Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections: Or, A Holiday Postmortem Complete With Underwear, Dendrology, And My Brief (Retail) Sex Change

Later this afternoon I'm going to bribe Rick into taking down the tree and completely deChristmasing the house. I'm tired of all the opulence and luxe and extra stuff. Mostly, I'm tired of the Extra. Extra sweets, extra lights, extra decor, and extra extraneousness.

(Bah Humbug. I know, right? Sigh.)

But before all of that--and playing endless games of newly rediscovered Snood (how terribly sad)--I wanted to inflict upon you share a few reflections with you regarding my Holiday Adventures.

:-) On one of our Marathon Shopping Outings, Rick and I searched for the desired underwear for Sam and Jared. JC Penney seemed hell-bent on not only honing our math skills, but on presenting as many confusing options as possible: boxers, boxer briefs, briefs, bikini briefs, buy one get one half off, buy one get one free, all depending upon the dizzying array of brands available, all of which were placed in varying areas not entirely lined up with their corresponding signage. I was stroking out, but Rick persevered, and undoubtedly using the Pythagorean Theorem, chose this particular brand and took two packages to the cashier immediately before I needed EMTs:

whereupon they rang up incorrectly. Of. Course. Rick politely pointed this out, and the twentysomething woman called her manager over and said--and I quote, "Hey, Eric. These Boulevards aren't ringing up correctly." No. I am not making this up. Can you only imagine what I began to go through, as a real person with education and human sensitivity? Neither Rick nor I dared look at one another. And yes, the manager asked her to repeat herself AND SHE DID. Even as I type this, I want to throw something. (And, just to satisfy anyone's curiosity, here is the origin of the name BVD.) Still not over it.

:-) I am still trying to figure out why we have such a bigass Christmas tree. I distinctly remember saying, when we went out for our tree, "Let's not get such a bigass tree this year. It's time to start downsizing." Yet, we have an absolutely enormous tree. Everyone who walks into the house says, "Wow! That is one huge tree. That's probably the biggest tree you've ever had." What the hell happened? My sister Patti has had a fake tree for years and years and has never looked back. My brother Bob, a major real tree holdout, informed me at the family gift exchange that his tree this year fit on top of a tv snack tray. Then he said, and I quote, "Look at Nance's face." Because I sat there, horrified and mouth agape, realizing that I was the only sucker left in the family (besides my younger sister Susan, who still has two younger kids) who goes all out and gets a bigass real tree. Bob then went on, "Yeah, it's a little fake tree and all the ornaments fit in a shoebox. The lights are already on it." I turned to Rick immediately, and he said, "Nance, you're the one who picked the tree out." Which is ridiculous, of course; reread the top of this section! Next year, for sure: DOWNSIZE IS THE KEY WORD. If only people would listen to me!

:-) This is the first year that I, for various reasons, was a Last-Minute Shopper for Christmas. (I felt downright Manly. Hee hee.) Two words: NEVER. AGAIN. I cannot tell you how many times I physically stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the mall and told myself, "Nance. You are a Grownup. You can do this. It's Just Shopping." In my defense, I must tell you that I was shopping for The Most Uninspiring Recipient Ever. Who Shall Remain Nameless. And for whom every year, I get to shop for "gifts" like socks, underwear, white teeshirts (V-neck), tennis shoes, and crapola like that. Or a Power Tool for which there are no distinct parameters, for example "a drill," but nothing about voltage or power or if it is to be "3/8 or anything like that. Do not suggest that I take anyone with me, either. Trust me, no one can handle shopping with me. That is how deep my pathology is at this point. No one deserves that. But, I did get it all done and it was fine. Just Fine. But that Last-Minute Shopping Thing will never happen again.

Oh, hey. Happy New Year. This was not The Year I Had Hoped It Would Be, to be sure. Let's keep our fingers crossed for 2010. (Which I refuse to pronounce "twenty-ten." Sounds just terrible.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Wishes From The Dept. of Nance

There's certainly plenty of both in the Dept. Cellar, thanks to our Friends In Canada, so I'm sure to be well fortified for the Holidays.

It is with deep gratitude to my Dear Readers that I greet you this Christmas. Thank you for your faithful and kind attention. To my Faithful Commenters, you hold an ever-glowing warm place in my heart. You are the ones who let me know that I am not simply strutting and fretting full of sound and fury but signifying nothing (to loosely paraphrase W Shakespeare). You're like a Secret Society with elbow-jabbing in-jokes, knowing nods, and sighing commiserations. I always write for me first, but I always think of you.

May this holiday--Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or anything you celebrate--find you all with something that makes you happy. Even for a moment.

And above all, may you find Hope.

Or, may Hope find you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Morning With Sam, His Blackberry, A Cow, And A Wolf: A Play In Two Scenes

Saturday morning at the Dept. Sam makes a rare appearance, mainly to troubleshoot his Blackberry using Rick's laptop. Rick and I are watching the Cleveland NBC affiliate morning news show.


Nance: (watching a report about a therapy dog) Hey! That's what I'll do. When I retire, I'll use my minicow as a therapy animal! How wonderful would that be? Just imagine: I could take it to nursing homes to visit the elderly, to hospitals to visit sick would be great!

Rick: I'm with you one hundred percent.

Nance: Sam! Wouldn't you love it if you were a sick child in the hospital, stuck there in bed, sad and afraid, watching The Price Is Right reruns all day, and suddenly a gorgeous and cuddly minicow came to see you?

Sam: (not even looking up from his Blackberry) No. Cows don't do it for me, Mom.

Nance: That's not true! You would love it! You would be happy and excited. You know you would. Everyone loves cows. Rick.

Rick: I'd love it.

Nance: Look there. (points to shot of smiling elderly woman on television) That woman would be thrilled to see a happy, well-cared-for cow visit her. For holiday time, I could even put, say--

Rick: (interrupting) --a hat or--

Nance: (interrupting with a disdainful look that lasers his head off and leaves a burning, charred stump at the top of his neck) Rick! No animal likes to be dressed up. It's undignified. As I was going to say, I could put a small bow on it, like a red or pink bow for Valentine's Day, for example. Tell me that a sick kid or a lonely old person wouldn't love to have a beautiful, cuddly cow come visit him on a holiday. Tell me. You can't. It's as simple as that. Sam!

Sam: Whatever. Cows stink. They smell bad.

Nance: Sam! That's just not true. The animal itself has no unpleasant odor. It doesn't. Sure, its manure smells bad, but the cow itself doesn't. I would shampoo it before I took it anyplace.

Sam: (looks meaningfully at Rick) Yeah, right.

Nance: What? What is that look?

Sam: You mean Dad would be out there washing the cow. No way you're out there washing a cow. Especially in cold weather, outside.

Nance: AHA! But we're moving to a much warmer climate when I retire! SO THERE!

Sam: (shakes head doubtfully)


(Segment changes on show. Moves to live weather report from Virginia affiliate. Reporter named "Wolf" stands outside in snow.)

Nance: Sam. Aren't you glad Mommy didn't name you something horrid like "Wolf?"

Sam: Not really. That's kind of cool.

Nance: No, it isn't. It's terrible. Children in elementary school would tease you and howl at you all during recess.

Sam: Then I would bite them.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grinching And Bitching At The Dept., So If You're The Least Bit Merry, You Might Want To Skip This Post Until You've Had Way More Eggnog

Oh, Heavy Sigh. Today I am valiantly trying to have Christmas Spirit, and no one is helping me. Honestly, what the hell is my problem, anyway? Christmas is not like Easter, a holiday which randomly occurs by some incomprehensible formula devised by ecclesiastical calculations based upon...exactly what, I'm not sure (and please do not feel compelled to enlighten me in Comments). Christmas is the same day every single year. Yet, for many years now, I have been left unready and unmotivated, as if it sneaked up on me like a lurker from the shadows.

It is a strange paradox: I feel stalked and victimized by Christmas.

It's unnecessary for me to rant on about how retailers have begun to allow Christmas to insidiously seep into stores as early as October now, elbowing out Halloween items for shelf space. (When I was little, I used to know that Christmas season had officially begun as soon as I saw the commercial on television where Santa rides the Norelco electric shaver. ) This Holiday Push is nothing new anymore.

What I have begun to feel, I think, is a sort of Christmas Maturation Burn-Out: it's just not fun any longer. It's all a Lot Of Extra Work. Back when Sam and Jared were little, I could wander into Toys-R-Us and zoom down the Fisher Price aisle or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle area and have fun! Or buy zippy crafty stuff like Play*Doh and boxes of Crayola crayons and a Lite Brite, or games and silly bath foam and Spirograph sets. Those littler boys did not have jobs and girlfriends and other commitments that make trying to schedule putting up the tree an occasion for a family meeting.

And buying presents now is...worky. It's all sizes and store preferences and guessing and "I don't know, Mom, I'll email you a list from work if I get time." And don't say, "Give them money or a gift card" because moms can't do that and you know it.

So I soldier on, the Bringer Of All Holidays. I do it anyway. It's My Job. I start up the 30-day Friendship Fruit for the 25th year so I can bake a cake. I throw together a couple of batches of cookie dough. I nag my sister for some ideas for her kids' gifts. I elaborately decorate the fireplace mantel and set out the snowman collection. I buy each of my four long-suffering and indispensable teacher aides a nice gift and make a mental note to get them wrapped and to school before Christmas break. I desperately try to remember how big of a ham I bought last year for the family Christmas Eve open house (held every year at my house) so that I don't have too much left over.

And there's still almost all of the shopping to do. Who are these people who get theirs done so very excruciatingly early? How on earth do they do it? Do they hold the potential recipients at gunpoint and get their lists like, in August? Or do they blithely just get each person whatever the hell they feel like buying for them? If that is the case, then I need to revamp my Entire Gift-Giving Attitude And Approach and get with that program.

TWELVE MORE SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! some overly perky blond newscaster trumpeted at me this morning as I was trying to have my coffee and read my Plain Dealer at 8 AM. I wanted to hurl my candy cane mug at her pancakey face and shellacked page-boy, but I couldn't because I was immobilized by panic and shock. I have to work until the 23rd! How will I ever get everything done? "Christmas is for children" says a line in one carol. Boy, they're not kidding. Those were the days: all we had to do as kids was write a letter to Santa, show up, and open presents. Even the "being good" part was pretty much optional. I loved Christmas. Now I feel beaten up by it.

Has anyone else lost their Christmas Spirit? Or is it just me? Maybe it's the culmination of a downright crappy year. I'm hoping that, if I keep on keeping up appearances, it will just come back on its own. Wish me luck.

(Oh, and just so you know that I once had a bit more of a sense of humour about This Holiday, here are some of my favorite Christmas Posts Of Long Ago, since my LinkWithin seems to be ignoring them: This about themed trees ; this one about a non-traditional Crocs-wearing Santa ; this one about our family's sacred Christmas rules ; and finally, this one about our rather oddly-shaped Christmas tree a few years ago. I hope you enjoy them as a little Christmas present that I didn't have to shop for!)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

I Am Not An Animal! (And Judging By Their Press, I Am Damn Glad!)

From time to time, as many Alert Dept. Readers know, I like to keep you all abreast of Important Doings in the Animal World. (I also like to give my Shift Key a workout and employ Pretentious Eccentric Capitalization, but I digress.) Well, that time has come again, and with vigor. Two of my favourite animals are in the news, and circumstances being what they are--dire--I must bring these bulletins to you.
ITEM--In a shameless display of bullying, China, who holds almost 800 billion dollars of the United States' debt, has decided to flex a little of its leverage muscle and ask for its pandas back. Especially upsetting to patriotic panda lovers is the imminent return of Tai Shan, the cub resident at D.C.'s National Zoo in our nation's capital. Tai Shan, who was born at the zoo in 2005, will be shipped to China early next year, despite the fact that he is American born--a naturalized citizen of these United States! Plus, let's keep in mind that we're giving the Chinese not the old, hand-me-down pandas that they originally gave us! No. They are getting a brand, spanking new panda. How is this fair? I am also assuming that Tai Shan does not speak Chinese. He has been around American keepers his whole life, and I am also assuming that his parents, who have been in this country now for nine years, have entirely assimilated and are pretty much Americans, too. He is ill-equipped, at the tender age of four, to go off to what will be a foreign country and live among strangers. I am worried about his wellbeing and his happiness. You should be, too, if you are serious about pandas.
ITEM--More bad press about cows, and this time, it is all conjecture and forensic revisionist literary history bullshit. Thank goodness again for my Google News Alert feature, or I would never have been aware of this travesty. This inflammatory headline, of course, drew my ire right away, and I knew right then that I had to take the bull by the horns: WAS JANE AUSTEN KILLED BY COWS? "Of course not!" I shouted at my computer screen. Jane Austen is one of the most beloved of all Victorian novelists, and certainly in the sacred pantheon of woman writers. The last thing cows need is her death on their heads. They've already been saddled with global warming, and now this? The headline leads the casual news skimmer to assume that she was perhaps trampled or gored by rampaging bovines. One has to get past an entire lead paragraph and well into the second to finally read the far more tame and tepid crux of the theory: "Austen may have succumbed to tuberculosis contracted from cows." Oh, is that all? A glass of milk? Yawn. Listen, people, in this day and age we can die from eating spinach. Or drinking water. Lay off the cows, already. But, really, they still have it better than the camels. Read on.
ITEM--Listen, I am not a big fan of camels. I rode one once, and it was okay, but by and large, they don't do a thing for me. Still, no animal deserves this. Okay, maybe snakes. Or the dogs in my neighborhood who never shut the hell up. Or maybe certain republican radio show hosts. But not these poor camels. True, no one wants to be invaded by 6000 rampaging anything looking for a drink--that's for sure--but to round them up by helicopter and then pick them off and allow them to rot (read: die in agony if not killed, only wounded) sounds just terrible. First of all, these camels didn't ask to come to Australia; they were brought to the continent. Is it their fault that the experiment didn't go as planned? Why didn't the conservationists and wildlife experts there control the population before the feral herd topped a million? Why hasn't Camel Control been a priority? Besides, look at the photo of that camel opening a door by using the knob! That camel did that without being trained! Don't tell me that some of those camels don't have a future in the Entertainment Business! Why can't Australians look into Camel Exporting? I feel like there are any number of solutions that just haven't been explored here, the least of which might be: Camel: The Other White Meat.

I think you're all up to speed now with our friends in the Animal Kingdom. Remember, they share our planet. When it's all over, who do you think will come back first? Better be nice!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, But We Can Still Talk About It. (Death, That Is.)

Call it a sign of Getting Older. Maybe I'm even getting a little Morbid, I don't know. But for the past several months, I've been fascinated with the obituaries in my beloved Cleveland Plain Dealer. I'm never looking for anyone in particular--that's not it. I'm intrigued by these little tiny paragraphs that encapsulate a person's life, moreso by what they don't say than by what they do, and always by how they say it.

Not so long ago, obituaries used to mention the Cause Of Death: there would be phrases such as after a brief illness, or died suddenly, or even in some more graphic cases lost his battle with lung cancer, or something like that. Now I read less and less of that. Obituaries--or "Final Notices," as they are sometimes euphemistically referred to in some publications--have become far more tasteful and subtle in that regard. They don't even say that the person has died. I'm all for that. I mean, after all, it's an obituary. Why do you think he or she is written up in here? It simply proceeds with alacrity and lists the relations and, if the departed's relatives ponied up for a big spot in the Obits, some other interesting facts are included such as hobbies and military service and the rest. I'm particularly fond of the ones that are obviously written by family and not merely by funeral home or newspaper staff. The family ones are much more personal and touching and they have more adjectives. They tell of a woman who had a "quick wit and warmth even under the direst of circumstances." They list "special friends" and even a "longtime companion and loyal guardian," all of whom were obviously pets, judging by their names. These deceased men and women didn't leave behind just husbands and wives, they left behind beloved husbands and dear wives. And their obituaries list all of the grandchildren or nieces and nephews by name.

My newest favorite thing, though, is this trend--around Northeastern Ohio, anyway--of putting in somewhat non-traditional pictures for the obituary. I love to see the old, old pictures of a 1940s beauty next to an obituary for a woman who died at age 89. Or a vintage, youthful Marine in the handpainted portrait style for a man who died at age 72. The other day, I noticed a lovely picture of a woman holding what looked to be her favorite cat and, noses touching, I'd swear they both were smiling. What a wonderful last picture for everyone to remember her by! (Personally, I've never been a fan of any formal, posed picture except for wedding portraits. When I go back and look at my boys' school pictures, I love to see the imperfections: the cowlick, the gap in the front teeth, the simple, everyday teeshirts. It's who they were at the time! My kids never got dressed up Maybe for...a wedding!)

Today, however, I saw the Obituary Picture to beat all Obituary Pictures once and for all. When I saw it, I was immediately sad for two reasons: one, that this woman was dead; and two, that I had never known her. As I read her obituary very carefully, I felt like I could surmise quite a bit about her. I saved it so that I could scan and post it here for you. I'm including the date of the newspaper so that you know I'm not making it up. Out of respect for her and her family, I'm blackening the names. I think you'll agree that this is, by far, the most incredible Obituary Picture you've ever seen.

I showed it to Rick, and I said, "I'll be dead, of course, when you decide whether or not to put a picture in the paper for my obituary. I'd prefer you don't put one like this in of me because that's just not my style, but I want you to put in whatever kind of picture--at whatever stage of my life--that you think is the way I should be remembered."

I'm unconvinced as to the idea of an afterlife; I try not to dwell too much on questions so deep and impenetrable. But, if there is one, I hope I have an opportunity to look her up.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

If This Is The Penultimate Post At The Dept., I Can Udderly Live With That

It's time for a new post, and I'm not too sure what I feel like writing about. Or if I even feel like writing. There's sort of a pervasive cloud hanging over a lot of the Minor Blogworld lately, I think. Oh, some people got all jazzed up after attending a conference; some people are making their blogs their business; some people are are participating in NaBloMyHeadOff, and that leaches readers/comments away; some people have hooked up with a comment promotion blog whose members zip around and comment only on the sites of whomever leaves the top comment on the list (or something) and then post a badge on their blog. Sigh. It's all very worky. And calisthenic. But it's all making me, for the first time ever, start to question whether or not the Dept. of Nance has run its natural course. I don't know. I'm not alone in this quandary, I do know that. No one wants to play to an empty theater; I guess it's the age-old conundrum of the tree falling in the uninhabited forest.

For now, I will continue to reflect upon the Original Mission of the Dept., and whether or not this enterprise is still satisfying to me. Maybe I'm just suffering from An Eeyore Episode, and a lengthy one at that. But maybe it's just time to gracefully fade away. I'm not sure yet. I'll decide in time. For now, let's move on.

Thanks to Google News, this arresting headline was brought to my attention, and I think it must be brought to yours. I'm not sure I even want you to know anything else. Period. Here is that headline, in all its wonderful imperative glory: VET SCHOOL 2.0: STICK YOUR HAND UP A VIRTUAL COW BUTT. Well? What did I tell you? Is that arresting and wonderful, or what? If you insist on knowing more, here is the link to the article. But you know me: I will be more than happy--overjoyed, even--to give you the most germane bits right here. Because, as I have said time and time again, when there is a good animal story to impart, I am all over it; that is my vow to you.

But I digress.

The lead of the article states, and I quote: "There’s nothing tidy about sticking your arm deep into a cow’s backside, getting up to your elbows in warm and gooey bovine innards. But for new vet students, there’s no avoiding the procedure: To diagnose pregnancy or check for infection, you’ve got to reach into a cow’s rectum and feel for the uterus, ovaries and stomach. Unfortunately, proper palpation is a tough skill to teach, because once your arm is buried inside a cow butt, no one can see what you’re doing." End quote.

Would anyone care for a hamburger?

Oh, I hear you. "Nance," you ask earnestly. "Is it in any way possible for this machine to get another headline almost as wonderful?"

Dearest, dearest ones. It is my extreme and uddermost pleasure to share. Please, please finish drinking any and all beverages as to avoid any spray onto keyboards and monitors. (If it is not too late.) If you are reading this in The Workplace, try to be Discreet. Are you ready? Here, then, it is: ROBOT COW RECTUM: FOR EDUCATIONAL, NOT RECREATIONAL, PURPOSES. (I especially adore the comma usage, don't you?) The writer of this post chose to take a distinctly more titillating tack and observed of its inventor, "with robotic organs and a monitor, she can teach students exactly what they should (and definitely should not) be grabbing." O-kay...! Someone is a little too preoccupied with teats and rump roasts.

This Informative Post would not be complete without a picture of said device. Especially entertaining is the Actual Cow in the photo. And the incredible posture of the Woman Whose Arm Is Elbow-Deep Into The Virtual Cow Butt. And...oh, hell. Just look for yourself.

Now, seriously...aren't you glad you stopped by?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seeing Double--This Is What You've Driven Me To: The Blogpost Equivalent Of The Gameshow Channel. I Hope You're Happy.

Been a while since I did one of these silly little posts. Seems like it's been tough throughout the blogosphere to generate any interest in anything lately, so I'm going to take it easy and toss off a little cyberfluff.

If you watch Project Runway, you probably sighed a little this week when they let designer hottie Logan go. It was time--he was starting to get all "I think I'm rocker edgy, but really, all I can do is black and sleeveless, and I know I need to mix it up...somehow"--so he made a Judy Jetson waitress outfit. (last outfit shown) That Fashion Don't got him Auf'd. But do not despair! If you need a Quickie Logan Fix, just tune in to House. His twin, Jesse Spencer, works there playing Dr. Robert Chase. Don't believe me? Take a look:

Okay, as if I haven't already put my Sad, Pathetic Television Addiction out there, here's another one. Have you been watching Top Chef Las Vegas? I'm putting my money on chef Kevin Gillespie, who is a very nice guy who can cook, unlike the cutthroat and cyberbot-esque Voltaggio brothers. (Those guys give Sibling Rivalry a whole new meaning.) Anyway, see what you think about this:

There's just NO WAY the guy cannot be merry! His lookalikes star in TWO Christmas specials!

Next, all four of you Dept. readers know of my Breakup with David Gregory. But that has nothing to do with this. I used to laud DG for his bold cravatical choices in the past, especially his unabashed Wearing Of Pink. Lately, however, David has Fallen From Fashion Grace with a bigass thud. I have no idea what has happened. Anyone who still soldiers on and endures Meet the Press knows this is true, and when David appears on The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, I am forced to reckon with Mr. Gregory's newfound sartorial predilections, which seem to be akin to none other than Bill the Butcher:

Those of you who have been watching with any regularity at all know this to be absolutely true. His propensity for mixing patterns has become a disease. Ugh.

Finally, some of you may be aware of my vast and somewhat uncharacteristic/surprising store of sports knowledge/interest. (Could I use some more backslashes? I'll see.) It's a source of amazement to my students, especially the boys, who see me as a high-heel-wearing chick who wouldn't know the difference between a free throw and a punt. Even I am sometimes a bit regretfully flabbergasted at how many professional athletes I know by sight and how much I know about various aspects of basketball, football, baseball, and their related topics. (Most of it picked up in self-defense, living as I do with three men.) All of which is to say that this last pair doesn't even require you to know Toronto Raptor power forward (that's basketball, by the way) Chris Bosh. Just know that he is who I thought of immediately when my student Jessica B. brought me this souvenir from her band trip in Florida:

Do not tell me you don't see this! Imagine them both pink....Ha!

That's it. I can't do it anymore. I need a drink. Go twit or spacebook or something. Sigh. Not that I am bitter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just Because We Can, Doesn't Mean We Should, Unless You're Talking About Cleaning Out My Basement

Very sorry for the monstrous gap between posts. Went on a jaunt, then came home and promptly fell ill. Still not feeling up to par, but oh well. We do what we must.

This little newsish item caught my eye for some odd reason. A clump of Elvis Hair, vintage 1958, went up for auction and actually sold for $15,000! But allow me to clarify: this is hair believed to be Elvis's. Heaven only knows what, if its provenance was more reliable, it would have sold for. Perhaps eleventy billion. Especially since an Elvis Shirt went for 52K. Just a shirt--not something that actually may hold the DNA of The Pelvis himself. (Who may or may not still be alive, by the way.)

Personally, I have never understood the Mystique Of Elvis. I never liked his music, not any of it. I don't get the pilgrimages to Graceland or the people who buy the Velvet Elvises (Elvi?) or the collectible plates or any of that stuff. But the hair thing really creeps me out. What will the buyer do with it? Ever since reading and seeing Jurassic Park, the story in which scientists successfully extract dinosaur DNA from prehistoric bugs preserved in amber (the dino blood was still in the insects' system after they bit them) and then recreate the long-dead species, I can't help but think about the motives of some people. Oh sure, for some fans, it's merely a desire to hold on to something that belonged to someone they admired. Or to own a piece of someone famous. For others, celebrity memorabilia is an investment like stocks or gold.

But in this age of highly advanced science and technology, it sure would give me pause if my dad or daughter or husband were a bigdeal celebrity. The weirdo stalkers are bad enough. Can you imagine if some superfan with big bucks decides that he wants his own Beyonce 2.0?

Hey, did I just write a Script Treatment for a movie?


On a related note: The seller of the Elvis Clump, a Mr. Pepper, was apparently a friend of Elvis's and a president of one of his many fan clubs. Actually, the seller had to have been the friend's estate, because Mr. Pepper died in 1980. So, it seems that perhaps Mr. Pepper's family may have been de-cluttering things a bit and found that the Clump and assorted shirts and Pez dispensers really weren't doing much more than taking up space. I can relate. I bet you can, too.

How do you know what to save anymore, and for how long? It's just terrible. My kids are 24 and 21. Confession: I did not save all their baby clothes. Am I a terrible person? I also did not save every single card they gave me, nor did I save every single one of their elementary school papers or projects. Did I just lose my Mommy Card? I can't stand saving a lot of stuff. I don't want to end up on that tv show "Hoarders."
Right after the tragedy of September 11, I was talking to my friend Ann, and she said, "One of the things that struck me when I saw those towers come down was all that paper. Everywhere, there was paper. Right then and there, I decided that it was time to get rid of all the junk in my house. Because when I die, I don't want to burden my family with having to go through all the papers and all the crap in my house." She was so right.

That, however, was eight years ago, and although I made a similar pledge right along with her, I have a bunch of crap in my house that would not bring anywhere near fifteen thousand bucks, total. (Although I do have a clump of Rick's hair from when he had to get his long, long, LONG hair cut in order to get a "real" job many years ago. Anyone interested?) Rick even has his first five-speed bike that he bought with his very own money back in, like, 1875 or something. Why he has it, I'm sure I have no idea. It's lying in the basement, dusty and forgotten, but he needs it. It is a valuable relic of his Past.

And me? I am, at present, trying valiantly to think of a valuable relic of my Past that I am stubbornly holding onto. Aside from the abstract and intangible, I honestly cannot think of any. As I have often wondered before, I fear I have become Sentimentally Autistic; in my desire to always move forward, I willingly leave things behind, knowing that the truly important things travel always within me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Put On Your Flak Jackets And Take Cover! My Head Is Exploding, And Nutella, Cows, And Student Errors Are Everywhere!

Can you possibly handle a Barrage of Hodgepodge? A Pelting of Pastiche? Because my brain is firing random shots of mental rubbish right now, and it looks like you're the hapless target. Gotta get rid of this stuff somehow...

Item. This from a student essay about the character of John Proctor from the play The Crucible: He has changed jurassically from the beginning of Act II until the end. What am I to make of this metamorphosis by a simple Puritan farmer? Does this mean he has become, oh, I don't know...a stegosaurus? Perhaps the student means JP has undergone an era's worth of change? Rather, this kid has phonetically--in his mind--written "drastically." Sigh. And yes, this was in HONORS.

Item. Here's a thing. Now, longtime Dept. readers know of my unabashed love affair with Nutella. It is no secret. But even I never tried to pass the stuff off as a Health Food to try and ameliorate my addiction occasional snacking. What Mom/adult in her right mind would actually believe that a chocolate spread is part of a healthy breakfast? Oh sure it is, if the rest of said breakfast includes eleventy pieces of fruit, half a loaf of tofu bread, and oh, I don't know, maybe a chicken. Come on, Nutella People! Let's take a Reality Pill and Get On A Program.

Item. My Google News Reader has an alert for stories about cows, (Of course. Doesn't yours?) and I keep getting terribly disturbing ones about cow suicides. And no, I am not kidding. My first thought is, naturally, how horrifying. Those poor cows! My second thought is, What the hell is so damned depressing in the life of a cow that it would cause it to kill itself? Seriously. Can you just imagine the thought process of that poor thing? Or, what if it decides to confide in its cowfriend?
Penny: (thoughtfully munching on cud) I don't know, Hortense. I'm just so...down lately.
Hortense: (ruminates, then surreptitiously farts) Let's walk over by that edge there. Then you can tell me.
Penny: I mean, every day it's the same thing. It's okay and all, but I just feel penned in all the time. Don't you ever just want to do something else?
Hortense: Sure. Sometimes, I don't go right up there to the barn. I sorta just wander first. And sometimes, I pee right on his hand when he straps me up.
Penny: (peers down the edge of the cliff) Look down there. I'm just gonna go. You with me?
Hortense: (brings up her cud, then glances over the edge of the cliff) Yeah, okay. Let's make a little noise first. (stretches neck, moos, farts)
Penny: (does same, jumps)
Hortense: (jumps)
(Other cows follow blindly in a stampede of bovine destruction. End)
Google News has about two weeks to get its manure together on the whole Cow Info Situation before I delete that section. At least today I learned that California has outlawed Cow Tail Docking. (What a relief! For the cows, too.)

Item. Oh, this stuff is killing me in student work, too. How hard is it to spell "beginning?" You cannot believe the variations I get. The most common are: beggining, begging (hey, Genius! already A WORD!), beggeng. WHAT? And, has the word "woman" completely disappeared from the English language? Has it? Because my students do not know that it exists. They just use the word "women" for the singular. Or worse, the term "female." Erg. Moreover, they pronounce the word "women" identical to the word "woman." WHAT IS GOING ON? Again, let us remember that this is from my "honors" classes. Heavy sigh.

Item. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do creative image searches on Google. I pride myself on having interesting graphics to go with my posts, and heretofore (*love that word!*) I have been able to plug interesting phrases into the query box and come up with wonderful pictures. Now, for some reason, Google merely isolates any word it feels like and generates completely boring and unrelated things. For example, I wanted to find some sort of interesting art for this post that showed perhaps a head with random imagery swirling out of it or around it. I plugged in "head open", "stuff coming out of my head", "exploding head", "spilling my head"...oh, any number of things like that. Idiotic Literal Google generated things that merely had the words "head", "open", "spill", or anything like that. Ergo, I had pictures of a glass of spilt milk, a hummingbird, a candle, a gay couple kissing, etc. Even the word "my" was in bold, indicating that Dorky Old Google had oh-so-helpfully searched all the pictures that included that word in their captions. Note to Google: You're effing up my Project.

All righty then. As usual, I feel better now that we've had a little chat-up. Thank goodness I have all of You. If it weren't for the Brilliant Readers/Commenters here at the Dept., I'd probably follow Penny and Hortense right off The Deep End.

Monday, October 05, 2009

If Television Is Going To Be My Life, Then I'm Going To Get A Hell Of A Lot More Out Of It: The Birth Of DoNTV

So much about my television viewing habits has begun to concern me. No, really, it has. Isn't it bad enough that I make a point to separate the TV Section from the rest of the Sunday paper and keep it on the coffee table so that I can refer to it daily? That I shriek like a martinet if anyone even looks like he is going to set a Pepsi can or beer or wineglass upon it, thus rendering it unreadable?

No. It is not. For it gets even Worse.

Friday night is "Hulu Night." Rick hooks up a cable from his laptop to the television and, after our lovely dinner, we spend the evening watching the shows we missed because (A)we were busy, (B) we were rendered comatose by our pathetic lives, or (C)they were on at the same time as another show we also like to watch.

I know. Just shoot me now. I am only fifty. I should still be out doing exciting things like...oh, not knowing the names of all of the contestants left on Top Chef and Project Runway. It's clear that I have a Problem.

Sometimes, just for fun, I like to read from the TV section the little plot blurbs about the shows aloud to Jared. I love those little summaries. I often wonder who writes them and how I would go about getting that gig. Some of them are unintentionally hilarious, especially if I don't watch the show. This one, for a new show called the forgotten, (lower case is apparently required), cracks me up: "A dead John Doe left beaten on the street leads the team into the world of professional football." OKAY! Also merry is this one for Dirty Jobs, especially if you read it with a real happy voice: "Mike travels to Miami to recover and crush abandoned boats and then heads to San Francisco to recover old mattresses!" HOORAY!

Today, I was reading a few out loud for giggles when I came upon the blurb for the now-tragic show Jon & Kate Plus 8. I'm sure we all know the sad soap opera behind that reality show, but that's not what I want to chat about. What I want to chat about is how this is a show: "An expert helps guide the family in an attempt to organize their basement." Okay, huh? Seriously? I mean, I get how herding a bunch of similar-looking kids as they toss toys at each other and an anal-retentive mom attempts to make sense of it all while reining in her OCD might be sort of fascinating--for about ten minutes--but really? A WHOLE SHOW?

The more I thought about it, the more irked I got because I knew damned well that the show paid for this Basement Organization By A Trained Professional. How fair is this?

So, here's the deal, America (or at least the minute percentage of America which reads the Dept.). I would like to, in one fell swoop, take care of my Television Problem and several of my...Other Problems by having My Own Show. I'll call it DonTV. I will ink a deal similar to the Jon & Kate deal as far as budget. Here are some of my blurbs:

*An expert guides the Dept. in an attempt to organize their basement.
*Nance decides to hire an expert to help guide her in selecting a new wardrobe, complete with shoes.
*Frustrated by her sons' inability to fledge from the nest, Nance hires an expert to help guide her and Rick in an attempt to get them to move out into an apartment and live on their own.
*Rick and Nance hire an expert to help guide them in the redecoration of their home.

And finally, the season cliffhanger will be

*Upon retirement from teaching, Nance hires an expert to guide her in the search for her new residence in a warmer and more Democratic-leaning part of the country.

Oh, I like it. All I need is the right network. What do you think?

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Take On Restaurants, Bad Footwear, Hyper-Casualism, And, Just On Principle, republicans. Because I Must.

Certainly our current Administration in Washington D.C. has plenty to do, what with The Economy, Health Care, Iran playing Hide-n-Seek with nukes, and the republicans trying to...well, Do Whatever Nasty Thing They Can Find To Do. But this is no time to forget the fine cement of Nicety that should hold our country together. Once again, I volunteer to step in, make the Dept. of Nance a bona fide department, and do what I can to whittle away at the insidious incivilities that threaten to weaken what is left of Our Gracious Society.

Our topic today, dear readers: Restaurants. (Let me immediately say that I have a personal stake in this subject and that it was inspired by a recent dining experience at a franchise restaurant which shall remain nameless. Rick, not feeling particularly sociable on Friday, called the restaurant (one of the few to still take reservations for a party less than eleventy thousand) to make reservations for the two of us on Saturday. We decided to dine early, at six. This is plenty of background. I press on.) Restaurants have become a Behemoth Of Bad Behaviour in our Society as of late. Not owning or operating one myself, perhaps I am simply naive or ignorant, and a restaurateur can set me straight. Otherwise, I will remain convinced that the following points need to be remedied immediately. It simply cannot be that hard.

1. Reservations: Firstly, take them. Regardless of party size. Second, honor them. I do not want to arrive on time and have to wait twenty minutes (as was the case Saturday). Listen, I made a plan to dine at your establishment. I can understand there being some unexpectedness involved. But twenty minutes? Ridiculous. I'd like to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld when I say, "Anyone can take a reservation. It's holding the reservation; that's the most important part."

2. Seating: Do not insult me and take me, a person who made a plan to dine at your establishment over 24 hours ago, to the lousiest table in your restaurant. Those horrific cafeteria-like two-tops along a banquette. I do not wish to share my dinner and my dinner conversation with strangers. As a matter of fact, restaurateurs everywhere, STOP PUTTING THOSE GODAWFUL SEATS IN YOUR RESTAURANTS, PERIOD. THEY ARE TERRIBLE. If you must have them, save them for the walk-ins who decided at the last minute to patronize your establishment. When I am escorted to one by a clueless hostess, I politely insist that I be moved. Questions follow, managers inevitably insinuate themselves, and the dinner check ends up being comped. I don't try to get a free meal. I just want a nice dinner. I'm happy to pay for it, really.

3. Acoustics: Why do you have "ambient music?" Most restaurants are too damned loud anyway. The music/Muzak does not help. Especially annoying is "theme" music, i.e. Italian music at Italian restaurants. If I had a restaurant, I'd plaster that place with acoustical tiles so that it sucked in every single noise. You wouldn't hear an ice cube clink. In other words, you'd be able to hear the person across the table from you talk. Without shouting.

4. Appropriate Dress: Flip-flops. I see really no difference between these and being barefoot. Really. Can you imagine all the crud being flipped and flopped into the dining atmosphere from these people's feet? Ugh. And, is there really a difference between an Abercrombie & Fitch hooded sweatshirt and a plain old hooded sweatshirt? I want there to be some restaurants where I can go and not see a baseball hat. Where there won't be a woman in tennis shoes and sweatpants. But I don't have to pay fifty bucks for my pasta. You know?

The Dept. of Nance stands ready to restore Gentility to Dining Out. Short of opening its own restaurant, it will do its utmost to assist diners everywhere in their Quest For A Sophisticated And Civil Dining Experience. But first, both parties must accept their share of the blame.

Restaurateurs, anxious to make a go of their ventures, are increasingly lax regarding their standard of clientele. They're just happy to get bodies in the door. If they are running a casual, family restaurant, that's fine. But do draw the line someplace. Is it beach shoes? Is it bikini tops? Is it children running amok and disturbing other diners? Train your staff, and make sure they are capable. Tossing a few free meals here and there will eventually add up, and pretty soon, you'll be shuttering your business.

American Public, have some class. You are out to dinner. Not standing in front of your Frigidaire after having closed up your garage sale. Other people are around. True, you do not know them, but have some Personal Dignity. Are your children disturbing others? Apply a standard other than "Are they killing someone/each other/me?" for their Public Behavior. Finally, wear Real Shoes. It will be Okay. It's only an hour or two and then you can go home and take them off.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Again, I Offer My Expertise To Settle Matters Once And For All, And Pandas Are Involved

Apparently, we do have to worry about them after all.

Oh, I know that the President assured us that we don't, and even I didn't believe that Quitter From Alaska when she started frothing about them on her TwitFace page, but after reading this article on, I am frantic!

I am, of course, talking about Death Panels.

Death Panels For Pandas.

British naturalist and BBC personality Chris Packham seems to think that preserving the panda, whose population numbers less than 2000 currently worldwide, is simply not worth the effort anymore. "It's not a strong species...and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation," he said. "I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go with a degree of dignity." Packham realizes that his Panda Plan will probably not catch on, however, because the panda is "big and cute and it's the symbol of the WWF." He would rather see funds allocated to other species which have a better chance at survival.

Wow, Mr. Chris Packham. Harsh. Let me just go on record here and state my overarching bias: I am pro-panda. And I am not ashamed to say it. I AM ALL ABOUT PANDAS. PRIMARILY BECAUSE THEY ARE CUTE.

And here is the deal, Mr. Chris Packham--and others--I will be more than happy to advocate for pandas based solely upon that reason. Period. So there. As a matter of fact, I will sit on your Endangered Species Death Panel right now and take a look at the entire freaking list of animals and decide who gets to stick around and who doesn't based entirely upon cuteness.
For those of you who wish to play along, here is the link, complete with pictures.

Okay, first of all, you can eliminate all bugs. That part is easy. No bugs. Bug Lovers out there, save your breath. You will never win me over. Butterflies do not count as a bug. Entomologists, please do not try to tell me the exact definition of "bug." Don't care.

Now, here is my list of animals that get to stay merely because of Cuteness. Oh, sure, there may be other reasons for animals to stay, but these are the ones I'm saving with my Expertise In The Field Of Cuteness.


1. Black-eared mantella frog
2. Fergusson Island striped possum
3. Caspian seal
4. Banteng (because it looks like a cow!)
5. Red panda
6. Galapagos penguin
7. Shoebill
8. African penguin
9. Sun bear
10. Madagascan gecko
11. Nectophrynoides viviparus frog
12. Channel Islands fox
13. Corroborree Frog
14. Crowned sifaka lemur
15. Harlequin frog
16. Blue poison frog
17. Polar bear
18. Abbot's Booby

Okay. That last one is just because the name is cute. And I realized as I was looking through these poor, endangered critters that I am heavily Anti-Snake. And also not too Fish Sympathetic, either.

And that we are saving a lot of ugly animals.

Which is fine, really. Everything has its place in the Circle of Life. Even Mr. Chris Peckham, naturalist and BBC personality, who is also president of Britain's Bat Conservation Trust (and I am showing a ton of restraint here).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Airing Of Grievances: An Early Festivus Celebration, Thanks To A Centipede In The Bathtub And David Gregory

Sunday nights are my traditional Soaky Bath Nights. I like to climb into a nice, hot tubby and just unwind and try not to think about another week at The Rock. Tonight, though, I pulled aside the shower curtain and got an unpleasant surprise. Skittering away from the light was a large, ugly thousand-legger. Uncharacteristically, I got all Girly and did one of those high-pitched in-the-throat screams that caused Jared to come running. He dispatched it immediately, and I got a quick idea for tonight's blogpost because seeing that hideous thing come crawling out from under its unknown hiding place made an immediate connection in my mind to another, one Rep. Joe Wilson (his poor mother!) on Wednesday evening, but I'll get to that.

It all started with yet another regrettable viewing of what passes for Meet the Press, but you and I know it is now just a thin shadow of that fine program. So, I'm channeling my inner Frank Costanza and invoking an early Festivus Tradition. To use his words: "The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!"

I'm starting with David Gregory. I know. I already broke up with him once. But it apparently didn't take. I keep tuning in to MTP hoping that things will change and that he will come back to me. They haven't and he won't. So, David Gregory, listen up. I've had it with you, once and for all. You have single-handedly destroyed Meet the Press with your obvious bias and your badgering and your rudeness. You keep asking the same questions over and over and over again because you already have in your cocoon the answer you want to hear. Do you know why you have so many panels on your show, David? It's because NO ONE WANTS TO DO YOUR SHOW. Today on MTP, David said this, "I was talking to some people about their concerns...." Oh, David. You and I both know that has to be bullshit. You don't know any "people." And anyone you know who has "concerns" places them under the heading of Where to find good help these days or Get a pool guy who has papers or New Blackberry time? Please.

Next up is a guest on MTP today, some guy named Joshua Cooper Ramo who wrote a book. Please do not run out and buy it because if what this guy said is any indication of its content, you will be wasting your hard-earned cash. Here is a massive quote from Mr. Ramo: "You've got to have some really imaginative approach here that says we're going to change what it means to be unemployed in America." Okay. Mr. JC Ramo, it's your turn. What the HELL DOES THAT MEAN? Will that be like calling housewives "domestic goddesses?" Are we talking semantics here? Shall we just use new terminology for unemployment in order to make all the people without jobs feel better, like when we stopped calling people "handicapped" and started calling them disabled, or for a while there, "physically challenged?" Or, hey! Let's call this massive unemployment "National Vacation!" How about "Employment Hiatus?" Is that better? Mr. Ramo, being unemployed in America means what it always means: Americans do not have jobs. Ergo, American families do not have sufficient health care, sufficient money to pay for gas, food, insurance, and other bills. Lying on your back and looking at cloud shapes for duckies and bunnies isn't going to make it any better. Good luck with those book sales.

And, holy crap, do not get me started with Erin Burnett, who once said on MTP when asked how the stock market might react to President Obama's latest whatever, "It may go up or it may go down. It all depends." Wow. See above comments re: Panel Guests.

Remember, I told you I'd get back to Rep. Joe Wilson, aka The Face/Voice of The republican Party. Where do I even begin? No matter how hard they look--and they still are--the republicans will never find precedent for the disrespectful display put on by a member of their party during the President's speech last week. Newt (I'm Suddenly Everywhere) Gingrich tried lobbing a softball on MTP by mentioning "hearing boos" directed at The Angel of Death back in 2005 or something, but come on! Rep. Wilson, I have a few things to take up with you, and I hope your poor mother will forgive me. Did any Democrat ever call out any President a liar to his face on the floor of Congress, ever? Did anyone, ever? Until last week, the answer was no. You know, it's not lost on me (nor any other Thinking Individual, I'm sure) that it was you republicans who made a big effing deal about This President not being respectful enough of The Office to wear a suit coat in the Oval! Now we've got you, a republican who thinks it's just fine to call out the President of the United States as a liar in front of both Houses of Congress, not apologize until his party leadership told him to, and maintains that he is done apologizing, so there. Is this really what you envisioned for yourself?

Finally, it amazes me that so many people are, in a word, insane and completely inhabiting an Alternate Universe. They are screaming at town halls and sending psychotic emails and pretending to be patriots--er, excuse me--Patriots at so-called "tea party events" at which they say things that sound positively surreal. For example, in one poll 39% of respondents believed that the government should stay out of Medicare. Huh? These people are the same people who are forgetting that the current president inherited a big effing mess. To all of those people, I have to say this: "While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially." That's not Socialism, Nazism, or any other -ism. That's from the US Census Bureau. No one can fix everything in a few months, and it's obvious that you are nuts. Period. Now get back on your little scooters that the government is paying for, be careful that you don't shoot yourselves with your guns you bought at WalMart, and go home. Stop listening to the radio and go back to listening to your police scanner and looking for UFOs. Aren't you missing "Wheel of Fortune" or something?

One of the traditions of Festivus is the Festivus Miracle. I'd like to see one; I really would. Here is my idea of a Festivus Miracle: The republicans have styled themselves as the Christian/God Party, yet they seem almost phobic about the idea of helping those less fortunate. They cringe at the idea of a public option in health care; they become incensed that an "illegal" might sneak into an emergency room and get stitches. Don't they know that reference in Matthew where Jesus reminds them that what they do for the least of their brothers, they do unto Him? I'd like to see the republicans remember that. Just once. That's My Festivus Miracle.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Over-herd At The Most Recent Staff Meeting...

Friday was a teacher inservice day, and it started off with a big meeting for the entire staff. Our school is huge: my department alone has 18 teachers. Staff meetings, therefore, sometimes turn into impromptu social events wherein teachers whose schedules and the imposing physical plant of the building would normally prohibit it finally get an opportunity to reconnect. The result is a Delicious Irony. We teachers exhibit the undesirable classroom behaviors of our students. We talk during some presentations, we pass notes, we send text messages, we work on other things, we go hang out in the bathroom during the boring stuff.

And so it came to pass that on Friday, the following conversation occurred at my table during the General Staff Meeting:

Nance: Did you do anything over last weekend? Did you go to your lake condo?
Linda: Oh, god. I had so much crap to do. You know? Did you do anything?
Nance: We went to the Fair. Did you go? Oh my god. I saw the cutest cows. I had to be physically restrained. I mean it. I am more determined than ever to have one.
Linda: Have what? A cow? Are you serious? Like when? Are you being completely serious?
Roger: (leaning in, rolling eyes) Are you still talking about this? Linda, Nance is getting a cow for a pet when she retires.
Nance: (indignant) I don't know why you say it like that. I love cows. I always have. Rick is completely on board with getting a cow.
Roger: Somehow, I don't see cow maintenance coming from you.
Pam: Will you be going out to the barn in your heels?
Linda: You're serious about this. A cow. You've thought about this, I take it.
Nance: Oh, yes. And now that they've begun breeding mini-cows, it's even more ideal.
Roger: Cows are dirty. They roll around in mud, they crap a lot, they--
Nance: That's not true! They don't have to be dirty! Cows enjoy a nice bath; they do! Unlike dogs, cows can be bathed daily. I'll have a nice, clean little cow!
Pam: I like cows. But--
Nance: See! See! Oh, I do too!
Pam: --but I've never wanted to own one.
Linda: Why not just get a dog, Nance?
Nance: Dogs are too worky. You have to feed them, walk them, play with them. All that crap. Besides, we had Sam's dog with us for a while. Linda--it ate a door. Okay? NO DOGS.
Linda: Get a chihuahua. Like my dog. I swear, it's like a purse. You just sling it over your arm and carry it around. Really.
Nance: Huh? Then just get a purse. I want a cow.
Roger: There is no way you can sling around a bale of hay or straw and haul manure. No way. Look at you. Poor Rick. Rick is getting this cow. (shakes head.)
Nance: You know, Roger. I am so tired of this "poor Rick" crap from you all of the time. I'm not holding Rick hostage in this marriage, you know. There's no gun to his head. Like he has it so bad! Hmpf.
Linda: (squints at principal at lectern in front of room) What did he just say? What about semester finals?
Nance: He changed the days. Here, write this down...(recites new exam schedule) Will you email me that? I'll never remember it.
Linda: Sure. So you're serious about this whole cow thing, huh?
Nance: Of course.
Roger: Ask her the name. Go on.
Linda: Bossy? Elsie?
Pam: What is it? What's the cow name?
Nance: Velveeta.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watching And Thinking About Blueberries

On Saturday and Sunday mornings I wake up relatively early, by about 8 A.M. I make my coffee, grab my beloved Plain Dealer from the front porch, and sit on the end of the couch to read it in the quiet. From my perch, I can also glance outside my front windows and survey the neighborhood, which is usually absent of any activity.

For the past several months, however, I have been on Tish Watch. I anxiously wait for her big silver Buick to pull up into her driveway across the street. I am hopeful that, this time when she climbs the front steps and goes into her house, it will be to stay. Thus far, I remain disappointed.

Tish and Barrington Cash--I am using aliases, of course--owned the white Georgian-styled house across the street from us when we moved in 25 years ago. We were at least half their age then: she had been Rick's kindergarten teacher! Members of our town's elite, they were part of the Country Club Set, "had money," and had standing golf dates every weekend. She never called her husband "Barry"--always referred to him as "Barrington." They wintered in Florida, the neighbor did their yardwork, and they always drove a huge Buick that almost skimmed the sides of their absurdly small garage.

When we moved in with Jared as a baby of four months old, Tish walked across the street at some point to welcome us. She carried in her hands two pints of fresh blueberries. "I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood!" she said brightly, and smiled brilliantly. "I know that a pie is customary, but I don't bake. But here are some lovely blueberries. You can bake your own!" And she laughed, made a fuss over the baby, and then talked about having had my husband in kindergarten--how very quiet and shy he had been. "He never, ever talked!" she said. "I had to call his mother and ask if he even knew how!" After a few more pleasantries, she stepped back across the street and that was pretty much it.

But we were cordial and neighborly. We waved, said hello, offered important information as needed about neighborhood things. She was kind to our children always. We watched in amusement the comings and goings of Tish and Barrington's high class friends and their many golf outings. We knew when they left each late fall for Florida, and we could tell by instinct each spring when they'd be back.

Then came the terrible summer when Barrington had his heart attack. Tish was back and forth to the hospital alone. And then she was all alone, period. We wondered what would happen. Would she stay at home in that big house? Would she move in with her married child, who lived nearby? We did not presume upon a relationship that we did not have. We worried from across the street, but if Tish had asked for our help, we would gladly have given it.

Little by little, Tish resumed her old life, but without Barrington. She lost weight dreadfully, but old friends showed up in her driveway to take her out to the golf course and to brunches and to dinner. The lights flickered on and off in her house across the street, and her big silver car began to pull in and out of the driveway regularly again. After a modest period, gentlemen even began to visit. Rick and I would smile and say, "Wonder if Tish is having a little spend-over tonight?" My heart would gladden every time I'd see her stroll around her yard and inspect her bushes and the flowerpots on her front steps. Pretty soon, I stopped glancing over across the street. Things were going to be all right.

But this past spring, our street had a major water project done on it and all of our driveways were affected. I suddenly noticed that I hadn't seen Tish pull in or out of hers for quite some time. Maybe she's stayed in Florida a while longer this year, I reasoned. The weather has been hideous. But May and June came and went, and there had been no activity across the street whatsoever. Our neighborhood has changed so much that there was no one on our street to ask, either. I started to keep my vigil.

Finally, one morning, a concrete crew showed up. Tish was getting a brand new driveway, it seemed. I despaired. Was her house going up for sale? What was happening? Is she okay? A few days later, her children showed up to inspect the work. A few days after that, Tish herself arrived. I anxiously watched as she pulled up, then got out of her car. She seemed to be moving about all right. She walked up the front steps without any difficulty, it looked to me. She went inside. After several moments she came outside, got into her car, and left. I was gratified that she was all right--that she seemed to be healthy and, since she was able to drive, still herself. But why isn't she at home?

And so it has continued to this day although her visits to her home are more frequent. You probably wonder why I am so interested; wonder if I have too much time on my hands, or if I am one of those nosy neighbors who should mind her own damn business.

Quite simply, I have an awful lot invested in Tish. She is me. I am rooting for her because she is what I hope I would be like under those circumstances. That I would be able to come back home, live on my own, pick up my life, and go on. That I would live independently and well, and that I would be okay...or even better than okay.

I need her to come home soon. And when she does, I am taking her a fresh, homemade blueberry pie.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is Anybody Out There? Anybody At All?

Let me just say one thing right off the bat: I am operating under a whole new Priority System here. Priority One--remain vertical. Priority Two--maintain coherence. Priority Three--remember how it used to be and use that for incentive.

I can no longer count higher than three, nor can I remember anything more complex than three things at a time.

It was...exhausting last week. Trying to teach in 90+ degree heat was taxing enough, but add the noise of heavy construction vehicles about thirty feet away; the fatal shootings of two students in the neighborhood after hours; constantly changing class rosters (which means that no gradebook or attendance can be accurately kept yet); schoolwide picture day (students are walked down to be photographed from English classes, of course); a fire drill; heightened alert because of widespread text messaging that there would be retaliatory shootings at the school; and we are running at over 2200 students with more adding every day.
Friday could not come soon enough. Today was the first day I could scrape myself into some sort of coalesced blob capable of cogent thought and return to this space to explain myself.


Having said all of that, let's not talk about it anymore. I'm all fired up about other stuff, and before I can't sit up straight any longer, I want to share.

But first, Thank You, Brian Williams, for taking a nice vacation this past week. Your timing is impeccable. There is no possible way I could have even focused on your tie, let alone verbally embroidered a Tie Report a single solitary day. Naturally, this made a severely negative impact upon my Sitemeter, but honestly, big effing deal. It's not like the Jay Leno Show ever called me back or that each hit means ten thousand dollars. Feh.

A bigger hero in my life right now is Barney Frank. If the Dept. Of Nance was a television show, I would be all over myself booking him as my sole guest. Period. Forever. Right now, I am declaring him as my Smackdown The Stupid Mascot. Please tell me that you saw this wonderful performance by Congressman Frank of Massachussetts, in which he did what every single intelligent human being should do when confronted by these moronic shills for the Party of No when they start obfuscating the issue of healthcare reform with their baseless scare tactics. Why even begin to talk to these people? As far as I'm concerned, no more "Town Halls." It's clear that the Lunatic Limbaughean Fringe have co-opted these once vibrant and legitimate venues for sane discourse and turned them into the equivalent of a coffee klatch for kooks and crazy-peddlers. Self-respecting public servants, republican and Democratic alike, should simply say, "That's it. I am no longer disrespecting my office and my true constituency by appearing at these media feeding frenzies. My people know how to reach me to air their concerns. I anxiously await their feedback regarding healthcare via letter, phonecall, or comments via my website. I am eager to serve them, as I was elected to do, without media interference in this important debate." What a lot of bullshit.

And while I'm at it, I have a little message for President Obama, and this it is: BE THE LEADER. This sort of laid-back, make-nice, No Drama Obama is exactly what I was afraid of. You don't take a bigass thing like Health Care Reform and a nest of Pit Vipers like the sore loser republicans and say, "Okay, everybody, take a whack at this and see what you come up with and get back to me later. I'll see what I think and take it from there." Are you kidding me? THE REPUBLICANS WANT YOU TO FAIL SO THAT THEY CAN TAKE BACK A MAJORITY IN THE MIDTERMS. They don't care what you fail at, as long as it's something big. They don't care if it fucks up the entire country, either. They already did that, remember? Do you see them caring? Dear Barack--Come back from vacation early and smack some people around. Call in the Blue Dogs and remind them who is the President. And you'd better call in Howard Dean and have a conversation that matters. It's way past time for Big Talking with Big People. --Signed, Me, One of Those Who Had the Audacity to Hope for Change. Now bring it!

Another reason I thought I was in Hell this week--Two people who are still in the news and I still don't understand why: the hapless woman with eleventy billion children, the Octomother and the revered singer who died two months ago, MJ. (Can you tell I'm trying not to actually mention their names and add to their google hits?) How slow is the news, really, that these individuals are still part of it?

And, finally, come on--Brett Favre. Again. This "I'm retired--just kidding" bullshit is getting old. I hated it with Magic Johnson and, as a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, you know I hated it with Michael Jordan. Add to that the fact that fans and sportscasters alike act as if Favre is, well, a deity in a facemask just makes me sick. So, for those of you who need a reminder one more time, here. And, just so you know: once I retire, I will stay retired!

My vow to you.
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