Archive for November, 2010

Scarf on Head

     I recently found a picture of my roommate and great friend, Jeri, and myself  that was taken in 1976. Or maybe 1977.  We were either at the beach or we had just come home. Our faces were  peeling and we looked quite ugly. So, what do you do when you are looking ugly?  Of course, you put “scarf on head” and head to the mall. We headed right to the photo booth to capture our beauty for all to see. We looked like lepers. I bet neither of us knew that 30+ years later, one of us would be posting our mugs on facebook.

The “scarf on head” look was very popular on our college campus during the 1970’s. I’m pretty sure that it was like that everywhere. We didn’t wear silky scarves. That would have been silly. And we didn’t tie them in front like a babushka. That was saved for Russian women and Queen Elizabeth.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe, Larry, and Curly

After we had built our house, we had our contractors come back a few years later to build a pavilion on our patio.  I looked out one day and I saw the two brothers standing as still as could be. I watched for a minute or two, and they never moved a muscle. Strange. I opened the door and the one brother waved me off, making just a little movement with his hand. “Vickie, shhhhh. Turkeys…..”

I looked out in our field, and there were 6 huge turkeys. Well, I knew all about how turkeys were skiddish. I also knew that the

brother builders were big time hunters, and were probably salivating at the prospects of killing one of those birds. I was wondering how long they would stay frozen like that. All they needed were some British outfits and they could be guards at Buckingham Palace.

The turkeys were still far away, but were coming closer.  I let it continue for a few minutes, but then I thought I should put a stop to this. I wanted to sit under my pavilion some day, after all.

I grabbed the cracked corn and opened the door. “HEY YOU GUYS!”  I yelled for my turkeys. Yeah, my turkeys.

As soon as the turkeys heard my voice, they ran to me like I was their momma. They surrounded me as I threw corn to the ground. I sweet talked to them and called them by name: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe, Larry, and Curly.  We knew each other pretty well. After all, it took me a very long time to tame them.

The builder brothers reminded me of little boys who were just told them there was no Santa Claus. Deflated. Hurt. Then mad.

“Vickie, that’s not right. It goes against the laws of nature.”  Builder brother #1 said, as he limbered up from his stoic pose. Brother #2 just looked at me.

It all started one day while watching them through my binoculars. They were pretty far away. I was so excited. I had never seem live turkeys before. There must have been 15 of them.

I decided I was going to tame them. I started by putting corn out on the ridge. When they would go to the corn, I would just step outside on the patio. They would run away, but then come right back.  The next day I put the corn closer. When they found it, I would come outside and stand, once again. I did this daily. In a couple of weeks, I had them eating out of my hands.  The picture, above, shows my turkeys under the hickory tree. I called this “the mound,” where I put food out for all my critters.

  One day I was pruning my Japanese maple in the front yard, and I heard my husband talking to someone. ” Hey, I don’t have any food. Your momma’s in the front yard.”  I smiled and then yelled for my turkeys. And around the corner they came. The followed me to the front door, knowing I was the food lady. I loved those turkeys.
My turkeys came every day for a long time. As hunting season approached, I saw less of them.  The turkeys are long gone now, and so am I. I moved from the property I loved so much and don’t get to feed wildlife too much. Well, there are the Misfits down at the river, by my apartment: 2 white ducks, 1 mallard and one strange looking goose. They have been together for 2 years now. I need to go down there more often.

Feeding something every day…all year long

 

I am now looking for a house to buy.  “Wanted: 3 bedroom home with central-air, garage and woodline for turkey feeding”

CSI: West Virginia

If you are a mom, you have to wear many hats. You are (in one long breath), a doctor, a nurse, a vet, a teacher, a psychic, a story teller, a cop, a beautician and barber, a chef, an EMT, a genealogist, a bodyguard, a maid, a professional organizer, a seamstress/costume designer, a personal shopper, a referee, a fashion coordinator and a chauffer. I would like to add another to the long list of  jobs that mothers perform daily :  crime scene investigator.

You may not think that mothers should put crime scene investigator on their resume, but I beg to differ. Case in point: The Case of the Smeared Ladybugs. It was a new case that I was working on for a few weeks. I had just finished solving,  The Case of the Baby Powder all Over the Carpet with an arrest in that one.

I had two suspects in that case: Big Boy Adam Jay, a curly red-haired punk, age 6.  He’s been downtown at the station several times.  We had his mug shot hanging up all over the place.  He knew the ropes.  The kid  knew how to use his noodle.  I soon found out  he had an accomplice, Baby Face Alex. Alex was Big Boy’s sister. She was 5 years old. Soon, she was singing like a canary.  Big Boy called her a Stool pigeon. I told him to shut his yap. She didn’t want to go to the big house.

During interrogations under the lights, Alex spilled her guts. She fingered Big Boy as the culprit. He was the brains of the operation. In a nutshell, Baby Face told me that they didn’t want to move. It was explained that the new house was almost complete and that she and her brother were to box up their possessions for the move to the country. They talked and decided to sabatoge the house-selling process. Big Boy figured that if they made the house “ugly and smelly”, no one would want to buy it. So, one night, they took a large container of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder, and sprinkled it all over  their bedroom carpet, beds, and dressers. It looked like snow on Christmas morning.

During the investigation, I also found smashed jelly beans in the carpet throughout the house. They also put Match box cars on the steps leading to the second floor  for the prospective buyers to trip on and tumble down the stairs to their death.  The cars appeared their daily, but the two denied any involvement. I had to interrogate the only other occupant in the house that could have been responsible, their father, Clueless Jay. He wasn’t aware there was a second floor.

After I shut the books on that case, and we made our move to the country, so our children could lead a normal life away from the big crime city of Monongah, population 345 1/2 (Don’t ask) , I noticed a smashed lady bug on my kitchen nook window. Somehow lady bugs entered our new home and enjoyed crawling on my nice, clean windows. Someone had murdered the lipstick-red insect. It appeared upon further investigation, that the perpetrator put his or her finger directly on the lady bug, crushing it to the window,

and then smearing its remains down the window for approximately 4 inches. Someone in the new house was a cold-blooded killer.

a line-up, several years and 4 cases later

This did not sit well with me. After all, Jeffrey Dahmer started off by taking wings off of butterflies. Soon, he was eating people. I had to nip this in the bud. First, lady bugs, and then the killer would move on to ant hills or earthworms. I was an animal lover. A lady bug has worth, and perhaps some bug children somewhere else in the house.

I immediately ruled out Baby Face Alex. I knew she had it in her heart not to hurt anything. Her stuffed animal dog buddy, Fluffy, recently fell off of her bed and Baby Face cried  because, “Fluffy is paralyzed.”  I was impressed by the kid’s vocabulary. So, I eliminated her as a suspect. I interrogated Clueless Jay, who had no idea what a nook was. My only other suspect was Big Boy, and he didn’t squeal. He denied any involvement, especially after my “all animals have feelings” talk. I saw him crying outside , while playing with his Tonka trucks. Good. That meant there was still time before we had to start calling him Jeffrey.

But, he still wouldn’t budge. So, I  brought out the big guns. I had Scotch tape and powdered sugar. And a big ole lie. I brought them into the kitchen nook.

“Big Boy, Baby Face, this is how I am going to find out who killed the lady bug and smeared it down the window.  I am going to take some of this powder I got from a police officer and lightly put it in the smear.”  I took some powder and brushed it with one of those little plastic watercolor brushes onto the lady bug guts. “Now, I will take a piece of tape and press it against the window. I will leave it on their for exactly one minute. This will then give me a fingerprint.”  I looked at my watch for a minute. ” Ok, now I will carefully peel the tape off of the window and hang it in the air for 30 seconds.”  Some more watch looking. “Ok, now, I have fingerprints of the person who smeared the lady bug.  The police officer told me that after I do this, it will only take about 10 seconds for the white powder to appear on the finger of the person who did this.”

As soon as I said that, Big Boy Adam brought his hands up and looked at his fingers. “Gotcha!” I said to him. The procedure made absolutely no sense, and that’s what made it brilliant. Score one for the mom.

And that’s how I solved The Case of the Smashed Ladybug.  Big Boy and Baby Face grew up to be upstanding citizens and although there were a few more cases I will delve into at a later time, they never spent any time in the big house. And that’s because of yet another hat I wore.

So, yeah, mom’s should add crime scene investigator to their portfolio. And we should all get to look like Marg Helgenberger.

Ringing in the Holidays, Literally

I usually put my Christmas tree up on the day after Thanksgiving.  I was a Christmas tree perfectionist. I placed an ornament on the tree, then stood back to see if it looked ok. It took me hours to decorate the tree. I popped popcorn days earlier, because stale popcorn is easier to string. I would sit and string popcorn for a very long time. I also made my own 30 foot garland by cutting strips of material and tying it onto a jute rope. My tree was beautiful if I may say so myself.  My children would be home, out of school for a few days over Thanksgiving, so I thought I would start our very own holiday tradition. I believe this began when they were six or seven years old.

One Thanksgiving day, after our big meal at my in-laws, we were sitting around, relaxing, when I said, “Wow, did you guys feel that cold air come through here?”  I shivered. The kids shook their heads and they went about their business. Adam got up and walked through the kitchen, into the Hearth Room, where he had been playing with his Lego’s before we left.

I heard him yell to me. “Mom! Dad! Come here!”  We got up and walked into the Hearth Room. The Hearth Room, by the way, is our living room, which I refused to call a living room. I wanted to be a little more creative than that. I dubbed it the Hearth Room when we built the house, and that’s what we all called it. When we walked into the room, I could tell Adam was excited.

“Look!  Santa dropped it down the fireplace!”  It was a vhs movie. I can’t remember what the movie was called, maybe Otis and Milo. I then added, “Maybe he dropped it down the fireplace at the same time I felt the cold air. Santa was here!”  And that’s how it started.

Every Thanksgiving evening I would say different phrases: “Boy, I have the shivers………Is it cold in here all of a sudden?”…….”Did someone  just open the door?…… I would say it nonchalant like, and they would look at each other, get up, and try to beat each other to the Hearth Room. There would be a movie waiting for them every time. Score one for Mom.

One year, I had just decorated the mantel and tree in the Hearth Room. I must have dropped a little elf hat that came off of a stuffed elf  that I usually left in the box of unused decorations. Adam felt the breeze before I said anything, and ran into the Hearth Room. The movie was sitting in the fireplace, on logs like it had been dropped down the chimney. But, Adam also found the little elf hat and about freaked out. I guess it would be scary to think that there was a little man in your home.

“There was an elf in the house. He dropped his hat.”  Adam looked a little unsettled. I just got him to be able to sleep after being scared by an R. L. Stine book weeks before. He would wake up, yelling for me because the “Green Witch” was in his room. I think they were watching “Are you Afraid of the Dark” also, so that didn’t help. And now there was a freakin elf in the house. Looks like his sleep patterns were going to be disrupted again.

That night, my husband had to go to work and set the security alarm. He never set it on “Instant”, which meant the lazers would be on and anyone moving inside the house would set off the alarm. We used to set it that way when we would go on vacation. I was in a deep sleep and all of a sudden I heard the alarm go off AND Adam screaming at the top of his lungs. I jumped up and ran out into the hall. He wasn’t in his room. His screams came from downstairs. It was about 3:00am, so I thought for sure someone was in the house and was trying to take Adam.

I quickly shut off the alarm and noticed that the Hearth Room was breached.  I rushed downstairs, a mother on a mission. I didn’t have a gun or a knife or a shoe. I had adrenaline. My son was screaming. I ran into the room, and found Adam, clad in his cute little Ghost Buster pajamas,holding his hamster cage in his arms.

“Chuck was making too much noise in his cage and so I thought I would bring him down here so I could sleep.” He was scared. Adam, I mean, not Chuck. I looked around and noticed that the alarm had been set to “instant.” There was no intruder. Adam walked through one of the lazers and set off the alarm. My poor little guy.

I walked Adam back to bed and tucked him in and assured him that his dad set the alarm by mistake. Adam seemed to think that the elf set off the alarm.  Just great.

All was well the next morning and the kids watched the movie that came down the chimney. They seemed to enjoy our new holiday tradition and I hope they pass it on to their kids.

I just hope they leave the elf hat in the box.

D-i-v-o-r-c-e

I have been divorced since May, 2009. I guess you could say it was a friendly divorce. We even rode together to the divorce hearing.  The judge was a little shocked. “Well, in all the time I have been doing this, I’ve never heard of the divorcing couple car- pooling to the courthouse.” But, we did. We also didn’t use lawyers, so it was quick. He even treated me to lunch at the 8th Street Confectionery after the hearing. A meatball hoagie and a divorce on the same day. Life is good.

My ex-husband and I remain close and he still calls me a couple of times a week. So, it is nothing out of the ordinary to hear his voice on the other end of the phone line.

One day this past spring, Magoo (my nickname for him because he can’t drive) called me with some unsettling news. He asked me if I had received a certified letter from the clerk of the circuit court. Nope, never received one.  I always seemed to get mail a day later than he did. That was normal.  There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Why?”

Magoo told me that the letter informed us that since lawyers were not used in our divorce, part of the divorce process was not completed and the certified letter was sent to inform us that they had to render the divorce null and void. We were supposed to come back to the courthouse for a meeting with the family law judge who granted our divorce. There was silence on my end of the phone, because I was at a loss for words.  I am never at a loss for words. I could feel my blood pressure rapidly rise and I thought that my head was going to explode.

“What the f*&%????…….  Are you saying that we are still married? ………. Oh my God! ………..Read it to me!”  I couldn’t believe that a judge could be so inept to overlook protocol in a divorce proceeding. What a moron. I called her worse names.  I was a torrential ranter. My sentence structure was nothing but a long string of adjectives….

“That stupid, moronic, inept, worthless, incompetent, bumbling, absurd, insipid, lame, banal, unfit, impotent, brain-crippled, window-licking  short bus riding bitch!……”

He read it to me. “blah blah blah….protocol was not followed……form 425 not signed or notorized……..blah blah blah……divorced rendered null and void……must appear before Judge _____ within 30 days to begin divorce process…..”

I was shocked.  “Are you freakin kidding me?” I looked at the clock and then asked if he wanted to meet me down at the courthouse right now. He replied, “I will come and pick you up in about 20 minutes. Vickie, this means we are still married.”

“Shit, Magoo, this is absurd!!” I was ranting and rambling and I was so mad I couldn’t see straight. I wondered if we should call the Judge’s office to find out what the hell was going on.  He said, no, we should just drive down. I asked him to read the letter to me again, one more time. He said he already read it to me once.  I didn’t give a shit. I wanted to decifer it. Tear it apart with a fine toothed combed. He went to get the letter. I guess he walked with it into another room while we were talking.

As I was pacing, waiting for him to come back to the phone,  I stopped by my front door and just happened to look at the calendar. I just couldn’t believe that after almost a year, we found out that we were never divorced. I also found out something else.

Magoo got back on the phone. I yelled into the phone, “YOU SON OF A BITCH!”

I noticed on the calendar that it was April 1….April Fool’s Day………Damnit, he got me!

His laughter was deafening. It went on for quite a while. I let him have his fun. It was the first time he was ever able to pull an April Fool’s joke on the Queen of April Fool’s jokes.

He tried to talk through his hyena-like howling. “I am the Master!……After 30 years, I am FINALLY able to pull an April Fool’s joke on you.”  And he began cackling again. Cackling like a little school girl if I may say so.

He must have written down some of my remarks, because he was able to regurgitate everything I had said. He was a regurgitator.

He called me back two more times that afternoon. All I could hear was laughing. I hung up on him.  And then I smiled.

That was a good one.

Before…

After…..still smiling 🙂

Well Intentioned Untruths

It’s just part of life that you remember who peed their pants and cried in second grade. You remember the kid who ate his scabs and the girl who got gum caught in her hair and had to have it cut out, making her look really bad. You remember their names. And use them when you get older.

As a teacher, I am faced with weird predicaments on a daily basis.  I always worry about the kid who puts an eraser in his mouth,

the girl who continually rocks on her chair, the boy who plays with pencils.  So, I bring up names from the past.  “Do you want to end up like Kenny Myers?” I asked today.  A kid put an eraser in his mouth. They know a story is coming.

“Well, in fifth grade, I watched Kenny swallow a bic pen cap. They had to take him to the hospital and have his stomach pumped. His parents had to pay a huge bill just because Kenny put something in his mouth that wasn’t food. So, if you want to end up like Kenny Myers, put a pen cap in your mouth.”

I have no idea what happened to Kenny. He may have swallowed the little blue part on the other end. I didn’t see it. I heard about it. And remembered it, I guess, so I could pull a story out of the “Useless Information” file I have stored in my brain. Now, you have to understand that my kids know I am pulling their leg, so they just sit there, smiling. They are in fourth grade and understand what’s going on.  But, they also know that I have drifted off topic once again. They keep tally marks.

I have another student who rocks on her chair. They know that that is the number one no-no in my classroom. I hate rocking on chairs. My son was a notorious rocker. He still rocks on his chair. He is 25 years old, and I had to tell him to quit rocking  just last week. I don’t know why it bugs me so much. Probably because of what happened to Joey Minco.  Years ago, I was sitting next to Joey and he was rocking on his chair. He then tipped back too far and went back, hitting his head on the corner of a desk and then landing smack on his head.

“He cracked his head open and had to go to the hospital. Joey had a lot of problems remembering his name after that. So, please quit rocking, unless you want to end up like Joey Minco..or whatever his name is…” Lie. Joe Minco was an old man who lived across the street from me.

On breaking pencils on purpose- “Do you want to end up like George Dragovich? (Another old neighbor. I have no idea why I use neighbors from my youth.)  George broke the tips off of the pencils so he would be able to get up in front of everyone to sharpen his pencil. He slipped on a piece of paper on the floor and landed on the pencil. It just missed his eye and the lead is still under his skin right here…(as I point near the corner of my eye.) So, if you don’t want to end up like George Dragovich, quit breaking your pencils on purpose.”

Chewing 23 pieces of gum at the same time- “Are you chewing gum? Do you want to know why I don’t allow chewing gum in my classroom? When I was little, there was a girl name Ethel Mertz  (sometimes tv character names come out of my mouth). Ethel was very poor. Her dad worked very hard to save up so Ethel could have a brand new dress. He bought it for her for her 10th birthday. She couldn’t wait to wear it to school and show off her beautiful dress. But when she sat down in her desk chair, someone had put a wad of gum on her seat, and she sat in it. Back then, you couldn’t get gum out of anything. It stained and turned dirty looking over time. Her dress was ruined and school hadn’t even started yet….

And you know who put the gum on her seat?….No, not me…..Joey Minco. He thought it was the wastepaper basket.”

Walking down the hall at the end of the day with a sucker in their mouth- “Hey! You’re not allowed to have suckers in school…..Why, when I was little, I had a sucker in my mouth and fell down the steps and you know what happened to me?……..A piece of the  sucker stick is still stuck in my throat. I can’t eat anything solid…So, quit walking with a sucker in your mouth unless you want to eat pudding for the rest of your life.”

On taking your shoes off in class every single day- “Please put your shoes back on. Do you want to end up like Gladys Kravitz?……Poor Gladys. She was my cousin…..WAS my cousin………..Gladys was in fourth grade, and always took her shoes off. One day there was a fire drill. They thought it was just a fire drill. Gladys took her time putting her shoes on…..when the class got outside, the teacher noticed that little Gladys was nowhere to be found….I’m not even going to tell you what happened to her. But, if you want to end up like Gladys Kravitz, go ahead and take your shoes off.”

I really can’t stop. I continually make up scenarios for kids because if you just explain why it is unsafe to rock on a chair, they won’t

remember it. But, if you give them a vivid description, something they can put a face to,or in my many cases, a name,  they will remember it. I mean, I don’t use blood or guts, because that is just wrong for a great teacher like myself to do. And I guess I should mention that the kids know I am lying, right from the beginning…but they seem to love my “Unless you want to end up like….” stories.

When I was little, my mom told me that  there was a special  place in hell for liars. I know, because Lars Peters is in hell.  My mom told me that Lars always lied and he is now in hell. “So, Vickie…if you want to go to hell like Lars Peters, keep on lying.”

Sigh……I really have become my mother.

Cereal and Saturday Looney Tunes

When I was young, the best thing about the weekend was waking early to watch Saturday morning cartoons. The 60’s were a great time to be a child. Mom and Dad would sleep in. We would get our own cereal, and then plop down to watch cartoons all morning long.  My brother and sister would lie on their stomachs on the floor. I don’t know why that made me puke. Probably because I just gulped down 2 bowls of Rice Krispies, sprinkled with a bag of sugar. I sat curled up on the couch. Everyone has favorite cartoons, depending on their age. I thought I would share my favorite cartoons with you. This will age me, but that is ok. They were awesome cartoons.

I am going to start with one  family of cartoons, Looney Toons, brought to you by Warner Brothers.

The best cartoons ever!  Everyone remembers Bugs Bunny. He was suave, sophisticated. Nothing really bothered him. “What’s up, Doc?”  There were also Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck,  Pepe LePew, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, Tazmanian Devil, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester (“Sufferin Succotash”) and Tweety Bird, and Porky Pig. Here are just a few that I loved watching those Saturday mornings a long time ago.

My all-time favorite  Looney Tune character was Foghorn Leghorn. “I say, I say, Boy!”  He usually walked around, humming “Camptown Races.”  There were other characters in this cartoon, such as Barnyard Dawg, Henery Hawk, Egghead Jr. and Miss Prissy. Once in a while his college friend, Rhode Island Red, would stop by. I enjoyed Miss Prissy, the widowed hen who had a crush on Foghorn. She was always after him. Foghorn was a huge rooster, and had the best one-liners of all time. I cracked up. I didn’t know what he meant some of the time, but I think he was the one who taught me sarcasm. I think my quick-wit came from Foghorn. What an inspiration. It didn’t work in school, though, when we had to discuss who our hero was. I remember the teacher going around the room, asking each student who was their hero. I was ready. I was tired of hearing about Mom or Dad or Grandpa who was in the war.  It was my turn.  I had an awesome hero.

“Vickie, who would you say is your hero?”……Who?…….The rooster?…..Vickie, you can’t have a rooster as your hero……….No you can’t…..Why?….Well, he is not a real person……Yes, he talked, but he is a cartoon character………….. Well, yes, Doug  just said his was Superman, but that is different…………..Well, it just is different…………..Vickie, you can’t have a rooster as your hero……….A hero is someone who does something special……..Vickie, a cartoon character talks because he  is a cartoon. He is not special because he is not real…..Please quit crying…..Vickie……Just sit down, please…….”

 

2. Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner-  We used to count how many times Wile E. Coyote should have died. I really enjoyed the details in the cartoon, like the boxes that had Acme Corporation written on them. Wile E. would order contraptions from the mail order company to catch the Roadrunner. The only ones I remember were the jet powered roller skates and the rocket sled. You knew he was going to get blown up. Stupid coyote. We would sit and yell at him. He would hold up a sign right before he blew up. The Roadrunner always raced right up to him, stopped, and made a noise, “Beep Beep”, before taking off again.

 

3. Bugs Bunny with Daffy Duck-  There was one episode that was my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon. It was called Ali Baba Bunny. Bugs was so cool and calm, whereas Daffy was greedy and a bit angry. I thought he was jealous of Bugs. The dance in this segment is Bugs at his best.

 

There were other episodes where Sam the Sheepdog would clock in, carrying his lunch box and the coyote would clock out. I think that’s how it went. Yosemite Sam probably had a stroke and died. He was always pissed off. I think my least favorite was Porky Pig, the stutterer.  “That..that…that’s all folks…”And Elmer Fudd, who needed extensive speech therapy. I bet little kids that were having problems with their r’s and l’s cried when they watched him. “Shhh! Be verwee verwee qwhy-et. I’m shooting wabbits.”

There were other Looney Tune characters that I loved watching. There was Speedy Gonzales “Undalay! Undalay!” And his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez. I bet you remember him. How politically incorrect that one was!

And then there were the dog buddies, Spike and Chester. That’s the one cartoon I didn’t care for. Spike was a huge bulldog and a bully. Chester was a hyper Jack Russell type who jumped around Spike. He was always slapping poor little Chester. I really felt sorry for him.

In the end, Looney Tunes cartoons made for  great Saturday  mornings when I was young. My kids missed out on some great cartoons. Sure, a lot of them were violent and a lot of them were politically incorrect. But, they were cartooons for small children. We didn’t see what adults may see now. We ate cereal. We watched cartoons. It was a great childhood.

Yeah, I’m a Pez Head

I believe in collections. I think everyone should collect something. When I was in high school, I collected pigs. There was a reason behind that. My family and my best friend’s family went on vacation together to Mexico when I was a sophomore in high school. We were sitting outside at a restaurant, when all of a sudden a momma pig and a bunch of baby pigs came running over to us. It was a shock to see the little piggies, but they were adorable. I collected pigs for years after that.

When my children were born, I thought hard about what I would start to collect for them. Adam now has a closet full of baseball cards. Actually, he has some pretty nice cards. His dad also bid on some Nolan Ryan’s at an antique auction when he was young. It would take him a long time to catalogue all of his cards, but he does have a nice collection.

I made a mistake with my daughter, Alex. She got short-changed a bit. I started collecting Pez for her. I think there are now several hundred Pez in a big Rubbermaid box. Of course, when she was in high school, she informed me that she didn’t want her collection any more. She didn’t want anything to do with the Pez collection. Well, that didn’t stop me. I still pick them up every time I see a new one come out. So, I am a Pez Head. I will give the collection back to her, of course, but for now, it is mine and I think it is fun. I think the most expensive one she has is worth  only $6.00. I’m not even going to tell you what the Nolan Ryan rookie card is going for, but let’s just say that my daughter was short changed big time. Even if I went with my first thought for her collection, snow globes, they still wouldn’t be the investment that baseball cards have become.

I thought of other collections for my daughter, but it is too late now. She has a collection of Beanie Babies, and key chains, and pogs. Remember those?  In the end, I messed up. But, parents with young kids, it’s not too late for you. Collections are fun and easy to start.

Here’s a few of the things I collect:antique matchbooks, swizzle sticks, old rulers with company logos on them, antique letter openers, duck decoys, the three see-no-evil monkeys, cast iron door openers, ashtrays, irons, snowmen, antique fans, silver teapots and bottle openers with company logos. There are many more, but I have most of them packed away. I’d like to find a couple of antique globes. I think that would be cool in an office/library.

I still like the idea of collecting Pez. They are fun. But maybe for an only child. So, what do you collect?

Candy Cigarettes

When I was growing up in the 60’s, everyone in my neighborhood in Woodland Estates seemed to smoke. Our moms didn’t work, so they hung out in their housecoats, drank coffee, and smoked cigarettes. My dad smoked. The mailman smoked. I think the dog probably smoked.   His name was Smokey, after all. Smoke filled the house. The brand of choice was Salem cigarettes. My mom loved her Salems.  I  could see the swirling smoke entering my nose and traveling to my naive lungs.

So, since it was such a part of our upbringing, it was nothing to walk up the path to Leach’s store and buy atomic fireballs, wax juice bottles, candy necklaces, gold mine gum, wax lips, and last but not least, a box of candy cigarettes. We loved walking up that path during the summer. It meant candy.  Lots and lots of candy. Our mothers gladly threw money at us, for that meant they had more time to smoke, drink their Maxwell House coffee and gossip with the other ladies on our block. Well, I can only speak for my own mom, but she would give us money to walk to Leach’s every day during the summer. My sister, Cheryl, wore wax lips home about every day. I remember buying pretzel sticks.  We all would wait until we got home to open our cigarettes. We wanted to be just like our moms. Well, minus the housecoats.

Our candy cigarettes had a pinkish tip, which I guess meant fire. You would get laughed at if you had the wrong end in your mouth. When we puffed on our white candied cigarette, there would be a chalky powder that would emit from the cigarette. It was probably cocaine. I mean, you just never know. It was the 60’s, afterall. Did tobacco companies secretly own these candy cigarette companies?

There are studies out that show that a large percentage of candy cigarette eaters became full-time smokers. I disagree. None of us cigarette eaters became smokers. I think our mothers’ smoking habits turned us off. I just never had the desire to smoke. I would put one in my mouth only to make fun of how my roommate smoked. Other than that, I hated them. Still do.

But, if that is the case, I also bought those bubblegum cigars all of the time. Does that mean I am going to smoke cigars? I bought the big wax lips. Does that mean that I would get BOTOX later? I also ate the gold mine gum. Did that mean I was going to eat money when I grew up?  I mean, seriously.

Kids like to play grown-ups. We put makeup on, high heels, painted our fingernails, and smoked  pretend cigarettes.

You know we are all going to end up with pretend lung cancer.

Vertigo and Meniere’s Disease

In 1999, our family went to Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh and rode on a stupid roller coaster called the Steel Phantom.  I was so damn mad at that ride when we got off. I was crying because my neck hurt so badly. I swear we all had whiplash. I found out that the Kennywood people re-vamped it after many complaints. It wasn’t too long after that “Ride of Misery”, that I started having problems with my ear.

One day out of the blue, my right ear started feeling like swimmer’s ear. It felt full. Well, I had been swimming in our pool that afternoon. That night when I rolled over, it felt as if water was leaking out of my ear. I was sure my pillow was soaked. Nothing. It was such a weird feeling. This went on for a few days. It felt like someone jammed cotton in my ear.

I woke up one day and everything was spinning. I mean, around and around and around. It ended up being for 36 hours straight. I had to crawl to the bathroom. I had to crawl down the stairs when everyone was in school or at work. I threw up non-stop. I crawled back to bed. I crawled. The one thing I did realize is that my vaccum cleaner wasn’t doing a very good job. I was up close and personal with my carpet. And the toilet. I think vomiting is just so….sickening. I was about to name my toilet, we became such good friends. It was there for me. Tammy Toilet,

I really never thought I was going to get better. I was just going to be a spinning, vomiting, crawling cry-baby for the rest of my life. The carnival ride of death. I took Dramamine and threw it up. I was a mess. Finally, after 36 long, tortuous hours, I felt a bit better and called  and made an appointment with an ENT in Morgantown. I explained the tortuous event, which he named Vertigo.  Vickie Vertigo. I remembered the Jimmy Stewart movie, Vertigo.  He suffered from acrophobia, a fear of heights. Vertigo can be triggered by looking up or down. My vertigo was triggered because I looked.

Actually, according to earsurgery.com, Vertigo is described “as a sudden loss of normal balance or equilibrium. The room may suddenly begin to spin and rotate at high speed. Focusing is difficult, and if the vertigo continues, nausea and vomiting may occur. Vertigo is commonnly caused by acute labyrinthitis (a viral inflammation of the inner ear), benign positional vertigo (a condition due to abnormally floating crystals in the inner ear that stimulate the nerve endings of the inner ear), delayed symptom of head injury, or result of cervical spine problems.”  In a nutshell, I am screwed.

So, back to my visit to the ENT. They put me through some weird tests. They put a balloon in my ears and put water in them, and then blew them up or something. Seriously? Can you imagine the first person they did this to. “Sir, what we are going to do is put this balloon in your ear, and blow it up and then put some water in it.”  They tried to make me dizzy. Thanks alot. I had hearing tests and another where they shut the light and watched my eyes. I don’t know. I guess I should do a google and write the procedures here for you guys to understand, but I’m not feeling it this morning. Anywho, they said my eyes move too much (nystagmus) and that I had Meniere’s Disease.

I had a disease? Hell, a disease sounds contagious. He told me to come back the next time I was having an episode. Sure, I will just have my husband peel me away from the toilet and let him drive me to Morgantown right in the middle of  spinning like a top. This was rotational spinning that would not stop. The ENT told me that Meniere’s Disease is marked by four main symptoms: progressive hearing loss, tinnitus, ear fullness and vertigo. All wrapped up  with a bow on top and given to me. Nice….Oh, and he added, “Stay away from caffeine, salt, and stress. And don’t climb any ladders.”  Funny guy.

So, I went home and did some research. It said that Meniere’s Disease was rare. I joined a forum and found out that it wasn’t rare at all. I made some good friends from Nova Scotia and Saskatoon, Canada and Upper Michigan. People all over the damn place suffered from symptoms of Meniere’s Disease. I started an online group on Yahoo, The Meniere’s Disease Club, which now has over 2,000 members world-wide since 2000. So, no, it isn’t rare. Dizzy is dizzy.

Each person with Meniere’s Disease may have different symptoms. Some lose their hearing over the course of a few months. Some lose it gradually. Some don’t lose much at all. Some people have vertigo attacks daily and can no longer work. It can be a debilitating disorder. I have only had 2 full blown vertigo attacks. I do, however, also have BPPV,  which is short for Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It sometimes starts at night, when I lie down to go to bed. If I roll over, I get dizzy. Basically, BPPV is vertigo induced by head movements. Well, hell, just put me in a whiplash collar and send me on my merry way. Great. It was bearable when I was a stay-at-home mom, but when I have bouts now, I can’t really look down at the kid’s desks, or turn my head. And I veer while walking down the hall.

I noticed that in the grocery stores, my buggy veered to the left. When I drove my car into the garage, I veered to the left. Don’t know why. I veer. I can’t walk a straight line if my life depended on it. I hope I never get pulled over and asked to walk a straight line, because they would be hauling my butt off to jail for DUI. It would have to be DWM, for Driving With Menieres. It is such a stupid disorder.

Another symptom of Meniere’s Disease is tinnitus. William Shatner has tinnitus. “No! JIM!”  Tinnitus is noise in your ear. Mine sounds like a high pitched whine. According to Wikipedia, Tinnitus is usually described “as a ringing noise, but can take the form of a high pitched whining, electric, buzzing, hissing, screaming, humming, tinging or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, “crickets” or “tree frogs” or “locusts “, tunes, songs, beeping, or even a pure steady tone like heard in a hearing test. It has also been described as a “wooshing” sound, as of wind or waves.” I guess mine would be described as the “pure steady tone like heard in a hearing test.” Fun stuff I have.

The only good thing about having Meniere’s is that I can sleep on my right side and not hear a dog barking. Or someone breaking into my apartment.  I also am affected by the change in barometric pressure. My right ear begins to  hurt before it rains. Sometimes my ear hurts so badly, like a pencil is being shoved in my ear slowly. I also feel the sensation of a bug crawling deep  in my ear. I just want to jam a Q-tip in there, and kill it. And you know how your ears pop when you travel into a higher altitude? Well, my right ear won’t pop. It just starts hurting. I think my head will explode when I travel by plane to visit my daughter in France next spring. Again, fun stuff.

So, this is my life. Thank goodness my Meniere’s symptoms are very mild. I make fun of myself, so that helps when I have flare-ups. I haven’t crawled to visit my friend, Tammy the toilet in years.

If you have any of these symptoms, hold on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.  Damn roller coaster. At least when someone calls me a “dizzy blonde,” it really will be the truth.

Update: March 2014….just wanted you to know that I haven’t had a full blown vertigo attack in years, but have a lot of postitional vertigo. I have found that my salt intake is a big part of whether it gets worse or not…also, I have come to the conclusion that diet plays a big part of mine…I can’t eat a turkey breast sandwich from Subway anymore….I think it may be the salt…Weather and change of seasons or a quick change of barometric pressure seems to give me ear pain…everyone with menieres has different little triggers, you have to experiment to find yours….but I believe diet is the culprit….for me.

Hello, Circadian Dysrhythmia

Benjamin Franklin was a very wise man, but I still curse him twice a year, nontheless. He was credited for coming up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time.  Ben thought that we should go to bed early and rise early so we could be healthy, wealthy and intelligent. I don’t think it works that way.  He thought that more daylight meant saving wax for all the candles. Maybe he was tired of reading his almanac by candlelight.

All I know is that I physically change all the clocks in my house, but my  biological, circadian clock won’t budge. We SPRING forward and FALL behind.  Sure, I gain an hour in the fall, but the time change messes with me for a good week. I am not looking forward to this at all. Sunday marks the end of Daylight Saving Time and the beginning of my moaning and complaining.

If you have ever suffered from jet lag, then perhaps you can understand what a shift in time can do to a person. I am tired. Circadian dyshrythmia. I have lost my rhythm. I become awkward in oh, so many ways.

So, who else can I blame for this? Surely not Arizona, the only state that will not buckle to the pressure to lose and gain time. Arizona has more sunshine than Florida, the Sunny Sunshine state. They don’t need a time shift.

In 1918, the United States adopted  Daylight Saving Time for the duration of  World War I. This allowed  people to spend more time hanging out in daylight, thus saving costs on fuel for lighting. It was abolished, brought back, abolished and then in 2005, Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act, which changed Daylight Saving Time dates again. As of March 2007, Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday of November. It just sucks. Daylight Saving Time stays around now  past Halloween, where some little trick-or-treaters were getting hit by cars at night. Well, that is what reflective tape is for, my little munchkins. Trick or treating during daylight is just wrong. But, no one listens to me.
I would really like to know what the hell is saved? I know that it is a reminder to change the batteries in your smoked detector and Arm &Hammer let’s us know that it is time to change the box of baking soda in your refrigerator, but hey, that is just to strum up some business. The energizer bunny doesn’t suffer from the time shift. I bet more batteries are purchased around this time than at Christmas. Well, maybe not, but it’s a gimmick to change your smoke detector. But, as most of you know, the smoke detector will let you know when it is time. It will freakin beep at 3 minute intervals until you change the damn thing.
  The only thing that was fun about the time change was accidentally sleeping through church when we were small. Oops, Mom and Dad, you forgot to spring forward. Aw, shucks, we missed church. Looks like we can think about God from our warm beds.  I did convince a college roommate that it was against the law to change the clocks before 2a.m. I told her that it was a law enforcement thing. If the police were called to a residence for anything after 11pm and they wrote down the wrong time, it might be a critical mistake, so a law was enacted in West Virginia that stated that all clocks could not be turned back before 2a.m. or a $500 fine would be imposed on anyone who turned their clocks back earlier. She believed me and set her alarm for 2am to set her clock back. She was so easy.
  In the end, I still haven’t found anything that is saved.  All the deer in the United States live in West Virginia and cross the road on my way to work.  Do they suffer from circadian dysrhythmia? I bet they do.  Daylight Deer Time. Will they now operate an hour earlier or hour later?   School children will be standing at the bus stop in the dark, wrapped in reflective tape. Or wait. Won’t it be daylight if we turn back our clocks? That means they are wrapped in reflective tape just because. See, now I am confused about when it will be dark and when it will be light. This just sucks. I don’t need to be anymore confused than I already am.
I guess there is some good to Daylight Saving Time. Raccoons will have more time to pillage through garbage cans.  Robbers can eat breakfast at the home they are robbing.
I really can’t stress how much I hate the time change.
Damn you, Ben Franklin.

Making Mountains out of Molehills

I really should have a full head of gray hairs. I probably do, but thanks to Clairol #whatever, I am keeping the gray away.  But, one of these days, I am going to wake up to white hair that no dye or shoe polish will be able to cover. It’s either that or a stroke.

I think it goes back to when I really wouldn’t let my kids climb to the top of the really high sliding board.  I would stand there and picture them waving at me from the top, “Watch, mommy!” and as they wave their little wave, lose their grasp and fall backwards to the ground and explode. I could create scenarios in my head one after the other. My cause and effect machine was working overtime. I had one hell of an imagination.

Fast forward to their college years. They were both at WVU, about 30 minutes up the road from our home. That was just far enough away, but close in case we had to get their fast. We took homemade soup when they were sick and drove them home when they needed extra pampering. But, nothing prepares parents for the news that they both want to study abroad.

“You mean, like Canada, right?”  I could only hope. Canada was a great country. They could learn all about their culture, such as hockey, curling, Canadian bacon, and could come home, saying, “Eh, dontcha knowl.” That sounded great. They just looked at me.

So, off they went. The first summer, Adam went to Strasburg, France for a month. He flew by himself. Why the hell he didn’t travel with the rest of the WVU students and teacher is beyond me.  He was also the only one who rented a bicycle and toured the countryside while he was there. I didn’t want him to ride a bike, because I would probably get a phone call, in French, “Madam, do you have zee son named Adam, with zee red hair, smashed under car..we send him home in a box, oui.”

After he came back, Alex went to Santander, Spain with a WVU Spanish group. Nothing is worse than two weeks of crying on the other end of the phone. She hated it. She said there is nothing worse than “forced admiration.”  She said that being part of a tour group is horrible. She wanted to go off by herself and see the sights that she wanted to. I pictured getting that phone call. “Senora, Alexandra was at the end of the tour group line, when someone must have abducted  her.. All that was left was her camera. We will send that home to you…in a box..Ole”

This is awful but I was sitting home, saying to myself,  “2 down, 2 to go.” I still had 2 more study abroad experiences to live through, and I wasn’t even leaving my home. I was exhasusted. Adam went to Morocco for 4 months. Luckily for me, WVU had asked him to blog every day and his blogs were entertaining and scary. I think that is when I started going gray. He traveled in an old, small plane from Casablanca and could see the runway as they landed, bouncing down the runway. He climbed the second highest mountain in Africa and I had him frozen like Jack Nicholson in the Shining. He wrote about how he and a friend from Italy rode horses bareback through the woods. Whaat? On tv, people who race horses through the woods always catch their neck on a low tree branch. That always happens.

When he came home, Alex went to Guanajuato, Mexico. She loves Mexico. I didn’t. She said that they don’t have screens in their windows and she would wake up with bug bites all over her body. Her roommate was stung by a scorpion that was on the dresser handle. Gray hair….She joined a Mexican ultimate frisbee team and traveled 6 hours on a bus by herself to Mexico City,then traveled in a van with frisbee players she never met before. She didn’t tell me until much later that their van was hit  broadside by a truck. We sent Adam down during his spring break because she was so sick, we thought he was going to have to bring her home. After several trips to a hospital, she recovered and they were able to ride horses up to a volcano. Horses? Volcano? Deathly ill? Scorpions? Open windows for rapists and questionable flying bugs?  I was a mess for those 5 months. She, meanwhile, took private salsa lessons and had a blast. I never left my home and thought about drinking heavily.

I thought I would be done worrying while they traipsed around the world, having fun.

Adam in the Alps

But no, they weren’t done driving me crazy. Adam climbed part of the Matterhorn and drove a compact car around the Alps one summer. Alex worked for the Japanese embassy and the JET program for a year and was placed in Kobe, you know, the place that had the devastating earthquake. And yes, there was an earthquake while she was there. Seems that Japan has earthquakes somewhere almost every day.

She flew to Korea for a long weekend, so I had her accidentally stepping into North Korea. “Hello, Alex mom?  She in North Korea. Not good. Must be spy. Never coming home. Goodbye.”

And today, I have spent the whole day in tears. Alex went to teach in France. So, of course she was up in the Eiffel Tower several weeks ago when they evacuated it because of terror plots. She flew to Japan last week to see her boyfriend and she was supposed to be back last night. No word from Alex. No word all day today. I saw on CNN where South Korea was cracking down on airport security because of a supposed bomb on planes. She had a 2 hour lay over in Seoul. So, that had to mean her plane had a bomb on it. I was ready to call the airlines, because I was sure her plane disappeared over the Meditteranean Triangle, or a taxi driver abducted her. When we finally talked on skype, she told me that she was sitting at the train station in Paris, when security people came and asked her row of 6 people to please leave the area. Next thing you know 300 people were evacuated and they taped off the area where Alex had been sitting. She went to a cafe after seeing a friend from Moscow (probably the bomber) and they heard a loud boom and they ran outside. She said she never heard what had happened, but that her train had left on time.

I’m ready for the looney bin.

When Grandpa Falls Asleep

Every parent has a “puke and poop” story about their kids.  You just think that yours tops them all. Well, I don’t think this is the puke story of the century, but it rates.

When my two children were very young, they would head to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for the evening every once in a while. My husband and I had to go to one of his work parties, so my in-laws told us to bring them on over. We picked them up around ten and back to the house we went. I got the kids ready to go to bed, and all was right with the world. Or so I thought.

I was awakened by Alex crying out for me, “Mommy!”  I ran into her room, turned on the light. “My tummy hurts real bad.”  I sat on her bed, and she sat up and promptly puked all over herself , the comforter, and me. It was black. I was scared because I had never seen black vomit before. I got her up out of bed, and she threw up again. She did the vomit walk all the way to the bathroom. No sooner than I got Alex to the bathroom, I heard Adam yell for me. “Mommy, I threw up!”

I yelled for my husband to help. Why should he get to sleep? He balked at changing dirty diapers and turned green when he saw blood or vomit. He was generally useless, but I needed help. Adam had at least tried to aim for  his wastepaper basket by his bed, but threw up all over the his nice light grey berber carpet. It was black vomit.

Oh, Dear God, they have some terrible virus, I thought. A black virus. Her carpeting was a very light pink and white berber and I knew I had to scrub fast before it really stained. Alex wanted to try to go back to bed, but as soon as she got in the hall, vomited again. She was a vomit walker. I ran and got the wastebasket in her room for her to hold while I took her bedding off and put new sheets on her bed. I should have just picked them both up and put them in the bathtub so they could just puke in an enclosed area.

I told my husband that their forehead didn’t feel warm. I was ready to rush them to the hospital. I’m telling you that the vomit was jet black. I was stunned. Jet propulsion vomit. Vomit splatter. CSI style. My babies probably had a rare, contagious disease I couldn’t pronounce.

Jay just looked at me and said, “They smell like oreo cookies.”

What?  Oreo cookies? That couldn’t be. How could kids vomit so much blackness from just an oreo cookie or two. “Well, that is probably the last thing they ate.” I replied. Then I thought that Grandpa probably gave them a couple cookies late, but that shouldn’t make them vomit, for goodness sake. I was pretty strict with the junk food. I never gave them pop and I limited their cookie eating every day. No, they must have that rare, 5-syllable disease I was thinking of before.

So, my husband started the  questioning. “Adam, did you and Alex eat oreo cookies at Grandpa’s?”

He nodded. “We had oreo cookies and root beer.”

“How many cookies do you think you ate?” my husband asked.

“Like 2 bags.” Adam said and then threw up again. I can’t stress the blackness enough.

I looked at Adam like he had three eyes. “You mean 2 cookies, right?”  And that’s when Alex chirped in. “Grandpa put the bag of Oreo’s on the table and gave us a Root Beer.”

“He let you eat more than 1 or 2?” I asked, my blood pressure slowly rising.

“Grandpa fell asleep in his chair. We ate the first bag. It didn’t have many cookies in it, and we threw it away.  He woke up and Adam told him we were out of Oreo cookies. So, he got us another bag. And poured us some more root beer.” Alex noted in detail.

Adam added, ” So, when he fell asleep again, we ate  the second bag.”  He looked at me like it was no big deal.

“YOU ATE A WHOLE BAG OF OREO COOKIES?…. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”  I was ready to call my in-laws. I didnt’ care that it was 1:00a.m. My kids shared  more than a bag of Oreo cookies and had several cans of Root beer each. I was beyond furious.

“Mommy, it wasn’t Grandpa’s fault. He was sleeping.”   Yeah, that makes it better.

I scrubbed the vomit walk in both bedrooms and the hallway. I changed the sheets on their beds and put blankets on top of their sheets since their comforters were caressed with Oreo upchuck.

Yes, Oreo upchuck. That’s what I called it. Like it was an episode on tv- Oreo Upchuck, brought to you by Tide, when your whites can’t get white enough. When your children spew black Oreos on their pajamas. Let Tide bring the color back to life.

Needless to say, Oreo cookies could not be brought into my home. You couldn’t even say “Oreo cookies”, unless you wanted to see my death stare.

I still hate Oreo cookies. Not too fond of Root Beer either.

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