Friday, April 27, 2007

Stupid Mom Redux

As I've said here before--and recently, at that--one of the things I've learned as a parent is that no matter what they do, moms are always wrong.

Oh, yeah . . . subtitle of this post: Tell Me About It

A few weeks ago, I got exasperated with number-one son G because I needed to know how to get in touch with his dance teacher to warn her of some upcoming performance/lesson conflicts.

I'm in a constant state of irritation over this wonderfully creative child because he's notoriously irresponsible when it comes to his own activities and events, of which he has many. He never knows anything ahead of time about what he's doing where he's supposed to be, and if he hears anything he never tells the rest of us or gives us the flyers. He only remembers five minutes before he needs to be somewhere and expects the entire family to drop all their [already conflicting] activities to accommodate his immediate transportation needs. He pulled this on me yesterday morning before 6:30 a.m. "Mooommmm! Dad already left for work and I have to go to rehearsal for the show and be there by 6:45 or I'll get my head cut off and you can be back before Tyke gets up!")

Let this be known: I am as nocturnal as a kangaroo rat. I'm not good in the morning. In the morning, I'm territorial, snap, bite, snarl, and plot assassination of anyone who expects me to be cheerful and active before I'm good and ready. Do not cross the threshold of the inner sanctum!

On dance nights I typically just drop G off and wait for him to get well inside the door instead of going all the way into the studio myself, and, anyway, his lessons are not the first ones on the teacher's docket so I don't want to interrupt the flow of classes by taking up her time in between sessions. Apparently she doesn't use e-mail or doesn't want her address out or I was absent when the brains were passed out or something (for proof of this, see below). I don't actually remember what the deal is. I do know, however, that I am a nerdy e-mail-preference person rather than a phone person. I rarely pick up a phone to call out, and get positively angry at phones when they ring in. Except for their stunning usefulness in emergencies, I wouldn't mind their not existing.

Some days later, after my initial exasperation episode, two telephone numbers showed up scrawled illegibly on the "family notice" white board in our dinette area. By then I had forgotten all about the dance school and my question.

The rule is that once messages are obsolete or action items have been taken care of, I erase them from the white board. Out of courtesy for G, I left the cryptic numbers for a couple of weeks, but finally got tired of them and wanted them gone in order to make space for potential incoming messages. So I asked, "Are you finished with these?" And he said, "Yeah, I have been ever since they were up there."

Assuming that this was just a typical snotty teen response, I sighed and erased the numbers. (And, to give G his absolute due, he's actually shaping up into a pretty courteous young man, and isn't always so PMS-y anymore. I truly appreciate that his nasty attitude is gradually fading.)

A few more days passed. And suddenly something occurred to me.

"G, what were those phone numbers you had up there that I erased?"

"Mooooommmmm, DUH! You asked me to get the numbers for the dance school, and I got them for you! You're the one who erased them. What did you erase them for? Gees!"

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Poetry Thursday 4/26/07

I apologize. This is my first attempt at participating in PoetryThursday. If I'm lucky, I'll survive for next week's effort.

The Villanelle.

Just so you know--I honestly thought this "assignment" would kill me. But I'm still here to tell about it. At some point I felt so harassed by the form that I thought I had succeeded in making some sort of sense. But in the clear light of day I'm not so sure.

For starters, here's a germane quote from my
dear fellow asthmatic Robert Louis Stevenson: "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour." Thanks, Robert. That certainly applied.

Well, here goes!

Success: A Villanelle in an Archaic Style

There's little to be said for undue stress,
yet there's great flavor in a goodly gain.
They say nothing succeeds quite like success.

Conceit and vanity call for redress,
and tax falls heavy on a lord's demesne.
There's little to be said for undue stress.

To those with no compunction to oppress--
with limitless ambition to unrein--
They say nothing succeeds quite like success.

Great wrongs the great eventually confess,
but none's enough to drive them to abstain.
There's little to be said for undue stress.

A lack of motive leads to frugalness,
and parsimony pocketbooks constrains.
They say nothing succeeds quite like success.

Greedy or humble, why indulge excess?
In moderation, sacred or profane,
there's little to be said for undue stress.
They say nothing succeeds quite like success.

Labels: , , ,

Death of My Hero

First, the introduction. Readers: my hero. Hero: my readers.

Went to the pharmacy to pick up an inhaler refill this weekend. When I got home and opened the bag, this jumped right out at me:

Holy Gol' durned smokes! They're taking away the inhalers that I need to survive! (I should have thought a little more before I used the word "smokes." Obviously, I don't smoke.)

I support green initiatives. I recycle like mad and haven't bought anything aerosol since I was in high school. That was back when there were still aerosol deodorants! That, my friends, was many aeons ago. I'm what they used to call a "natural" (think Birks, broomstick skirts, whole foods and Buddha), and I never thought I had any use for hairspray, anyway. When I do drive it's a tiny Toyota I've had 11 years that still has under 100,000 miles on it. And the crowner? I even think Al Gore is kind of cute in an extra-large suited, geeky way.

But my immediate reaction to seeing this notice was seeing red. Alarm! Don't take away my inhaler! I went as ballistic as a wheezing asthmatic can go--which is, of necessity, rather quiet and snide, like the upset Geico Caveman, but with a wheeze. My mind instantly reeled with snotty comebacks of righteous indignation.
  1. Get your big, fat pharmaceutically correct hands off my barely functioning lungs
  2. Al Gore, I love you, but kiss my big, fat ugly cellulite hiney (uhm, was that too much information?)
  3. Environmental impact? Yeah, but what about the big, fat impact on my lung environment?
  4. LOOK OUT! I'm armed and dangerous! Next person to threaten, discontinue, or confiscate my inhaler gets a shot of cholorflourocarbonated albuterol in the big, fat face! Don't come any closer or the ozone gets it!
My elder kid said, "Mom! You're so stupid! It's not about the inhaler itself. It's about the harmful byproducts of the manufacture of the inhaler!" The Tyke had to pipe up, too, "Yeah, Mom! Gosh!"

I had to admit this was a good idea. Kid is pretty smart. But I had to check it out. I suddenly felt like an ignorant, crotchety old person. I gave Kid his due. "Perhaps it is about the manufacture," I thought, so I went to the suggested website. Of course, all you get is advertising about the pharmaceutical company's alternative to the discontinued inhalers. (Note: the link in the image below doesn't work; it is just a graphic.)

This is their verbatim information (and the copyright is theirs; I'm just quoting):

Inhalers Are Changing

You may have already heard about earth-friendly rescue inhalers. Soon all rescue inhalers will be made environmentally safe. This means the inhaler you know may change.

Most traditional albuterol inhalers use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as the propellant to deliver the medicine into your lungs. They're safe for you, but hurt the environment. CFCs alter the ozone layer in earth's atmosphere, allowing more of the sun's harmful rays to pass freely through it. So the United States is switching to hydrofluoroalkane (HFA), an earth-friendly alternative to CFC. This change will help make the air better for everyone.

HFA inhalers contain the same medicine and provide the same relief as your current CFC inhaler. Learn more about them and find out why they're safe for you and the environment.

Be sure to ask your health care professional for more information about earth-friendly HFA inhalers.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Poet Galway Kinnell Comes to My Little Town!

Tomorrow night I'm going to hear a reading by Pulitzer-prize winning American poet, Galway Kinnell. Sue Ellen Thompson will also read. I haven't been this excited since last year when Robert Pinsky spoke at a church in Wellfleet (Cape Cod, MA), or, when, two years ago (University of Rochester, NY), I got to personally thank former Poet Laureate Rita Dove for teaching me a great writing/teaching exercise. That exercise was called "Ten Minute Spill." Check it out. It's in a great book called The Practice of Poetry, by Behn and Twichell. Ms. Dove was so awesome I nearly fainted on the spot at her book signing.
If you have time, go to this page (link below), look at the right-most column, listen to the interview AND the reading of Galway Kinnell's "Shelley" poem. I started crying halfway through the reading of this poem. He makes the years of this situation visceral. Those of you who listen to the interview will understand that I think it might be a memory-challenged reading; that and the content, closely related or separate, will determine how much my eyes will well up.

After you hear the poem "Shelley," you will realize why, deep down, none of us ever could stand reading Shelley. I sort of could, sometimes. But mostly not. And I am a great fan of the English Romantics. I had been forewarned: my great high school English teacher, Marlys Nelson, broke into hysterics telling us about his death in a rowboat when he didn't know how to swim. He was a total idiot.

Any of you who care: The Kinnell interview might be important to hear because it was done two years ago and at that point Kinnell (who was then 78) was already speaking slowly and admitted some "memory problems." So the upcoming reading might not be as stellar as I anticipated. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and see how it goes.

This is even sadder--I called the library more than a week ahead to ask them whether we needed reservations or tickets (last year in Cape Cod I needed expensive tickets for Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and the competition was cutthroat, and nothing was left a week ahead). Our W.H. librarian actually didn't know whom I was referring to until I repeated the poet's name several times. Then she stifled a laugh and said, "Oh, oh, you mean the
reading? No, no, you'll be in the Town Hall. It seats more than 200 people. So there's no need for reservations. (Titter.)"

Hello? Librarian? Read much?

Labels: ,

This Just In . . .

For some reason I have a flurry of complaints today. I thought I was finished, when suddenly I listened to the news, and a Hartford, CT newscaster, breaking a story about an alleged criminal, said
. . . his identity has not yet been identified.
Help me.


Ow, Those Spines Hurt (or, wait, do I mean humps?)

High School Kid (my son, cleaning a corner of the family room and bringing to me a book entitled Cacti & Succulents that has a big picture of a succulent on it): Mom, what's a succulent? Are camels succulents? Because--yeah--they contain water?

No, son. Okay, now it's back to the library for you.

Labels: ,

Foot in Mouth Again

There's a huge regional discount furniture chain here. The owners started out as average joes, broke and small. Over the span of 15 years, they've made it remarkably big. They now give back generously to the community and occasionally incorporate their charitable work into their ads. For example, they'll donate a percentage of their proceeds over a stated period of time to their current cause. They've recently been giving to a charity whose purpose is preventing premature births.

Throughout their entire series of homegrown ads, the owners do not strike me as particularly well spoken people. That's why I called them "joes," which was fairly rude of me. Recently I heard a new ad for the first time. It starts like this:
Mrs. Furniture [sitting on a Mr. & Mrs. Furniture bed with two babies]: Looking at Suzie and Johnny here, you might find it inconceivable that these twins were born.

Mr. Furniture: That's right. They were premature.

Labels: ,

Police Relativity

Elder son (G) and I were surfing the web to find out what the prices might be for tickets to the upcoming Police concert here. (It's not until way late in the summer, but we have friends who are going and, until just now, we ignorantly toyed with the idea ourselves.)

While I was waiting for the site to load, we were thinking, "We're considering paying the Police to give us a ticket? What's that about? Wouldn't we rather pay them not to give us a ticket? Don't Police usually just give you a ticket and it's only when you don't want one?"

The site came up and we started scanning the prices. Gads. [Many worse expletives follow from both kid and mom.]

The cheapest was $90, way up in the corner aerie which might as well be in the next town over ( a town where you don't want to visit, if you get my drift).

Having decided to remain suckers for punishment, we scrolled all the way to the bottom of the long, long page to see the highest price. We fanned ourselves and then fainted dead over. KINGS OF PAIN! $1090! I hate to use more than one exclamation point when one generally does just as well, but #$%^@%^&*@!!!

And G said, "So, say I were to want to sit in section 3. Hmm. Basically they're saying I could make the choice of buying three tickets to section 3, or having my tuition paid for the Arts Academy next year. Is that about it? [Blank stare/grave look on face]

"How could any concert possibly be worth that much? Gees! Wait . . . it's only the people who are the Police who can afford to go see the Police! There's your irony again . . . I think I'll take $90. No. What am I saying? I think I'll just wait and have James tell me how it was."


Monday, April 16, 2007


While I'm in traffic, I entertain myself by looking at the license plates in front of me. In Connecticut, I see an inordinate number of personalized plates. Often they're clever, which is fun. More often, they're not, which isn't. But my favorite kind of plate to encounter is the accidental, everyday DMV-issue three-letter acronym. This state is fairly small, so the tag numbers have only six characters: ###, letter letter letter.

Last week I was chauffeuring the kids someplace, and I was approaching a left-hand turn. People went around me in the right-hand lane to pass, and to my amusement, three cars in a row had the following plate letters, respectively:


Well, I tell you, I snickered so hard that I nearly missed my left turn light. I had to keep watching the cars in the right lane. What would be next? I was hoping

OBGYN (would have to have been personalized)

Unfortunately, they weren't. But OMG, what a coincidence!


Tater Tots

Spring is finally making an attempt to spring, but it's not yet sprung. This weekend I took pictures of Tyke's spur-of-the-moment project, growing potatoes. It started out last spring, when we found a rogue potato that had sprouted beautifully in the kitchen cabinet. Tyke tended the thriving vines indoors until the weather was good and warm, then put it outside in a large flower pot, where the plant was very happy. By fall, the squirrels started vying for the pot. That gave us the cue that there were teeny taters underneath.

It was quite late in the season and, fearing their death by the coming frost, we uncovered the baby potatoes to bring them in for wintering over. They were the cutest little tater tots, between a half inch and an inch in diameter. I put them in one of our large unbreakable plastic cups and we set them on the kitchen counter beneath a window. We assailed all of our friends and the piano teacher and everyone else who came to the house: "Look at these!" I believe they all thought we were slightly nuts.

There they stayed until they felt the sun. Now . . . voila! They're making eyes at each other. Unfortunately, nighttime temperatures are still pretty low here, and we've been deluged by another Nor'easter storm, which threatens the state with floods. So it will be a little while before the little vines go out into substantially larger half-barrels, where this year they will be protected from squirrels and birds by both chicken wire and bird netting. We can't wait. Even if they don't yield any edible potatoes, we'll enjoy the vines. We'll also be starting our fifth annual crop of "Elf" sunflowers on the only windowsills in the house that receive sun.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Foot in Mouth

Pre-emptive notice: Before anyone goes off and comments that I should just turn off my radio or tv and get a da&#ed life, I already know that, but I'm still very sensitive to those things I do hear. (Also, my devilish aspect, which I'm very much in daily touch with, delights in skewering people about language.) But there are many times when I just want to crawl under a rock with thick wads of cotton stuck in my ears. Recently I posted about hearing a local car dealer's ad that makes my kids and me crazy and always results in snorting laughter. But, on the more serious side, it truly worries me that people's ability to logically analyze, pre-screen and edit what they say has diminished to such a lamentable degree. Americans' brains' evolution seems to have reversed. Our brains are rapidly shrinking back into mere stems.*

Today's post is about some law ads. You'd think language and its impact would be carefully considered by law firms. It is, after all, largely a combination of linguistic acuity and verbal gymnastics that earn firms their substantial bread and butter. Anyway, a big local firm is spending wads of settlement money on sucky television advertisements. (I suspect, IMHO but I'm not making a direct accusation, that they are of the "ambulance chaser" variety.) I won't reveal their specific title, but it's a double-up of a single surname, similar to "Italiano & Italiano."

The attorney after whom the firm is named is a laconic, completely unemotional guy who, in my opinion, is probably a complete introvert in real life. Introversion is fine--I express that gene to a pathological degree and won't fault him for that at all. But despite his best attempts in front of the camera, Italiano #1 just can't even pretend to inspire any feeling in an audience other than a shred of embarrassed pity. You can tell he hates being recorded. He'd rather have his nose behind his books, and I'll bet his time spent there would probably be more productive than his time spent making ads. He's not cut out for this work; he's just a real fellow who's an alarmingly unconvincing actor. It seems a cruel joke on both the audience and on him that he is required to appear in ads just because it's cheaper than it would be to hire a professional. It's just mean all around.


Close-up, Mr. DeMille!

Head of firm, sitting solo in the usual setting (bookshelves behind him to impart an aura of scholarly veracity) says in a deadpan, robotic voice,
I know from experience that when something bad happens to you if you or a loved one is hurt in an accident it can just [very slight hesitation as if fishing for the right words] cut the legs out from under you. We at I. & I. understand how you feel . . .
Ooohhh, kaaayyy. Might his copywriters have thought a moment before using those particular words? Might Mr. I. himself have considered their meaning and possible connotation? Because, I dunno, it seems to me that there's just something about the word choice that's infelicitous given the context. Even if they had used a similar figure such as, "it can pull the rug right out from under you," it would still have been wrong, wrong, wrong and ended up with someone being gravely injured. It's so not witty as well as (unintentionally?) ironic. Might as well say, "it can shoot the friggin' kneecaps right off of you."

As usual, I'm overreacting. I find this guy stunningly inadequate as an advertiser. In the firm's preceding ad, he unsuccessfully tried to pull the target audience's heartstrings by recounting the story of his own accident. Tiny violins! It was an affecting ad--I mean "affect" in the sense of this spokesperson pretending or assuming a pose that wasn't working. And its effect on us was the opposite of what they wanted: it made us laugh because despite his claims, it was devoid of feeling. The following excerpts are not verbatim quotes, but they're close enough to accurately represent the language and emotional gist. Mr. Cardboard says in monotone with no punctuation,
I was in a motorcycle accident You know it's a sport And maybe you're gonna get hurt Both I and my lovely wife were thrown from the vehicle of course the first thing I did was ask my lovely wife are you okay she said she was but we were very fortunate it could have been much worse so I tell people that I know what it's like to have a moment that can change your life it's my mission to fight for those people
Mr. I., I'm so glad nothing bad happened to you and your lovely wife. I mean, heck, wasn't it even scary? Don't you still shiver every time you think about it? No?

Here's to his lovely wife for listening to the way he speaks year after monotonous year. Lovely she must be to tolerate that. Or maybe a previous, unmentioned motorcycle accident resulted in unintentional dueling lobotomies and they both thought they came out okay and that's why they get along just fine.

Then there's the third ad, even older, in which Mr. I. explains,
Bad things happen in my lifetime I lost two of my brothers and that was a very difficult experience to go through [photo of the "happy" family with brothers pops up, but you can't tell the people in the photo are related to this guy] Nothing can prepare you for that kind of devastation but it helps you bond with the people you're trying to help when you understand their pain it makes you passionate about fighting to get them justice
I feel for ya I really do and I'm so convinced you're passionate every injured party should hire your firm

NO! There's the Bob's Dodge ad again! He just wants to get me alone! Oh, shut up, sputnik! You're in an orbiting rant again. Just turn off the tv.

*For proof, all you have to do is look at who the people of the country supposedly elected as The Decider, a guy who cannot even successfully eat a pretzel.

Labels: ,