Thursday, December 07, 2006
I Totally Stole This Whole Idea From Loretta Who Borrowed it From Ronni, Who Apparently Got it From Lisa Who Lifted it From Her Friend Tammy. I Think.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? It depends on how tired Santa is when he arrives.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White. I think the more important question is: should the lights blink? And the answer is: NO!
4. Do you hang mistletoe? Only at Christmas.
5. When do you put your decorations up? I watch Hubs put them up shortly after Thanksgiving. (I got tired of putting them up and having him move them all when I wasn't looking.)
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? If I didn't have to make it myself, it's a favorite. This applies year round.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: First, spending Christmas Eve whispering all night with my brothers over the intercom. Second, getting busted for whispering all night rather than sleeping. I guess we whispered a bit loudly.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? WHAT???
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, and every year I am STUNNED to find it is pajamas.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? I don't. Hubs does. See "Christmas Decorating for OCD Couples" in the December 2005 archives.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Depends where it lands. Lawn? Good. Freeway? Bad.
12. Can you ice skate? Not enough medical insurance in the world.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I always wanted an Easy Bake Oven. (Okay, Mom, I KNOW you gave me that Holly Hobby Stove and I loved it even after I got cake batter all over the light bulb/cooking element the first time I used it causing the house to smell like burned sugar for days afterward.
It wasn't the Easy Bake Oven just like Peyton had.
But I still really really loved the Holly Hobby Stove. Really. I especially loved the little tubes of icing that I ate directly from the tube, thus bypassing the whole stove experience) Where was I? Oh yes. The year Hubs gave me an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. It's a tie with the year Son gave me a day-glo orange plastic necklace and bracelet with a frog on it. He was three and picked it out himself. It looked smashing with my dark purple silk dress on Sunday.
14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family.
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Ice box cake. Grandma's recipe.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Seeing the lights at Temple Square in Salt Lake City and going to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Concert.
17. What tops your tree? An angel I made the first Christmas we were married.
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night.
20. Candy Canes? Only when no other source of sugar is available and I have no choice.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
The other day I was working in a first- grade classroom. The teacher had left instructions for me, which is always nice. There's nothing quite as exciting as standing in front of a class with the lesson plan reading simply "11:00-12:30 teach math and assign homework." Um, what kind of math? Calculus? Geometry? 1+2=3?
Anyway, this particular day the teacher had thoughtfully left very clear directions. The students were to make a poster. They were to draw their favorite animal, write a sentence about it, color the whole thing and hang it in the hallway for all to admire.
One earnest little boy, Jared, kept raising his hand and waving it frantically, signally some dire emergency such as a need for a color consultation. "What color is a lion's ruffly fur around his neck?" and "Is it okay if I use purple for the eyes?" After discussing the relative merits of his small assortment of Crayolas we turned our attention to his sentence. He asked how to spell each word. "Teacher? How do you spell 'really'?" Followed by, "Teacher? How do you spell 'love'?" He then asked for the spelling of one more word--lions.
I turned my attention to the other students, hoping I really did know how to spell 'orangutan' correctly and offering tech support when one little girl tried to sharpen her crayon in the electric pencil sharpener.
Finally I collected the posters. Jared was wiggling with excitement as he brought his poster to me. "Look, Teacher! I got it all finished! My parents are gonna LOVE it!"
I'm sure they will. I only wish I could be there to see their faces when they view their son's poster featuring a large lion centered over even larger block letters in black crayon proclaiming:
I REALLY LOVE LOINS!!!
If my kid made a poster like that it would TOTALLY go in the Things- I'm- Collecting -To- Use -Against- Him- Later- in- Life- box.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Hubs: Okay, this house is on Boulder and Sea-ox.
Hubs: Hey, don't look at me. I didn't name these places.
Me: Yeah, but Sea-ox? I don't see it on the map.
Hubs: Well, this is a new development so they probably haven't had time to put it on there yet.
Me: I'm looking at street signs and I don't see it there either. Sea-ox?
Me: Sea-ox. Like a seahorse only more...bovine?
Hubs: Yeah, I know. Weird, huh?
Me: Okay, how do you spell it?
Hubs: Just like it sounds.
Me: Well, I see Apache Lane, Commanche...um, Honey? Any chance you mean Sioux?
Hubs: Oh. Right. I knew that.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Events of the last months have tipped my life upside down, left me on most days either crying on my mother's shoulder or waiting anxiously for her to get off work so I could cry on her shoulder some more. I have had moments when tall buildings, sharp objects and train tracks began to look very appealing for all the wrong reasons. Much Kleenex has been used since summer. Mom has very soggy shoulders.
Life, as it so often does, goes on. Things are looking up. Mom's shoulders are drying out. (I'm keeping the Kleenex stock, though. You know. Just in case.) I'm starting to see that much good has come from the hell that I'll always remember as the summer of 2006. I'll not be sharing the details here, of course. I do have SOME limits as to what I'll share with the world in general.
I'm contemplating the notion that I may actually be okay again, someday. And you'll be thrilled, as I certainly am, to know that life is STILL a funny thing.
So I guess what I'm saying is: I'M BACK! And guess what? I'm MOVING! As in selling the house, packing up and moving. Funny, funny stuff, especially when moving with Hubs and Son. Okay, funny and frustrating. I'm going with the funny stuff though. And I'm going to put it all right here.
Thanks for waiting for me.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The excuses we hear about why he can't possibly wear anything but jeans and t-shirts are usually pretty entertaining; it's too big, too little, too red, the stripes clash with his hair (Don't ask. We still haven't figured that one out yet.) But he came up with one excuse that is my all time favorite.
The occasion was Son’s birthday a couple of years ago. To his very great dismay, his birthday fell on a Sunday, meaning that rather than spending an entire day indulging in whatever revelry and debauchery he had planned he was going to have to spend some of the day in church.
Never one to let an opportunity to tease Son pass him by, (Hubs figures it’s fair play since we are rapidly approaching the teen years when Son will make our lives worrisome and difficult so we might as well avenge ourselves while we have the chance.) Hubs announced, “Hey! Guess what? Since it’s your birthday and it’s Sunday, you can wear your birthday suit to church!”
As expected, Son was horrified. “No! There is NO WAY I’m wearing my BIRTHDAY SUIT to church!” Not only did I find Hubs suggestion humorous, but I also found Son’s reaction rather amusing, probably because the boy doesn’t even own a suit. Well I mean, he DOES have a birthday suit, of course, but it’s not really something he wears outside the house. (Though oddly he will wander about the house in it from time to time.)
Son's Sunday attire is comprised of Dockers, a dress shirt and a tie, and each item of clothing is so despised that it is removed from his person and thrown on the floor before the front door slams behind him upon his return from church.
Son's sensibilities were so outraged by the very idea of voluntarily wearing a suit of any kind, birthday or otherwise, that he apparently forgot the fact that he doesn't actually own a suit. He simply went straight to argument mode. Hubs was therefore able to keep the charade going for quite some time. With a perfectly straight face Hubs asked,
“Why not? It’s a suit. It’s a Sunday. It’s your birthday. What could be more appropriate?”
You know, it’s interesting how much pressure can build in my head without having it (head, not pressure) actually explode when one is trying to stifle laughter. And in our house, given our affinity for sadistic humor, being faced with the struggle of trying to maintain a straight face (not to mention an intact skull) is a fairly common occurrence. I have a lot of practice, but I still can’t quite keep a straight face the way Hubs can. Still, keeping in mind that tormenting our child is a noble endeavor, I kept things under control.
At least I did right up until Hubs asked, “But that suit is so cute. I think it’s the cutest little birthday suit I’ve ever seen.” Son was so incensed that he didn't even notice as I started to sputter. With a glare worthy of his grandmother Son announced,
“I’m NOT wearing my birthday suit. Not EVER. It’s old and it’s wrinkled and it itches.”
Well, I’m afraid I can’t argue with him there. Although from what I can tell, his birthday suit is probably in pristine condition (if you overlook the scabbed knees and various bruises, that is.)
I do sympathize, though. My birthday is approaching in a couple of days and I have to say my birthday suit is getting old, wrinkled and itchy too. I guess it happens to the best of us.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
We'd love to have more children, but so far we've not had much luck. I still count myself lucky, though. I do have a beautiful healthy son, and on most days I wouldn't trade him for anything. (On MOST days. There are moments when I'd trade him for a sprig of parsley. Or less.)
Still, there's something about having a great thing that makes one want even more of a great thing, so I'm sometimes saddened by Son's only-child status.
And so I'm very lucky to have the next best thing. At the moment I have twelve little nieces and nephews. And I adore each of them. Being "Aunt Stacey" is great because I can spoil these kids, get them all hopped up on sugar, and the minute one starts getting cranky, I can turn him or her back over to the parents! Personal satisfaction and the joy of inflicting chaos on my brothers all in one!
One of my favorite things to do is hold tea parties with my nieces. Not that I'm exlcuding my nephews, mind you, but so far they have been entirely too busy to be bothered with tea parties. Plus, getting them into tiaras for said tea parties is completely out of the question. One of my three-year old nephews did consent to attending a tea party once, but only with the strict understanding that he could bring his power drill to the table and use his screwdriver as an eating utensil.
When my brother and his wife had their third daughter, I was only too happy to take his two older daughters to my house for a couple of days. My brother thought I was being very kind and helpful, (though in truth, he was so stressed and exhausted that he would have been just as willing to leave his kids at the Atilla the Hun Day Care Center) but the reality is, taking care of the girls was a selfish thing for me. I loved every minute of it. I was so excited, in fact, that on the way home I couldn't help grinning. Hubs was driving so I was able to turn around in my seat and beam at the little girls strapped into their car seats. Niece One noticed and asked, "Aunt Stacey, how come you keep smiling so big at me?"
"Well, Sweetie, I'm just really happy."
"But how come you're so happy?"
"I'm happy because I have two pretty little nieces in my car and I get to take them home and play with them!" Niece One pondered this for a moment. Meanwhile, three-year-old Niece Two tugged the hem of her skirt up a couple of inches. She studied her legs and then with great excitement and no small amount of pride announced,
"Aunt Stacey, guess what? I've got two pretty little kneeses too!"
It doesn't get better than that.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Son: Um, that’s not my job.
Mom: Excuse me?
Son: Gathering it all up and stuff. It’s not my job. I’m more in the transportation department.
Son: I just take the big can out to the curb. I don’t gather it up or anything. It's not my department.
Mom: I see. Well congratulations! You’ve just been promoted! You are now working in the Rubbish Collection, Packaging and Relocation Department!
Son: (With much rolling of the eyes) Well do I get a pay raise with this promotion?
Mom: Maybe. How much are you making now?
Mom: Right. Okay, tell you what. I’ll give you a five percent raise.
Son is a tough negotiator. If he were better at math, he’d probably break us before he’s twelve.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Hubs has been a trifle concerned about me making the trip by myself. While it’s true that I have visited the Big City many times, I have never actually driven there by myself. It's also true that I can get lost in my own closet. So his concern is not unwarranted.
Usually when Hubs is away on business I miss him terribly. But today he has already spent more time talking to me on the phone than he would if he were still in town. And what is the purpose of these calls you ask? Why to make sure I know how to get there of course!
It’s actually kind of sweet that he is so concerned. Annoying, and a bit insulting, but sweet. Well it was sweet the first two or three times he called. After that I started to feel like a five-year-old on the first day of school. “Now are you SURE you can make it, Honey? Because if you need help, I can send someone for you. Maybe that would be best. Should I arrange for someone to drive you? I can send a car. Would you like me to send a car?”
How did I become this helpless? Should I pin a note on my blouse with an "If found please return to..." message on it? His last call came a few minutes ago, giving me detailed instructions on how to get there. And when I say detailed, I mean DETAILED.
“All right, first you go through the canyon and you stay on that road until you get to the crossroads. If you turn right, you’ll see that restaurant your Dad took us to. You remember they had the really dry chicken and the vegetables were undercooked?”
“Yes, I remember that place. So I turn right?”
“No, that’s just what you’ll see if you do.”
“Okay, so I turn left?”
“Yes, turn left and you’ll see the highway that goes past the reservoir and you stay on that road until you reach an intersection. If you go left you’ll see a housing development. You remember, the one where all the houses are so close together that you said you could never live there because you wouldn’t be able to play the piano after nine p.m. without disturbing the whole neighborhood?”
“Sure, I remember that. Okay so I turn there?”
“No, you’ll want to go right. You’ll see the old cemetery. You know, the one on the way to the shopping district.”
“Yeah, the one where you bought all those books?”
“Of course. So…I want to go past the cemetery?”
“And I’ll see the shopping district?”
“No, if you see the shopping district you’ve gone too far.”
“All right. Then what?”
“Well then you should see a huge hotel up on the mountain. There’s another hotel next to it with a waterfall.”
“Is that where you are?”
“No, it’s just really huge, you should check it out. The waterfall is kind of cool.” I was trying not to get frustrated as I kept writing down instructions and crossing them out.
“Honey? Here’s an idea. Why don’t you just tell me where I’m actually going rather than where I’m NOT going?”
“Well, I’m just trying to give you accurate instructions,” he huffed.
After going over the instructions one more time, I thanked him graciously and told him I look forward to seeing him. In the time since I began this post he has called two more times. If this doesn’t stop I’m not going to get to miss him at ALL during this trip.
But at least I’m sure I’ll be able to find him. And lest I sound ungrateful for his assistance, be assured that I'm very grateful for his desire to help. He took a lot of time to make notes about it all. And I'm grateful for the directions. I even wrote some of them down. I may even use them. You know, if, for whatever reason, I decide I need to know where I’m NOT going and what I'm NOT seeing. Also? My notes will be easily accessible. After all, I wrote them down on the back of the printout I made of the easy to follow map I downloaded from Map Quest.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I know I can't keep him young and innocent forever, but I hate these reminders that he's growing up, growing more aware, and entering into a whole new (and for me, unnerving) part of life. I wish I could make those innocent years last. I wish I could keep him my baby just a bit longer.
I knew this was coming, of course. After all, we had THE TALK with him quite some time ago. At the time, he found the whole concept of where babies come from a little, well, silly. Still, I was pleased that he was able to ask his questions frankly and without embarrassment because we really want to establish a relationship with Son in which he feels he can confide in us or come to us with questions. This is mostly because I lived in terror for several weeks when I was in kindergarten after Bradley Carter kissed me at recess. I loved babies, but felt that at the tender age of five I was much too young to be starting a family and according to my sources (namely my friend Misty) families are formed by kissing.
Not long after THE TALK, Son and I were shopping together. After writing a check I produced my driver's license. While I was hoping, as I always do, that the cashier would see my picture and accuse me of using stolen ID (never has such a horrid picture graced a license of any kind, including those given to graduates of the Bela Lugosi School of Horror Film Cosmetology) I noticed something; Son was studying my ID as well, with a very concerned look on his face.
By the time we reached the parking lot, I realized Son hadn't spoken since we left the store. This is extremely out of character for him. He never stops talking. Ever. He doesn’t even stop while he's asleep. I asked if he was okay and he nodded, but I could tell he was deep in thought. I knew exactly what to do. Rejoice and enjoy the few moments of silence!
But alas, the silence did not last long. As soon as we were in the car the questions began.
"Mom, what information is on your driver's license?"
"Oh, it has my name, my address, my birthday, stuff like that."
"Yeah, I know but what else?"
"Well, it lists how tall I am and what color my eyes are and what color my hair is."
"Yeah, Mom, I know that, but what else is on there?" At that point I figured he'd seen the picture and wondered why they'd put a photo of someone who clearly does not resemble me AT ALL on my ID. While I tried to think of an explanation for that, I stalled by asking,
"Son, is there something specific you'd like to ask me?"
"Oh, nothing. Never mind." That was new. It is unheard of for Son to voluntarily end a line of questioning. The officials at the Nuremberg trials would have been as likely to stop asking questions with, "So, what did you think of the Bratwurst?" Something was definitely up.
"Son, if you have a question, you are free to ask." I watched in the rearview mirror as he fidgeted a bit.
"No, it's probably none of my business."
Son considers everything to be his business. He is one of the greatest eavesdropping, spying, nosiest snoops of all time. He'll even yell from his surveillance spot at the top of the stairs for clarification when Hubs and I are having what we foolishly believe to be a "private" conversation" and don't speak clearly enough.
I tried to think what possible question he could have about my driver's license that could cause this unprecedented display of concern for privacy, but I couldn't come up with anything.
"Son, I appreciate your respect for my privacy. If you have a question though, you are free to ask. If it really isn't any of your business I'll tell you so."
He thought another minute and then, blushing more than a little he asked, "Well, I was just wondering. How come you got an "F" in sex?"
Without hesitation I replied, “That’s none of your business.”
Before I could explain that I was kidding though, he asked me in all seriousness, “Is that why I’m an only child?”
Like I said, I’m going to miss the years of Son's innocence. Not only did I feel he was still very much my baby, but he was incredibly entertaining.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I always knew that as I got older things would change. I guess the surprise is the fact that I got older so fast. Just last week I could read a book as I held it in my hands. Now I find myself holding the book out at arm's length. By next week I'll no longer be able to read at all without an assistant to stand down the street and hold the book up in my line of vision.
I've discovered that a lot of people mumble. I have to ask them to repeat themselves. Most bothersome is the fact that I've caught myself leaning toward them, trying to get my "good ear" close enough to pick up their words. It was bad enough when I realized coloring my hair was going to be something I had to do to maintain my natural color, rather than a fun change. But I've come to terms with these things. Almost.
What I'm having a hard time with is the loss of my ability to effortlessly perform mindless tasks with my hands, while letting my mind occupy itself with more interesting things. That's right. I have lost my ability to multi-task. I'm telling you, this loss is harder to deal with than the reality that gravity is really not my friend. I've suspected for some time now that my multi-tasking days may be drawing to a close. After my trip to the bank today I have decided that the end is closer than I thought.
It seemed like a simple plan--an errand I've done many times before. I needed to go to the bank, then to the grocery store. The doctor had written some prescriptions that I needed to have filled at the pharmacy. And then, assuming I could still remember where I live, I would go home.
I made it to the bank without incident. Well, if you consider making it to the bank without getting lost, getting a traffic ticket, or being involved in any kind of pedestrian related accident "arriving without incident" and frankly, I do. Okay, sure I knocked my water bottle over, soaking my grocery list and my jacket, but still, I thought I was doing fairly well.
I pulled into the drive-thru at the bank and with one hand I quickly stuffed my deposit into the canister, pushed the little button and sent it on its way while I used my other hand to attempt to salvage my grocery list. Like I said, so far so good. Or so I thought.
"I'm not sure we can help you with this transaction."
"Why? Is there a problem?" How could there be a problem? It was just a deposit? I'd filled out the deposit slip, endorsed the checks...what else was there? I was at the right bank, right? At that point, I realized the teller was holding something to the window, pointing at it and smirking. I squinted as I tried to see what she was holding up for my inspection.
I smiled sheepishly and then laughed. "Um...Yeah. I'm probably going to need those later at the pharmacy," I admitted as I watched her stuff the prescriptions back into the canister.
"It might be best. I can give you a lollipop, though, if that helps."
"Oh, yes. That would be great, thanks!" We laughed a bit more and as I prepared to drive away I saw her talking to another teller and pointing in my direction. Nice.
On the bright side, I'll probably forget all about this little embarrassment as soon as I stumble across yet another way to embarrass by self, which given my record, should be any minute now.
At least she didn't ask if one of my prescriptions was for Aricept. Or perhaps she did. I forget.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Life has been busy. For starters, I've fallen off the wagon. It's very sad and Hubs is thinking of staging an intervention. I refer of course to computer Solitaire. I realized a couple of years ago that I was wasting entirely too much time playing this game and in the end deleted the game from the computer. But that was the old computer. This is a new computer and sadly I have heard and answered the irresistible siren call of the cyberworld: Solitaire.
It may be okay for some people to play this game once in awhile, but I'm not one of those people. For me it's best to stay away from it all together. (I'm thinking it's probably a good idea I've never tried drugs or alcohol. I'd probably be ready to enter rehab within a week.) I now understand the desperation in my child's voice when he begs for "just one more game". What is this compelling need to see if this time I can go just a little faster, score more points, and see if my will to play is stronger than my desire to avoid carpal tunnel surgery? There is an answer of course. I believe it's called OCD. That's okay, though. There's medication for that. But lest you think I've just been sitting here for a month playing Solitaire, I would like to point out that I've been doing other things. And they have been exciting things too. For example, I've been playing Tetris on Nintendo with Son.
For those who haven't played Tetris before, it's a game in which differently shaped blocks fall from the top of the screen and the object of the game is to fit them into place forming a solid bar at the bottom of the screen. Once a bar is complete it vanishes. If the bars have gaps, they stay there and eventually build up to the top of the screen at which point Son yells HAHAHAHA! (Translation: Mom lost.) Not that this has been a total waste of time. First of all, I take advantage of every chance I have to spend with Son. He's already reached the age when having parents in public is absolutely mortifying. I figure it's only a matter of time before he realizes we are every bit as embarrassing at home. But wait! There's more! Not only do I get to spend time with Son, I can also pack a suitcase more efficiently, load a trunk full of groceries, and make the most of my cupboard and closet space! Thank you, Tetris!
I've also been spending a lot of time outside. Spring has finally decided to make an appearance here. We have a big yard and there are endless landscaping possibilities. The previous owners left wonderful flower beds and a HUGE lawn. There's nothing actually IN the flower beds, but they are there and I've spent much of my time outside working on them. Oh okay, I've spent a lot of time sitting on the deck thinking about working on them. Considering my lack of a green thumb (or any other green digits) I may be better off planting silk flowers in the yard like one of our neighbors does. (I'm serious here. Silk flowers. Year round.) So anyone with ideas for something simple (read low maintenance) and hard to kill, please let me know. I'll get Hubs to plant it right away.
I've realized, however, that this life of laziness and obsessive compulsive computer game playing can't last forever. And don't think I'm not really sad about that. But I've accumulated stories to tell over the last month, including the tale of the latest April Fool's joke on my brother. So I'll be back! (Just let me play one more game of Solitaire first.)
Monday, April 03, 2006
Throughout my life, I had one goal. No, not winning an Olympic medal, achieving fame and fortune or writing the great American novel. My goal was much more lofty, much less attainable, and I persevered. Finally, after years of failure and frustration, this year I was successful! I refer, of course, to the grand aspiration of duping my brother on April Fool’s Day.
April Fool’s Day is a tradition my brother Ryan observes with the devotion and reverence generally reserved for religious holidays or Star Trek conventions. In our family, he’s the undisputed Prince of Pranks. Though Ryan has managed to trick every family member at least once, no one has ever been able to fool him. This presented an irresistible challenge to me.
Several weeks ago, Ryan, a generous and helpful, albeit occasionally sadistic soul, graciously gave me a computer he no longer needed. He mentioned that his young children had used it, and the hard drive would require reformatting. I accepted it gratefully, since Mike doesn't like me using his computer (I break stuff.) and the computer I had been using resembled the Flintstone’s bowling scorekeeper, only slower. Since I experienced several glitches before everything was running properly, I was in frequent contact with Ryan asking for advice, so setting up my prank was much easier.
It couldn’t be anything elaborate, because that would make him suspicious. Simplicity, timing and false complacency were vital to my success. I set him up by sending an e-mail late the night before April first. In my message, I mentioned that while looking at the information stored on the hard drive, I had discovered some rather alarming files, and wondered if he could call me the following morning in order to help me remove them. Since I’m about as technically inclined as an Amish hausfrau, I knew he’d find nothing odd about my request.
The next morning, as predicted, Ryan contacted me via instant messenger. The following is an excerpt of our conversation, beginning with his question:
R: So what’s up with the computer?
S: Oh, right. Well, Michael was working on it yesterday and he said that he found some pretty bad stuff on the hard drive.
R: Really. Hmm. Well I think that hard drive is actually the one I swapped out of Muriel's computer when I was trying to get hers to work.
(I had to laugh. Muriel is our step-grandmother. She is a dear, sweet, spiritual woman. Undeterred, I pressed on.)
S: Then it would seem that Muriel has some explaining to do.
R: She once complained of some emails she got, and I’ve been over there a few times when her grand kids have messed up her computer.
S: That could explain it. I was a little concerned, wondering why you were surfing satanic cults, buying drugs online and looking up some other strange things. At any rate, can it be cleaned up somehow? I don’t want to risk having my son stumble across this stuff.
R: Probably. You want to cook dinner for us tonight?
(It’s at times like these I suspect that R just might be a masochist. But dare I pass up an opportunity to cause him to wonder if I’d poisoned him?)
S: Sure! We’d love to have you.
R: You cook, and I’ll be there.
S: Great. Some of this stuff is really disturbing. Someone’s been looking up instructions for meth labs, pipe bombs, where to buy Sudafed in bulk. I really wouldn’t have thought M was into that kind of thing. Not that I thought you were, of course.
R: You’re not serious. Meth labs? Are you kidding me?
S: Why would I make this up?
R: Because I’ve always suspected that you’re slightly deranged.
S: Fair enough. Let’s see, there are instructions here on the proper method of kitten sacrifice...hmm, goat sacrifice too. I'm not even going to start on the "questionable” viewing matter.
R: Hey, that’s some pretty whacked stuff. I wonder if I need to be concerned. Do you know how big that hard drive is?
S: Me? I don’t even know what a hard drive does.
R: Sorry, I lost my head for a second. Can you ask Mike?
S: He’s not here. I think it’s 4 gigs, though.
R: Are you sure?
(I thought I’d better play dumb before he got suspicious.)
S: I think so. Mike said our old one was two jigs and this one is twice as big.
S: Jigs, gigs, whatever. You know what I mean.
R: Well, now you’ve got me wracking my brain trying to sort out the history of that machine. When I built M’s computer, I bought several used parts and interchanged them until I got it working, then I took all the leftover parts to build the machine I gave you, that’s why knowing the size of the hard drive would help.
S: You’re quite the Dr. Frankenstein aren’t you? You know, you’re just lucky your little girls never saw this stuff.
R: That’s why I’m concerned.
S: On the bright side, you may not have to explain where the new baby came from after all. You may want to tell the neighbors to keep an eye on their cats, though.
R: Wonderful. Hey, I just got off the phone with my wife and I asked her who else could have used that computer. The only one she could think of was her cousin Greg so she’s calling him right now.
S: Very interesting.
R: I’ll come down tonight and figure it out.
By now, I was beginning to worry just a little. While fooling Ryan is delicious, well-deserved retribution, I adore his wife and wouldn’t want to upset her. I realized it was time to come clean.
S: By the way, isn’t your birthday coming up?
R: Yes, in a couple of weeks.
S: Two weeks from tomorrow, isn’t it?
R: Yeah, it is, come to think of it.
S: So that would mean today is...(I waited a few beats.)
R: You suck.
S: You know Mom doesn’t like that word. I’d hate to have to tell her.
R: Yes, I’ll bet you would. You still owe me dinner.
S: Fine. And to show you my heart’s in the right place, I won’t even cook.
Later that day, Ryan called me.
“Guess what? The apartment we’re planning to rent until our house is built isn’t available for a few weeks. We were going to stay with Greg, but he was so offended by the false accusations Kimberly made when she called to ask about the computer, that he no longer wishes to accommodate us. So, either you figure out a way to appease Greg, or we’re coming to stay with you!”
He's bluffing. Neither of our masochistic streaks could survive that.
The "Model" Prank
Call me smug, but I’m still relishing my unprecedented success in tricking my brother Ryan on April Fool’s Day. I know it’s still bothering him. I"ve had to point out that if it isn’t April, it’s just lying. Historically, he’s never seemed to have a problem with that. Among his lame attempts at retribution thus far, I’ve been forced to listen to "strange men" make lewd propositions over the phone. (Ryan practiced on Mike who fell for it completely, poor guy. He was pretty rattled. If he had grown up with Ryan he would know that Ryan plays that joke on everyone at least once. Any one familiar with his work knows that Ryan's instrument of choice for pranks is the telephone.
Ryan's past misdeeds include charming the receptionist at school into calling Mom and telling her that Ryan had been suspended pending the lab results of the white powder found in his locker. One year, he coaxed a friend’s mother to call, posing as an ER nurse telling Mom she really needed to get to the hospital right away to sign release forms for Ryan's emergency surgery. Personally, I thought that the hospital was a wise location for Ryan to choose to reveal that it was a joke. When Mom’s that angry, being near an ICU is probably a good thing for all concerned.
My personal favorite was the April Fool’s Day that fell less than two weeks before Ryan was scheduled to return from Chile where he had been serving an LDS mission. He had been gone for two years, and since missionaries are only permitted two telephone calls home a year, we’d only spoken to him three times. He elected to use his last call to fool Mom.
He found another English-speaking missionary, walked miles to the nearest phone, and had the missionary call our mother. Mom was informed that due to suspected illegal anti-government activity, Ryan’s passport had been confiscated and he wouldn’t be returning home as soon as expected. Mom did her best to remain calm and did a pretty good job until she heard, “They have him in custody, but don’t worry. For a South American prison, it’s not that bad.”
Mom was a tad alarmed. “Prison? Prison! What on earth has happened? I’d better come down there and get this worked out.” Just then, as is often the case, the connection was lost. Mom went into a complete frenzy, trying to decide whether to call the airlines first or Church Headquarters. And wait, what if they were trying to call back? She needed to keep the line open, right? Should she go to the neighbor's and use their phone?
As I watched her fret, something dawned on me.
“Mom, it’s April first. Is there the smallest chance that this is just a joke?”
“He wouldn’t do that!”
“Wouldn’t he? Remember when he had the IRS call to tell you that you were being audited?”
She thought a moment and then reminded me, "He’s a missionary. Missionaries don’t do that sort of thing."
I rolled my eyes. I had just returned from a mission of my own. In the mission field, practical jokes are a time-honored and cherished tradition. If this was in fact a joke, it was comparatively mild. By then, however, Mom was beyond hearing me. As she was babbling something about the need to bring back carrier pigeons for emergency use, the phone rang again.
I picked it up, since Mom was having trouble speaking coherently at that point.
“Hola! Hey, Stacey? It’s Ryan!”
“Well, hello, Ryan. How good of you to call.” I looked at Mom who stood trembling nearby. “So, how are things in prison? I do hope they treating you well.” It took nearly a full minute for Mom to process that I had Ryan on the line. From my sarcastic tone, she also realized something was up. She narrowed her eyes in suspicion as the conversation continued. I could almost feel the glee dripping through the phone connection.
“So did Mom fall for it? Did she?”
“Did she fall for it? You might say that.”
“Good one huh? Except we lost the phone connection before we could tell her it was a joke, but that probably just made it even more convincing.”
I looked at my mother who was now fully aware that she’d been duped. “Oh, it was convincing all right. You may want to hide out in South America until it blows over, however.”
At that point, Mom took the phone from me and after listening to her side of the conversation I didn’t think my advice to Ryan about becoming a fugitive was overstating the seriousness of her wrath.
This year, I pulled a simple prank on Ryan. It wasn’t a technically brilliant or elaborate joke, but the fact that I tricked him at all was deeply upsetting for Ryan, which was all the more rewarding for me.
Ryan blames his lapse in attention to the stress caused by moving. He and his wife are building a house in Salt Lake City. The house where they’ve lived for several years has sold, so they plan to rent an apartment until the new house is finished. The only problem is, the apartment is not available for another month, so they made arrangements to stay with a relative in the interim.
The night after I led him to believe he had given me a hard drive corrupted with alarming downloads, Ryan came to our house for dinner. When he arrived, he
looked glum and stressed. He repeated the statement he had made earlier in the day:
“Guess what? Because of the accusations and questions Kimberly made about the computer, Greg is insulted and no longer wishes to accommodate us. So guess where we staying instead?”
Ever the thoughtful sister, I drafted a letter to the contractor building Ryan’s home in an attempt to resolve his housing situation in the upcoming months:
I'm writing this letter to tell you how much I enjoyed touring your model homes. They are probably the nicest model homes I’ve ever visited, and that’s saying something. You also have the best doorbells. Having model homes available for prospective buyers is a brilliant marketing strategy. One of my hobbies is to visit different model homes in order to experience their environments. This helps me decide which home would be the best one for me.
It’s apparent that Fieldstone is dedicated to building homes that are best suited for their buyers. However, I have noticed one thing that would make your model homes even more attractive. While you have the sofa, the beds, the tables and chairs, it still doesn't feel like a "home". Why? Because everyone is a guest! Think about it: do you have people who just wander through your own personal residence, never cooking or cleaning or lifting a finger? Except for teenagers, no one actually walks around your house to see if they want to live there. It feels very impersonal.
To solve this dilemma, I have an exciting proposition for you. I would like to move into one of your model homes for the next 3-10 months. I will live there doing normal activities like eating, sleeping and playing bongos. (I will not give concerts). I will have friends in to visit, view classic films (The Simpson’s seasons 1-5) and listen to music. (There will be no dancing.) I can also watch TV and play video games if you can provide those accessories. (I prefer Nintendo, but can adapt to Playstation if necessary.) This will be a great benefit for you since people will be able to tour my model home and see just what it would be like to live there. "Look!" people will say, "If we bought a Fieldstone home we, too, would be blissfully content playing video games and eating Doritos while lounging around in our pajamas! Let's buy now!"
In your current marketing strategy, no one who visits a model home ever gets to see people actually living there. I'm willing to provide this service at no cost to you, though I do require a security deposit. (Sometimes people who wander through model homes take things as souvenirs. I mean, so I hear.)
For your information, I've been living in model homes for many years now, so I can assure you that I'm very qualified, and other than a small fire incident, I have a great record! (Note: you may want to consider mentioning to buyers that the fireplaces are not well suited for grilling shish kebab.)
For a slightly increased fee, I'm available for extra services such as vacuuming with a smile (show potential buyers what a joy it is to clean a fine Fieldstone Home!), hedge clipping (topiaries in the shape of Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters is extra), and conspicuously reading Marcel Proust. (Potential buyers will exclaim, “Surely these homes are designed for the intelligent and elite– we must buy one!)
For a limited time, I'm available to move in with a wife and three (possibly four) children. This way people can see that having a screaming child in one room, with a raucous game of water balloon badminton in the living room is quite manageable. At least more manageable than it was when we lived at the bus station. We would like to be your model family, living with our model children, teaching them to be model students and model citizens while living in your model home. I feel this will be very advantageous in targeting your desired family demographic.
Best of all, other than the aforementioned optional expenses, my services are completely free! Act now, and I guarantee your sales, not to mention your reputation, will transcend your current projections.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Son was out of school Friday. It was raining and cold so he was stuck indoors. We decided to rent a movie and a video game. Son found the game he wanted right away. It was a spy game and had a teen rating but he assured me his friend has it at home.
"Please, Mom?" Son begged. "It's not that violent or anything." I looked at the cover and read the description. It seemed okay, so I agreed to the rental but made sure I sat down to watch to see what "not that violent" means in Son's world.
The first part of the game was tame enough: learning to drive the spy car as it morphs into different cars. And then I saw him go to the next level. As he drove over several little people on the screen I became concerned.
"Son, are you aware that you've just run over a few people?"
"Yeah, cool huh?"
"You mean you did it on purpose?"
"Sure. Now watch this!" Before I had a chance to say anything else, he started shooting. The car was equipped with "cool" guns that he could fire from the grill. (Wow, is he going to be disappointed when he finds out Dad's Honda doesn't do that.)
From there he started blowing up buildings. I'd had enough. "I thought you said this isn't violent."
"It's not. There's this one game that's SO awesome; you should see it! When you shoot people their guts splatter EVERYWHERE!"
"Whoa, where did YOU see this game?"
"At my friend's house." Of course.
We had a lengthy discussion about the games he plays and the fact that splattering someone's internal organs everywhere is not a good use of his time. (Unless he's a surgeon, of course, which frankly I'm kind of hoping for because he's going to need the income to cover the psychotherapy he will no doubt need one day after being raised by Mike and me.)
In the end we came to an agreement. He agreed not to play--or at least not whine a lot when I refuse to let him play-- games that depict murder and destruction as "cool" and in return I agreed to let him think I'm tragically unhip. I can live with that. I'm also never getting into a car with him if he's driving. I'm not that crazy.
Monday, March 20, 2006
No, what I found wasn't horrible, it was just...odd. You see, hidden away with the Hot Wheels cars (How this child sleeps comfortably I will never know) I found a half-eaten box of raw linguine. I'm not sure why he'd have a box of uncooked pasta under his matress. Of course I can't really imagine why he'd have cooked pasta there either. At any rate, my big question is: WHY? Do we not feed him enough? Surely that can't be it. I'm convinced Son is part goldfish and will just keep eating as long as food is available or until he finally can't eat anymore, an event that would most likely be indicated by paramedics carrying him out on a stretcher while we stand trying to explain to Social Services, "Well, he said he was still hungry..." And before anyone (Mom) gets all excited about this, we do limit his portions. One side of beef per meal is sufficient, and we almost never let him eat a whole box of Twinkies by himself, so just relax. (Actually, the kid is a little weird in that he doesn't really like candy, or cake and for that matter he hates chocolate. I swear I'm taking him in for DNA tests for this can surely not be my biological child. Not that it matters if he's not, but I do find this intriguing, since in all other ways he is my mini-me and discovering that he's his own person with his own quirks and his own personality has taken some getting used to. But I digress. ) Does he just like the taste of raw pasta? I suppose that's possible. But why is he hiding it? Sure, I think it's strange but I've lived with this boy for nearly eleven years now and believe me when I say that I let a LOT of strange things slide by without comment. I have come to the realization that little boys are odd little creatures; loveable, but odd. And sometimes it's best to just get the popcorn, sit back and watch the show, for he is nothing if not entertaining. Sometimes on purpose, even.
But this time I just had to ask. "Son, I was changing your sheets today and I've got a question."
Son looked at me blankly and said,
"Well, I found a box of raw pasta. Any explanation for that?" He looked at me like it was no big deal, as if it's common to store pasta, grains and heaven only knows what else under a mattress. Then he simply shrugged and said,
"Um, well, you know. It's just that, well, you never know."
"You never know what? You never know when you may need to host a dinner party in your room and don't want to be caught unprepared?" My question was answered with much rolling of the eyes followed by,
"Mom, I know you don't understand this, but I just like the way it tastes."
After agreeing that if in the future he feels the need to munch raw pasta, he will ask permission and do said munching in the kitchen, everything seemed fine.
I do have one remaining concern, however. How could a child of mine possibly have pasta hidden under his bed without at least a pint of Alfredo sauce hidden in the bookcase? He must get it from his father's side.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
But first, allow me to familiarize you with the principal cast members of our little drama.
First we have Alan. We’ve known each other since we were both 21 years old and that was, well, let’s just say he’s known me for a long time. He’s the brother I never realized I had, complete with the ability to irritate me to the point where I actually start wondering how many times I can back over him with my car and still make it look like an accident. Ours is a friendship based primarily on practical jokes and annoying each other; like siblings, but better because if we ever really tick each other off our parents aren’t put in the awkward position of taking sides.
Alan is married to Veronica. She is one of those people that are so sweet and kind that it ought to be obnoxious somehow and you’re not entirely sure why you don’t absolutely hate her, or why you don’t at the very least get nauseated by her unrelenting sweetness and yet you just can’t because that would be wrong and wrong things don’t happen around Veronica. Well, they do sometimes but they shouldn't.
Our next character is Veronica’s sister Charlotte. Charlotte is in many ways like her sister with the added bonus of being totally willing to do pretty much anything on a dare including spending an entire evening at the mall while wearing a tiara just to see if anyone notices. (Conclusion: Yes. Many people noticed. At least as far as I could see from my vantage point far, far away.)
So the other day, Son and I went with Alan, Veronica, their young son and Charlotte at the mall. Alan took the boys off to do “man stuff.” (Don’t ask. I didn’t want to know and you probably don’t either.) Veronica, Charlotte and I happily headed off to one of our favorite stores, Bath and Body Works.
And I was happy. I really was. This is a GREAT store, one from which I usually emerge with at least 14 different fragrances sprayed somewhere on my person so that I can really no longer distinguish the difference between, say, Japanese Cherry Blossom and Nachos and Orange Julius From the Food Court. It is a happy, happy place. And so, there we were, Veronica, Charlotte and I, being happy, sampling different lotions and scrubs and other wondrous things. Veronica was there on a mission to find a new fragrance and by George, as her friend I was going to help. And so it was that we were standing together with open bottles and tubes of lotion trying to find a fragrance she liked. I very innocently held out a bottle, indicating that I would graciously hold it for her while she sniffed because I’m helpful that way. But no, Veronica had to get all jumpy and suspicious as if I, of all people, might try something ridiculous and juvenile. And I’d be really hurt by her suspicions if it weren’t for the fact that, well, she knows me.
Honestly, though, I SWEAR I really was planning on just holding it. But when she looked at me with mild concern, you know, sort of like a security guard might look at you as you try to cart a rifle and a wood chipper through an airport terminal, I was overcome by an irresistible temptation. I didn’t mean to do anything really bad. Really. I was just going to squeeze ever so gently and leave a teeny, tiny dab of lotion on the tip of her nose. So you see it was all very innocent, really. How was I supposed to know that huge great globs of gloop would come squirting out? I have at LEAST a dozen of these very same lotion bottles at home right now. I use this stuff DAILY. MANY TIMES DAILY. AND THIS NEVER HAPPENS. But this time it did.
And so, I very quickly set the bottle down and in an attempt to avoid being seen by store security, or anyone else for that matter, I tried to just rub the lotion in really quickly. People were doing this all over the store so I thought I could do it without looking too out of place if my friends would just STOP LAUGHING ALREADY. Okay, the other people weren’t frantically rubbing great globs of gloop up and down their arms from shoulder to wrist, but still. It was about then that we realized that the stuff was NOT being absorbed well into my skin, though I’d like to point out that I did manage to rub it in completely. Charlotte, or possibly Veronica pointed out that the reason for this difficulty might be because rather than lotion, this was creamy body wash. They were both laughing, but were kind enough to point me in the direction of a sink where I could presumably wash the stuff off my arms.
Problem: there was some guy at the sink and he wasn’t leaving. I have no idea why he was there, but he was and he looked like he planned to stay for quite some time. I figured I’d just leave the store, walk very briskly to a restroom and remedy the situation there. But my dear friends were laughing too hard at me to listen to the plan. And then I did, I admit it, I did raise both my hands to the surgeon-after-the-washing-of-the-hands position and I did move toward Veronica as if to hug her and transfer some of this stuff to her so that she could share in my predicament. I swear on all I hold dear I wasn't going to touch her. I just wouldn't go that far. Well, Veronica, it turns out, can duck and cover REALLY fast. Not really smoothly, but still, really FAST. She evaded me entirely. She also made a really sickening sort of thudding noise as she smacked her face into the corner of the shelf behind her. She sort of stumbled back in a dazed sort of way. She turned around, looking a bit stunned, with her hands over her forehead. I felt terrible of course but she was laughing. How bad could it be?
So, yes, I was concerned, but not nearly as concerned as I was when she lowered her hands and we saw the blood dripping from her forehead. BLOOD, people. ON HER FOREHEAD. And this was no ordinary little scratch that could be hidden somehow. Oh no. It was sort of a ‘Y’ shaped replica of the corner she’d hit and it was dead center on her forehead. Had she actually paused to take aim, she could not have centered it more accurately.
I got a band-aid from my purse, while Veronica dabbed at the blood with a tissue she got from somewhere. No good. It was bleeding through the band-aid. This was bad. This was very, very bad. She kept assuring us that she was certain she was fine (It's just a flesh wound!) and in fact she thought perhaps her vision was even a tiny bit improved. I was certain she was at the very least concussed, but her sister held a finger up to Veronica’s glasses and stuck it through the space where a lens was supposed to be. Charlotte was somehow able to locate the lens before someone stepped on it and I was later informed that the lens tends to slip out of place from time to time so this wasn’t entirely my fault, but still.
I felt horrible for Veronica, but I confess I was nervous for other reasons. Mostly because Alan? Well, he's a cop. And he has a gun. Also, he has bullets. Probably. So I wasn't real excited by the prospect of finding him and somehow explaining that his wife and I were goofing off and we had somehow managed to break her face and that even though she was protesting that she probably just needed to sit down for a minute, I thought she should probably be seen by someone who could prevent at least some of her blood from leaving her body via the nifty new hole I’d just startled her into poking through her own forehead.
Now, I was very concerned about V. I truly was. I want to make it very clear that my first concern was making certain that she was okay and getting her the medical attention I suspected she would probably need. And all my actions from that point on were to that end. (Fine time to start behaving responsibly, no?)
The guilt. Having any part in hurting Veronica is akin to torturing bunnies and kittens. AT THE SAME TIME! Also? Feeling a little guilty because an ostensibly adult type person really has no business goofing off that way in public. (Probably not in private either, but I can only grow up so much. Sadly my guilt has in no way been assuaged by the fact that I returned and purchased the lotion/creamy body wash bottle I’d inadvertently emptied earlier)
You know that feeling you got as a kid when you had done something really, really bad and you knew there was no way on earth you could possibly hide it because hiding it would only make matters worse and besides medical attention was probably needed so there was really no choice but to confess immediately, and you just knew that when your mom or dad or teacher or Miss Hannigan found out they were going to kill you, or maybe make you mop the floors with all the other orphans and then they’d get mad at you too, but you could avoid a fight if you could just think of a nice song and dance number? Well, I’m sorry to say that though my friend was sitting there BLEEDING, I reverted (from the 8-year old lotion/body wash squirting child) into full-on, five-year-old, I’m-going-to-get-KILLED-for-this mode. And I’m sorrier to say that I had nary one show tune come to mind.
It actually occurred to me that perhaps I could somehow comb her bangs over it all, quickly bid them all a good night and head for the hills before Alan noticed anything amiss. (Hey, Veronica didn’t want to go to the hospital anymore than I did; it could have worked.) But alas, Veronica does not have bangs and she was bleeding rather a lot. Besides, her husband is quite attentive and was almost as likely to realize that his wife was sporting a new Cousin It look as he was to notice the fact that it appeared someone had attempted to carve a swastika with only partial success on his wife’s forehead.
By this point, it was clear that the band-aid wasn't going to work. So we went to find A. We looked every inch the group of responsible adult women as we walked through the mall with Veronica bleeding and protesting that she was just fine, Charlotte in her tiara and me, doing my very best deer-in-the-headlights impression. We found Alan, who remarkably enough has NOT killed me (yet) and after trying to explain, I did what any terrified person would do: I called my mother.
Now before you completely condemn me for this, my mother works for a doctor. She sees wounded people all the time so I was hoping she’d be able to help us. I handed the phone over to Alan and he and Mom decided during a conversation that I’m sure was much shorter than the three days it seemed to take, with much discussion of the location and appearance of the wound, that if Veronica didn’t want a scar she should probably go to the ER.
Meanwhile I was helpfully thinking thoughts like: IT’S DEAD CENTER, MOM. DEEP. BLOOD. LOTS OF BLOOD. LET’S JUST GO RIGHT NOW because I am certainly not one to panic or anything. Then Alan and Veronica debated whether she should go to the ER because Veronica really did NOT want to go. But she is nothing if not a good sport so off we all went anyway, to the emergency room, where Veronica had her head glued back together. And how great was the relief that she didn’t require actual stitches because as reasonable and kind as V is, she really DIDN’T want stitches and there is probably a limit to just how much she’s willing to put up with while staying as my guest. In fact, I think the tetanus shot may have been pushing it.
And that’s how Veronica spent the first night of her visit and why she will now be scarred for life with a sort of half-Charles Manson, half Harry-Potter-lightning bolt look. The good news is that once she was finished at the ER she still wanted to go out for dinner and then she spent the next two nights at my house. AT MY HOUSE! WHERE I LIVE! WHERE THERE ARE EVEN MORE CORNERS AND PROBABLY EVEN MORE BATH AND BODY PRODUCTS THAN IN THE STORE!
Maybe she hit her head harder than we thought.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Originally posted on Observatons of a Misfit
March 11, 2005
Mostly Bizarre, With a Chance of Showers
When I volunteered to serve a mission for my church, it never occurred to me that I would end up in Japan. When I got the letter telling me where I’d be serving, I was stunned. I’d never really been out of Utah, other than a few weeks in California. I had no idea what to expect. Nevertheless, I was determined to succeed. Therefore, I prepared, as most people would, with
the time-honored study method of watching "The Karate Kid II." This was very helpful, as I learned two very important facts: first, many people in Japan have a tendency to converse in Japanese. And, secondly, that America and Japan are very different cultures in almost every conceivable way, especially where manners are concerned.
If I were to describe the 18 months I spent in Japan with a single word, I’d have to say it was “wet.” At the risk of over generalizing, I would estimate that it rains at least 360 days a year in Japan. But one word is not enough to describe a country with Japan’s culture, ancient history, art, and its staggering beauty and traditions. Therefore, I would also like to choose the word, and I say this with the deepest possible respect, “bizarre”.
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was suddenly illiterate. I heard conversations that I didn’t understand. I saw billboards and neon signs (the Japanese are very fond of neon) that I couldn’t read. I felt like I had suddenly lost several IQ points. Fortunately, as I looked out the car window (trying not to notice the steering wheel was on the wrong side and the sensation that no one was driving the car) I finally saw, shining through the torrential downpour of the early April evening a shining beacon of familiarity: the Golden Arches. It wasn’t much, but it was beautiful to me.
Missionaries are not permitted to be alone, ever. We are assigned a “companion” missionary, and a new missionary is usually assigned to someone with more experience. So I wasn’t overly concerned by the fact that despite spending eight weeks studying Japanese for 10 hours a day at
a training center, the only words I could pronounce with confidence were hibachi and Sony. These words didn’t come up in conversation as much as you might think. My first companion was American, so I figured I’d be okay until I learned a few words. And during the brief time I was with her before she transferred, I’m happy to say that I learned to say a couple of complete sentences. True, I said them with a Tennessee accent, just like hers, but I learned them. I realized I didn’t know enough to carry on a conversation, but I wasn’t terribly worried. In fact, I was fine, right up until the moment I was introduced to my new companion. Her name was Hiromi Nakamatsu, a lovely girl, born and raised on Okinawa. With only rudimentary language skills between us (she could name the members of New Kids on the Block), we somehow managed to communicate.
Typical of the Japanese obsession with manners, my companion very politely refrained from pointing out that I was carrying a bag every day with the label from the airport still attached. I don’t know why I didn’t remove it. I was probably afraid I’d offend someone or break a law if I did take it off. One afternoon, we were waiting for a train and she offered to help me practice my reading. At her suggestion, I tried to read the sticker on my bag. Carefully sounding out each syllable I said, “oo ee su ki. Ooowiskee...whiskey?”
“Yes!” she said, apparently greatly relieved. She had been waiting for me to realize on my own that I was traipsing around Japan as a Mormon missionary with a label on my bag advertising the leading brand of whiskey.
I took advantage of a rare candid moment. “Have I been saying or doing other things wrong too?”
“You speak very well!” she answered.
This was Japanese for, “Yes, you idiot, you’ve been making a fool of yourself on a daily basis.”
Correcting people is considered very rude in Japan. The down side to this was that my companion was too embarrassed on my behalf to correct my errors, of which I’m certain there were many.
“No, really,” I insisted. “I want to know when I make a mistake. I can’t learn if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
After a lengthy discussion during which she assured me repeatedly that I spoke Japanese like a native (of America, presumably), my companion finally, and very reluctantly, admitted that, among other things, I had been referring to people as carrots, and that the word I was using daily for "spiritual" was just the tiniest bit incorrect.
“What is the right word?” I asked
“Reiteki.” she whispered, after apologizing profusely for correcting me.
“What have I been saying?”
“Seiteki” she told me, nearly in tears with shame.
I fumbled through my dictionary and discovered, to my horror, that although I had been trying to tell people that going to church was an enjoyable "spiritual experience," I was actually saying something slightly different. I had, in fact, been promising everyone I met "going to church can be an enjoyable sexual experience." In retrospect, it seems odd that, with promises like that, we didn’t have people beating down our door.
Naturally, the language mistakes are not one-sided. In America, it’s common to see Chinese or Japanese characters on t-shirts, jewelry designs, or even tattoos. We see them on signs and the little cartons from the Chinese take-out places. Most of us probably never even question just what these characters might mean. For all we know, someone is having a huge laugh at our expense with nonsensical phrases or obscene words on various items. I came up with this theory when I noticed a certain phenomenon in Japan. English is everywhere; it just never makes sense. Its purpose is purely decorative. The rice steamer in our apartment was inscribed with the thought-provoking phrase, “It is always so sweetly nice to drinking the happy tea with our family, naked.” On one street there was a bakery sign which proclaimed “Baked Flesh Dairy” and it was with more than a little concern that I read the words “White People Tissue” on a box of Japan’s version of Kleenex in the store one day. What did this mean? White tissue for people? Tissue for white people? Tissue of white people? What was in this box? One of my most cherished souvenirs is a bag from a store called “Sissy Boy” which sold, as you may have already guessed, stationery.
The Japanese adhere strictly to a precise behavioral code. The implicit rules of conduct are so complex and detailed, I could write an entire book about it and still barely scratch the surface. Suffice it to say, if an act seems familiar and socially acceptable to you as an American, it’s probably better that you resist the impulse to actually do it in Japan. Conversely, if any behavior seems crude or impolite in anyway, then it is very likely acceptable. For example, making certain digestive noises, which I am much too refined to describe, is perfectly acceptable in Japan.
I was carefully and repeatedly instructed about common American behavior that the Japanese find offensive. It would be easier to sum up what is not considered offensive about our culture: Disneyland. Other than that, we’re pretty much rude, uncouth boors who are unfit to socialize with other cultures. (It’s okay to buy their cars, however.) If the world were a formal dinner party, America would be the guest who shows up late, wearing a “Grateful Dead” t-shirt, and engages in loud, inappropriate conversation and unforgivable behavior such as leaving chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice.
By committing various seemingly harmless acts in Japan, I was able to bring shame on myself, my family, and my entire country. My first day there, I did something they consider truly outrageous. I didn’t even think about it. Prepare to be horrified. As I was walking, I put a piece of chewing gum in my mouth. Now, I know what you’re thinking: that walking and chewing gum at the same time is a display of great physical coordination of which we, as Americans, are particularly proud! This is precisely this kind of thinking that has made us the social sloths we are today. Only an extremely ill mannered cretin (or an American) would do something like walking and eating at the same time. Chewing gum in public, or anywhere else for that matter, is frowned upon. Walking while chewing gum is just asking to be deported. I know what you’re thinking now, and the answer to your question is: No, belching after eating while walking doesn’t compensate for the offense.
The inside of the mouth must never be seen, hence the images we’ve seen of demure Japanese women covering their mouths when they laugh. (Laughing loudly is taboo, as well; for women, anyway. Sedate giggling is the preferred, traditional method for expressing mirth.) There are also issues with the soles of the feet. You shouldn’t cross your legs, lest you subject some poor soul
to the shameless exhibition of the underside of your feet. If your hands are full, don’t even think about nudging a door open with your foot. Of course there’s an entire “manners code” devoted to shoes. It is important to remove your shoes when entering a home or an apartment. Once you remove your shoes, naturally, you put on a pair of slippers. However, if you enter a room with
straw mats on the floor, the slippers come off again. If you visit the “honorable hand-washing place” (the bathroom), you change into yet another pair of slippers. My husband, who also served a mission in Japan (although we didn’t meet each other there), told me he once forgot to make the slipper switch upon leaving the restroom while visiting someone’s home. When it was time to leave he noticed he was still wearing the bathroom slippers. The slippers sometimes have little stick figure drawings of people on them to remind you why you are in the bathroom in the first place, just in case you forget once you’re there. The Japanese are nothing if not helpful. Obviously, Mike and all of his descendants will carry the burden of the slipper fiasco for all time.
So, now that we understand that we don’t ever reveal the crude sight of the soles of our feet or the inside of our mouths, I would like to address the traditional ensemble of the Sumo wrestler. Seriously, these little outfits are grossly inadequate as far as coverage is concerned. In fact, I’m reasonably certain that parading about that way in America would lead to an arrest and
possibly a visit to a padded cell. Well, maybe not everywhere in America. My point is, how on earth is it acceptable for grown men to cavort about, attired in something which would not even pass as a bathing suit, yet the inadvertent display of the soles of one’s feet can be so excruciatingly offensive? There is, of course, an answer to this question. Probably. I just have no idea what it is.
I also couldn’t help noticing that many people in Japan seemed to be, what I call, for lack of a better term, clothing impaired. This was only in certain places like bathhouses and, evidently, apartment balconies. Still, I admit I was more than a little startled by how many people in Japan thought nothing of wandering about like Lady Godiva. (Without the horse, obviously. They ride bicycles, instead.) These are people who routinely bathe together. Not at home, of course, that would be scandalous. They go out in public for group bathing.
You will be very relieved to learn, however, that modesty still has a place in Japan. While traveling about we saw many of the ancient, traditional carved stone statues of Buddha and other deities that are common throughout Japan. There were often little offerings of potato chips and juice boxes left in front of them. The thing that really completed the scene, for me anyway, was the fact that the statues were frequently dressed, as you might expect, in Snoopy t-shirts.
Knowing what to keep covered, and how, is among the mysteries of the Orient. Sunglasses, for example, are not a good idea, unless you really want to be mistaken for a member of the Mafia. One day, during a brief moment when the rain had stopped, I pulled out a pair of sunglasses.
“What are you doing?” my companion gasped. (It was surprising how quickly she adapted to correcting me.) I looked around, making sure my feet were covered and my mouth was closed.
“What?” I finally asked. I lived in a state of paralyzed paranoia for at least the first month I was in Japan.
“The sunglasses. We don’t wear sunglasses.”
“No,” she said firmly.
“No.” She was adamant. “You mustn’t ever wear sunglasses here.”
“Is there a reason for this?” I asked.
“People will think you’re with the Mafia,” she warned.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I am. Only the Mafia wears sunglasses.”
“So you’re saying people are going to look at me and say, ‘Look, there’s a member of the Mafia
posing as an American missionary’?”
“Just put the glasses away.”
The Japanese Mafia can also be identified by the fact that they are the only ones driving American cars (Cadillacs, mostly), and are noticeably lacking a pinkie finger.
All in all, living in Japan was not exactly what I thought it would be when I watched "The Karate Kid." I saw, said, did and ate things I never thought possible. I'm pleased to say that I did learn to speak passable Japanese, though nowadays I only use it when I need to speak privately to Mike and our son is eavesdropping. I would never have believed how much I would come to love a country, a culture, and a people that seemed so, well, foreign. I hope to return one day, and when I do, I will don my sunglasses with impunity and swim at the beach in my modest, Catalina one-piece.
Friday, February 24, 2006
This week, Sam was having trouble with his rhythm plus he's also developing a bad habit of looking at his hands when he plays. I mean, it's not bad to look at your hands sometimes but if you're not careful it becomes something of a crutch. It's much like typing--looking at your hands just slows you down. I had a teacher who would often make me play blindfolded in order to learn to trust my hands. Plus, I'm pretty sure it gave him a chance to take a nap during the lesson.
The problem during Sam's lesson was that the boy would stop between every note, sigh heavily, look at his hands, find the note, then look back up at the music by which point he had completely lost his place. It's a fairly common problem. Most people instinctively trust only what their eyes can see, not realizing that the other senses can be trusted as well. So I decided to do a little extra work to teach Sam to trust his hands.
In order to help with the rhythm problems, I got out the metronome again. For those who have been spared this experience, a metronome is a torture device used to help ensure even rhythm by making a loud ticking sound at regular intervals. Sam is NOT a fan of the metronome. He tries to watch the pendulum swing back and forth while he sort of lunges toward the keyboard in a desperate attempt to anticipate the ticking. Now, I feel his pain here. I do. I have absolutely no sense of rhythm myself. It's something I have to work really hard for since it does not come naturally to me. In fact my teacher once observed, "You know, you don't even WALK rhythmically." This was a very creepy observation, I thought. I have lots of hatred of and a grudging appreciation for the metronome. Like Sam, I always wanted to watch it, trying to anticipate the clicks. It's really a frustrating thing to learn, if you're not naturally inclined. I once threw a metronome across the room and broke it into many tiny pieces. It was about that time that I learned that some metronomes are extremely expensive. Oops.
I could see that Sam was getting frustrated and upset, so I backed off for a few minutes. After all, the feelings of a young boy are fragile and so is my metronome. A few minutes later I came back to it. I said, "Okay Sam, here's what I want you to do. I want you to just relax. This is no big deal. It's not a competition, it's not a performance. If you make a mistake no one's going to hear it and no one's going to care. This is just an experiment. Okay? Now, I want you to close your eyes and just put your hands on the keys. Keep your eyes closed and then just touch the keys. Feel the sets of two black keys and the sets of three. Take your time. Just get used to how the keys feel under your fingers. Feel how far apart they are. Notice how far you have to move your fingers to reach from one key to the next. Can you feel the difference between the way the black keys and the white keys feel? Very good. Now, keeping your eyes closed I want you to find all the D's on the keyboard." (That's really easy because D is the note between every set of two black keys.) "Good, now find all the G's. Excellent work, Sam. You're doing great. Now find the A's." (Again, easy because those are the notes inside the sets of three black keys.) "Great job Sam, now I want you to keep your eyes closed and go back to C. Good. Now I want you to play the C major scale." He did it perfectly. "Sam, I'm so proud of you, you're doing so well. Now I'm going to set the metronome. Don't play anything, just listen to it. Can you hear it? Can you tap your foot along with it? Great. Okay, when your ready, play the scale again, one note with each click, but keep your eyes closed. You know where the notes are. You can feel them. You don't need to see them. Trust your fingers to find them. And you can hear the clicks of the metronome. You don't need to watch it move back and forth. Just listen. Take your time, just listen to the clicks. When you're ready, play."
He did it PERFECTLY.
I said, "Sam! You did it! I knew you could! Do you understand now?"
And then he smiled this little crooked half-smile and said, "Well, yeah. You mean you just want me to use the Force when I play, right?"
You realize what this means. Someday when he gets nominated for a Grammy, he's totally going to thank George Lucas.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Son recently became the first child in our family in generations to serve detention at school. We're very proud. He was understandably anxious about telling us, but he finally broke down and announced, "All the teachers are out to get me." For those who don't have children, permit me to translate. This means, "I got totally busted at school and I'm hoping to play on your sympathies." In my very best patient-and-concerned-mom voice I asked,
"Okay, tell me what happened."
"Well, you know how at school we're not allowed to throw snowballs?"
"Well, um, a bunch of fourth-graders have totally taken over the good slide on the playground and they had piled up all these snowballs where the teachers couldn't see them." Oh what an affront to Son's fifth-grade dignity: being attacked by fourth-graders.
"Well so they were throwing them and I was just trying to ignore them when I accidentally caught one."
"Wait, you caught a snowball?"
"I see. Go on." Yes, I know very well what the odds are of actually catching a snowball, but I was interested to see where he was going with this. He did not disappoint when he said, and I'd like to stress that this is an actual quote,
"Well, you see, I was leaning over to set it oh, so gently on the ground when the teacher came outside and totally got the wrong idea." I'm afraid Son didn't get quite the reaction for which he'd hoped.
"I see. Well that's terribly frustrating, but the fact is, you had a snowball in your possession, is that correct?"
"And having a snowball in your possession is against the rules?"
"NO! Just throwing them."
"Okay, but the problem here is that just having it in your possession is enough to get you in trouble, do you understand that?" He hung his head.
"Especially, if you were setting it down oh, so gently with your arm in pitching position, as I suspect you may have been. Am I close here?"
"Um, well...yeah. Maybe, " he admitted sheepishly.
"So, the facts are that, for whatever reason, you were seen with something in your possession that you weren’t supposed to have, and the consequence for that is that you've got detention, is that right?"
"So I shouldn't catch snowballs anymore."
Someday someone may approach Son with drugs or something else that, if found in his possession, could land in him in a lot more trouble than detention during recess. Better that he learn now, while the stakes are small. When the time comes, I hope he doesn't let me down. Because I don't think he could do it oh, so gently.
Monday, February 13, 2006
When my husband and I started dating he would have would have ACED these tests. The first Valentine’s Day we spent together, which incidentally was when we started dating, Michael showed up with my favorite flowers. This was no easy task, apparently, because he had to go to five different florists just to find the ones I love most. I would have been pleased with anything, really, but I admit I was impressed by the effort. That first Valentine’s Day he also gave me a teddy bear and jewelry, but the thing that touched me most was the poem he wrote himself.
I’ve never received a card from Michael in the entire time I’ve known him; at least, not a card he purchased. It’s not that he doesn’t care. It’s just that he doesn’t think it’s fair to buy someone else’s words and pass them off as his own. Fortunately, he has no problem writing down his own sentiments. Stashed away in my jewelry box among the other tokens of his affection are all the love notes that he’s given me over the years. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it. The notes are things I just stumble across at some point during the day. Sometimes I find them in the car, sometimes in my pocket. They are small and simple things, sometimes written on Post-it notes, but they are more valuable to me than the gemstones with which they are kept.
In the day-to-day world of being married and having a child, is the romance gone? No, of course not. Dinner out is much more likely to be an event that includes kids' menus and sippy cups, flowers don’t show up with the same frequency, and when we go dancing it usually involves pushing the kitchen table to the side of the room first. But he does still dance with me. No, I have never lacked for romance.
My husband is a very romantic man. He’s got all the gestures down--flowers, surprises, notes etc. And I may have mentioned once or twice that I personally believe him to be the most flawless combination of genetics ever assembled in human form. I mean the boy cleans up nicely. Very nicely. After 12 years of marriage I still find myself a little weak in the knees sometimes just looking at him. Oh yes, there is romance there.
Never in my life have I loved him more than when I've seen him sitting slumped in the rocking chair with his hair rumpled, his face covered in stubble and looking completely wiped out after spending the night with a sick child. That’s right. When our son is sick and I’m exhausted, Michael will send me to bed and sit up with Son himself.
When I am sick he takes care of me, too. He’ll bring me soup and keep Son occupied, then he’ll come in and listen to me whine and complain and when I’m finished he makes me laugh.
Flowers and moonlight are great. Make no mistake; I love that stuff. I so appreciate the fact that he continues to make romantic gestures. But when he borrows my car it comes home freshly washed with a full tank of gas. He’s not above throwing in a load of laundry and for a long time I couldn’t have told you what color our vacuum cleaner is. (Though that’s partly because I ceded the job to him once I learned about his bizarre obsession with the scientific patterns of vacuum lines in the carpet.)
When our automatic garage doors broke at the same time he fixed mine first. He still holds doors open for me. He actually finds my flaws endearing. When I trip and fall or do something remarkably stupid, I know before I look at him that he’ll be sitting there with that smile he gets when he’s trying really hard not to laugh, his shoulders shaking with the suppressed laughter. Then he helps me up and says, "Thanks for marrying me. I've never been so well entertained in my life." Sometimes (and I know there may be some who will accuse me of making this up but I swear it’s true) he lets me hold the remote. Perhaps the most telling sign of his love for me is the fact that as much as loves them, he wouldn’t dream of eating the last Oreo without seeing if I want half.
Not only does he love me, he extends the feeling to my entire family. He and my dad frequently go to lunch together, just the two of them. When I’ve been unable to attend a family function, Michael will go anyway. At family gatherings Michael will sit and happily chat with Dad. When they’re out Michael will slow his pace and walk next to Dad since my father isn’t as quick or steady as he once was.
Michael adores my mother and the feeling is mutual. I have suspected on more than one occasion that my parents might love him more than they do me. They’ve actually told me that in the event that Hubs and I ever divorce they’ll keep HIM. There is only one drawback to their relationship: I haven’t won an argument in YEARS.
And when I thank him for being so good to my parents my husband is genuinely baffled.
“What do you mean?” he asks. “I love your parents. They’re great.” I love that they have a relationship that exists independently. Plus, when I want something from my parents, having Michael ask is a sure-fire way to make it happen!
Unlike my parents, I do realize Michael isn’t perfect. There’s his unfortunate taste for disco music and his need to snooze the alarm clock for an hour before he can actually wake up. But this weekend I didn’t feel well. And when I finally emerged from the bedroom and made it downstairs I found a clean kitchen, a child who was fed and content, and a husband whose only concern was wanting me to feel better.
He is thoughtful, sweet, and makes taking care of our family his top priority. And did I mention he dances with me in the kitchen?
I have romance, yes. But I’ve got something else that is much more valuable. My husband loves me. I don’t need to take a quiz to know that. He shows me every day in ways I couldn’t possibly mistake.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Michael. I love you.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
A couple of weeks ago I was teaching the last students of the day. You may remember these kids. It's a brother-sister team referred to affectionately as "The Piano Lickers." I still haven't quite figured out why they do this but I HAVE determined that the taste of Lysol on the keys doesn't seem to be particularly unpleasant to them.
So it probably comes as no surprise that after an hour of trying to keep one occupied and out of trouble while teaching the other I was more than ready to return them to the wild from whence they came. I was escorting them to the door when one turned back and headed toward the living room. When I reminded him that it was time to leave he demolished my dream of closing the door behind them and screaming, "WHY? WHY do they DO that?" before disinfecting the piano again. It all came crashing down with the airy announcement, "Oh, Mom said she'd be an hour or so late because she needed to go grocery shopping and stuff."
"An hour? She said she'd be AN HOUR?"
"Yeah, she said if it's a problem we can just wait outside."
Wait outside? In January? In Utah? After dark? Seriously? She hadn't even sent them with coats. There was no way I was going to send them outside for an hour, and I'm sure she knew she could count on that. (Being a doormat is not always as fun as you may think.) Odd habits aside, it's not their fault their mother does what she does and I wasn't going to make them freeze just because their mother is less than considerate. Fortunately Son came home about then. He's the same age as my students and he's happy to play with them. Just as long as they don't actually lick him, that is.
I asked the children to please remind their mother of my policy that all children left longer than ten minutes will be sold as slaves. Then I went to the kitchen to get dinner started. I remained within earshot of course; I'm not THAT crazy.
The boy was the first to pipe up. "Dude, does your mom really sell kids? She can't do that can she?"
Without missing a beat Son assured him, "Sure. You didn't really think I was an only child did you? She sold the others."
Of course I will reassure the children that I was kidding. Everyone knows how hard it is to get a good price for kids who lick pianos.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Still, I clearly remember looking at Hubs in shock thinking, “Hold on right there, Pal. We can take TV away from our child. In fact, I’ll go so far as to admit that it’s a great idea. But let’s not get crazy here. Why should I be punished, too?” In an effort to maintain the critical united front, I didn’t voice my objection at the moment, thinking I’d simply discuss it with Hubs later. But I never really got around to it and it’s probably just as well. I’m not saying that I had no choice in the matter. I’m fully capable of having TV reinstated and Hubs wouldn’t dream of telling me I couldn’t do it. I’m not sure why I haven’t yet. Maybe I recognized on some level that a break might just be good for me too.
But I’m thinking the fact that I didn’t ever argue my side has contributed to his current belief that it was actually my idea. Who knows?
What I DO know is it hasn’t been all that bad. Son’s attitude has shown remarkable improvement. His belief that everything he says should be followed by high-fives due to his spectacular putting of the incredibly blind, naïve and unspeakably stupid parents in their respective places seems to have been curbed somewhat.
Additionally, we’ve been spending a lot more time together doing things that are much more important. You know, things like watching videos and DVDs.
Still, I can’t find words to express my profound joy in being reunited with television. Even if it did occur while I was in the hospital, it was totally worth it.
Oh beautiful Technicolor mind drain! How I’ve missed you! Monica, Phoebe, Rachel! I’ve missed you so! And Chandler and Joey! There you are in all your syndicated glory! Heck, I’m even glad to see Ross.
We were kept waiting for quite awhile. And I found I didn’t mind the wait that much.
“Honey look! It’s ER! I can actually watch a show about the hospital, while IN THE HOSPITAL! I’m in a hospital gown, with an IV going and everything, what are the odds of that happening? This isn’t a chance you get every day you know.”
A while later, “Ellen” came on and my excitement knew no bounds. It was like I’d been out of the country and cut off from civilization for years. “Oh look! She still has Tony! I love Tony. And she still dances! Imagine that. She looks good doesn’t she? How old do you think she is now?”
The only bad thing was that during every segment of the show the nurse, in what I can only believe was a well-timed, deliberate plot to make sure I didn’t forget I was supposed to be suffering, came in to talk to me, give me papers to sign etc. leaving only during the commercial breaks. This can mean only one thing. She was watching something on another station with TV breaks timed opposite the ones on the show I was watching.
That’s proof enough for me. TV is an important health aid. I would be neglecting my health if I didn’t have the cable reconnected. That would be wrong. We all have a role of responsibility in our own health care. I suppose if Hubs objects I can just continue watching at the hospital. I just need to determine what he can have removed so I can spend the entire time waiting in his room.