Saturday, October 29, 2011

Frankly Scarlett, I do give a damn!

I have always been a firm believer that blood was designed to stay inside the body.  God put it there and, by gum, that was where I wanted it to stay!  I also don't 'do' needles.  I have what some, including myself, may call, a 'phobia' of needles.   Given these two facts, what the heck was I doing, lying on a recliner, trying not to hyperventilate, with a needle stuck in my arm, allowing my own personal blood to go into a bag to be taken away, VOLUNTARILY!? The answer is Scarlett.

Scarlett is a baby who should have parents that are worried about especially stinky diapers, the sniffles, and trying to decide if now is the time to put all the glass knick knacks on the top shelf.  Instead she has parents who are worried about chemotherapy, skull reconstruction, and blood transfusions.  Scarlett is a remarkable little fighter, with remarkable parents, who, several months ago, doctors had said would not see her first birthday.  I am happy to tell you that I just helped her celebrate her first birthday, in a very special way, with 129 of her closest friends!    I don't want to try, and fail, to tell you her story since her parents do such a good job of it in their blog, Starring Scarlett.  Scarlett's parents organized a blood drive for her first birthday and since it was for this great family and this remarkable little girl, I decided that this would be the one that would pull me past my fears.  They asked for ideas about what to name the blood drive.  Someone came up with "Scarlet for Scarlett."  I guess that's ok...I liked mine better though.  "Frankly Scarlett, I do give a damn!"  (That's probably what they called it secretly)

So back to me, on the recliner remember?  Don't like blood.  I like what blood does, in theory, I just don't want to see it.  It feeds the body, it carries oxygen, it cleans up on the inside, it even heals.  And still, I'm just not a blood guy.  I don't even like to see it if I can help it.  Sylvia and I have a system.  If there is a surgery show on TV she'll say, "Don't look...not yet...ew...oh that's awesome...ok now you can look."  I come from a line of people who say things like, "so in your surgery the doctor took the nee...and the" WHAM!  Sack of potatoes, fainted and on the ground!  I have never fainted, personally, but I'm sure that it's only because I am careful.

I signed up both Sylvia and I for donating from a link on their blog and started the long process of waiting.  I had a date set, I had someone to go with, I had a really good reason, and I started saying, "I am going to give blood." (as opposed to I am going to try to give blood.)  In my mind I pictured everyone going off to someplace private where no one could see my apprehension.  The reality was that there was a row of these donating chairs and a multitude of people giving blood.  Sylvia was not phased.  She had done this many times before.  She said that the ones that she had done at her high school were even more crowded than this!  Not this cowboy!  I was glad there were only about eight.  I have to say 'about' because I was not about to look over at all of them.  They all had people who weren't afraid of blood or needles.  I didn't want to see that.
Sylvia and I waiting to be called...Me with my eyes closed
Kristiana helped at the blood drive by holding Scarlett the whole time we were there!
Kristiana, who desperately wanted to donate but couldn't because she was a few months shy of the cutoff, took this picture.  She kept saying, "Dad, will you just open your eyes!"  Thank you no, Honey, I am facing a bunch of people hooked up to blood stuff and needles.  I can have my eyes closed if I want to.  They also told us at check in that if you were a first time donor you got a special sticker and they were nicer to you.  I asked for 8 stickers so they would be 8 times nicer to me.  I laughed.  Sylvia stuck them in a line on my shirt.

Now concerning needles.  I stepped into a bee's nest as a child and was chased down a country road, along with my screaming younger brother, as we were enveloped in a stinging swarm.  I gotta tell you, I never watched "Winnie the Pooh" try to get honey from a hive the same way again!  Add to this a helpful nurse who said, as she was poised to give me a shot, "It's just a little bee sting." and the connection was made.  I use the word phobia when I talk about needles but it truly may not be a doctor's definition of phobia.  The reason I call it that is because my fear keeps me from doing things that I would like to do.  I nearly hyperventilated when I had to give a blood sample in December of 94 so we could get married. (Then pounded my fist when I heard that as of January 95 blood tests were no longer needed to get married!)  I once had an uncomfortable medical procedure done without anesthesia because I would rather not have a shot.  (My sister, the nurse, said that people under anesthesia can't even handle it...I explained that I was motivated!)  Even now I am avoiding getting a vaccine to avoid shingles.  I have had shingles in the past, twice!, and the doctors think it would behoove me to avoid this painful disease that lasts for about a month by getting a shot ...but that's just it.  It's a shot.

Me, hooked up and trying to take a picture without looking.
Getting ready for donating was both easy and hard.  They said it would go easier if I was well hydrated so for the last week I have been drinking water like it was on sale!  They said that I should eat a good meal the day I donate.  Also, solely in preparation for donating I assure you, I have not been skipping any meals!  And then there were the 'helpful' people in my life.  When I posted on Facebook (which you should go to and like my blog page...there's a button conveniently placed in this blog by the way) that I was giving blood and that I was more than a little nervous about it.  I got all sorts of advice.  One friend even wrote, "Don't think about the blood.  Think about your life slowly draining from your body."  Thanks Joe.  You're a pal!  Sylvia, who has had blood drawn more times than I care to think about, kept saying, "It's such a small needle.  It's even a smaller needle than the needle they use when they use a blood drawing needle at the doctor's office.  NEEDLE!"  That's great Honey, but you seem to be missing something.  Oh well, this will all be funny stuff for the blog.

Back to the event.  I had signed us up to go down early in the morning.  I am a get it over with kind of guy.  Then we had a conflict that would have made it hard to come and we would have to miss Jacob's basketball game in the weekend's tournament so I volunteered to go down and try to change our appointment.  When I was there I got to see, for the first time, that I would have to be sitting and watching a lot of other people giving blood.  Is the room spinning?  I changed the appointment to a half hour before the end and went to the game.  All the while I kept telling Sylvia, "Hydrate!  Get ready!  Drink!"  (Jake the way!)

When we came home we ate (that was a rule, remember?) and waited until our time had come.  There were loads of people who I thought were celebrating her birthday (I was young and foolish) and I soon learned that they had already checked in and were waiting to be called into the donating room.  We were given questionnaires that asked all sorts of personal things.  I checked everything the right way, apparently, and they poked my finger with a needle to check my blood!  It was red.  They took my blood pressure and told me that it was twenty points higher than when I checked it at home just an hour earlier.  It was really high but they said I was good to go.  And then we waited.  There were about eight people waiting to go and sit in the blood draw chairs.  One by one they were taken to the process.  I looked around to see if I could find someone that I would choose to do mine.  None of them were dressed like Dracula, I guess any of them would be fine.

Sylvia got called.  I got called.  And they started the process.  I was scrubbed, blood pressured again, they gave me a squeeze ball, and told me to breathe...something I tend to stop doing whenever I am near needles, and then she went to get the collection bag.  And she was gone for a while.  I kept hearing things like, "Well we can take this off of that and use it." and "I cannot believe they didn't provide us with 30% more supplies than we have appointments."   And then Mary Jane, who was my nurse, came to me and said that they had run out of bags but more were coming and it would be about twenty minutes.  Twenty minutes of me sitting there thinking about what was about to happen.  Twenty minutes of watching other people in the middle of their process.  Twenty minutes of seeing the nurses tagging, and clipping, and storing all the bags that they had already collected in coolers at my feet.  And then, as it turned out, it would be twenty minutes alone because Sylvia had already been cutting it close, time wise, and needed to go before she would be able to donate.

I have to tell you.  I thought, "Heck!  This is good!  I can get credit for coming down and being willing while not having to actually get the needle.  But I figured this would be like the time I went bungee jumping.  I was hooked up and ready to go but almost chickened out.  The guy said, if you don't do it now you'll never do it.  AAAAAAAAaaaaaaa.....  I jumped then, and I would do this now.  Sylvia called my mom to come get me and I waited.  This was when I found out that Mary Jane wouldn't be the only person to help me.  There's something about a giant wimpy guy with a big bushy beard.  If someone like that shows that they are weak people tend to feel sorry for them.  I had about four nurses attending to me at any given time.

When the supplies came in for the few of us remaining everyone cheered.  I started to think, well here we go. Well here we go.  Well here we go.  This was my last chance.  I desperately said, "Couldn't you just punch me in the face and hold a bucket under my nose?"  Mary Jane re-scrubbed my arm and told me that something like, "You've got really good veins.  This won't be bad at all."  And then I was stuck.  I had been paying attention to some of the others who had been hooked up and then unhooked due to one reason or another...I hoped that wouldn't be me.  If I went through with this I better save someone's life for crying out loud!  When I mentioned that it actually did hurt a little, Mary Jane said, "That's probably the antiseptic.  You have a are already half done!"  (Did I mention that I hydrated?)
The nurse saw me and took this for me.  She said, "I have to back up to get the blood."  Is the room spinning?

And then she walked away!  I know that no one was being attended to the whole time they were donating but listen up lady!  Did you not see that I have eight stickers!?  Add to that the unrealistic vision I had of my bag overflowing (hydration's the key really) and I began to worry.  One of the other nurses came over and said, "Almost there...*beepbeepbeep*...done!  I assumed my non-breathing, look away, wince, and clench my fist mode when the nurse said, "What are you doing?  It's all done.  You are unhooked."  Ok, so I guess it wasn't that bad.

They all said that I should lay there for an extra ten minutes longer than most people and that was fine with me since I was dizzy (probably from not breathing) and then it was done.  I got up.  I walked to the door.  And got some cookies and ice cream.  I wore my blood donation bandage like a badge of honor for the rest of the night but nobody at the store asked me about it.  Next time I am wearing all of my stickers!  And if you'll excuse me, I am going to go eat a big know, to get ready for next year!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Faire...not Fair!

I was fortunate enough to be able to take my family to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire today.   Now depending on your persuasion, you may think that the only people at a faire like that are only interested in talking funny, dressing funny, and acting funny.  THAT would be a gross generalization!  You are only part right.  The people who work at the faire are like that.  The people who go to the faire are only mostly made up of those people.  In fact, the responses to, "I went to the renaissance faire." fall into two categories.

"OH cool!  I love going there!  Did you get a turkey leg?!"
"OOOOh.  You go to that place.  Do up?"

It's easy to see, in the first twelve seconds, why people would respond with hesitation.  It has the possibility to  be the conversational equivalent of mentioning that you like photography and nature to someone who owns boxes of slides, a projector, and a sheet to hang on the wall.  Tread lightly is always a safe bet.

I can tell you that only 50% of the family dressed up and one of those only dressed in 50% of the costume.  I will also tell you that Sylvia was the one in 100% of a costume, lest ye thinkest indecentest thoughts about myest wyfe.  Jake only wore the peasant top to his costume since the last time we came was about 6 leg-inches ago and his bloomers had a little more bloom than he was comfortable with.  Kristiana and I are perfectly comfortable to pretend like we are in the zoo watching all of the people wander around...some of them in 50% of their costumes as a different way.

It seems that there is a set of people who have clothing that does not fit into societal norms.  These people don't seem to care that the time period that their clothing represents is hundreds of years beyond the renaissance period.  All that seems to matter to them is, I get to dress up and it's not even Halloween!  Among this group of faire goers is a sub-set who think, "I have a bikini top made out of two patches of rabbit hide.  I'm sure loads of women wore these in the 1400's!"  Add to those, the women who were trying to reverse gravitation via corset and you have an interesting collection of outfits.  Sylvia wore a corset of sorts but she would have come in a respectable last place in an 'indecent use of a costume' contest.  No matter how much Kristiana prodded, Sylvia would not cinch any tighter than modesty allowed.

We told the kids about the last year that the faire was in Novato, CA.  Growing up we, invariably, closed the faire.  That is to say, we were always at the very back of the grounds when it was time to close and we were ushered out by knights shouting, "The Faire is OVER!"  We explained that the last night of the last time it was to be in Novato, at the Black Point Cutoff, we were ushered past a group of revelers who had decided that the final time they were to be in this location was going to be clothing optional.  Luckily the kids were still wee ones and we didn't have to answer any questions.  Also the celebrators, wisely, did not ask me to join in the jiggly parade.  The kids spent the rest of the time at the faire this year saying, "Is it almost the end?  We can go home before the end right?"

So now, THE FAIRE IS OVER! and the 100% of the costumes have been put away.  We did leave before the end, end of the faire so we don't know if a tradition had started or not.  In order to sleep at night I am going to assume no.  And rest assured, if you come to see me at my classroom this Halloween, I will be wearing 100% of my costume...maybe even 150%!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I am a self proclaimed pizza junkie!  Stuffed, Chicago, Italian...I love them all.  Round Table, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Dominos, Papa Murphy, Independent little hole in the wall places, fancy Italian San Franciscan places, heck even Little Caesars will suffice in a pinch!    I can take the veggies but I prefer the meats.  If it is round and has toppings, I like it.  Even if it's not round but generally resembles someone's idea of a pizza, I like it.  The answer to, "Do you just want to get a pizza tonight?" is always a rapid and resounding "Yes!"

Lately, however, the question hasn't been about going and getting a pizza.  The question that is coming up more and more often is, "Will you make the sauce so we can have homemade pizza?"

Will I make the sauce?  That is a question for the ages and the sages.  I don't want to overstate things but, this sauce is undoubtedly and unequivocally the best thing that anyone has ever tasted, or will ever taste, in the entire history of the universe...if you like that sort of thing.  But I can't take credit for it.  About a year ago Sylvia went away on a women's retreat for church.  I was in charge of making sure the kids were contained, washed, entertained, safe, and perhaps most importantly...fed.

Let me take this opportunity to say that I wasn't 'babysitting' for two reasons.  First, they are definitely not babies.  And, most importantly, it is impossible to babysit your own kids!  You may be the parent in charge but it is not babysitting.  There, I said it, a pet peeve has been vented.  I can come down off this soapbox even though it is a nice view up here.

So, being solely in charge of the kids' well being for a couple of days is really a fairly easy task since they are both teenagers and able to do most of that on their own, but I wanted to take it up a notch and do something we hadn't done before around dinnertime.  I may have mentioned before that Kristiana is quite the budding cook.  She takes after Sylvia.  Well, Kristiana decided that she would make pizza dough if I would get the sauce.  In the middle of the sauce aisle in Safeway I thought, all of these canned sauces just look so cartoony.  I bet none of them have any kick and the only thing they have in common with Round Table (my favorite sauce) is that they are red.  So I did what any normal man would do...I curled into the fetal position and sobbed while they called for a clean-up on aisle 3.  Actually, I got out my nearly new smart phone and googled "awesome pizza sauce."  I added the awesome because 'average' need not apply.  Lo and behold the first site that came up had a description like, "When I make this sauce I skip the toppings."  Works for me!  I gathered the ingredients I didn't figure I had at home, ignored the ingredients I thought were yucky, (I mean seriously?  Who would buy anchovy paste?) and headed out to make my fortune.

When I got home I started putting it together and changed it as I went.  That is a skill I learned from Sylvia...she rarely tries a new recipe without changing it.  She also says things like, "What are they thinking?  Of course this needs potatoes!" or "It called for this but that will make it better." (she's always right)  With my favorite sauce lingering in my memory as plain as the memory of that thing that was kind of... well I'm pretty sure it was... I think it was round...ish.  Anyway, I started making the sauce and substituted a few things of my own...namely beer.  The recipe called for 12 ounces of warm, bland, tasteless water.  I can do better than that.  I opened one of the ancient beers that we have laying around (since I can't drink it anymore...another blog) and poured it into the pot.

Well to make a long story yummy...when I was done cooking the sauce I accidentally splashed some onto my head.  I was nearly beaten to death by my tongue trying to get at it.

After all of that I will let you in on my secret recipe.  Also, I never really make it the same way twice, just because, but this is the basics.  Be warned this has a bit of a kick to it, but not too much.  You can cut the spices in half if you like.  This amount will make enough for two pizzas:  Please promise to use this for good and not evil!

12 oz can of beer
12 oz can of tomato paste
tablespoon  of honey
tablespoon of chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a pot on low heat.  It has to sit for at least half an hour so the flavors mix together.  I usually just have it cook on low all the time.

Let me know if you try it...and what you think.  Enjoy!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Face is Familiar...

Much like a starving college student, my mom has been showing up right around dinnertime for the last few days!  OK, that's not exactly true, and we have been inviting her over to thank her for helping us out with babysitting, (a sick baby...which counts quadruple), driving kids to (and fro) appointments , and generally donating side dishes to go with our main courses.  My personal favorites were the sourdough bread bowls for our night of clam chowder!  I can eat clam chowder in a regular bowl but Sylvia always has to stop me before I start chewing on the china.  But I digress...

Well last night my mom met the dinner invitation with, "I've been here too often.  I have something at home."  Which, knowing my mom, meant that she had a handful of tomatoes that were going to go bad if she didn't eat them.  We tempted her to stay but she said she was only going to have a taste, not stay for dinner.  Good thing.  Last night she was privy to a little ritual we have at our dinner table.    Before I unsettle a large number of readers who think that having a newspaper at the table should be strictly forbidden, I only have it there for one purpose.  You'll see.  In our local paper we have a section labeled "Today in History".  It tells things like, on this day the Ghandi ordered a 'dog wit' everything' in Times Square thus ending his month long fast.  Now don't worry, I don't sit around asking, "OK kids, who was the Russian President in June of 1991?"  That would be silly.  Of course the kids would both shout out "Yeltsin!" to which I would cackle..."Haha...He didn't become president until July of 1991!"  and then we would all laugh.  Woooh!  Good times!

No, our ritual is much more mundane than that.  Under all that brainy stuff is a list of birthdays.  That is the more universally accepted game that we play.  I'll read a name.  The kids will say something like, "Never heard of him...a hundred!" and then I will tell the real age.  I do, usually, have to give a lot of clues so that everyone knows who I am talking about.  "Remember that movie about the guy and the dog that ate the necklace?  This is the girlfriend."   It is a lot of fun and everyone looks forward to it.  I have to admit, though, that it does chafe a little when the kids know who it is and then say, "Oh yeah!  He's OLD!  I guess 35."  Some days there are only a couple names that the family would know.  Yesterday, however, I thought I had hit the mother-lode.  There was Taylor Hicks, Simon Cowell, John Mellencamp, and Oliver North.  Something for everyone!

I started out on the list, "Desmond Tutu?"  My mom, who is no stranger to the game, guessed somewhere in the late 70's.  The kids said something like, "He sounds old."  Sylvia, on the other hand, guessed really really young!  She said, "What kind of a name is that!?"  Understandable, during the 80's she was hiking the alps, touring castles in Austria, and windsurfing off the coast of Italy.  (and then she hitched her wagon to a teacher's salary and now we explore outlet malls...but I digress)  When I announced that Desmond was indeed eighty years old yesterday, Sylvia said, "He made it to 80 and hasn't changed his name yet?"
"Well you see honey, then it wouldn't match the name on his Nobel peace prize."  I'm sure the kids' heads were full of visions of an 80 year old man in a bright pink ballet skirt...possibly doing the lead in Swan Lake.  Laughter abounded.

I went down the list..."Is that the blond?"
"Oh he was old when we were in high school."
"The kids know who that is, I'll guess 26."
"It's a man, mom."

Some guesses came close.  Some, mostly from Kristiana, were about three hundred years off.  But then someone would call out, "TUTU!" and we would all erupt into laughter again!  We discussed the possibility that Sylvia had indeed snorted, she was laughing so hard.  This notion was dismissed immediately (by Sylvia) and we kept playing.
"Actor Omar Benson Miller?...I don't know where he is from."
"I think he is in House."
"I don't know."

Mom said something about being glad that she had come over for "just a taste" otherwise she would have missed all of this entertainment.

And then I read the final name and dropped the laughter bomb!  "YO YO MA!?"

Sylvia definitely snorted.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Nerve!

I have been working very hard getting my new crop of darlings (kindergartners...for those of you who don't know that I teach four and five year olds) into the routine of a new school year so I haven't had time to write.  I read a "How To Blog" article and it said, among other things, that 'one should not apologize for not writing.'  So here I am, humbly, telling you, "I haven't written and I'm glad!  Glad I tell you!  GLAD!!!"  (insert evil laughter and thunder claps here)

It also said you should write your blog while wearing your very best clothes and not while you are wearing your church underwear (holey) and eating vanilla ice cream with pineapple topping and chocolate sauce.  Well, I adhered to some of that oddly specific list.  It's funny though because my choice of clothing is the subject I have to write about today.

I have made no secret of the facts that I, a) am colorblind, and b) have no sense of style whatsoever.  If there were such a thing as Garanimals for adults, I would still manage to get odd looks for my clothing choices.  Garanimals, for the uninitiated, are garments labeled with animals so kids know that the lion pants go with the lion shirt and the zebra pants go with the zebra shirt.  You can mix some herbivore clothing but if you mix an herbivore with a carnivore, look out!  Having known for some time that I was clueless I adhered to the one rule that I could memorize.  "Everything goes with jeans."  This I was told by my very helpful roommate who quite honestly was just tired of me walking into the living room holding two hangers and a clueless expression on my face.    When Sylvia agreed to marry me (thank you very much Honey) I told her that I was a clean slate.  I will wear pretty much anything but there had to be one rule.  "Everything I own has to match everything else I own."  Of course I didn't stick to that rule, and I have, with the help of my wife, my teenage daughter, and a helpful clerk or seven, been able to pull off 'an outfit' from time to time.

All I have to do is remember that the striped slacks go with the darkest dress shirt and the tie with the colored pencils on it (I am a teacher after all) will match just about every color under the sun.  Voila!  I can pretend to have style and it never hurts to hear, "You clean up good."

But alas, the male ego is a fragile beast and a single sling or half an arrow can send even the most accomplished style-faker into a funk.  That, unfortunately, is what happened today.

It was rainy day recess, the recess that is feared throughout the land of all teacherdom, and I was among my wonderful class of kindergartners opening juice boxes, doling out goldfish crackers (because real goldfish are a choking hazard.  I won't make that mistake...again), and generally making sure that everyone had something to occupy their time.  I was playing an educational movie on the large projector that I 'repurposed' to accommodate things like DVD players.  There were no tears, no 'accidents', and best of all, no arguments. It was very nearly the best rainy day recess that I had ever experienced.  Little did I know that my entire sense of self would be thrown to the style conscious wolves by a five year old.

I was walking around making sure everyone and everything was ok when I walked in front of the screen, and coincidentally, in front of little Desi (not his real name...but Mr. Arnaz really knew how to wear a puffy armed outfit didn't he!)  I crouched down and moved quickly to avoid blocking the view for too long when all of a sudden Desi pointed at me and yelled, "HA!!!!!  Black pants and black shoes!!"  (then he snapped his fingers in a 'zee' formation and said "oh no you di'int!"...not really but he could have.)
And then he went back to sucking the last drop of liquid out of his juice box.  The little fart just called me out and then left me to blow in the breeze...while wearing black pants and black shoes.  The worst part, besides the fact that it was like he was momentarily possessed by the bleached blond effeminate fella on that show about clothes, is that I have no idea what he meant by that!  I know there are certain things people say about clothes.  Don't wear white after Labor Day.  Don't mix stripes with plaids.  Don't wear black socks and cowboy boots with Bermuda shorts.  I don't know why, but these have stuck.  Now I need to find someone who can explain the whole, "HA! Black pants and black shoes!" dilemma.   

I am reluctant to look anything up on Google for the simple fact that whenever I search for something relating to clothes I usually get to places where they say things like, "these people would look differently if they were wearing black pants and black shoes...instead of nothing at all."  I gotta tell you it was junior high school all over again, and little Desi got his ego-deflating shot in without any effort at all!

Well I'm teaching him!  Tomorrow I'm wearing my blog writing tuxedo.  Of course it does come with black pants and black shoes!