Friday, August 28, 2015

What's Amusing Me Today? Amazon.

My life is so much better because I am easily amused. This morning Amazon's marketing department was the source of my amusement. 

A disclaimer here: I am a big fan of Amazon Prime. I love it not only because of the free streaming video (since Netflix inexplicably has not kept up with my demand for more Doc Martin) but also because it caters to some of my most irritating character traits--inattention to detail, lack of organization, complete inability to plan ahead. 

By that explanation I mean that last week I ran out of dental floss picks. In a less perfect world, I would have had to sigh deeply, put on clothes, drive to the store, and spend many minutes wandering around the aisles trying to remember why I had put on clothes and come to the store. I would then buy $200 worth of everything else and arrive home to realize that I had forgotten to buy dental floss picks. 

Instead, I picked up my iPad, searched Amazon for dental floss picks, hit "Buy With One-Click," and knew that I would only miss one floss before the picks would be delivered to my doorstep the next day. No fuss, no muss, no shipping charges. 

That order apparently set off an alarm in Amazon central, though, because this morning my email had some special offers designed to preserve my dental hygiene. Toothbrushes, mini-toothbrushes, and a product that made me laugh and laugh.

Apparently my purveyor of dental picks thinks my teeth are so in need of care that they would benefit from the ministrations of a black long-sleeved button-down shirt. 

Thanks, Amazon, but I think I'll pass on this deal.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Useful Phrases

Boy#2 snapped this picture yesterday, and I'm considering having an enlargement of it framed for hanging over where the fireplace would be if we had a fireplace. It may not be a priceless work of art, but its symbol value is significant: The moving truck is loaded, ready to hit the road, and Husband and I are two states away.

Yes. Instead of jumping into Pearl and flurrying off to help Boy#4 move, we waited for occasional updates as Two flew into Texas to provide muscle and moral support for his younger brother's transition to Oklahoma.

Frankly, I wasn't sure they could do it without me. Oh, not for the muscle. (A perk of having four sons? You carry a ton of groceries into the house over the years, but when it comes to moving furniture there are many manly men to say "I'll get that, Mom.") My job has always been carrying the emotional baggage so I prepped Two by text with phrases that would be useful during a day that was sure to be long, hot, and irritating,
We're doing fine.
That's not a problem. 
Okay, that's a problem but we can figure it out. 
Really, we're doing fine. 
I'm sorry. 
Man, that stinks. 
That'll work. 
Good job. 
Seriously--it's fine. 

They texted from the hotel last night, after they had checked out of the apartment, locked the truck, and cleared urban traffic. I don't know if  any of my helpful phrases had to be used, but they were still speaking to each other and even seemed to be enjoying the experience.

I may have been made superfluous, and that's fine.

Seriously--it's fine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

After a Tiny Bit of Pain

Fact: When I don't have appropriate art for a post, I choose a flower
Last week's adventure with tooth-hurty put me in a reflective mood, which is to say it led me to think about pain, specifically my own pain.

My conclusion? I am not a fan of pain.

I have been extraordinarily blessed to reach the age of semi-maturity without having suffered much pain. Oh, I've had my share of migraines but those have a predictable course and as I huddle in a darkened room and try to be unconscious I know as soon as I vomit and fall asleep I will feel better and this has never taken more than one day. I've also given birth four times, which is not exactly pleasant at the moment but childbirth amnesia (and epidural drugs) clear the air once the process is completed.

Last week, though, the pain in my face was something different. I didn't know what it was, so I didn't know how long it would last. It was not predictable, and between the five-minute flares that left my teeth throbbing and my cheek and lips numb, I was functional if exhausted. Externally I didn't look any different. And it was the first week of classes at Small College, a week when I could not in good conscience completely abandon my staff so I continued to work every day.

The result, I discovered, was that I was mean.

All my pretense of being a serene ship that floats through adversity, all the Queen Victoria calm, all the this-isn't-a-problem pioneer spirit? All gone, in a blue haze of self-pity and snappishness.

Poor Husband took the brunt. At one point in our "discussion" over whether Winston Churchill or Jim Valvano gave the "Never give up, never ever give up" commencement speech (neither of them, as it turns out) I snapped "I thought that you might not be this irritating when I'm feeling this bad."

Yeah, I was charming. But it made me think about people who have chronic pain, pain that doesn't keep them from functioning, but can't be controlled with a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic bad knees, maybe. Or headaches, or (as in Husband's case) a stiff lower back that has resisted every therapy.

Maybe the big box store cashier has feet that are already hurting and she has another two hours in her shift. The guy in the old pick-up who ran the yellow light in front of me? Might have his own teeth issues that are making his entire head throb.

What I'm saying is that a couple of days of retrospectively minor pain have made me realize that not everyone who acts like a jerk is an actual jerk. I'm not, but I certainly acted like one.

Pain can do that.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Orts and a Blurb

We haven't done a Friday Orts and a Blurb for a while, so let's have a couple updates:

Update the First: My Face. You notice from the artist's rendering that I am once again smiling. An unsmiling me was diagnosed with a case of neuritis after I wrote yesterday's post, and after one dose of a super-antinflammatory Bruce the Nerve Shark's gnawing on my face seems to already be decreasing. Or maybe it's just my imagination, because the good doctor did warn that the next course of treatment would be a drug of which the LESS SERIOUS side effects include (no, I'm not making this up) dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, tired feeling, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, headache, breast swelling, dry mouth, and loss of balance or coordination. No thanks, please.

I have a whole post swirling around in my head about pain, and how I deal with it. (Spoiler: Not well.)

Update the Second: Shoes. One of my lovely Facebook commenters mentioned that I had completely neglected to include one of the most important factors in choosing shoes, along with comfort and durability--the price. N. was absolutely correct in saying that paying $200 for a pair of shoes is insane. In fact, if I pay triple digits it had better be for footwear that pays for itself. I'm thinking of my trusty Danskos, which finally gave up the ghost after five years of being worn day after day, year after year. (Again, not kidding.) My opinion on how much one should pay for shoes is stuck in the 1970s, when $35 was a good number.

Amazon image
My blurb this week is for my most recent Netflix addiction. When I completed all of the Midsomer Murder episodes I was having some withdrawal symptoms from my British television habit and looked around for lighter fare to get me through the pink elephant stage.

Enter Doc Martin.

This BBC (of course) series is one I had tried for a couple of episodes before, but I didn't really get into it while I still had Midsomer murderousness waiting in the wings. Now, after a binge that included three anti-inflammatory-enhanced episodes yesterday, I can't believe I didn't love it from the first.

This show has everything--quaint accents, gorgeous scenery, catchy background music, quirky characters, and the most misanthropic main character since House. In fact, Husband sat down to watch an episode with me and as I was trying to explain the plot he asked if Doc Martin wasn't really House Across the Pond. The difference, I told him, was that House was deep-down awful even when I wanted him to be good. Doc Martin is deep-down good.

Husband is now as hooked as I am (he says it's a good replacement for Corner Gas, the loss of which we are still mourning years later).

Thumbs way up and waggling for Doc Martin.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What Time Do You Go to the Dentist?

I was thinking about the answer to my favorite riddle yesterday. The answer, of course, is that you go to the dentist at 2:30. (Tooth-hurty, get it?) It was only 1 o'clock, but in my mouth it was definitely tooth-hurty.

This is unusual for me. I have been blessed with good teeth, and except for one astounding check-up when I was a junior in high school and had mumblety-mumble cavities (I'm too embarrassed to even say how many it was, but the repair of those cavities required two appointments) I've managed to avoid much time in the dentist chair. No braces, no crowns (knock wood), minimal problems.

Until this year.

Several months ago I noticed that one of my upper molars seemed to be sensitive to cold. I've always been an popsicle biter, and suddenly biting down on that frozen deliciousness made me want to claw the side of my face off.

Huh. That does not seem normal, but nothing showed up on dental x-rays and my friendly tooth guy said it probably was the stress of having a husband who is chair of the school board during these wack-a-doodle days of local education. (I did not point out to him that he could have stopped after "stress of having a husband," because the tooth guy knows Husband and would have laughed heartily.)

So yesterday, when the tooth was still hurting, I went back. This time I was emphatic.

IT HURTS, I told the lovely hygienist. (Do you know how much I love my dental hygienist? So, so much. Do you know why? Because she is gentle and efficient and only talks to me when she does not have her hands or sharp tools in my mouth. She is perfection.)

So more x-rays were taken, and still my teeth's innards are pristine. The friendly tooth guy said I definitely was doing some clenching and did I have any stress in my life these days? When I stopped laughing he did some drilling around, just enough to make me remember the smell (oooh, that horrible smell) and then sent me home with instructions to relax.

In an hour I have an appointment to see my non-tooth doctor, the body guy who I'm assuming will tell me I have leprosy or dengue fever or something else that would refer pain to unlucky tooth number 13. But if he doesn't, and he tells me I just need to relax, I'll see you in a month because I am booking a cruise to Tahiti.

That's the prescription when it's tooth-hurty, right?

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Toast for Mothers on the First Day of School

Here's to you, mothers of kindergarteners who are sending their first-borns off to school for the very first time. May you have a next-door neighbor who is also sending her children off to school except that these twins are her third and fourth children to make this transition and she will now have mornings all to herself from now on. "Are you CRYING?" she will ask as she laughs and laughs. Do not punch her, because she is the best neighbor in the world, and she doesn't realize how very hard it is to leave your earnest, bookish child with all these strangers.

Here's to you, too, mothers of the fourth-born who is going off to kindergarten for the first time and who is grinning broadly in the annual on-the-steps photo, the better to show off the missing front teeth. The house is going to feel different now, even if you had taken an out-of-the-home job a year before and he had been spending mornings at Debbie's house. Having four school-agers puts you in a new and uncharted demographic.

Here's to you, mothers of the students in four different schools, as you navigate the backpack debris and drop-off lines four times every. single. day. On one of those days you will win the radio's call-in trivia contest and it will be the most exciting thing that has ever happened to your children. It's true that you will remember the stress of those mornings, but you also will remember the answer to that trivia question two decades later. (Fred Flintstone.)

Here's to you, mothers of students who are taking their own cars to school because learning to drive in the bumper-car arena of the high school parking lot is a rite of passage that can't be skipped. It puts Vanuatu land diving and other masculine rites of passage into perspective, even as you are putting your insurance agent's number on speed dial.

And here's to you, mothers who are driving long distances to drop your children off at college. Pay no attention to any other mother's experience in this realm. The one who wailed the entire four hours home and the one who shed nary a tear? They are the outliers. You probably will be somewhere between those extremes, and all of those mothers have survived to counsel the mothers who came after them, whether those ensuing college-dropper-offers were seeking counsel or not.

One of these days, all of you mothers of school children, you will be done with the first day of school. And because I am one of those who will offer counsel whether or not it is sought, I will leave you with what I learned from dozens and dozens of those annual events:

Julian of Norwich was right--

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Relationship With Shoes

I've never been much of a girly-girl about shoes.

Oh, I appreciate a really good-looking shoe. I am the first to oooh and aaah about a student's new lime-colored high-tops when those high-tops dash into my office.

But yesterday, when I was irrationally delighted by my discovery in the back of my closet of the end-of-season sandals I had bought in late summer last year and never worn, I realized that my relationship with shoes has changed over the years. Now I have a very specific set of criteria for what I put on my feet:

1. The comfort of my feet is now more important than the style of my shoes. I'm too old to break in shoes, or cram my square toes into pointed footgear. Form and function over fashion, baby.

1a. This, obviously, means I am not a high-heel kind of gal. Well, that and being 5'8" and uncoordinated so I probably would have broken my neck by now if I were a high-heel kind of gal.

2. My shoes must be mostly low-maintenance, and an occasional coat of polish is the most I want to do to keep them wearable. Also, if I buy a brand of shoes that wears poorly that brand is dead to me. Dead, I say.

3. I must not have to crinkle up my toes or shuffle my feet or perform any other contortions to keep my shoes in place. First of all, it is too much work. But second of all, I learned from my dear departed mother-in-law that this has long-term consequences. She had narrow, aristocratic feet that slid around in pretty much any style of footwear. So she gripped her toes into her shoes as if she were hanging onto the edge of a cliff, and by the time she had passed her 90th birthday her toes were permanently bent into crinkles. Ouch.

4. My mental attitude toward wearing a particular pair of shoes should be, at worst, neutral. If I look into the closet and immediately think "I hate those shoes" it's time to get rid of them.

So, summing up, I look for comfort and durability, sensibility and down-to-earth dependability. I am unmoved by the whims of fashion and while I can appreciate your polka-dotted high heels, they're not for me.

Apparently I pick my shoes just like I picked my husband. I highly recommend this rubric.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Settling This Like Men

Even when they're full grown adults, the Boys don't always agree with their parents.

I know! I thought by this time they'd just have to hear a pearl of wisdom from Husband or me and they would immediately recognize the grain of native brilliance that had been wrapped in the oyster of experience to produce such a gem. But no. They just come up with different ways to settle their disputes with their parents, which at least is an improvement over the years when they used up All The Words in convincing us we were wrong.

And that was why I found myself in a Mexican restaurant Saturday, and instead of burying my head in the bowl of cheese dip I was witnessing the contest that would decide whether Husband bought Boy#4's lunch or Boy#4 bought Husband's lunch. Of course, that was after Four had explained the rules of Rock/Paper/Scissors to his father. (Sheesh. He's licensed to practice before the Internal Revenue Service and he doesn't know the rules of Rock/Paper/Scissors?)

As you can see, Boy#4 is on the verge of pulling out his credit card.

But wait! Just as Husband's scissors were cutting Four's paper, the manager was on his way to the table to tell us that he had noticed Husband's fajitas were overcooked, so he was comping that meal. In light of that, I'm glad they hadn't resorted to arm-wrestling for the check because that could have been disruptive.

Ahh, life with men.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Parable of the Tomatoes

Last night I did not want to go to my meeting.

Don't get me wrong, I love this group. It's made up of women with a common interest (educational opportunities for women) and they are also some of my favorite people in the world. But I was tired.

That seems to be my mantra recently, doesn't it? I'm tired. Also, it's hot. And in addition, I'm tired of the heat.

That's why this summer I've watched a lot of Netflix. The winter evening schedule, when I often have something scheduled every night of the week, just seems so exhausting when paired with heat that it hurts to add anything to the calendar, even meetings of groups I love as much as this one.

So last night at 6:45 I was tired, hot, and aware that The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wasn't going to watch itself. I came thiiiiiis close to calling the hostess and telling her to not expect me.

Instead, I bestirred myself and went to a house that was delightfully chilly (yup, we're all at an age where we crank the air conditioning down and NO ONE COMPLAINS) and was inspired by a couple of speakers who are working to combat poverty in Small Town. And then, as I was leaving, one of the hostesses said "Oh! Take some with you!" and pointed to an overflowing pan of the most gorgeous tomatoes I've seen in forever. I arrived home smiling and rejuvenated, even though the forecast for this weekend is 104 degrees. Fahrenheit.

I thought of that this morning as I picked another wave of my wonderful little yellow cherry tomatoes. This summer has been the fulfillment of a dream in that I've had a constant bowl of cherry tomatoes on the kitchen counter and I eat a couple every time I pass by. They are the sweetest, most delicious vegetables I've ever eaten. (I KNOW! THEY'RE FRUIT. Hrmph.) However, these tiny orbs of wonderfulness are useless for BLTs. For BLTs I need the kind of tomatoes my friend gave me last night, the kind I seem to be incapable of growing.

Maybe that's a lesson to me, I thought. I think I can cure my heat-related malaise by staying inside with Netflix, but when I do that something is missing and that something can only be provided by other people.

Well, huh. Now that I write it down I realize this is the worst parable in the history of parables and no re-writing is going to fix it. It's a good thing I was not responsible for writing the Sermon on the Mount.

I believe I will go have a BLT.

Monday, August 3, 2015