4. An excellent meal you once had at a restaurant.

For my graduation from college meal, we went out to Italian. A lot of the family showed up. Brian, too. It was a big turn out.

They set us up in this long table in the center of the room. It was a loud restaurant. (But not quite loud enough.) The place was packed with graduates and their families. At our table, Grandpa Alvin dominated the conversation. He always shouted in his later years, being deaf. Grandpa was talking about my mother, and where she went wrong in life (in his opinion).

"It was because she did that marijuana," he yelled. "Now, if she had only done a good drug like heroin, she would have been fine," he screamed to the masses.

I don't remember what food we ate.

3. The route you took to get here.

"When you travel down the highway," my father once told me, "there are a lot of dark corners. You might not see what's ahead. It could be foggy. Your vision may be clouded. Travel slowly, carefully. This way, it's easier to see what's ahead."

It was during a gig. My dad was on a little break. It was a bar/ pizza place in the middle of nowhere, out by the coast. I was home visiting from college. I thought it was marvelous that he was finally giving me some advice on how to succeed in life. I was all ears. As I hung on his every word, he continued,

"And when you get to Occidental Road, turn left."


This reminds me of another story. Not so much a story, really, but when Grandma Ruth first heard the name of "Occidental Road," she laughed for a few minutes. As often happens when Grandma Ruth giggles uncontrollably for a few minutes, no one knew what the heck she was laughing about. Apparently, she had misheard "Occidental" as "Accidental".

"Oh-hoh!" says she. "Do they have a lot of Accidents on Accidental Road? Hm?"


"And when you get to Accidental Road, turn left."

It's good to have some sort of directions for life, even if they were accidentally given.

2. The recent changes in your child’s nap schedule.

Zelma "sleeps" from Noon until 2 PM.

When Zelma doesn't sleep, she talks to her dolls. She scolds them just like Mommy scolds her, only much more harshly, I believe... {"No, Zelma, No!" I heard her say one day, the only time I've heard her use her own name.} She throws the dolls out of the crib when they displease her. She bangs on the walls and tries to move the crib. Or she calls, "Mama! Mama? Hello!"

Sometimes, she throws all her dolls out of the crib, and having nothing better to do, goes to sleep for a while.

The way I know all of this is because we have this baby monitor with a camera. We can see her on a little Zelma screen. This thing has night vision, which is good for seeing her in the dark, but also a bit freaky, because it makes her eyes glow and generally makes her look like a freakin' zombie. The zombie baby awakens. The zombie baby stands up, suddenly, and shakes the bars of the crib. The zombie baby lays back down and sucks on her hand, blinking her zombie eyes, and then falls back to sleep. Eyes closed, the zombie baby is now a sweet little angel.

1. A Dream

I was on a bus, traveling north through San Francisco. The fare on the bus was dependent upon what the rider was planning on reading during the trip. Those planning on reading Christian literature were charged $.25. If you were reading religious literature that was non-Christian, including all philosophical works, you were charge $.50. Anything else was a full dollar.

There was also a playground with a slide on the bus. You had to be certain, at all cost, that you were not at the top of the slide when your stop came, because the driver would keep driving, and you would miss your stop.

All of this was very stressing to me. First, I was reading the "Tao Te Ching," which, although philosophical enough to earn me a fifty cent discount over Daniel Steele, was still not Christian, and I worried that the bus driver was judging me harshly. My other problem was that I was supposed to get off at the last stop before the Golden Gate Bridge, and I didn't know where the last bus stop was, which made it quite difficult to be sure and not be at the top of that slide!

I awoke before my stop, so I guess I'll never know if I made it.

Being a Bore

I read “The Happiness Project” from time to time, and she has listed some tips for how not to bore people. Apparently, one should avoid the following conversation topics:

1. A dream.
2. The recent changes in your child’s nap schedule.
3. The route you took to get here.
4. An excellent meal you once had at a restaurant.
5. The latest additions to your wine cellar.
6. An account your last golf game.
7. The plot of a movie, play, or movie—in particular, the funny parts.

In the interest of being disagreeable, I will, over the next week, post an entry on each of these topics.

Random Thoughts About My Aerobics Class

I take an aerobics class at the YMCA. Last Thursday, we had a sub, and she was doing all these interesting hip-hop moves. We weren't so into it, it not being the normal routine. At one point, the substitute teacher told us, "You know, when people clap, it usually makes a noise." I took that to mean she wasn't so impressed with our clapping. Well, la dee da.

The gym we use is in the basement. If you look up and to your right, there are windows where people can look down on us from an indoor hallway. Usually, only little kids stop and look, and I look up at the windows a lot because I like to wave to little kids. We are like fish in a tank to the passers by, and I think it tickles the kids when someone actually looks out of the tank and waves.

Last Thursday, amidst all of our silent clapping, I looked up and there was this lady. I'll call her, "Bold Fashion Lady." Bold Fashion Lady was about seventy years old with dyed jet black hair sculpted into a helmet of hairspray. She was wearing a pair of leopard skin tights as pants. Bold Fashion Lady was in front of the windows, looking down at us, and she was doing our moves. She had this giant smile on her face, as she leapt around, kicking her legs in the air and flailing her arms- to nothing. You cannot hear the music outside the windows. I didn't wave to her. I did smile at her, though.

Middle-Aged Colorado Lesbian Lady wasn't there last Thursday. She's someone who looks so much like someone else I used to play basketball with in Pueblo, I actually asked her once if she was the same person. She has spiky grey hair and wears jogging shorts to aerobics. Today, we were all there, doing our gay little dance, and the music abruptly stopped. The air was silent except for the sound of all of our feet hitting our steps, getting slowly out of sink with each other. The teacher went away to fix the music machine, and then Middle-Aged Colorado Lesbian Lady quite unexpectedly began chanting a nice little snare drum rap beat, and got us all back together again. I started chanting with her, and just as I was beginning to think that this was actually more fun than doing it with the pre-recorded music, the music came back on, a blaring hip-hop something or other. Middle-Aged Colorado Lesbian Lady is pretty cool, actually. Even if she isn't the same person as the other Middle-Aged Colorado Lesbian Lady, who actually has a name I know, but I won't mention it here.


* "Been there, done that."
(This picture is from Post Secret.)

* Old people like to walk by me and Zelma, and say, "Been there, done that." It happens all the time, as we puts along and stop and smell dandelions and such.

The Lone "Yes, it's all good!"

Sometimes it’s hard to be positive. People don’t like it when you’re happy and they aren’t.

I’m generally pretty happy. Here’s a picture of me about a week ago:

They moved the class schedules around at my gym, and now I can go to aerobics twice a week instead of just once a week. This is a good thing for me. When the teacher announced it, though, everyone in the class was outraged! People were saying they were canceling their gym memberships and all sorts of things. They just went on and on. I realized that it was going to be just great for me, but did I say anything? No. I was afraid they would eat me alive. I did mention it to the teacher after class, though.
“This schedule change is going to work out for me.”
“I know,” she said. “It isn’t working for a lot of people.” She walked away before I had a chance to correct her. I guess there were so many people complaining, she couldn’t hear a positive comment?

I recently substituted at a middle school where all of the teachers were complaining. We were in the teacher’s lounge, at lunch, and all they could talk about was how bad the kids were, what job openings there were at other schools, and how bad the administration was. I finally got the nerve to say something,
“I don’t see it, honestly. I’m a substitute here, and I really haven’t had any problems.”
A teacher shot me an evil glance.
“Take a look in our hallways!”
“Yeah, okay... I haven’t seen much in the hallways that’s different from any other school.”
“Today must be your first day, then.”
“No, no. This is, like, my tenth time here or something.”
No one seemed happy about my comment. They went on, eventually, as though they hadn’t heard. I went to read a book in my empty classroom for the rest of lunch. I went to the staff bathroom, and even in there, someone told me, while she was washing her hands, how she didn’t enjoy the discipline problems there. You can’t even relieve yourself, apparently, without experiencing some complaining!

I realize this is hypercritical. I am complaining about people complaining.

When class started again, I was showing a movie (it was band class and I’m not really qualified to teach a lesson, so therefore, movie) and right before the movie started, this one child was complaining, quite loudly,
“I hate this movie! Can’t we watch something else?” He went on and on, of course. But then, a revelation came to me. No one else was talking. Were they afraid to contradict him? Just like I was afraid to speak in my aerobics class? I picked a kid at random,
“Do you like this movie?”
"Who? Me?" He asked, timidly.
"Yes, you! Have you seen it before? Do you like it enough to see it again?"
“Yes.” And another,
“Do you like this movie?”
“Do you?”
“Haven’t seen it.”
As it turned out, the one kid was the only one with an issue. Once I put it in (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with Johnny Depp) even that one kid seemed to enjoy it. Everyone was happy. Strange, huh?

It’s strange to me how the negativity so easily takes over and spreads. Over dumb stuff. Sometimes, we really need to complain. But not when, oh, you’re being given an opportunity to watch a movie instead of doing homework. How does the complaining take people over so quickly? Why is that, do you think? And why is it so difficult to be the one positive voice? Relax. It’s all good.

Worst Substitute Ever

I was a substitute elementary school gym teacher this morning, and, well, I don’t know why, but I let a stray dog into the school.

It was a nice looking mid-sized dog, all business. It knew what it wanted and it went straight for it. Who was I to get in its way? I was leading twenty odd children outside to play jump rope, and along comes this dog (or should I say “Mr. Dog”? Did I mention it was a very distinguished looking dog?) with its friend, Not-So-Distinguished-Looking-Dog. So, I let Mr. Dog in, and in he pranced, right past all the children’s big wandering eyes, and then something clicked in my mind- (That’s a freakin’ dog!)- and I didn’t let its friend in. Then all the children were outside, running in circles, playing with the dog I didn’t let in, and I was trying to figure out if I should maybe actually try to tell someone that I let a dog in the school. (The substitute handbook is sadly silent on this issue, mind you.) Then I saw a man, let’s call him “Mr. Janitor”. (Did I mention he was a very distinguished looking janitor?)

Me: “Hey! Uh, I think there’s a dog running around inside the school.”
Mr. Janitor: “A dog? Are you kidding?”
Me: “No, no. I’m not kidding. There’s a dog inside the school. It just walked in. There’s another one out here, too.”
Mr. Janitor: “Oh, uh. Okay. I’ll, um...”

And he was gone, thank goodness. I’m so glad he didn’t say, “Why the %$#@ did you let a dog into the school?”

The other dog went off somewhere.

I tried to act all authoritative and professional and stuff. I had the kids sit in a big circle,

Me: “First I’m going to have you do some warm-ups, run some laps around the playground and... Wow! Can you believe there’s a dog running around inside your school?”

All the children then started talking about the dog inside the school.

Luckily, it was not rabid. It had tags, and a parent volunteer walked Mr. Dog and his friend home.

The Things We Carry

We were getting ready to walk to the park this morning. I told Brian,

"I don't have a key."

"I do!" said Zelma, and disappeared down the hall. She reappeared with her stuffed pink monKEY.

This is the difference between how 35 year-olds think and how 1 3/4 year olds think. I hate to leave the house without my house key. She hates to leave the house without a favorite stuffed animal. Naturally, she heard "I don't have a monkey", as I left the house empty handed. In her world, it is a travesty to leave the house without a monkey.

How thoughtful of her! I carried Pink Monkey to the park with us.

The picture is a few months old. (We don't need winter coats here anymore, even in Wisconsin.)

I Heart Mistakes

I substituted for a teacher's aide in a 2-3 classroom today. The assignment for the children was to graph the average monthly high temperatures of a U.S. city. This is what one student turned in:

I love it, purely on its artistic merit. A beautiful graph, no? It's like modern art.

So Modest

When I tucked Little Z in to bed tonight, I said to her,
"I love you. I had so much fun with you today."
"You did," she said.

"A Twinkle In My Eye"

When I was a child, and my dad told a story about something that happened before I was born, he used to say,
"That was back when you were just a twinkle in my eye."
I really liked the thought of being a twinkle in his eye. I didn't know what it meant, really. I took it literally. (Wow! I was a twinkle once! How does that work?) And then as I got older, realized the impossibility of this, and yet still I thought this was a magical expression.

It's still one of my favorites. (Especially in this economy.)

The Worst Thing I've Ever Seen

Business cards made of beef jerky. Yuck!

Reasons this idea is bad:

1. If your business card can, conceivably, be on anything- why a dead animal? Really? Dead trees have a better track record.
2. People will eat your business card, and then they will not have your number, will they? Thus defeating the point of a business card.
3. What the #@$%?

How about sending an animal friendly greeting card instead?

Look at the sweet chicken. You know you love her. You don't want to eat her!

Do you ever read your spam?

This spam keeps coming to me, again and again.

Do I have what it takes to bring down organized crime and prevent terrorist attacks? Nope.

I guess you're not supposed to click on spam, or so I've heard. It only encourages them.

Why doesn't anyone ever send truly interesting spam mail, anyway? Would it not be spam if I wanted it? Pretty pictures, riddles, poetry, dark humor? I don't need penis enhancements, weight loss fads, training in martial arts or law enforcement. I'm not looking for my soul mate. Really, I'm quite happy.

Thanks anyway.

P.S. And another thing: Why do people call and say my vehicle warranty is expiring? Is there anyone on Earth who really cares if their "vehicle warranty" is expiring? Time marches on, regardless, right? I guess I'm just an ignoramus when it comes to the ways of the world. I mean, I thought the Pacific Ocean was west of California, until just recently...