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The Friend I’m Not Praying For

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“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with someone in outer space, they’d put you away.  But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”
-Sam Harris

prayer

I seeing miss my sweet, witty, intelligent, compassionate, bawdy, hugs & sloppy kisses friend, HUL.  She gets back here (she used to live in Oregon) to visit when she can, and although it seems like there’s no distance between us when we phone or email or text, she lives 1300 miles away.  And she is having surgery today.  I will be thinking of her, and talking to her after the surgery as I’ve talked to her before and after her cancer diagnosis, commiserating about the shitty situation and brainstorming treatment options, colorfully cursing the brusque and clueless medical personnel she’s encountered and lavishly praising the smart, kind and competent ones.

I will not be praying for HUL. Nor will I be

* burning special incense for her
* anointing her head with oil
* finding a faith healer to perform a laying on of hands
* doing a Wiccan or Tibetan healing chant
* performing a Haipule [1]or smudging ceremony [2]
* sacrificing a child
* using crystals to balance her energy
* casting a voodoo healing spell
* sending her to a Hakim (traditional Muslim healer) for Unani medicine [3]

Or singing her favorite soccer team’s fight song….or performing any of the rituals many human beings once somehow (and, sadly, still) thought might cause the gods/spirits/cosmic energies to look upon them with favor and cure their maladies.

What the heck. I could pick one of those things, or cover the bases and do ‘em all, as they have an equal likelihood of affecting the outcome of HUL’s surgery and subsequent prognosis.

HUL, righteously religion-free babe that she is, is not asking me, or anyone, to pray for her.

Not even moi?

Not even moi?

Her first surgery will be done in a Catholic-run hospital. HUL told me the only activity resembling praying that she might do is to beseech the friend who’s picking her up after surgery to refrain from vandalizing crucifixes and the like, should said friend spot any Catholibilia [4] in HUL’s room.

HUL will not be posting the news of her illness and surgery on any social media sites.  She wants to control access to this information and maintain a modicum of privacy.  She also wants to avoid the jaw-clenching, energy-sucking vibes produced by People Who Mean Well ® and who express their sentiments, even to those of us whom they know are religion-free, via the hackneyed expression [5] ,  I’ll be praying for you.

praying

She and I – and just about every atheist-agnostic-Bright-humanist-skeptic-freethinker on the planet – have commiserated over this phenomenon.  We realize the expression is a kneejerk, cultural/social, nicety response, and that not everyone who says “I’ll pray for you” literally intends to do so.  It’s similar to the way “How are you?” is used as a greeting – as a substitute or equivalent for Hi or Good morning.   If you take that “How are you?” query/greeting at face value and actually talk about how you are,  [6] you may be surprised by the WTF expression from the one who has greeted you and who now acts like they want to leave skidmarks as they flee from your discourse.

When it comes to being on the receiving end of I will be/I am praying for you, Those Of  Us Who Think About Such Things mostly grin and bear it, with various degrees of enthusiasm and anemia.  Here’s what we’re likely to say (even as this is what we’re likely thinking):

Well-Meaning But Ignorant Person:  “I am so sorry to hear about your upcoming hammertoe surgery! I’ll pray for you.”

Us: “Oh, okay. Thanks for thinking of me.” (You’re going to pray…uh…yeah, knock yourself out…but…really…WHY? Am I supposed to thank you for doing…well, nothing…when what I could use is a casserole, or for someone to mow my lawn while my foot is in a cast?)

I know, I know, IKNOWIKNOWIKNOWIKNOW.  People “mean well” (I’m trying to remember that great Lily Tomlin quote, something about thank goodness for kids, they never mean well).  But those of us who are fond of reality don’t just shelve it in times of crisis.  We we know about the efficacy [7] and therefore futility of prayer, to any one’s deities, for anything, and our bafflement at the announcement of the practice is often hard to disguise.

answered prayer

Skeptics more articulate than moiself have pointed out that while many religious people claim to truly believe that prayer can cure a variety of illnesses and injuries, they only pray for maladies that are generally self-limiting (and thus, they can attribute the cure to miraculous intervention).

I’ve never heard of religious believers petitioning their god to cause the boy with 3rd degree burns to grow new skin overnight (or even over the course of a few months), although I have heard them pray that the boy’s skin grafts will take.

An illness that gets better over time (and most do), a mood that improves, believers can and often do attribute these events to a “miracle” or divine intervention.  But hard physical evidence – the burnt, necrotizing flesh, the amputee’s stump– is a slap in the face to the “power” of prayer.

My theory is that deep down inside, even the most fundy believers have reality check neurons (besieged, but not extinct), which occasionally whisper to them, “Now, let’s not get carried away, you know this stuff is just mumbo jumbo.”

How else to explain the fact that, while believers fervently and publicly ask their god to heal the spirit and speed the recovery of the Iraqi war veteran whose leg was blown off by an IED, or of the diabetic who lost a foot to gangrene, they do not pray for their god to regenerate these sufferers’ limbs. In the case of Christian believers, their scriptures are filled with stories of “miraculous” events and healings performed by their god, including restoration of sight to the blind and movement to a paralytic, instantaneous curing of leprosy and healing of a soldier’s amputated ear and so on. Why should the production of new skin or a new leg be so difficult for an omniscient, omnipotent, responsive-to-the-heartfelt-petitions-of-his-flock deity?   Especially considering the fact that several species of our fellow animal inhabitants of our planet, including skinks, sea stars, conchs, and crayfish, can regenerate amputated appendages, and (presumably) do this without prayer.

"Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!"

“Oh great and merciful Poseidon, We beseech thee on behalf of our orange sister, that she be made whole again!”

Check out this site, for a more entertaining (and thought-provoking) examination of…well…of why this question is – or should be, to any sentient being – so important:  Why Won’t God Heal Amputees.

I get it; all of us who smite even the idea of prayer get it:  in times of adversity it’s often hard to know what to do or say.  Bad news makes everyone uncomfortable. You hear about someone’s misfortune, you care, you want to do something…but, think about it.  That “something” you do, if it’s praying (or just saying that you will pray), is more about making you feel better than about what prayer might actually accomplish.  Praying may provide you with the comforting illusion of having done something, but in fact you’ve done Absolutely. Nothing. Of. Substance.

If you really care, do something. Praying, or the secular version –  “holding a good thought for you” – doesn’t count.  Talk (and thought) is cheap; actions speak louder than – oh, don’t make me type it.

getwell

When HUL told me about her disease we cried and laughed and raged and cried and laughed some more. Here is what I will do for you, I told her, if you will let me, and if you need me to.[8] The list is a work in progress, based in part upon what other kind friends, neighbors and co-workers have done for me in times of need.  Like all such lists, it will and should be modified to fit the situation.

* Be there before, during and after surgery [9]
* Bring you healthful meals

"Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator."

“Get well soon, or more spam casseroles will be delivered to your  refrigerator.”

* Clean your house, hold your hand, feed your cats (and scoop their litterboxes)
* Donate to reputable, efficacious [10] cancer research funds
* Send you links to really bad jokes and visual puns and baby sloth videos
* Rent you some DVDs for a Daniel Day Lewis film festival [11]
* Encourage you to document what you are going through…

About that last one.  Although not a professional author, HUL is a pithy, articulate and entertaining writer, and I’ve urged her to record not only the logistics of her disease but her attitudes and reactions to it as well.  However, I have promised to refrain from referring to her dealing with cancer as if she’s on some kind of spiritual excursion.

I just can’t help it: when I heard phrases like, “Tell us what you’ve learned from your journey with pancreatic cancer,” it makes me want to kick Oprah in the ovaries.

 *   *   *

And Now For Something Completely Different

 Department of Making It All Better

When I serve a dish containing Brussels sprouts – to anyone, but mostly to MH and moiself – I also serve champagne.

sprouts

*   *   *

About Last Week’s Shirt

Receiving slightly less attention than the Rosetta mission’s landing of a probe on a comet was the PR meteor storm created by one of the project scientists.  This scientist dude chose “the most important day in spaceflight since Curiosity landed on Mars” – a day when he was slated to be speaking about the project on a worldwide live-stream – to wear a tacky bowling shirt covered in comic book-style images of half-naked women.

REALLY

Same dude also went on to describe the difficulty of the Rosetta mission: “She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.”

facepalm

Read this, for one of the more coherent takes on this brouhaha, including the dude’s [12] apology, and the (surprise!) internet-troll backlash aimed at those people [13] who called out the dude on his astounding inappropriateness.

“If you think this is just a bunch of prudes, you’re wrong. It’s not about the prurience. It’s about the atmosphere of denigration….. If you think this isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum. It comes when there is still a tremendously leaky pipeline for women from undergraduate science classes to professional scientist. It comes when having a female name on a paper makes it less likely to get published, and cited less. It comes when there is still not even close to parity in hiring and retaining women in the sciences.”
 (Phil Plait, Astronomer and “science evangelist,” from his Bad Astronomy blog)

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

Is that your comet probe or are you just excited to see me?

*   *   *

May your choice of bowling shirts be workplace-appropriate and face-palm-worthy-free, may well-meaning folks have no reason to pray for your recovery, may your cruciferous vegetables always be champagne-escorted, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] A Hawaiian healing ritual.

[2] A Native American practice involving cleansing a person with the smoke of sacred plants.

[3] The use of food and herbs to reestablish balance, based on a theory of wet/dry, hot/cold humors in the body.

[4] Yeah, I made that word up, but you know what I mean: crucifixes, rosaries, framed pictures of Jesus and saints and John F. Kennedy….

[5] and seemingly obligatory Facebook response to bad news.

[6] Like many a bewildered newcomer to American culture has done, and discovered that the Howareyou supplicant  did not really want to hear about your latest triumphs and travails. Or, as one European traveler put it, “Why do Americans ask how you are when they don’t want to know? Why don’t they just say, ‘Hello’?”

[7] That would be: zero.

[8] Make sure your help is practical and actually wanted, and not yet another task for the afflicted to manage.

[9] HUL has friends lined up to help, and graciously deflected that offer…although she’s made me promise to fly out for her “Yay, I’m all better!” or “I need more treatment, so kiss my hair goodbye!” party – whichever one she throws.

[10] Check out any and all charities to make sure they are legitimate and use funds wisely (Charity Navigator and Givewell are just two of the organizations that provide such evaluations), and fuck the Susan Komen industry ’cause festooning your body with plastic pink crap made in China does not cure breast cancer.

[11] Do not underestimate the power of watching your favorite movies featuring your favorite, fine-looking actors – ’twas repeated showings of Last of the Mohicans, not the antibiotics, that cured my pneumonia, I truly believe, brothers and sisters (somebody say, Amen!).

[12] Nah, I won’t use his name. I don’t think he was evil or even (consciously) misogynistic, just incredibly puerile.

[13] Every sentient being with an IQ larger than their hat size and their heads out of the sand (and not up their asses) – which I assume is an accurate description for y’all.

The Flight Perk I’m Not Flaunting

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 “The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle.”
- Stephen King

HELP

There’s something about today I’m forgetting.  Some kind of holiday….

HWEEN

*   *   *

The Department of Domestic Travel Post

Winning the TSA lottery (and irritating your spouse)

As part of my ongoing commitment to Public Service and fostering happy marital travel relationships, I must share the following:  I do not advise performing any variation of the Happy Feet Dance ® when you and Your Beloved ® have printed out your boarding passes, and you detect the magical phrase TSA Precheck above your name.

precheck

Random selection, scmandom selection – this designation means that, yes, I am more trustworthy than you (and a Highly Respected Government Agency [1] knows it).

How pitifully easy we have become used to being treated like so many sheep/potential terrorists; how pathetically easy it is for us to rejoice in being the recipient of such petty “luxuries” (“I can keep my shoes on!” “I don’t have to remove my quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag of  3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container liquid Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes!).

TSA

*   *   *

Department of What Must Be Done After Any Trip to Southern California

All rise for the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance obligatory complaining about the air pollution and traffic jams.

LASMOG

Well, yeah. There’s that.

*   *   *

Department of She Meant Well…Whatever She Meant

The trip to SoCal last weekend was to attend my nephew’s wedding. K and Belle flew down from Tacoma, laden with textbooks but excited to see their cousins and extended family, if only for a whirlwind weekend.  That whirlwind included an hour and 40 minute drive from the wedding/hotel area (Simi Valley) to Santa Ana, on the morning of the wedding, then the same drive back up to get ready for the 3 pm wedding…which left us a little less than an hour to visit with my mother. [2]

Mom’s poor health prevented her from attending the wedding, and at her age and with her many health concerns, you never know when will be the “last time” – if you know what I mean and I think you do – and so we’d arranged with her in-home caretaker for a time to visit.  MH and I had alerted K and Belle as to what their grandma might or might not be able to do or say or remember.  Her energy ebbs quickly and she might not be able to follow your conversation; even so, she’d appreciate you telling stories of college, etc.  Just speak slowly and smile frequently.

It was a nice visit.  Mom seemed to be in good (if sometimes oblivious) condition, but grinned nonstop.  When it came time to leave and we were saying our goodbyes, MH bent down to give his MIL a hug and a kiss, and she grasped his arm and said, in all befuddled sincerity,

“Thank you for bringing your dark hair into this family.”

The dark hair MH brought into the family (although it's typically not in a granny knot)

The dark hair MH brought into the family (although it’s typically not styled in a granny knot)

*   *   *

Department of Something I Was Not Supposed to See…

…and probably not photograph, but hey, being chosen as the TSA Precheck Golden Girl gives you a certain confidence.  I’m just glad the flight attendants didn’t have cause to whip this one out.

tarmacJPG

*   *   *

Department of Nuptials

Moiself and weddings – meh.  Wedding receptions, now you’re talking.

My adorable nephew and his equally adorable bride put on quite a party, complete with a custom crepe bar for dinner (yummers!).  They also had a hosted bar, and music for hours of dancing…the latter no doubt facilitated by the former.

Bottoms up, y'all – Aunt Robyn wants us to do a Soul Train during the next song.

Bottoms up, y’all – Aunt Robyn wants us to do a Soul Train during the next song.

My nephew’s wedding ceremony, from my perspective – and that’s what this is blog all about, isn’t it? – wasn’t as tedious as many I have attended, and, if a Freethinker/Humanist/Skeptic/Atheist may say so, had the blessing of being mercifully, relatively brief.  Sitting through the religious rite rhetoric, which can range from the presumptuous [3] to the mildly absurd to the downright abhorrent, can be a tooth-grinding, butt-frosting experience.

However, as we Happy Heathens and Awesome Apostates have discovered, religious ceremonies, particularly those which include Let us all bow our heads in prayer episodes, provide some primo people-watching opportunities.  Those of us who do not bow our heads for anyone or anything pass the time by scanning the other attendees.  It is interesting to speculate, via posture/body language and noting fellow open-eyed crowd scanners, as to who are our fellow dissenters. [4]

Atheism

*   *   *

Department of Now, There’s a Scary Costume

“For Halloween you should go as the person you claim to be on Facebook.”
-Anonymous

*   *   *

Oh yeah, and boo to you – as in, Happy Halloween, y’all, and may the hijinks ensue.

batcat

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] There should be a link to a recording of uproarious, hyena-like laughter. Feel free to provide your own sound effects.

[2] Which is the only reason, sane or otherwise, to drive to Santa Ana.

[3] “Let us all beseech Jesus/father god to bless Bethany’s & Ichabod’s marriage…”  Unless the invitations were Christian-only, y’all got other religions & non-believers in the crowd, Mr. Preacherman.

[4] Some of whom are “out,” and some…not quite yet.

The Pillowcase I’m Not Swinging

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“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
(George Bernard Shaw)

 International Blasphemy Day

…was earlier this week. September 30, in case you missed it. Mark your calendars; it’s never too early to start planning for IBD [1] 2015.

Your religion, to me, is like a penis.  It’s okay if you have one, but please don’t whip it out in public and wave it around, and DO NOT try to shove it down my children’s throats.

blasphemy day

*   *   *

Now that both K and Belle are away at college, MH and I have assumed the task of The Feeding of the Reptiles ® . This means that once every 7-10 days we thaw 3-4 frozen mice for T’Pol and Andy, our corn snake and ball python.  While we were discussing the snake feeding schedule, MH recalled how we once bought a year’s worth of feeder mice, [2] for a much better cost per unit than can be had at the local pet supply stores, from an online supplier.  MH did a search for bulk reptile food suppliers and found one company with an amusing (to us) assurance to potential buyers, via their FAQ section. (my emphases)

FAQ: How do you euthanize your feeder animals?

We euthanize our animals quickly and humanely with carbon dioxide (CO2), as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association panel on euthanasia, then tuck their legs and tails neatly underneath their bod y[3] and freeze them immediately… CO2 ensures a humane, quick and painless death for the animals and leaves no harmful residual chemicals that may harm the animal ingesting the prey item….

Imagine, having that for your job title: euthanized mouse leg and tail tucker.

Feet and tails not neatly tucked...heads will roll for this indiscretion.

Feet and tails not neatly tucked…heads will roll for this indiscretion.

 

*   *   *

If you are enjoying the topic of snake feeding half as much as I am, then I’m enjoying it twice as much as you.  I may as well try to even things up by sharing a blast from the past:

☼ The Truncated, Possibly Non Sequitur-ial story of Mrs. S___, Reluctant Snake Charmer ☼

Mrs. S___ was my parents’ next door neighbor. To give you a sense of Mrs. S___, it helps to picture June Cleaver, or any other 1950s archetypal (read: fictional), Suburban Wife and Mother ® icon.

Like Mrs. Cleaver, Mrs. S___ was always impeccably attired, almost always in dresses accessorized with a strand of pearls around her neck. Unlike Mrs. Cleaver, Mrs. S___ did not wear pearls when she vacuumed, but this is only because Mrs. S___ did not vacuum.  She paid someone else to do any kind of housework, including vacuuming. Are you getting the picture?  Good.

Add 30 years and pounds, darker, poofier hair, and you've got Mrs. S___

Add 30 years and pounds, darker, poofier hair, and you’ve got Mrs. S___

The tragic/pathetic story of how Mrs. S___’s only child, Jeremy, [4] came to be such a tragic/pathetic character is worthy of another story for another blog. For now, I give you this.  When Jeremy died, the feeding of his pet boa constrictor fell to his widowed mother. Mrs. S___was distressed at inheriting this task.  She shared her discomfort with my parents, but ignored their counsel to find another home for the snake. Jeremy loved that snake, Mrs. S___ told them, and she’d promised him that she would care for it.

A brief explanation for y’all non-reptile owners as to the feeding protocols for your pet snake:

In “the wild,” when snakes are hungry they hunt and consume live prey. However, the general recommendation from herpetologists is to feed captive reptiles killed prey, as it is safer for the reptile and also (somewhat) “kinder” for the prey.

Captivity is not a natural state for reptiles; [5] thus, some natural behaviors are altered in confinement. If your snake happens to not be hungry when you decide to feed it, it will not eat. Translation: it will ignore the live prey you put in its enclosure. Meanwhile, the prey animal, left alone in a predator-occupied terrarium with no way out, will not be so chill. It will be terrified, and try to find a place to hide.  Eventually, sensing its imminent demise and and/or choosing the best defense is a good offense strategy (and/or becoming hungry itself) the prey animal will attack whatever is around – like, your snake. [6]

Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for your patience.

To return to the story: Jeremy followed the herpetologists’ recommendations to feed killed prey to his snake…with his own unique variation. When it came time to feed his boa, Jeremy would purchase a live rat from a local pet shop and bring it home to his bedroom, where he kept his snake terrarium.  He would place the rat in the bottom of a pillowcase, [7] grab the top end of the pillowcase and swing it round and round over his head.   When the swinging had reached a certain critical speed, Jeremy smacked the end of the pillowcase against his bedroom wall, instantly transforming a live rat into a snake entrée.

Jeremy left detailed instructions for his snake’s feeding. His mother told my parents that while she detested the process she followed the procedures to the letter. [8]  Although I heard this story years ago, the image is still with me:  Mrs. S___, trying to honor the memory of her son, gingerly removing a live rat from its box, placing it in a pillow case and swinging said pillowcase around her head, trying to get up the momentum (and the gumption) to whack it against the wall, all the while wincingly fingering her strand of pearls….

*   *   *

Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite,
and furthermore, always carry a small snake.
( W. C. Fields )

*   *   *

 May you always carry the flagons of your choice, and have the gumption to swing what must be swung, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Not the best acronym – sounds like some kind of intestinal disorder, doesn’t it?

[2] And keeping in mind the year’s worth did not in fact “keep” for a year in the freezer (read: eeeewwwwwww).

[3] I’m assuming they mean the rodents, not the American Veterinary Medical Association panel members.

[4] He lived at home until he died, sometime in his mid-40s.  Never left the nest; held one paying job that lasted two weeks.

[5] Or any animal..Sorry, all you PETA pet-owners.

[6] Pet lizards, snakes and other reptiles have been injured and even killed by live prey.

[7] One Jeremy reserved for this purpose (i.e., he did not buy pillowcases in bulk) and which, according to what Mrs. S___ told my parents, he apparently never laundered.

[8] Not another snake-related footnote, I promise.

The Petard I’m Not Hoisting

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This week’s Sunday haiku to my mother.

Morning is sunny;
another sweltering day
is in the forecast.

 Belle has her zoo shift,
and a friend’s birthday party
in her day’s schedule.

There’s packing to do,
for Orientation week
The countdown begins.

She is quite eager,
and at the same time, fearful
of what awaits her.

The future is calling
her heart and mind, as we watch
with proud, trembling hearts.

 

Sadie art

 *   *   *

During one recent Sunday Dinner With Friends ® the conversational topic veered to the health issues of aging parents. [1] When I shared my concerns over my elderly mother’s ongoing physical and cognitive decline, friend MW recommended the book Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s. Subtitled A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease, the book’s focus is not on the causes/origins of Alzheimer’s. Instead, author [2] Joanne Koenig Coste presents a practical approach – a comprehensive method called habilitation – to help family and caregivers enhance communication with those beset by a disease that progressively robs them of their ability to understand and be understood. The book offers practical tips on how to “step into their world” – interestingly, also a mantra of by improvisational theater groups [3] – as in, how to understand and relate to those patients who must live with their changing, diminishing sense of reality.

OLDHANDS

Although my mother does not have Alzheimer’s disease, my friend pointed out that my description of my mother’s difficulties are similar to those experienced by Alzheimer’s patients:

 * Short (or long) term memory loss
* Difficulty performing familiar tasks
* Problems with language
* Disorientation to time and place
* Poor or declining judgment
* Problems with abstract thinking
* misplacing things
* mood and behavior changes
* loss of initiative
* personality changes

I don’t need to scare you with the statistics, but sooner or later most of us are going to be dealing with some form of dementia, whether via a spouse or family member’s diagnosis, or just losing it after one too many Comcast customer service calls.

I was glad MW recommended the book. Moiself in turn passes on that recommendation to y’all.  I found the book’s advice compassionate, accessible, applicable – even somewhat Zen, in that it stresses learning to live in the moment and trying to understand the afflicted person’s reality.

 The Ticking Meter

My head feels like an old depot, worn by time and tears.
 No more locomotives passing through, café filled with tales and baggage.
 The old depot’s barren now.
 There has been a great brain robbery.
[4]

ALZ

*   *   *

The dementia train could stop at my depot; who knows what the future holds?  Until that time, I will stick with my philosophy:  the more you rant, the longer you live. [5]

Speaking of which:

 Department of Needs No Further Comment

Last week, Jorge Mario Bergoglio aka Pope Francis, leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world, whose headquarters in the Vatican City is a “sprawling financial empire” that holds billions of shares in the most powerful international corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines, and whose various museums house art collections of inestimable value,  embarked on his first tour of Asian countries, during which he urged Asian youth to reject materialism.

VATICAN GOLD

 *   *   *

To Hoist or not to Hoist

He was hoisted on his own petard.

I heard someone on the light rail use that Hamlet-ian expression last week. He was sitting behind me on the train; I only caught bits and pieces of his (you guessed it) cell phone conversation, so I’m not sure if he used the phrase correctly.

But, really – does  anyone use it correctly?  Even Shakespeare, who supposedly invented its modern usage?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been hoisted on or by my own petard.  It is, however, my dream to be hosted by Jean Luc Picard.

Please, do come in and join me for tea. Earl Grey, hot?

Please, do come in and join me for tea. Earl Grey, hot?

*   *   *

Happy (one-day-belated) Birthday to MH

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (Palo Alto), with Christmas kitty, Sheena.

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (Palo Alto), with Christmas kitty, Sheena.

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.
Madeleine L’Engle

 *   *   *

May you keep all the ages you’ve been that you’d like to keep, hoist off the rest on the petards of your choice, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] After the requisite political rants and fart jokes.

[2] and health  care sonsultant, whose  husband died from early-onset Alzheimer’s.

[3] For teaching budding actors and comedians how to enter a skit someone else has started.

[4] From Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s.

[5] Or it just seems longer, to everyone around you.

The Offspring I’m Not Embarrassing

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flyingmonkey

All Together Now:

 HOW IN THE FLYING MONKEY BUTTS DID IT GET TO BE AUGUST?

 *   *   *

Spoiler alert: there will be a running-around-naked story in this post.
But first ,[1] these important messages from your sponsor.

HOSTpng

*   *   *

 ҉    Let’s All Agree To Get Rid of This Word    ҉

A new feature, wherein we put aside our various political and other worldview differences, and unite to eradicate an unnecessary and doofus-sounding word from our vocabulary.

My first nomination is gubernatorial.

Say it aloud, if you haven’t already.  Don’t you feel as if you just dropped ten IQ points (and perhaps a couple of your incisors) into a bowl of corn mush?

The dictionary is, IMHO, of little help in raising the status of this most clod-hopping of political terms:

 gubernatorial  (ˌɡjuːbənəˈtɔːrɪəl, ˌɡuː-) ,  adj ,  chiefly  ( US ) of or relating to a governor [C18: from Latin gubernātor,  governor]

Really. That’s what it says.

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout…. [2]

I’m referring of course to Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonators of all ages and genders, who’ve just discovered that there is a Latin origin for Ahnold’s political nickname. Gubernātorwho woulda thunk it?

To Do List: 1. Fix teeth 2. Marry a Kennedy 3. Get a better nickname than Tappen die Frauen-ator 4. Run for political office

To Do List:
1. Fix teeth
2. Marry a Kennedy
3. Get a better nickname than “Tappen die Frauen-ator”
4. Run for political office

Once again (etiam, in Latin), I digress.

The word’s noble origins cannot extend a prestige umbrella over its yokel-evoking pronunciation.  Say it again. Better yet, try to act gubernatorial. Don’t you feel like you should be pulling straw out from under your denim overalls and kicking a moist cow pattie into a pig trough? [3]

 We-alls gonna enter dem gubernatorial races right after de hog-hollerin' contest.

We-alls gonna enter dem gubernatorial races right after de hog-hollerin’ contest.

We can – and most of us do – say, “governor’s race,” and everyone knows what we are talking about. There’s no reason for the continued usage of… that word.  I say we not only get rid of it, but we export it to a netherworld where cooperation and compassion and rational negotiation simply cannot abide.  Perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry would have more luck with the Middle East Problem ® if he’d just threaten to go all gubernatorial on their recalcitrant, sandy asses.

*   *   *

Don’t you feel better now?

I know I do.

You’ll feel even better if you join me and

Ditch the Dirty 100

Join the campaign against the one hundred entities that sued over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. If you’re squeamish when it comes to phone calls and letter writing kind of activism, it can be as simple as finding out who & what these organizations are and boycotting their products and services.

N.O.W. and other organizations have compiled a list of plaintiffs in the 100 cases that have been filed in opposition to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. As I scrolled down the list, most came as no surprise to me (Liberty University? Imagine that!), but, Eden Foods, WTF !?

My favorite maker of organic, salt free canned beans and other products… I had no idea the company’s president is one of Those Kind Of Catholic Nuts ® .  Before anyone jumps on the religious bigotry whine wagon, as one protesting poster on the company’s Facebook page put it:

 …And BTW, I do not mind that you are a Christian-based company. I don’t mind if you’re Catholic. I wouldn’t stop buying your products for those reasons. When you cross the boundaries, then we are also forced to cross those same boundaries 

Yeah, what she said.

BOYCOTTpng

And and and and and, does Eden Foods have a clue as to who be their target audience?  It ain’t the fundy-thumpers; it’s us liberal, MYOB, keep your theology out of my biology folks, that’s who.

*   *   *

☼  Happy Families are All Alike  ☼
Chapter 18:
Explaining to your children that, while you were indeed born at night, it wasn’t last night.

Earlier this week my two young adult offspring briefly joined forces in an attempt to dissuade me from doing something they thought I might regret. [4]

The occasion: I’d just found out that not only is Cards Against Humanity a board game, [5]  it is the game with the motto, “A party game for horrible people” and the descriptor, “The game is simple. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.”

An earthy cross between Mad Libs and Apples to Apples, eh? Sounds right up my alley (and I gather the game has a white card with a more vulgar version of up my alley).  Anyway….

“I can’t wait to play it,” sez I.

“I cannot play that game with you,” sez son K. “There are some terms on the white cards…I just don’t want to go there.”

I flashed a what’s-up-with-your-bro? look to my daughter Belle, who gave me a patronizing smile as she came to her brother’s defense. “Mom, we really don’t want to have to explain words like smeeg-ma to you.”

Ahem to the nth power:

Is there anything more satisfying than seeing the look on an eighteen-year-old’s face morph from pure patronization to horrified humiliation when her fifty-something mother enlightens her as to the correct pronunciation of smegma?

Alas, I didn’t capture that look on camera. Trust me, it was as satisfying as gazing upon a baby sloth in a box:

 

slothinbox

*   *   *

My Mother’s Favorite Streaking Story
#1 in a Series of One

Dateline: Spring Break, a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

My friend RR spent the vacation with my family, camping at Joshua Tree National Park. One evening RR and I strolled through the campground, admiring and commenting on the park’s isolation, the stark beauty of the unique desert topography, the canyons and rock formations. RR made what she thought was an offhand comment.

“This would be a great place to go streaking.”

JOSHUA

 

“WOMAN ! [6]  You know I’ve always wanted to go streaking! We’ve got to do it before the fad fades, and instead of streaking we’d be weirdoes running around butt nekkid, and here we are, camping with a bunch of strangers – people who will never see us again – oh, this is perfect, we can do it tomorrow….”

RR blanched when she realized I was serious.  Her me-and-my-big-mouth expression soon faded, and she helped me plan our escapade with unadorned (ahem) enthusiasm.

After we agreed on the logistics, we realized we needed an accomplice: my younger sister, who for this story shall be monikered as YS.  YS had a mini-snitfit when I refused to let her join in the running-naked part, [7] but she agreed to abet us.

RR and I weren’t satisfied to be just another couple of streakers. Oh, no.  We came up with a theme. It was Easter week.

Our streaking route included a circular portion of a hiking trail that was oh-so-cleverly named The Wilderness TrailThe Wilderness Trail originated at one end of our campground, and meandered by or through most of the sites in our campground before heading up into the surrounding rock formations.  We chose our time (six pm, when most campers would be at their campsites, firing up their grills), and with YS’s help, we gathered our “equipment” without my parents or brother suspecting anything.

A few minutes before six pm, RR, YS and I headed for a small rock formation in the desert that was ~ 100 yards from our campsite.  Crouching behind the rocks as YS stood lookout, RR & I stripped off our clothing.  Once we were naked except for running shoes and socks, [8] we began to accessorize:

* we donned jingle bell collars around our necks (from my father’s and brother’s Indian Guides ceremonial costume paraphernalia I’d found – ohjoy! – stashed in the camper);

*  we knotted long pieces of twine around two balled-up white athletic socks, and tied the twine around our respective waists so that the socks approximated rabbit tails;

* we used zinc oxide sunscreen ointment to paint the end of our noses white and draw white rabbit whiskers across our cheeks. [9]

Kinda like this, only naked. 

Kinda like this, only naked.

YS giggled, You look great!”  before she ran across the desert with our clothing.  And RR & I had a moment of sheer, unadulterated, side-splitting panic.  There could be no chickening out – we had to streak to the rendezvous point to get our clothes back.

RR: “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

Me: Do you realize we are standing here, naked ?

We doubled over, convulsed with laughter.

Me: I am laughing so hard I could pee my pants, BUT I’M NOT WEARING ANY!

We somehow managed to calm ourselves.  RR & I took several deep breaths, and on the count of three we hauled ass as ass has never been hauled in Joshua Tree National Park.  All the while we were running, we sang a song we had written, especially for the occasion:

(to the tune of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” [10] )

Here we come in our bare tails
Streaking down the Wilderness Trail
Hippity-Hoppity, Easter’s on its way 

Look at us and you will see
Streaking’s come to Joshua Tree
Hippity-Hoppity, Spring is here to stay!

We were not quite finished with the first verse before a group of kids riding bicycles on a ridge overlooking the campground yelled, “SSTTRREEAAKKEERRS!”

STREAK

It could have been worse. Much, much worse.

It took us three or four run-throughs of the song before we reached the rendezvous point (an area behind an enormous rock formation a safe distance from the campground).

The run itself is mostly a blur to me now; we were speedy, to say the least, as we did not want those kiddie cyclists to catch up to us.  Still, I have two strong memories of our dash to destiny:

(1) passing one campsite just as a man was transferring a burger from his grill to a folding table, and he dropped his jaw – and the burger, in the sand – as we sailed past him;

(2) passing an outhouse just as its door opened, and the occupant yelled “whoa!” and nearly fell back on his can;

(3) occasionally glancing sideways at my brave buddy RR, seeing her sock bunny tail (and nothing else, scout’s honor) bouncing jauntily.

Okay, three strong memories.

Breathless and euphoric, we met my sister at the rendezvous spot. We shed the bells and sock-bunny-tails and donned our clothing…and discovered we’d forgotten an important detail:  a clandestine return route.  That is, the spot where way we ended up in the canyon left us no choice but to retrace our steps in order to return to our campsite.

We gathered a certain amount of  are you the ones? looks as we casually (or so we thought) strolled back through the campground.  No one said anything directly to us, save for one middle-aged gent who asked, as we passed by his campsite, “Are you the young ladies (thankfully, he did not use finger quotes) who just went streaking by?”

RR and I may have been temporary exhibitionists but we were no liars.  We nodded our heads in the affirmative. The man nodded his in return and said, “You looked all right.”

At the time, RR and I found that comment cringe-worthy.  Looking back, I wish I could have seen us, then.  RR was (and still is) blonde, and gorgeous,[11] and while I was nothing in the va-va-voom department, we were both seventeen, on several school athletic teams, and in excellent physical shape. I daresay we looked rather… fine…to anyone who’d have been able to get a good look.  Did I mention how fast we ran?

(An explanatory pause for my offspring’s generation: the reason RR & I would even consider such an escapade was because it was a time before cell phones and hand-held camcorders; i.e., we’d no reason to fear that our youthful exuberance in the springtime could come back to haunt us.)

password

 

That evening, after dinner, RR and I played the board game Password (based on the TV game show) as a team, versus my parents, as YS and my younger brother looked on.  RR and I had arranged to have certain cards come up for us (RR distracted my parents during dinner while I flipped through the clue cards, a technique colloquially known as cheating).  Our clues all had to do with running and/or movement, and we kept giving “streaking” as clues.  My father finally asked what was going on.

Sister YS squealed with pride as I ‘fessed up, and she regaled our parents with the story of her being our accomplice. My brother considered several reactions to our story before quickly settling on a combination of mild annoyance and fraternal embarrassment.

My parents’ reactions were typical of their respective characters. My father thought it was hilarious, and said he couldn’t wait to tell people (co-workers, neighbors, churchy people – he told them all).  My mother laughed weakly, then begged, “Oh, please don’t ever do it again.”

And then, this week, thirty-something years later, during our phone conversation, my mother begged to hear the story.  She said that as her health fails she’s been recalling the good old days, and that my streaking adventure was One of my favorite family stories.

Really? I reminded her of her less-than-enthusiastic reaction at the time, but of course I retold the story. I was grateful for the reminder, as I hadn’t thought of it in years.  I also told her about my attempt to plan a follow-up adventure. After doing the streaking thing, I’d wanted to find a place to kaerts.

Despite how it sounds, kaerts is not a Yiddish term for a person with a Vitamin A deficiency; [12] rather, it is streak spelled backwards.  I figured that streaking backwards would involve walking very slowly, fully clothed, through a nudist colony. My Kaerts-ing venture never worked out for a variety of reasons, including that my research revealed that nudist colonies are located on private, gated properties, with access restricted to colony members (ahem…ahem).

So. All these years later, I have streaked, but I have never kaerts-ed.

“Oh well,” my 86 year old mother said. “You still have time.”

*   *   *

May we have all the time we need for those things that need to be done, [13] and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Really bad pun – butt first – so, so not intended.  Trust me.

[2] Two plugs of chewing tobaccy for those of you who got the Casey at the Bat reference.

[3] I come from a long line of cow pattie kickers, so I do have literary license to fling the stereotype, a privilege which is related to the socio-politico reasons why Chris Rock can tell old black men jokes.

[4] Hello, I gave birth.  Twice.

[5] I thought they were a set of really snarky greeting cards, like, for the sociopathic Hallmark crowd.

[6] One of my many nicknames for RR.

[7] My parents were good sports; still, I didn’t want to risk being held responsible for corrupting a 13 year old.

[8] We’d no problem with running bare-bunned, but barefoot over a cactus-and-rock-strewn trail?  We weren’t that stupid.

[9] You damn well know which cheeks.

[10] I got an A in my college calculus class, and today I could not do a calculus equation if you put a gun to my head, but I can recall the exact lyrics to our improvised streaking song.  Long term memory has its priorities.

[11] (and, as my mother reminded me, “RR was quite busty.”

[12] Or maybe it is. I don’t speak Yiddish and I made up kaerts.

[13] SCM – it’s a new footnote record!

The Nose Hairs I’m Not Trimming

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Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

There is a certain beauty to these disparate messages in this week’s spam file – a mélange of subjects I find peculiarly compelling:

 * A scary number and an awesome cat
* Weird food KILLED my blood pressure
* John Kerry With Egyptians Over Gaza
* My hips went from a 40 down to a 35 in seven days
* Mail from CIA (Congratulation) !!!
* [SPAM] is NOT SPAM!
* Free Viagra for under $5!

And this, from a company that helps inventors turn their innovative ideas into branded product…this, to me, is the most poignant spam of all:

 * Tangled, messy garden hoses are a thing of the past

Please, say it ain’t so.

How will I ever convey to my offspring the contentment that can only arise from laboring to transform a tangled, messy garden hose into a straight and tidy irrigation tube, if the former no longer exists?

I swear, those entrepreneurs just want to suck the mystery out of life.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

Mom, tell me again about the good old days, when everyone worked together to untangle the hose.

 *   *   *

Silent But Deadly =  Recuperative

Readers with such totally meaningless lives they must fill the void in their souls by reading my blog excellent memories may recall last week’s blog, wherein I mentioned the mini-strokes that have afflicted my mother.  Those Wacky Scientists ® may have come up with a non-surgical, non-pharmacological, totally natural treatment for her.

I am, of course, referring to fart-smelling.

As reported in The Week:

“A new study …suggests that exposure to hydrogen sulfide could prevent mitochondria damage….. Hydrogen sulfide gas…well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,”  a professor at the University of Exeter, said…. the study suggests that “a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria.”

I can’t help but wonder: is there is a corollary effect for gas emissions of the northern orifice; i.e., does listening to belching have mitigating effects for auditory or other sensory disorders?  In other words, any excuse to play this:

 *   *   *

Why I Never Ran a Lemonade Stand  [1]

Lawston 2

*   *   *

Apparently, my calling, where my true talent lies, is writing Amazon reviews. Such as the one I penned for my “manatee tea infuser.”

I love the way my manatee looks; I love the very concept, and I love the way she perches on the rim of my teacup, with her loose tea-laden nether regions soaking in the hot water, infusing the teacup with…well, with very little actual tea.

The holes in her silicon trunk are just not holey enough to allow for proper circulation. The only thing that comes close to the disappointed look on my face when I sip what I am hoping will be a freshly brewed cuppa, and taste instead a week mug of almost-nothing (hey, did I mistakenly order the homeopathic tea?), is the forlorn expression on the manatea herself. I think she knows what’s going on. She is a tea infuser that does not infuse; she is forlorn, bereft of purpose, just another pretty (if bewhiskered) face.

The review itself received several glowing reviews, and is currently listed as the most helpful review for the product.  I may now return to Antares with a clear conscience. My work here is done.

 manatea

“(Moiself) has written one of the most informative and creative reviews of any product that I have ever had the privilege to read. Thank you for a review that not only provided the information that I needed and also managed to be very entertaining.”

 *   *   *

Tonight is Hillsboro’s Bards & Brews.  Bards & Brews is a last-Friday-of-the-month literary event, co-organized by Jacobsen’s Books and hosted by the downtown Hillsboro restaurant/wine bar/retail shop, Primrose & Tumbleweeds:

Join us for a celebration of the written word! Local authors of every flavor will gather for Bards & Brews to share their works in a series of talks and readings, while you enjoy a meal or a beverage from the world’s largest collection of Oregon wines and beers. 

As I mentioned last week, I’d rather be home trimming my nostril hairs with a weed whacker than do author appearances, but since the nose hair situation is under control and my name is on the list, I’ve no excuse but to show up.  I’ll read a couple of passages from my featured book and be available to talk afterward. [1]  Here’s the slate (author and book title) for tonight:

 *  Robyn Parnell (The Mighty Quinn)
*  Caitlin Claire Diehl (First Daughter)
*  Tammy Owen         (House of Goats)
*  Paula Stokes            (The Art of Lainy)
*  Paul Gerald (60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland)

I hope to see your friendly faces (perhaps made even friendlier by the beverages?) tonight.  If nothing else, you may pick up some hiking tips from Paul Gerald (aka that Portland hiking guy).

 Bards & Brews, Friday July 25, 7 – 9p
Primrose & Tumbleweeds
248 E Main St.
in old town Hillsboro, one block north of the Hillsboro Transit Center

 *   *   *

Department of I Am So Not Making This Up

And the Golden Wingnut Award goes to….wanna-be nurse Sara Hellwege.

GOLDEN WINGNUT

 

I will really, really try not to refer to her as Sarah Hell-Wedgie.  So, please, erase the following image from your mind.

hellwedgie

 

Dateline: Tampa, Florida, where not-yet-graduated-or-licensed nurse Sara Hellwege  (not Hell-Wedgie) has apparently fallen out of the bounteously-limbed Tree of Illogic and Absurdity and hit every branch on the way down.  Despite the obvious signs that Hellwege is suffering from TBI ( theological bullshit instruction), she was able to apply for a job in Tampa medical clinic, and is now blathering “religious liberty violation” because she did not get the job after she said she would not be able to do the job.

REALLY

No shit. [2]

Sara Hellwege is a member of a conservative religious “medical” organization that believes, contrary to all medical and scientific evidence, that birth control causes  “the death of a human embryo.”  When asked by the clinic’s human resources director about her affiliation with the group, “Hellwege admitted she would refuse to prescribe the birth control pill to anyone who wanted it. She was summarily told that prescribing the birth control pill was part of the job and was not hired.”

All together now: Sara Hellwege does not want to prescribe birth control, but she applied for a job at a family health center where prescribing birth control is a job requirement.

Uh huh.

 "I'll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough."

“I’ll prescribe that crazy bitch a dose of turn your brain and cough.”

*   *   *

Best. Vandalism. Ever.

Portland is just so, you know, Portlandia.  Eleven miles west, we Hillsborons [3] struggle to have any kind of identity, other than our unofficial city motto, [4] “Yeah, we’re not Portland, but at least we’re not Riverside.”

Oh, but that was then, and this is now:

 “In my 25 years in police services, I have never investigated or seen a criminal mischief involving pastries.”
- Lt. Mike Rouches, Hillsboro police spokesman.

It seems a Hillsboro neighborhood has been plagued – or blessed, depending upon your POV – with a unique form of vandalism.  In a kindergartener’s dream titled article, “Donut Caper Hits Hillsboro Neighborhood,”  The Oregonian reports that in the past six weeks, vandals have plagued Northeast Farmcrest Street and neighboring areas, “scattering doughnuts around” and other food, too, including red potato salad, “…But doughnuts have been the most common food found.”

And just in case you’re wondering,  I HAVE AN ALIBI FOR THE PAST SIX WEEKS.

Here the breaking news reporting gets more species-specific:

 “Maple bars smeared across cars. Two chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles sat atop the windshield wipers of one vehicle.”

DONUT

With sprinklesI love that this important forensic detail is mentioned.

As you can imagine, Hillsboro’s finest detective squad exists only in our dreams has been assigned to the details.  Read the article in its entirety, and you’ll shudder to think of the hypoglycemic sickoes behind these and other incidents:

On July 18, a Hillsboro sergeant found a box of Little Debbie Coral Reef Cakes strewn in the middle of Farmcrest Street. The dessert was the yellow cake with chocolate creme version, which is topped with brightly colored starfish and fish-shaped sprinkles.

 The next day, July 19, a woman told police that…she found doughnuts thrown around her yard…. Mysteriously, a “Twilight” book was also left in her driveway.

Now we’re talking.

Hello, CSI Hillsboro, do I have to spell it out for you?  Crimes of pastry side-by-side with one of the worst crimes against literature – this is no coincidence.

As one befuddled resident put it, “Can the world get any more cruller?”

*   *   *

R.I.P. James Garner

Murphy's

If you haven’t already, treat yourself to a viewing of one of the actor’s best (IMHO) if underappreciated roles, in Murphy’s Romance. I love this movie for so many reasons, including the realistic, well-written the role of a kid, where kid gets to be a kid and not a sitcom-ish sassy-talking, wiseass Hollywood version of A Kid ® . The chemistry between Garner’s and Sally Field’s characters is mahvelous; also, the movie has one of the best ending couplets [5] in cinema history (spoiler alert):

SF: “So, how do you like your eggs?”

JG: “I’m sixty.”

*  *  *

 May your Romcom dialogue be convincing,  your wedgies be heavenly, your neighborhood vandalism be hypoglycemic-neutral, and may the hijinks ensue.

 Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Cartoon by Mary Lawton. Her work is featured in many venues, including the aptly named Funny Times.

[2] Except for the batshit crazy kind.

[3] For some reasons, residents of Hillsboro have resisted my attempt to label us thusly.

[4] Hillsboro has no official city motto.  And since I’m about as unofficial as they get, I feel totally justified in coming up with an unauthorized slogan.

[5] I’m probably using this poetic reference incorrectly.  So, sue me.

The Birds I’m Not Strangling

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I am, really and truly, trying to keep shiny happy thoughts in my head about our neighborhood’s avian inhabitants. But they start singing outside my bedroom window at 4:10 in the morning, and WTF’s with that, tweetie pie?

♫ I know you're in there.  Get up and feed the cats. ♫

♫ I know you’re in there. Get up and feed the cats. ♫

 These Kids Today

Dateline, July 3:  The University of Puget Sound  sent its Class of 2018 students a list of dorm supplies the students need to bring with them.  Belle asks me if I would go with her tomorrow to shop for items on the list.

Moiself:  “Sure. But remember, tomorrow is July 4th.  Have you checked to see if the stores you want to visit are open?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?” Belle looks confused.  “It’s not as if it’s a national holiday or anything.”

Huh

SPOCK

*   *   *

Total Surprise of the Week
aka, Mum’s the Word

I’m sure you were as shocked – shocked! – as I was to learn that another conservative politician [1] who champions Abstinence-Only “education programs,” and also opposes the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, now has to do the I-supporter-my-daughter-who-will-be-facing-many-challenges tap dance; i.e., the announcement of his 17 year-old (unmarried) daughter’s unplanned pregnancy.

"That, like, so never happens!" 

“That, like, so never happens!”

When I worked at Planned Parenthood, some of us snarky experienced clinic worker bees had a term for the Abstinence Only gals. We called them MUMs [2] in the making.

 *   *   *

It’s Still Working

The sound of footsteps at the front door is accompanied by the sound of muffled voices in consultation, followed by the sound of…nothing.  Yet another knock and/or ring of the doorbell was averted.  I can only guess that they, who/whatever they are, saw The Sign.  And they took The Sign as a sign, and did the right thing. [3]

I work out of a home office, and have come to loathe the interruptions from door-to-door salesfolk, proselytizers and petitioners.  Even so, I never wanted to post one of those NO SOLICITING signs by the front doorbell.  This is FAVOR, [4] including

*  such signs seem hostile, or at least unsociable, and I want my neighbors to feel welcome to stop by;

* several friends and neighbors who have posted No Solicitors notices told me that their signs are often unheeded; [5]

*  in My Ideal World ® , such signs should be unnecessary.  Why should I deface my house because some presumptuous blowholes think my family needs their opinions as to which imaginary friend we should worship and/or which political issue we should support?

MH and I vowed that we would not harass our neighbors when it came to underwriting K’s [6] and Belle’s school and extracurricular activities.  I can count on the fingers of one finger the times we allowed either of them to participate in those dreadful fundraising drives.  Suffice to say, we were not the most popular family amongst the school fundraising organizers. I discretely but firmly explained to a series of teachers, administrators and PTA Nazis (make that presidents) that while we while we supported ___ activity (if, indeed, we did support it) and would contribute the expected per child amount for our own child to participate, we would not send our children door to door, imploring our neighbors to purchase toxic-to-pets-and-infants, Go Team USA! made-in-China plastic water bottles and unrecyclable gift wrapping paper to finance the school’s lacrosse team mouth guard fund.

nosoliciting

Many other families apparently held no such sentiments. Thus, over the years there were a series of disappointed kiddie solicitors leaving our porch.  We were kind to the children, even as we were irritated to be put in the position of honing our gracious, “Oh, sorry, no thanks” response on wide-eyed eight-year olds. [7]

I wanted to get the point across, firmly and directly, but with humor.  My first solution, several years ago, was in the form of a topical Non Sequitur comic strip.  I was so pleased when I saw it (this is perfect!) I contacted the strip’s syndicating organization and paid the fee to receive a copy of the panel, which I laminated and posted under the doorbell.

The panel has long since been destroyed by the elements. I can’t find a copy of it online (how can this be?!?!?!?), so a description will have to suffice.  It was a single panel comic: a couple of solicitors pause on the sidewalk, outside of a house which has a sign on its front yard gate. The sign, which read something like, “Welcome, we love solicitors! Please, do tell us why your religion is better than ours!” is posted above an iconic coroner’s chalk-mark on the sidewalk that outlines where a body has lain.

After we posted the comic strip sign we let certain families in the neighborhood know of our policy (and the rest, I think, caught on). For families we actually knew/liked/recognized, [8] their children were welcome to pitch us their fundraisers, and we would support the activities if such activities were in line with our interests and values (e.g. nothing in which plastic swag was involved, nothing promoting religion or divisive politics, nothing where money would be funneled through non-legit “charities,” and nothing just plain lame-ass stupid).

As mentioned previously, I work at home, and used to get a lot of visits from the door-to-door crowd.  The comic panel sign worked…but only for about 50% of solicitors. The rest would smile broadly as I opened the door, and would immediately point out that sign and say, “That’s great!” or “That’s really funny/cute!”

To which I would respond, “And you think it doesn’t apply to you, do you?”

Most people would sheepishly and graciously retreat at that point. However, some did not, and would attempt to get in their spiel about how they were not actually selling anything – oh no! – they were giving away good news, for free!  I was surprised by the sheer lack of self-awareness and brass balls persistence of those who believe they have something their gods/political gurus/10,000 Friends of Oregon want them to share to people who have specifically and repeatedly said, no way/go away.

So.  I came up with the following.  The graphics, used with permission (and even encouragement) are the logo for The Brights. The text is my own.  And, it works. [9]

brights_icon_100x100

Welcome, friends and neighbors!
All others:  No doorspam, please.

Translation: No soliciting.
Nope, none at all, be it
political, religious, or otherwise.
(Yes, this means you)

*   *   *

The Future Is In Their Hands

This week Belle and five of her high school friends (two boys, three girls) [10] went on their first no-adults overnight trip. [11] They drove up the Columbia Gorge, stopping at Multnomah Falls and Hood River before crossing the Columbia to head for their final destination, a cabin in the mountains belonging to one of the girl’s parents.

Belle was quite conscientious about providing MH and I with Required Parental Details ® , including the names of the cabin owners, [12] the location and phone number of the cabin, the names of the other attendees, their departure and return plans and time frame, and the description of the vehicle they’ll be riding in.  Belle didn’t know the vehicle’s license plate, so when her friends arrived Tuesday morning to pick her up, I went outside to say hello/goodbye/have fun, and wrote down the license number.

Contemporary, non-vanity Oregon driver’s licenses consist of three numbers and three letters. “You’ve got an easy one to remember,” I said to the driver and another passenger, who stood outside the vehicle while Sadie squeezed her duffel bag between back seat passengers.  I pointed to the minivan’s license plate.  “DDE – those are a president’s initials.”

The two girls looked at me blankly, their eyes only lighting up in comprehension when I followed up with, “Eisenhower – Dwight David Eisenhower.  You know, the WWII general; the one with the ‘I like Ike’ campaign slogan?”

“That poor man,” Passenger Girl laughed.  “His parents probably named him Dwight David ’cause they thought, ‘Who could ever make an embarrassing nickname out of that?’, and he ends up being called, ‘Ike.’ “

*   *   *

 May your nicknames be campaign-worthy and your proselytizers be mock-worthy, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] This time it’s Bill Cassidy, state congressman, Louisiana.

[2] More Unmarried Mothers.

[3] i.e., they left skidmarks as they fled our porch.

[4] For A Variety of Reasons.

[5] The proselytizers say, “Oops, I didn’t see it until I’d already rung the bell….”

[6] Our kids turned out to be like-minded, imagine that. One of the first intentional profanities I heard son K utter had to do with his declaration that he wasn’t going to do any of that “@#!& fundraising #$!?^.”

[7] And had we said yes to a mere fraction of the solicitation the financial outlay would have been substantial.

[8] It’s amazing, how many of the kiddie funraisers were not from our neighborhood, but trucked in from miles away. Yep, I asked if I did not recognize the kids, and yep, they told.

[9] Except in the case of about 4-5 people who have said, as I opened the door, that they were going to leave  when they saw the sign but really wanted to tell me how much “I really love the term ‘doorspam,’ ’cause you know exactly what that means, and I’m leaving now, I promise….”

[10] Revealing the mixed gender makeup of the group prompted a totally unsolicited reassurance, from Belle to her bemused parental units, that there was no kind of romantic interest amongst any of the parties.

[11] They’re all eighteen, so legally adults, but…really. How many adults take Disney animated movies with them to sleepovers?

[12] Who will not be there, as it’s a kids young adults-only vacation.

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