Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Scene

Ah yes, Halloween weekend is here at last! Why do adults like me, who do not put on a costume, and do not attend fun and funky parties to commemorate the 31st of October, look forward to this day so much? Memories, would be my guess.

That's me in the front as a witch (age 5).
I'd like to think I grew into the role. 
Behind me are my OLDER sister and brother.
She's a gypsy; he may be a pirate... He's been cured, however.

I’m old enough to remember that, although I had very protective parents who worried nearly to the point of phobia about all kinds of ills and harms that would never come to pass, Halloween was a time of real freedom. I could put my costume on, run up and down the street for hours on end, meet up with friends and neighbors, trade a yummy Hershey bar for a yucky Butterfingers (thank you Stevie Parks) and generally act like a so-called wild Indian. (No offense was ever meant to the Native Americans; it was just a politically-incorrect term, before we coined the term ‘politically-incorrect’, born of the ubiquitous Hollywood westerns of the day.)

When our parents flashed the porch lights off and on, that was our signal to come home. We’d arrive sweaty and dirt-streaked with a pillowcase full of loot. My sister, brother and I would unload our booty and the swapping would begin in earnest. I was the least likely to eat anything that contained nuts, being more of a chocolate purist. Still am. Give me simple, unadulterated chocolate and nobody gets hurt. Snickers? Mr. Goodbar? --no thanks. You can even have my Hershey bars that have been defiled by the inclusion of almonds. Ick.

There was always plenty of candy to last for a week or more, and that’s including whatever graft and corruption enabled our parents to skim their share after we went to sleep. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They were underwriting our costumes, room and board, etc., after all.

So ever since I’ve had kids of my own, I’ve done a massive job of decorating with witches, pumpkins, goblins and monsters, eager to make the holiday as much fun for them as I remembered it from my youth. The kids are married and scattered across the country, so it’s just the Center of the Universe here with me, but I still decorate at full-tilt. Bring on the Indian corn, the mini-pumpkins and the gourds! Hang those witches, drape the spider webs, and mount that wreath on the front door—it’s almost Halloween, and the spirits are gathering for some serious trick-or-treating!

I’m turning on the porch lights, and awaiting the ringing of the doorbell!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I've Been Released By the Kidnappers! (You're not buying that, are you?)

I know, I know, first I post a video about shame and humiliation, then I fall off the side of the earth for two weeks! What’s up with that? Well, would you believe I was kidnapped by the Standards and Practices Police for YouTube? No? Yeah, because their acronym would be SAPPY, and that’s just too cute for words. Bordering on the precious, isn’t it?

So the truth is, I was hijacked by the arrival of our son (from Boston) and his 2 1/2 year-old, who spent a lovely week with us! We were blessed with wonderful weather, so we covered some of the town’s high spots together: the local pumpkin farm (same one we took our kids to before they invented grandchildren), the world-famous St. Louis Zoo, and the amazing Museum of Transportation. Photos galore, all right here for your dining and dancing pleasure!

Just as that visit was drawing to a close, we skipped town and drove up to Chicago for a fabulous wedding! Don’t you worry—I have photos of that, too, so you don’t have to miss a moment of my life from the past couple of weeks. I didn’t mean to go AWOL on you—it just sort of worked out that way.

Who doesn't love a Magna-Doodle?
Riding the Zoo Train!  Chugga-choo-choo!
Petting the goats with Aunt Jaime!

"I thought I was the pumpkin!"
This is what 'happy' looks like!

What a great day we had!

Walking with Daddy at the Museum of Transportation.
Cousin, Me, Cousin, Cousin, Cousin!
Margaret, Leah, Lee, Carol, Edye!
I'm loving this group-- thanks for a great time!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Okay, Folks, it's my first foray into Video Blogging, and I've capitalized that just to reinforce the notion that I am capitalizing on my husband's videography skills! 

Anyway, here's a brief story of love gone wrong.  No, that's wrong.  It's a story of shame and humiliation, and who doesn't love that?  Aw, just click 'Play' and see whether you can relate to the miserable state of yours truly...

Well-- I'm totally bummed that the whole 'embed' process failed me, due to sizing conflicts, so use the link, and view the little video-- it's about 3 minutes long.  I hope you like it, and my undying gratitude to the producer and director, the Center of the Universe!

Friday, October 8, 2010

More Name Game

Another one for the books…

Remember the post about all the people whose names fit their occupations? People like Dr. Philpott, the urologist, and Dr. Wink, the optometrist, and Dr. Bonebrake, the orthopedic surgeon? Yeah, there were lots more, and YOU—my fabulous readers wrote in with lots of examples from your own experience.

Well, here’s another fine example. You may not be able to read the tiny print that tells you the name of this dentist, but perhaps you’ve seen the ad yourself. I tore this out of a magazine and saved it to share with you.

Her name? Dr. Joyce Fang. I kid you not. I mean, how bizarre is that—who ever heard of a dentist named Joyce?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thermostat Wars

Well, it’s furnace season already, and the gender wars are starting up again in full force. He wants the house cold enough to hang meat in, and I want to survive without seeing my breath in the living room.

Readers, grab your thermostats!

I'm like a reptile, cold all the time once the thermometer drops below 70 degrees. My internal thermostat doesn’t work very well, so I have a narrow temperature range in which I’m actually, well, comfortable. A few degrees lower and I’m reaching for socks and a sweater, and a few degrees higher and I’m flushed and fanning myself. It’s crazy.

Of course I share living quarters with a man whose thermogenic (yes, I made that up) needs are far different from mine. Just don’t tell my husband. Kidding. Of course, I’m talking about the hubster, the Center of the Universe (CoTU.)

He’s actually far more normal than I am in this regard, but ONLY in this regard.

The temp is always a problem for me; I can't seem to muster up any metabolic function at all... It's sad, really. And the CoTU doesn't get it-- he's never cold. How do couples like us end up together? Different religions are a piece of cake compared to this issue. Multiple blankets on my side of the bed, none on his. If I understand anything at all from the weather reports I’ve watched over the years, I think that where the warm front meets the cold front right in the middle of our bed, it should actually be snowing...

Remember in January when I had my deviated septum fixed? Well, before the surgery, the nurses kept offering to put warm blankets on me. I accepted each and every time, and by the time they took me into the operating room I was under so many layers that the surgeon had to bill extra time to unearth me. (Try the veal—tip your servers, I’ll be here all week.)

Today I was at the dermatologist’s office, which I decided I like better than all other doctor’s visits because it’s the only place where they don’t make you get on the freaking scale just because you came in for a check-up. Anyway, as the doctor’s assistant showed me into the exam room, she asked me if I needed anything. “A parka would be nice,” I said. She agreed that the office is pretty darn cold, but I noticed that she was in short sleeves. Bummer. I’m beginning to think it’s just me…

The other thing about furnace weather is that I’m drinking a lot more coffee. I’m not necessarily thirsty, I just use it to elevate my body temperature. It’s also very effective at keeping my hands warm. Of course with coffee beans selling at $9-$10/pound, this is going to be an expensive season. At least in the hot weather, I’m just drinking tons of cold water. Cost: pretty much $0.00/pound. We will either have to adjust the budget, or I’ll have to make it up somehow. Maybe I’ll take in ironing—that generates a pleasant heat…

So we don’t have a dog to throw on our laps for warmth, (remember the “Three-Dog Night”?) but we’ve got each other. CoTU generates enough heat to warm the tip of my nose and take the blue out of my fingernails. I’m pretty good at layering up the socks and the sweaters, and trying not to be a wimp about the cold. Now if I could just get him to hang that side of beef somewhere else…

Monday, October 4, 2010

National Punctuation Day's Over, Too! Whaaaa!

Great, just great. I’m barely getting over the realization that I totally missed National Coffee Day, and now I find out that there was a National Punctuation Day on September 24th. How can I be so out of touch??

It seems that this was the seventh annual National Punctuation Day, so I can’t just blame it on having had a busy week. I guess it’s been a hectic decade for me… What else could explain it?

I’ve posted before about how much grammar and word usage matter to me, and just recently a Washington Post column by Eugene Weingarten, lamenting “The Death of the English Language” introduced me to another kindred spirit. I’m still mourning the loss of retired NBC newsman Edwin Newman, who passed away in August.

Newman was a champion of the proper use of English dating way back to my coming of age, and always did so with humor and aplomb. He wrote whole books about it, books which I still possess (from the early ‘70s) titled “Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English?” and “A Civil Tongue”.

Anyway, it seems that a guy named Jeff Rubin (no relation), a veteran print journalist who reads The San Francisco Chronicle every morning with a red Sharpie in hand, founded National Punctuation Day.

People ask him all the time, "Who cares?" because from the plethora of mispunctuated signs out there, it sometimes seems as if nobody does. But Rubin gets e-mails, "hundreds and hundreds of e-mails," he says, "from people who do care: teachers, attorneys, journalists, parents." Now he’ll have to add, “Bloggers like the nutcase Leah Rubin, who originally wanted to name her blog ‘The Word Nerd’”.

And, according to an interview Jeff Rubin gave NPR…

Defending punctuation isn't glamorous work, but Rubin says he "soldiers on." Here are his greatest punctuation pet peeves:

1. People who misuse the apostrophe, Part 1: The rule about apostrophes is so simple: If it's plural there's no apostrophe. How hard is that? Other than the period, which tells people to STOP, this is the easiest punctuation mark. Will the "Johnson's" and "Smith's" of the world explain to me why this rule is so difficult to understand?

2. People who misuse the apostrophe, Part 2: What's the deal with "it's" and "its"? "It's" is a contraction, meaning "it is." "Its" is possessive. If people read their sentences by substituting "it is" for "it's" — "it is condition was serious" — it wouldn't make sense. That means "it's" is wrong.

3. People who make up their own punctuation style: At a business meeting the other day a guy who specializes in risk assessments said he likes to put commas and periods outside closing quotation marks. I told him that's not the recognized style of any of the major stylebooks in the United States. He told me he felt it was a "choice," not an absolute rule. That's like saying the Ten Commandments are the Ten Suggestions.

4. People who put commas where they don't belong: There are several correct ways to use a comma; an incorrect way is to add one just because it seems like the appropriate time. I know a writer who submits an occasional article for her company's newsletter. Her article always includes a misplaced comma. When I ask why the comma is where it is, I get this response: "Well, I hadn't used a comma in a while so I thought I should put one in." Where's the Maalox?

5. Their, there, and they're; your and you're: When did they stop teaching homophones in school?

Wait—if he says that now, how many people out there would object to the use of the word ‘homophones’? I’m just asking!

If you loved the very popular “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, you should check out “Lapsing Into a Comma,” “Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies,” and “Mortal Syntax.” They will keep you laughing while you lament the destruction of our mother tongue.

Anyway, I’m totally with him on all five of the pet peeves, and just today, en route to my niece’s wedding, I saw a new misuse to share with you. We encountered a pack of a dozen or so motorcyclists, all wearing jackets emblazoned across the back with “Sin City Deciples.” Shouldn’t some ONE of them have encountered the word “disciple” at some point in life??? I’m just saying…

Friday, October 1, 2010

I Missed National Coffee Day???

So it turns out that Wednesday was National Coffee Day. Did I have to be the very last person on the planet to find this out?

It’s not as if I don’t drink my standard eleventy-three cups a day, yes, even in the heat of summer. I just love the stuff. Sue me.

It’s not even about the caffeine, because I’m strictly a decaf drinker, for a variety of reasons, most of which fall under the heading of “I’ll take boring topics for $600, Alex.” But the flavor of choice is hazelnut decaf, just in case you were going to send me a shipment for my birthday, which I believe you forgot, by the way.

Wow. I’m beginning to sound angry. I’m beginning to scare myself, and this is WITHOUT caffeine. Good thing I never touch the stuff, right?

So the only reason I even found out about National Coffee Day AT LAST, is that my small-h hero, Grammar Girl, Tweeted about the difference between “expresso” and “espresso”. In case you missed it, (bwah-hah-hah), “expresso” would be slang for “speedy”, and “espresso” is the coffee drink.

Now it’s possible that the whole reason I missed this non-event event Wednesday is that it was the birthday of three very important people: my stepson Jason (he had a great birthday), my stepdaughter Jaime (she had a great birthday) and my capital-H Personal Hero and Spiritual Guide, Gwen Ifill.

I haven’t heard from Gwen about her birthday, but she wasn’t on the Newshour that night, so let’s just hope it was a good time for Gwen, too. (She doesn’t write, she doesn’t call… go raise children…)

Anyhoo, I hope all you coffee lovers out there celebrated big time, and next year I’ll be on the alert for National Coffee Day. That way, when I go to bed the night before, and hang my IV bag of Mornin’ Joe on the pole, I can put a bow on it and feel festive.

P.S. I can't believe September's already over! Waaaah! Nothing says 'end-of-summer' more than this-- not Labor Day, not stashing the white shoes or purse, not back-to-school, not anything. Once you start writing 'October' on your checks, you know the whole season's gone... Ah, well... I'm just saying... Bring on the Halloween candy!