Saturday, December 1, 2012

We Bought A Crib!

Some time ago, I wrote that I had found an old folder with a lot of my writing from various creative writing classes I had taken in college before Sylvia and I were married. I told you that I would read through it, pick certain ones, and re-write them here.  We were engaged when I wrote this one.  I hadn't looked at that folder in months/years, but today is the day.  I had said that I would re-print my writing in its entirety with no changes.  Well sue me...I can see that I was even less concerned with punctuation than ever and that my teacher was extremely patient and generous.  I didn't come across the first paper she commented on but that will be coming someday.  There were a few influences in my life that made me think people might want to hear the things I have to say.  This teacher was the first.  I cannot write about her yet, but, to honor her, I will someday...

I read this essay (that is what the teacher called all of our writing) and I seriously thought I was losing my mind.  The timing was wrong.  The details were wrong.  Did I use creative editing and fiction back then?  But I kept reading...Oh, I get it...Never mind...  I hope you enjoy my walk down dot-matrixed memory lane:


It was pretty fun to do it!  We actually bought a crib. I should say that Sylvia actually bought it just because she made all the decisions.  I let her do that because she will most likely have to do most of the work when the little one arrives.  Sure I will help, but in all reality it will be she that gets the brunt of the work.  She did pick out a nice one though.  It's dark wood finished, a personal favorite of mine, and the bumpers are yellow with little bits of pink and blue.  The set of sheets that she bought match the bumpers.  I am sure that Consumer's Digest would approve of this purchase if it were only based on safety and reliability  but it also has a unique quality that gives it charm.  It's not too low so the average man has to bend halfway at the waist just to see in, but it's also not too tall to let the the average woman be able to get to it comfortably.

My sister has a crib that must have been designed be a rather short person who was upset at the world and wanted to bow the backs of every person who was taller than him.  I love seeing my niece, but I can't bring myself to get her out of that torture device my sister calls a crib.

Anyway, the salesperson was so helpful and polite.  She mentioned that Sylvia and I were being so smart buying it so early.  Then she commented on how Sylvia hadn't even started to show yet.  We just smiled.  We also smiled when Sylvia told her friend what we had bought.  All we told her was that we bought a new piece of furniture, then made her guess the rest.  Her guesses went from "chair?" to "table?" to "bed?" to "CRIB!?!" then to shrieks of joy and laughter!  That was fun making her guess.  We may do the same to my mother, but I don't want to cause a heart condition.  It may be a little too much for her to find out that way that we bought a crib.  Sylvia's mother was with us when we bought it so she missed out on the guessing game.  Too bad, I would have like to see the expression on her face when played this little game with her.

Back to the salesperson.  After she told Sylvia that she wasn't even showing, she asked when the little one was going to arrive.  We said, "December seventh on the four o'clock plane from Munich."  You see, Sylvia's cousin is coming from Germany and she is bringing her one-year-old son with her.  We bought the crib so she wouldn't have to drag one all over the world.  And besides that, it was cheaper to buy than to rent.  Why did you think we bought it?

Jeff Garrett

(Me again...blogger...this century)  Well how'd I do?  It was the first paper I read in the folder that didn't make me feel too embarrassed to print it.  I wanted to make a few comments and maybe clear up a thing or two.  I had forgotten about this story completely when I started reading it.  I knew that our crib was not dark, it was white.  I knew that we didn't need to buy a crib until well after we were married.  I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I would have never expected Sylvia to do most of the work with a baby (although she will tell you that I could sleep/snore through a train wreck...even if the train was hauling cymbals).  When this particular baby arrived Sylvia did do most of the work involved...not the baby stuff, Birgit took care of all of that, but Sylvia was busier than ever with preparations for the wedding and being a translator for her mono-lingual fiancee.

The teacher's comments?
"Clever!  I'm glad you didn't upset Mom.  Maybe let her read this, now that she knows."
Well Mom, here you go.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Second Heart Attack

For the purposes of relieving my mother (the worrier), my sister (the nurse), my father, and several compassionate friends from church and beyond, I am going to state, for the record, that I have NEVER had an actual heart attack.  Not a first... not a second... none.  I will be talking about a time when there were a number of symptoms going on but it was most definitely not my heart.  I would like to say, before I begin, that I am not a doctor, I have not been trained to teach people about medicine or medical procedures, and that I am offering no advice except for this:  If you are in so much pain that your wife thinks you are having a heart attack, let her take your dumb ass to the doctor!  We now return to the regularly scheduled blog.

I would apologize for the title but the first thing they teach you in the Rich and Famous Blog Writing School is to have an opening that grabs people.  Of course there are some people out there who may have read the title and thought, "Yay!  Go for three!"  To you, I offer a loud and disrespectful raspberry.  (Sorry you all had to see that.)

Many years ago, when Kristiana was a toddler and Jake was still an infant, I was given one of the most stressful classrooms I have ever experienced.  The difficulties in the classroom are not important to the story, what is important is that, apparently, I hold onto my stress in my back.  With the challenges I was facing at work and various other stressers my back was a mess.  It was actually quite often that it would feel like someone was trying to sew my shoulder blades together with dull hot needles...and that was when it didn't feel like I had a linebacker balancing on his elbow in the center of my back.  Unfortunately, I was semi-used to being in pain back then. (no pun intended)  I had good days, not so good days, and bad days, but I always managed to make it to work.  My students were accustomed to my strange faces, wincing, and even walking with a cane.  I was used to explaining to people that I had just hurt my back...again.  No, not in a bar fight.  No, not lifting a burning bus off of nuns.  No, I was used to explaining that I had hurt by doing really manly things like, picking up a package of Kool-aid, getting out of the car, or standing up.  You know, manly activities that require strength and agility!

My story today actually begins on a good day.  In fact, I had been having such a string of good days that I forgotten (almost) about my troublesome body parts.  It was a normal morning of getting ready for work, making my lunch, and then I went out to get the paper.  I noticed that the light over the door was out so I reached up to unscrew it.  Something about standing on the balls of my feet, twisting slightly, and reaching for the light bulb made something pop in my back.  I was in instant excruciating pain!  I forgot the light and tried to inch my way down the hall to brush my teeth so I could go to work.  (Did I mention that I was used to this?)  I was about three quarters of the way down the hallway when Kristiana happened to run past me toward Mommy.  She was excited, she was three, she touched me ever so slightly on the hand as she went by.  That was enough to spin me a fraction of an inch, but it was an unanticipated fraction of an inch and that was the exact wrong thing that my back needed.

That slight movement amplified my pain times least!  In a span of about ten seconds I turned sideways, stopped breathing, clutched my chest (because I couldn't reach around and clutch my back), leaned against the wall, and slid to the floor.  I couldn't talk.  I couldn't take a breath.  I was as white as a ghost.  Kristiana was worried.  Sylvia was worried.  I finally managed to squeak out a feeble, "I hurt my back."  I stayed there reassuring Kristiana that Daddy just makes that sound sometimes.  It wasn't her fault.  I'll be OK.  I breathed haltingly through clenched teeth while I am sure Sylvia went to get the phone to call 911.  She stood over me saying, "I'm calling an ambulance.  You can't even breath."  Me, stupidly, "No.  It's just my back.  I'll be fine in a little while.  Just don't move me while I sit here for a second."  Sylvia was unconvinced but I told her that I had hurt my back trying to reach for a light bulb.  It was not my heart.  I would be fine.  The pain started subsiding, I managed to get up, I took some ibuprofen, and then I...wait for it...went to work.

Just so you all don't think that I am a complete moron, I did call the doctor and set up what was to be the first of many appointments that resulted in my seeing a physical terrorist (not a typo) who actually was a linebacker and, as it turns out, actually knew how to balance his entire body on his elbow while on the center of my back.  My apologies to all the other people in the hospital, next door at the pharmacy, and the bowling alley a mile and a half away, who had to listen to my screaming as he "worked out the knots."  I was given exercises to do, ways to stand, sit, and lay, and never had an episode as bad as the one in the hallway ever again.

Jump forward a number of a special education teacher I was given several opportunities to go to workshops where they trained us in many areas.  I learned how to work with aggressive children.  I learned how to do paperwork in new and exciting ways.  And I learned how to do Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation.

On the day that we were trained in CPR the instructor was talking to us about the ways we could help people.  I went into the training thinking that things hadn't changed much since I started getting my certifications in junior high school.  As it turned out things had changed since the last time I took the class.  I listened more carefully.  Then she said that there were new symptoms for people having heart attacks.  Chest pain. Knew that.  Left arm pain.  Check.  Then she said that many people have had heart attacks and not even known it.  Wait, what?  She said there were signs that do not fit the classic symptoms.  One was back pain.  She now had my full attention.  She went on, shortness of breath.  Then she hit the jackpot...Denying to your wife that you are having a heart attack.  Uh oh.  I thought back to that day when I convinced Sylvia that I was not having a heart attack.  I went back in time and re-lived that morning as the instructor added cold sweat and lightheadedness.  I was sure I had that back then too.  In fact I think I felt a majority of those symptoms again right there in that room!  Dangit!  Was I having my second heart attack because I was learning about my first one?!

I actually got worried that I had had a mild attack but didn't realize it at the time.  Holy cow!  As I listened to her go on to the next subject I thought about how I should probably call the doctor to see if there was something to do now that I had this new knowledge.  How do I start that conversation?  Hello, I think I had a heart attack a few years ago and I think I am having another one while learning about the first!  I imagined that they would refer me to another department where they might, wisely, examine my head.  I decided to talk to the nurse who was giving the training during break time.

When everyone else went to lunch I walked up to this poor woman who had no idea what was coming and told her my tale of woe, starting with my symptoms.  She agreed that it sounded like I had, perhaps, suffered a minor heart attack based on what I had told her.  And then I said, "Yeah, and it all started out because I was changing a light bulb."
She said, "Wait a minute.  You did something to make it start, and you could do something to make it better?"
"You didn't have a heart attack.  They just happen and you cannot make them feel better by moving a certain way. Enjoy your lunch."

I took her assurance and ran with it...and forgot all about it until I opened a letter from my doctor stating that my routine chest x-ray was clear.  Good thing...I have to change a light bulb later!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hope You All Enjoyed It

Thanksgiving is a time of tradition.  We have many Thanksgiving traditions in the Garrett family.  We gather.  We expend copious amounts of energy making the house look more organized than it typically is, and then say, "Excuse the mess" when others come over.  We feast.  We play games, talk, and laugh.  We take turns writing in the "Thanksgiving Journal."  There are literally dozens of traditions that we observe, consciously or unconsciously, each Thanksgiving. But the most rigid, the most sacred, the most religiously followed tradition is not known to be followed until the day after Thanksgiving.

Every year in preparation for the yearly feast, my family plans on gathering at the Garrett household for Thanksgiving.  We contact everyone and count the people who will be attending.   We carefully and thoughtfully review (and then reject) the subtle changes suggested for the menu each year.  No, the stuffing will not include nuts.  No, we will not be deep frying the turkey.  No, we will not be making yams simply because they add color to the table.  We assign roles, take stock in what we have, what we need, and then go out and purchase enough food to feed the 1st infantry...following three days of starvation training.  And yet, even this is not the tradition that is most adhered to.

This tradition has been passed on from generation to generation, family to family, from as long back as I can remember.  I remember hearing about observing this tradition the day after eating at my aunt and uncle's house when I was in elementary school.  It seems like only thirty years ago (it was more like forty) that we were sitting and watching the Wizard of Oz while waiting for dinner to be set out on the table.  There were two families of five so they took it easy on the food.  There was a ham, a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams (with mini-marshmallows), gravy, green beans, rolls, jello, ambrosia salad, cream cheese stuffed celery sticks, and black olives for all the kids to stick on their fingers.  And every year my aunt would come out, look at the table, straining under the weight of more food than city ordinances would allow, with an appraising eye, and then head back into the kitchen while saying, "Hold on everyone...I'm going to make a green salad."  Green salad?  If we hadn't eaten in a week and invited everyone we'd ever met we wouldn't have been able to eat all the food on the table...and yet Aunt Pam wanted there to be a cushion of food just in case.  And this still isn't the tradition.

No, I discovered that we had honored this tradition this year when I looked in the refrigerator this morning to see if there were any leftovers that might be loosely considered breakfast worthy.  I looked past the gravy and the stuffing.  I considered the deviled eggs briefly.  I decided there was too much infrastructure that needed to be moved to get to the leftover turkey and then I saw them.  The artichoke jalapeno dip and several Pillsbury ready-to-bake crescent roll packages sat exactly where we placed them in preparation for last night's meal.  It seems that the tradition on our family is to plan to serve something, either as an appetizer or side dish,...and then don't.  

In no particular order, according to year, I have heard, "I hope everyone enjoyed the, rolls, jello salad, shrimp, oysters, fresh fruit, stuffed peppers, crackers and cheese, or pickled herring."  At some point in the planning, one of us (probably shopping while hungry) said, "Oh, that would be good.  Let's get that for Thanksgiving."  Only to have it sit 'snug as a crescent roll in a pressurized tube' well after the meal.  (I've always wanted to coin a phrase so if you will start using that crescent roll one, and give me credit, I would appreciate it.

As delicious as warmed artichoke and jalapeno dip is or fresh, hot crescent rolls are, I'm certain that we sent no people away feeling unfulfilled.  More likely we sent away people with that feeling of regret over having taken one too many helpings of whatever...only to "find room" for "just a taste" of two different kinds of pies as dessert.  I'm certain my great-great-great-great grandmother would be proud to know that the tradition of leaving something prepared and uneaten is still going strong.  Of course the times have changed and we no longer, like her, leave the squirrel casserole in the oven until long after the meal was finished...that was last year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Advertising and the Rhythmic Intestines (not the name of a new band)

Ever have one of those times when you just know you are supposed to do something?  I had one of those yesterday.  In the span of about forty-five minutes three people asked me similar questions.  "How's the blog business?", "How's the blog going?", and finally..."You better start writing again, or do I have to cut you!?"  So here I sit on my first day off for Thanksgiving break and I "decided" to write this morning.  Honestly, I wasn't too worried.  I mean, this all happened in the courtyard at church between services...and the knife the pastor was holding was really kinda small.

I told one person that I hadn't written in a while because I was having a time-management issue and how I used to just sit down and pound out a blog in an hour before the family woke up, but that was when I had stories swishing around my brain like flies around the hind end of a cow.  (some people are saying, "So that's why your writing is like that!")  Now, to be honest, I have fewer stories to tell.  Oh, there are still stories swishing around...doozies...but right from the start I promised that I would not use this as a place to embarrass anyone.  That means there are certain timelines that are in place.  There are some stories that are too fresh to be seen as funny by those involved...others I will need to write and lock in a secret facility to be published only upon my demise.  I haven't written them no point bumping me off...Ya hear that pastor Mike!?  (not her real name)

Yes, sadly the ideas are sometimes not as forthcoming as they have been in the past.  Don't get me wrong...I could sit and pound out a group of words every day...I'm sure that some of them would even make you, laugh out loud, cry, snort, or even pee your pants (all comments that I have gotten from readers...apologies to the pee-ers...but most especially to the pee-ees) but alas, since no one has seen fit to pay me to do this I have to relegate my blog to hobby status and only write when time allows.  Yes, I am spending energies on keeping my marriage and my children alive.  We've just gone through another set of x-rays and specialists to find out if a wrist was broken or just sprained.  Kids!  What're ya gonna do!?  Today, even though I am positive I turned off the alarms for my first vacation day, one snuck through the settings and I am up at six, writing without a topic...sort of.

I told myself, last night, that if I was awake early enough I would write something this morning.  I didn't have a topic so I thought, I'll write about whatever pops into my head first thing in the morning.  I considered writing a status on Facebook that said, "I am looking for blog topics...give me something to write about." I always feel a little sorry for people who try to get attention like that...BUT IF YOU WANT TO SEND ME SOME BLOG IDEAS HERE IN THE COMMENTS OF THIS POST I CAN GUARANTEE THAT I WILL GET TO THEM IN FUTURE BLOGS!!  And this is not sad, because it's not on Facebook you see...isn't relativism wonderful!?

Back to this morning.  I woke up, fed the dogs, and as I was walking back in from the back yard I heard it.  "AcTIVEeeeeUHHHHHHHH."  No, I didn't have the TV on.  At least not one that anyone else in the world can see or hear.  I heard it back in the center of the brain that is usually relegated to re-playing "It's a Small World" over and over again.  Plain as day I heard the sing-songy final word of a yogurt commercial.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen (and certain knife wielding clergy) the topic for today is yogurt that helps old ladies go poop.  At least that is how they described it on a TV show.  If you don't like it, you may lodge a complaint with my brain.  Ask Sylvia for the details, she does it all the time.

In case you aren't familiar with Activia.  It is a product that is packaged nicely, displayed prominently, and marketed effectively.  I'm sure the only people on the planet who even knew that Activia existed were the people who were making it...enter Jamie Lee Curtis...complete with new natural hair color.  You know what they say, gray is the new blond.  Analysts have spent countless hours talking about how she is showing people that this product is great since she is willing to be its spokesperson looking natural.  There are many commercials in the series of selling.  Jamie getting up in the morning.  Jamie talking to people at a cafe.  Jamie in a ball gown dancing with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  (But I may be thinking of a movie instead of a commercial)

Whatever the scenario, Jamie interacts with women who talk euphemistically about how this yogurt has "changed their lives."  There is a lot of "moving along" talk, and how everything "got going" but they cleverly stay away from the "p" word.  There are several times when Jamie does a little wiggle and moves her arms like she's hula dancing.  I am guessing that this is supposed to simulate the action taking place in your large intestine.  But I tell you what, I don't think I want my innards doing anything even remotely similar to the hula.  In fact that may make me a little uncomfortable if I was at a staff meeting and I noticed that anyone in the room had a dancing colon.  When these women are dancing the wave and talking about feeling better than they ever have in their lives, the commercial pops onto the screen (notice...there's only one "o" in pop) a disclaimer that says something like, "...when eaten three times a day."   Well I'm not going near anything that is going to make my entrails shimmy...and definitely not three times a day!  I'm going to predict that there is going to be a new disclaimer attached.  "If your insides dance or feel like they may be wearing a grass skirt ...longer than four your doctor."

All right, Sylvia is up.  I am going to leave it here.  I'm not sure if the kids are up...after I publish this my pastor will tell me where they are being held.  (Kidding!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Smart? Nah...

Every once in a while I do something that some may consider smart.  I cannot point out too many examples..but it happens.  I may have mentioned before (in an entirely humble way) that I have been called a fairly smart guy.  Of course, that is the only way that people who know me through this blog would know that I wasn't drooling on the keyboard as I wrote.  My grandfather used to say that I was a "pretty smart feller."  Come to think of it, he just as often called me a "pretty fart smeller" so that may not be the best indicator.

Actually, deep in the dark recesses of a couple of damp and moldy archive somewhere lay a few test results that say my intelligence quotient is in the genius range.  There are also a couple of gray haired men, scores of people I know, and practically all of my high school teachers all standing around scratching their heads wondering how they should re-calibrate the machine.

After I heard the first results (fans of The Big Bang Theory on TV can picture Sheldon saying, "I'm not crazy.  My mom had me tested.") I looked into joining the Mensa club.  Apparently it's a club that you can get into if you, like me, were able to pull the wool over some tester's eyes.  I looked into it.  It sounded boring.  And gave up.  A bunch of people standing around solving word problems.  No thanks.  Although I do like an occasional logic puzzle...but I digress.

My favorite story that I came across while looking into this particular club was told by a worker on a marina.     It seems a group had rented a large party sailboat to go out on the bay for the day.  When they came in to port they settled the bill, emptied their belongings, and left.  The worker then started cleaning out the boat to get it ready for the next group in the morning.  When he got to the rigging for one of the signal flags atop a mast he saw that it was jammed.  He couldn't secure everything that he needed to because it looked like a flag was stuck in the mechanism far above the boat.  The only way to handle it was to climb up the mast and hold on with one hand while untangling with the other.  He did that, and after about ten minutes of pulling and untangling, hanging on for dear life, he realized that the group had put their flag on upside down and that had been the cause of all the trouble.  After he freed it and dropped back down to the deck (I apologize to all sailors out there who are cringing at my non-nautical expertise) he unfolded the flag to see that it said, "MENSA!"

As usual...I told you all of that so I could tell you this story.  I was reminded of my brush with intelligence last week when I was given the task of picking up a pizza for when Sylvia and the kids got home from a church function.  I wanted to time it just right so I would have hot, delicious pizza ready for them right when they came in.  I went to the restaurant with what I thought was plenty of time.  I should have known there was something different when I couldn't find a parking space.  There are three businesses in their parking lots and two of them were closed...all of the cars, trucks, and motorcycles(!) were there for pizza.  OK, so technically the people who maneuvered the vehicles to the parking lots were there for pizza...but you get the idea.  I walked into Round Table and was met by a wall of leather, patches, beards, and chains connected to wallets.  Apparently every other Thursday is the night that Harley Davidson riders from near and far converge to have a meeting.  And there I was in the middle of this sea of manliness trying to act as tough as I could...while wearing my faded pink polo shirt.  (I said I was smart, not wise)  The line to get pizza was all the way out the door and I joined the slow parade toward the cashier along with dozens of people who were "Charter Members", "Oakland Chapters", and "Bay Area Prouds."

And that is gets me to what I really wanted to tell you today.  One time, about thirty years ago, my friends and I were in a similar situation at a different Round Table pizza parlor.  It was absolutely mobbed and we considered it a bit rude since it was our hangout and we hadn't given permission for anyone else to come.  The line to order the pizza was about fifteen minutes long and on top of that, the people at the counter were answering the phone orders and making the people who were in line and having to smell the delicious pizza while waiting for food.  As I stood to get into line (I was a few months older than the rest of the youth group so I was the designated orderer) I walked past all the people in line.  Something in me just said, "Let's give it a try."  I walked past about a dozen people, picked up the pay phone by the door, deposited my dime, and ordered my pizza ahead of all the other people.  Not the nicest thing to do to all the people in line...but I was young and self-absorbed.   I just remember that at the time I was fairly proud of myself for being so clever.  If you are kind, nobody will mention the fact that I had to reach back a few decades to find a good example.

Looking back, I see that I wasn't so smart as I was mean to the people standing in line.  But I felt good about it at the time.  So much for joining Mensa.  I'm sure they have an ethics clause or something...but maybe the guy in charge of that is still waiting in line for pizza.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Face

It's happened again...I got the face.

I should be used to the face by now but every once in a while it surprises me anew.  I get the face much more from women but occasionally from men.  The last time I got the face I should have seen it coming, but I boldly went where experience has told me that I should fear to tread.  That's right...I told someone what I do for a living.

I sometimes get the urge to make up a career.  "I'm an underwater welder on explosive oil rigs.  Yeah, they only call me when all the other guys refuse to do it.  You know, because I laugh in the face of danger...and I'm so tough I don't even need to wear a wet suit.  The mask interferes with the shark repelling knife I am holding in my teeth."  And then I would spit out a giant wad of chewing tobacco...just to prove how manly I was.  I bet guys who say things like this never get the face.

Sylvia and I were out and about (oot and aboot for my Canadian readers) a while ago when she ran into someone she knew.  Small talk, small talk, small talk...and then she asked, "So Jeff, what do you do?"  My standard reply is "I'm a teacher." which is fortunate because, well, I am a teacher.  And then she said, "What do you teach?  High school?  Junior high?"  Ignoring the urge to make something up about teaching Chuck Norris everything he knows about Karate, or pretending that I teach anger management to violent prisoners at Quentin...IN A STEEL CAGE!   NoI said, "Kindergarten."  That's when she broke into the face.

It's a little difficult to describe the face unless you have seen it, but I will try.  Imagine an eleven year old girl who has just listened to two and a half hours of Justin Bieber songs...while hugging his picture.  Then imagine that young master Bieber sent his personal limo driver to her house with a box full of fuzzy little kittens.  Get the picture?  The eyebrows move together and up, the mouth becomes a small smiley "o" shape, head tilts slightly to the side, and you hear a faint, "Awwwwwwww!"

I have to admit, when I first started teaching kindergarten I didn't fully examine the ramifications of this as a job.  I knew I would have to teach these four and five year olds everything about being a student.  "Your bottom belongs on the chair."  "Tell her you don't like when she touches your face...don't hit her."  "The pencils are for writing, not eating." and my favorite, "Take that paper out of your ear!" but I didn't expect how others would react.  And I certainly didn't expect the face.  

I'm sure it doesn't help that I am fairly tall.  I'm not a giant.  I have zero prospects of being a professional basketball player and the Lifetime channel will never do a half hour special figuring out how I cope in the 'normal height' world, but at 6 foot 3 inches I do tower over my students.  A lot of people (non teachers) say, Oh I bet your class is so quiet since they are scared of how tall you are.  Let me (and every other teacher in America) just say, "Yeah, right."  What they should say is, I feel so sorry for your back since you have to bend in half to get to their level.

It is sort of funny when you think about it, tall guy, short students, it would probably make a great movie.  Let's see, Arnold Schwarzenegger could play me...yeah, he could be a policeman who kind of falls into being a teacher in a kindergarten classroom.  They could call it Kindergarten Cop!  Man!  This is just rolling off my fingertips this morning!  I have to call Universal Studios!

Actually, that is the second most comment I get when I meet people.  "You should see Kindergarten Cop!"  To which I say, "Really?  What's it about?"  There really is very little I have in common with that situation.  My Arnold muscles are well hidden under a protective layer of cheeseburgers, I actually worked toward being a teacher, I didn't just fall into it, I don't teach in a little town in Oregon, and I almost never bring a gun to school.   Maybe I'll just embrace the comparison.  Does anyone know of a school that teaches how to speak in an Austrian Accent?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go deliver this box full of fluffy kittens...Awwwwww.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A New Pillow?

It's past midnight.  I'm wearing a tuxedo.  Everyone else is in bed.  It's dark.  The leg lamp from A Christmas Story is lit.  Perfect time to write a blog...wouldn't you say?  I am not going to tell you that my tuxedo is much more like a Donald Duck shirt and a pair of running shorts.  I only know that they are for running since it says so on the tag.  I was actually coerced into writing by a group of people I spent the evening with. We had a great time of laughing, eating, playing Bocce ball, and (for some strange reason) talking about how buying a new pillow is not an effective cure for carbon monoxide poisoning.  True story...

When it came to the tail end of the night and people were looking at me funny (and looking at Sylvia sympathetically) over some odd thing that I had just said, my friend Rand told everyone that I wrote a blog.  He then said a complementary thing..."37 degrees!"  Just kidding, I love math jokes that 8 people will get.  He said a very complimentary thing about my blog, "It is very much like Dave Barry's writing."  I'll have you know, Rand, that I have two things on the mirror next to my side of the bed.  A picture of Sylvia and a post card Dave Barry sent me.  To be mentioned in the same breath as him, and his writing prowess, never gets old.  Thanks.  (your check should arrive in the next few days)

Well now people actually are going to maybe go looking for something that I have written.  And I haven't written in a while.  I better get to work on something fresh.  Something now.  Something hip with a groovy kind of beat that all the cool cats are digging these days!  That's right, in an effort to keep it real I have decided to write about Mozart!

No, I am not going to write about some dead guy who wrote music.  Although I can tell you what he is doing  (empathetic letters to Sylvia can be sent to....)  No, I am not going to write about that stale old composer from the 1700's...I am going to write about a stale old movie from the 80's...Amadeus.

Call me an uncultured slob if you must, but I have never seen this movie in its entirety.  I have never been a huge fan of movies that depict other times.  I believe they are called period pieces.  I just call them boring.  That may be a rather narrow-minded and unfair stereotype, but it is what it is.  (I cannot believe I just wrote that expression.  Someone please make sure I never do it again)  Something happened that has made sure I will never watch this on in particular.

I do have a story to offer as proof to my theory that these movies are not terribly exciting...and that is what I am finally going to write about today.  It's a short story, but one that always makes me smile.

It was 1985, it was a crazy time.  I was out of school and owned a car.  My buddies and I would get together and play poker until late at night and I would come home, open the door quietly, and go to my room.  I didn't have a TV in my room, I didn't have a smart phone, I may have had a Commodore 64 computer but I wasn't about to turn it on since the Bzzt Bzzt Bzzt Bzzzzzzzzt of the dot matrix printer warming up would have awakened everyone on the block.  No, my plan was to go to bed and sleep.

On this particular evening, however, I got a bit of a surprise.  When I drove up in front of the house I saw that there were lights on in the kitchen window.  I hadn't stayed out til the cows came home but it was still later than I would have expected to see lights on.  My dad drove a truck and usually got up around 4:30 A.M. if memory serves.  He then worked painting houses in the evenings.  He had more energy than me (I just got winded typing those two sentences about what he did) but he went to bed at a reasonable hour...usually.  My mom was a night owl compared to him but usually only made it about an hour and a half later than him before she went to sleep.  It was past her bedtime!  By the way, if you could keep an eye on my mom until she started doing the "I'm tired and I want to stay up, but my body is going to sleep whether I like it or not" nodding of the head, it was pretty funny.  If you could catch her just beginning to do the nod/jerk awake/nod thing you could ask her some of the craziest things.  And she would answer!!  Those 'conversations' alone would be enough for a book, but I want to be respectful to my mom...even if she too was up way past her bedtime.    And then I rounded the corner.  There was a little orange car in front of the house.  My sister was home.

Sue went away to college and when she came home she toyed with everyone's sleep patterns.  I think it had to do with phases of the moon, barometric pressure, and time zones...even though she lived about 20 minutes away in the next town.  She would call me at 3 in the morning just to see what I was doing.  "Sleeping...goodnight."  If her car was here, of course the lights would be on.  And at least mom or dad would be up.  I went in.

When I opened the front door I looked and saw my dad snoring away on the couch.  Understandable.  He worked hard.  I went in a little more.  There was mom, snoring away on the couch, just on the other side of dad.  (My mommy doesn't really snore but for the extra humor I added it to the story...wink wink) and amid that snore symphony I came a little closer to living room and saw my sister in a very relaxed and noisy state.  Sitting on the love seat and leaning her head back over the headrest portion, mouth wide open, and snoring like a rusty chainsaw, was Sue.  She could sleep anywhere and why make mom and dad's couch an exception?  Then I looked at the TV and saw why they were all asleep.  There on the TV playing from a newly rented VHS copy was the movie Amadeus, in all of its snore inducing splendor!  I started to walk in to the room to turn off the television and scoot people off to bed when I caught something out of the corner of my eye.  There, on the chair that no one sits on, (we all have them...admit it) was a guy who was roughly my sister's age sitting there and obviously on the worst date of his life.  He looked a little meek.  He didn't seem like my sister's type so maybe he was just a friend.  Didn't matter, he looked at me with wide eyes like he was a deer and I was a headlight.  No, there was more terror in his face.  He looked at me like I had just put on my leather mask and started up my chainsaw.

Whatever the look, in that instant he silently pleaded with me to get him the heck out of there.  I woke everyone, told Sue that the movie was boring and everyone fell asleep, and went into my room...laughing my posterior off.

I never saw the unnamed young man again.  Legend has it he invented a pillow that keeps you from snoring...and cures carbon monoxide poisoning!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Will Someone, Please, Answer That Phone!

Every once in a while I am struck with an event so starkly that I think, "I better just sit down and write about that."  Today is the day.  Unfortunately, every other once in a while I am thwarted by things external forces that make it difficult to focus enough to write.  I am going to try to fend off the forces of thwartdom today (it's a word).  I feel I need to tell you though, that I have already misspelled four words that needed to be fixed, I have hit the CAPS LOCK button more times than a pinkie should be allowed, and I had to wrestle the carcass of a doomed sock out of the jaws of our new puppy.  This first paragraph may be all I am allowed to write., two, three...OK, I'll continue.

This morning was a morning where I didn't need to get up and go do anything.  No alarm was set.  No plans were made.  We forgot to inform the puppy...and his puppy sized bladder.  In true, "I love you honey and I appreciate that you get up all through the week to go to work" fashion, Sylvia got up and let the dogs out.  (Which can finally answer the question, once and for all, Sylvia let the dogs out!...WOOF, WoofWoofWoof!) ...but I digress.

On certain Saturdays I am able to fully grasp this weekly gift and fall back asleep for a short time.  There are times when even an extra hour can make you feel like standing in a stadium full of people with a microphone reenacting the "luckiest man" scene from the Lou Gehrig story.  Today it was not to be.  I rolled over, adjusted my pillows, and reviled that cursed condition known as tinnitus.  (if you didn't already, please go back and re-read that last sentence using two syllables for cursed...I think this occasion calls for curse--ed)

If you are unfamiliar with tinnitus, allow me to elaborate.  Wikipedia states that TI nih tous (or tin EYE tous) is a condition where there is a perceived internal sound in the absence of a corresponding external aural stimulus.  And we know that Wikipedia is always correct so we will move on.  (As an aside, I had no idea that Mother Teresa was actually killed in a drive-by outside of Chicago!  Thank you Wiki!)

Jeff-i-pedia states that tinnitus (pronounce it any way you want...I can't hear it) is actually a way of making you feel like you have just walked out of a concert where the band bought their amps from "Spinal Tap" (you can turn them all the way up to eleven you know).  It is always worse where there is no external sound and, apparently, on Saturday mornings where extra sleep is possible.  On any given day it can range anywhere from barely noticeable to 'will someone answer that damn phone!'  I have talked to a lot of people who have had their ears ring for just a couple seconds, for no reason, and then go back to normal.  Mine do that all the time.  Someone I used to work with said that he figured it was just an alien ship checking on the implant they put in his head.  You know, to download all the things that he had thought since they implanted it.  I used to work with frightening people.

The ringing makes it difficult to understand others at times.  I have been tested for hearing loss on a few occasions and have been told, "You have substantial hearing loss due to exposure to noise." "You have moderate hearing loss in your right ear." and "Your hearing is actually very good."  The opinions happened in that order.  When I asked why I felt like everyone was mumbling things to me the doctor said, "As you age" (don't you just love that?) "you are more susceptible to weaker processing.  Which means that hearing more things at one time gets harder and harder."  This explains why I am deaf as a post when you go to anyplace noisy?  "Exactly."  So with my constant ringing, it's like I am at a noisy place all the time?  "Could be."  Super.

This morning, still laying in bed, I thought, "Wow this ringing is really bad this morning!"  I had noticed the other night that I was having a bout of really loud imaginary sounds, I thought this was a continuation of that, but it was really annoying!  I actually thought, wouldn't it be funny if there was a timer going off and I thought it was my ears!  It could happen.  There is no eliminating the noise.  There is no cure.  They don't know what is causing mine.  I can mask it with external sound.  Should I turn on the radio?  TV?  No, that would mean admitting that I was going to have to get up.  So I just tried to shut it out...for a half an hour.  Sylvia was up in the front of the house with the dogs, her coffee, and the latest in the book series she is reading.  I thought, I will let her read undisturbed for a while.  I decided to check my phone and see if anyone had said anything funny on Facebook since I last checked ten hours ago and when I turned to reach for my phone off the night stand, the ringing got louder.

When you have ringing in your ears, constantly, for more than thirty years, you never really get used to it but you do notice some things.  I can predict that I will have an awesome night's sleep when we stay somewhere near running water.  I know that it will be worse after I leave a moderately noisy environment (party, restaurant, me, if I ever get dragged to a concert I wear protection like I am going to a military artillery range).  I also have noticed that I cannot, ever, make it get louder or softer within the span of a few seconds...and never ever because of something I do.  When I turned my head it got louder?  Really?  So I got up.  Louder still.  I walked down the hall.  Louder still.  I walked into Kristiana's room.  Louder still  Kristiana is away at a conference this weekend.  Sylvia was up front.  Jake is a teenager so there is no rousing him before ten on a Saturday, and I assumed it was just me who could hear it...until now.

I walked over to her desk, moved a stack of magazines, and turned off her alarm clock!  Hooray!  Now I just have to listen to the usual constant ringing in my ears!!  Wait, what?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Now Where Did I Put That Pool Table?

No going back.  That's what the proverbial "they" say.  I cannot look in regret to the past and opine for the things that should have been.  To wallow in opportunities misspent is to waste the opportunities that lie ahead.  To announce boldly that I simply cannot remember all of the silly conversations, the humorous happenings, and the incongruous occurrences since I last wrote, is to embrace a new beginning.

There, I said it.  I haven't even thought about writing in a long time and I wanted my first venture back to have a beginning that was worthy of the great works of Larry, Moe, and Curly.

We had a busy summer.  We were shedding off a lot of the things that hold us back.  Both literally and figuratively.  We have begun an effort to de-clutter the house and make it "ready for people to see if they just happen to come by."  We have had similar efforts in the past.  Our most famous and most successful was the battle of the garage two short years ago.  No longer have we had to open the garage door to walk on the body-width path to the outside to go to the different body-width path to the back of the garage off to the other side.  All the while wondering if the precariously piled objects would shift and cover the intrepid explorer in an avalanche worthy of the ten o'clock news.  I believe, at that time, we donated about 40 boxes to charity...and parked the van in the garage! (for about a week, and then Jake bought a drum set.  What're ya gonna do?)

The garage has been in varying states of tidy ever since and we have never been back to the "YOU DIDN'T LET THEM SEE THE GARAGE, DID YOU!?!" state since the big clean, but other places in the house compensated.  We have a screened room with a pool table in it that we cleverly call "The Pool Room."  It isn't the room that leads to the pool, since we have none. (Stop sending us your brochure Fremont Pool Supply!!)  It's a bit of a misnomer since only people with a good memory could tell that there actually was a pool table out there.  I have to admit, it is a seriously messy room when you misplace an entire pool table.  The room that holds the pool table also holds, a ping pong table (on the pool table), a foosball table, a couch, about a thousand VHS tapes, an artificial Christmas tree, a dresser, a TV, a five DVD player, a dormant treadmill, a keyboard, a filing cabinet, a doll house, souvenir bull horns, an old computer, several boxes that were packed up when Sylvia lost her teaching position due to budget cuts, even more boxes from the kids who decided to empty their rooms to paint and never re-filled them, and finally, enough dog hair to create another whole dog.  As you can imagine, this was now the un-seeable room.  When anyone came over, we closed the drapes over the sliding glass door and hoped that we wouldn't need to go outside for anything.

Anyone with kids, even teenagers, can tell you that trying to clean while they are present and living their lives is like trying to catch the rain in a cup.  You can get some of it, but you'll never get it all.  I know, I know...there are some people who can maintain a home worthy of a Beautiful Homes Digest photo shoot at any given time of the day, any day of the year, even when everyone in the house has the flu and has just gotten back from vacation.  Let me just say, in all seriousness, we hate them.  Well, that's not entirely true...but let's be honest, when you go into someone's house that looks like a model home has been continually cleaned by an obsessive compulsive germophobe, and that person says, "Excuse the mess" ... you want to smear peanut butter on their couch, right?

As it turned out, both of our kids were away for two weeks this summer and, romantic couple that we are, we attacked the pool room.  Not exclusively, but it was a major endeavor.  The first domino that tilted the others into action was my Uncle.  No, he didn't come over and say something about the clutter that embarrassed us into action...he came over from where he is living in Thailand and took all forty of the boxes that we have been storing for him in our garage.  (Can anyone else hear the Hallelujah chorus?)  With that free space in the garage we were able to organize enough to locate the pool table, put away the Christmas tree, donate about twenty five more boxes, and generally open up a room that is now not an embarrassment to be seen.  Our two dogs still produce enough extra hair to fill a cargo ship every other day, but at least we can play ping pong where did we put those paddles?

It feels good to write again.  If I can keep at least one of our computers in functioning order, I may write again...but that is another story.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Britt Lap!

I apologize to anyone who attended my elementary school around the time that I did.  According to my kids, it was sometime between brontosauruses and woolly mammoths.  My apology isn't for my silly haircuts, my social awkwardness, or my reluctance to take daily showers when I was a pre-teen.  No, my apology is for brazenly and without warning using the three words that we all feared the most...The Britt Lap!  

Mr. Britt was a teacher of legend at the school.  He taught upper grade and I had him when he taught a 5th and 6th grade combination class.  He was respected.  He was listened to.  He was feared.  He would do things that I probably couldn't get away with now.  He had a way of looking at you to make you just stop and get back to work.  But if he couldn't make eye contact, he would lob an eraser at your head.  And then, to add insult to injury, he would make you pick it up and bring it back to him.  It would be like Robin Hood shooting a noble and then saying, "Sorry old boy, terribly low on arrows this morning.  Embarrassing really.  Could I trouble you to remove it from your personage and fetch it back to me?  That's a lad."  Many a day I would go home with rectangle shaped chalk marks on some part of my body.  You  see, unlike today, I was much more prone to get distracted easily back then.  Did you ever notice that easily sounds the same at the beginning and the end but it isn't spelled with the same letters?  Letters are funny.  I remember a cartoon where Ralphie, the hero, used letters on the chalkboard to daydream about swimming with sharks.  I like raspberry pie.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.  I was explaining how I rarely get distracted any more...This is why I don't work for a newspaper.  Even thought editors aren't allowed to hurl erasers anymore.

Another thing that Mr. Britt would do is the surprise desk check.  It was eloquent really.  Sometime after the kids left he would wander through the room looking through desks to see who had one that was particularly messy.  In the morning we would line up, he would lead us to the door at the front of the school, and he would walk in as if it was a normal day in Mr. Roger's neighborhood...only it wasn't normal.  A small group of us would come in to see that we had our own personal earthquake.  You see, if your idea of neatness didn't match Mr. Britt's, he would turn your desk upside down and then place it lovingly on the pile of textbooks and PeeChee folders.  There was no explanation that I remember but you couldn't sit at a desk that was upside down and you didn't want your classmates to steal your mechanical pencils so about eight of us would have the job of putting our things away, nicely this time, while the rest of the class did a writing assignment.  I'm proud to say that this taught me a lesson and to this day Mr. Britt would be proud of my very organized desk...and I have some beachfront property in the middle of North Dakota that I am willing to sell you cheaply!  You see, I am a Nigerian prince...  (The part about my clean desk is the least believable of all of those sentences!)

There were countless things that stand out about Mr. Britt.  He towered over us.  He was a no nonsense kind of guy.  He wore shorts every single day of the year!  But the thing that is making me break out into hives as I write about elementary school is "The Britt Lap."

You started hearing about the Britt lap in about the second grade.  If your friends wanted to do something stupid, the smartest of the group would chime in, "Don't do that!  If you get caught they'll make you do the Britt lap!  As far as I can recall, I never heard a teacher ever mention the Britt lap.  We all knew who Mr. Britt was...but he had never sent any of us running on his lap.

With all legends, there was probably a grain of truth at the beginning.  Back when you were allowed to do things like that he probably sent an overactive child to run off some of his energy and then come back in to class when he was ready to work without bothering everyone with his fidgeting.  That story most likely became distorted.

"Did you hear?  Mr. Britt told a kid to just go outside and run until he threw up!"
"Yeah, and I heard that he chased the kid out of his room with a knife!"
"When someone doesn't survive the Britt lap they just leave him on the ground and the next kid who has to do the lap has to jump over the body!"

The more reasonable people knew that the Britt lap wasn't just a lap around the playground, or even the field, it was a lap around the entire school AND the school next door!  If you were told to take a Britt lap you probably wouldn't be seen for the rest of the day...and you might miss sixth grade graduation.  I am glad to say that I never was sent on a Britt lap.  Come to think of it, I cannot remember anyone, ever, being sent on a Britt lap!  You don't suppose the school just let us come up with our own horrible impending punishment and then let our imaginations run wild while not correcting our crazy claims in order to be able to maintain order and allow them to teach?  Nah!  I'm sure they just didn't know about it...or did they?

The funny thing is, as happens with all legends, I was confronted with my fears.  I needed to interview someone in a school to do a paper for my credential.  When I walked over to my childhood school to see if I could talk to someone there, they told me that the person I needed to talk to was Mr. Britt.  I interviewed him.  I wrote everything down in my notebook and got ready to leave.  I then said, "You know.  I was in your class."  He asked my name again.  He said, "Garrett, Garrett...I remember Susie (my sister) and I remember Danny (my brother)...hmm...sorry, oh yeah.  You were in the combo class."  (I tried my hardest to blend into the furniture all through my schooling)  He then started talking about my family, and then his family, and then we had a conversation about teaching and I was no longer in the fifth grade, I was a colleague.  It was all very surreal.  I lost my train of thought and said something  like it was silly that he would be wearing shorts every day...he got upset and made me take a Britt lap!   It took me three days.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Tough" Knows No Age!

I've never been terribly comfortable with the label "people watcher" so I never applied it to myself.  I do, however, sometimes notice things about human beings that makes it nearly impossible for me to focus on another detail of my life until I relay what I have seen to someone else.  OK, so I people watch.  As for the 'relaying it to someone else' part, well that is where you come in...and writing a blog is much cheaper than therapy.

Yesterday, in our local supermarket (which shall be named and promoted as soon as they start sponsoring my blog) I saw the toughest woman I have ever seen outside of a "Scared Straight: Female Lockdown" after school special.  I first noticed her hair.  It was slicked back but not plastered to her head.  It was something that I would have liked to achieve when we had 'fifties' spirit days in high school.  I was never able to get my hair to stay back like that without being all greasy and then looking like I needed to put tape around the middle of my glasses...the tape would, of course, be color coordinated to my pocket protector though.  This woman looked like she had been doing this same style so often that she just needed to scowl into the mirror and her hair would obediently move into place out of fear.  It looked like the kind of hair that Fonzie's mother would have.

That was actually the next thing I noticed, she was old enough to be Fonzie's mother!   I am horrible at guessing ages.  I would never presume to guess a lady's age.  But let me just say that this woman had witnessed a number of decades...perhaps a couple more than me.  That's as close as I am going to go since I don't want her to track me down and beat me up.  She also looked like she was outside quite a bit judging from the depth of her tan.  I suspect she works on the pit crew for a funny car.

The next thing I noticed were the tattoos that were poking out of the sleeves of her printed tee shirt.  I have nothing against tattoos.  I don't assign any particular feeling to a tattoo.  I have some very good friends who have gotten tattoos...yesterday!  In fact there are two designs that I would consider for my own body...if I weren't afraid of ten thousand needles.  I personally have no problem with them.  I will, sometimes, question the placement, or content of, certain tattoos.  You never want your kids to look at a tattoo and ask, "Daddy,  is that lady in the picture going to nurse that man?  He's not a baby!"  "Ooh, honey, look over here at the building!  Isn't that a nice building!?"

No this woman's 'tats' didn't appear to be inappropriate.  She also didn't have cartoon characters or swirly flowers.  This woman's tattoos looked like they were the tribal tattoos of the Maori, just not on her face.  The thick swirls poking out of her sleeve could, I suppose, be the tail of a unicorn, but I will tell you this, that would be one badass unicorn!  And it would have sharp teeth.  Something else about her tattoos, they were not the old purple-faded-into-oblivion unrecognizable blobs that are often seen on people of advanced age.  No, these were crisp and clear and looked like they could have just been done.

Overall this woman looked to be exceptionally tough.  She is the kind of woman who, if someone  ever tried to foolishly steal her purse, would be able to take care of herself.  In fact when the police finally arrived they would find her sitting atop the delirious punk, smoking an unfiltered Camel, rubbing her jaw and saying, "You got a pretty good punch kid."

So you get the idea.  Tough.  And yet...looks can be deceiving.  Just moments after I had made my observations and decided to let it go even though she had seventeen items in the 15 items or less line, she reached out and picked up a pack of gum. (eighteenth item, but who's counting)  What struck me was her choice of gum...this tougher than tough looking woman went straight for the Juicy Fruit.  Not only was it Juicy Fruit, it was the one that comes in a bright pink wrapper!  Talk about unexpected!  A woman like this should be chewing "Tar-O" The jet black gum, now with pieces of gravel for extra texture.  Nope, she picked up the bright pink package.  I was intrigued!  I leaned forward a little to see the next pack of bright pink gum to see if I was really seeing what I was seeing.  Then I saw it, "Sugar Free!"  

I'm sorry!  I don't care how tough you look, how cool your hair is, how fresh your tattoos cannot be tough if you buy sugar free Juicy Fruit gum in a bright pink package!!!  So I stole her purse.  (just kidding)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A New Service

I've decided to branch out!  Our friend has asked us to write her a letter of recommendation to update her resume for being a teacher.  Here is what I came up with...

 To whom it may concern,
What can I say about Ren?  She is quite an actress!  For years now we believed that she had Tourettes Syndrome.  Turns out she was only trying to impress the teenage gang members she hires to work in her class.  Well, we thought they were gang members.  They were actually her accountability partners from her various “anonymous” meetings that she frequents. 

Ren is very smart!  How else would you describe someone who can get out of reckless abandonment and child endangerment charges?  Fourteen times! 

Ren is also very health conscious.  Very often during the day she will take naps at her desk next to her thermos of what she calls “liquid encouragement.”  The devotion to maintaining her well being by resting is impressive!  Having the kids do independent work with the addition of her snoring in the background is a very clever way of having the kids prepare for workplace annoyances!

Speaking of workplaces!  Ren has a regular industry happening in her room.  Having the sixth graders “recruit” the younger kids into making shoes, soccer balls, and designer purse knock-offs is wonderful!

HEre’s a Large Personal reason My Ecstatic choice is for you to hire her.  I have made these statements on my own under no coercion or duress…and I hope to see my family again soon.
Jeff Garrett
Just let me know if you would like me to write something up for your new job search.  Reasonable fees!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spin A Yarn = Win!

I don't know if it's because I haven't written in a little while or that my Magic Eight Ball / blog idea generator is in the shop, but I am here today saying, "And now for something completely different!"  (Truth be told, it's probably because a friend of mine has been writing Monty Python references on Facebook all day.  Nevertheless, I am doing something today that I have never done before; a restaurant review.

Before I begin I should tell you, I am not a paid reviewer of restaurants.  I learned everything I know about cooking, and reviewing, from Ratatouille, the Disney movie.  I should also warn you that my blog for today is not for the faint of heart.  Vegetarians beware!  Sylvia is a Pisces.  I was born under the sign of Meat with Potatoes rising.  Carnivores of the world unite!

It all started when Sylvia checked something on Facebook.  I whipped out my smart phone and started chatting with her.  (I was about twelve feet away from her at the time)  She played along and with all of my charm, wit, and suaveness I won a date with my wife.  I think it was when I said that I "LIKE her, like her" that I sealed the deal.  The only question was, where to go?

Since it had been a while since I took Sylvia on a date to someplace that didn't involve ordering by talking into a clown's mouth, I decided to try someplace new.  There are three places in Fremont, that I know of, that have a reputation for being a cut above.  Only one, however, had just been on the TV show called Kitchen Nightmares.  I think the choice was clear, we went to the nightmare place.  Yes, Spin A Yarn in Fremont was where we ended up.  Sylvia and I have seen the show.  We know that they go in, assess how bad a place is, work to make it better, and all with explosive confrontations between the owners and the host of the show.  That is the formula for the show...we have no idea how their particular episode went.  We haven't seen it.  In fact, judging from the conversations around the room we were in, we were the only people in there who hadn't seen it.  I think our waiter may have been glad to have a table where the show wasn't the topic of conversation.

I was worried, with its new found fame and previous reputation, that we would have a hard time getting a seat. We got there about 7:30 and were given a choice of table or booth.  Not being able to make decisions easily we chose both.  I got a booth while Sylvia sat at a table nearby.  (Not really)  In our booth we noticed that it was nice and quiet, a change from where we typically go to eat, and a really welcome change since my ears have been bothering me lately and everyone seems to be talking as if they have hand towels stuffed in their mouths...but I digress.  We sat.  We talked.  It was great!

When I looked up the restaurant on Google this morning, to see what the actual name of the kitchen show was, I saw the beginnings of a review.  It had "$$" under price.  That is usually one "$" too many for a teacher who gets paid with bags of multi-colored elbow macaroni but what the heck, we splurged.  It isn't often that we get to sneak away, just the two of us, and I wanted it to be memorable.  Our waiter, whose name escapes me, was funny and personable and gave us time to make our selections.  After a while he came by and said, "The suspense is killing me!"  It's nice when people recognize that I am a goofball and give it right back to me.  Sylvia ordered the halibut on the waiter's suggestion and I had the...wait for it...Prime Rib!  You have to picture Homer Simpson drooling slightly, catching his breath, and saying "Prime rib" in order to get the full effect.  Both orders came to our table quickly, so quickly that we almost didn't have time to finish the bread and softened, salted butter spread they brought to our table, almost.  They brought the prime rib to us on a cart and sliced what I thought was a generous portion right there at the table.  Medium rare, perfect.  I asked if they had straight horseradish instead of the creamy sauce, to which the humorous waiter replied, "Don't toy with me sir."  He came back with a dish of horseradish and a plate...with another littler piece of prime rib on it saying, "The chef felt that he may have shorted you a little bit." and set it next to my already full plate.  I think the real reason was that I scared him by covering my plate with my arms and growling at him when he made a move toward me with the pepper mill...none for me thanks.

Eating this meal was a pleasure!  Everything was prepared well.  I even ate the green beans that came with the meal since they were fresh, seasoned well, and cooked but not turned into a soggy mushy mess.  Sylvia was impressed.  At least three people came over to see how everything was and/or if we needed anything else.  I felt like they were trying to impress me since I was an important food critic...I didn't want to disappoint them, so I became one here on my blog.  I wasn't able to finish all of my meal even with the, "Come on sir, you can do it!" prompting of the waiter.  We both turned down dessert but not before seriously considering sharing one.

As we were getting up to leave I asked our waiter if he could please be rude to me or do something else that would make me not want to come back since we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but really couldn't afford to come back.  He told me that my request was odd since 'rude' just comes so natural to him.  We left, with perhaps a new favorite restaurant on our list.  We had a wonderful time and with our meals and a glass of wine each I think the $80 dollars we spent was well worth it.

If you are ever in Fremont and want to have a nice meal in a semi-famous place I would highly recommend Spin A Yarn.  Tell them Jeff, the guy that writes a blog, sent you.  Heck, bring him a copy of this, tell the owner that I talked you into going.  Tell him that he should thank me in a tangible way by giving us a free appetizer or something.  But mostly, enjoy your meal.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Darned Butterflies!

While breezing through the staff room at my school yesterday I overheard a snippet of a conversation and it reminded me of a story.  Of course, when I walked out of the room and saw a pole, a ball, a seagull, and a kid in a red shirt, it reminded me of several more stories...but I think I will tell you about the teacher conversation one first. Also, as an explanation, I "breeze through" my staff room not because I don't want to spend time with my wonderful colleagues, I have scheduled a small group of students to come to my room after school so I can help them catch up with the rest of the class.  That means I only have about ten minutes to try and shove some food down my neck before the second wave of learners marches in.  But I digress...

One of the teachers was talking about a horrible commute.  When you live in the bay area of California, you can have a horrible commute while trying to get to the store to buy stress reducing medicine to help you deal with your horrible commute.  This particular commute involved driving by a taxi-van that had somehow lost control, spun, and ended up blocking two lanes...on its roof!  She said there was no emergency vehicle present, there were no tow trucks, there was no warning on her smart phone/magic traffic eight ball telling her to avoid the area.  It had just happened!  It got her to thinking, if she hadn't changed her routine for leaving by that one or two minutes she would have been in exactly that place while the accident was happening.

I realize that there are all sorts of variables that make a statement like that not one hundred percent true.  Heck, according to Jurassic Park, if a butterfly beat its wings in Newark, there could be a monsoon in Indonesia.  (That is why I am writing to my legislature to have them ban butterflies...but I digress)  So there is nothing to say that my friend would have been definitely there at that spot, at that time, in that accident...but it could have happened.  And that was her point.  I get it.

My aunt tells a story about a time when she had a bad feeling about her husband and his drive to work.  Unlike me, they live in a rural town where three cars passing by is considered "rush hour."  They were excited when they, "finally made the big time" and their two major cross streets got a stoplight.  This was not a bustling hotbed of automobiles.  On one particular morning my aunt woke up with a sense that something would go wrong that day.  She went to my uncle and told him about it.  Being a no-nonsense kind of guy my uncle just dismissed this feeling and kept getting ready for work.  My aunt, not one to back down, pleaded with him to not go to work today.  (I am at a slight disadvantage since I wasn't there and am only telling this third hand)  He gave in to her insistence, sort of, and said that he would change his routine slightly (read the paper, eat a good breakfast, brush his teeth left handed...I don't know) and leave later than usual.  That seemed to placate her.  He would be later for work than he liked, but she wouldn't let it go.

You have probably figured out by now that my uncle was fine and that everyone went along on their merry way.  What you may not have figured out is that when my uncle finally did drive in to work he ended up driving past what turned out to be the worst accident that he had ever seen in their little slow-moving corner of the world.  I am certain there were injuries and my story embellishing memory wants to say that there was a fatality but I honestly cannot remember that far back.  You could read about the real story in my aunt's blog...if she had a blog.

So there you have it.  My aunt tells that story like it is proof that she would have lost her husband that day.  I don't know if that is exactly what was prevented but it certainly makes me go, "Hmmmm?"

Jump ahead to another encounter with my aunt when I was a teenager.  I was out in the garage, getting ready to go, and I realized that I didn't have my keys.  I mentally kicked myself and went back inside the house to grab them.  I ran to my room, grabbed them like I should have done when I started getting ready, and ran toward the open garage door.  As I went through the kitchen, the phone rang.  You see kids, way back when, it used to be where there was only one phone in the house and that phone was bolted to the wall.  If someone wanted to talk to you, you needed to be home.  I calculated the odds that it was someone who wanted to talk to my mom and not me.  I figured that it was Jean wanting to tell my mom about what to bring to the church pot-luck this weekend.  Whoever it was, it wasn't for me...I walked by...and then thought, "OK, but somebody owes me!"  I answered the phone.  It was my aunt...and she was hysterical!

My aunt was always a little on the, ahem, excitable side...but this was different.  She was sobbing.  I thought something had happened to my uncle.  I couldn't understand what the heck she was saying and I was a teenager so I wanted out.  She finally calmed down enough to say something like, "I'm glad I caught you."  Me?  Why would she want to talk to me?  Yes, it was really me.  Yes, I was fine.  Yes, there was nothing wrong in the house.  Me?  You wanted me?  She went on to tell me that she had had a horrible dream and woke up with a feeling that something terrible was going to happen to me.  (I'm sure I rolled my eyes)  She would not let it go.  She begged me to stay in the house today.  I half-heartedly agreed.  (yeah right)  This was a truly glorious day outside and I wanted to be out in it.  She then said, "Now Jeff.  You have never lied to me.  I want you to promise that you will not leave the house today.  If you promise I know you will keep that promise."  I was young, I was eager to go outside, I hadn't heard the story about my uncle at this point..."OK, I promise.  I will not leave the house today."

She burst into "thank you's" and "Thank God's" and hung up the phone.

I actually did leave the house that day.  I set my helmet down, I went out of the garage and rolled my motorcycle back inside, took off my leather jacket, and shut the door.  I have no idea what would have happened if I had continued my plan to ride that day.  I guess I'll never know...but I did see a butterfly flapping its wings like crazy out the window.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just to say...

I am writing just to say that I cannot write.  No, it's not April fools again.  I am going to Arizona.  If you would like to follow what we are doing you could go to another of my blog's to join in the fun.  Thank you and I'm sure I will have loads to write about when I get back.


Ganado 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What the Heck/Thanks!

I am sad/happy to report that I am being ripped off! I mean it's an honor but still, HEY!!

I have just learned, through the weirdest means that I have ever encountered, that my blog has been used to make a TV show about Slovenia!  Without my knowledge!  Without my consent!  And most importantly, without compensating me for anything!  I started writing on March 31st, 2010, so I have been writing this blog for two years and a day!  I have never had anything so weird happen to me.

I know that in other countries there are very lax laws dealing with copyright and intellectual property.  There is some sort of loophole that says if the words aren't exactly the same, then it cannot be proven whose idea it is, but it seems to me like I should be compensated for this.  At least a little bit, right?  I suppose it would be OK to get paid in EUROs but they probably have some sort of automatic exchange rate device that should be able to directly deposit money to my account.

In fact, someone tried to tell me about this one month ago, but I thought it was an internet scam.  In perfect English I received an e-mail, "Hello, I want to inform you that I have been reading your writing for some time now.  I love how you always mention that there is a Slovenian reader out there somewhere.  That is me.  It makes me mad that I have seen a show here that loosely translates to, "Americans are Not Right in the Head" and the episodes very closely match what I read in your blog."

I tried to Google the show but I was unsuccessful so far.  He said to look up "Američani niso prav v glavo" There seems to be a language barrier.  I can't make heads or tails of anything that comes up and when I use the automatic translator option on Google there are a lot of sites but none of them are about TV shows. (Perhaps I am not right in the head...ha ha sniff)

I would love to get a lawyer and try to compel them to pay me for my ideas (which aren't so much ideas as stories about my family) but that isn't going to happen.  I am so broke that a lawyer is the last thing on my shopping list.  I just need to wait for that latest windfall from writing a blog to come in!  Then I can travel to Slovenia, meet the one guy who is reading my blog, and then stay in a fancy enough hotel to watch my life on a Slovenian sitcom.

I certainly have had a weird March this year.  All I can hope for is that my April doesn't begin as strangely.  I suppose I could wish the same for you happy first of April everyone!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grandpa = Rocker

When you read the title "Grandpa = Rocker" you may have pictured a gray haired old gentleman sitting on a front porch in the south, a small table with a glass of sweet tea, maybe an old red-bone hound laying at his feet.  Or, depending on where you are from, you may have pictured that same gentleman sitting by a window, overlooking the city, passing the time with the TV on but not noticing it at all.  You may have pictured those things, sure, but I am almost positive that you did not picture a sexagenarian blasting an eighties metal band on the radio when his grand kids came to visit!

You may think I am kidding, but that is what happened to me...sort of.

Well, first I think I should explain that Grandpa wasn't really 'blasting' the music.  It wasn't so much 'blasting' as it was softly playing in the background.  I equate my grandparent's house with music.  It was on all the time.  The only time the music wasn't playing was when the TV was on so Grandpa could watch golf in 'his' chair.  Their living room was set up very much like All in the Family, complete with his and her easy chairs...but my grandfather's did not make it into the Smithsonian like Archie Bunker's did.  When we played cards (a lot) the music was on.  When I read the stack of Reader's Digests to absorb all the 'Humor in Uniform', 'Laughter the Best Medicine' and 'All in a Day's Work' the music played.  When we ate, music.  When we came in from playing outside, music.  When we were hearing the benefits of having a refrigerator converted to be a keg cooler with built-in-tap out the side, music.  It was always playing.  On a few occasions we were even lucky enough to have Grandpa play us a few songs on his piano.  He was very talented at playing classical music.

You wouldn't have thought that someone like that would have listened to metal.  I'm here to tell happened!  There is no denying it.  It is burned into my memory with an image that is like I looked at the sun too long.  To add to the things that didn't make sense about this choice of music, it was being played on a very old fashioned stereo.  Their ever-playing stereo was gigantic.  It was a piece of furniture.  It was a wooden case that had to be five feet wide.  The front panels on either side held decorative mesh that allowed the sound to come out the biggest speakers I had ever seen.  Although not quite as fancy as modern day, these speakers rivaled the size that kids put into their cars these days.  You know, the ones who rattle windows with muffled base and make it so you have to go straighten all your pictures.  The main unit and the electronics of the stereo (they called it a hi fi) were in the center of this giant wooden, and very well cared for, box.  The way you adjusted the station, volume, band, or any other option was to lift the top panel.

You could put a decorative vase off to one side on this cabinet.  You could put pictures on the other.  But you could not put anything on top of the middle since, to open it, you needed to be able to lift it up.  Well, you needed to be able to lift it up if you wanted to change grandpa's might have been nailed shut.  I looked inside a few times (when he was getting into it) and I could see that everything was built in.  This wasn't a giant cabinet that held a was the stereo!  Everything was built in and when it died beyond the ability to repair it (you see kids...way back when, there were people who actually fixed things that were broken and didn't just buy new ones) this was the kind of cabinet that people took all the guts out of to make a place to store liquor.  I can neither confirm not deny that this cabinet suffered this fate at the hands of my family.  At this point in my story, the stereo was very much functional.

I remember we were there at their house for what was probably an annual visit.  No big occasion, just Mom going to see "her folks."  I was in the kitchen playing solitaire (There were always cards on the table.  If there was no partner to play gin or cribbage, you played solitaire) when I heard the music.  It was the instrumental music that was the soundtrack to their house.  I kept playing cards.  This piece was done by a harpist and it was the slow melodic instrumental elevator music that was ever-present.  At this point in the story it would have been hysterical if the radio station had been sold and the new owner wanted to not only change the format but punctuate the change by dragging the needle across the record and starting a new record that was designed to shock and amaze.  This is not what happened.  What did happen is that I started to recognize something in the music.  I remember that it was one of those times when there was something familiar but I just couldn't put my finger on it.  I rejected the notion that I was actually becoming familiar with this music.  It  was the early eighties!  I did NOT listen to this music and you could not get me to admit that I did...even at my grandparents' house.  And still...something made me listen to try to figure it out.

This is my version of harp music translated to the written word..."plunkplunk plunkplunkplunk...PLUNK plunkplunkplunk....plunkplunk PLUNK PLUNK PLUNK, PLUNK PLUNK PLUNNNNNK"

I kept listening.  So familiar.  I probably looked like the dog in the iconic RCA advertisement.  Quizzical look on my face.  Head cocked to the side.  I was probably holding a single card in the air frozen in time trying  to see if I could figure out what was up with this music.  And then it hit me.  I had heard this before.  In fact, I was blasting it out the windows of my 1974 VW Super Beetle as I cruised into the parking lot at school the week before.  The only difference was that my stereo, before it was stolen from my car, was tremendously powerful and I really was blasting it!  I thought the stereo and the car that I had lovingly transformed from a literal wreck into a showpiece were hot stuff!  There was no harp, however, playing on the stereo in my car though.

There, in the kitchen, I figured it out.  They had taken a song that I listened to and removed all the vocals.  They had taken away any hint of an electric instrument and replaced them all with a harp and a gentle piano accompaniment.  They had slowed it down to probably quarter-speed to turn one of my favorite songs, at that time, into something suitable for an elevator...or my grandparents' house.  So I sat there laughing hysterically not having the heart to tell them that they were, in fact, listening to Quiet Riot's "Come on Feel the Noize!"  

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I haven't thought about this for years, and I thought I would share the story with you today.  Jake was talking about how he had "almost bowled 200" when he went bowling with friends from school last Thursday.  (Mental note, teach Jake how to "round up" properly.)  He was a wee bit away from 200 but it made me remember when I almost bowled a 200 myself.  But to tell you that story I have to tell you about my last memory of my grandfather.

My sister, brother, and I were out being big shots.  I think it was the first time we were this far away from home, together, without meeting our parents somewhere.  We were in our late teens or maybe even early twenties.  I don't remember why we were away but we were and we were relatively close to my grandparents' house in Fresno.  I remember it like I am there now.  The house across from the school on Blackstone.  The kitchen off to the right of the front door.  The sunken living room with the odd floor length structural shelf running about eight feet off the ground that at one point had a painting of a black panther on it..but not now.  The painting was my aunt and uncle's.  The giant HiFi in its wooden cabinet (that's a gigantic iPod for all you youngsters) playing elevator music that was a story in itself.  My grandmother fussing in the kitchen making us a meal for lunch.  Finally, there was Grandpa sitting at the far end of the table.

Grandpa had been slowing down a lot lately.  He had given up his car years ago.  Their many yearly vacations had ended too.  Groceries were being delivered rather than going out.  He was an avid bowler.  On a league with the same people for a very long time.  And yet, he had given that up as well.  He actually gave me his four-holed bowling ball at one point.  Always someone who had story after story to tell, today he sat at the far end of the table silently.  We all said hello but I am not sure grandpa did much more than look our way.  Our usually gregarious patriarch was content to just sit, listen, and eat.  Grandma kept the conversation going today.  We talked about what we were doing in our lives of school and work.  None of us commented on how odd it was to have a silent grandfather at the table.  I was saddened by what was happening but would never have been so rude as to talk about someone as if they weren't there.  Even if, in reality, it was obvious that he wasn't really one hundred percent there with us.

Grandpa had Alzheimers and it was robbing him of himself and robbing us of his personality and his stories.  Truth be told, any one of us could have started any number of his stories and stopped mid-sentence only to have another pick it up and continue on to the end without skipping a beat we had heard them all so many times.  About how he lost his dad as a boy.  About how he was replaced by a computer the size of a building and that let him have early retirement.  About how his sister embarrassed him on his way to work one day when she yelled out his nickname, "BABE!" on the cable car.  He could make me laugh by telling me just the punchline to a joke we had heard a thousand times before.  "I said LEFT!" was a favorite.  Today, nothing.

We all ate, I think it was soup and sandwiches but I will defer to my sister if she says I am wrong, and we weren't planning on staying for the night since that would have been a burden on Grandma.  And since we had a ways to go before we got home, we started to make motions like we were getting ready to go.  It was a process.  It has often been said that our family is the clan of the half-hour good byes.  We say we have to go...then talk some more.  We joke that we already said we were going to go...then talk some more.  We start to move toward the door...then we talk some more.  We go stand next to the cars...then talk some more.  My cousin Kim once told me, when my dad and I built a retaining wall around our front yard, that it would be the kiss of death as goodbyes go.  She said not only do we linger longer than anyone else in recorded history, now we have provided benches next to the cars!

Today we sat at the kitchen table sensing that the stand and chat by the door portion of our good bye would be minus a member.  It finally came down to the part where we finally put our hands on the table to start to get up when I remembered.  "OH!"  I said.  "Grandpa!  I meant to tell you!" I was a six year old again telling that I had seen a frog in the back yard.  "With your bowling ball!  I bowled my best game ever!  I bowled a 199!!"

With that news he started moving.  He never looked at me but put his hands on the arms of the chair and started to rise.  It looked to be considerable effort and it took him quite a while.  He raised slower than anyone I had ever seen and I was motionless.  When he was fully standing he reached out his arm and extended his hand.  I grabbed it and he shook it strongly, never saying a word.  And then he started the long process of sitting down.  We said our good byes to Grandma and we all left.  I never saw Grandpa again.  I also never got to break the elusive 200 mark on bowling.  That's OK.  If 199 is good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Registry Follies!

I am colorblind.  Not in a politically correct I-see-no-color-I-only-see-people sort of way.  More in a hey-is-that-light-red-or-green sort of way.  Because color is not my strong suit I honestly have no favorite.  I absolutely hate when people ask me what my favorite color is and then get angry when I say that I have none.  I have actually had people argue with me that I 'had' to have a favorite and to just 'tell them!'  Sorry, no good.

If you pinned me down and threatened to not let me have any dessert I suppose I would tell you that my favorite color for cars is white...because they stay clean.  My favorite color for houses is tan...because I like houses that look earthy.  My favorite color of lumber is brown...because it is brown.  Beyond that, it is really a case of it doesn't really matter.  I know that Sylvia's favorite color is green, but when I buy clothes for her I end up in the store asking complete strangers, "What color is this?" and then adding quickly, "My WIFE likes green." So they don't think I am some kind of moron using the world's worst pick-up-line.  (Honestly, I have never ever used any kind of a pick up line...ever!  I'm kind of proud of that!...even if I am a moron.)

I mention this about not being able to see colors primarily so I could tell you a story.  A friend is getting married and she posted on Facebook that she and her fiance are trying to register online and that they are going to have to go into the store since it was kind of boring doing it at home.  That comment reminded me of the time that Sylvia and I registered for our wedding gifts.

There we were, in the middle of Macy's, a salesperson shadowing our every decision...and a wall of towels.  I'm not even halfway was seriously a giant monument of absorption!  There were two Swiss yodelers wearing lederhosen and carrying ropes and canteens about to scale this thing.  I had been in department stores before but I had never really thought about buying a towel.  They were always in the hall closet.  I thought they just grew up out of the wooden shelves.  Even when I moved into my own apartment I went shopping at the store of 'Mom' and had all the towels I could ever need.  Now, not only did I need to tackle the terrycloth, I had to choose the "right" one.  Oh and believe me, there was a right one.  I didn't know that at the time, but there was a right one.

I remember like it was yesterday...Sylvia held up two towels that were identical in style, softness, and (as far as I knew) color.  She asked, "Which one do you like?"  Being the evolved male that I was I said, "I don't care."  Now more enlightened men than myself, who are reading this, are screaming, "ROOKIE MISTAKE!" at their computer monitors.  I need to explain that what I actually meant was, "Those towels look like they are the same in everything except color so I will let you choose since I can make no discernible distinction between the two...Buttercup."  What Sylvia heard was, "I do not now, nor will I ever, care about anything at all in our relationship from this day forth!"  (Apparently weddings are a bit more stressful for the bride than they are for the groom)  A chill grew over the department.  Off in the distance I heard the deep bass of the Jaws theme playing.  Of course if a giant shark actually showed up it would have just flopped around on bone-dry ground since there were enough towels to soak up the Pacific!  It took a bit of explaining on my part to get my lovely bride to see that I just couldn't tell the difference between towel A and towel B and it would be OK for her to choose.  She chose.  We registered for towels.  We moved on.

Then we came to the China patterns.  There was no chill in this department.  Customers were not rushing their small children out of the way as tumbleweeds rolled by.  I actually had opinions here!  We both decided that perfectly round was boring.  We chose the ones with slight points around the edge.  We both liked the gold rimmed sets. Neither one of us wanted plain white...there had to be some decoration on them.  We narrowed it down to two different sets, and one of them was green!  I deferred to Sylvia's favorite color and we chose.  Voila!  It can be done!  And just so I can get back into the good graces of the women who are reading, with utter contempt that I could be so insensitive, I not only know that we chose Fairchild but that we did not choose Kelly!  If I remember correctly, they were actually both green, but Kelly was a little darker and I couldn't envision it on our table at holidays.

The day went on.  I always had an opinion from then on.  I was wrong often, but I had an opinion.  We chose great wine glasses.  (I think there was a 'star' or 'icicle' in their name) We chose silver and a beautiful box for it to go in.  We chose things that I didn't even know existed in the realm of kitchenware but we had to have since it matched our set.  We were gravy boating and dish chafing.  We decided that we might actually need a device that injected flavor into a roast.  (thankfully nobody got us one of those...think of the comedy routines my twisted mind would have come up with!)  We moved along quite nicely...until we came to the butter dish.

Our set, (did I mention that it was Fairchild?), did not have a matching butter dish!  I screamed, "Well you could have told us that before we started!  Now we're back to square one!"  (OK so maybe it is a little stressful for the groom as well.)  We decided to look at non-matching, non-China butter dishes.  (the HORROR!)  Unlike the wall-O-towels, butter dishes were a rare commodity.  We wandered around aimlessly and found out that 'Kelly' actually did have one.  No, we decided, no looking back.  I asked the clerk to just show us anything that didn't look like it was formed from an old Cool Whip container and we would choose.  The clerk took us to the butter dish showroom and I fell in love.

There, on a spinning turntable (not really) was the butter dish of my dreams!  It was crystal!  The outside edge matched the edge of our plates!  The pattern in the crystal was similar to our glasses!  It was substantial.  It was awesome!  I yelled out, "That's it!  I really like this butter dish!"  No hesitation!  No glances at Sylvia to see what my answer should be.  I made a decision!  Sylvia picked it up, turned it over and over, kicked the tires, checked under the hood...and declared that it was really a great butter dish!  And then in true wedding-registry-frenzy style, she said, "Let's see if there's one better."

I'm happy to announce that we survived the day.  We did actually buy that butter dish.  And it took us no less than an hour and a half to choose the garbage can that would live next to our kitchen cabinets...but it really is a nice garbage can!