Sunset and Camden


37, college grad, 2x married, one son, one stepdaughter, four cats, one idiot dog, one very small house and small garden.

Monday, June 21, 2004

I want, I want, I want

I am a perfect commercial audience. I see something that looks cool and I want it. And it doesn't even have to be useful or necessary; as long as it looks good, I'll buy it.

Case in point: Soleil razors. They come in pretty colors. They come in easy open packages of four. They simply LOOK like something no woman should be without. The reality? They're razors. They do the same thing all razors do: cut off leg and armpit hair. Now...let's look at the marketing that sucked me in.

Generic razors are 10 for a dollar on that particular day. Soleil razors are four for a dollar. IF and only IF you have the special 2.00 off coupon. I do happen to have the coupon. The razors look so pretty in the bright package. I know I should get the cheaper product. I know it will work just as well as the more expensive product. Do I care? ABSOFRICKINLUTELY NOT. I have been seduced by color, shape and advertising. And the horrid part is that I already know that before I even get to the checkout stand.

Then there are wants that -might- be good if I can find the right justification. The garden springs instantly to mind. There are a million things I want to do with the yard if I only have the time and money. To be honest, if it weren't for the time factor, I'd be spending a lot more money at the nursery than I currently do.

So what about food? We have to eat, right? But do we have to eat in the quantity I buy? I currently have an obsession with buying food. You'd think I had been raised during the depression. I appear to be hoarding food. I have no idea why, but it may have something to do with quitting smoking. I have read that people tend to find another obsessive behaviour to replace the smoking with, even if they are fighting it and especially when they don't realize that they are doing it. The result? I've spent several hundred dollars at the grocery on food that will sit in the freezer. Well, actually, it won't sit in the freezer for much longer. I got the serious hairy eyeball from my husband and this is one consumptive behaviour that will be coming to a close in short order.

Children's consumer behaviour is even more interesting. Kids literally don't know they want something until they see it on television. They don't even know that it exists. Then suddenly, they declare that the world will come to a screeching halt if they do not receive a Mega Blaster Sure Shot Laser Tag Water Gun (with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time, my apologies to Jean Shepherd) RIGHT NOW. And they want either the Spongebob version or the Barbie version, and nothing else will do, so generic stuff is out of the question. You might think that if you simply say NO in a firm voice and then drop the subject they will forget about it, but you would be living in a deluded fantasy world. There is a solution to this catch-22: let them watch more television.

Yes, you heard correctly. Let them rot their brains in front of the telly. That product that you just said NO to will stick in their minds only until the next cooler commercial. Then it will be another product and another NO. Then another commercial will strike their fancy. If you play your cards right, you could telly ad finesse youself right into the late teen years. Then you'll just have to pray that they were paying attention during the condom commercials.

I believe I was saying something about being the perfect commercial audience? I'll tell you, some of those condom packages are downright sexy. I don't need to buy any, but still...I have a coupon...and the box is such a pretty color...and the picture is Did I mention sexy? I vaguely remember something someone once said about sex selling stuff. Hmmm. I'll look that up when I get back from the mall.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

About Paul

Paul Johnson was murdered yesterday. I know that I am usually a bit light and frivolous, but I can't feel that way right now. This is the second time in a month that I have had to seriously question what we're doing in the Middle East. After Nick Berg was decapitated, I went through agony for days trying to decipher my thoughts and feelings. And I didn't even know him. I cannot imagine the kind of torment his family and friends went through. Now the family and friends of Paul Johnson have to go through the same ordeal. How? How do you get past something like that? I have admired the widow of Daniel Pearl for staying strong and stoic throughout her trauma. Now I have to wonder if the shock wasn't just too great a burden and she couldn't come forward because of it. I know it would be for me; I doubt I would ever resurface if something like that happened to my husband.

I'm angry. And the worst part is there isn't anyone definitive to be angry with; the perpetrators are faceless and the victims cannot speak for themselves anymore. It seems to me the terrorists have found a perfect vehicle for horror. Single out Americans, take them hostage (thereby taking all of us hostage), and then kill them. Make it personal. They have discovered that we will not crumble under a mass assault. So now they've decided to pick us off one by one. Show our faces and names; let us make statements on grainy video that gets published on the internet. Let America see exactly who is paying the price. That is the kind of horror that we can't withstand. I know that my immediate reaction upon seeing the photograph of Mr. Johnson bound and sitting in front of the camera was, "For the love of God! Send in some secret agent guys and get him the hell out of there!" The urge to save him instantly was overpowering.

And of course every time we see something like this our reaction is to bring all the Americans home NOW. Soldier and civilian alike. But is that a good idea? Wouldn't that look like tucking tail and running in the face of terrorism, something we swore we'd never do?

I try extemely hard to be a good Christian and have compassion for all. But I am highly upset with myself because I simply cannot have compassion for people like them. I want to bring down the wrath of God and then turn my back and let them burn. Then I have guilt because I can't follow Christ's edict to love thy neighbor...not when it comes to terrorism. Which is really sad, because Christ was a victim of terrorism himself; and he let it consume him for our sake. And yet...I can't see the purpose in these beheadings. Then again, I'm not God. But someday, I'm going to be asking those questions and He better have some really good answers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Anatomy of a Nap

Ahhh...the afternoon nap. So sought after, so richly deserved, so decadent, such a glorious and wonderful waste of precious time. Have you ever really thought about the human obsession with napping? No, I didn't think so. Neither have I. But I am sooooo tired today that I was considering taking a nap. Then I realized I have three loads of laundry to do, my fitness walking to get done, the kitchen to clean, the floors to sweep, and at -some- point I really must mow the lawn. So instead of taking a nap break for an hour, I'll spend fifteen minutes updating this blog and having a virtual nap. Phooey. I really wanted the nap. (Funny...I just heard a Rolling Stones song float through my little brain.)

There are several sorts of naps. There is the Children's Nap, an absolute essential. No mother on the planet could function for the first four years of her child's life unless children were hardwired for napping. There is the Drunken Stupor Nap...usually very well demonstrated by your best friend in college, while at a party. Be sure to keep a camera close by. Drunken nappers tend to drool and talk in their sleep. You don't want to miss the opportunity to get your buddy on the 'Priceless,' website. Then there is the Pregnant Woman Nap. This nap lasts nine months, and is occasionally punctuated by brief forays into the refrigerator. (Hot tip: watch carefully...if her backside completely disappears into the fridge, it's time to go haul her out by her stretchy ankle pants. It means she's once again consumed too many calories and has fallen asleep in the meat drawer.)
We can also speak of the Crotchety Old Person nap. This nap is perpetrated by persons over the age of 80 who are so completely disgusted with all of us and the stupid things we do that they pretend to nap most of the time. These are the same people that 'lose' the remote and 'fix' the television so that it stays on the Weather Channel all day. Then they 'snooze' in their chair while the rest of the family carries on around them. Don't be fooled. They're really just waiting for the Natural Disaster Showcase to come on.

There are dozens of napping forms, but to my way of thinking the absolute best nap in the whole world is the Unavoidable Nap. There you are, going about your day, hoping to get much accomplished and reap the accolades of your peers. (Okay, so I never get any accolades. Sue me for dreaming, willya?) Suddenly, your upper body seems to sway and then your knees feel a bit 'fuzzy.' You realize that you are extremely tired. What to do, what to do? If you are anywhere near a chair or preferably, bed, you will sink down into it at once, your eyes will begin to droop, and within seconds you will be tripping the light mediocre in some weird dream about a co-worker, the stray cat that lives outside the building you work in, and shopping for stiletto heels. You will not have been able to stop yourself from falling asleep. This nap lasts for about twenty minutes, or until the shoe shopping is done, which could take some time if your dream co-worker is Imelda Marcos. You will awake with a start or a snort, or possibly both. You might have been drooling. If you were sleeping at home, that's okay because most likely your cat will lick it off your face with the same tongue he uses to wash his testicles. If you are at work, you'll need to artfully pretend to cover a yawn with your fist and wipe off the drool. Don't worry, you'll be successful but everyone will know anyway.

Now, here's the part of the Unavoidable Nap that I dearly love: the post sleep Groovies. After one of these naps, you will be so relaxed and tuned in that you won't be able to stop yourself from sort of shuffle dancing around and humming 'My Girl' under your breath. Trust me. You'll spend the rest of your post nap day feeling like you just achieved enlightenment under the fig tree and you're just hanging around waiting for your get out of bad karma free certificate. Your entire outlook on life will change after an Unavoidable Nap. Everything will be brighter, cleaner, more fragrant, less hassle. Life is delicious now.

You know what...I think I might have that nap after all. Who could turn down that kind of feel good activity? I just hope I don't get that Marcos woman in my dream again.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

So Proud I Could Pop!

Today is a glorious day. On the one hand...on the other hand, it royally sucks. Let's take care of the bad news first: today was the last day of school. The kids are going to be home largely non-stop for the next ten weeks. Hold me! I'm scared.

BUT!! And this is a big but, the way buts usually are. I am thrilled to announce that my kids are brilliant. I mean no disrespect to anyone else's kids, but mine are truly gifted. I opened Courtney's report card this afternoon and literally shouted, "Holy Crap!" because the card contained only A's. STRAIGHT A's. I was probably more excited than she was. (Now, we still have some major work to do on the behavioral and citizenship aspects, but the academics are pretty solid.)

My son Connor had a C- in science last term...this term he brough it up to a B! I was stoked. And the rest of his guessed it! STRAIGHT A's! Whoo-hoo! And he got all outstandings in citizenship and behavior. I am so happy for him, as he has worked very hard to keep his grades up.

This is one of those days when you feel like you'd give your kids anything out of gratitude for making you feel so good. I feel as though we must have done something right lately, although most days I feel like I do everything wrong. But not today! Today is all about making brownies and barbequeing steak and waiting for dark so we can do smores on the grill.

There are days when parenting is the best job on the planet. I'll talk about the other days some other time. I'm going to be too busy cooking treats for my brilliant kids today.


Sunday, June 06, 2004

That would be me...

Have you ever wondered why they print such idiotic warnings on product labels? I don't. I know why. I'm the person for whom the warning labels are written. In order for a product to get a warning label, someone had to do something incredibly stupid with said product. That's where I come into it. I am Consumer Report's idiotic warning label tester. (Well, I would be, if they had such a position.)

Now it can be revealed: there IS a reason why they put a giant sticker that says, "DO NOT STAND ABOVE THIS STEP" on stepladders. There I am, putting up Christmas lights, and I think, well, if you're not supposed to stand on it, why do they put a step there? So I stood on it. Then I stood on the very top where it has a label with a skull and crossbones. Then I reached up to hook the light strand, lost my balance and fell off the ladder. That's why you should listen to that warning label. It's very easy to lose your balance on a narrow rickety stepladder. Fortunately the ladder was only five feet tall, so really the only thing seriously wounded was my ego. (However, I still do not know why the heck they put a step there if they don't want you on it.)

You know those tags they put on matresses that say "NOT TO BE REMOVED EXCEPT BY CONSUMER?" Well, those tags have lots of warnings on them. One of the warnings clearly states, "DO NOT SMOKE IN BED. SERIOUS FIRE HAZARD." Well, I've smoked in bed lots of times, and it's only through sheer luck that I've never set the bed on fire. Now that I've quit smoking, I fully expect the new warning labels to say something like "DO NOT BURN CANDLES IN BED." They are going to have to change the warning because after all, I AM the idiotic warning label tester.

It says on a can of bathtub cleaner to line the spray nozzle up with the red dot. I thought that was kind of silly, so I just started spraying. Right up my own nose. Man, that was some headache.

And how about the foaming weed killer that says not to spray on a windy day, and I decide to do it in the middle of a Santa Ana? I thought my eyes would never stop tearing up. Just in case, I no longer use chemicals in my garden. I'm sure something far worse would happen to me if did use them.

Last weekend, I totally ignored the instructions on the side of the weed whacker that clearly state you should always do yardwork in closed toe shoes. I went-a-whacking in my Pocahontas sandals and sliced my foot open in nine places.

I'm sure if I could find a way to do it, I would blow dry my hair in the shower.

I have no idea why I'm so label-challenged. Perhaps I have a subconscious feeling of immortality. Maybe I think the rules only apply to the stupid people. Then again, we wouldn't have rules if there weren't stupid people. And since I'm the one breaking them...well...

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Glorious Food

Well, today has been about diet and exercise so far. I spent a couple of hours working on the rose beds at my church, bending, stooping (to conquer, of course), and building upper body strength. Gardening really does give you a workout. Plus, I'm planning on taking a walk in a while.

But in the meantime, I've been obsessed with diet. I've been reading cookbooks voraciously, and not the feel good ones. I'm reading the low-fat or vegetarian diet cookbooks. The ones designed to either change your life or make you feel so guilty you don't even want a life. Why, you ask? Oh, boy. Can of worms time.

I have struggled with my weight since my son was born. At times I've been grossly overweight, and at times I've been almost underweight. Right now I'd be happy to be normal. But after quitting smoking, I've gained some pounds and I'm having trouble getting them to go back to where they came from. Hence the quest for the holy grail of weight loss...the fool proof diet. Let me tell you now: NO SUCH ANIMAL. I've checked and re-checked.

Why is it that a woman's self-worth is so intimately tied to her appearance? My most treasured feature used to be my brain. I was so proud of being smart. It was my favorite thing about me. But ever since I've been focusing on 'getting into shape' I feel rather stupid...and ugly...and fat. My self-worth has taken a nose dive. And the funny thing is, I'm not entirely sure why.

I'm not grossly obese anymore. I need to lose about ten pounds...I want to lose about fifteen. Atkins is poison to me, as I have hypertension and high cholesterol. So much for that. South Beach is out as well. I decided to go back on my own diet invention, the "No Meat For Lent" plan. I did not eat any meat during Lent except for a egg every morning (or eggbeaters) and fish on Fridays and maybe one other day per week. I lost twelve pounds doing that. But suddenly everything meat related has become the most attractive food item on the planet. I'm quite sure that if I were confronted with a giant bag of past the sell-by date puke flavored pork rinds I'd be salivating and ready to chow down. Chocolate? Forget it. I don't need no stinking chocolate. I need veal scallopine. I need filet mignon. I need deep fried pork chops covered in bacon bits.

However, I know I FEEL better eating a mostly vegetarian diet. I make sure to get enough complete proteins, so I know it can't be has to be the lure of the forbidden. It also has to do with the fact that I live with two diabetics who really can't go on a mostly vegetarian diet. They need meat in their diets. So I would have to cook two meals three times a day to satisfy everyone. And sometimes I look at that bacon and I won't kill me, will it? Horrifically enough for me, the answer is: possibly.

So I must sigh and put my glad face on and resign myself to finding the good in my restricted diet. Here's the goal I've decided on for today: I'm going to eat well, get my blood pressure and cholesterol down, get my muscles back in that three months from now I can strut around Starbucks in a corset, challenging my husband to keep people from staring at me.

Of course, according to my stepdaughter, I'll need to fix my hair problem first. Oh, dear. I can feel another blog entry coming on...

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My Lovely Zoo

We have been told by no less an authority than my husband's idiot ex wife that we have too many pets. Okay...and why does that matter to her? She doesn't live here. As far as I can tell, pets and people all live in harmony here in our tiny house on Dexter street. (With the notable exception of trying to figure out whose turn it is on the Playstation 2. That requires the intervention of the Army National Guard.) That's more than you can say for her house. I haven't seen that much instability since the last time I looked at aerial photos of the San Andreas fault.

One moronic opinion notwithstanding, when I describe our animals to people, or when friends come to visit, every single person is amazed at how well they all get along with each other and with us. That is highly unusual for such a disparate group of mammals. But I've done some reading on the subject and I think I know why we've been so fortunate. We were lucky enough to first acquire what can be called a Bellwether.

In shepherding terms, a bellwether is a sheep who has the ability to make the other animals follow her or fall in line with her wishes. She is the natural leader of a group of mammals that are not related to each other and would not ordinarily have anything to do with each other. Dexter Doright, our three year old male tabby, is our bellwether.

When Dexter found us, we still had my beloved Bonnie dog. But Bonnie was more person than animal, and tolerated Dexter's presence largely by ignoring him. The two of them did NOT interact, save for the one time Dexter tried to 'claim' Bonnie by spraying her and Bonnie bit Dexter's tail. That was the only time they ever 'got it together.' When Sarah Sweetie came along, Dexter immediately claimed her by grooming her obssessively day in and day out for weeks. The two of them were then stuck to each other like glue. They curled up together to sleep, and were rarely out of each other's sight.

Then came my wonderful, gorgeous boy, ZenSunni. He is a black and white male cat roughly the size and shape of a baby killer whale. He was given to us by our vet, after he had been dumped on the vet's doorstep and they needed to find a home for him. At first, Zen and Sarah did not get along. But every time they started to fight, Dexter would calmly walk between them and sit down, breaking up the fight. After a couple of weeks of this, Zen and Sarah decided it wasn't worth the effort and became napping buddies. Dexter was still in charge of baths, but napping was now a group thing.

Then came the huge upheavals of 2002 and 2003.

My husband Bruce, bless his heart, can't stand to see an abandoned animal. So when he saw the black lab/chow puppy that had been found on the side of the road, he immediately called home and gave me the whiny voice. He knows I am powerless against his whiny voice. I can withstand any amount of kid whines, but husband whines are torture. My first instinct is to rush over and stroke his hair and reassure him that of course, he can have what he wants...I'll do anything...yada yada yada. I'm pathetic, really. So he brought the puppy home and Webber Wetherby, who is now about 70 pounds and dumb as a bag of hammers, entered our lives. Amazingly enough, he got along beautifully with the cats, and he and Bonnie ignored each other. (Bonnie and I were still glued together at the hip at this point.)

Then in August of 2003, my Bonnie passed away. I was devastated. This was a dog who had seen me through all the worst trials of my life. She had sat on my lap and licked my tears...she'd followed me everywhere for years...she'd always trusted me to do the right thing by her. And I always tried to live up to her expectations. Then she was gone. It was weeks before I could function properly again. Zen did his best to help; he often tried to drape his massive weight across my chest and purr me back to life. He and I bonded during that time, and we are now 'sympatico,' as they say.

Things went along their merry way, with Dexter in charge of grooming and social interaction, and the rest of us following his lead, until a few months ago, when once again, my darling hubby rescued an endangered animal. This time it was a tiny gray and white tabby cat, who was being tortured by a couple of kids on our street. Bruce stormed across the street and gave the boys what for, taking charge of the frightened little thing.

Now, Webber did not like Archimedes, or Archie as we call him. But Dexter fixed that as well. Whenever Webber would get ready to jump Archie, Dexter would calmly walk between the two of them and stare the dog down. Then he would start grooming Archie as if to say, 'This one is mine, just like all of you.' Quite often when he was done with Archie he would start licking Webber's ears as well. And Dexter never seems to mind when Webber wants to lay his giant head on Dexter's belly for a while. As long as everyone in the house knows who is in charge, Dexter can be quite accomodating.

Yes, multiple pets can be very rewarding...providing you can find the right bellwether. Without that, I'd say you better stock up on bandages and peroxide.