Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Playing Hookie

Bueller, Bueller... Bueller.  Has anyone seen Ferris Bueller?
He's out playing hookie.
As part of my new "taking care of my star player" campaign, I decided it was time to take a mental health day this week.  Okay, I decided to play hookie.  When you get a stomach ache Sunday night just by thinking about going to work Monday morning, it's time for a day off.  As my Monday was wall to wall meetings, I took Tuesday off instead.

When I was a kid, playing hookie involved faking sick (looking pale, sticking a thermometer under a lamp, coughing, sniffling, sneezing, and other NyQuil symptoms) in order to convince my mother to stay home, make me grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup, and let me watch Wonder Woman re-runs all day.
Ahh, the late 70's and early 80's -
 a time when we were just happy to have a female superhero.

Nowadays, playing hookie is different.  At other adult jobs, the work just waits for your return.  As a teacher, that doesn't happen for me.  The children will be there at 9 am regardless of whether I am there or not.  We don't send them home and tell them to come back when the teacher returns.  Being absent from work involves lining up a substitute teacher to cover my class, writing sub plans, and coming back the next day to clean up the mess and hear about how awful my kids were for the sub.  It almost isn't worth being out because of all the prep work beforehand and the clean-up afterwards.  But, I haven't missed a day of work since November and it's almost March now.    It's time for a little break, preferably one that doesn't involve a bone.

I almost never take off work.  I haven't missed a day of work this year where I didn't have a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or a broken bone.  I broke my ankle at 11am and worked the rest of the day before seeking medical attention.  Hey, the bone wasn't poking out so I figured I was good.  I got the flu and suppressed the fever with drugs just to come into work and give the kids a math benchmark. 

Picture it:  You have to picture it because clip art of a sick teacher doesn't exist. I looked.  The kids working on the test up front.  Miss Insert Last Name Here sitting at the back table, reading a test to a child while wrapped in a blanket because she got the shivers from her returning fever.  Boy, was that a mistake!

What a teacher actually thinks about before taking a day off from work
Now, I'm at home playing hookie and all I can think about is that it's 10:30 which means math class is starting.  Granted, I'm thinking about it while blogging, but the worry is still there in the back of my mind.  I'm going to try and see if I can refrain from texting my co-workers all day to ask how my class is doing.  We'll see how it goes. 

I have a Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich to read, six loads of laundry to do (the laundry pile is spreading towards the bedroom door in an attempt to escape), grocery shopping to get done to fill my empty cupboards and fridge, and a mountain of papers to grade. 

Is it really a day off work if you're doing work from home?  I don't know, but I'm about to find out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Honorary Aunt

Yep, that's me!  Well, it could be.
Give the diet time to work, people!
I love being an aunt! It's like being a grandparent, only younger.  You get to play on the floor, distribute candy indiscriminantly, and have a legitimate excuse for watching cartoons.  Best of all, when somebody gets cranky, starts crying, and/or throws up... oops, time to go back to mommy and daddy.  Just kidding!  I am a full-service aunt. I can and have dealt with all three of those scenarios on my own.

I take being an aunt very seriously.  I have coloring books, trucks, trains, bubble wands, airplanes (Can you tell I have a nephew?) and other toy paraphenalia stored in a toy chest in my living room.  Until the squirt was successfully potty trained, I had a supply of diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, and pull-ups stored under my coffee table.  I even have a car seat secured in the back of my car for emergency pick-ups or when Squirt and I want to go somewhere when I'm babysitting.

Squirt, my adorable four year old nephew, has the ability to make my day with only a smile and to wreck my day with a quivering lip and a tear.  Sorry, Squirt, I love you too much not to teach you how to share your toys with other kids.  Those crocodile tears are like a knife in my heart, but I'm still gonna make you give the toy back and apologize. Squirt even gave me a special name, Nan Naine.  You see when he was first learning to talk he couldn't say Aunt Lainey, but he tried anyway and Nan Naine is what came out.  It's probably petty, but I also like that he created a special name for me when he was a year old because his other aunt remained nameless until he was two and a half.  Thank you, I am the favorite aunt!

Squirt is not the only kid to call me Nan Naine, he's just the only one I'm related to biologically.  For you see, just as my father created honorary aunts and uncles for me when I was squirt, some of my friends have made me an honorary aunt.  When my college roommate told me she was pregnant, the first thing she told me was, "You're going to be an aunt!"  I'm Nan Naine to her two boys.  This week, I received the honorary title from a few of my favorite little people and it brightened my day.

Not that kind of dancing with Baby
The other night, while coming home after an exceedingly long and exhausting day at work, I parked my car in my assigned parking space (which happens to be two houses down from mine, in front of my friends', the Double J's, townhouse) and was greeted by a scene of domestic tranquilty.  The Double J's had their curtains open and I could see them dancing together in the middle of their kitchen.  The scene was especially sweet (toothache sweet, not Dude Where's My Car? sweet) because they were holding their little man, 18 month old JJ, between them. 

As I sat in my car warring between two strong reactions to this tableau (Oh, isn't that sweet? and What's wrong with me?  Why don't I have that?), little JJ looked out the window, saw me, and waved his little hand furiously in greeting.  The Double J's stopped dancing and JJ's daddy brought him outside to say hello to me.  We stood on the stoop chatting about how big JJ was getting and his recent birthday.  While the adults chatted, JJ gave me high fives and blew me kisses.  This kid is really too cute for words, both because of his always sunny personality and his chubby, cherubic cheeks.  When it was time for daddy to take JJ inside, he turned towards JJ and said, "Wave bye-bye to Aunt Lainey, JJ."  Sweet!  They made me an honorary aunt.

A sunny personality and chubby, cherubic cheeks.  What's not to love?

My second honorary title of the week came not from the parents, but from the child.  In the last few months, I've spent a lot of time hanging out at the home of my friends, The Mynds.  At their home, I am known to the kids (Teen Wolf, Shaggy, and Princess Sassy Pants) as Miss Insert Last Name HereDude, it's my anonymous blog.  I like you guys, but I'm not telling you my last name.  That's how stalkers are born. 

The reason for this very formal form of address is not because they are at all formal in how they address adults in the house, but because I was Shaggy's fifth grade social studies teacher.  Did I mention that I'm a teacher?   I've tried to get Teen Wolf and Shaggy to call me Lainey, but they just won't do it. They can see me outside of school, but I will always be Miss Insert Last Name Here to them.

Anywho, I might someday be Princess Sassy Pants' teacher.  Fearing that it would be hard for Princess Sassy Pants to switch back and forth between Lainey and Miss Insert Last Name Here from home to school, we just stick with the latter.  Or at least we did until this week when Princess Sassy Pants referred to me as Aunt Insert Last Name Here.  Aww, she made me her honorary aunt!  It's not exactly Aunt Lainey or Nan Naine, but it's just as wonderful because she created the title herself. 

And now I have a neice to go with all my nephews, honorary and otherwise.  
Time to buy Barbies and dress-up clothes.  Awesome!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Honorary Uncles

Uncle Joey was an honorary uncle.  He was Danny's brother from another mother.

My father was an only child.  As such you would think that I didn't have many aunts and uncles growing up, only those allotted biologically from my mother's side of the family.  But, you'd be wrong in that thinking. 

My father was a great believer in using aunt and uncle as honorary titles for all of his brothers from other mothers and sisters from other misters.  He created a rather large friendamily for himself, long before the word to describe what he had made came into existence.  In fact, I had more uncles on my dad's side than my mom's side.

There's my Uncle Jim, who was my dad's childhood best friend.  He married my Aunt Debbie at age 19 and still hasn't spent a night away from her in all of the forty plus years since then.  From Uncle Jim and Aunt Debbie, I even have four psuedo-grandparents and two psuedo-cousins: little Jimmy ,who is over six feet tall now, and Jenny , who was my first and last Katy Perry "I Kissed A Girl" moment.  Both of our mothers have the moment immortalized in family scrapbooks.  We were three years old at the time, you perverts, get your mynds out of the gutter. 

Old Bay, crab mallets, and melted butter
Ahh, the memories!
There are my Uncles Glenn and Pete.  They taught with my dad at Northwestern High School for twenty plus years.  I've mentioned Uncle Glenn in a previous post for his dedicated assistance in my fifth grade science fair victory, but Uncle Pete was also an integral part of the extended family.  He threw legendary end of the school year parties, known as the Crab Feasts.  It was there that I learned how to pick crabs (though after dad told me what crab mustard was I never ate them), how to go bobbing for beer cans when my dad or one of the uncles would send me over to the thirty gallon trash can to get them a beer, and how to play horse shoes, volleyball, and badminton in the back yard. 

Both uncles swear my father nearly got them killed in an incident that has become known as "I Could've Beat That Train!".  The story goes that one day, when it was his turn to drive the carpool car, Dad was driving the back roads between Hyattsville and Bowie trying to avoid Route 50 traffic.  Off in the distance, the carpooolers heard a train whistle.  To a normal human, this sound would just mean that you were within a few miles of some train tracks.  But to Dad, this meant that the MARC train was getting close to the railroad crossing on Old Chapel Road and if he didn't beat in there he would have to sit for five minutes waiting for the train to pass. 

Maybe he'd had a bad day at work, maybe there was a special dinner planned for that night that he didn't want to miss, maybe he suddenly felt like he had super powers, no one knows, but for some reason the idea of sitting at the train crossing that day was intolerable to my father.  He stomped on the gas pedal til it hit the floor, called over to his passengers, "I'm gonna beat that train.", and began racing down Highbridge Road at speeds that the PG County police would surely have ticketed him for had they seen him.  My uncles are telling him to stop playing around, he's not funny, etc. when they realize that he's dead serious.  Dad is now driving 90 miles an hour down Highbridge Road, running parallel to the train tracks and according to Uncle Glenn, driving next to the train. 

The uncles are screaming, they're yelling, they're pleading for their lives.  Uncle Pete is trying to pry my dad's fingers off the steering wheel and Uncle Glenn has a grip on his pant leg, trying to pry his foot off the gas pedal.  The train and Dad are running neck and neck.  Turning wildly from Highbridge onto Old Chapel Road, Uncle Glenn succeeded in getting Dad's foot off the gas pedal, just fifty yards from the crossing where the lights were blinking and the railroad barriers were coming down.  Dad slowed to a stop, the train went by, my uncles cursed him out, and all Dad could say was, "I could've beat that train!"

Last, but certainly not least, there was Uncle Jerry.  Uncle Jerry was married to my Aunt Sherry and they had two kids, Barry and Terry.  I kid you not, those were there real names.  Aunt Sherry and my dad taught together at Charles Carroll Middle School and through one of the school's holiday parties my dad and Uncle Jerry got one of the most original "how we met" stories I've ever heard. 

At the faculty Christmas party one year, (It was the seventies and political correctness had not been invented yet to turn it into a holiday party.)  Aunt Sherry suckered my father, a new teacher, into dressing up as Santa Claus for the kids.  This was funny because Aunt Sherry and Uncle Jerry are Jewish.  But they were the fun, unorthodox kind of Jews that threw up a "Hannukah Bush" in there living room every December that looked remarkably like a Christmas tree.  But, I digress.  Look a squirrel just ran up the inside of the Hannukah bush!

Effectively browbeat into taking on the role of Jolly Old Saint Nick, my dad trudged down to the basement of Jerry and Sherry's spilt level house to put on the costume.  Now whether it was a general lack of modesty on his part or a sufficient amount of alcoholic libation, probably the latter, my father chose to forgo stepping into the downstairs bathroom and stripped in the darkened game room.  And that is where Uncle Jerry found him, tipsy and pantless, partially dressed in a Santa suit when he came home from work. 

From here accounts vary,  Aunt Sherry always said that Uncle Jerry thought she and my Dad had been fooling around (like she would do that with a house full of drunken teachers upstairs). 

This is not what it looked like when Uncle Jerry walked in the room.
Uncle Jerry told the story that he came home to find a half naked Santa in his basement and assumed a homeless pervert had broken into the house (again, with a house full of people upstairs?) and my Dad told it that Uncle Jerry came in while Dad's pants were around his ankles and Dad shuffled over and introduced himself and tried to shake Uncle Jerry's hand. 
probably a little closer to reality

Either way, all stories agree that Jerry screamed, Dad tried to back up and tripped over an ottoman thus hitting the floor, and Aunt Sherry and countless other co-workers raced in to find a red faced Jerry standing menacingly over my pantless father. 

These are the stories on which life-long friendships are based.

Are you an honorary relative? Have a brother from another mother?
I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I Won An Award!

Yep, I looked just like this
( only with better hair)

I won the school science fair when I was in fifth grade.  I had an awesome science experiment about the green house effect and how the ozone layer keeps our planet warm.  My dad was a high school social studies teacher and he got my Uncle Glenn, his best friend who just happened to be the head of the science department, to hook me up with a high school level project.  He even let me borrow the heating lamps and thermometers that the high schoolers used when they ran the experiment.  My display board and impressive science equipment made me look like a young Einstein.  The judges couldn't help but give me the first place ribbon.

As impressive as the science fair win was, I have now topped my 10 year old glory by winning an award where I actually did all the work myself.  Shocking, right? I have been awarded the Liebster Blog Award by Mr. Mynd, an award which he himself received from Good Youngman Brown .  Yes, Mr. Mynd is a member of my friendamily, so there was probably definitely some nepotism involved.  What can I say, the men in my life have always been putty in my hands and have an eye on advancing my prospects in the world.  Uncle Glenn helped me at ten, Mr. Mynd is doing it now.

Near as I can tell, the Liebster Blog Award is more of an attempt to increase readership of smaller blogs, specifically those blogs with less than 200 followers, than an actual award.  I most definitely qualify with my four faithful followers.  Although, I hear I might be getting my first e-mail follower soon!  "Liebster" is a German word that means dearest or favorite and I am deeply honored to be listed as one of Mr. Mynd's favorite blogs.  Nepotism or not, he has a much higher readership than I do and some of his followers are actual strangers.  Telling strangers you like someone else's writing is no small thing in my book.

So here is how this whole award thing works:

Rule #1 Link back to the person that gave you the award.

It's My Mind: How Did You Get In Here is a blog written by a man with an identity crisis.  Since I started following his blog he has called himself Wily Guy, Mr. Mynd, the Master Mynd, and even used his real name briefly.  Other things to know about him besides his lack in sense of self: he is a prolific blogger (he has over 100 posts and a desire to be quoted like the bible); he writes things that make me smile, snort laugh, and even more impressive, shake in silent "I can't breathe" laughter; and I've known him since Princess Sassy Pants was in diapers, in fact.

Rule #2 Choose deserving bloggers and alert them to their award winning status.
And the winners are...

1. I Throw Hammers At Boys, a blog about the life and times of a single girl looking to spear herself a man via the onling dating scene.  Gertie is far braver than I could ever be and puts herself out there time and again in her great search for the love of her life.  Her adventures are mostly witty, light hearted romps through the dating scene.  But, her cautionary tales are given out to help the rest of us single girl learn from her mistakes.  How could I not love a blog that teaches us all a few life lessons?

2. Growing Round, a newcomer to the blog scene like myself, SweetVix2003 writes about her adventures in growing her first baby bump.  She's had sixteen weeks of morning sickness, gestational diabetes, and wondering when her midsection will display the telltale bump that shows the world she's preggers, not pudgy.  Short and to the point, she let's you know where she's at in 150 words or less.

Technically, the rules state to give out the award to 5 blogs, but of the four blogs I read, two have already received this award (and one of those, gave me the award).

Rule #3 Post the award on your blog and share the fun.
Mission accomplished.

Anywho, I don't believe there is an actual statuette coming anybody's way anytime soon. Is there?! That would be sweet! I have just the spot for it on my mantle.  Happy reading!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is "Sucker" Stamped Across My Forehead?

This week, I seem to have acquired a tattoo on my forehead that is only visible to opportunistic individuals.  I've looked for it in the mirror.  I've scrubbed my forehead repeatedly with St. Ives Invigorating Apricot Scrub.  I've applied cover-up and concealer to try to hide this immovable tattoo from the world.  But, not matter what I do, it's there for those who are looking to take advantage of me to see.

Cantoring 101: When the arm goes up,
everybody sings.

Background Information:  Lainey sings.  Not just in the shower or the car, either.  Lainey sings soprano in the church choir.  Lainey is also what is known as a cantor.  This is a person who stands up in front of God and everybody and leads the congregation in song, as well as singing the psalm solo up at the ambo (the podium next to the altar).  The reason you need to know this information will become evident momentarily.

I am a Catholic and this week lent began, which meant that I would be going to church at some point on Ash Wednesday to get ashes.  My mother, being the dutiful Catholic mother that she is, e-mailed me the mass and ash service times for our church.  (Ash Wednesday is a "holy day of obligation" - that's Catholic for get your butt to church.  My mother's e-mail insured that I felt obligated to go.)  Upon perusing the e-mail, I discovered that there were two services that fit into my schedule, an ash service at 5:30 pm and a full mass at 7pm.  The ash service would be faster since there would be no communion, so that's the option I chose.

Normally, I don't leave work until after 5:30 pm (sometimes well after), but since it was Ash Wednesday I booked it out the door at five.  I got to my car, raced across town, and made it into the church parking lot with five minutes to spare.  Not bad for rush hour! We have discussed my lead footedness before, right? Yes, I sped, but I didn't get caught because I was going about God's business.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So I hustled into church and found a seat in the mid-range not in the back rows, but not near the front either and there was my mistake.  I should have hidden in the shadows of the back rows, but seated where I was the sucker tattoo was visible.  Immediately, the closest opportunistic person honed in on me, in this case, the church's music director.  It seems that the two teenagers who were supposed to cantor this particular ash service were MIA (missing in ashes) and the music director was actively surveying the congregation looking for an unsuspecting victim cantor. 

Before I knew what hit me, I had been suckered into going up to the front of the church to sing music I hadn't rehearsed, when I wasn't warmed up and didn't have entirely church-appropriate footwear on my feet.*  How did that happen? I don't even like our church's music director, so why was I doing him a big favor on zero notice?  Was it divine intervention? Catholic guilt?  I'm blaming the sucker tattoo.

While super comfy and unlikely to rebreak my ankle,
this is not church appropriate footwear.

*Since I broke my ankle I've been afraid of my higher heeled shoes. Hello, they turned on me and broke my ankle! Plus, I'm on my feet for 8 hours a day at work, so I've been using the "my poor ankle" excuse to justify wearing sneakers. Sneakers are not church shoes and they are REALLY not cantor shoes.

The next day, I once again failed to style my hair in such a way as to cover the sucker tattoo.  I arrived at work on one of my only meeting-free mornings of the week and was immediately greeted by a colleague who needed something.  The something being one hour of my time.  The story was that his tire had a nail in it and he was supposed to visit his father in the nursing home after work.  He was tapping me to cover his morning meeting so he could take the car to get the nail hole plugged and still have time after work to visit his dad.

Now, I know this co-worker very well, some might even describe him as my work husband.  His story was legit as we have discussed his father in the nursing home on many occasions.  But, what this story meant to me was that I would be giving up an hour of productivity in order to baby-sit a meeting for him.  I really needed that hour of productivity and I definitely didn't need to be sitting in on another meeting.  Yet, sucker that I am, I told him not to worry, I've gotcha covered, and sent him off in search of a gas station willing to plug a tire.

Are you an opportunistic person? Do you need an inconvenient favor?  Apparently, I'm ready, willing, and able to help.

Written from purgatory while God decides exactly how long I will be burning in Hell for complaining about using the gifts He gave me to help my fellow man.  It's okay, I hear Mr. Mynd has a room just down the hall from mine, so I'll have company.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taking Care Of My Star Player

"You aren't taking care of your star player? 
That's some bull$#&! right there."

In his comedy special, It's Pimpin' Pimpin', Katt Williams talks about taking care of your star player.  According to Mr. Williams, you are your star player and it is your job to take care of yourself because nobody else is going to do it for you.  He talks about how everybody works so hard to please other people and forgets to worry about pleasing themselves.  Get your mind out of the gutter, that isn't what he meant. 

At the time the special came out (2008), I laughed at the basketball analogy and got on with my life.  I certainly didn't feel that Katt was talking to me specifically.  But, he was and I should have listened.

Today, I got an unexpected invite to get a pedicure with my dear friend, Mrs. Mynd.  This was very unexpected, as Mrs. Mynd had undergone foot surgery a few months ago. I broke my ankle at about the same time, so we were busted and broken together for a while.  Neither of us have had pedicures in quite some time for fear of someone hurting our poor little stitched and/or broken feet.

Ankle brace = Unhappy, unpainted toes

Now, I'm not one to complain (much), but I've had a rough couple of months.  I lost a week of my life to a bout with the flu in October.  I broke my ankle in November and was on crutches for part of December.  In January, I found out I'd be in the ankle brace for another month and in February my car decided that I didn't need a working defroster.  Like I said, it's been a rough couple of months.

While all of this was going on, I was so worried about my ankle, my bills, and my car that I forgot to take care of my star player.  I sat at home (ankle elevated) and wallowed in self-pity.  Woe is me, my life is hard.  It felt like everything in my world was no longer under my control.  Realizing that I am not indestructible was especially challenging.  It seems that I struggle with the concept of asking for help and leaning on others for support, both physically and emotionally, is not my strong suit.  Man, did I hate being on crutches!  I couldn't do anything.  A flight of stairs became an insurmountable obstacle.  Did I mention that there are 25 stairsteps between the curb in front of my house and my bedroom door?

But, I digress.  Mrs. Mynd's invitation was just the ticket for reminding me that sometimes, especially when it feels like everything has hit the fan, I need to take care of me.  Five years, a new car, a new home, and a pay freeze ago, I used to go and get a pedicure once every two weeks.  Didn't matter if it was winter, spring, summer, or fall.  Didn't matter if I would be wearing sneakers, boots, or clogs.  No matter what, I would take some "me time" and get my piggies pampered while reading an outdated magazine (If you've never read it, then it's new to you).  With the economy being what it has been, the bi-weekly pedicure ritual went by the wayside years ago.  But tonight, I was reminded of why the ritual existed in the first place.

Always time for toes: my new personal mantra
For me, having pretty toes equals an hour of mindless relaxation.  An hour where no one was asking me for anything, nobody was expecting anything from me, an hour of peace and quiet. An hour where the troubles of the world don't exist is not something to sneeze at nowadays.

Another dear friend, Gertie, got me a Christmas ornament years ago that showed two friends getting mani-pedis and said "Always time for toes!".  I need to make that a personal mantra.  (It's packed away somewhere up in the attic with the Christmas decorations or else I'd post a picture of it.)   If having pretty, painted toenails makes me happy, helps me relax, and recharges me to deal with the rest of life's obstacles, then I need to make sure that there is "always time for toes".  My star player deserves her down time and her pampering.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Diamond Years

Fifty Was Nifty, But Sixty Is Sensational
This week, my grandparents celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary.  Wow, that's sixty years of loving, honoring, and cherishing, impressive by anyone's standard today.  I wonder if, when they started out, they knew where they were going to end up.

Drop and give him fifty!
The happy couple
My grandfather, a Marine drill segeant, was stationed in Washington D.C. when my grandparents first met. He proposed to my grandmother when he got orders that he was being reassigned to California to train soldiers headed off to fight in the Korean War.  He told grandma he was worried that she would find another fella while he was away, so he wanted to marry her before he left.

Grandma stayed with her parents while he was in California.  When he got back, they both lived with my great grandparents for six months and shared the family basement with my great-great grandmother.  Grandma told me a story recently about how her grandmother had a bureau with a large mirror that she strategically placed near the partial wall that divided the basement so she could keep an eye on the young couple.  Needless to say, none of their children were conceived until after they got their own place.  But, once they were out on their own, they had thirty four years of child-rearing in their marriage.  That's twelve years where somebody was in a diaper that needed changing!

My grandparents thought they were done after having three kids in the first seven years of their marriage.  Oops!  I mean, surprise!  Year fourteen of married life brought a new bundle of joy who was twelve years younger than their oldest child.  

It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though.  My grandmother had three miscarriages and two still births during the kiddie years.  My mom, the oldest, was actually Grandma's third pregnancy.  Thank God they didn't get discouraged and give up on the whole kid thing or else I wouldn't be here.

Third Tries A Charm: My mom (the one in the diaper) with her parents
Grandpa, who went to work for the railroad after he left the Marines, worked two jobs when money was tight.  Later, when he got a government job, Grandpa worked nights because it paid better.  In spite of this, he still drove my grandma to the grocery store every Friday morning at 9 a.m. sharp.  Bless her heart, my grandmother has never learned how to drive a car. She's a member of the last generation of true housewives.  My grandfather takes her everywhere she wants to go.

They've also had their share of health scares.  Their youngest child, my uncle Bobby, had a life-threatening case of meningitis when he was little.  Nothing scares a parent worse or tests a marriage more than a child with a potentially fatal illness.  Grandpa's had two cataract operations, two knee replacements, and a broken ankle. The cataracts weren't that hard to deal with, but the knee replacements both required stays in a rehabilitation center to get him up and moving again. 

KP duty:  It's just like riding a bicycle.
Grandma's had her share of work done, too. She's had three cancer scares (breast cancer, uterine cancer, and skin cancer) in the last twenty years.  Grandpa was so worried about her after the first cancer scare that it actually changed the gender roles in their marriage a little bit.  For forty years, my grandmother made dinner every night.  After she got home from the hospital following her mastectomy, Grandpa banned her from the kitchen for years for fear she would overdo it and wear herself out.  It turned out the retired drill sergeant still remembered how to do KP duty.  He makes a mean corn casserole and has never served a burnt bird on Christmas Day in the fifteen plus years since he took over cooking Christmas dinner.

My grandparents are the ultimate survivors.  Nothing phases them.  Even being octagenarians hasn't really slowed them down that much.  Grandpa coached CYO girls basketball well into his sixties.  They both volunteered regularly in the kitchen at their church hall into their seventies.  They didn't stop because they decided to retire.  They stopped because the parish closed the church hall.  Not long after he turned 80, Grandpa helped install a set of shower doors at my house. I'll grant you, he was winded after installing them and sat on the toilet seat lid while attaching the towel bars, but how many 80 year olds do you know who would even try to lift glass shower doors. 

The years brought four kids, six grandchildren, and five great grandchildren (so far) into their lives.  The kids and grandkids are following their good example, too.  My parents were married for 24 years before my dad died.  My aunts and uncles have all been married for over 25 years with nary a divorce among them.  Four out of the six grandchildren are already happily married with children.  The only hold-outs (my cousin Joey and myself) will get there eventually, I'm sure.

The happy couple posing with most of their grandchildren
and great grandchildren at Grandma's 80th birthday party last year.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Flip Phone In A Smart Phone World

Recently, I was driving somewhere with Mrs. Mynd (of It's My Mind: How Did You Get In Here blog fame). 

Okay, I was driving to a happy hour. Yes, I see the irony that I attend a lot of happy hours and rarely drink.  I need my unwind time, just like everybody else.  Don't judge. 

My phone buzzed to let me know that I had a text from a co-worker who'd had the day off and wanted to know where we would be making the hour happy. Isn't it nice that he wanted to hang with us, even when he wasn't at work that day?  We're that kind of work friendamily.

A definition might help for that last word, right?

Friendamily: A group of friends that you are so close with that they are like your family. 
They wrote the manual on the care and maintenence of you.  They are your "in case of emergency" call.  They know what makes you feel better when you're having a bad day.  I keep a box of Bob's candy canes hidden in my desk for Mrs. Mynd and a pack of  Reese's peanut butter cups chillin' in my fridge for Gertie.  They are the people you celebrate most non-religious holidays with and the people you wish you were with on those holidays when you must be with your actual family.

Squirrel!  I've gotten off track here somehow.  Anywho, we were driving to happy hour, the phone buzzed, and my safety and traffic law conscious passenger refused to let me reply to the text while driving.  Prior to the no texting law, I was a highly proficient texter while driving.  Truth be told, when I don't have a conscientious passenger, I still am.  But, I did have a passenger and for some reason her safety was more important to her than my ability to communicate electronically. Can you believe that? Yes, yes I can.  She wanted to live to celebrate happy hour, Lainey.

Lainey: " I can text and negotiate a traffic circle. 
Why are you so worried?"
So, out of concern for her own safety, Mrs. Mynd grabbed my phone and went to reply to the text for me, something I've frequently done for her while she's driving.  I say she went to because she quickly discovered that she couldn't quite manage texting on my phone.  For you see, my phone is old school.  Keeping up with Joneses, I ain't.  I have an unintelligent flip phone and Mrs. Mynd's phone is a smartiepants.

Here it is: the antique that is keeping me in touch.

On my flip phone, we are still down with T9 (the grandfather of auto correct) and if you aren't down with T9, that's okay.  You can just hit the 7 key four times to get the letter 's'.  Sending a simple four word text had Mrs. Mynd frazzled to the point that she was offering to put me on her family plan just to get me a better phone.

Last night, while at another happy hour with the same friendamily, a guest to the happy hour was monopolizing the conversation.  We are a patient group, but after more than an hour of high volume, potty mouthed conversation (We were getting glares from other bar patrons because our guest had a serious love of the f-word.) the friendamily was texting back and forth plotting how to end the guest's rant or gracefully exit without it looking like a mass exodus.  I was in favor of a napkin gag, but I got vetoed.  My phone was buzzing away as the texts flew and I repeatedly pulled it out to read, laugh, and reply.  In the process, another coworker noticed my flip phone and proceeded to crack on its antiquity.

I'm sorry that my out-dated phone bothers some people.  Oh, wait.  No, I'm not!  I've had a flip phone for years.  In fact, my old flip phone died about a year and a half ago and I was eligible to get a smart phone.  All I had to do was add a data package to my plan.  Instead, I got another flip phone. 

My flip phone doesn't get internet, it doesn't have apps, it can't name that tune if you hold it next to the sound system.  It could probably do some of these things, but I won't let it.  I'm a single girl on a budget and I'm not paying extra for a data plan.  I have internet access at home, at work, and most everywhere else in between.  Case in point, I'm typing this blog using the free wi-fi from the car dealer while waiting for the bad news about my hateful hybrid (See It Ain't Easy Being Green for details). 

My phone has only two purposes: to make/receive calls and to send/receive texts. 
It doesn't need to be smart.

That being said, if anyone wants to get me a smartphone and pay for my data plan, I will graciously accept.  I didn't say smart phones were bad, just not in the budget.

What a lovely gift idea!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It Ain't Easy Being Green

It Ain't Easy Being Green
(or why I hate my hybrid)
Kermit the Frog, making green look good since 1955

Five years ago,  I made a car purchase.   I was a few years out of grad school and working at my first real non-food service industry job.  My student loans were finally paid off and I had some disposable income.  I decided to be an eco-friendly consumer a sucker and bought a Civic hybrid.

It's so beautiful!  What's not to love, right?  PLENTY!

Since the day I bought this car, it feels like something has always been wrong with it.  First, when I had owned the car for less than six months, it got side swiped by a drunk driver (while parked in front of the house) and I had to get the driver's side door replaced.  I can't really blame this on the car company, but I'd like to blame them because I think here may be where many of the rest of the car's troubles started. 

A year later, the super high-tech, super expensive hybrid battery started running down because apparently hybrid batteries don't like the extreme heat of summer south of the Mason-Dixon line. 

The battery charge meter is all the way on the left.
Look how low the charge is, even in their own advertising photo!
When those two little bars go, its time to buy a new car.

Background knowledge:  the electric battery is the most expensive part of a hybrid and can cost a small fortune to replace if it dies.  If it dies because of a car accident, the insurance company will total your car (even if there's no other damage to your car).

In order to fix the battery charge problem, Honda recalled my car to add a software update.  The software update forced the car to rely more heavily on its gas engine and less on the electric motor to save the battery charge.  This meant MY HYBRID WASN'T A HYBRID ANYMORE!  I was now driving a gas guzzler that got about 28 miles per gallon. 

Now if you've been watching the evening news recently, you may have heard about the lady who sued Honda for hugely inflating the estimate miles per gallon on their hybrids.  Let me tell you, she won for a reason!  When I bought it, the sticker said that my car would get 45 mpg city and 60 mpg highway.  I never got anything better than 35 mpg city and 40 mpg highway and that was before the software update from hell (SUFH).  After the SUFH, I was only getting about 28 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.

It was at this point that I began hating my car.  Driving the hybrid (that wasn't a hybrid) began to irritate me.  The dislike was only compounded by the next problem, an epic fail from the keyless entry/car locks.  In the last two years, I have replaced the locks on three out of the four car doors (twice for the driver's door.  The first two lock replacements were still covered under warranty, but the last three occured after the warranty expired (Ka-ching, $$$).  I suspect that the doors aren't quite water tight since the locks are shorting out after a heavy rain, but nobody at Honda seems to care about why they keep failing.  They just like to keep charging me to replace them.  Six months ago, the rear driver's side door lock went for the second time and I absolutely refuse to replace it again.

This week, as a special Valentine's Day present for me, the air conditioner/defroster decided to stop working.  It was running when I drove to work.  I come out to go get lunch four hours later, turn the dial, and nothing.  Did I mention that I get carsick unless I have the air on, blowing fresh air in my face, at all times?  The drive home from work this evening was not fun.

Hybrid: "Lainey, I've got a Valentine's Day present for you!  I made it myself."
Lainey: "This can't be good."

Can't wait to see how much this is going to cost me!  I will definitely be filling out the paper work for the hybrid class action lawsuit that has been sitting on my dining room table for a few weeks now.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Single Awareness Day!

Happy Single Awareness Day!
(or you can call it by it's initials...SAD)

They finally decided to make a card for this underground holiday?!

It's that time of year again, the florists' Black Friday.  Time for hearts and flowers, chocolates and candy hearts, cards and stuffed animals.  I like Valentine's Day, in theory.  A day where you pay extra attention to the one you love by showering them in gifts and flowers? Sweet! (Not tooth ache sweet, but more Dude, Where's My Car? sweet)  If that was the way it ever turned out for me, I would be all about this holiday.

I am a single girl.  Girl? Woman?  The debate rages on in my head.  Now that I am thirty-two, woman seems more appropriate, but the chick in my head isn't quite ready to let go of being a girl yet. Wow, I just put my age in print on the internet.  Aren't I Little Miss Maturity?  I'm just barely over thirty, just a scosh past it, nowhere near approaching forty... those therapy sessions are still years and years away.  Deep breathes, Lainey.  Head between the knees.  You're okay, you're okay.  But, I digress.  I am a single put whichever noun you feel would be most appropriate here and as a singleton, Valentine's Day is not really a beloved holiday for me. 

A few years ago, when the ratio of my single friends to married friends tipped more heavily to the single side, I would get together with my single friends on Valentine's Day.  We'd meet up at a restaurant and celebrate Single Awareness Day.  For those of you who've never heard of it, Single Awareness Day is the companion holiday to Valentine's Day.  It's kinda like Festivus, as it is a holiday for the rest of us who don't have the pre-requisite loved one necessary to celebrate Valentine's Day.  Sports bars work best for Single Awareness Day celebrations as they tend to have less couples related activities on Cupid Day.  We'd have some laughs, talk about our adventures in singledom, and go home feeling like it was okay that we were still single on this most coupled holiday.

Now, the scales have shifted and the single friend pool has dwindled.  Everybody (or at least it feels that way sometimes) has gotten married and I'm still single.  Normally, this doesn't bother me that much.  By and large, I like being single.  There are some benefits to being single in the world today.  I don't have to tell anybody where I'm going or when I'll be home.  I can spend my money as I please without having to explain my purchases to anyone.  I have total control of every remote control in my house.  How many married people can say that? 

Even with my "single and loving it"  attitude, I can admit that there are times (not often, but occasionally) when I wish for something other than my single status.  When I get sick or break a bone (a new experience for this year), I really wish there was someone else in my house to take care of me.  When I light the Christmas tree lights and lay on the couch in my darkened living room,  I wish I had someone to snuggle with while I enjoy the glow.  When I play with my adorable nephew, I sometimes wish I had one of my own to play with and tickle (something I won't do while I still have my single status).  And, of course, on Valentine's Day when co-workers are receiving floral deliveries and friends are talking about their plans for the evening, I wish that I had someone to send me flowers or make evening plans.  Whoa, this got heavy all of a sudden!  Quick, back to the lighter side before somebody reading this gets SAD.

So, if like me, you don't have a Single Awareness Day celebration to attend this year, then you have a choice to make.

Option #1: Sit at home watching sappy movies on Lifetime with a box of Kleenex.

Option 1:  Pulling a Bridget Jones.

Option #2: Go to dinner at mom's house where you'll undoubtedly be presented with a Valentine's Day card and a box of chocolates.

Option 2: Momma's home cooking and some TLC

Option #3: Get out of the house and make your own Single Awareness Day celebration.

Yeah, I'm leaning towards option 3, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Karma: What Goes Around, Comes Around

Karma: What Goes Around, Comes Around
I Just Didn't Expect It To Happen So Quickly!

Life is full of little lessons that we are all meant to learn.  Some lessons come early in life, e.g. "When I cry, someone will pick me up, feed me, and change me."  Other lessons come with age, e.g. "Beer before liquor, never sicker."  Still other lessons come with wisdom, e.g. "Self control is the key to weight loss.  Until you've learned the former, you'll never see the latter."

"Ma'am, do you have any idea how fast you were going?'

Every experience in life is meant to teach you something.  Speeding tickets are meant to teach you to obey the traffic laws (or if like me your lead foot doesn't allow for that lesson, then at least it teaches you to be more alert to the presence of law enforcement on the road). 

Granny knows there's a speed trap ahead.

Getting stuck behind a slow driver is life's way of teaching you to slow down and appreciate the world around you...and it might help with that speeding ticket lesson, too.  I like to think of grandma drivers as poky little guardian angels.  They are slowing you down so that you can see the speed trap before it snares you.  These are lessons I have learned and I will be sharing these and other life lessons here.

Today's lesson is that karma is real and you want to be on her good side.  Karma is defined by urbandictionary.com as "the Buddhist belief that whatever you do [in life] comes back to you".  Synonyms for karma are fortune, fate, and destiny.  My personal definition of karma is that if you do good, good things will come your way.  I also believe the reverse is true, so if you fail to do the right thing be prepared for the consequences.

This lesson was taught to me in a short, but nerve-wracking way this week.  While out at happy hour with some co-workers the other night (after a particularly long and difficult work week), I noticed a man at the bar fumble his driver's license.  He went to put it into his pocket and missed.  Now, normally I would be "Little Miss Helpful" and hop up, retrieve the license from the floor, and return it.  But, in this one instance, whether it was because I'd been on my feet at work for ten hours that day or because I'd had insomnia four nights in a row this week or just because I got a wild hair to let the situation play itself out without my interference, I did nothing.

I'm not particularly proud of the fact that I saw it happen and didn't respond appropriately.  I'm not particularly ashamed of it, either.  It was just that "one more thing" to do in a day that had already had a hundred "one more things" and I couldn't do it.  That being said, I did monitor the situation to ensure it had a happy outcome (someone else had seen the fumble also and returned the license to its owner within thirty seconds).  And I feel sure I would have intervened if the situation had taken a turn for the worse.  But, for that split second when I mentally weighed the pros and cons of getting out of my seat to return the wallet versus staying where I was and doing nothing, doing nothing won.

Little did I know then that karma was watching me.  Karma is like Santa Claus.  "She sees you when you're sleeping, she knows when you're awake.  She knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."  Karma saw me take the low road at happy hour and decided to teach me a life lesson.  Karma moved swiftly, too. 

Now here is where you need some background knowledge on me in order to understand the rest of the story.  I am not an "A place for everything and everything in it's place" kinda girl.  Yes, I carry a purse and yes, my wallet is in my purse at all times.  However, this is not always the case for my credit card/debitcard/car keys/flash drive or any other item of heavy use that one might carry in a purse.  Items that I use frequently tend to end up in my pockets.  I had eight pockets in various locations on my person that night.

As it is February in the Northern hemisphere, it was chilly after sunset and well after sunset when I left the bar. I put on my coat before going outside to walk the twenty yards to my car in the parking lot.  At my car, I dug my car keys out of my pocket, got in the car, and started driving (I was late to meet my best friend at the movies for a girls night out). 

Stop right there, before you get all judgemental on me.  You're probably thinking,"She'd been drinking, so she probably dropped the card or didn't notice when it fell out of her pocket and why is she driving after drinking?"  Au contraire, Mr. or Miss Nose In The Air, I said I was at a happy hour.  I didn't say I was embibing alcoholic refreshments.  More background knowledge for you, I am the world's most reliable designated driver because I don't drink.  No, I am not a recovering alcoholic, a Mormon, or a prohibitionist.  I'm not saying I've never had a drink, I just very rarely ever want to have an alcoholic beverage.  I am also fortunate enough to have a group of friends and co-workers who have never judged me for that choice.  They've questioned it plenty, but they've never excluded me from a happy hour because I don't drink or because I have the strong probability of being the only one to clearly remember all of the night's events the next morning.  They just appreciate that I will be able to take them home if they have a little too much and leave it at that.  You should, too.

But, I've gotten off on a tangent.  Sorry! I try not to do that, but you needed to know the whole drinking thing to understand that I was in no way impaired as I left the bar.  I drove to the movies, circled the parking lot endlessly looking for a parking space, and rushed inside to get tickets as I had somehow beaten my friend to the theater.  Here comes the karma backhand to the face!  I reach into my pocket for the debit card to pay for the tickets and it's gone.  I searched my coat pockets, my jeans pockets, and my purse pockets.  Nothing.

My friend arrives and purchases the tickets as I search through my purse frantically.  She convinces me to calm down and that it probably fell out of my pocket in the car (which has happened more than once).  We enjoyed the movie, The Vow with Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum - except for the ending which was lame - and head back to our cars.  Since I had parked farther away than my friend and it was now very late (and girls shouldn't walk alone in parking lots late at night), she drove me to my car.

I checked the passenger seat, the driver's seat, the back seat.  There was no debit card in the car.  I went back to the three parking lots I had been in that day, there was no debit card on the ground.  I went home and checked my accounts with on-line banking, no unusual activity on my accounts.  By now, it was after midnight and I gave it up for the day.  Sleep trumps financial worries on a Friday night after a harrowing work week.

The next day, I rechecked the car.  I rechecked the coat and the purse.  I ran by work to see if it had fallen out in the drawer where I stow my purse.  All nothing!  I was ready to call and report the card as lost.  I was literally mentally preparing to talk to the customer service rep and explain how I've lost my card because I've put it somewhere and can't find it.  As I parked my car in front of my house, I did one more check of the car - maybe it's stuck between the seat cushions.  Bear in mind, I've searched this car three times now.  I've looked everywhere - between the seat and the doors, under the seats, under the floor mats, in places this card could not possible have fallen- and I found it between the driver's seat and the center console, where I had already looked twice.

Okay, Karma.  Next time, I will get up no matter how tired I am and do the right thing.

Lesson Learned: Karma is watching, so do good unto others or she will get you.