Rx: Congressional Viagra

I hate to get embroiled in politics. I prefer to put on my rose-colored glasses and assume that most politicians are reasonable and well intentioned people, even though they may sincerely and vehemently disagree on policy issues.

Unfortunately, glasses (rose-colored or otherwise) cannot shield me from the debt-limit spectacle that’s been going on in Washington.  I’m dumbfounded by our government’s inability to act and thoroughly embarrassed that the world is watching this circus.

Clearly, the U.S. government is impotent. I implore the pharmaceutical companies of the world to send an emergency shipment of Viagra or Cialis to Washington, DC,  ASAP. Perhaps if all members of the House and Senate were sitting side-by-side in bathtubs, looking out over the country we all love, a bill would somehow be consummated. (Yeah, I don’t get the separate bathtub imagery either, but it’s worth a try, right?)

Fee Fi Fo Fum

The tropical rainforest weather we’ve been experiencing this summer has produced a bumper crop of weeds in our yard. The weeds are taking full advantage, emboldened  by the knowledge that I’m not going out there to attack them until the temps fall back into the mid-80’s.

Meanwhile, from the comfort of my air conditioned (thank goodness) house, it’s discouraging to watch them proliferate and strong-arm their way into the real estate occupied by my “real” plants. Okay, I can deal with all that, eventually, when it’s cooler out and I restock the Round-Up.

However, I don’t quite know how to handle the new crop of extra-gigantic weeds that are now launching a full-scale invasion. I suspect they may, in fact, be sequoia tree saplings or that Jack accidently dropped some of his magic beans right next to my crape myrtle tree. I’m closely watching the surrounding area for large golden eggs or acorns the size of beach balls, but so far, nothing.

I could try pulling them up, of course, but if their roots are as big as their stalks, it could dislodge my house from its foundation and that would be bad. I could try chopping them down, but I don’t want to endanger all the little bambis in the surrounding woods. On the other hand, I wonder just how big they’re capable of growing if left undisturbed.

While I’m deciding on the most prudent course of action, you may hear me stomping around my house (inside my house, that is), chanting “Fee Fi Fo Fum, where did these frickin’ weeds come from?!”


Mature, Who Me?

For those of you who have been hanging around here on Earth for 5, 6, 7, 8 decades or more, you may have noticed that the labels typically tied to women of “that age” are universally annoying.

“Mature.” To me, this label sucks any possibility of fun right out of the picture. It makes me think of a humorless, matronly sort of woman who is physically and emotionally incapable of laughing until her side hurts and/or she wets her pants.

“Older.”  Older than what? Older than younger women? Obviously, but it seems to imply a certain competition with younger women, one in which the Older Woman cannot possibly win.

“Senior.” This label gets you stuff like discounts on insurance, restaurants and movie tickets, eligibility for Medicare and Social Security, and the presumption that you are contentedly retired, but rather than feeling like a special perk, it sort of makes you feel like you’re getting a consolation prize.

My friend, Paulette, and I have decided to tackle this issue head on. We don’t think we’re mature or older or senior. We don’t think that all of life’s possibilities are left beyond with our youth. On the contrary, we’re just getting started and finally beginning to get comfortable in our own skin, albeit slightly wrinkled and saggy here and there. What we are is RIPE.

We’re so Ripe, in fact, that we want to start a Ripe Revolution that will spread far and wide and save us all from labels that just don’t fit who we are. Don’t be alarmed, we promise this revolution will not involve marches, sit ins or weapons of any kind.

More to come about the RR during the next several weeks…

Love You, Love You Not

Do you have the same love/hate relationship with technology as I do? You can probably guess that my computer and I are very close. We spend hours together everyday, working, blogging, communicating with friends, shopping. I’d be lost without her and yet she can be frustrating. On the days when I have the most work to do, she seems to sense the urgency and take perverse pleasure in operating as slowly as possible. I can almost hear her gigabytes chuckling as I grow more and more frustrated and impatient. On those rare occasions when she’s struck with a virus or malware, I waver between fear for her well-being and anger at her inability to function. Do I get help, call in a malware exorcist or toss her out the window?

But the love/hate issue is far bigger than my personal relationship with my computer. Last week, I made what was supposed to be a quick trip to the grocery store. When I got to the checkout line, shoppers were standing, immobilized, and the usually loud boop boop from the scanners were silent. A horrifying realization came over me. THE STORE’S COMPUTER SYSTEM WAS DOWN.

The cashiers were standing around nervously, uncomfortable that dozens of pairs of potentially annoyed shoppers’ eyes were fixated upon them. During the next 20 minutes, they periodically assured us that things would be up and running in 3 to 5 minutes. Of course, the computer problem was not their fault and they were powerless to solve it, but the system eventually cooperated and the checkout crisis was averted.

Still, it bothers me that my banana purchase was held hostage by a computer system. Shouldn’t there be a technology-free banana purchase backup plan in place, like an old fashioned cash register? What would’ve happened if I had had an emergency need for those bananas?

Finally, if I ever had any doubt that technology has made life too easy for our children, I’m now thoroughly convinced. We spent last night slogging through a detailed packet of information from the university my son will be attending. It makes perfect sense to me that students can use their school ID cards for all sorts of conveniences, like getting meals in the dining halls. But one tiny detail left me dumbfounded. Not only can students swipe their ID cards to pay for using the washers and dryers on campus, they can go online from the comfort of their rooms (or anywhere else) to find out if there are washers and dryers available before they make the trek down the hall!

Now, I did not spend my childhood trudging miles to school uphill through blizzards. However, I did spend my freshman year of college carrying my laundry, detergent and baggie full of quarters down four long flights of stairs from my tiny 3rd floor (un air conditioned, no elevators) room to the basement of the building, often finding the washers and dryers already in use, or worse yet, finding my load of clean wet clothes in a heap on the floor. I want a do-over.


Check the Card Catalog, Under “Josh”

We’re big on books at our house. We’ve read to our two kids since they were babies and they both became voracious readers. I remember having to tell my son repeatedly that it was not a good idea to have your face buried in a book as you walk across a busy parking lot.

Well, that little boy is now 18, sniff.  Reading has served him well and he’s off to college in just a few weeks, double sniff.  Right now, however, he’s on a youth group mission trip in Baltimore and just sent me this email:

“We are staying in the library of a Lutheran school in the suburbs, which is pretty much my childhood dream. I’m in the non-fiction section, next the encyclopedias.”

That might just be my favorite quote ever.

Suicidal Merchandising

There I was, standing at the bakery counter in the grocery store, waiting to have a loaf of bread sliced. As always, the top shelf of the bakery display case was arranged around a theme. A couple of weeks ago, the 4th of July was the theme, with lots of red, white and blue decorations on the faux baked goods.

This time, the theme was a classic summer picnic — red and white checked tablecloth, cakes, cookies, cherry pie and ants. Yes, ants. Oversized black plastic ants were stationed all around the goodies, including one that took the spotlight perched right on top of the cherry pie.

I’m no merchandizing expert, but come on, how stupid can you be? Not only was I disinclined to buy a cherry pie, I seriously considered abandoning my loaf of bread. One would assume that somewhere in the grocery store merchandising manual, there must be a section that states “BUGS, RODENTS OR OTHER THINGS THAT MAKE CONSUMERS SAY ‘EWWW’ SHOULD NEVER BE USED IN FOOD DISPLAYS.”

I bought the loaf of bread, but I will not be packing it up in a wicker basket and heading out for a picnic anytime soon.

Can I Please Go Back to School Now?

Suburban New Jersey, Summertime, 1970’s

Summers at the local swim club were as inevitable as school starting back up in the fall.  For the kids, it meant day camp. Oh, how I hated day camp. It began each day at 1:00 with a little ceremony known as “line up.” While we all lined up around the basketball courts with our respective groups, camp director Al would give the days announcements and then send us off to our activities with a scratchy old recording of a jaunty song in some other language (Italian?) playing over the loudspeakers. To this day, I cannot rid my mind of that song.

Camp activities included endless games of jump rope, Steal the Bacon and Duck Duck Goose. There were special activities like Music, where we sat on the hot blacktop singing the official camp song while the music guy sweated profusely and played the piano. Naturally, there was Arts and Crafts, located in the crafts shack (that’s what they called it and that’s what it was) and I seem to recall a great deal of macrame, but then again, it was the 70’s.

The highlights of the day were free swim and ice cream break. Free swim was 20 frenzied minutes of relief from the blazing sun with dozens of other campers. The only downside was that girls were required to contain their hair in bathing caps. These were not the sleek bathing caps that competitive swimmers wear today, these were helmet shaped abominations with rubber flowers attached to them and chin straps that were always too tight. If you had long hair, getting it all into the bathing cap was quite a challenge.

The joy of ice cream break needs no explanation, though you had to eat fast because your orange popsicle, fudgsicle or ice cream sandwich would already be half melted when you got it.

While the kids were in camp, the moms hung out in clusters around the various rows of cabanas. For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a cabana, they were pretty much like dimly lit horse stalls, with a concrete floor, a single overhead light bulb, and a wooden stall door. Each section of cabanas had its own name and became its own swim club neighborhood, and each family had its own cabana for changing clothes and storing stuff.

For years, our cabana was Tarleton #12 and all the Tarleton moms hung out together, playing mah jong and drinking iced coffee. The mom dress code was a girdle-like one piece bathing suit with stiff pointy bra cups, accessorized with oversized sunglasses. On extraordinarily hot days, a stray mom or two would venture into the pool for a quick dip, however, moms were never observed actually swimming. They got wet only up to mid-chest, perhaps to avoid crushing their teased Aqua-Netted hair in the obligatory bathing cap or perhaps because the pointy bathing suit bra cups acted as powerful buoys, preventing the moms from completely submerging under the water.

Finally, 5:00 would come and camp would be over for the day. We’d trudge across the hot parking lot toward the car and if you forgot to lay a towel across the scalding vinyl seat, you’d end up with scorch marks on the back of your thighs, a nice complement to the heat rash I used to get under my arms. Not pretty.

Is it any wonder I always looked forward to the start of the new school year?

Lost in Shopping Oblivion

At a local department store earlier this week, I overheard this conversation between two shoppers:

Shopper 1: Since when did they stop putting heads on mannequins?

Shopper 2: Probably saves them money.

Shopper 1: Oh, you think? I used to love the faces, especially the way they put the lipstick on them.

Shopper 2: Oh, yes.

Shopper 1: And since when don’t they have arms and legs?  They’re just torsos.

At this point, the conversation veered into a news story about a guy who became just a torso after putting together his own 4th of July fireworks – I’ll spare you the details.

On a more self-centered note, I realized that not only had I not noticed that the mannequins were headless, armless and legless, I hadn’t even noticed there were any mannequins in the first place. I attribute this to the oblivious mental fog in which I do my shopping. It must be some sort of defense mechanism because I hate shopping and probably couldn’t set foot in a department store at all if I had to do so in a fully conscious and alert state of mind. If I could, I’d call forth an alternate personality, a la Sybil, to go and shop for me, but so far I have not been able to achieve a complete break from reality.

Ok, quick quiz: Are the mannequins at your local mall headless? Armless? Legless? For those of you who were unable to answer this question or answered with, “what mannequins,” I invite you to join me at the next meeting of Oblivious Shoppers Anonymous.

LMAO: It’s No Laughing Matter

Those of you who do a lot of texting (or have kids who do) are probably familiar with basic texting abbreviations. Most or them are straightforward acronyms that save texters time and minimize the risk of painful thumb spasms. For instance, IDK means  “I don’t know” and BFF means “best friends forever.”

The abbreviations tend to be literal, as in PLOS, “parents looking over shoulder,” which not surprisingly, means that the texter cannot text freely because a parent is right there, looking over his or her shoulder. Similarly, LOL means the texter is laughing out loud, as opposed to chuckling quietly to him or herself, and if the texter finds something to be super hysterically funny, then he or she may very well be rolling on the floor laughing or ROTFL.

Given the literal nature of these abbreviations, I’m quite concerned with the prevalence of LMAO, which means “laughing my ass off.”  Is it dangerous to laugh one’s ass off? Does this explain why so many teenage boys have pants which slide down to mid-thigh – are they lacking the all-important ass that would prevent such dramatic slippage?

What exactly happens during the LMAO event? Does the ass just plop to the ground, biding its time until the laughter stops and then returning to its designated location? Or, does one lose one’s ass forever and if so, where are all the asses? Are they roaming our suburban neighborhoods in packs during the night?  Perhaps you’ve spotted one or two at your workplace or at your local DMV?

I think it’s high time the CDC investigate this disturbing epidemic and develop some sort of vaccine to prevent this senseless loss of asses. In the meantime, I’ll encourage my kids to wear suspenders and limit themselves to LOLing or ROTFLing.

No Rest for the Weary

I’m reasonably competent at most tasks required for normal daily living, but I often fail miserably at something that most babies accomplish with ease – getting a good night’s sleep.

On a typical night, I fall asleep pretty easily, but wake up about 2 a.m.  I can’t get comfortable, no matter how much I rearrange my pillows, toss and turn. It’s possible that I have some ancient reptilian DNA fragment that causes me to engage in the same type of violent spinning as alligators drowning their prey in a classic underwater death roll. I’m too hot with the blanket on, too cold with it off, and when I finally settle down again, I have to get up to pee.

Why can’t I do something as simple as sleeping through the night? Well, for one thing, I get virtually no exercise, unless pushing the shopping cart through Walmart counts. Secondly, I often can’t shut off my brain, especially if I’m working on a new project for a client or get an idea for a new blog post. The brain switches on and starts writing and it won’t turn itself off until it’s done. Third, parenthood. Every since my almost-18 year old baby was born, I sleep with one ear open, listening for footsteps or coughing from my kids’ upstairs bedrooms, waiting to hear the key in the front door, followed by the sound of my son’s big shoes thudding up the stairs. I suspect most moms know exactly what I’m talking about.

Every now and then, I exacerbate the problem by watching something on TV before going to bed that is not conducive to a calm restful state of mind. What was I thinking the other night when I watched an episode of Searching for Bigfoot, in which the bigfoot “experts” were investigating reports of bigfoot sightings in the deep woods of North Carolina, given the fact that I live in lovely NC and our house backs up to the woods?

I love to read and used to read in bed all the time, but that was before I succumbed to the necessity of reading glasses, which annoy me and give me a headache. I could probably make it through a picture book or two, though. Maybe I should start with the recent bestseller, “Go the F*** to Sleep.”