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The Baby Card I’m Not Sending

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Happy New Year – Pick Your Battles

Every morning I send an email to my mother (from my end it’s an email; from her end, it’s more like receiving a fax [1]). The emails are neither particularly personal nor conversational – I save that for our phone calls. Rather, they are another way of keeping in touch, another way of letting her know I’m thinking of her, another way to provide her with a modicum of cognitive stimulation and something to read besides that loony-ass shit the Billy Graham people send her. [2]

Each day’s email has a theme. Mondays are Jokes for the day, and I send her select stories and gags I’ve culled from a variety of “clean” humor websites.

corny joke

On another day she receives a Word for the Day, and there is a Quote for the Day, Poem for the Day, and so on.

Thursdays are Thoughts for the Day: two or more meditative or philosophical passages I gather from a couple of sources, including one called (wait for it) Thought For Today.

The TFT website describes its function as providing:

 “…daily Medication for the soul. Quotations and words of wisdom to motivate and inspire. Since January 2008 we have provided a Thought for the Day from famous and not so famous individuals, some still living, some not.
We believe that words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up….”

The TFT site posts a list of quotations/meditations/thoughts that change daily.  No matter the attribution, the words of wisdom are listed as being presented on the site by “The Thought Collector’s Wife.” Which frosts my butt, every time I read that.

OHNO

Yesterday, I decided that it’s butt-thawing time, and sent the TFT site the following email.

I enjoy reading your collection of motivational quotes. As you so wisely put it in your About Us statement, “Words are powerful, they have the power to tear you down and they have they have the power to build you up.” I agree wholeheartedly that words matter – that how we say something can be just as important as what we are saying.  Thus, I request that you please change the name of “The Thought Collector’s Wife” to “The Thought Collector.” The former “title” is a sexist remnant, reflecting the times when only a man was thought to have ownership of occupations and ideas – times when, for example, a man who farmed was referred to as a farmer, and the woman who also farmed would be called “the farmer’s wife.”
“Wife” and “husband’ are terms denoting relationship, not occupation.  If a woman collects thoughts, she is a thought collector – her marital status is irrelevant.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.

*   *   *

 

falling

OPRAH DROPS FOUR SIZES ! ! !

Yikes! I hope they didn’t land on anyone’s noggin.

That is my favorite spam of 2015. The year is young, I know.

spamlite

*   *   *

Speaking of canned meat by-products,  although it pains me to waste precious seconds by typing the name, Sarah Palin (ye-ow, that smarts) was something I thought I’d be grateful for, in the new year.  Grateful as in, I’ve yet another year to appreciate the concept of bullet dodging.

As in, we dodged a bullet.

Big time.

All of us.

Which we did by not electing the McCain-Palin (ouch) ticket.

I also thought I’d be grateful that the dropout governor/former mayor of the meth capital of Alaska was seemingly/relatively gone from public life….

Silly moi.

And then, one of her mutant offspring [3] stepped on the new family dog, and for some reason Palin (owwww) posted a picture of the abuse charming domestic scene on a social media site.  Animal rights accusation flinging ensued, and Palin (stop that!) eagerly dove headfirst into the slop bucket jumped into the ring.

Pet abuse, schmet-abuse – the real story is, why did she respond at all?  Is it simply that she continues to be infected with the quasi-celebrity mentality that any press is good press, and it’s been some time since she’s had a headline?

I actually read part of her screed, before I was overcome with a return-to-sanity-inducing, WTF am I doing?!  bout of self-reproach.  And I felt a chill – yep, the actual, [4] proverbial chill running down my spine – to read her strident, two-steps-short-of-intelligible harangue; I felt chilled to realize that such an immature, superficial, petty and vicious person was, for the most manipulative and cynical reasons [5], chosen to be placed in a position a few EKGs away from the presidency.

And thus, the first Pretty Purple Toe Award of 2015 goes to…well, to all of us. We do a lotta dumb shit, but at least we did not go down that path.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

҉    New Year Reflections Continued    ҉

The Department of She Meant Well
Chapter XVI: The Problem with The Problem Child

The following discourse is courtesy to flashbacks sparked by the family wedding photos I received with this year’s Christmas cards and letters.

Dateline: either in late junior high or high school.  was visiting a friend at her house. My friend, Friend’s Mother and I were talking about…parent-child relationships, perhaps? I cannot remember the subject. Whatever the topic, it apparently inspired Friend’s Mother to tell me the story of how my mother had confided in her that I was my mother’s “problem child.”

Looking back, I think FM sincerely (if mistakenly) thought that by sharing this story she might bolster my self-confidence and paint herself as a hero –  my champion – as the anecdote also included her response to my mother:

“Well, if that’s a problem child, give me that problem any day!”

problemchild

Problem child. A moniker which, I imagine, most true problem children bear with pride.

It confused me, then. Still does.

I attended a Southern California high school that had a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse student body, and which was majority Hispanic by my senior year.  My fellow students were kids from poverty-stricken neighborhoods with gang problems and rich kids with drug problems and surfer kids with Dude, where’s my brain? problems, and everything in between.

Moi? I was a smart ass, with opinions. I talked back – and forth, and up and down – at home, at school, at church. I questioned; I had political and social and cultural attitudes and interests that were not always shared nor understood by my parents or teachers.  I also was a straight-A student, involved in my church’s youth group and in school sports and student government and journalism programs, and by my senior year had my own editorial column in the school paper’s op-ed page.

I was not doing drugs/violence/the track coach under the bleachers. Where, exactly, was the problem?

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Not my long-lost high school picture.

Through the miracle of time travel we return to the recent past, to one of last year’s three family weddings.  My niece’s wedding ceremony was late (surprise!) in starting.  Sitting in the second row, I struck up a conversation with one of the three wonderful women who are employed as my mother’s round-the-clock, live-in caretakers (“Mom’s Ladies” is how my sisters and I fondly refer to them).

Looking around at the other guests, I’d noticed I seemed to be the only female not attired in something on the purple-blue end of the color spectrum. I pointed to my black skirt and made a crack to the Mom’s Lady sitting nearest me, about how I obviously “hadn’t been sent the wedding attire memo.”

Mom’s Lady winked at me and said, with conspiratorial affection, “Well, of course – black sheep of the family.”

Interesting…that the label had apparently changed (progressed?) from Problem Child ® to Black Sheep ®.

Still, youch. I just wasn’t expecting that blast from the past.

The thing is, the only reason one of Mom’s Ladies could have known I had been given that label is that is that someone – my mother is the likely suspect – had to have said that to her.

Why does such a label – or the story of it – persist? It may be due in part to the fact that I am the only (openly) religion-free person in my immediate family. But, really. FFS, I’m in my fifties.

 

Yeah, I'm black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

Yeah, I’m black. You tighty whities got a problem with that?

*   *   *

Department of Pipe Dreams

Ababies

Aka, The Congratulations Card I Probably Won’t Send

What with all the weddings in my extended family during the past year, there’s bound to be some imminent breeding. Here is an example of the baby congrats card I’d love to send…but won’t.[6]

Congratulations on the birth of your new little atheist!

Congratulations on your new little atheist!

 

All babies, including those born to religious parents, are born atheists.  Atheism is not a philosophy or belief system – really, it’s not an ism at all. It is a term which simply denotes a lack of theistic belief, which is where we all begin – it is a human being’s natural state. We are born without supernatural beliefs, or beliefs of any kind.

Religions need to be inculcated.  Beliefs are learned [7].  You have to be carefully taught.

 

*   *   *

And You Thought Wedgies Were Uncomfortable

Animal name of the day…year…century.  Behold, the cockchafer.

Imagine having that for your species name. Just, because, okay?

Who's the cute little cockchafer?!

Who’s the cute little cockchafer?!

*   *   *

Overheard

Dateline: Wednesday, during our family tradition of playing cards at dinner (dealer chooses the game). Over a game of Knock (aka Kings in the corner), MH came up with a somewhat mild double entendre while Belle, K and I were discussing the latest Downton Abbey episode.

“Dad!” Belle gasped in astonishment and delight. “Did you just make a dick joke?!”

MH smiled enigmatically, but did not reply.

“I think you’re ready to play Cards Against Humanity,” [8] Belle declared.

*   *   *

May you be ready for any game your children will play with you, and for all shades of sheep that may roam the pastures of your life, and may the covert dick jokes and hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] She has a device which allows her to print email from selected sources (thus, no spam), but she cannot reply. The device caters to and is marketed at the elderly/frail/computer-disinterested and/or phobic.

[2] No, she does not read this blog (and has no means to do so) – whaddya think, I’m crazy or something?

[3] I know, I know, don’t pick on the kids. At least I didn’t employ a slur that is supposedly directed at the mentally impaired (hint: rhymes with pee chard).

[4] Notice I did not type, “literal,” as, literally, that word has been officially declared so 2014, or whatever.

[5] You really must read Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. Preferably while chugging a strong anti-emetic.

[6] Because, after all, don’t want to give ’em any more Black Sheep ammunition.

[7] And, fortunately, can be unlearned.

[8] My offspring have promised to play that game with me, but have steadfastly refused to do so with their more genteel father.

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!