Posts Tagged ‘2009’

The comma argument

October 13, 2013

My family spent my mother’s birthday dinner in a heated argument about a comma.

I’m aghast that anyone would take a stand against me on this issue.

I am a linguist and an editor.

I may be so confused by science I believe there are little people inside my TV box, but it would be impossible to know more about punctuation than I.

The mark in question is the one often erroneously placed before the conjuction in a simple list: He picked his guitar, friends, and nose.

Today after school one of our closest family friends was attacked by my children. “What’s your opinion on the comma?”

“I don’t care.” Poor kid. He was wondering why he is our friend.

“You must.” I don’t know why they valued his support so strongly. This is a child who pronounces the ‘L’ in ‘talk.’

My daughter, by the way, is for the comma, as is my mother. My son and I are on the side of reason.

The children began to present their positions — simultaneously. My son called me in to define the rule. I used my voice of authority.

“You put a comma before the conjunction in a list only if the last item has a conjunction in it: Myles listens to Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers, and Donny and Marie. This rule is for clarity. It’s a favor to the reader.”

Myles gave me an ugly look.

My daughter insisted, contrarywise, that it’s using the comma indiscriminately that adds clarity. She began to expound, “If I ate macaroni and cheese first, then potatoes,” (big pause) “and steak….”

“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. “No vegetables? You won’t have to worry about commas. You’ll end up with a semi-colon.”

The children sent me back out of the room.


A restaurant review

July 28, 2013

Every summer I gotta go to Big Bear. It’s a couple hours away from me, but I will get up and drive there to eat bacon-and-cheese waffles for breakfast at The Teddy Bear Restaurant, or to roam The Village for jewelry and boots.

I discovered this place when my husband had a three-day conference there on my birthday years ago. I tagged along, intending to stay in the hotel, as I always do when he has a conference. I spend his conferences in the tub with a book.

We stayed at the Northwoods Resort, which borders The Village. I wandered out looking for breakfast and found a row of small businesses that could have been planned for me as a birthday surprise.

First there was a bath shop. I bought bath oils, bath beads, soaps and lotions. These are my favorite things — right up there with chocolate and books.

Then I looked down the street and saw several coffeehouses and chocolatiers. There were three bookstores, too. I may have cried.

After a quick morning buying myself gifts, I climbed into my oiled bath with a novel and some tri-tip. An hour later I was by the fire with red wine and chocolate-dipped things like strawberries and pretzels. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

My husband returned to find a wife with a totally balanced chi.

My husband had this conference every August for a few years, but last year there was nothing. It was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. We went up on our own twice. I just needed to smell the place.

Today I couldn’t stand it. I’ve been missing that town so much I can’t concentrate, so at 1 p.m. I put the kids in the car and went.

About 4 o’clock we walked past a small, tucked-back door that said “Pizzeria.” I was Book-and-Bean bound, and didn’t give a fig about the pizzeria, but I noted that I didn’t remember seeing it there before.

Then around 5 the kids got hungry. They said they had a craving for pizza. I was surprised by this, because we almost never eat it. More surprising, they were both in the mood for the same thing.

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Last night we had pita, stuffed with vegetables, chicken and cantalope and topped with a tarragon mayonnaise. I guess I understand why they were in accord.

So I pointed them toward the doorway I’d noticed. It was Saucy Mama’s Pizza. We walked past some umbrellaed tables in the narrow space between two buildings, and entered the place, which was mostly behind an ice-cream and fudge parlor.

It had a great atmosphere. I love a pizzeria with red-checkered tablecloths. A guy was tossing a big circle of dough in the air. We chose the table with tall stools.

My daughter ordered a vegetable calzone, and my son and I split a Hawaiian Delight pizza, which had Canadian bacon, pineapple and regular bacon chunks on it.

I have rambled on all this time to get to this sentence: This was the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life.

We packed up half the calzone and two slices of pizza for Daddy. My son and I almost wept, denying ourselves those last two slices.

Back at home, we presented the food to my husband like begging dogs at his feet.

He shook his head at us, “I can’t believe it’s as good as you guys are saying. It’s just pizza. You three have built it up so much, there’s no food can live up to your description.”

He bent over his plate and took a bite. Then he looked up, met my eyes, and nodded.

“Oh my God.”

The kids and I started cheering and hugging. We were crazed with the greatness of this food.

Then the dam broke, and my husband would not shut up. “The crust is sublime. These people must be from New York. This sauce is fantastic….”

So there it is, my first post as an amateur food critic. Get on a plane, wherever you are, and fly here so you can eat at Saucy Mama’s Pizza.

If you want my family to sit at your feet and watch you take your first bite, we’ll be happy to make the drive up the mountain.


May 23, 2013

I run a dead pool, you know, and keep track of  celebrity death. On this date in 2009, I got up to check the latest, and there were a bunch, and every one of them was a suicide.

First, 54-year-old gay rights activist Rodger McFarlane ended his life, according his note, because of constant back pain.

Right after him, 28-year-old Spiderman 3 actress Lucy Gordon was found dead by suicide in her Paris apartment.

And rounding out the set, former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death from a 100-foot cliff while on a hike. He was 62. Roh Moo-hyun was elected on an anti-corruption platform, but was presently exposed having accepted $6 million in bribes. The scandal was too much for him, according to the suicide missive he left on his home computer.

Statistics claim there are almost twice as many suicides as homicides.

I can’t get past wanting to organize these people.

A headline on CNN that very morning read, ‘Would-be suicide jumper pushed off.’

This is what I’m talking about.

Doesn’t it just make sense for the  homicidal to choose their victims from a pool of volunteers?

This is what’s in a name

May 17, 2013

I was born with an unusual name. It’s not an uncommon word, but it was spelled differently so teachers mispronounced it.

I hated the way kids and some adults felt they had to make a comment when they were introduced to me.

Often people would say, “That’s your name?” which was always followed by “Where are you from?” or “What nationality are you?”

I was from here, same as Jennifer and Suzy.

Once, in elementary school, I was getting a drink at the fountain and a boy I had a crush on said loudly, “See that girl? Her name is  (insert name here.)” The boys laughed and I cried.

I started trying to get people to call me different names at age 3. I was Rose, Mary, Linda and Dianne. At age 10 I found one that fit, and it’s my legal name today.

I had a normal name for 13 years, and then I married a man with a last name people giggle at. It was destiny, I guess.

My children are great sports.

Last week my daughter performed in a concert. There were thousands in the theater.

The woman to my left said, “Look at this kid’s name.”

Her son looked at her finger on the program and read my daughter’s name aloud. They tittered.

I imagined identifying myself, which made my ears hot and my heart pound. I am a great big chickenpants.

An hour later my daughter’s group took the stage.

The woman said, “Here comes that kid with the funny name.”

The boy said her name. This was my chance.

I turned to her and said, “That’s my daughter.” My heart was thudding and I was breathing funny. I’m not cut out for confrontation.


“The child you’re laughing at.” I faked calm.


What? “No,” I said my last name.

She effected a puzzled face. “We were talking about Chivus.”

She’s insulting me with denial now?

I didn’t respond. She turned toward her son, put an arm around him and kissed his hair.

I debated telling the children what happened, but I can’t have a story inside me and not tell it.

They took it well. They asked, “Where was she from?”

Here, obviously, but I wish I had asked her anyway. Meow.

I went to a bar

March 20, 2013

I was kidnapped on St. Patrick’s Day.

Three amazing men, John, Paul and George — the top reporters from the paper where I worked as a copy editor; the top poker players in my league; the people living in my other house — showed up after dinner to take me out to a pub.

I refer to them as ‘The Beatles.’

One minute I was on the phone with My Oldest Friend and the next I’m drinking Guinness in a bar that used to be the corner drug store — the very building where The Playboy Story took place.

I’ve been a wife and mom for about 17 years. The bar scene has changed a lot since I’ve been in it.

In the late ’80s there was always a dance floor and a disc jockey. Often there were pool tables. We would find a table, drink and dance with anyone who asked. It was a blast.

Now there’s a big empty room packed with bodies and a jukebox, if they still call it that.

I didn’t know what to do.

We stood there for a few minutes. Young people with fresh skin and hip clothes were everywhere. I was thinking I felt old.

John “Scotchie” said, “I feel old.” Yeah, well.

He said, “All I can think is that this crowd is a fire hazard. And the music is too loud.” Amen.

I watched a juvenile bartendress make some shots that looked like Shamrock Shakes. She squirted whipped cream on the top and handed them to giggly 20-somethings in tight green tank tops.

I looked down my nose at this. I thought those sissy girls were drinking that foo-foo because they can’t shoot whiskey with the big boys.

I have no idea why I thought I could. I’m the size of the average sixth-grader.

I ordered shots of Jameson, and clinked with The Beatles. “Sláinte.”

One Guinness and I think I’m a hardy Scotswoman.

Suddenly I didn’t care that there was neither dance floor nor room to move. I was dancing and singing along with Tom Petty, “… make it last all night.”

Suddenly I thought everyone in the bar was interested in hearing The Playboy Story. I showed everyone the window where it happened, as if it were the balcony John Wilkes Booth jumped over.

Now you know that I know that two drinks is my limit. But I had a second Guinness.

I felt old that night, but it was nothing compared to my age on March 18.

What a difference an aide makes

March 14, 2013

It happened again.

Despite my caution, I ended up with another special class. They tricked me this time by listing a teacher’s name.

When I asked at the office what subject I had, she gave me three initials I didn’t recognize.

It took three questions to learn that there is another secret code for ‘children with behavior and emotional problems.’

I was optimistic right away. There were two aides who knew the children, knew the routine and had been trained for this. They had the four students under control. I seemed to have no duties.

I wanted to sit down with my novel, but that felt improper, so I walked around the room looking at what the kids were doing. I don’t know what my goal was, but it seemed teacher-like.

Let me introduce you to the class, who sat around the room in a semi-circle facing the wall.

First we have the boy whose job it was to curse. He was doing a math sheet, saying, “This is bulls***. Why do I have to do this f***ing s***? What kind of a**hole. . . ?”

The next boy was all about colors. He had multi-colored shoes, clothes and  backpack. He had pushed aside his math and was busy licking his desk.

The boy by the door was calmly working.

The girl in the class appeared to be applying makeup, but she was using a blue PaperMate.

Colorful boy stopped licking his desk and raised his hand. “My name is Matt.”

I introduced myself and put my name on the whiteboard. The girl began a campaign to prevent the others from using it. “Call her ‘Person’!”

Cursing boy made my day when he shook his head at her and told her she had issues.

The boy by the door finished his work and moved to face the wall, where he could press his nose deeply into his P.E. clothes. He was about 6 feet tall.

Cursing boy called me over to tell me about himself. I realized these children were smart.

He was telling me about his father, who is a ‘Po Po.’ I thought this was excrement, but I found out later it means police officer.

While I was listening to his story, trouble started with the boy against the wall. He was seated, facing away from the aides, who were upset.

“Carl,” an aide said. “Hand it over.”

“I’m Enrique,” Carl said.

“Do you want to spend the rest of the day in the office?”


“That’s it, let’s go.” I didn’t want them to take him away. I loved these kids.

An aide had his elbow. As they left the room Carl said, “Enchildas.”

I wish I could remember the three initials. I can’t wait to go back.


March 11, 2013

For all of my son’s life, when he said from the back seat, “Hurry home, I need to go to the bathroom,” his parents would torment him.

If he was doing the pee-pee dance, we would say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t think about a waterfall.’

If he was doing the squirm, we would say, ‘Remember this morning when you were sqeezing the toothpaste out of the tube?’

Tonight I helped my son avenge his dad. My son was in the bathroom, and my husband was banging on the door in urgency.

Now before you feel sorry for him, he could have used my daughter’s bathroom if he had to go that bad. He could not go where I was about to take a bath.

I called out, “Honey? Don’t think about the log ride.”

This made him buckle over. Now he’s clenching and laughing at the same time.

“Remember when I gave birth, and the head started coming out?”

Harder banging on the door.


He stopped me right there. He started heading for my bathtub room. He had all the power.

The beauty of this family is that no one ever takes vengeance on me. The miracle of this family is that no one has ever ruined his pants.

A ribbing

March 3, 2013

This morning my husband screwed something up, and my son and I were having fun at his expense.

We wouldn’t have ganged up on him, but my husband let his pride goeth before he attacked the whole system he failed at.

“Honey, you’re just wrong,” I said. He argued.

I called for a vote.

This sent my son and me into giggles.

My husband played along, “We need our daughter here for quorum.” He pronounced it ‘corem.’

My son said, “What’s corem?”

I said, “It’s an apple-orchard term. You’ll find it in the technical book with juicem and pickem.” We were all cracking up.

My poor husband tried to join in, “And sellem.”

We stopped laughing. Then my son and I spoke at once.

“You went too far.”

“That’s one more than we needed.”

We started laughing again. I said, “And if you say ‘eatem,’ I’m leaving.”


I left to take a bath, but I could hear my husband add, “Thank God that’s over,” and my son respond, “Well Dad, we still live here.”

I would hate to be teased so. Thank goodness for the double standard.

The special day class

February 26, 2013

Here’s how I learned the hard way to be careful which sub jobs I accepted, during that awful year I waited to get back into the newsroom.

Usually the Web site lists the teacher, grade range and subject. When it’s a two- or three-hour job it just says ‘IEP.’ This is secret code for ‘meeting.’

When I get to the office I have to ask what grade or subject I’m teaching. I also have to ask where the bathroom is. Otherwise they just hand me keys and say ‘F-7 is over there.’

In this case, the office employee (I don’t know what they’re called; I only know I will never use the ‘secretary’ word again,) said there was a variety of grades. “It’s a special day class,” she said.

This turned out to be secret code for ‘Children with extreme emotional or behavior disorders.’ But at this point in the story I didn’t know that.

I got to the room and saw a teacher, an aide, a Braille instructor and 20 assorted special children who were not behaving predictably.

I soiled my underpants.

The teacher said, “When I go, tell them to partner up and quiz each other with these telling-time cards. Have them get in a line at 1:45 and walk them to the bus.” She left.

The aide grabbed her coat too. This was not going to be good. She introduced me to the class, then said something to effect of, “They can’t tell time, or partner up or work independently in any way. Bye.”

The Braille instructor took the blind girl into a little room and closed the door.

I stood in front of the children and had many articulate thoughts of panic. What I said was, “Um.”

I pulled out the telling-time cards. A boy in the front row walked over and took them from me. He pulled one out and sat on the rest. This was exciting because he had evidently sat in water at recess. He put the other card in his mouth.

I didn’t know what to do.

I had brought children’s books with me. I didn’t suspect they would sit and listen, but I guessed it would pass some time with the trying. It went better than I had hoped. It was a visually miraculous book about color, and they got to see colors change through layered transparencies.

They were fascinated. I was brilliant. I’m Super Sub. Give me a cape.

Next I offered to teach them a song. The first song that popped into my head was “The Little Green Frog.” This was a tragic idea.

It starts out “Ah-ump went the little green frog,” with a tongue sticking out and popping back in on the “Ah-ump.” Little kids love it.

I got as far as the word ‘little’ when all hell broke lose. 

A child in the center of the room stood up and pulled on his hair with both hands. He was yelling, “I’m angry! I’m so angry!”

I went there, squatted in front of his desk and asked him to tell me what he was feeling.

“I’m so angry!” he was almost sobbing at this point, pulling hard on his hair.

“Can you tell me why you’re feeling angry?” I tried to sound soothing and calm. I was not feeling calm.

“Because you’re crazy!” he yelled. Then he ran out the door.

In isolation this would have been bad, but when he had first stood up, two other children got out of their seats — one chasing the other with a rolled up paper in laps around the cluster of desks. Bad I could have handled. This was beyond bad.

When Angry Boy ran out the door three other children ran out after him. Once outside, they scattered and hid.

I had to leave the room unattended while I corralled them. This took about until the end of the day.

I was late getting them headed toward the bus, and they were in no kind of line. I didn’t care. I was walking toward the bus and in a general way they were kind of following me.

My biggest accomplishment that day was waiting until I was in the car to cry.

I called my husband as I drove to pick up my children from their schools and told him the whole thing, blow by blow.

He had the gall to laugh heartily throughout the telling.

“Honey?” he finally said. Good, here comes my sympathy.

“Will you tell me that story again tonight? I loved it.”


The weather

January 23, 2013

One day when I was subbing I asked a student to take the attendance to the office.

“Is it cold out?” she asked.

I told her, “Yes, but it’s a dry cold.”

This tickled me, particularly because it was raining.

A happening

January 20, 2013

In my lifetime, today happened.

My daughter asked to miss school to accompany me to a brunch this morning, where people were gathering to watch President-elect Obama be sworn in.

It was an emotionally charged morning. I sat at a table between my parents, across from my grandmother and my daughter, and watched a black man become my president. I tried to eat, but I couldn’t swallow. I guess there was too much proud in my throat.

When the oath was finished, and President Obama said, “So help me God,” we cried. People stood and clapped. And embraced. Celebration drove a need to hold one another.

I love what happens to us during historic moments. We have happenings. People came together to watch Neil Armstrong set the first footprint on the moon. We came together to grieve on Sept. 11 2001. We came together today. We gather to watch, to rejoice, to share awe or fear, to support and to touch.

On the way home, my daughter, who is 14, said, “It must be a bigger deal than I can understand that he’s black.” What a beautiful statement of how far we’ve come.

It was only a year away from being in my husband’s lifetime that Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial discrimination in schools and employment — and in public. It wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act enforced blacks’ suffrage. That was within my husband’s lifetime.

And now today happened. And my daughter doesn’t see a black man; she just sees a man.

Today, as always, I celebrate being an American. Today, as I do every four years, I celebrate the right to participate in my government. And today, for the first time, I celebrate that the people of my country chose to turn to a man for leadership, who in my parents’ lifetime would have been legally beaten in the doorway while watching his light-skinned brothers register to vote.

At dinner with my family tonight, I will raise a glass to the following people: every American soldier who has shed blood or was willing to shed blood protecting my right to vote, read a newspaper and choose my own church; Harriet Tubman; Dred Scott; Rosa Parks; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson; and President Barack Obama.

I salute their courage — and as I was reminded this morning — their hope and virtue.

The Christmas pageant

December 20, 2012

This morning I saw a Christmas pageant written and performed by teens. It was not the traditional birth-of-Christ tale.

This one was a what-if story: What if Jesus had been born in 2009?

The play opened in the apartment of Mary and Josephine, a married lesbian couple struggling with unemployment.

God tells the angel Gabriel she’s (yes, God was a she) putting a baby in Mary that would be the savior. Gabriel shows up on TV, interrupting Survivor Egypt, to break the news. This was because God had specified texting the announcement was not in order.

Nine months later the expectant moms were turned away from two hospitals because they had no health care coverage, and were forced to deliver in their apartment on the couch.

Three wise men from Hollywood were following not a star, but the red dot of Gabriel’s laser pointer, to offer gifts to the baby Jesus: myrrh, frankincense and an iPod.

I later learned they had planned to dress in drag, and enter singing ‘We Three Queens,’ but the pastor got calls from the some of the parents. Killjoys.

There was great comedy throughout, timely topics and a chorus of Halleluja.

The Christmas season has begun.

My cousin knows me too well

December 9, 2012

Today is my baby cousin’s birthday.

I call her my baby cousin, as if I have some kind of seniority. She’s prettier, thinnier, richer, smarter and a better athlete. She puts the word ‘doctor’ before her name because she earned it, and she commutes to work in Washington, D.C. from her home on the beach in California.

My only seniority is being six years older, which isn’t as exciting as it was when I was in my 20s.

Today is her birthday, but because I’m egocentric, I thought I’d talk about my birthday, and how she brightened it.

As you know, I turned 40 only just. I said in my head, I spent my young, firm-body years wishing I had the courage to get my belly button pierced. I’m fast becoming an old hag. I’m on the cusp of its being ridiculous. It’s now or never.

So I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon, who put me under to do it. This is how big a sissy I am.

The man couldn’t help but notice the toll five years of lactating took on the breasts he had to tie out of the way to do the piercing.

He urged me to get a boob job. I stood firm — you know, figuratively — and just got the piercing.

Here’s where my baby cousin comes in.

She sent me one of the two funniest birthday cards I’ve ever gotten, (Fred Bauman sent me the other.) It showed two blue-haired wrinkly old biddies playing poker.

One of them has a speech bubble that says, “I’m thinking of piercing my belly button.” The other says, “Really?”

On the inside she replies, “That way I can put a hook in it to hold up my bra.”

Nailed it.

click here for photo

Follow-up post

November 30, 2012

My sister tweeted that Tiger Woods had a karma accident.

Why I love my husband

November 16, 2012

Yesterday my husband was walking around shirtless in baggie cords, which slung low on his waist. He had them rolled to mid-calf, like cabana pants.

He looked scrumptious, but that’s not why I love him.

“I like those pants like that.” I gave him a lecherous look.

“It’s my Tom Sawyer look.” I like the Tom Sawyer look.

“I was hoping someone would come along and see how much fun I was having cleaning the shower.”

That’s why I love him. He’s well Twained.

To Hell with keeping it clean

November 14, 2012

My friend, the Dirty Old Man, is also an amateur stand-up comedian. He performed at my recent birthday party.

He really is too admirable for the moniker I’ve given him. Please read the name dripping with respect.

As he took the microphone, Scotchie yelled, “Keep it clean, Fred!”

Frown from Fred at Scotchie, then “Do you know why Jewish men are circumsized?”


He went to that mike to perform three times between tribute stories — most of which involved my mooning or flashing someone.

He kept my guests in stitches, even as they told how I don’t stay in mine.


October 18, 2012

I woke up in the dark hours of this morning with a migraine.

Somehow I made it to the bedroom doorway, but couldn’t get farther. My husband woke up and got me an Excedrin Migraine pill and some water.

Let me give a free ad to this product. You’re about to read what my migraines are like. Nothing else works. Since it was invented I’ve kept a bottle in the car, my purse, and several places in the house. It’s made a big difference in my life.

I was 17 when I got my first attack. I had come home from work with just a bad headache, but by the time I had gotten upstairs it was so bad I couldn’t get to my bedroom. I lay in the hallway, thinking there was no way I could survive another 10 seconds of that pain, as it went on for minute after minute.

The second one started while I was playing Trivial Pursuit at my family reunion, which you read about in Sonnets. It rained that day, and the whole fam damily was packed in Auntie Barbara’s great room, which I ended up lying in the middle of with my arms pressed over my eyes before my boyfriend peeled me up and drove me to the hotel. I was 20.

My third struck when I was 24, and my fourth when I was 27. But the summer I turned 28 I had a bunch of them. I ended up in a CAT scan machine.

Over the years, my husband has found me on the kitchen floor, the front lawn; once I got one while I was driving home from the grocery store. I was around the corner from home when it got bad enough I had to pull over. I had toddlers strapped in th back seat wondering what was going on.

This morning’s was one of the worst I’ve ever had. My husband gave me a pill and some water, and I waited, chewing that familiar dread of an in surmountable few more seconds of pain. I tried to come up with ways to cope until the medicine broke through. That’s what it’s like, a balloon bursting. Excedrin is the cavalry, ride in to save.

I tried to think about lying on a beach, watching football, being hit on.

It didn’t come. Twenty-six minutes went by, and the relief didn’t come. I sent my husband to get me another pill.

Sitting up to swallow makes it worse for a little while. I’m a rational woman, but while I waited for the second one to work I was thinking about having my husband take me to the hospital to have me put down.

Then it washed it over me — freedom from pain. It brought its buddy, the will to live.

And here I am, woke to blog another day.

These parents have balls

October 14, 2012

I’m spending a lot of time commuting in my new job.

In fact, I’ve spent so many hours in my car, I’m tired of every song in the world.

I have also had enough of news radio.

So I piled up all the gift certificates I got for my birthday and bought ’70s TV series on DVD. Now the hours fly by as I listen to episodes of Taxi, The Muppet Show and Mary Tyler Moore.

Today I was stopped in traffic for more than an hour. I reclined my seat and watched two offerings of The Bob Newhart Show.

As it turns out, I was missing the funniest part. During the end credits, they show the cast members with their names across the screen.

The orthodonist, Jerry Robinson, is played by Peter Bonerz.

I’m loving that some lady was pregnant, and said, “What do you think, honey? What first name goes nicely with Bonerz?”

Hmmm. What would be the perfect thing to call their family’s newest member?

An impulse toward kindness

September 22, 2012

In October of 2000 I walked from Santa Barbara to Malibu, raising more than $2,000 in my Auntie Elsie’s memory for breast cancer education, research and treatment.

The event organizer was I’mpossible. On Day Zero all of the walkers had to watch the I’mpossible training video. This struck me as stupid. I had been training since April. Who shows up to trek 60 miles through pouring rain untrained?

It turned out to have nothing to do with walking. It was about attitude.

The rule for the next three days was this: You know that impulse toward kindness that you talk yourself out of? Don’t talk yourself out of it.

The video accused us of having the idea of buying a meal for the homeless guy in the park, or stopping for the car on the side of the freeway to lend a hand. It accused us of waiting one second too long to act, and thinking better of it.

I’m guilty of this.

Just last week I was in the grocery store with a heaping cartful, and the lady in front of me told the cashier it was her 80th birthday.

I immediately was inclined to tell the cashier to put her groceries on my tab. Instead, I kept my head down, made no indication that I had heard, and unloaded pasta, eggs, peanut butter.

My mind was all over this woman’s day. She was alone at the grocery store. She was shopping for ingredients on a day she shouldn’t be worrying about cooking.

I unloaded garlic, yogurt, parmesan and remembered Nana‘s 80th a few years ago. Family flew in. We wrote her a song, which all of her children and grandchildren joined in performing. Friends came. My mom presented her with a scrapbook.

There was a karaoke jockey and a feast. At no point did the day accommodate a lonely trip to Albertsons.

I unloaded cat food and chicken breasts and told myself I would only embarrass her.

Then it was too late. I didn’t even say happy birthday.

That’s why I didn’t deserve yesterday. The karma god is all mixed up.

Yesterday I had to go to a seminar in Claremont after an interview in my office. I made the 45-minute drive on fumes, but noted the gas station between the event and the freeway. I could fill up before I went back.

I parked and reached for my purse. Nothing. I had left it at the office.

At least I had my cell phone. The cartoon battery was flashing red, but I only needed one call.

At a break in the event, I went in front of the building and called Mom.

You may remember she was sick yesterday from the stress of speaking in public. She was in no state to drive an hour each way to give me money. On top of that, she was busy with things, like taking Nana to her Scrabble club.

While she was telling me to call Dad, a woman who had been digging in her car walked over to me and pressed $10 in my hand.

I so didn’t deserve that.


A riddle

September 6, 2012

Today my son found a kids’ riddle book in the glove compartment. I don’t know where it came from.

He read us the riddles, and some of them were funny, but many were groaners.

My daughter and I took it as a challenge to come up with better punch lines than the book offered.

Then we abandoned the book and the three of us  invented our own.

Here’s our favorite, made from scratch, for your entertainment:

What is the  favorite sandwich of common people?

A Plebian J.

The lottery

August 29, 2012

I listen to news radio on my way home from work. Today, there were four topics: the wildfires, the kidnappee who’s been found 18 years post, the lottery and the weather.

It was more than 110 degrees this afternoon. It was more than 100 degrees after dinner. It seems not everyone holds my appreciation for free heat.

The lottery, though, was stealing air time from the stuff I was interested in. People in line at the 7-Eleven were being interviewed. Each knew she was about to buy the winning ticket.

Just now my husband and I went to see The Time Traveler’s Wife, which is based on one of the best books I’ve ever read. (The movie is great, but loses the voice of the author’s narrative, which is where the book’s brilliance lay, in this bibliophile’s opinion.)

There was a scene that was not in the book, where they watch the lottery balls drop.

I came home and went to, because I can’t help it. The poll question of the day is ‘Do you buy lottery tickets?’

Now I’m feeling stalked.

I have lottery issues. Why are the pots so big, but schools are still cutting out music and language programs? Didn’t the California ballot specify the exemption from the gambling prohibition was justified by schools’ getting a big cut?

And where are these ticket buyers coming from? Haven’t they seen the quip on the freeway, explaining that the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math?

Really, I’m not here to judge anybody. I just want to enjoy my kidnapper-catch news and my heat.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for giving me two months of comfort. I’ll take those over a lottery ticket any day.

Mom’s voice in my head

August 20, 2012

I cleaned my house the night before my birthday party.

Our other house took days to clean. It was like painting the Golden Gate bridge.  I really appreciate having half the space and a more modern home when I clean.

My son came home in the evening, and every time he went into a room, he said, “It looks great in here!”

I used to say this to my mom when the house looked good, but she would always say, “No thanks to you.” So I stopped.

I thought of this, and how nice it was to hear that my work was noticable, and I just said, “Thank you” to my boy.

Mom called.

“Shall I come over and clean your house?”  At 8 p.m.?

“I cleaned it already.”

“Since you got home from work? It can’t be very clean.”

“Well my son came home and said the house looks great.”

“No thanks to him, I’m sure.”

I actually did not see that coming.

Scotchie’s proposal

August 15, 2012

The John of my personal Beatles, who I refer to in my posts as Scotchie, is celebrating his birthday today.

A few years ago he amped up his wife hunting, because his biological clock was about to chime 40.

I didn’t figure it would be as hard as it was. Scotchie is a perfect catch. He’s smart, thoughtful, funny and good-looking. He loves to play games, and brings so much enthusiasm he makes them fun for everyone. He’s affectionate. He left a career as a reporter to work at the county animal shelter finding homes for abandoned pets. His family is large and embracing. He listens to Weezer and Billie Holiday.

So it surprised me that it took so long to find a nice Catholic girl who hiked and wanted kids.

About a year ago he found one, and she’s perfect. Last month he flew to Pennsylvania, where she lives, and he proposed to her.

He took her to a romantic bridge with a ring in his pocket.

They were standing right in front of the theater where the famous The Blob movie-evacuation scene was filmed.

It was the anniversary of  The Blob’s release. Will you believe this is a holiday? It was Blobfest. Good timing, Scotchie.

Amid a throng of enthusiasts re-enacting a jelly escape, Scotchie took her hand and got on his knee. She thought he was kidding.

Here’s how I know the details. One of the Blobfesters was videotaping the Blobfestivities, and his buddy tapped his shoulder and said, “Hey this guy’s about to propose.”

Scotchie’s proposal is on YouTube.

Hey, Scotchie, if you’re looking for a site for the ceremony, I just discovered where they filmed Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Photographer sass

August 7, 2012

This week I started a new job — I’m done with subbing! — as a section editor for a newspaper group.

The publisher requested I write a column introducing myself, to run this weekend.

I knew what was coming next.

Sure enough, this afternoon I was instructed to go into the photography department and have a mug shot taken to run with my column. Grumble grumble grumble.

I called there, “Hey I’ve been ordered to get a mug.”

“Come on back. We’ll do it right now.”

“I was told you had people who would do my hair and face, lend me some clothes.” I am sassy.

“Sure,” he said, real cool. “Just come through editorial and go through the door marked ‘spa’.”

Sassy, quick and funny. I’m gonna like it here.

My dead pool

June 26, 2012

I run a dead pool. This is a common game in newsrooms. People pay an entry fee and compile a list of famous people.

From New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve, if someone on the list dies, the player who chose him gets 100 points minus the celebrity’s age.

John is already at 180 points. My cousin Christi is close behind with 146 points, and my very first boyfriend is in third with 123 points. All three of them predicted Jane Goody’s death. She was 27.

I remember the year JFK Jr. died. One reporter had made that canny pick, and got 61 points for it. He was the winner that year.

Now my group is having a hot couple of days. Farrah Fawcett was worth 38 points. Seven of my 13 players had her on their lists.

Jacko netted three other players a surprise 50 points. It’s the deaths that aren’t a sure thing that make the game fun.

And the aw shucks factor: three players had Ed McMahon on last year’s list, but not one kept him.

I run the thing, and have never, in all the years I’ve played, earned a single point.

Oh well. I have other skills.

A student’s rabbit

April 3, 2012

I taught science at my old high school that awful year I was subbing.

The teacher’s note to me was ominous. Period by period it listed the kids I should expect to send to the principal.

Some children’s names were annotated with “keep on an eye on him; he likes to write on things (not paper);” or “takes things that aren’t his.”

I can’t remember if I just inferred, or if he outright said, “These are a bunch of thugs.”

A large man popped his head in before first period to tell me he was nearby if I needed help.

Point taken. I hate subbing.

Early in the day, after everyone was done with the assignment, I asked the children questions. I’ve learned that children of all ages love to answer questions, and I have about 20 at the ready.

I always start with “What’d you have for dinner last night?” followed by “Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?”

I was about on my fifth question — What pets do you have? — when a little ruffian told me had a rabbit. He said it’s always sneezing.

“He has snuffles,” I diagnosed. I once had a rabbit with snuffles, name of Cyndi Lop Ear. The sneezing is adorable, but serious. He promised to take his rabbit to the vet.

The boy behind him, with a shaved head and cut-off sleeves, interjected, “I once had a rabbit. I ate it.”

This child was on the teacher’s list with two asterisks. I ignored him.

I was about to ask a child what her dream car was when he interjected again.

“It was a chocolate rabbit.”

OK, sometimes I like subbing.

Congratulations instead of story today

December 6, 2009

Last night was a big night for our hometown’s marching band.

They won third place in the Southern California championships. They are among the best of the best.

I am so proud, I can’t think of anything else today.

For my many readers who went home, lifted medals over their heads and hung them over the family’s mantels, thank you for a spectacular season.

I know how hard you worked. You deserved it.

Julia, Myles, Will, Hunter, Carlisle and the other 119. Good on you.