Monday, April 29, 2002

A few half-formed thoughts that would have been blogs if only I had the mental energy to form them.

1. No one ever dials the operator just to say hi. Well, at least I never have.

2. Swiss cheese, when purchased from the deli, is often squeaky. Does it share other qualities with the weasel?

3. The surest way to get people to leave you alone is to let them know you're raising money for a charity. For the past six weeks I've had a March of Dimes WalkAmerica poster on my door. I sent weekly emails to everyone in my department, letting them know that I anxiously awaited their donations. And the hall outside my office has never been quieter. WalkAmerica is over, but I may never take down that poster.

4. Instant pudding is nice. But the fishes can't swim in it. Which is good, because who'd want to eat something called a puddingfish? "What's fer dinner, Ma?" "Puddin'fish! And taters."

5. When I don't have music to listen to at work, my brain is too loud. So I have to wear headphones anyway or else the sound leaks out and everyone can hear what I'm thinking. And I'd spend all day explaining about things like puddingfish. Come to think of it, maybe it's not the March of Dimes poster that's keeping people away...

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The weasel S L O W L Y loses its twisted grip on reality. Details to follow...

And in other news, I've discovered a portal. No kidding, it's really cool.

I had my sketch book open last night around 10:30 pm, and for those of you who know me (or do you?), this is significant! Not only was I still awake at 10:30 pm, I had my sketch book open! And honest to god, I had a pencil in my hand.

What's significant about this is that art has been an immense source of guilt for me since college. There I was, sitting in the library at Lindenwood University with the brand-new semester course listing spread out on a table before me. The pungent smell of fresh electives hung lingering in the air. My first semester as a freshman was drawing to a close, and as I worked through lunch (two-thirds of a Snickers bar, carefully divided into eight equal pieces) scribbling down options for a class schedule, I realized that I was at a crossroads.

My major at that point was officially "undecided" because when I first met with my advisor, I told him, "I really like art. I'd like to major in art."

Then he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. "A writer!" I said. He looked at me funny. And he wrote down "undecided."

This was the crossroads I found myself at in the library on that particular lunch hour at Lindenwood. Art... or English. And I wasn't about to allow myself the luxury of switching my major midway through. Because I was also


The Snickers bar and I were soon to become much better acquainted. And I needed a fast path to a good job, because I sure as heck wasn't going to send my kid to school on career day to boast that mommy worked as a cashier girl at the local Walgreens.

What did I want to be when I grew up? Well... not pregnant, single, and working my way through college for one thing. So much for that! Not on welfare either -- Okay! Still time to salvage something. Time to get serious. Of my two options, a major in English seemed much more serious and respectable. Art was fun. Fun wouldn't pay the rent.

After I closed the door on art, it kept scratching at it like a puppy begging to be let in out of the rain. The harder it tried to sneak back in, the tighter I'd wedge the door shut. After a few years, I barely knew it was there anymore. It gave up, I suppose, and crawled off to find its own dismal shelter elsewhere, whimpering and defeated. I still hear it whimper occasionally, and that's where the guilt comes from. I can't open a sketch book without being reminded of how I turned my back on something I loved.

At any rate, I'm taking a watercolor class with friends Angie and Carole, which is requiring me to use things like sketch books and pencils. So last night, even though I told myself nothing worthwhile would come of it, I opened the sketch book to a smooth, white, empty sheet of paper.

That's when I found the portal. But more about that later...

Monday, April 22, 2002

I had a meeting with Satan this morning. He laid out his strategic goals and plans for fiscal 2003. I took a look at his revised org chart for the Catholic church, taking into account the upward movement of a few integral players.

He keeps bringing up the prospect of taking me on as full-time permanent. He had put together a generous salary and benefits package, not altogether different from offers I've gotten in the past from his direct competitors -- God... Buddha... the Almighty Dollar... etc. Again I informed him that I stand firm in my desire to remain unaffiliated. I like the freedom that being an independent contractor gives me, having the flexibility to work good or evil on a per-project basis, depending on the circumstances.

Later this week I have a working lunch scheduled with the Christian God, and I suspect he's going to make the same basic proposal. And really, I don't know why they bother competing for the same business, seeing as how they're just different imprints of the same corporation. I've gone so far as suggesting a strategic alliance, but they both scoff at the idea, citing key differences in their mission statements.

Mission statements. As if a string of meaningless adverbs on a marble plaque outside your building's entrance could have any real impact on your corporate culture... Oh well, they keep paying for 'em, I'll keep writing 'em!

Friday, April 19, 2002

Sunday is husband's birthday. Click here to send witty e-cards!

I'm just kidding, of course. I know that if you were planning to send birthday wishes, you would certainly have done so without my suggestion.

Jeez, now you probably feel like I'm telling you what to do. You resent me. You resent Gary for even having a birthday. You hate the fact that maybe you were planning some kind of well-wishing, and now you feel like I've stolen all the impulsivity, creativity, and originality, and effectively sucked the wind right out of your sail.

I always ruin everything. Why can't I learn to keep my fool mouth shut? Just... never mind...

Happy birthday anyway, hon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

So what is the point of clothing sizes? The system is meaningless. The numbers are arbitrary. And I'm talking about women's pant sizes in particular, because from what I understand, a pair of men's pants can be purchased simply by knowing the raw circumference of a man's waist. How logical and man-like.

With women's pants, the size is not so much a measurement as it is a value system.

Take the self-worth test! It's easy and fun. First, reach behind you and find the little tag with the number on it. Okay? Now say the number out loud. Still with us? Did I lose anyone? Now, say the number really loud and imagine that you've just shouted your size to a skinny saleswoman across the crowded floor of a Lord & Taylor. If you still feel like eating anything for lunch other than iceberg lettuce and a packet of NutriSweet, congratulations! You passed.

I've heard there are actually women out there who buy clothes because they fit, regardless of the size. I think these might actually be mannequins come to life in some strange, magical midnight mall miracle! At any rate, I'm not one of them.

Suppose you want a pair of leather pants, for whatever reason. Pretend it's Halloween and you're going as a cow. Whatever.

If you're like most women in America, you wear a size 14. You head to one of the trendy little racks of pants in a trendy little store frequented by multicolored teenagers, and you look for a pair of size 14 pants.

You will browse the various racks and find nothing above a size 5. (Because the trendiest clothes come in odd sizes, just to rub your nose in the fact that if you are normally a size 8, there's no way you'll manage to squeeze into a 7. You'll have to go up a size to a 9. And down a notch on the self-worth scale.)

Do you start to get the feeling that a size 14 butt is not supposed to be wearing this particular style of trendy pants? These pants are just too cool to be caught dead on your sorry butt.

Even the leather. Which will be caught dead on just about anything else -- it has no choice.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Here's a phenomenon: veggie ham

Hold on. I like the stuff.

Ham ham is slimy and meat-ish. Veggie ham has that pleasant, smoky, salty ham flavor that you want from a sandwich... without the slime.

I discovered veggie ham when I found that I just couldn't face slimy meat in the morning. Bread: OK. Cheese: OK. Lettuce & tomato (optional): OK. The lunchmeat is where it always fell apart. No matter what brand, no matter what type. I'd invariably un-zip the tidy little zip-lock deli bag to find a sticky mass of slimy meat slices.

And I'm not really against meat, per se. Most of the time I could take it or leave it. I know there are people out there who follow it like a religion, and the idea of veggie anything is morally offensive. But even members of the middle ground, the true omnivores, those who can appreciate both a good steak and a steamed medley, seem to find "alternative protein" like my veggie ham really frightening.

Maybe because they sense that the ham is trying to fool them, and they don't like it. It's masquerading as something it's not.

This veggie ham's a player and they ain't tryin' to be played by it.

Hey look, I support anyone's decision to eat only straight-up food. I have my line drawn in the sand too, and line, thy name is broccoflower.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Oh, screw it. I'm not going to get any work done today.

I came back to the office with the best of intentions, fresh from a four-day weekend and ready to tackle whatever nastiness lay waiting for me in my in-box. And what do I find here? Our building is having a "block party" so that we can all get to know one another and enjoy a plate full of warm, chewy crockpot pasta while standing around and loitering in the halls.

The best part of this event, I think, is the very loud reggae music that is being played just outside my office. And when I say "best," I'm sure you know the kind of "best" I'm referring to. Not at all the same "best" as when someone mentioned maybe turning down the music, and I shouted out my office door, "That's the best damn idea I've heard all day!"

I really hate to be the person who ruins it for everyone. I tried to jam to the reggae. I braided my hair. I put on my "Hello! My name is…" name tag. I picked up a styrofoam plate and filled it with a sampling of the requisite office party potluck spread: Krispy Kreme donuts, venison sausage, corn chips with chile con queso, bagels, brownies, etc.

I can't enjoy this. Even if I were the type of person who wanted to walk around introducing myself to people I'll never see again, I've got projects on my desk that were supposed to be out last Friday. They're giving me the evil eye. They glare at me accusingly every time I get up to snag another Krispy Kreme. They don't care if everyone else in the building considers this a management-sanctioned goof-off day. The way they're stacked in a haphazard pile in front of my keyboard seems to be their way of saying, "We're just going to be another day later tomorrow, and it's YOUR FAULT."

You see, the documents and I play a little game. It's called Get the F. off my Desk You Piece of Shite and Never Come Back. I win points by turning things out of my office as fast as possible. They score by finding their way back into my in-box with edits, corrections, and rewrites. I'm currently down by 6, for those of you keeping score at home. reggae…

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Husband was talking recently talking about the unnatural amount of naming that goes on in this household (click here and scroll down to "Parenting 101"). As I'm writing, Chewy Fly is grinning up at me with a wide, mocking smile on his chewy little face.

I was thinking about this as I was playing with Cally this morning, and I think I called her about eight different names, including Shmoopy Poodle.

Now, the parenting books assure me this is okay. And so is the annoying high-pitched baby-talk voice I inadvertantly default to around the baby. In fact, this is actually supposed to promote her language development. Breaking down words into fun, manageable sounds. I may look and sound like an idiot, but it's good for her. Cripes, the things we do for our kids. Next time you see some poor woman in the supermarket babbling on to her infant about what pretty colors are on the macaroni box, just take a moment to recognize the sacrifice she's making. This woman once cared enough about her personal appearance to attract a mate.

A few years ago, just as Kaitlyn's language skills were emerging and I was rediscovering my ability to use a normal tone of voice again, certain psychologists were suggesting that you shouldn't use baby talk at all. Maybe this actually hindered language development and prevented babies from hearing normal speech.

I'm glad that theory has been pretty much dismissed. I wonder if we have a few years' worth of kids who were brought up that way, two-year-olds who sit in their high-chairs banging spoons on trays and shouting, "My GOD, woman! Is dinner not ready YET? Is it too much to ask that I be fed when I'm hungry? And please, for the love of Pete, tell me that we're not having peas again. If I can't have diversity in my diet, I'm going to have to speak with the pediatrician next month about beginning a nutritional supplement."

Friday, April 12, 2002

There's nothing like taking a few vacation days to drive home how little time there actually is in any given day to get anything of value accomplished. If I really want to depress myself, I make a list.

Today I made two lists. One of things I should do this weekend, and one of things I want to do. I figured that since there's no way I'll get everything done, I'll just pick a few things from each list and round out the weekend a well-balanced, semi-fulfilled, sane human being with a semi-clean house.

I forgot to figure in the baby factor.

The baby factor is based on a complex mathematical formula designed to calculate the precise ratio of household tasks to the time required for each. Where T equals the task to be accomplished and X represents the age of the baby, this formula can be expressed as:


You can get a less precise estimate simply by assuming that for any given task on your list, you'll be able to devote approximately 8 minutes to it throughout the day. Broken down into 30-second intervals.

One task. On my "should do" list are things that I really should do. Things like laundry. Mop the floors. Clean the bathrooms. All worthwhile. Nothing frivolous here. My "want to do" list was supposed to be things that would be fun if I had the time. Kind of a wish list, like buy plants for container gardening. Scrapbook. Take the kids to the park.

Well, life is all about priorities. As more and more important should do things climbed onto the list, the fun things moved farther and farther out of the realm of possibility. And pretty soon I noticed that I was adding things that really weren't even fun to the "want to do" list. Since when is "revise budget" something I want to do? And gee, I'd sure like to be able to pack away the winter clothes and dig out the shorts!

If someone said to me, "Hey, I'm taking the kids for two hours so you can have some time to yourself," I'd say, "Great!" and blissfully proceed to reorganize the tupperware cupboard. My god, what have I become?

Thursday, April 11, 2002

I wonder if I’m what you would consider a morning person. After two good cups of coffee, I love everything. I’m not kidding. Right now, working on this third cup, I think I love the armrest on my desk chair. And it loves me back.

There was a “problem with theft” at work regarding the office coffee. They would order a few crates of these 16-oz foil-wrapped packets of grounds, stuff them all into a little drawer, and turn us loose on it. It wasn’t great coffee, but the caffeine content was acceptable. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying it so much that they would sneak into the vending room after hours and pocket a packet. Perhaps they would pack it in their jacket pocket, running quite a racket with no place to stock or stack it…

But now the rest of us all lack it.

They were so convinced of this “problem with theft” that they replaced our office coffee machine with a brew-by-the-pack office beverage solution (click to mock). Because this system considers a “cup” of coffee to be exactly 6 ounces, and my mug of choice holds exactly 12 ounces, I must brew two of these individual coffee packets into my individual cup before it qualifies as a cup of coffee.

It gets better! This office beverage solution also has an espresso setting, which brews, in my opinion, 2 ounces of what coffee is supposed to taste like. So a few of these espresso shots, a bit of water, and a honkin’ lot of creamer, and you’ve got yourself a very drinkable office beverage.

I’m sure I’m not the only one tweaking the system thusly. So I have to wonder what the coffee bills look like now, and perhaps building management is starting to look back fondly on the days when they were supporting one minor “problem with theft” instead of this newfound espresso habit rapidly adopted by obsessive types like me.

And now it’s too late to go back. They’d be admitting defeat. And they’d be forced to reckon with the fact that in all the recent weeks with our new beverage system, while all that leftover office coffee in its bright foil packaging has been lying useless in the drawer just beckoning to this unscrupulous coffee thief.. not a single packet has gone missing.

Monday, April 08, 2002

I like to believe I have superpowers. Specifically, the ability to make things happen just by thinking it. That's right... with my MIND.

All kids have this ability. It reaches its peak around age 5 or 6, when they discover that if they think about it hard enough, they can get mom to drop a steaming tuna noodle casserole on the kitchen linoleum, thereby necessitating a call to the local Pizza Hut.

It has its down side, of course. A few relatives have been killed. I heard that several kids recently claimed responsibility for the WTC attack. And Jimmy McCusker broke his arm in a fall from the monkey bars after he spat at Emily Stevens. (She felt so bad that she offered to eat the mushy apple his mom packed him for lunch.)

So yesterday, I spent most of the morning glaring out the window at a white sports car parked on my grass.

Technically it's not my grass. It belongs to all of us here at the apartment complex. It's there for everyone's enjoyment. All neighborhood children may frolic on it. All dogs may sniff it. All critters may crawl on it. Cars may not park on it.

Especially sports cars. Which, when parked on grass, imply that their owners possess certain qualities of excess, self-centeredness, and general jerkishness.

I glared at that damn car and wished for something bad to happen to it. I left it open-ended like that. Ground could swallow it up, monster truck could crush it, whatever.

Imagine my glee when I looked out the window hours later and saw that Officer Friendly had left a little present under sports car's windshield wiper! A ticket! I sliently gloated and cheered. I kept peeking out the window to try and catch the moment when Jerk-Person would come out to the car and discover just where this life of grass-parking had led. There would be much cursing, repenting, and gnashing of teeth.

I didn't have to wait long. The owner -- a woman -- came out of a nearby unit and started unloading clothes from the back seat. Didn't notice the ticket yet. Hee hee! I watched out the window like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. She came back, this time loading stuff into it. Still didn't notice it.

Then, she made her final trip out to the car. Carrying a baby in a carseat.

Oh no. No. You're supposed to be a self-centered jerk, deserving of a ticket. Don't be a mom with a baby. Don't tell me you parked on the grass because you had to carry a baby in from the car.

She fastened the baby securely into the back seat. She walked around to the driver's side with a diaper bag. She sat in the car and checked to be sure she had everything packed. Started the car. Noticed the ticket.

Damn it. She's probably a single mom, too. That car was probably the only thing she got out of the divorce settlement from her deadbeat, abusive ex. She probably works two part time jobs and doesn't have health insurance or paid vacation. She probably parked on the grass because jerks with SUVs and their jerk friends with SUVs had taken all the available parking on this side of the street.

There was no cursing or gnashing of teeth. Just something in the quiet way she held the ticket and stared at it suggested that this $50 fine would mean leaky store-brand diapers for the baby instead of Huggies.

Damn it. Now I know how Emily Stevens felt...

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Oooh, the giddy phase of the illness! I have a cold. Yesterday I felt like death. Today, I feel, well, rather good! I think it is because my brain is deprived of oxygen! I am floating on a lovely cloud of cold germs. Six months ago I would have thought to myself, "Hmm! This must be anthrax!" but I would have thought it while grinning like a stoned moron, much as I am right now.

Perhaps I should not be at work…? Phah! Who takes a sick day for a cold? Certainly not the individual who gave this to me. I feel that it’s my duty to continue in the transmission and spread of this particular virus. It has a mission. I may not understand it, I may not approve of it, but I just follow orders.

You know what the real irony is? Today I’m working on a promotion for a book entitled Infection Control in the Community. I do love irony. Ha. Control this, soldier.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Let me begin this account with its conclusion: Worst of all, we had no flaming cheese.

It all began when I came across a recipe for spanokopita. It seemed so simple. So I picked up some spinach and feta cheese intending to make it some night when I felt ambitious. Shortly thereafter, we found out that friend Todd was having a birthday, so why not invite him over for dinner—Greek style! Hoopah!

I learned several things from this experiment. First, never plan a menu around an untried recipe. Second, assume that everything will take three times longer than you ever imagined it could take. Third, when a 6-year-old insists that she doesn’t like spinach, believe her.

I suppose you could say that the spanokopita wasn’t exactly up to standard. But by the time I was through wrestling with the unruly ingredients, I really didn’t care anymore. Who knew phyllo dough would have such a mind of its own? "Brush butter between layers" my ass. So it was a little soggy. A little sogginess never hurt anyone. Except Kaitlyn, who valiantly took a good-sized bite, struggled with it, but just couldn’t quite get it down. So it came back up. That’s exactly when my husband gave up on it too, and while Kaitlyn ran from the table still gagging, he followed her and they shared a tearful bonding moment over "mom’s horrible spinach thing."

Todd kept insisting, "It’s not that bad!" Which is a great thing for someone to tell you about the dent in your car door, but kind of disheartening when it refers to food.

And, well, you know the rest.

But speaking of foods best forgotten…

I was handed an interesting memo at work. Apparently, someone had taken the time to compile a list of words that are spam "flags" for certain email programs like Outlook, which have so-called spam filters. These are seemingly innocent phrases like "satisfaction guaranteed," "nothing to lose," and of course advertising’s little golden word: "free."

Hmm. As a frequent recipient of spam, I have to question whether my email filter is trying very hard. Lazy sonofa...

As a sender of spam (oh, we don’t call it spam… it’s an email campaign), I almost feel like I’ve been handed a challenge. Can I possibly write an email that uses all 80+ spam flags? What havoc would such an email wreak with the filters?

By far, my favorite phrase on the list is this one: "This is not spam." I think I’ll start every email I write from now on by assuring the reader that it’s not spam. I might even start conversations that way. "Good morning, Bob! This is not spam. Did you hear about that awful pile-up on 44?..."

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

I can appreciate the primal relationship between human infant and caregivers. It’s a very simple equation: babies are cute so their parents won’t be tempted to put them out at night with the cat. Cuteness is a survival tactic.

It makes sense that sick babies are even more cute and pathetic. Little stuffy nosed mouth-breathers. They make cute noises and cuddle up to your chest and make you feel needed. You can’t help but be nurturing. Except when they keep you up all night.

And I’m not talking about the normal up-all-night where a baby wakes, eats, enjoys a sleepy diaper change, and then dozes back off – repeated every 3 hours or so. As the mother of a 4-month-old, that’s a perfect night’s rest. I’m talking about a night where the poor thing can’t breathe when she’s flat on her back, so she wakes and cries every 30 minutes. I think sleep deprivation experiments have been done on people under these same conditions, and the subjects soon went mad and tried to kill each other. But they were too tired, so they just swatted and cursed.

I went to bed a sane, loving, nurturing mother. By 3:30 a.m., I was none of these. I wanted to sleep. The only thing that saved Cally from being put out with the cat was her poor, pathetic, stuffy whimper. And the fact that when I stroked her cheek, she reached up and gripped my finger.

That’s really what it’s all about anyway. The baby can poop on fresh sheets, spit up on dry-clean-only shirts, and fidget all night long. When she grins and coos at me in the morning, I don’t mind any of it. Now I know why my mom always said to me, "It’s a good thing you’re cute…"