Friday, September 30, 2011

We’re Internet-less. Send. Help. Now.

We've been having problems with our computers at home in that we can't keep the Internet connected. Every time we shut the computer down and then restart it the next time, it doesn’t automatically connect.

Earlier in the week we tried turning everything off and back on and it would reconnect again. But I got really tired of running up and down stairs shutting things off and on – only to find we were still not connected. So I haven’t even tried for the past few nights.

Vince hasn't had a lot of spare time lately to identify the actual problem and figure out a solution. As for me, well, other than jiggling wires and shutting things off and back on, I'm pretty stumped.

So I figure the best way to fix this problem is to just move. When we get to a new place, professionals will have to get us reconnected to the Internet and I bet it would work. If it doesn’t, they will tell us which specific pieces/part is on the fritz and then we can go out and replace that specific pieces/part. Problem solved.

However, the mere thought of all the effort involved in packing and moving and unpacking and resettling causes me to dismiss that solution right quick.

Thus, we remain “Internet-less.”

Sigh. I am so NOT technologically savvy. Heck, half the time I forget to jiggle the wires or turn things off and on before yelling for help.

The problem is that our computers have too many pieces/parts, so it’s not easy to determine the problem. Like we have a cable wire connected to a little cable box (belonging to the cable company) in our bedroom. And, attached to that is a black box thingie that may or may not be a router. (I am not sure about the technical terms – or about what they do. Extrapolate.) And we have two wireless pieces of plastic that plug into the backs of our computers that allow my computer to work in the spare bedroom and Vince’s computer to work in the living room downstairs without having wires and cables and really L-O-N-G extension cords running up and down the stairs and all over the place.

Now I’m not completely lacking in brain cells, so I figure the culprit is most likely one of the two black boxes in the bedroom because they have little green lights on them – and some of them are flashing. One or two of them might not even be lit, for all I know.

Probably I should have paid attention to those two little black boxes back when everything was working because maybe then I’d know if all the little green lights were supposed to remain lit or if some were allowed to flash. . Hmmmm. Maybe I am missing a brain cell or two. Specifically the ones that deal with technology. Oh, and also the ones needed for following roadmaps. But that’s another subject.

I love computers. Until they don’t work – and then I hate them.

Thank goodness I have a smart phone, which is currently working because I can access my email and Facebook and such. I don’t like when emails start piling up and my phone tells me I have more than 25 new emails to wade through. What can I say? I’m a Virgo.

Vince, on the other hand, is definitely not a Virgo. Right now he has something like 7,000+ emails he hasn’t even read. If I had 7,000+ emails I hadn’t read, my head would explode.

Now, true, most of them are jokes, junk and sales fliers with long-expired discounts, but still. Those are the first emails I delete. Well, except for the jokes. I read those first. Right after the personal emails that people send me to give me the latest scoop on their lives. Which is really another joke – because I hardly ever get personal emails from people anymore.

I think I’m supposed to guess that when someone forwards a joke to me they’re thinking about me.

Wow…It’s a darn good thing it’s Friday. I sound grumpy even to myself. Probably it’s because I’m tired. My eyes don’t seem to want to focus. And I bit my tongue last night and it hurts. (Don’t ask me how I did that – apparently I couldn’t tell the difference between a crouton and my own body part…)

Oh, and if I hadn’t stressed this enough: OUR INTERNET AT HOME ISN’T WORKING!

Maybe I should casually mention to Vince that we’re paying something like thirty bucks a month for an Internet connection – and we’ve wasted about $7.50 this week. Vince does not like wasting money. Bet that would spur him on to figure out the problem, since clearly I haven’t managed to.

Oh well. Being Internet-less has been rather like flashing back to the days before we had computers. I actually cooked dinner the other night instead of grabbing something easy and then doing the Peeping Thomasina thing on Facebook to see what everyone is up to (seein’ as how nobody sends me personal email updates anymore).

And I spent last evening reading an actual real book with pages instead of trolling online for celebrity gossip or searching for the latest bestseller to download onto my iPad. Sure, I tried “swiping” to the next page, but I only did that a couple times before I got the hang of turning actual pages again.

So maybe it’s not so bad being Internet-less for a little while.

On the other hand, it has been a whole week. Time’s up.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spring Break with Zelda and her Two Darling Daughters, Agatha and Noreen. Part II

Yesterday I was fondly reminiscing, er, okay, just plain reminiscing about my spring break vacation with Zelda and her little girls, Agatha and Noreen. But I realize that I left the story unfinished.

I mean, we’d barely arrived when I stopped writing about the trip. Now, perhaps that would be the smart thing to do since Agatha and Noreen are on Facebook and might actually read my blog. And they might never speak to me again.

Nah. That’s not possible, is it? I mean, both of them have children of their own now. They probably know that on a rare occasion, children can be a trial and a handful – don’t you think? Or maybe their children never EVER get bored and kick the back of the driver’s seat such that the driver spends the majority of the trip either glaring in the rearview mirror at the culprit or glaring at their mother for having had the nerve to reproduce.

Oh, wait. Nowadays people with kids drive big SUVs or mini-vans and the kids can’t even reach the back of the driver’s seat with their little feet. Not only that, but they’re strapped into car seats these days until they’re at least – what? – fifteen? Plus, vehicles that transport children now come equipped with DVD players – a truly blessed invention – to keep children mesmerized throughout the entire drive.

And if all that fails, parents now routinely administer kiddie tranquilizers – don’t they?

(Perhaps I’m misinformed on that last thing.)

Ah, I’m just joshing here. We actually had a lovely vacation. (Other than the drive. Sorry. Just had to say that again.)

We spent hot, sun-filled days hanging out at the beach and relaxing and laughing at the girls’ antics. I recall a specific incident when we were at the beach and Noreen was happily munching on a slice of watermelon. She gave me a big, cheesy smile as I snapped her photo and then, seconds later, dropped her watermelon right in the sand. The look of shock and surprise on her little face when she picked up the sand-coated piece of fruit had me laughing so hard I couldn’t focus to take another picture. She even tried brushing off the sand – to no avail. Finally, her mother took it from her and threw it away. But it was definitely one of those Before-and-After/Happy one second then Sad the next Kodak moments.

Zelda and I even had an opportunity or two to go out for an adults-only evening while her father babysat the kids. Zelda loved seafood and I did not, but I tried shrimp for the first time in my life and remember being proud of myself for being so adventurous. And I vaguely recall dancing and bar-hopping one night with Zelda’s younger sister, um, Darcy. Darcy definitely knew the nightlife side of the area, but – y’know – what goes in Palm Beach Gardens stays in Palm Beach Gardens. Or something like that.

Our final treat was that Zelda’s father presented us with four tickets to Disney World. It was on our way out of town and, now that I think about it, perhaps it was his way of getting rid of us a bit early? No, I’m sure he absolutely loved having all of us under his cozy little roof.

No matter, we all had a great time hangin’ out with the Mouse before hittin’ the road again for home.

The comment that Agatha recently made that prompted this little trip down Memory Lane had to do with her mother ordering a Bloody Mary and nearly getting into a brawl with the bartender.

As the other adult in question during this trip, my first thought was, Where was I during this incident? I mean, I have absolutely no recollection of any such altercation. Shouldn’t something this memorable be readily retrievable from the memory banks?? Clearly, I need to speak with Zelda.

Perhaps I had more than my share of Bloody Marys by that point and was a little foggy myself? I don’t know. But what I DO remember about our return trip is that we had smartened up by then and drove through the night.

When one of the little angels asked their mother what time we would be getting back to Columbus, Zelda replied that it would be near dinnertime. Which was about 24 hours hence. (Zelda was, of course, padding the estimate a little as well as factoring in innumerable potty, leg-stretching and refueling breaks.)

MY thought was, Oh, it is SO not going to take that long – not if I have anything to do with it!

Zelda took the first shift and drove at a sedate, well-within-the-speed-limit pace. And then a short time later we made the first inevitable pit stop. (And don’t let Zelda ever try to tell you that the pit stops were only for the kids, either. She has a bladder the size of a pea.)

Anyway, at this first pit stop, I gassed up the car, loaded up on caffeine and a big bag of M&Ms, and commenced driving as if I were being chased by the very devil himself.

I drank Diet Coke and ate one M&M every 5 miles (to keep myself awake and sharp - and having to count tends to keep me focused). I stopped only when the gas gauge hovered around Minus E, something I don’t usually do but did so only because it was an emergency. As all three passengers were sound asleep, I quietly refilled the tank, emptied mine and bought more Diet Coke. I drove all night long and, when the car began to fill with morning light and everyone began stirring, we were (thankfully) near the Ohio border.

By this point, I was exhausted and Zelda was refreshed, so we stopped somewhere for a quick breakfast before Zelda took over the wheel. And we were home well before lunchtime, which was such happy news for me, I nearly kissed the ground when I got back to my peaceful, quiet abode.

Later that day, after a LONG nap, I reluctantly got back into my car to drive to the grocery store to stock up for the week ahead. The first thing I noticed as I neared my vehicle? Lots of little smeared handprints and crayon marks all over the back seat windows. Ah. What a sweet token to remember Noreen and Agatha by, huh? (PS, I hate cleaning windows, particularly car windows. And most especially, those hard-to-reach back seat car windows.)

And, okay, so my version of this story is filled with a bit of exaggeration. In truth, every single time I think of that trip, I smile. Because, despite my complaining about the drive itself, I really do love Agatha and Noreen – and I really did have a wonderful vacation with them.

But since that trip, I have never once suggested to anyone that we drive to Florida on vacation. No forehead flicking reminders required.

The End.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Memories: Spring Break with Zelda and the Girls. Part I

The other day I was reminded of a long-ago trip to Florida I took with my best friend and her two little girls. The “little girl” who reminded me about it is now {mumble}30-something{mumble} and has children of her own. But when we drove down to Florida she was maybe nine or 10 and her younger sister was 4 or 5. I don’t remember their exact ages because, well, frankly, I’ve tried to block that particular vacation from my memory.

No, I kid. (Sort of.)

I was in my late 20s and still single and loving it while my friend was divorced with two little girls and living an entirely different lifestyle than I. Meaning that she was a responsible parent and I was still the carefree single girl. Well, except I was also working full-time and going to college full-time, so I suppose you could call me responsible, too – but in an entirely different way.

I definitely wasn’t responsible for raising children, other than an occasional overnight babysitting gig when a parent had to go out of town and recruited me for the job. But, heck, at that time in my life, I wasn’t even responsible for a pet – not a goldfish or a turtle or one of those other “pretend” pets that you don’t really have to do anything for except throw a little crumble of food their way now and again.

But, my friend – let’s call her Zelda to maintain her anonymity – decided we really needed to take a road trip to Palm Beach Gardens for spring break. It was expected to be a relatively inexpensive trip as we were driving (and gasoline prices were definitely not in the $3+ range back then). And we were staying at her father’s condo, so we wouldn’t have lodging costs to contend with. A little food, drink and gas money and we were good to go.

We decided to take my car as it was (a) only a year old and perhaps a little more “reliable” than hers, and most importantly (b) it had air conditioning and hers didn’t. So prior to our trip, I carefully cleaned the car inside and out, had the oil changed and fluids checked and even loaded up the seat pockets with coloring books, crayons and pencils and assorted little games, toys and treats to keep the girls occupied in the backseat for our long journey.

Smart, huh?

Yeah, not so much. Before we’d traveled beyond the outskirts of Columbus, all the games, toys, treats and coloring pencils were scattered all over the inside of the car – everywhere but stowed carefully inside the seat pockets. The little one (we’ll call her Noreen) was bored and alternated between kicking my seat and poking holes in the seat back with her carefully sharpened coloring pencil. And the older one – Agatha – was doing the classic kid thing and asking us if we were almost there yet and informing us every other minute that she was bored.

Egad, I thought to myself, I fear this is going to be a VERY long drive…

Only I probably didn’t use the word “Egad.”

And, boy oh boy, was it! I don’t think I’ve ever had such an arduous journey – and that includes the time my sister and I got stuck overnight in the Chicago airport after spending about eight cramped hours in an airplane returning from Paris.

I had no idea little girls needed only 3.2 minutes to go through a pocketful of games, toys, treats and coloring books before they were done playing with it all and would then be bored. Being bored is a major problem with little kids – did you know that? (Of course you did! You’re experienced at this sort of thing. I, on the other hand, was not.)

Plus, let’s be honest. It’s a L-O-N-G flippin’ drive to Palm Beach Gardens. When we finally arrived in the actual state of Florida and stopped near the border for the approximately 73rd potty break, I nearly wept with joy. Inside, I was screaming, WE MADE IT, WE MADE IT, WE MADE IT!! (Unbidden, but somewhere still in my subconscious, was the thought Thank goodness. Now I don’t have to strangle two little girls.

(Sorry, Agatha and Noreen. I feel ashamed of myself. I was young and inexperienced in the ways of little girls. In reality, you were most likely darling little angels and I just couldn’t tell. Forgive me?!)

Of course, once I realized we still had about five more hours of driving to go before we actually arrived at our destination, I nearly wept real tears. And they were not the joyful variety.

To this day, I clearly remember standing in line to use the bathroom at Zelda’s father’s condo (waiting for Agatha and Noreen to finish up first). I looked Zelda in the eye and said, “If I EVER again mention that I’m thinking of driving to Florida, would you – after you flick me in the forehead for being so dumb – PLEASE remind me of this very moment?” She looked at me with the mascara smeared under my eyes, my stringy hair, my none-too-daisy-fresh clothing and replied, “Why, Jane…whatever do you mean?!” And then she laughed and laughed.

Yeah. Agatha and Noreen weren’t the only ones in danger of being strangled.

But after a glass of wine or two, I was starting to recover and thinking I might actually enjoy this vacation.

Silly me. Because what happens after an enjoyable vacation? The. Long. Drive. Home.

(To be continued…)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I love reconnecting on Facebook with friends from long ago and former coworkers at companies none of us still work for and classmates I haven’t seen since our 5-year class reunion, which (trust me), was a long time ago.

And I love how much easier it is to keep up with family than it used to be in the Olden Days, when you composed actual letters by hand and sent them through the actual post office to share your news. Or when you had to actually pick up the telephone, which was probably connected to the wall and had a curly cord attached to the receiver, to find out how Aunt Myrtle’s hip was healing or if Cousin Bubba was out of the slammer yet.

But sometimes I fear that Facebook is taking over my life.

And I’m not the only one, either. Just take a look at all the panicked comments whenever the powers that be at Facebook tweak the site or – as they did this past week – do a whole lot more than mere tweaking.

Multitudes of users start posting wild rumors about how Facebook is going to start charging exorbitant monthly fees to use the site. And people threaten to close their accounts if the site doesn’t immediately change it back to the previous version, which, incidentally, people complained about back when those changes occurred.

However, shortly after they make this declaration, they post comments and jokes and photos as if they’d never threatened to close their account in the first place.

This tells me that (a) people are big fat liars, and (b) we really, really, REALLY hate change.

I, too, have a hard time accepting change – even though I made a vow to myself when I was 20 that I would embrace change as it occurred throughout my life. Yeah, evidently I’m a big fat liar sometimes, too.

So what was my big “Aha!” moment I had at 20 (even though we didn’t call it that in pre-Oprah days)?

Well, settle down children and let me tell you a story.

It all began a long, long time ago when, as an impressionable youngster at the tender age of 13, I learned how to use a manual typewriter. The reason for the development of this particular talent was because my dad, an engineer, wrote ten metallurgical and chemical abstracts every month for publication and he wanted me to type them for him. He coerced me by paying me a dollar per abstract. Believe me, to a 13-year-old back in those days, $10 a month was major coin.

So I had an incentive to learn how to type. Even if it was on a stupid manual typewriter.

But, if you’ve never seen a metallurgical or chemical abstract, let me just tell you – they look rather like hieroglyphics. They contain elaborate equations, so I had to twist and turn the paper on the roller on the typewriter to get all the subscript and superscript characters in the right place. I’m sure they made sense to someone, but to me it looked like my dad had taken a bunch of numbers and characters and threw them at the page. Wherever they landed – even if was on top of another character – they stuck.

Also in these abstracts were strange words I’d never heard before like "decarburization," which means: Loss of carbon from the surface of a ferrous alloy as a result of heating in a medium, usually oxygen, that reacts with carbon.”

Yeah, scintillating – right? Especially to a 13-year-old. So I learned to type those abstracts as quickly as possible so I could move on to more interesting stuff – like Tiger Beat magazine that had pictures of my teen idols, Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson. (Hey, gimme a break – I was 13, for pity's sake!)

Fast-forward to my junior year as a college student at Ohio State... (And, no, smarty-pants, I was not still reading Tiger Beat and I did not still have a crush on either Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson.)

Anyway, having spent my sophomore year working in the food commons area in our dorm was enough to teach me that I never wanted another job in the food service industry.

But I still needed to earn beer-drinking money, so I took a part-time job in the Metallurgical Engineering department. This was back in those prehistoric days before cell phones and laptops and any sort of instant communication. Sadly, it was even before copy machines were commonplace in offices as I recall printing student exams out on a mimeograph machine. I left my office job many a day to attend class with purple-stained fingers.

The full-timers who worked in the office were just learning how to use their new computers, which were slowly being purchased for office use throughout campus. These bulky machines took up nearly three-fourths of the space on their desks and looked extremely slow and cumbersome to me.

As “student help” I was hired to do whatever scut work the full-timers didn’t want to do, but that was okay with me. It wasn’t, after all, my career choice or anything. They got me to run from one floor to another delivering paperwork and messages and whatnot. And I also typed a lot of the midterm and final exams for the professors.

Naturally, these exams included a lot of elaborate equations. But all those years of typing abstracts for my dad had turned me into a pro and I could type at a rate of 95+ words a minute. So I could whip through those hieroglyphics like nobody’s business. Sure, I still couldn’t understand them, but that didn’t matter as I was also not interested in metallurgical engineering as a career path.

So there I sat in front of an electric typewriter, insisting that I could type the same thing on the typewriter that the office manager, Cecily, could do on the computer – and I could do it faster.

(Now you see where the “Aha!” moment is coming, don’t you?!)

So we had “races” – with me typing on the typewriter and Cecily working on the computer. The first couple times we timed ourselves, I did beat her, but that’s only because she wasn’t used to the commands on the computer and had to keep stopping to look up the codes to create a superscript or a subscript character. But all too soon, she was beating my time by a remarkable margin and I had to admit that this newfangled computer thing had merit.

And the first time she finished a page and printed it out while I was still only halfway through, I had to concede. It was in that moment that I told myself that I would never again resist change.

Then, of course, I went on to prove myself a big fat liar, so I’m not sure what the lesson is here. Except that whenever I’m faced with something completely new and different and my first reaction is to resist the change, I really do try to remember how I felt when I realized that something new could work better and faster than the old way.

I wish I could tell you that I took to the computer like a fish to water, but it did take me a little while to catch on. Like, for instance, whenever I needed to enter a superscript character, I’d invariably reach up to the side of the monitor as if to turn the roller on a typewriter. And then I’d sneak a look around to see if anyone had noticed. (And, no, smarty-pants, I never once tried to take a bottle of white-out to the computer screen to correct an error!)

And I’ve learned to love every stinkin’ computer upgrade and program refinement we’ve had over the years.

So to all you Facebook friends who are frustrated with the changes, just give it time – okay? There might even be good reasons for those changes.

Or maybe they’re just messing with us.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Bathroom Door Lock Incident

On a whim Vince and I decided to catch a movie the other night, but we were about 25 minutes early for the film we wanted to see. Since we’d already eaten dinner, we didn’t need to stand in line at the concession stand to load up on popcorn and enough caffeine in the “small” diet soda to keep us both awake for the next 48 hours.

Instead, we opted to go to the restaurant next door and order a quick margarita. We plunked ourselves down on the bar stools and waited patiently for a bartender to show up.

After several minutes, the switch was flipped and “patient” turned into “impatient.” Before “annoyed” joined the party, I told Vince I was going to the ladies room and he should order me a frozen strawberry margarita if the AWOL bartender ever materialized.

I entered the ladies room and scoped out the situation. You never know what you’re going to find in a public restroom. There may be two stalls. Or three stalls. Or, depending upon the average age of the establishment’s clientele and quantity of alcohol served, there could be dozens of stalls in there – you just never know. The worst scenario is when you push open the door – or try to – and realize it’s a one-stall arrangement and you’re going to have to wait outside until the current occupant finishes her business. Who, incidentally, gives you a snotty look upon departure because you inadvertently rushed her by pushing on the door.

Anyway, in this particular restroom, there were two stalls. And the place was deserted.

Whenever I’ve entered a public restroom lately, I have been finding that the first stall has been left, uh, unflushed and full of paper. I always want to say, "flushing is a simple maneuver, ladies. Try it!" But the culprits never hang around long enough for me to chastise them.

I suppose I should be a good citizen and flush the toilet myself, but I’m always fearful that it is going to overflow and I’m going to do that high-stepping thing right out of the bathroom. Before I’ve had the opportunity to go.

So I shudder and move on to the next stall. Fortunately, the next stall is usually good to go, so I lock the door and quickly conduct my business and then head to the sink to wash my hands.

Sometimes I even take a little gander in the mirror, but my days of prolonged primping in front of the mirror in public restrooms are long over. I’m usually out faster than my husband, which is a peculiar point of pride for me. Probably because men always poke fun at how long women take in the restroom.

On this night, however, I took so long in there, you’d’ve thought I was getting prepped for one of those beauty makeover shows and they were experiencing a major glitch with the spackle, er, foundation.

So why did it take me so long, you ask? Oh, stop it! Don’t be gross.

No, see, I had a little issue with the lock on the bathroom door and I couldn’t get out. It was not one of those simple push button locks. Nor was it a twist lock. No, it was one of those sliding bolt locks where you have to turn the lever and slide it to the left so the bolt clears the doorframe.

But this shouldn’t have posed a problem. I mean, those types of locks are not usually beyond my level of expertise. So I confidently slid the bolt, grasped and turned the door handle with my right hand while simultaneously taking a step to walk out the door. Except that the door didn’t open and I ended up smacking both my forehead and right knee against the closed door.

I was grateful no one else was in the ladies room at that particular moment because the “thunk” when my body parts hit the door was loud.

I laughed a little ruefully, rubbed my smarting forehead, ignored the pain in my knee, and tried again. Only this time I didn’t attempt walk out at the same time as I turned the handle. Instead, I simply turned the handle.

But the door remained locked.

Now remember, to this point, I had not yet had a single sip of frozen strawberry margarita, so it’s not like my brain was addled with alcohol. Plus, I think of myself as a fairly intelligent woman, so I was a little nonplussed that I could not figure out why such a simple maneuver as unlocking and opening the restroom door was eluding me.

I then got up close and personal with the lock so I could examine it. This required me to slide my eyeglasses up on top of my head and bend over with my eyes about a quarter inch away from the lock so I could see it clearly. (Yeah, you’ll get old one of these days, too, and your eyes won’t work right either.)

At any rate, I slid the bolt back and forth a couple times to analyze the situation. It became evident that the bolt was not clearing the door frame, so I did what any analytical woman would do in just such a situation.

I started jiggling it.

When that produced absolutely no results, I did the next logical thing – I tried slamming the bolt over to try to force it clear. I did that until my finger was red and nearly bruised, but the door still wouldn’t open.

At this point, I’m seriously thinking I might have to call out for help, which would be especially mortifying because I think I would have to yell pretty loudly to be heard above the canned Mariachi music coming out of the speakers.

But even more critically, I’m thinking there is no way I’m going to have time to finish a whole frozen strawberry margarita before the movie starts.

Before resorting to screaming for help like a girl, I tried busting through the door with my shoulder like they do in cop shows. Yeah, like that worked. All it resulted in was a sore shoulder. Clearly, those doors are props on cop shows because the flimsy door and lock on this bathroom stall didn’t even budge.

Now, I’m standing there with a sore forehead, kneecap, finger and shoulder and I’m still stuck inside the stall. I’m wondering if I should start digging through my suitcase-sized purse to see if I had somehow dropped a Phillips-head screwdriver in there so I could remove the lock entirely, but I realized that was just plain silly. I mean, I might from time to time find a flathead screwdriver in my purse, but never a Phillips-head. Come on!

Starting to feel a little desperate, I mentally measure the distance between the bottom of the door and the floor and, given that I’m not a toddler, I realize there is no way I can slither out underneath. The sides of the stall run full length from floor to ceiling, and I know I can’t vault over the top of the door unless someone handily left a pole vault in there by mistake, which they did not.

I am, by the way, STILL the sole occupant in this ladies room, which is a marvel in and of itself. Ladies rooms usually get non-stop action.

Finally, in a last-ditch effort, I jerked the door, twisting something and turning something else and pushing at the same time – and, voila! – the door magically popped open.

I stood there with my mouth hanging open, a little shocked that I’d managed to free myself. But, spurred on by the thought that Vince might have initiated a search party, I washed my hands, tsk-tsked at what the drive over in the convertible did to my hairdo, patted it down ineffectually, and bolted out of the ladies room.

Part of me, however, wanted to go back into that stall and figure out WHY the darn thing wouldn’t open the first hundred times I tried…but I didn’t want to tempt fate and get stuck in there for the rest of the evening.

Meanwhile, I get back to the bar and Vince is casually sipping his margarita, chatting with the person to his right, and noshing on chips and salsa without having given a thought to me desperately trapped inside the stall in the ladies room.

So, did we make it to the movie on time? Well, yes. But I sat through the first half with an ice-cream headache.

Chugging a frozen strawberry margarita? Not such a great idea. Carrying a Phillips-head screwdriver in my purse? Now that idea is starting to look better and better…

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Age of Oldness

So I woke up this morning with a headache, which is not really a good way to wake up on a Friday morning. Okay, so it’s not really a good way to wake up any morning, but I have been known to have run-on headaches that last two or three days and I don’t particularly relish the idea of dragging around a pounding head all weekend.

You know it’s not going to be a good morning when you reach for the Excedrin before you reach for your toothbrush.

Being a pretend doctor, I’m diagnosing the cause of my headache as sinus. Certainly can’t be stress-related since I woke up with it and hadn’t had a chance to get stressed yet. Well, unless my dreams were stressful, but I don’t remember them. Perhaps I was battling dragons in my dreams or something and the dragons were winning?

Nevertheless, it occurs to me that I am entering the Age of Oldness. And, to clarify for you young’uns, the Age of Oldness is defined as when you develop the ability to predict the weather based on your symptoms.

Hmmm, you think, my fifth metatarsal hurts, which means we’ll experience 97% humidity today.

Or, Oh my stars, you moan, my aching phalanges are a clear indication that we’ll have an accumulation of 4.3 inches of snow by 7:10PM.

(Mind you, saying things like “Oh my stars” are a requirement when you reach the Age of Oldness.)

I used to marvel at old people who could accurately predict rain because their bursitis was flaring up. Or they’d know that a tornado was developing somewhere over Iowa long before any weatherman could report it because they had a twinge in their right Achilles tendon.

So when I awoke with a headache, I predicted we were going to have a dark, dreary, rainy day. And then, of course, when I finally flipped open the blinds this morning (after popping some sinus medication AND brushing my teeth) and saw the dark, dreary, rainy weather outside, I was assured of my entrance into the Age of Oldness.

I’m probably not a full-fledged member quite yet, because I wasn’t confident enough to state my prediction out loud. Were I a full-fledged member of the Age of Oldness, I would have stated emphatically to Vince immediately upon awakening, “Land sakes, honey, I’ve got a mean headache behind my right eyebrow, so we’re gonna have us a dark, dreary, rainy day today!”

Just give me a little more time. If I’m not quite there yet, I’m quickly approaching the on-ramp.

As proof, I can tell you that gone are the days when I close my eyes at night and simply sleep through until the alarm goes off in the morning and I awake feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Nowadays, my level of rest is based upon what I had to eat or drink the night before and how close to bedtime said food or drink was ingested.

And I am loathe to admit that I am sometimes forced to go to the bathroom while it is still technically nighttime. That’s an Age of Oldness behavior and I want nothin’ to do with it! Usually I can distract myself – mostly be berating myself for drinking an entire bottle of water the night before about twenty minutes before heading to bed. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

If that doesn’t work, I repeat multiplication tables until I’m bored enough to fall back to sleep. I never go past 10 x 10 because then I’d have to get up and search for a calculator.

Of course, thinking about all this makes me remember childhood. Kids don’t wake up with stiff joints or complaints of a restless night because the chocolate brownie they ate at dinner gave them acid reflux.

Can you imagine that sort of scenario? Your five-year-old stumbles downstairs gingerly cradling her hands and says, “Mommy, I simply can’t attend Kindergarten today. I’m on no sleep. No sleep, I tell you! My arthritis is acting up and there is no way I will be able to grasp my crayons to complete any sort of acceptable drawing worthy of hanging on the refrigerator.”

Yeah, okay, so let’s not imagine that sort of scenario. It’s just too sad!

Besides, it has been been eons since I was in Kindergarten. I'm closer to the age where I'm starting to understand the whole concept of the “Early Bird Special” and why senior citizens eat dinner at 4:30. Gotta give themselves ample time to digest before they can lie down horizontally. Flaps and valves don’t work as well as they used to and things start backing up and heading in the wrong direction a little too easily.

As one of my friends wrote on another friend’s Facebook page for his birthday, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” Yeah. Truer words were never spoken.

So if you want a surefire prediction of this weekend's weather, just ask a certified member of the Age of Oldness. They know.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Goodbye Summer. Sniff...

Today is officially the last day of summer, and I think I’m living in the State of Denial rather than the State of Ohio. It’s just too hard to let go sometimes. I sort of feel like the wailing kid clutching at Mother Nature’s skirts and begging her not to leave. Because you KNOW what happens next – she sends Ol’ Man Winter to take her place. And Ol’ Man Winter is a big meanie.

The problem is Mother Nature is a tease. She lures us with sunshine and warm temperatures through much of September. Some days are even downright sweltering and we think summer is never going to end. Sure, we’ll occasionally experience a chilly evening now and again and we get a glimpse into the future when leaves will begin changing color and dropping to the ground in big, crunchy piles. But we aren’t thinking snowflakes yet, for crying out loud!

The first day of fall, however, is always an eye-opener. At least it is for me. Even if we still have a day or two in the upper 70s after the start of fall, I start thinking about warm boots and cuddly sweaters and colorful fuzzy mittens. At this point, it’s all about the fashion and not about the dirty slush and the snow shoveling and the temperatures so frosty that runny eyes and noses are a daily annoyance. And it’s certainly not about the sore throats and body aches and fevers that the winter ‘flu season brings.

So we arm ourselves with annual ‘flu shots and we check out the state of our snow shovels. We “winterize” our cars, which I think means changing the oil, but I’m not sure. Mostly because I think you are required to go to a smaller number of oil…or maybe it’s a larger number and…well…clearly, I don’t know what it means to winterize the car. This is why I have a husband. I don’t have to think about winterizing the car anymore. (To the chagrin of Jiffy Lubes everywhere who probably took me for a fortune every fall when I was a single woman.)

Ahem. Sorry about that little rant. I don’t enjoy car maintenance – as you can probably tell. (And, Vince? I’m also sorry about that husband comment. I didn’t mean it. You know how flustered I get when talking about car maintenance!)

Anyway, I tend to think that we have no real “Fall” season. We go from shorts and flip flop weather – to snow boots and bulky coats. Oh, sure, we may have about a day and a half of crisp fall weather that evokes memories of fun times as a kid jumping in big piles of those crunchy leaves or devising clever Halloween costumes and mapping out the best route to net the biggest haul of cavity-inducing candy.

But for the most part, we go from summer to snowstorms. At least in my opinion.

It’s always a clear indication that colder weather is approaching when I start thinking that a bowl of vegetable soup sounds good. Or when I think I might actually cook something. In the actual oven.

On the other hand, you can’t walk into the grocery store expecting to find any decent fresh fruit without paying a small fortune. Have a hankering for corn on the cob? Good luck. You either have to head for the canned vegetable aisle or the frozen foods section.

I’ll bet people living in Florida never go through this sort of thing. Of course, they have hurricanes to contend with. I, for one, never have to worry about hammering wood over my windows to protect them, or racing to the grocery store to clear out the shelves of things like bottled water and batteries and Spam. (What? They don’t buy up mass quantities of Spam before a hurricane? Well, gee. Then maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to move to Florida…)

Dealing with the changing of the seasons is always a love-hate sort of thing with me. I actually do enjoy the change of the seasons, but I think I’d prefer if the spring and summer lasted eleven months and the fall and winter season lasted a month. Or maybe a little less. A month might be too long.

Sadly, the good Lord didn’t select me to be in charge of his seasons. But it’s probably for the best. I mean, how would Jiffy Lubes all across the Midwest survive without forcing us to change the oil in our cars to the “winter” version?

So, okay, I’ll deal with fall. And then I’ll struggle along with winter. But that doesn’t mean I have to like Ol’ Man Winter.

The big meanie.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Evil Morning Commute

Did you ever see the movie, “Office Space” with Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston and Gary Cole? The film opens with the main character, Peter Gibbons, stuck in a traffic jam on his morning commute to the office. He’s drumming his fingers on the steering wheel in frustration as he sits in a non-moving lane while the cars in the lane next to him are moving right along. Finally, he’s able to ease out of his lane and merge into the moving lane. Which promptly slows to a stop. And then, of course, the lane he has just left starts moving.

Yeah, well, that’s how my morning commute has been going lately. And it is. Driving. Me. Nuts.

Haha, aren’t you funny. Okay, so sure, I was already a little nuts – but, you have no idea. This commuting thing is putting me right over the top in the nuts department.

One morning last week I gulped down my coffee a little faster so I could leave home a few minutes earlier. I tried a different route, thinking that I’d have enough extra time built in for slow-moving traffic due to the approximately ten sprinkles of rain we were experiencing. Well, not only did I not make it to work on time, I was about 15 minutes late. Why? Because those ten raindrops were apparently enough to cause a five-car accident. So much for thinking, eh?

Oh well. At least I wasn’t one of the five drivers with smooshed fenders.

Another morning, I noted that it was a good commuting day. There was no rain, no snow and just a little bit of sunshine with enough cloud cover so that drivers wouldn’t be blinded by the sun, which evidently causes many drivers to bash into the car in front of them for no good reason other than to cause me to be late for work.

But despite the near-perfect atmospheric conditions, Columbus drivers were uncooperative and I was doing the finger drumming on the steering wheel thing. There was another multiple car accident close to downtown. Big surprise. It made the phrase, "stop-and-go traffic" a complete misnomer as there was very little “go” in the traffic that morning. What’s worse is I never heard about the accident from the traffic reports on the radio. And given that the tow truck was already there (blocking traffic, of course), I knew the accident had not just occurred.

Traffic reports are – in my humble opinion – pretty worthless. Yet I still listen to them carefully and choose a route before leaving home. Inevitably, I choose the wrong route. I find out about some new tie-up about a second after I’ve passed the point of no return. Either that – or the traffic reporter never even mentions a problem on the route I’ve chosen, yet traffic is still backed up.

Yesterday was the first day of school for the multitudes of Ohio State students and, as I feared, traffic was at a near-standstill. At least until I finally passed the campus exit. Since I didn’t own a vehicle and lived on campus all four years back in the dark ages when I was an OSU student, I had no idea what was happening on the freeways around Columbus. Now, however, I am painfully aware. Clearly, there are a lot of students who commute.

Not only that, but the fall quarter is the worst time for campus traffic as students start out all shiny and diligent and take early morning classes. By the time spring rolls around, I sail right along past campus since the student commuters have smartened up and don’t start class until a more appropriate hour, like, say, noon.

It's a win-win situation for both the students and me at this point. But, sadly, I’m among those commuters who pay for their learning curve at the beginning.

I suppose I should look at the bright side of this whole thing and be grateful that I have (thus far) avoided being one of the poor souls standing next to their crunched cars frantically dialing their insurance agents.

Saying this, of course, makes me knock on wood. Every time. Even writing it makes me knock on the desk. I really don’t want to talk to my insurance agent and I will be most happy if we never meet in person. Ever.

I seriously hate the word “deductible.”

So, until I become either independently wealthy or my boss tells me I can work from home in my PJs, I guess I’ll have to grin and bear it and keep on truckin'. (Ha. Like the truck driving profession is one I would ever attempt - for more reasons than mere traffic snarl-ups!)

Nevertheless, I can’t promise that I won’t be the commuter grinding her teeth and drumming her fingers on the steering wheel in utter frustration.

Yeah, upon further contemplation, which took approximately 3.2 seconds, you should probably count on that.

Friday, September 16, 2011

This 'n' That

So life has been fairly hectic the past few weeks and I’ve sadly neglected my little blog here. We’ve been through the Labor Day holiday, our second wedding anniversary, a couple days' getaway in a little 1-room cabin with no phone or Internet service, my birthday, and a wedding that we were (okay, I was) probably overly involved with. I figured I’d come back this week relieved to merely have “work” on the schedule with nothing else planned except to catch up on life and catch my breath.

Instead, life seems to be even more hectic. I have dinner plans with three friends in the next week and lunch plans with two more. The weekend is going to be busy with get-togethers with various friends Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And Sunday afternoon we’re also supposed to go bowling with Vince’s son, whose primary focus is to see how many miles per hour he can heave the ball down the lane. (His record so far? 20 MPH. Mine? Oh, maybe somethin’ like 8.2…if I’m lucky.) He evidently doesn’t care so much about his final score, although I’m sure he doesn’t want it to be less than three digits.

So while I’m looking forward to this weekend and getting together with folks we haven’t seen in a while, I’m not finding a lot of spare time in the schedule to either write blogs – or catch up on the dusting. This means that you’ll be starting out on Monday without a pithy observation of life from me and Vince and I will be starting out on Monday with the same ol’ dust bunnies under the bed.

To the former I apologize, but I trust that you will have something of interest to read other than those “Please copy & paste this to your status if…’ notices on Facebook. And to the latter, I say it’s a good thing I never look under the bed.

I suppose I could tackle a chore or two early in the morning on Saturday, but I’ve been informed by my darling husband that we’re going to the doctor’s office before dawn’s early light to get our ‘flu shots. What happened to stopping by the Kroger pharmacy at a more civilized time – like, say, noon-ish? Oh well. I suppose it’s a good idea to get those ‘flu shots as early as possible so hopefully we can avoid catching any cooties this winter.

By the by, ask me if I have seen or plan to see that new movie, Contagion. Go on – ask me. (Aw, Thanks so much for asking.) My answer? Noooo, not on your life! I have a tendency or two toward hypochondria and I don’t want to ever think that the scratchy throat I wake up with some morning is the start of some evil quick-acting disease that will ravage me and my loved ones and turn us into zombie-like creatures who turn to dust as soon as we’re exposed to sunlight.

Well, okay, so perhaps I’ve rolled the plots of several different movies into one, but you catch my drift. I’d rather watch just about any chick flick out there than to watch Gwyneth Paltrow flop around on a gurney and then die a swift, ugly death quickly followed by legions of other folks so that the world’s population is reduced to a lucky few.

Not my kinda film, thank you.

Not that we’ll have time this weekend to watch any movies. Unless we plan to stay up until 3AM, which doesn’t sound like a good plan to me. If I find any spare moments, I’d probably spend them reading “The Help” that I’ve handily downloaded to my new iPad. Which I love. Both the book and the iPad.

If I find any other spare moments, I’ll probably shovel out my car. It is once again looking like a landfill. And Vince wants someone to fix the dent in the passenger door next week. Egads. There’s a whole lot more wrong with the vehicle than that little dent. Like I suspect that the number of blonde hairs that have fallen off my head and onto the floor mats would be just about enough to fashion a decent wig.

Yeah, I pretty much think that if the “Dent Doctor” were to take a gander at the inside of my car in its current state, he’d be shaking his head and wondering why the heck we were bothering with a little dent on the outside of the vehicle.

And I’m thinking that I should probably mop up that bit of barbecue sauce that leaked out of a take-home bag one night last February. I hadn’t realized it until maybe March and I tried to clean it up then, but barbecue sauce in its frozen state is not easy to clean up without a pickaxe. In June – the next time I tried to clean it up – it was gummy and nasty – and I got only a little bit up before I gave up.

Wonder if a straight edge razor would work? Sure the carpet might be a little thin in that area, but I suspect it’d be better than looking at a blob of Sweet Baby Ray’s.

So, you can clearly see I’m all over the map. I need to find a few minutes and center myself and possibly come up with a single subject to write about. Sure, I’ll get right on that centering thing. Right after I clear out those dust bunnies under the bed.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Please Help Me Welcome My Parents into the Wonderful World of Cell Phone Ownership. Finally.

I just got my parents’ a cell phone. Their very first. Aw. You can send them a congratulatory card if you’d like.

Well, truthfully, it’s not their very first cell phone.

Seven or eight years ago, I gave them one of my old cell phones when I upgraded. I went over its features and gave my dad a lesson on its use and everything. They were planning to go to the cell phone store and get the phone activated, but they never did. So the cell phone sat on a shelf in a closet gathering dust until eventually I donated it to a women’s shelter.

Then, a couple years later, my dad bought one of those pay-as-you-go cell phones so they could keep it in their car for emergencies. Only they never charged it. Not only that, but my dad said he had to continue buying monthly minutes even though they never used the previous month’s minutes. Part of the problem was that they didn’t seem to have long distance services on the phone, which pretty much eliminated everyone in their phone directory. So who were they going to call so they could use up some of those minutes?

My parents have stubbornly refused to see the benefit of cell phones because, frankly, they believe the world is a little too “connected” these days. They wonder why we have to be in constant communication with one another. In my single days, they’d roll their eyes whenever a friend would call and I’d spend the next several hours chatting on the phone. Mom used to say, “What could you possibly have to talk about for two hours??” I’d just shrug and say, “Stuff. Life. You know.”

She would look me directly in the eye and respond, “No, Jane. I don’t know.”

Mothers. You cannot be flippant with them. Ever.

Nevertheless, my parents still don’t get why people need to constantly check emails and Facebook and Twitter. And status updates? They wonder why anyone would care that someone has checked in at Applebees. “So what?” they ask.

They do have a point.

But texting? Well, texting is the ultimate time waster, in their opinion. What could be so important that we need to keep our eyes glued to our cell phones awaiting the next text? My poor parents. They have no idea. Probably I should send a random teenager to sit in their midst for about a half an hour and then they could see what real texting is all about. Even I get dizzy watching kids text each other.

However, my parents finally came to the realization that possessing a cell phone might not be a bad idea. Two main reasons for this change of heart: 1) coin-operated telephones are nearly extinct, and 2) Hurricane Irene.

My parents have a landline at their summer cottage, but they don’t like paying the minimum monthly charge during the winter months when they aren’t there. So they have it disconnected every fall and reconnected every spring. Last year, the phone had not been activated by the time they arrived at their cottage – so dad set out in search of a public telephone so he could call the phone company to complain. Not surprisingly, he didn’t have any luck. He eventually resolved the problem, but it was not an easy endeavor.

And then Hurricane Irene hit this past Sunday and my parents have been without power since then. No telephone. No electricity. No TV. Earlier that morning, they had called to warn all of us that they might lose power, but not to panic – they’d call again when they were able.

Well, we’d still be waiting (AND panicking) if a good-hearted neighbor hadn’t loaned them their cell phone so they could reassure us of their safety.

Whew. No need to call in the National Guard.

Since then they’ve called to give me daily updates from their borrowed cell phone, but mostly I think they’re bored and enjoy having a handy-dandy mobile at their disposal to connect with the outside world.

So I jumped at the opportunity. I went to the phone store and purchased the easiest cell phone with the least amount of “stuff” on it and the biggest screen (with the font sized to Extra Large for aging eyes). I added my parents to my “family plan” so there will be no excuse when they can’t find an AT&T store in their area. I entered their kids’ phone numbers in the phone’s directory. I typed up a two page list of instructions. (Actually, it would have only been one page except I had to use BIG TYPE.) And then I express shipped it to them.

Now I can only hope that they keep the phone charged and they actually use it. Maybe my weekly call to them will be on their cell phone from here on out. And who knows? Maybe they’ll get so proficient on that little flip phone, Dad will call and say, “Now how do you use this Pill Reminder function?” If that happens, then I’ll know they’ve moved into the 21st century.

But if they ever send me a text from their cell phone, I’ll probably faint.