Worst Gifts

What's the worst gift you've ever received? And also, what did you do with it?

I used to feel really guilty about getting rid of gifts that I didn't like. I don't really, anymore. Maybe that's why people don't give me as much these days! Who knows?

I'm not sure who all actually reads this blog, so I hesitate to actually mention what the worst gifts I've ever received were. Let me just say that a bad gift is one that:

a. is incredibly unsuited to my belief system
b. is incredibly unsuited to my personal style, or
c. is completely and utterly worthless.

I'm sure I have, myself, given my share of these.

We have a tradition of gag gifts in my family, and I remember one year, Aunt Donna (rest her soul- I hate writing that, but she's gone) gave me her old wallet. I'm talking a really old wallet. I didn't know it was a gag, and I did my best to pretend to like it. She, of course, laughed at me for an hour or so. "The look on your face!" she said.

Also, (just to share some family peculiarities,) for a while, there was a pair of old men's shoes going around as a gag gift. And I think- those who know, correct me if I'm wrong- I think someone spray painted them silver one year, and gave them to Duncle Ennis, and he liked them! He wore them. Duncle Ennis, in turn, gave everyone a box of candy corn one year for Christmas, the kind that has "a prize in each box". Another year, he gave us each a Debbie Gibson single (in the days of vinyl records), got out a golf ball, and suggested we all play golf with him (the large holes in the middle of the records were supposed to be the golf holes). And I think there was one year he gave kazoos. And one year, quite mysteriously, he actually gave me a hundred dollar bill. I felt it to make sure it wasn't counterfeit. I rather miss Christmas with Duncle Ennis.

That's not what I'm talking about, though. I'm talking about things you really, really don't know what to say about. How do you deal with such calamities?

So, what's the catch (curse)?

Brian and I are both intrigued by this house. It's on a fairly busy street, and we've always noticed it, because it's so incredibly rectangular. Driving by it always sparks a conversation between us about whether it's cool, or whether this design is just too weird:


We were both a bit surprised to notice a "for sale" sign in front of it a few days ago, because it seems like it was just for sale a year ago. What's the deal? Is it haunted? Is it too weird? It's in a really good neighborhood. The street it's on is busy, but the house is set back far from the street, and all of the windows face the woods out back. I wonder if it's just creepy to live there. I adore this kitchen (at least, from the picture):

That straight line!

The really strange thing is the price, $239,800. It looks huge, and it's in a good neighborhood. It's by a wonderful, large park, the kind where you hike through the woods. Also, very close to Taco Bell, which may not be a selling point for most, but I confess it is for me. Our house is probably worth $200,000, so we could almost afford to live there. I think we would, except... there's something wrong with it, isn't there? What is it?

Oh, and there's this note: "Home being ???SOLD AS IS??? "

They couldn't get the blood stains out of the wood flooring, could they?

The Zombie Doll, Final Look- Lock up the kids

I didn't want to post this before Christmas and spoil the surprise for Jen, so here it is now, in all its glory, the finished zombie doll:

Christmasy, isn't she? The head is removable (velcro) and attached with a bit of pink elastic, for that head-hanging-by-a-tendon look.

I really got into this. I don't know what that says about me.

सेलिब्रेटिंग थें एंड Now

Every Christmas gift was perfectly wrapped, when I was a child, mostly courtesy of Jean, my stepmother. Jean is really the queen of wrapping. I think she even wrapped some boxes one year and sold them at work. People actually bought them to put gifts in, they were so beautiful. Even if we were shipping something, everything was wrapped beautifully and then packaged into the box. To this day, she has more wrapping supplies than God* in her garage.

I've always loved wrapping presents, too. But anymore, I think that wrapping paper is kind of a waste. You only buy it to basically rip it up and throw it away. Lately, I've been trying to use recycled products to wrap gifts: old paper from presents I got from Jean (or other people, conceivably), paper that I get (ironically) for free from environmental organizations I donate to, or outdated maps. This gift has all three:

The map is 1997 Kansas. I think there's a detail of Topeka there, on top.

I'm fully expecting my Christmas gift from my husband to be wrapped in a National Geographic Map of the Ancient Middle East, because that's what I gave him to wrap it in.

I also have a different idea about the tree. When I was a kid, we would cut one down, usually, from a Christmas tree farm, and I just thought that was a blast, going to get the tree. So primitive. I got to watch some disgruntled adult use a saw and try to pretend he/she was having fun! It smelled great, too.

Of course, I can't do that now. I mean, why kill a damn tree every year? I guess it's just a crop, but whatever. I got this little live Norfolk Pine in a pot ten or more years ago at the grocery store. It's been growing, and growing, and growing...

I love this tree. The best part is, you don't have to get a tree every year. It's already there! It used to stand in the living room, but lately it migrated to the spare bedroom, to keep it out of harm's way. I sort of half-heartedly decorated it this year, but I still love it. It smells good all year, and its branches are so soft. I think it likes to be touched. I run my fingers over the pine needles, now and again. Yeah, I know. Tree hugger! That's me.

*Do I mean that God does not live in the garage, or do I mean that God does not have as much wrapping paper as Jean? I don't know. Both ideas have merit.

P.S. I don't know what happened to the title, there. Blogger did something, but I kind of like it. The original title sucked.

Welcome to Winter!

Today, when I got up, the temperature on the porch was minus 3 f. and it was super windy! And there were a few inches of snow on the ground to clean up. I got to use the new snowblower, though. It's fun.

I took this picture with my cell phone today. Yes, we did leave the house. The inside of the car windshield was frozen.

Ah, winter.

You'll find better pictures here.

What I Want for Solstice This Year

Charity is tough.

I have the most bizarre problem. I belong to this group on yahoo called "Madison Freecycle," where you can give things away or get stuff for free. I've had these snow tires sitting around for a couple of years, since I sold my Mazda to Gina. They're just taking up space. They have lots of tread left on them, so I thought I'd give them away on Madison Freecycle.

You'd think it would be really easy to give away a set of snow tires, with the weather we've been having, and there has been no shortage of interest in them, for sure. The problem is that I decided to just go with the first people who needed them, and I don't know what their deal is, really, but we've been emailing back and forth for a week now. They've been trying to get transportation here and having a hard time. Okay. Whatever. They say they need them because their car is not functional, the tires are so bald. Okay. That makes sense. Here's the clincher, though: They came here this morning. They emailed me they were coming, and then they came, an hour's drive for them, and of course as luck would have it, I wasn't home and didn't check my email and didn't put these tires out because I had no clue they were coming. We've been emailing for a week. They had my phone number, mind you. They even called from outside the house (while they were out there). They just didn't think to call me before they came. They emailed. So now, I feel bad for them not having their tires, but... what the heck? If it was so hard to get here, why didn't they call me on the phone first? Or even wait for an email response?

Oh, goodness.

I think it was John Waters who once said that the biggest benefit to being rich is that you don't have to deal with people if you don't want to. If only I had a butler to give away my possessions for me. Then I could feel charitable without actually having a charitable attitude.

Snow Day!

Brian got to try out his new snow blower.

It was supposed to be the last day of school before break, but Mother Nature had other plans for us.

Visiting the Terrorist or Santa and the Art of Being in the Moment

I took Zelma to get her picture taken on Santa's lap today.

It was already going badly on the way there, when Zelma started crying because she couldn't get her tights off. She had one boot off, and had gotten some substantial parts of her white tights blackened in the process, and her hat was off, and it was ten degrees out, snowing, but never mind all that. We get there, finally, to the upscale mall where you don't have to pay to sit on Santa, you just snap your own picture, and Santa was late. The sign said he was off feeding his reindeer, back by ten, and we were still waiting at 10:15, waiting in front of this enormous gingerbread man, stolen from the set of "Yoshimi Battles the Giant Gingerbread." This little two year old boy, wearing a Christmas sweater than only a two year old boy can pull off, asked me, "Are you Santa?"
I try my best to always take children seriously, or at least a little bit more seriously than I take adults.
"No," I said, "I am not Santa." He then looked at Zelma.
"Are you Santa?" he asked her.
Zelma considered this seriously. Perhaps she was Santa. Perhaps she was not. She couldn't say.
"She's not Santa," I said. "Santa isn't here."
"Santa is parking his sleigh," said the woman I presumed to be his mother. "He'll be here soon." Or, I thought, he's committing sodomy in the dressing room at Macy's. I saw "Bad Santa." I know how these things work.

Santa then came. He was dressed in this red suit and wearing a disturbingly bushy beard, like a terrorist who doesn't want to be recognized. Perhaps he was hiding fangs. He held children in his lap. "Smile," said a father as he took the picture.
"It doesn't matter if I smile," said Santa. "No one can see my mouth, anyway."
It was true. It was impossible to make out his mouth.
Our turn came. Zelma rather reluctantly approached the small stairway to Santa's gingerbread vinyl couch. He called her, "princess." This is the first time anyone has ever called Zelma "princess". I think it was a red flag for her. I put her on Santa's lap, and she screamed. I took out my camera, and she screamed even louder.
"Maybe if she sits on my lap, next to you, she would be okay?" I said to Santa. Santa was up for it. I was a little embarassed- I didn't feel dressed properly for having my picture taken, but oh well. I asked a random man behind us to take the picture, and he did.

Perhaps he took the picture from a distance to disguise the terror in Zelma's eyes. My favorite part is the lady walking by. It's good he caught that, random man behind us in line. Thank you for that.
"Well, anyway, this is a moment in time," said Santa. I understood then that we were capturing the moment, good or bad. He was a very Zen Santa. I wonder what he was doing when he was twenty minutes late?

Local News

I don't pay much attention to the news here in Wisconsin, but I've noticed that whenever I do, if only for a moment, there's always something a little bit... Wisconsin to it.

This guy wanted to do something for the children in his community, so, like anyone else anywhere would do, he grew a 750 pound pumpkin in his garden, hallowed it out, filled it with rations, and paddled it 150 miles down the Wisconsin River. You could argue, I think, that this is much less crazy than running a marathon.

Substitute Teaching: A Place for Endless Entertainment

My favorite quote of the day:

"You're not listening to me! Anteaters! Where is their habitat!?" This question was directed towards me. As though I were some sort of, I don't know, anteater specialist? I love how kids think teachers know everything. He really thought I was holding out on crucial knowledge. Like anteater hideouts were top secret.

My second favorite:

"This shape is a rectal trapezoid." (Written down on a white board. I was behind the student, but had to go around and look when I saw the look on other teacher's face and the way she turned her back from the class and hid for a minute, shaking slightly.)

This is ripe for a pun. I am not a master, but I know you're out there.

Yes, We Can!

Whenever I read her "Bob the Builder" book to Zelma, I wonder if Barack Obama borrowed his campaign slogan from Bob. Obama's children were quite young when he began his campaign.

Personally, I like to change the words when I'm reading it, depending on my state of mind.

"Can we do it?"
"I don't know. Let's try. Maybe."

"Can we do it?"
"Um... What was that, Bob? I wasn't listening."

"Can we do it?"
"No, Bob, I'm afraid we can't. Not this time."

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to Grandma Ruth today (lady in the picture at the top of the page. I'm the little one there. The dog behind her legs is Meatball, and the town in the background is Irwin, PA). Grandma Ruth was born on Friday the Thirteenth. Whenever a Friday the Thirteenth rolls around, she wakes up in the morning and says, "My lucky day!" Or, at least, she once said it was her lucky day on one Friday the Thirteenth, and I will forevermore picture her saying this.

She also believes that "cellar door" is the most beautiful word (phrase?) in the English language. Thus my blog's original title, "grandma's cellar door".

Not the Plague, after all

It turns out that I have Strep Throat. I felt kind of weird going to the Urgent Care this morning for a sore throat, but it was a really really sore throat, and now that I know I have Strep, I feel vindicated, as the final symptom of Strep (if not treated) is death. When Brian was reading me the symptoms, however, I was more concerned with "food odor". At least that wasn't me! It was the strep!

Not to worry, though. I've got my antibiotics. Foot odor will soon disappear (this is a most pressing issue for those of you who have never met me in person, I'm sure).

We had planned on recording our annual Christmas album this week-end, but I don't think that is going to happen this year. I can't muster any creativity or (obviously) sing right now, although Brian is getting very good at "We Three Kings" on the banjo. Too bad. Maybe we will do something on a much smaller scale, like record one song. And save it. For the second coming.

Plague Revisited

Somehow caught the plague again. Poopy. I love my husband (husband stayed home and took care of sick me and sick baby yesterday). I had a fever of 101.6.

Thought a lot of random thoughts while sick. For example, at one of my weight watchers meetings once (I don't attend anymore), a lady lost 100 pounds and was telling us about it. She was telling us about her "weight loss journey" (which is what you do once you "meet goal" in weight watchers) and about how she wanted to live to be 100 years old, and had suddenly realized that her joints wouldn't last that long if she were 100 pounds overweight, so she had lost all of this weight. Interesting. But the really interesting thing about this woman was that, after explaining her reasoning to us, she suddenly broke into song,

"OH! IIIIII! Lost one hundred pounds!
I lost one hundred pounds!
I want to live to be one hundred and eight,
so I lost one hundred and two! Yes,
it could happen to you! To lose one hundred and two"...

Or something like that.

Everyone just stared at her, as she stood there and rocked and clapped her hands and sang to us. Sitting with mouths agape, we looked on. And then we clapped, of course, because you do that, you know. Everyone filed out in silence. No chit chat about that one.

She was pretty cool.


I don't know about you, but I so relate to Animal in this one.

A Story of Questionable Origin

Jen wrote about her love of the film "Night of the Living Dead," and it reminded me of something.

When I was about twelve years old, my Uncle Rick drove me out to see the town where "Night of the Living Dead" was filmed. For all I know, he completely made it up, as he was generally full of shit*, but he also took me to a place nearby which was a reservoir that had been built over a town. The town had a river running through it, and the powers that be decided to damn the river and flood the town, so that everyone else in the area could have water or something. I don't know. Everyone had to give up their homes, move to a new town, and let them flood the old town until it was completely under water. Anyway, FDR's presidential train was riding the rails over the damn, and the president saw dead bodies floating by! Apparently, they were supposed to move the cemetery, but they must have left a few bodies, and when the soil became completely satiated, the dead bodies floated up to the surface. It was a great scandal of the time, supposedly. "Night of the Living Dead" was filmed in the new town, where all the people moved to when they flooded out their houses. I really and truly don't know if he made all this stuff up, but it scared the crap out of me when I was 12, and I've loved that movie ever since. He ended our freaky road trip day (I'm pretty sure we were driving around in circles) with a six pack for himself and KFC for the both of us. It's strange the details that stick in your head.

*He isn't full of shit, now. I think he just liked messing with me because I was twelve.

An inside joke for family: Rick and I were looking at all of this creepy stuff, talking about dead bodies floating around and stuff, nonchalant, like, when we saw a sign that said we were on the road to Saltsburg. We both screamed! "Turn the car around! Turn it around, Rick! Quick! Quick!!!!" Rick made a u-turn Dukes of Hazard style and we didn't breathe a big sigh of relief until we were ten miles up the road.

I be makin' puppets!

Freaky freaky zebra penguin ghost puppet.

Hellraiser or alternately sweet brown sea mammal puppet.

Zebra head with big lips puppet. Yes, that is a Miller Light next to him. I keep telling him to cut back on his drinking.

I'm a fan of Homosexuals and Butter...

... or at least that's what my facebook home page says! Nothing else, just homosexuals and butter. In that spirit, check out this video:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

I'm always a sucker for personal appearances by Jesus.


Forgive me, I'm not sure if this is really worthy of a post, but there is a truck around here that I see driving around a lot, with the personalized license, "MAD VET." This being Madison, I assumed at first that the person driving the truck was a Madison veteran. But then, of course, there are many possibilities, aren't there?

1. Madison Veteran
2. Angry Veteran
3. Insane Veteran
4. Madison Veterinarian
5. Angry Veterinarian
6. Insane Veterinarian
7. Other Possibilities?

Are there any people in your area with noteworthy plates? Do personalized plates even exist in, say, London? Just wondering.

A Game for Us

Here are the rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now. Don't hunt on a book shelf for something to impress us, but it has to be a real book!
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence and reference the book in the comments.

I stole this from Meg. Remember, Meg, that plagiarism is the greatest of compliments!