Saturday, February 28, 2009


As I have mentioned before, there is always something interesting (often in that this-is-incredibly-stupid interesting way) in the San Francisco Chronicle. This week the interesting thing was NOT that the Chronicle is losing millions of dollars on publishing their paper, because frankly, who is making money these days in newspaper publishing? The interesting thing was an article on Toilet Paper. Yes, apparently this is important news. Why?

This was critical news because it was a Wednesday (and evidently an excruciatingly slooooow news day) and some ridiculously savvy, quite observant and ran-out-of-ideas reporter determined that what we really wanted to know about was American's penchant for really, really soft white TP. According to the article we LOVE TP. We like to use a lot of it. Double rolls, giant rolls and super giant rolls (which as an aside DO NOT fit in to the recesses in the wall designed for TP in a house built in the 1940's. Strangely, the girth of TP rolls has swelled substantially since this construction period). American wipers prefer their 4x4 paper sheets to be cushiony soft, with lots of air bubbles blown in to them or tiny little quilt patterns impressed in their 400 count softness. TP has gone the way of sheets. No more are the basic sheets good enough for anyone. Cotton count must be extraordinarily high. We love it. We just frickin can't get enough of it.

Don't get me wrong. I am fully ensconced in the camp of liking soft toilet paper. Having lived in a few countries that do not prefer their TP to be soft, I can personally attest to its level importance in daily-life-satisfaction-levels.

While living in Frankfurt, I believed that I had cracked the nut as to why German's are often perceived to be a somewhat gruff and querulous people. After uncovering the crux of the issue, I now submit that they aren't just perceived as being grumpy. They are in fact perpetually irritable. Why? Toilet Paper, of course. Think about it for a minute. Imagine having to wipe the most sensitive parts of your body regularly with little brown pieces of scabrous sandpaper. Now get up every day and put a smile on your face. Not likely. Change the TP, change the attitude.

I have applied this philosophy for other countries as well. Take SE Asia for example. In most remote locations, there is often a lack of TP altogether. What you have are: hole in floor and access to water. Now, while this is not optimal in the western sense, these folks are not surly. They are relaxed. Why? Because of the nice soothing water and the absence of harsh or coarse materials near their privates. Tender treatment = happy people.

And finally, let's talk about Japan. For a big city, Japan is by far one of the cleanest cities to dwell. This goes right down to the toilets. No matter where you are, and this applies to toilets in the subway (Yes, the subway), the toilets are clean. I'm not talking about eat off the floor kinda sanitary, but at least you can always go in and if you can't train your kids to hover effectively or for a long enough period of time, you do not have the immediate problem of getting them to a medical facility for a "silkwood" scrub down. I would rate the TP in Japan at mid-range. Not too soft, not too coarse. It isn't always available in the toilets though. They do, however, often hand you little packages of it as you are walking down the street. Yup, this is considered one of the premier advertising schemes. TP in most months, fans in the summer. So, the paper itself is moderately comfortable, it is provided to you free and the bathrooms are clean. All factors = mainly serene people. (footnote: this does NOT apply to the Japanese folks hanging out in Roppongi on any evening. This is a completely different story for a completely different post)

But, then we get to the US and my argument falls apart. It does not work in the US. If it did, we would be so unbelievably blissful! Someone would need to find a way to tether us all to the ground since our euphoria would be so great we would float away in to the atmosphere. In the US we have access to unbelievable soft wiping materials. Walk in to any grocery store and you will find an entire aisle devoted to singing the praises of no less than 30 brands, makes and styles of TP. It's almost too much to bear. Buying TP is like having to decide on new car options every time you shop. Seat warmers? Auto-defrost? Quilts? Little Bears or little angles? Amazing. US toilet paper is so velvety that there are now commercials dedicated to letting us know that sometimes it's so damn downy that little pieces of it can stick to your ass. In other words, dial down the silkiness a bit and buy OUR product that's still chalk full of heavenly softness, but tough enough that it doesn't leave lint in your crack. But are we a happy people? Nope. We are not. We are an ungrateful complaining sort. "Find and exploit the Negative" - - that's our motto.

Still, I'm leaning towards the hope that my TP philosophy really does work. It's just that as American's we have just gotten WAY too comfortable with all the crap that we've got that we've got nothing to want for. In other words, maybe there's a negative effect in attitude when the TP is just too velvety. You know, the whole "too much of a good thing" adage?? So, I have an idea. Let's borrow some TP from Germany.

That's right. Take all the downy soft quilted triple rolls off the shelf and put in some good old German cheap stuff for about 6 months. Let everyone suffer through a half-year of red irritated butts. This will be the main focus of our lives. When your ass hurts - it's hard to complain about much else. Folks will no longer complain about the economy, the job-less rate, the whole here-we-go-to-hell-in-a-handbasket issues. Newspapers will be filled with stories of ragged sphincters and how to correct the problem. In the meantime markets will correct naturally, chicken little will stop screaming that the sky is falling and the republicans will start to love the democrats (couldn't resist that one). When we put the nice stuff back (having surreptitiously pulled back on the throttle of softness a wee bit)... voila!! Immediate attitude adjustment with in acceptable ranges for countries with soft TP. Moderately soft quilted = calm and contented Americans. Hand me the Nobel.....

p.s. The article was actually about the fact that US toilet paper cannot be made from recycled paper and therefore was a BIG drag on global warming. Softness = lack of rain forests. From now on be informed. Wipe your butts with your own conscience. Not only is it affecting our ability to perform as a contented nation, we're destroying the earth as a result. Crap.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Home Boyz

On Sunday night, the boys decided that a little photo op was needed to show their most fierce Asian gangsta member faces. A quick contemplation of this picture leaves me with the indubitable conclusion that there isn't a whole lot to fear here. Assuming that they were total strangers and I stumbled across them vandalizing some random local property, I would fearlessly approach them, quickly flick them both on the forehead and inform them, in my most pedantic motherly tone, that they were grounded. This would be opposed to say, some really fierce looking gang members where I would be more likely to cross the street, clutch my car keys in the classic eye-poking-out position while averting my eyes lest they think I could ID them in a post attack line-up through my my own battered black eyes. With these two guys of mine, I might even grab them by the ears and drag them home to their mommas... You go my fuzzy bears: Henizzle and Geoizzle..

In other news, we have been without internet service since Sunday. Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to reflect on how dependent I am on electronic access (regardless of how crappily slow our connection is). I have been unable to do the following CRITICAL items:

One. Live my life vicariously through other people's lives on various blogs, emails and facebook.

Two. Satisfy my essential need to complete the crossword/Sudoku/Playfour on various on-line newspapers (please note I don't necessarily read the news there - - I just do the puzzles. I would also add that doing the puzzles at the beginning of the week is pivotal to my self esteem for the remainder of the week. Beginning of the week puzzles = easier = feelings of contentment and success. Later in the week puzzles = more difficult = lack of success and feelings of abject worthlessness)

Three. Respond to life-or-death emails from the school on issues such as what I want to bring for the pot-luck meeting on Thursday night, or donations for the school auction in April. (O.K. technically I could respond to these emails via my blackberry, but I am woefully inept at typing anything other than "lk342 lk03na *7hskj" on my tiny little key board. Weirdly, when I was a working stiff I could punch out incredibly long missives including font changes differentiating between "nice boss" type and "mean boss" type. I was proficient. Now I am maladroit. Like I said, weird).

And last, order a new grill cover since ours blew away during a recent wind storm and cannot be located in any of our neighbors back yards. It is likely somewhere in San Jose or choking an endangered aquatic mammal to death in the Pacific ocean.

I have also been unable to do some less-than-urgently-important things like - take care of my year-end health care spending account and re-enroll the boys for school next year. (yes, I know that these should take precedence over the aforementioned items. But, we're talking about things I want to do versus things I need to do. See the difference?)

And, so as to mention the obvious - - not having internet meant that I needed to: a) Dial AT&T for help; b) Come to grips with the reality that my idea of "help" (aka ASSISTANCE) was clearly not AT&T's definition of "help" (aka Provide-unlimited-doses-of-frustration); c) Spend 47 minutes in the que waiting for said "help"; d) Realize that those 47 minutes of static laced hold music were a total waste because the person on the other end of the line spoke English with the same level of fluency as my dog Otto; and e) Be told by the person with limited language proficiency that I now needed to talk to another department whose wait time was, in her opinion, much shorter. She was accurate that the wait time to get a "person" was shorter. She was way off on the amount of time that person (admittedly one that spoke our native language) would put me on hold while trying to figure out the problem only to finally get back on the line 30 minutes later to tell me that he was going to have to open a trouble ticket and that a line manager would call me back in 20 minutes so please don't use your phone between now and then since they don't have the capability to call me more than once. Yup. That's helpful.

Good news is that we have internet back on line. Other good news wrapped in bad news is that the speed of internet service that we have been paying for is not that which has been being delivered. This means that I may be able to quit yarping so mightily about US internet speed. But, guess what - - I got me another "Problem Ticket YN74DX0" outstanding. I cannot use my cell phone for the next several hours while I wait for them to call me back. I have decided to send my home boyz over there to rough them up about this issue. I mean, if you've got homies - - you may as well use them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Up and at 'em

When Shannon was small, I used to wake her up in the morning by cheerfully chirping, "Up and at 'em." Several years ago, I guess she heard the phrase again and realized what I was really saying. It was discovered that for many years she thought I was ushering her in to the morning by brightly shouting "Up and Adam!" Turns out that for a dreadfully long time she has been secretly wondering who the hell Adam was and what did he have to do with getting up in the morning. Funny girl. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was clearing photos from my cell phone.

The boys occasionally requisition my phone and take shots of random things like floors or car tires or the branch of a tree. Yesterday, as I was cooling my heels in The King Coffee Shop (where I hang for an hour while the boys do their Kumon twice a week) I was bored and remembered that I could use that time far more effectively than to purchase and then eat the oatmeal-raisin cookie that was screaming my name from behind the counter. Yes, I could occupy myself by deleting stupid photos from my Blackberry. I came across this one and I laughed right out loud in the coffee shop. Sadly, I may not be able to go back there again since I have now likely earned myself the moniker of crazy-person-who-laughs-loudly-at-nothing-that-anyone-else-can-see. Damn, cause those cookies are really very yummy.

I took this photo of Henry several weeks ago at around 7:00 in the morning. I know it was taken several weeks ago because he still has a whole head of hair versus the now stubbly short hair he has been sporting since the head shaving lice incident.

I snapped this minutes after after I had been bellowing up at him to:


I figured I would diffuse the already tense, and becoming tenser, situation by taking a photo in lieu of say pouring his un-pictured cold milky cereal over his sleep tousled head.

The result is an image that is HIGHLY representative of what Henry looks like in the morning. It captures, in utter perfection, the essence of Henry "I am not a morning person" Wisniewski. Had the camera been turned back on me it would have presented the lunatic look of a Mom who plainly doesn't have the right skill set to deal with a cranky 10 year old in the early morning hours. Especially when said Mom had already lovingly made the entirely ignored and unappreciated mug of hot cocoa you see next to him.

Oh, and we were late for orchestra where he did arrive with his hair looking exactly like it did in the picture. He was wearing the clothes that he is shown resting on. I believe I had to wrestle him in to them. Classic.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The SFS Bears

Last week George the Younger's sixth grade basketball team made it to the finals. They were 8-1 heading in to the semi finals. They won their semi-final game in a nail-biting-down-to-the-wire match. They were tied at the half and scored the winning points in the last 50 seconds of the game. Talk about some happy kids when that game was over!

Unfortunately the finals didn't go so swimmingly. They lost miserably. 30-high to 20-low (I am sure George the Younger could tell you the exact score. It will be burned in his memory as only one of those it-was-totally-unfair-they-were-teenagers-and-we-weren't-moments can be).

They played against a team called Live Oak. They shoulda been called Giant Redwoods. These kids were HUGE. They were 7th graders, but according to the league rules they were still allowed to play in the 6th grade division. Still, they were unnaturally mountainous even for 7th graders. Now, I can't say for sure, but I harbor some suspicion that they have some kind of genetic engineering program over there at Live Oak. Perhaps their snacks are laced with highly potent growth hormone. They looked more like our coach than they did our kids. When one of their gargantuan players stood on the line to make his free throw, I saw arm pit hair when he tossed off the shot. And you know what that means? Arm hair = other hair. Our little baldies were playing against bigger kids with willy hair. Uh Oh!

In the end the Bears couldn't adjust their passing game to the immense wing-span of Live Oak and rebounding was like watching 5 Shaq's playing against an opposing team of Lilliputians. It was gruesome. It was fodder for a Brother Grimm story. I suppose there must be some kind of moral here though. I wracked my brain in the car on the way home to try to think of it, some sage wisdom or words of comfort for him. I came up with: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. How's that for creative insight? Stick to the oldies I always say. I also took him to The Great Steak Escape for dinner. There's nothing like a cheese-steak and a rootbeer to take away the sting of defeat.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We got Rain

We are finally getting some much needed rain here in the San Fran area. After daily news stories shouting loudly about our impending water rationing - it looks like we have added a couple o' inches to our dwindling reservoirs. Somehow I doubt these few days of rain will be the answer to our prior pleading to the Gods of Cloudburst for water - - please send rain!! - but who knows. Perhaps it will keep raining for the next couple of weeks and all my neighbors will rejoice that their lawns will be saved. Not that rain means anything to them.

After a full day of rain yesterday and the day before and the day before, I caught a non-downpour moment to get out and walk Otto last evening. I observed that not one, but two, of my nearby neighbor's sprinklers were busy watering their already sufficiently drenched lawns. So much for the filling up of the reservoirs. Me thinks that the folks here in the Wood don't really give a wet mole rat's hide about rain or lack thereof. A green lawn trumps all. Dopes. I'm sure they walk by my lawn - which is currently a combo of green and light brown - and snidely comment that it would look a whole lot better if I just ran the sprinklers.

In other news, today is the last day of a four day no-school weekend. The rain did put a bit of a damper on getting everyone outside - but it was also a convenient excuse not to do a damn thing. We did try to go to the movies once, but it was sold out. The nice thing is that my guys are getting old enough that we don't need to don layers of foul weather gear to take them out for a walk any more. They are past their puppy stage and running them around to burn off excess energy is no longer a daily requirement. This is not to say that a little exercise doesn't do them good, but it isn't compulsory now. We can send them downstairs to become immersed in Wii - and it works just as well.

Truth be told, all the boys mostly hung out upstairs on the computers and played some game called "Ghost Recon". This means that I have listened to "Follow ME!", "He's got a grenade!", "Where ARE you???", "HEY!! I'm on your side. Why are you shooting at me???" for the better part of two days. Meals were opportunities to recount countless dangerous missions and how many times they killed bad guys or were killed by bad guys (or by each other). Heartwarming. I tried to get them to play something more interesting like Dominoes with me - - but many eyes rolled in unison. To be fair, George the Elder lamely tried to convince the boys that a non-combative game would be nice. But, in the end, they played mercenary fighters and I was afforded some time to myself to watch ice skating on TV. Nothing like watching a few triple axles or salchows end up badly. Cause after all - isn't that what we're all waiting for? Skaters sliding akimbo on their butts? That's what rainy days are for.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wily Sister

Yesterday I got an email from my sister. She sent along this photo. She says she climbed a mountain in Africa. But, this was obviously taken in front of one of those totally cool high tech green-screens inside a Universal Studio ride. What makes it so unbelievably realistic is that they had all the cool climbing gear (in her exact size), and a frosty wind machine to make her cheeks pink (just like on a real mountain summit), and they made her run for 2 hours uphill on a treadmill at the crack of dawn to get that just-finished-scaling-an-incredibly-steep-mountain-in-Africa in the wee wee hours of the morning look! Isn't it oddly realistic? It truly looks as if she physically climbed Kilimanjaro and got to the top of Uhuru Peak in Tanzania.

It's strange since she did mention a few times that she was "training" for some adventure or another - - and she did send a couple of odd emails about how she was leaving for Africa - - and she did post some emergency contact information surrounded by some blather about "just in case I run out of oxygen or slide down the side of a steep slope due to faulty ropes and ill prepared sherpas." What a great set-up, eh? She's wily, that sister of mine. All that prep work just to head to Florida to bask in the sun, play golf and spend the day at Universal at a photo shoot. Like I said, she's wily. Really wily.

So, to my super-adventurous sister I submit the loudest "YOP"! to you all the way to the continent of Africa!! It's an amazing accomplishment! You're the best big sister anyone could ask for. All that - - and you climb mountains too. I'm no where near even the tiniest bit surprised.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We are a model family

Over the weekend, we got the annual Cloz catalog. This is the vendor that sells all manner of required gear and clothing for the boys' summer camp. Cloz assists you (the parent) in successfully obtaining all the items listed on the very detailed four-page-Packing-List so that they (your campers) are sufficiently outfitted for their weeks of camp activities.

Truthfully, what this catalog really is is an opportunity to shell out $1000 on t-shirts, shimmer shorts, and sweatshirts bearing the required Camp X insignia. Camp X gear is mandatory. Apparently, only if campers are sporting the camp logo on a daily basis can they effectively bond with their camp mates and achieve the Camp X spirit that will foster them in to manhood full of high ideals and solid values. Only in a Camp X t-shirt will my sons truly embody the soul of the camp. Yup, alrighty then.

This will be my boys 4th year at Camp X. One would think that after 4 years of spending $1000 on camp wear we would be enjoy at least one year where we would have enough miscellaneous camp crap (I mean wonderous things) that we would be able to fulfill the four-page-Packing-List without having to order anything new. One would be wrong. Way wrong.

One would think that George the Younger would grow out if his things and Henry would grow in to them. One would be wrong there as well. Physically, this is a logical progression. Physically, it does happen with their normal daily at-home wear. In point of fact, Henry looks exactly like George did in 4th grade because he's wearing the same exact things George wore in 4th grade (although according to George, Henry looks like a Geek. In his mind's eye, he himself was significantly more stylish in those same clothes). But, camp-wear has unique properties that defy the laws of physics and logic. In other words, I still need to spend $1000.

First,I need to spend $1000 because there are Camp X activities which require the removal of camp gear sleeves. I get pictures from the camp nearly every day when they are gone. One day the pictures show all boys with sleeves on their shirts and the next day the photos capture a fair number of them in similar shirts curiously without sleeves. There are no photos of this mystical camp ritual where all sleeves are torn away. I guess it is worth noting that many of the boys are now sporting head-bands that strangely seem to be made out of the sleeve remnants. This camp ritual effectively renders said torn shirt useless for the next year's camping season. It is useless, since the same mystical ritual will happen again next year and you obvisouly cannot rip the sleeves off a shirt that already has no sleeves. Duh.

Second, each of them returns home after their camping experience with far fewer things than they left with. Camp is akin to a giant washing machine that systematically eats socks. Only this washing machine not only eats socks, but it consumes shirts, shorts and beach towels. Come to think of it, it has a special hankering for beach towels. We send 4 with each, they come back with one.

So, while I am peeved at having to order more shirts and shorts and, yes, head to Ikea where they sell the cheapest and most easily relinquished beach towels, Cloz does its best to make you feel a little better about it. How? They put your kid's pictures in the catalog.

Two years ago, George the Younger was on the cover. It was exciting for him, and somewhat humorous for us. Suffice to say that with the obvious exception of our two guys, the campers at Camp X were mainly nice Caucasian boys from the East Coast. Interestingly, they choose a photo of George for the cover. More interestingly, the diversity of the camp has broadened significantly over the past years. Obviously, a picture is worth a thousand new campers. Or so the adage goes. And more campers = more Cloz gear. Yippee! Everyone's a winner here.

Anywho, this year, both of the guys made the catalog. There was much oohing and awing! Look! We are FAMOUS!! George the Younger is highlighted on the sock page. I am curious whether this was intentional. Historically I have never ordered socks from their outfit. According to the four-page-packing-list, I am required to send 20 pairs of socks to camp. Upon returning, George the Younger typically brings home about 5 full pairs of socks of his own and about 10 odd socks of unknown origin. All look like they were used to clean the latrines while they were there. I buy the cheapest disposable socks I can find.

Henry made the back page. He is wrapped in a Cloz towel. This is the one towel that I ordered from Cloz the first year and it has made it back and forth from camp for three consecutive summers. It is undoubtedly a magical towel.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Today I am procrastinating. Procrastination is one thing I am very good at doing. If there is a task that lacks the spark that I might find self-satisfying, I am an expert at putting it at the end of my to-do list.

I need to do insurance stuff. We have been living without "stuff" insurance since we moved to SF. Last night while we were watching TV, the couch started shaking in that "is this the beginning of the BIG ONE??" way and I realized that in the event of THE BIG ONE, or even the small one, we would be woefully under insured. Woefully as in - -we don't even have coverage for a wooden spoon in the kitchen. Turns out that the "Big One" was just George shaking his foot back and forth. So after I began clutching the sides of the couch waiting for the tremor to get bigger and the house to slide off its foundation, I ended up just punching him in the arm and telling him to CUT IT OUT! Yet, it reminded me that I need to get on the horn and get some damn insurance.

So, now I need to hunt through our paperwork and locate the home inventory. We have this. People who move often always have this. An itemized inventory of every single thing in their homes. You need this in the event that all of your possessions are mistakenly dumped in to the ocean during their transit from one country to another. Containers of household goods have been known to fall off ships. Yet, while I know that we have this full and detailed inventory, I need to take the 15 excruciating minutes to try and locate it in the paper file that I surely labeled aptly at the time but is probably named "London" or "San Francisco" or "Whatnot" which will not make sense now but surely did then. Either that, or I need to navigate through copious computer files and programs to print a new one. Not appealing. Hence the lack of "spark" in the task.

I also need to make an appointment for the car to get its "check-up". They have written me a letter, which I ignored. They have had their automated calling center call me twice. I have ignored them. Why? First, we haven't yet achieved the full 5,000 miles necessary to warrant the service. But, more importantly, I am not eager to spend the morning hanging out in a coffee shop in a not-so-great part of SF without wheels. I suspect that they have a Lend-a-car program, but see how that falls in to the "no spark" category?

So, now that I have taken the time to write this tiny entry, I have successfully extended my procrastination period another 15 minutes. Go me. Now I will head off to clean the bathroom downstairs. It appears that I am willing to do most anything to avoid tackling the insurance issue or make an appointment for the car. My priorities are not aligned.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Play it Again Sam

George the Younger has been begging for a Facebook account. According to him, EVERYONE he knows has one and he is the ONLY ONE who is not allowed to have one. All I can say is, "well, here we go again."

Here we go again in the sense that I have walked this lonely road before. EVERYONE was mentioned a least nine hundred thousand times when Shannon was wrestling, meandering, and striding through her pre-teens and regular-teens. "EVERYONE" I have come to understand can mean anywhere from a single friend to say, three friends. It never truly means EVERYONE. "EVERYONE" doing something is statistically impossible.

In George's case, I have come to understand that EVERYONE he knows that has a Facebook account is the sum total of three guys in his class. Three guys who also have I-phones, very expensive clothing and everything that they could ever want or ask for. Want a new phone, electronic gadget, $100 hat or sweatshirt. Sure! Why not? As for me, George needs an I-Phone like he needs growth-hormone therapy and since he grows out of his clothes so often I shop at Old Navy. Yes, I know, he is deprived and child services should be contacted immediately.

The thing about Facebook is that they have rules. Hard to believe, but they do. You have to be 13 to open a Facebook account. Having an account of my own, I know why this is. Hell, at the age of 49 I have trouble deciding whether or not to add the "bumper sticker" application or what the whoody-hell I am supposed to do with friends who request that I be-friends-with-other-people-that-I-would-really-prefer-not-to-be-friends-with-at-all-because-they-are-not-really-my-friends. You know, in that "we are friends" in real like life kind of way.

It occurs to me that Facebook may need to add a new category. Friends and then Acquaintances or more aptly, Electronic Acquaintances. This way, you would monitor the difference between people that you actually care to hear from or hear about, as opposed to letting Ivanka I-Don't-know-who-you-are in on everything. Like why would Ivanka want to see my photos. So she can recognize my children when she is stalking me?

So, since I have trouble coping with the attributes of Facebook - the security, the friend-thing, the people who share too much or too little - - I am even more firmly fixed on my decision not to let George the Younger in on this big world-wide electronic party. So, he is pouting. Break out the violins - learn to play the sad, sad song with righteous indignation about how the Mom is keeping you down. Keep practicing, you will need to know it well over the next several years. You will be playing this song a whole, whole lot.

George the Younger will have to live his life as the ONLY ONE who does not have a Facebook account. At least for the next 6 months. When, according to Facebook he will have the necessary maturity to navigate the tricky world of electronic friendships. Should I tell George now that he can have one at 13 as long as I get the password and can monitor his account until I am confident that he is acting responsibly? I'm gonna go with "probably not" at this point. I will fight that fight on September 1st. You may be able to hear the sad, sad, violin song from wherever you are that day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Postman Cometh

The divergences of overseas life as compared to US living can often be exemplified by the little things. The minutia of everyday life that one, who has never left, would never consider. One of those things is the receipt of mail. Sure, the stamps were different, but what I'm talking about here is the stuff found in your mail box every day.

First, you got letters from friends who still cotton to the art of the personal Letter. I love those people - - in fact, who do you know that doesn't like to get a "real" letter in the mail? Why do you think that we all love Christmas? Letters! Second, of course I was getting my weekly crack-habit of People Magazine. But since my mag was delivered at least 30 days behind schedule, it was akin to living in a virtual dentist's office where old magazines come to die. As a result, I tended not to want to hear, for instance, when Ellen had come out of the closet. In my overseas world she was still stuck in there arranging hangers for at least another month. Finally, you received Bills. However, often times given language constraints, it may not have been immediately apparent that they were, in fact, requests for payment.

You didn't know that they were Bills until one day when you consciously acknowledged that unlike sorting through the mail here in the U.S. what you are not having to rifle through is the aptly categorized Junk Mail. That's right folks, being an expatriate means that your daily receipt of Junk Mail is pretty much nil. Hence, if the item did not fall in to the category of Magazine or Letter, then you could be reasonably assured that it was likely a Bill. Bills were quickly taken to my secretary for translation and handling. If it was not a bill, it was highly probable that is was some official government agency explaining in exquisite detail that you forgot to register at your local Office for Foreigners - - and then you could tip your head in that doggie way that indicates confusion and wonder - - if they know I am a foreigner why are they sending me stuff only in Japanese or German? Yet, I deviate from my topic...

(A quick note before I continue: In London we did get some Junk Mail, however it was unlike US Junk Mail in that it consisted mainly of 1)people putting lots of crap through your mail slot - i.e. not really mail per say, but Junk Hand Delivery, and 2) Real Estate magazines. Nice big glossy magazines showcasing lovely pictures of London flats for the bargain basement price of a decamillion pounds for 1,000 sq ft.)

But getting back to the mail here. These days my mail consists generally of a copious number of fliers for products I have no interest in purchasing and usually cannot figure out who would really want this (a stand alone Amish fireplace heater?), requests for donations to any number of worthwhile charities (but gee golly, I've plenty of return address labels), enough credit card application offers that my shredder is 90% composed of tiny little shreds of paper from Capital One and Citigroup, and of course catalogs.

It's highly likely that I'm preaching to the choir here, but aren't there days when there is not a single worthwhile thing in your mailbox? At the end of a week, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some disparate percentage of my recycling bin is composed of bunkum I got in the mail that I didn't ask for, want or more importantly, need.

(Another note: You may have observed that I did not bellyache about Catalogs. Sadly, I actually missed them in my absence. I've only been back several months, and since then I have been scratching an itch I didn't know was there. I'll get back to you in 6 months when the catalog influx has increased thanks to the wonderful world of Address Sharing. At this point the only thing that concerns me is LLBean. They send out a fair number in a month selling practically the same thing in each one. They must think consumers are stupid and need lots and lots of reiteration before we finally decide to purchase those rubber boots.)

It's about at this point where you are now wondering, "What is her point? Who cares about the mail, junk or other wise?" Well, I'm getting there. It's about an "offer" I got in yesterday's mail. There I was looking for Henry's report card and instead, I got an open-handed slap of reality. Should I still be living overseas, I would not have seen this. It was definitely something I didn't ask for, want, or more importantly, need. It was this:

Please note that my name is etched in the same little white box with the words "Senior Citizen Offer". Please note that it is for a magazine called "Sunset" - as in "the sunset of our lives" or some other euphemistic blather. Slap. slap and bigger slap!! Would I have been happier to get the letter that stated, "Hey you old bag, guess what? In just a few short months you will be able to get cheaper movie tickets and want to eat dinner at 5:00 in the afternoon! Our magazine can help you with that transition!"? In fact, it did say that, but with fewer words. Is it because us Senior Citizens can't concentrate that long?
So, no this post wasn't really about the mail. It's about the not so subtle ways that you can be reminded that you are no Spring Chicken. It's about the fact that when you take that walk to the mailbox you can be feeling youthful and sprightly. You are infused with that unrealistic internal vision of yourself practically glowing at the age of 25. It's about how you then shuffle aimlessly away from that same mailbox with an imagined dowagers hump, craving some butterscotch hard candy that you wished you now kept in a little dish on the coffee table - - right next to your AARP card and your monthly copy of Sunset Magazine. Damn that Junk Mail!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Maid's Nose

Oddly, I have been living under the (obviously) misguided notion that upon reaching the second half of my life (assuming a nearly 100 year life span) that one of the things that I should no longer have to worry about are pimples. Pimples as in what appears on a hormone permeated 15 year old's face.

But noooooo. Today I am sporting not one, not two, not even three, but four real beauties. I practically have a small mountain range on my face. I am thinking of naming it. Something snappy like the foothills of the "Yuve Goda Be Shitten Mi."

For starters, I have enough crows feet surrounding my eyes to handily meet the requirements of your classic nursery rhyme black-bird pie. Four and twenty birds - - that means 24 total birds possessing 48 total feet. Okay, it is possible that I could sport two avian stuffed pies. One for each eye. In what scenario should pimples be emerging on this same multiple pie yielding face? I can think of not a one, and yet the damn things are there.

I was lamenting my malady at dinner, and "malady" is what I'm labeling this as surely I am not going through puberty again. There is no omnipotent being so spiteful, so damning that it would thrust puberty on a creature twice - - even if that creature were just a meager human being. So assuming a kinder, gentler omnipotent being, I'm lamenting this at dinner and whining about how I think I am going to have to actually go to a drugstore to get both Clearasil and cover-up.

The dinner conversation subject eventually changed to my questioning George-the-Younger as to whether he had fully completed gathering his science fair testing stuff. George said "yes", but in that way that a mother immediately knows that he has gotten his stuff together with about the same likelihood as he has recently graduated from medical school at the age of 12 by studying on the internet. Not. So, I said, "Do you think that I fell off the turnip truck yesterday?" And quick as you can say who's-your-momma, Henry pipes up with, "No, but it sure looks like you were hit by it!"

What speedy witty repartee comes from my little impudent child. And who knows if he even connected the earlier conversation regarding my spotted complexion or if he was just focused on the topic at hand. It doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter because I will log this little comment away the way that only a woman can. And I will dredge it up later. That's right, go ahead and tease me my little future pizza face. Those foothills of ""Yuve Goda Be Shitten Mi" have a tricky way of showing up on other continents.