Monday, July 30, 2007

I've Got Mail--And It Tickles

According to this study, U.S. Americans are quite taken with email. Some of us check it at work (60%), some of us get up in the middle of the night to check it (36% of women, 44% of men), and 83% of us even check it while on vacation. And 52% of us have at least two or three email accounts to check!
That's a lot of email, everyone.
But I love it. I love email. I love the ease and immediacy of it. I love getting up in the morning during the summer, having my coffee, wandering by the computer and turning it on and bringing up my email. I love watching Outlook Express flicker to life and seeing the boldface font scroll down the open pane, announcing my emails: comments on my blogs! my daily notice from Political Wire! my Word of the Day! and, if I'm lucky, some chatty emails from friends, former students, and my sisters who live in neighboring towns. Once in a while there will be a smart bit of humor or incisive editorial from my uncle in Gettysburg, a fellow Dem and former English teacher who knows what piques my interest. And, sometimes there will be little glints of gold--those unintentional hoots that happen when someone sends me something that hits me just right and makes my day.
My friend Leanne is great for those. She lives in Maryland and we don't see each other very often, maybe once a year. She gets bored with email, (too much effort to type everything) and for weeks at a time, she will maintain what I call Email Silence. Then, I have to send her a snarky missive and threaten her. Not long ago, she casually emailed me and told me that she and her husband were going out to dinner to meet her son's quite-possibly-future in-laws. She promised to report back with all the details. I waited and waited with bated breath. Nothing. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I emailed her and asked. And waited some more. Here is her reply:
Dinner was fine. I wasn't wild about the stuffed shrimp but everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves ok.
How can you not love her?
Every once in a while my sister Susan can give me a giggle, too. She's one of those people who emails exactly like she talks, which is how I email, too. (Those of you who get my emails are probably thinking 'yeah, that's true. Her emails go on and on and on...!') She had jotted me a quick email including this gem (Oh, and wait till you see her term for "treadmill," very apt):
Ballsy full-bodied workout done and 1 mile on the dreadmill. I feel better and have more energy. Several of my girlfriends have told me that my ass was looking real good.... My ass isn't my problem area. Sigh.
My only reply was can I use part of this email on my blog?
Last Year at the Dept. of Nance: The Alaskan Adventure Part IV

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Five Fashion Failures & A New Poetic Art Form--All In One Post!

Today I realized that it's been a while since I snarked around about fashion. And, it's been a while since I wrote some haiku. So, I'm going to blend the two and create an entirely new poetic art form called the Snarku.

The Snarku retains the original syllabic structure of the haiku: the first line is 5 syllables, the second line is 7 syllables, the third line is 5 syllables. But, the Snarku differs in that it is 2 stanzas, not just one. This allows the writer/crafter of the Snarku to really build up and then blow off the head of steam he or she has about the topic being expounded upon. The only other "rule" of the Snarku is that by the end of it, there should be some residual sense of snarkiness.

Okay, then. Here are my Snarku regarding Five Fashion Failures about which I can no longer remain relatively silent.

To the Wearers of Flip Flops
The least you could do
Is lift your feet when you walk.
The sound makes me nuts!

It's bad enough to
Look at your hideous feet;
Must I hear them, too?

Young Girls with Ill-Advised Tattoos
Oh my, a tattoo!
How nice that will look at your
Big job interview!

Or, just imagine
That Chinese symbol peering
From your wedding dress.

Adults Trying to Recapture Youth:
Here's a formula--
If you're not embarrassed to
Drive a minivan,

Then you are too old
To wear cartoon characters.
What are you, seven?

Questions for Wearers of Crocs
Are you gardening?
Are you braving tidal waves?

These are egregious.
Nothing justifies their wear.
Even basement floods.

Men, This Is For You. Ladies, Read It To Them.
Is there a ceiling
Above where you are RIGHT NOW?
If so, take cap off.

Wasn't that easy?
(It's best to keep it simple;
Know your audience.)

I almost feel better. Like those were sort of PSAs. You know, part of the job of The Dept. of Nance, were it an actual department of some sort of something with some sort of power, would be for me to be able to arbitrarily allow and forbid things like this. Certain things would come across my desk for my approval or disapproval, and I would pick up my big blue YES or NO stamp and that would be the end of that!
Oh, but that's for another post. In the meantime, try your hand at Snarku in comments, or, should that prove to be too goshdarn worky, weigh in with your own fashion failure observations.

Last Year at The Dept. of Nance: The Alaskan Adventure Part III
*try as I might, Blogger would not let me line up or space my Snarku correctly. I worked and worked at the HTML and regardless of how the post looked in "Preview" and in the "Edit" pane, it never looked that way upon posting. Sigh. Please cut me a break.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Disaster Averted, With Chuckles On The Side

Ever since the election of 2000, I have terrible moments when I wish horrid misfortunes on You Know Who. But I never wish anything too malicious, Because that, dear readers, would give us Darth Vader in The Big Chair, finger on The Button.

And no one, no one in the known universe, wants that.

But it happened. On Saturday, July 21st, 2007, The Angel of Death underwent a colonoscopy and, while he was anesthetized, handed the reins of absolute power over to Mr. Shoot 'Em In The Face Brand Of Crazy himself. Thank goodness he didn't get the urge to do anything sinister, and all was uneventful. I was relieved. I think we all were.

The worldwide media reported the event with all due diligence, as I found out today while Googling another medical story of earthshaking importance, at least to Jared--the fact that the research has confirmed the link between laptop usage and low sperm count--but I digress. My point, and I do have one, is this: the headlines of these stories carried by the various worldwide outlets are extremely entertaining. Here are some of the best:

Polyps Removed, Bush Reclaims Power--Economic Times, India
(doesn't this sound almost like a reverse Samson effect? now that those darn growths are gone, he can feel his super-strength return! what were they--kryptonite?)

Cheney To Be In Charge During Bush
(wow. I had no idea Darth was a medical guy! he just wants to boss EVERYBODY around!)

Bush Will Cede Powers To VP Cheney During Colonoscopy Exam--International Herald Tribune, France
(geeze...won' t he have other stuff on his mind at the time...?)

Polyps Removed During Bush Exam--The Spokesman Review, WA
(er...okay, but good luck, never mind.)

Bush Goes Under; Cheney Takes Over--Brisbane Times, Australia
(those Aussies! they're just fun people. no misreading here, just creative!)

Doctors Remove 5 Polyps From Bush's Brain--The Spoof, UK
(I like--no LOVE--how these people think. you know so many other legit press wanted to use this but didn't dare.)

And finally, from a blue state with some obviously creative headline writers:

Bush's Bottom Breached; Cheney Takes Top Position--OpEdNews, PA
(oh hell--you're all plenty smart enough to appreciate this without snide commentary from me!)
Last Year at the Dept. of Nance--The Alaskan Adventure Part II

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Because Sometimes, I Can Be Profound Like That

I offer the following real dialog that occurred during a viewing of a Silk Soy Milk commercial as proof of: A) the fact that life at the Dept. is positively Seinfeldian; B) maybe I am still overly-snarky and difficult to live with since I've returned from vacation:

Me: (sniffing disdainfully) Real cows don't wear clothes.
Rick: Or stand on two feet.
Me: (dismissively rolling eyes.) That's hooves.
Rick: (trying again) Or talk.
Me: (still staring at t.v.) Maybe not to you.
Rick: Never mind.
Last Year at The Dept. of Nance: The Alaskan Adventure Part I
*this begins my 7-part series of my Alaskan cruise, complete with some lovely pictures. If you'd like to read ahead, just hit July 2006 in the Archives and enjoy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Everything Has Its Price: Good, Bad, Beautiful

Oh, I'm back from vacation and you know how that is: in order to go, you have to earn it and when you come back, you have to pay for it.

The entire Dept. packed up and went to Canada, specifically Niagara-on-the-Lake (what a bitch to type that is) for their annual Shaw Festival. We saw two plays (Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke and George Bernard Shaw's--for whom the Festival is named--The Philanderer), walked about the quaint downtown area for lovely shopping, and visited nine wineries along their famed Wine Route for tastings and purchasing. In addition some nice meals were eaten, Niagara Falls was visited, and I took a great deal of heat regarding the five pairs of shoes I packed for our Tuesday through Thursday (plus Friday for driving) excursion. I am absolutely justified in all five pairs; I am sure each and every one of you would agree.

Having said all of that, upon returning to NE Ohio I have fallen into a somewhat snarky and reflective mood. Do allow me to share.

~#~ Before we left, TravisCat was having some, er, difficulty using the litterbox consistently. As in, he would make eye contact with me, maintain it, then saunter over to the corner by the fireplace windowseat and water the carpet. As you all know, I am not entirely attached to either of the cats, so I immediately went ballistic and informed him that he would be traveling to Dr. Miller for the needle, i.e., to be put down. I barricaded the corner, sprayed it with a variety of products, and basically lost my mind. Finally, I took him to the vet--he needed his shots anyway--and long story short, he has a kidney or urinary tract infection which, I guess in cats causes this issue. I proceeded to feel immensely guilty about threatening a crazed-by-illness animal with The Death Penalty. Until I got the bill. For over $125. And he is a bastard about taking the medicine. I will not elaborate.

~#~ In Canada (or as my children like to pronounce it "Canadia") I was continually struck by the overwhelming friendliness and routine courtesy of every single Canadian we met. Now, it was not lost on me that the people we had dealings with were in the hospitality or tourism business, so that was pretty much their job, but time and time again, each and every Canadian was warm, friendly, patient, and pleasant. This is not the case with all U.S. Americans with whom I've dealt in the hospitality business all over the country as I have traveled. There was only one exception to this, and I will discuss it next.

~#~ I wholeheartedly recommend vacationing in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is lovely, and I especially recommend visiting the many wineries. The wineries post a tasting charge, but the majority of them, especially the small, family-run ones, don't charge a thing. They are regulated strictly and may only pour 1 ounce, but that's per variety you taste. I won't list all the ones we visited, but will note that we especially liked Caroline Cellars, Frogpond Farm (an all organic vineyard), Reif Estate, Hillebrand, and Jackson-Triggs (their tour is very interesting--start there.). The only place we did not like was where we encountered the very unpleasant and off-putting Canadian, a woman who looked like a younger version of Joni Mitchell. I was, however, quite mellow from all the other tastings at the more pleasant wineries, so in that state of largesse, simply left without comment or purchase.

~#~ Jared had taken along his laptop. On Thursday, he received a Breaking News Email from CNN and shared it with us: Al Qaeda is stepping up efforts to sneak terrorists into the U.S. and has rebuilt most of its capability to strike here, an intelligence estimate states, according to The Associated Press. All I could think of was, 'Hey! I thought the Republicans were constantly telling us how it was they who were making the U.S. safer from terrorism. How the Democrats were soft on terror. And hasn't the Angel of Death been saying for years that "we're fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them over here?" And didn't he also say awhile back that he hasn't given Osama much thought? What the heck!?' And then I got back home and saw the devastation that had been wreaked anew upon my backyard by the goddam moles. And I realized that the moles are part of Al Qaeda. That they have stepped up their terrorist efforts. That no matter what I have done or will do, they simply rebuild their network and strike--again and again and again.

~#~ At one point in our travels, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand to get some cherries. Sam began eating them in the car. Soon, we heard a low moan followed by an exclamation of profanity from the backseat: he had gotten a smear of cherry juice on his pristine white polo. I urged him to just take off the polo since he had a perfectly acceptable tee underneath. "Mom!" he sighed. "I have to have an undershirt on underneath it. And I'll mess up my hair. How far are we from our hotel?" Lucky for him, we were only about a mile away. We stopped back so he could safely change and everyone could make a pit stop. Jared, feeling a bit of urgency, pounded on the bathroom door, "Sam! Jesus! Come on!" Looking wounded, Sam exited and used the other mirror to apply the finishing touches to his hair. Jared was in and out in a flash. Disgustedly, he looked at Sam. "Come on, Paris," he said.

~#~ So, now I'm home. Boy, is vacation over. Sam's car has been to the repair shop; Jared is (very vocally) trying to navigate obtaining a student loan; the carpet had to be shampooed; there are no towels, yet the boys tell me they have none upstairs in their room at all; I had to go to the grocery store; the pond developed string algae while I was away; I'm so behind on everyone's blogs.

See? That's how vacation is. When you go, you have to earn it; when you come back, you have to pay for it.
Last Year at The Dept. of Nance: Everyone Needs A Hobby

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Playtime With The Baby Boomers

The Baby Boom generation has provided researchers with a vast and fertile playground. Those of us born during that period of 1946-1964 have been studied for our buying habits, bedroom habits, and pretty much everything else. Now that summer is here, it seems that our recreation is the next to be put under the microscope.

In an article the Plain Dealer cribbed from the Baltimore Sun, "10 timeless toys" from the Baby Boomer generation were touted as "putting the play back in the child." I perused this article expectantly, looking for the beloved toys of my own Baby Boomer Childhood. Feh. This article was full of Loser Toys. See what you think.

1. Slinky. Are they kidding? This hardly qualifies as a toy. A coiled piece of metal that you held, one end in each hand, and bobbled up and down. Rarely could you get it to "go downstairs" for more than a step at a time, and when you did, so effing what? Then, the urge to see how far it would stretch would overcome you...disaster! The slinky got kinky. End of toy. Once that sucker got a bend or kink in it, it was done with. What the hell was this thing?

2. Magic 8 Ball. Never had one. My friends, Lisa and Laura across the street, had one. We asked it questions a few times. Big deal. Then, Lisa, who had a proclivity for taking things apart, couldn't help herself. She bashed it with her dad's sledghammer behind the garage. End of "toy." Notice again how neither of the 2 things already mentioned is really a "toy."

3. Silly Putty. Oh Boy. We all got this stuff. My family has a story for this involving the putty melting down the side of the brand new couch. A certain sibling got into HUGE trouble. Me? I could never resist the urge to bite Silly Putty. After a while of transferring comics and stretching the images of "Terry and the Pirates", the putty got ugly grey and icky-looking. The egg it came in--hey! why an egg container? I don't get that--seemed to always get cracked and then the putty, which could be rolled into a ball and bounced very high and irregularly, would get lost behind furniture. That stuff cannot be effectively scraped off of avocado sculptured carpeting, either, let me tell you. I had to try once. Yikes.

4. Mr. Potato Head. Okay, this one was pretty okay, but after a while, it just got gross. Then, when a plastic potato was provided, it was just dumb.

5. Wiffle Ball. Now, this was brilliant. It was marketed as an alternative to window-smashing baseballs, but let me tell you: our wiffle ball games produced at least one broken window, leading my mother to make us move the contests to the street out front or the driveway, which was gravel. Our wiffle ball game rules were vast and complex, especially my brother Bobby's driveway games with his he-men weightlifters. Good god. The gallons of Bactine and mercurochrome, let alone the boxes of Band-Aids they went through in a summer were a testament to their manliness.

6. Play-Doh. I am one of the few people I know who has never eaten Play-Doh. But I played with this stuff like nobody's business. My sister was born 5 years after I was, and I am grateful that her birth extended my Play-Doh time. You name it, I made it out of Play-Doh, and that was before all the cool playsets came out. My own boys had the Play-Doh Diner. Long after they lost interest in a Play-Doh session, I would still be at it, making burgers with little pickle chips and fries with realistic looking blobs of ketchup draped over them. Sigh. Love it.

7. Frisbee. What a scam. This dumb thing. I could never throw it and was always afraid to catch it. This is still the case. Especially when my nails are long. This is basically--well, let me show you:

'Nuff said. Oh shut up, those of you who never got over your college days! IT'S A DOG TOY.

8. Hula-Hoop. I can only imagine how immensely ridiculous I looked doing this. I was a short, fat girl with no waist trying desperately to shimmy like some sort of Hawaiian pole dancer on crack. Oh. My. God. It makes me now want to go buy one and practice, take The New Size 2 Me out into the middle of my old street and Hula Hoop Like There's No Tomorrow. Sigh. How do we ever survive our childhoods?

9. Etch A Sketch. This toy rocks. I was pretty good with an Etch A Sketch. A genius, if you asked my father. My specialty was houses with nice, symmetrical windows with flowerboxes under each one and a chimney on the roof with a flowing plume of welcoming smoke. But every day, I fought the demons who teased me about how it worked. If I was really smart, I would have bought Lisa across the street one for her birthday.

10. Trolls. I take issue with this nomenclature. Back during my childhood, they weren't called "trolls." They were called "Wishniks." These sharpei-like Yoda-esque creatures came in all sizes and were mystifyingly attractive to girls of about 8. They had them on their dressers, they tied them to their bike handlebars, they carried them to school. I just didn't get it. They were supposed to be good luck. I never had one and didn't want one. Again, though, not a toy.
Top ten? Huh. What about The Thingmaker? I had the one that made Fun Flowers. That toy would never fly in this hyper-kid safe, litigious world. That one was basically an open oven and toxic waste facility. But I loved making my own little fake rubber flowers with the oily junk called, appropriately enough, Plastigoop. I also had a Footsee, a sort of ankle hula hoop. It consisted of a plastic ring you put around one ankle. Attached to the ring was a cord about 30 inches long with a bell-shaped weight attached to it. As you twirled the ring with one foot, you hopped the string with the other. I was pretty good at it, when I wasn't going so fast that I stepped on the cord and tripped, falling on my face.
Aside from those, I had the usual stuff that wasn't exclusive Boomer territory: metal clamp-on roller skates, a second-hand two-wheeler, jump rope, jacks, and a set each of badminton and croquet. (Although the croquet set was a mystery to me. I think we set it up once, fought during a game, and quit.) Beyond that, we were into playing statues, freeze tag, Mother May I, and Red Light-Green Light.
Sigh. I feel old. But strangely smiley. I can't wait to read your toy memories in Comments.
Last Year at The Dept. of Nance: Men (2)

Monday, July 02, 2007

My Name Is Nance; I'm Party-Impaired

My hair stylist had a huge pile of baskets sitting on one of her dryer chairs. They were of varying sizes, and I just assumed she'd bought them from someone who'd delivered her order to the shop. We were chatting about summer plans and I asked her what was next on the horizon.

"Oh my God," she said, dramatically. "I can't make a single plan until I get This Party over and done with! It's taking over my life! See those baskets over there? Those are to hold the plates, napkins, and cutlery. I thought it would be nicer than to just have them sitting on the table; plus, it'll make sure they all stay in one place and don't get blown around or fall on the ground. Whaddya think?"

I told her I thought it was a great idea, but had no idea what party she was talking about.

"Oh my God! Mike's daughter's graduation party! It's next week, and all I do when I'm not here doing hair is cook for it, shop for it, plan for it, get stuff for it. Clean for it! You know me, Nance: I am cleaning everything like a maniac. The party is outside, but am I cleaning closets? Yes. Am I cleaning the tops of the kitchen cabinets? Yes. Do I need therapy? Yes! This isn't even my daughter. Hell, it's not even my step-daughter, but I don't want anyone to think I live in a messy house. You know how it is."

Yep. I do know how it is. And that's why I don't "entertain." It turns me into That Maniac. And I hate Her. I "entertain"--my, how I detest that word; it's so impotent when it comes to what one really does when one sets out to do "it"--once a year. I host Christmas Eve at my home for my extended family. It entails approximately 20-25 people, a full buffet, and maniacal cleaning and preparation. It also involves profanity, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and some other things I won't go into here. And let me be completely and totally honest: all of this is entirely self-imposed. My family would come cheerfully and tactfully under any conditions and eat anything I tossed at them. And I would never hear about it. Ever. It's all me.

I think I can trace back the beginning of my profound distaste, though, for entertaining to one Christmas Eve in particular. It was circa 1989-90. Sam was about 2, Jared about 5. This was back when Christmas Eve at my home was a true Open House affair: the guest list was much larger and it was not unusual to have 40-45 people show up, sometimes all at once in our little house. I used to get up extremely early and get started with as many of the preparations as possible while keeping the little boys happy and busy, too. (These days, I look back and wonder how I did it!)

It was about noon on Christmas Eve and I was in the middle of getting the ham into the oven and had settled the boys down at the table with some lunch. Rick was pulling on his Carhartt coveralls and boots, readying to go outdoors. I turned around and said, "What are you doing now?" He looked at me, face open and innocent, and said--I'll never, ever forget it--

"I'm going out to clean out my work van."

I stared at him, open-mouthed, for what seemed like five minutes. I probably asked him to repeat himself. Then, I looked at the kitchen counters covered with cutting boards, crockpots, cans, and food detritus. Finally, I snarked, "Why? Are you going to be giving guided tours of it tonight?" And then I let him have it. No--that's not quite right. Actually That Maniac let him have it. She launched into a full diatribe, replete with lists of things that She had already completed without his help; things that had yet to be done; things that would probably not be done and that were sure to be noticed; and things that he could be doing right now without being told. As diatribes go, it was impressive.

And you know, it wasn't entirely undeserved. I mean, how on earth could he be so incredibly oblivious? And why would he think his work van had to be cleaned out on Christmas Eve when he wasn't going to go back to work for the next two days? And couldn't he see that there were things that were far more immediate that needed to be done? After all, it was his party, too.

We've had the conversation since then. Let me just say that my memory places far more importance upon the incident than his does. I see it as a pivotal event. Him...not so much. But I still abhor entertaining. I don't see the payoff. All that craziness and agonizing and preparation and then I just don't have a good time. I never even eat the food I spend so much time cooking because by the time I get done fussing over it, I'm sick of it. I can't relax and enjoy the party because I have already put so much into it. I'm on edge, making sure that the food is okay, well-supplied, that the ice is fine, that everyone is happy, that things are continuing to function along. AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH. How do normal people do it?
I need to know, at least before December. I can learn almost anything in five months.
Last Year at The Dept. of Nance: Oh The Agony
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