Monday, September 27, 2010

Put It All Together, and It Spells--- Huh?

So I hear that United Airlines and Continental Airlines are merging. The new name of the resulting company will be… drum roll, please------- United Airlines. Wow, how original. In mergers, don’t they usually form some combination of the names of the two elements making up the new entity? And aren’t the people at Continental entitled to some part of the name in the new company?

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but when I see those two names together, I can’t help but think, “How about InContinent Airlines?” I guess you could use “UnContinent”, but with them charging for everything but the use of the toilets these days, you could really send a message with InContinent, couldn’t you?

Hey, I’m only asking!

What?  What'd I do?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shawn Everyman, Part II

We return you now to the story of Shawn, the Prince of Pain, the Amazing Personal Trainer…

And another thing about Shawn, and this actually differentiates him from Satan: he has good manners. No, he has exceptional manners. Shawn introduces everyone who walks in the door to whomever he’s working with. Unheard of. Of course, five minutes later I didn’t always remember the names of the people he introduced me to, but I attributed that to the fact that I was trying to focus on not passing out performing all my torture exercises correctly.

The other trainers, Brian and Lisa, are equally well-mannered, and since they are Shawn’s siblings, I guess their parents should be getting a gold medal for Raising Polite Children. If it were an Olympic event, I think we could safely predict the outcome. I’m just saying…

Anyhoo, one day I was in there, gasping my last breath working with Shawn when in walked Linda. Shawn introduced us as she headed over to the treadmill. Then we realized that the gym was occupied by Shawn, Lisa, Leah, Lila, Laura, Lori, Lucy, Linda, Lindsey and Lainey. Okay, maybe I made a couple of those up, but there were truly five of us there! So I asked Shawn if he was scheduling us alphabetically by first name. I believe I might have also asked him, “What the L, man?” Groan…

Not Shawn, not me. Just a couple of actors, doing a re-enactment.  Uh-huh.

Shawn loves his family and speaks of them with great love and affection. He planted a sizeable garden this year, and he generously shared the harvest with his clients. Tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro-- an impressive feat, and a delicious crop!  Part of his reason for the garden was to share the experience with his pre-school age daughter. How cool is that?

Shawn is a dedicated recycler. I mean dedicated. His wife thinks maybe too dedicated, but you be the judge.

Shawn told me the story of their neighbors, foreign nationals who often traveled home for weeks at a time. When they were gone, Shawn and his wife would water their lawn, hold their mail and generally keep an eye on things.

One night Shawn’s wife got a call from the neighbors, saying that they had returned home. They were coming over for their mail. Only one problem: she couldn’t find it.

“Shawn! Where’s the bag of mail for the Smiths?”

“I don’t know, Babe—where’d you put it?” he answered.

“It was in the laundry room in a Trader Joe’s bag,” she told him. A cold chill swept across his brow, even though beads of sweat were popping out everywhere else.

“Uh… I uh… um… maybe I recycled it? It sure looked like recycling…”

Only a really big man can admit that big a mistake.

The neighbors forgave him.

His wife is thinking about it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Prince of Fitness

Shawn. Five letters, starts with S, ends with N, the only vowel it uses is A. Hmmm. What other name does that sound like? Could it be… SATAN?

Oh yes, the original Prince of Darkness has nothing on Shawn, the personal trainer and fitness guru who’s been torturing helping me on my journey to fitness.

Shawn, who works me till my eyes bleed, who makes my face the color of a beet, who makes me sweat like the proverbial dog.

Shawn has made me stronger, more flexible, and more aware of each and every muscle in my body than I ever expected to be. Curse you, Shawn!

--Naw, Shawn knows I’m kidding. One of the great things about working out with Shawn is his wonderful sense of humor. We laugh a lot as he pushes me beyond what I believe I can do.

If my husband, the Center of the Universe (CoTU) weren’t likely to read this, I’d also tell you how good-looking Shawn is, but I’d better not go there. CoTU’s likely to start questioning the shorts and tops I wear to work out in. The fact that I’m probably older than Shawn’s mother would mitigate the situation somewhat, but still… let’s not discuss the fact that my neighbor (who also trains with Shawn) never fails to mention how “easy on the eyes” he is. (He, being Shawn, not CoTU.)  (Sorry, CoTU.)

The reason I know Shawn has a sense of humor is because he is able to laugh at with at me when I’m trying to follow his instructions. He’ll show me a simple move, I’ll try to repeat it, and come nowhere close. I’m raising my hand weights when I’m supposed to be stepping, or I’m reaching when I should be bending. It’s pretty comical; at least it is if you’re the PRINCE OF PAIN.

I told him early on, this is why I’m not a dancer. Yeah. I think that was pretty obvious.

Years ago when my friend Gail and I took “Beginning Tap” with our adolescent offspring (my daughter, her son) I learned exactly why my mother never wasted her money on dancing lessons for me. I told Gail I should be in “Remedial Tap”; I was no ordinary ‘beginner’. There were a couple of tiny 6-year olds in the class who always picked up the new steps immediately, in sharp contrast to us. Gail pointed out to me on the way home one night that the little kids actually look like they’re dancing. “While we,” I observed, “look like we’re breaking down carburetors.”

So, “Just six more!” and “Ten more seconds!” and “You can do it!” from Shawn lead me to “Curse you, Shawn!”, “You’re killing me!”, and “No, I really CAN’T!” back at him. We use a lot of exclamation points over at his gym.

I mop my brow with a towel, take a swig of water from my BPA-free bottle, and try to get my heart rate under control.

Then it’s another round to complete the workout.

Shawn? --he never breaks a sweat. I guess that’s part of his charm.  He's very muscular and the picture of fitness.  But why is that red pitchfork standing in the corner?

Next post: One great story about Shawn, his family, and how very UN-Satanlike he is!

Monday, September 20, 2010

As promised, Part III of Grandma Visits the Boys: Zach and Sam and their betrothed!

Yes, it was a rich and full visit to Zachramento last week. I got a nice span of time with each of the boys (Zachary, age 3 ½, and Sam, 2 ½ months.)

Zach and I went to the circus, the boys, their parents and I went to Train Town in Sonoma, and one lovely afternoon we went to the home of their good friends, A & A.

A & A would be enough of a gift, just for their friendship, intelligence, loyalty, big hearts and loving spirit. But in addition to all that, they have given birth to the lovely Miss J., who’s unofficially engaged to Zach, and the Cupcake herself, Miss M., who will just have to save herself for Sam. Since she helped Sam’s mommy give him a little bottle when we were there, we can officially plan for her to rob the cradle. Of course, it’s understood that this will only take place if Sam and Zach’s daddy insists upon staying married to my daughter, because Miss M. seems to think he is actually meant for her. Time will tell. (Does a 33-year difference in age seem like a lot to you? I mean, outside of Mississippi?)

Anyway, when we were invited over, Daddy A. suggested that Zach bring a swimsuit so the kids could play on the Slip ‘n’ Slide. We asked if he really thought it would be warm enough for the Slip ‘n’ Slide, and Daddy A. assured us that anything over 30° was appropriate for the Slip ‘n’ Slide.

Turned out to be in the 70s, so the kids wore their swim suits and Slipped and Slid to their hearts’ delight. They also rode scooters and kiddie coupes, ate apple wedges dipped in honey, and ran around like small children having a ball. Go figure. All except Sam, however, who stayed in my lap except when his selfish loving mommy demanded him back, and when Mommy A. wheedled us into giving her a turn to hold him.

While I was relaxing and reveling in the sight of such unselfconscious and innocent play, Mommy A. was making a wonderful dinner for everyone. We had brought salad and all the pre-measured ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. Miss J. helped Rachel make the cookies, and when both daddies arrived we had a terrific dinner!

Hats off to Mommy A. for her wonderful brisket and roasted carrots, to Rachel for the salad and the cookies, and to all the vintners in Napa Valley who made the beverages so memorable!

Here are some photos of kids having fun!

Kids at play!
Miss M. a.k.a. The Cupcake
The lovely Miss J., my future granddaughter-in-law!
Is this fun, or what?
Driver Zach!
Color me Grandma!  --and happy!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Zachary and Grandma Go to the Circus

As promised, here’s the story of my trip to the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus with my grandson.

So we’re driving to the Arco Arena, and from the backseat Zach says, “This is where the Kings play basketball.”

Holy moly, he’s three and a half. He’s never been to a basketball game (thank God—we have to save SOMETHING for when he’s a little older!), but because he’s so curious about everything he sees, he knows that the arena is where the Kings play. Zounds!

“That’s right,” I answer, always ready with a snappy comeback.

“There’s the highway. Highway 80,” he points out.

“Yep, that’s highway 80 all right,” I agree. I’ve got to work on my repartee. The kid’s killing me.

“Here’s where you turn for my school, Grandma!”

“I know, Zach—I love coming to your school!” I’m drowning here, someone throw me a rope.

Anyway, we pull into the parking lot, land a prime space (did you know I’m the Queen of Parking Karma?) and head for the big event. On the way to the entrance, we’re accosted by someone from PETA who tries to foist a flier onto me, regarding the treatment of elephants. I kind of gently shake my head and say (rather softly) “Please don’t—“ and she yells, “Oh, you don’t CARE about the animals???” I just kept walking, happy that Zach was more interested in the big train car on display than the nut job who, though she was trying to do something good, completely misapplied it in confronting someone with a little kid in tow…

So we get inside, and the whole interior of the arena is lined with showy, flashy, elaborate concession stands. They run the gamut from incredibly overpriced snacks (popcorn: one size, $7.00, and I swear I am not making this up) to incredibly overpriced souvenirs (nothing under $15.00, but most in the $20-$28 range, all of which looked like you could have bought them at Target for about $6.99), to ornate set-ups of circus scenery in front of which you are enticed to have your child’s photo taken for the princely sum of $15.00.

These displays just go on and on, and they pretty much repeat themselves repeat themselves every ten or so booths, and it’s a total sensory overload. Bright lights, flashing neon displays, sellers calling out to you, waving their wares, hoping for another sucker customer who will plunk down some megabucks for their goodies.

Zachary was wide-eyed, trying to see everything, taking it all in. He asked, “Grandma, is this the circus?”

Well, of course in a way it WAS a circus, but I had to tell him that the circus would be inside, and we’d be sitting in seats like we did when we went to see Toy Story 3, and the circus would be on a stage. I neglected to tell him that it would be very loud, but you will see that he handled that problem on his own.

So here’s a little photo essay of Zachary and Grandma at the circus. There were no lions, but elephants, acrobats, and clowns—oh, my!

Rapt, but with ear protection.  Smart boy.

I never said I wasn't a soft touch, did I?
Oh yeah, we had popcorn, too.  And a
$4.00 bottle of water.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good News! I've Been Released!

AWOL? Yes, and I was being held captive by the little guys you see here! Zach, age 3 ½, and his baby brother Sam, age 2 months, captured me and kept me in an undisclosed location for the past week. Don’t I look stressed, tortured and miserable?

My release was negotiated by the government of Grandmastan, ransom paid by the not-for-profit organization MWBCHSIAOU, also known as My-Wife-Better-Come-Home-Soon-I’m-Almost-Out-of-Underwear. I believe that my very own husband, the Center of the Universe had a role in my release.

He was thinking of sending a former president to negotiate with my captors, but Clinton and Carter have recently achieved similar rescues, and he knew that if Dubya was sent out, I’d go underground forever.

Anyhoo, I had a blast, and I’ll be blogging about some of our escapades! The photo here shows me with the boys at Train Town, a very cute little amusement park with a 25-minute train ride in Sonoma, CA. It’s about an hour and a half from their home in Sacramento. Well worth the drive, especially if your 3-year old is obsessed with trains, as Zachary is.

Of course, he’s also very unhappy about loud sounds, so there are a lot of photos of Zachary with his hands covering his ears. This would not be so surprising if Zach were not prone to making loud noises himself. He is often heard singing at the top of his lungs, be it “I’m Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee”, the alphabet song, or, God help us, “The Theme From Ben Ten”. Not familiar with it? Neither were we, except that Zach’s dad had heard some of his peers talking about it at a recent toddler birthday party. Seems it’s a show aimed at 7-8 year olds, and some of Zachary’s friends have brothers in that age group.

We asked Zach how he knew about Ben Ten. “Chase sings it.” Yep, Chase has older brothers. Check.

So Grandma went online to find out what the real words to the song are. What Zach was singing was hilarious, but also kinda like your drunken roommate trying to sing karaoke to a song she never quite learned.

Let’s just say, Zach got “superpowers”, “no ordinary kid” and “Ben Ten” right. The rest was insanely distorted. As in, “Scotty had a (blah-blah) and he licked it when he did,” which should have been, “It started when an alien device did what it did.”

When his daddy tried to tell Zachary what the real words are, Zach was unconvinced. Wait—did I say unconvinced. No, Zach was angry, in the manner of a 3-year old, insistent that his daddy was wrong and Chase was right. Whatever. Daddy may be Zachary’s total hero, but when it comes to superheroes, Chase has the street cred.

Coming up later this week:  Grandma takes Zach to the circus (much more ear-covering), and a play date with Zachary's betrothed, the lovely Miss J, as the two play on the slip 'n' slide, much to the delight of Miss J's adorable little sister, Miss M.  Hilarity ensued, as always.

Thanks for a great visit, fam!  --oops, did I neglect to mention that these boys have parents?  Bygones.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You Can't Be Too Careful

I’ve been accused of reading the most ridiculous things, just for the sake of reading. And I confess that it’s true. I’ve been known to read things like the fine print on the Special K box if somebody else is hogging the newspaper. (I’m not mentioning any names, but CoTU does come to mind…) That’s not even bad—I’ll read the tag on the bath towel if I’m bored in the bathroom.

Which brings me to these words of wisdom, yes, straight from the tag on the bath towel in my daughter’s hall bathroom: Do not use near source of ignition. Really.

As if I had been pondering taking the towel to the nuclear power plant, or the open flame at the local Propane Is Beautiful Festival. Yeah. That’s a real concern, so it’s a good thing that they took the time to make the tag say that. And it’s even better that I took the time to read it. Now if I’m actually dumb enough to let my towel catch fire in the welding plant, or when my neighbor lights his grill with charcoal lighter fluid, maybe I can’t sue the towel company for criminal negligence.

Or maybe I still can…

Monday, September 6, 2010

Photo Opps

It’s been a busy and interesting week. It started with a lunch with my husband, the Center of the Universe (CoTU). Here’s how intense and personal it feels to have lunch with him.

Oh yes, I could go on-- I actually took eight of them, but I'm bored just uploading them, so I'll spare you.  You can thank me later. 

And don't let the glass fool you-- we're not Pepsi people.  Even the water comes in Pepsi glasses, though, at this little barbecue place!

This actually reminds me of the time we were on a cruise with another couple.  CoTU was so busy shooting video for eight straight days, my only human interactions were with our friends.  I ended up taking over twenty photos of CoTU taking videos.  I shot him from the side and from the back, so he never knew I was doing it.  When we got home, I had my pictures developed (how quaint!-- but it was in the year 2000) and put them in a little album.  I gave it to CoTU as a gift, and he thought it was hilarious.  He saw St. Thomas, San Juan, and much of the Caribbean through a tiny lens... Ahhh, my life...

Meanwhile, back to present day life, such as it is.
The next day, when I came out of the supermarket and got into my car, I noticed that the car facing mine in the parking lot had its engine running, but no one was in it. Ah—then the driver lifted her head, and I got a look. I took her picture, thinking you might enjoy seeing how talented some dogs are here in Wildwood. I am wondering, however, how she reaches the pedals. That’s a big damn car!

Another couple of days went by, and CoTU and I came out of our favorite local coffee and sandwich shop to find this piece of automotive finery at the curb. It just cried out for me to take its picture, so I did… Over and over again. Do you think it’s trying to tell us something?

I see lots of messages there, and the vanity plate even reflects the owner’s hobby. Perhaps the goal is to cover the whole car in bumper stickers. It would cut down on glare, and it would certainly reduce the risk of theft. I can’t imagine anyone stealing this car, and thinking they wouldn’t get caught. Then again, there’s the Tiger Woods mentality…

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

For English, Press 1

For English, press 1. For Spanish, lo siento de decirle que yo no le puedo ayudar. (I’m sorry to tell you that I can’t help you.)

I’ve been seeing some stuff on Facebook recently along the lines of “I shouldn’t have to press one for English, this is America!”

While I understand the frustration that leads to that sentiment, I must say that I’m not quite there yet. I’m far more impatient with the eight-level hierarchical menu of choices that I get when I call my doctor’s office. They start with a recording of their office hours, when they go to lunch, what holidays they observe, and the notification of the next twelve full moons. Then they launch into the series about who YOU are: “If you are a doctor’s office, press one. If you are a pharmacy, press two. If you are a drug rep, pick up pizza and salads for the sixteen of us, and stop by any time. If you are a patient, please stay on the line, as your call is important to us.” Then you are unceremoniously disconnected.

Anyhoo, I got the most curious document in the mail this week. It was from Ingenix, a company I swear I have never heard of until now. It contained a form letter that, in a nutshell, was trying to determine whether I had recently been in any kind of accident. You see, I had been having back pain, and my doctor (who I ultimately reached via smoke signals) ordered x-rays. Apparently, my insurance company, with whom I have had a very close personal relationship for at least five years, uses Ingenix to investigate claims they may not have to pay. You know, if I was getting x-rays because I had been in a car accident, or a street fight, Charming Insurance Company could disavow all responsibility for my care.

Here’s the connection to where we started this post. Right along with the letter asking me to supply all sorts of information about what happened (to wit, nothing) to justify the x-rays, there is an exact copy of the letter in Spanish.

Yes. In Spanish. To me, Leah Rubin. Not Leah Rubin Gonzales.

So I think that sending the form in two languages is pretty insane, unless they had a reason to believe that I needed to communicate in some language other than English. I mean, with a name like mine, they might as well have sent it in Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, German, or Esperanto.

Especially since I’ve been with the same company for so long, with never a hint of inability to read and write in English… Oh… Unless they’ve been reading this blog, and they think I am illiterate. I hadn’t thought of that.

But really? We’re not killing enough trees? We’re not putting enough trash into the landfills? We’re not yet thinking about our carbon footprint enough to realize that maybe we shouldn’t send TWO copies of every form to our customers in two languages without some good reason?

Press ‘R’ for rant.