturity. Am I growing up?

*I went to the Shaw Festival a couple weeks ago at Niagara-on-the-Lake. I saw two plays, one of which was The Crucible. It was a very good production, but I have to admit that I was more than a little dismayed when I noticed that the director chose to add two lines to the play. Okay, I was outraged. One does not mess with the work of a great master of the theater like Arthur Miller. Would she have added lines to Shakespeare? To Williams? To Marlowe? Anyway, I told my buddy and department head Sue about it on Friday. In my diatribe I included the exact lines and exactly where they were in the play. Of course. She grinned and said, "Nance. How many people in the audience do you think have the entire play memorized?! BESIDES YOU!?" We both laughed. Naturally, that is not the point, we agreed. But it is such an English Teacher Thing.

*I think I am over Nutella.

*Why do my children buy the same computer game every single year? Madden Football. All it is, is football. Some of the players are the same. It is ridiculous. They spend hours playing it. Sometimes they fuss for hours designing new uniforms and logos. I am going to buy them a Barbie Fashion Designer Game and I bet they love it.

Okay, that's it. I think. Be patient with me now that I'm back at The Rock. Allow for some re-entry time. Monday is the Big Day with Kids. Empty Vessels. Wish me good classes, low humidity, and superhuman stamina. Only 185 days to go!!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why, Perhaps He *IS* an Idiot! (Politics Ahead!)

This rather lengthy video is a clip from "Scarborough Country." It puts up for debate the question of whether The Angel of Death is an idiot, or if he simply is inarticulate. The evidence presented is a series of hilarious clips where he does battle with the English language and loses, miserably. Two guests, each taking opposite sides, offer their analyses. Scarborough mediates.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Happy Belated Anniversary...To Me!

Holy Crap! I took a look around The Dept. and suddenly realized that I have been blogging for a whole year now. A little over, even: August 6th, 2005 was my first post.

And they said it wouldn't last.

Since then, I have been regaling visitors with accounts of phallic Christmas trees, the furor over whether or not Pluto should be a planet, musical mail trucks, left-leaning politics, the world of helpful pharmaceuticals, my sometimes self-actualized sons, my all-out war on backyard rodents, the three distinctions among beers, and most recently, my awesome cruise to Alaska.

And where would you all be without them? I shudder to think. As should you.

I hope you have a chance to waste a little time and wander back among the things On File at the Dept. (see sidebar). Heaven knows, next Friday I'm back to work and posts will become fewer and farther between! ;-)

Thanks for sticking around! And when you drop by next, bring a new recruit.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Alaskan Adventure--Part VIII, The End

We awoke the next morning early to disembark. The cruise ship had a very orderly and swift system to get everyone off the ship in Seattle. They knew everyone's flight information and had placed passengers into groups, starting the disembarkation process at 7 AM. We were urged to have as much luggage prepacked and ready the night before, and to have set it outside our staterooms for the stewards to pick up. The rest we would have to hand-carry off ourselves. Breakfast would be available starting at 5 AM in the buffet and one dining room, but coffee and tea would be provided in many public areas, such as lounges and the night clubs. Those were the areas we were encouraged to wait since disembarking might run ahead of schedule. And it did, by almost 45 minutes! Before we knew it, we were off the ship, on a shuttle, and headed toward the airport. Our cruise had ended abruptly and a little unceremoniously, but we would never, ever forget a single minute of it.

On the shuttle to the airport, Rick and I sat quietly in thought about all we had experienced. Suddenly, the tiny elderly woman with the incredibly red hair in front of us whipped out her cell phone. "HelLO Jill!," she squawked loudly. "Jill! Jill! It's me. Yes, I'm in Seattle now. No, I couldn't call you yesterday. We were in Canada. In enemy territory. Now that we're back on American soil, I could call you. What? No, Alaska is part of the US, so I could call you there. So, now what about the cabinets? Was there much damage? What? WHAT? " We went under an overpass. She was oblivious. "Jill. JILL. HELLO JILL!!!" She turned to her husband. "I lost her."

"Thank God," my husband muttered under his breath. "I wish we were about to cross into enemy territory because I almost couldn't stand one more sentence of her conversation with the famous Jill."

"Really?" I murmured softly. "I am all aflutter about the cabinets. What if there's significant damage? Then what?"

Soon, the cell phone was deployed again, and Jill was back on the line. My husband closed his eyes, and I let my mind wander back to Alaska (still part of the US, remember!). I knew there were long plane rides ahead of us, and a layover in Atlanta (aka "Hellanta"), and I wondered if I should be doing some writing during all of the travelling to try and capture my thoughts while they were still fresh. I had done and seen and experienced so many things, both on the ship and off. I knew I wouldn't forget them, but time has a way of blurring and morphing and coloring things.

Finally, the bus arrived at the airport. We located our luggage, double-checked our flight, checked our bags, and then went to our gate. We were truly on our way home now. I'll spare you the horror stories of late departure, lost luggage, delay on the tarmac, the rude guy who almost punched my husband in the airport, and coming home to a cat later diagnosed with ideopathic vestibular disease...or maybe I will tell you that last one sometime! My Alaskan Adventure was definitely the best vacation I've ever had.

But, I look forward to trying to equal it. One last Alaska photo for you:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Alaskan Adventure--Part VII

We sailed all night and at about 3:45 the next afternoon, the ship stalled enough to pick up a Victoria Harbour Pilot. Interestingly, each time the cruise ship enters "new" waters, it is required to pick up a new pilot who is familiar with the area. The transfer of these pilots is even more fascinating, and many of us passengers gathered on deck to watch it. As I said, the ship idles, and soon, we saw a small boat coming steadily towards us.

As it pulled alongside, a rope ladder emerged from a metal door on the side of our ship. The pilot stepped from the pilot boat and climbed up the rope ladder and disappeared into the ship. The rope ladder was pulled in, the door shut, and soon we were on our way! It was stunning even on the calm sea; all of us chattered about how impressive and dangerous it would be on a choppier, angrier one.

Not too long after that, we were able to see Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, on the horizon. The weather was much warmer and getting a bit more humid. There was no doubt that we had left Alaska. So many passengers were on the dock, enjoying the sun and warmer weather. Before we knew it, we were able to see the dock. Suddenly, we all realized that the ship was doing something strange. Soon, a voice on the loudspeakers confirmed it. The captain was turning us completely around--we were going to back the ship in! The reaction from the passengers was one of incredulity. Look at our berth!

Slowly, slowly, we backed into the berth. A welcoming party was waiting on the dock for us in this "veddy veddy Brritish town."

Eventually, we stepped off, cleared border security, such as it was, and walked off into Victoria. I was greeted by and had my photo taken with a "bobby". We were practically smothered by the 80+ degree heat. We found a shuttle to downtown Victoria to see some sights.

The driver was quite the Canadian booster. "Canada has no slums or ghettoes," he informed us. "Everyplace in Canada is beautiful." I nudged Rick, "Apparently he's never walked off the tourist tracks at Niagara Falls," I said under my breath. "I could show him plenty of slums and ugliness there." But I behaved myself and smiled and thanked him as I got off the bus at the Empress Hotel, one of Victoria's landmark buildings.

It's a shame they don't allow anyone to go inside any of it; the interior is incredibly impressive from what I've heard. There is afternoon tea, but we didn't arrive in time for that. It is, as you can see, enormous. It was first built in 1908, faced demolition at least once, but was saved and then subsequently refurbished and even added onto. It faces the Inner Harbour, as you can tell from the photo.

Another of Victoria's gorgeous landmark buildings is their Parliament. Built in about 1897, it houses their legislative bodies. It has copper accents on its domes and pediments that has developed that gorgeous green patina which make it look even more stately and beautiful.

We wandered around the streets of Victoria enjoying the atmosphere and marveling at the crowds. Suddenly we heard our names! It was our friends from Virginia who had decided to wander around a while before their horse and carriage tour. We quickly made plans to meet up for dinner at a steakhouse we'd all seen on a nearby corner. It would be a change from shipboard dinners, and it would give us a chance to just wear our knockabout clothes.

We had a little time to kill, so we looked for Chinatown. We found it, such as it was, on Fan Tan Alley. It looked very impressive and very exotic, what with the entrance and all.

But let me tell you, all Chinatown consisted of was a half-block of two Asian grocery stores, a couple produce stands, a few restaurants, a cheap import souvenir-type shop or two, and at the dead end, something our shuttle driver would be aghast at: all along the sidewalk at the end of Chinatown were homeless people, lying, sitting, leaning against the building. Some wore, literally, rags, while others held cups or cardboard takeout containers for change or bills. One was complaining loudly in a slurring voice while another nodded sympathetically. As we crossed the street, a man with a pushcart loaded down with plastic bags full of cans and belongings walked past us. I turned to Rick. "Toto? I guess we're not in Canada anymore!" We left Chinatown and started toward the main street to meet our friends for dinner. On the way, we were amused to see a teenage boy wearing a LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers jersey. We waited outside the steakhouse for a few minutes and saw our friends running to meet us. Their tour had been "another history lesson", much to the Mr.'s laughing dismay, but we knew that some food and drink would put everything right in no time.

After steaks, wine, local beer, genial conversation, and some really hearty laughter, we left the restaurant and made an emergency trip to the chocolatier across the street. The clerk was a bit snarky since it was only 5 minutes until she could close the store, but we cheerfully ignored her and made our selections carefully and unhurriedly. Some things, as you know, simply cannot--and should not--be rushed. We strolled along the street and took some lovely pictures of Victoria at night. They illuminate their landmark buildings, and the scene looked like a child's Lite-Brite toy scene.

**You may have to enlarge this one to appreciate it.**

Back at the ship, we sat said some final goodbyes to our new friends, exchanged emails and hugs, and went to our staterooms. Rick and I closed our door and looked one last time at the chocolates on our plumped-up-by-Artemio pillows on our turned-down beds. We sighed. When we cast lines at 11:30 tonight, we were headed for Seattle. Our cruise was all but over tonight.

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