Sunday, June 29, 2008

Word to the Wise

I was spellchecking my blog recently when the words “J.C. Penney” got flagged. I don’t expect all proper nouns to make it through, but guess what handy alternative the computer offered me? “Japanned.” This sounded weird and vaguely racist, so I looked it up online. If you are unfamiliar with the word, here goes:

Japan –verb (used with object)
to varnish with japan; lacquer.

to coat with any material that gives a hard, black gloss.

I think my spell-check is pretty snooty for suggesting an obscure lacquer technique from the 18th century. As if I don’t feel intellectually inferior enough spending my days writing about diarrhea and cellulite, now I have to be shown up by my own spell-check. Hello? I guess J.C. Penney is a bit too pedestrian for its tastes.

This reminded me of a crazy thing that happened to Tom with his Blackberry last summer. He was branching out business-wise and needed an office manager. He approached me, “Anna, do you know of a stay-at-home mom who might like to get into the business world by working part-time while her kids are in school?” When I stopped waving my arms yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” I recommended my friend Jane for the job.

Before Jane’s interview, Tom got stuck on a business trip and needed to reschedule. He emailed her from the airport on his Blackberry. When he typed, “We are stuck in California,” his Blackberry immediately changed it to, “We are stuck in validpenis.” Tom was not aware that “validpenis” was an acceptable substitute for California, so he didn’t bother proofreading his message. For good measure, he signed off with, “I’ll contact you when I get back from “validpenis.”

Someone had put this little glitch in the Blackberry software. When Tom returned from, ahem, CALIFORNIA, he re-read the email and nearly died. He was mortified. I almost wet my pants laughing. We didn’t know what to do. Should he explain to Jane during the interview that he wasn’t a perv, or would it too inappropriate to even have the word “penis” floating around during a job interview? Should he pretend that nothing happened, in case she hadn’t read her email closely? Perhaps she would think it said, “Valparaiso?” I encouraged him to ignore the situation entirely.

Tom said nothing, and Jane took the job. About a month later, over a glass of wine, I broached the subject with Jane. She had, indeed, noticed the offending word right away when she read her email.

For a few moments she stared at her computer screen with a serious case of the heebs. She lamented the fact that working for a weirdo wouldn’t be the best way to jumpstart her transition back into the workforce. She wondered how the wholesome See family could harbor such a sicko in its midst. She wondered how to break it to me, her good friend, that my hubby made Clarence Thomas look as tame as a beanie baby.

Then Jane did something I never would have thought of: she Googled “validpenis.” Jackpot. In an online chat about phones was mention of how this Blackberry keypad turned the word California to “validpenis.”

Whew! Technology got us into this crisis and technology quickly got us out. I don’t know whether today’s blog proves we are smarter than computers or they are smarter than we are, but when I spell-check it in a moment, I’m curious as to what choices it’s going to give for “validpenis.” California, perhaps?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Good Intentions

I get excited when my coupons expire and I can throw them away. I went about a decade without clipping coupons at all, saving (and never using) just the occasional carwash one from the Val-U Pak mailer. I just didn’t want to be bothered with them. I know this doesn’t fit with my frugal personality, but I just can’t handle paper overload, particularly little itsy bitsy pieces of paper.

Within the last year I’ve started clipping again, but with the same results. I forget to use the darn things! If they make it out of the house at all, they end up jammed in the bottom of my purse. I get pissed when I’ve just purchased 6 Lean Cuisines and I realize I had a $2.00 off coupon in my purse, or my car, or on the counter at home. Ugh. I know I should get one of those coupon organizer things, but I just don’t have the heart.

I’m afraid that buying one for myself will invalidate the coupon organizer’s status as the absolute worst present every purchased for me by my beloved. If I admit I need a new one, he’ll do a little happy dance and try to convince me, for the umpteenth time, why it was such a great grad school graduation gift.

We were young and madly in love. We bugged people with our googly eyes and PDA, back when PDA meant something other than Personal Digital Assistant. We lived the carefree lives of students. Tom was excited when he gave me the infamous present because he felt it showed how much he knew me. First of all, he knew I liked to save a buck. He supposed the money I made working at Blockbuster and substitute teaching would go a bit farther if I had a dandy way to organize coupons.

Second, the coupon holder in question was covered with an ivy print. This was the early 90’s and I was crazy about ivy. You may wonder why I didn’t run for the hills at this point, but I found it endearing. He tried so hard. Had I known that the next 16 years would contain holidays such as: “The White Turtleneck Christmas,” and the “We Don’t Do Valentine’s Day I-pod,” I might have felt otherwise. Oh well.

Now the economy is tanking. I keep trying to use coupons and failing miserably. They are taking over my house, but I can’t get myself to throw them away before the expiration date, even if I’m pretty resigned to the fact that I won’t be using them. But, boy, when that date comes, I’m psyched! Of course as soon as I purge them from my paper piles, we get the Sunday paper—chock full of more coupons!

I wonder if I take part in this futile ritual of cutting out coupons for the same reason I buy vegetables and salad for my family knowing full well we won't actually eat them. Into the crisper (a.k.a. “the rotter”) they go, until I throw them out two weeks later. At the store I half-way convince myself I’ll cook and serve this fresh, healthy food at some point, but in the end, I go back to my old stand-by: cheese.

Too bad there isn’t some way to get cosmic credit for coupons clipped, vegetables purchased, and encouraging phone calls contemplated.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

When You're Climbing Up a Ladder...

I’ve been feeling pretty bad that we haven’t taught Molly how to tie her shoes yet. She keeps asking, and I keep saying, “We’ll do it in the summer when there’s more time.” Back in the day, a rising 2nd grader couldn’t get away with not tying shoes. I was the last kindergartner in my class to learn, and I didn’t want it to be public knowledge, so my dear friend Yvette secretly tied them for me for the first half of the year. In an age of Crocs and slip-on sneakers, however, shoe tying is getting later and later. At least at our house.

Well, you can’t say Tom and I haven’t taught the kids SOMETHING, because over the weekend, we added greatly to their cultural literacy. We were at an amusement park for the weekend and I was having stomach distress. Perhaps it was the two days in a row of my favorite fast food restaurant, Taco Bell, or one too many spinning rides, but by late afternoon, I was incapacitated.

From the other side of the bathroom door in our hotel room, I heard Tom start to sing, “When you’re climbing up a ladder and you feel something splatter, Diarrhea, bomp, bomp, bomp, Diarrhea.” So much for sympathy. I started cracking up and countered with, “When you’re lying in your bed, and you feel something spread, Diarrhea, bomp, bomp, bomp.” Since Tom grew up overseas, and missed some American culture, I didn’t know we both had derived so much pleasure from this catchy adolescent tune.

The kids stared at us in disbelief. Were these really their parents? The ones who let them watch only PBS until age 7? Who say “toot” instead of “fart.” Who refer to the backside as a bottom or, possibly, a rear? More importantly, was there more to this song?

Within moments we shared all the verses we could remember and added a few more:

“When you’re swimming in the pool and you feel something cool, Diarrhea…”

“When you’re sliding into 3rd and you feel a big wet turd, Diarrhea….”

“When you’re sitting there at school and you feel like a fool, Diarrhea…”

“When you’re on the monorail and you leave a squishy trail, Diarrhea…”

You get the picture. Sorry. Have a great day.

Mocha Madness

All of my “Designed to Sell” episodes tell me to neutralize my d├ęcor, but I’m afraid I just did the opposite. After our textured ceiling was de-asbestosified and our gorgeous hardwood floors installed, it was painting time.

I chose a rich chocolate brown for my laundry room turned office. I parked the kids in front of the tv and the Wii console for the next 6 hours and opened my $60 gallon of paint (Benjamin Moore’s AURA line—truly the best paint I’ve ever used). I stirred the yummy chocolate colored paint. It looked just like the chocloate stream in Willy Wonka.

I had spent 2.5 hours taping around the 6 windows and doors and 8 electrical outlets (in a tiny 9x12 room!), when I finally was able to start cutting in with actual paint on my brush. I wanted to get finished before Tom got home from work, b/c we have wildly different painting personalities, and mine seems to stress him out. I like to tape her up and slather on the paint. He likes to paint slowly and carefully with lots of grunts and groans and little nuggets of wisdom like “Anna, it’s a lot easier to get no paint on the new floor than to clean it up later.” Thanks, Sherlock. Anyway, I wanted no comments from the peanut gallery as I tackled my new room.

After 2.5 more hours, the cutting in was complete, and Molly had taken a break from the tv long enough to paint her initial on one wall—a family tradition. I tensed up seeing my 6 year old brandishing a dripping paintbrush over our expensive new floors much in the same way Tom must feel watching me paint.

The cutting-in finished, I ate a truffle and admired my handiwork. Before my eyes, things began to change. As it dried, the paint went from Milk Chocolate, to Semi-sweet, to Special Dark to … Coffee? It dried to the darkest brown I’ve ever seen. You may ask what color I was using. I hesitate to tell you that the color was “French Press”-- an obvious coffee reference. But I can’t be the first one who has been screwed by faulty paint names. I just figured it was a bad name for creamy milk chocolate paint. After all, I learned the hard way there ain’t nothing delicate about Delicate Pink. Soooooo, knowing full well that my paint had a coffee name, I hoped for the best.

Now with a striped room with coffee-colored edges and a big “M” on in the middle, there was no turning back. I started rolling like a madwoman and soon had the world’s darkest office.

Molly’s verdict, “dark and depressing.” Tom diplomatically said, “It’s dramatic” and wisely refrained from reminding me of his choice, the innocuous light brown “Lodge.” The cleaning lady walked through and pronounced, “Miss Anna, for me, I like the lighter colors.” No comments from Jake or Shadow. So, from now on as I write this blog, I’ll be in my mocha paradise. Don’t be surprised if the blog takes a more “dramatic” turn given the new setting.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rebel With Very Little Cause

Drivers and others who break the rules b/c of some sense of personal entitlement have always peeved me big-time. I’ve always been a big rule follower. The last few days, however, I’ve gained a little insight into a part of me I didn’t know existed—the rebel. The obnoxious rebel. Our home improvement project gone haywire, and the fact that in ONE SHORT DAY the kids will be home for the summer and I’ve accomplished nothing I set out to do this year, have left me feeling out of sorts and taking it out on the rules and structure that so delicately hold our society together.

My offenses of yesterday may or may not seem big to you, but here they are. At Wal-mart I went through the 10 items or fewer line with 13 items. I was fully aware I had 13 items, but I did it anyway. The other lines weren’t even long. I was just feeling feisty. Later, when I took Shadow for a walk, I left her poop in some underbrush next to the walking path. Yes, I had my plastic bag with me, but looking around and seeing no one, I kept on walking.

Later, at my kid’s class party, I greeted him and promptly started talking in the back of the room with other moms instead of helping serve the children their Roman feast. I didn’t lift a finger. What’s up with that? What’s up with me? In 15 minutes I’m supposed to report to my final lunch duty of the school year and guess what? I just don’t feel like going.

While I don’t see my household descending into a Lord of the Flies-like existence anytime soon, I must say, my moral compass is a bit off. Maybe it’s because the asbestos guys are back for a second day. Perhaps it’s our lack of a bathroom sink, or the piles of end of the school year papers littering the kitchen counters. Maybe it’s being hit up for yet another coach’s gift. I don’t know.

When my son didn’t want to pick up balls on the court at tennis lessons last night, I was steamed. He’s big into fairness, and making the others do all the work as he sat on his rear was definitely not fair. I’m left wondering if he has caught the same ornery bug as his old mom.

Anything making you cranky today?

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I had a conference with a teacher today and the whole time we were talking, all I could think about was Biv. “Biv” is a code word my high school friends and I used for “Booger in View.” We would quietly say “Biv” when one of our friends had a booger issue to attend to. This simple tactic drew no embarrassing attention to the issue, as the general public had no idea what it meant, and it has remained an important code word in my immediate family.

I haven’t used it with my kids yet because they aren’t to the age of embarrassment, and I’m afraid they might go mining for a booger in front of just about anyone were I to draw attention to it.

Well, the whole time this teacher and I were talking, I wished we were intimate enough for me to whisper, “Biv,” and put me out of my current misery and her out of her future misery. Alas, I just had to let it go. Guiltily, I thought of her going to the mirror later and tracing back through her day, wondering who had seen the offending stalactite. I tried to focus on her eyes during the conclusion of our conversation, but it wasn’t easy. When I got into my minivan a few minutes later and peered at my reflection in the rear view mirror, I had to laugh out loud—Biv.