Sunday, November 30, 2008

Municipal Plannin' With Betty



S.O.S
Salute Our Santa!

If Bossy Betty ran the world, I would see to it that every community had at least one large, tacky cement statue. Actually, more than one would be great. Imagine saying, "Oh, you want instructions to come to our house?" Let's see. Get off the freeway at the giant Chipmunk and keep going until you see the humongous Taco and then take a left. Our house is third from the corner with the seven-foot Violin Player. The person then thinks, "OK, Chipmunk, Taco, Violin Player. No problem."

At this time, most of these giant statues/monuments are owned and operated by businesses hoping for the advertising boost that the giant cement horse, or the seven foot lizard will bring in. I say, it's time to take the power from the corporations and give it back to the people of the cities. Let's vote on which statues we want where. Those persons wanting to get all serious and dewy-eyed by attaching symbolism, meaning, and gravity to the statues will be banned from the voting process. Sometimes a giant grasshopper is just a giant grasshopper, not a tribute to the brave souls who lived through the dust bowl.

Around here, we are lucky enough to have a giant Santa head and shoulders sitting at the side of the freeway. He used to reside up the freeway near Santa Barbara, saluting all who passed by and welcoming them to the ocean-side strip mall which he oversaw with loving devotion. He even had his own exit called "Santa Claus Lane." You would think that a city that shares a first name with Mr. Claus would embrace him, but no. Believe it or not, after his years of service, some high-handed nut jobs apparently decided he was unsightly and decided to get rid of him. Luckily, the owner of a small used car lot in Oxnard offered to take him. Santa was moved down the freeway, placed in a position of honor, surrounded by a wrought iron fence to keep the gangs and taggers out and is tended to on a regular basis. Best of all, the owner of the car lot chooses not to prostitute Santa, so there is no advertising on or near him. Now, we get the honor of seeing Santa every day AND he salutes US! You can bet that each and every time I pass him, I salute him right back and urge everyone in my car to do the same.

Santa's old, now culturally-deprived exit up the highway still bears his name. Imagine the road-weary family travelling up the 101 freeway, nothing to look at but the picture-perfect ocean outside their windows, the enormous pelicans flying gracefully overhead, the sunlight glinting off the crashing waves, perhaps a dolphin or two dipping in and out of the water. It's all over-wrought monotony, the loop recording that IS nature. (And, by the way, all available for $12.00 on a Planet Earth DVD which you can watch from your own couch while enjoying a fine Pop-Tart.) Then! the bright green sign appears! "Santa Claus Lane 1 mile." Oh! There is joy in the car! "Daddy!" Little Susie cries out from the back seat. "You're the best!" The mother looks approvingly at her husband and her son, whose nose is pressed eagerly against the glass. Now imagine the shock, the horror, the therapy bills when they turn on Santa Claus Lane and There Is No Santa Claus.

Sorry, to all you up near Santa Barbara who ache to have Santa returned to you. He's ours now and there's no give-backs. Find yourself another giant mythical figure in concrete. I hear the Easter Bunny is available, but is demanding a 20 year contract and ear-whitening every six months.

Municipal planners everywhere, start planning for those giant concrete statues that will surely start popping up as people around the country look up and realize just how bereft their city is without a giant peacock or nine-foot cowboy hat. Those who live near our fair town, Santa salutes you each and every time you drive by. Return the favor and salute him with the vigor and enthusiasm he so richly deserves. (Note: Please do this all year long, not just in December when you are trying to butter him up! He's smart. He knows exactly what you are doing.)


Betty Salutes Her Readers Too! Do you have a favorite giant character? Tell me about it!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Hero's Tale: Betty Fights Through Her Illness To Shop For Thanksgiving



It's the day after Thanksgiving, that most merciful of days. I, for one, am glad Thanksgiving is over. Yes, it's a delightful holiday in which we reflect upon our blessings and give thanks for all we have, but, it's just a snoot-full of work too, starting with the grocery shopping. As you all know, I was sick, sick, sick before Thanksgiving. However, I was determined not to miss work and I knew that Husband Of Betty (hereafter referred to as HOB) was busy, busy, busy with his job so I decided to go for the holiday groceries early on Wednesday morning before I went to work. I told HOB the plan and bid him a fond adieu, assuming I would not be back before he went to work.

I had to admit, even in the haze of my illness, I felt a little smug about arriving at Albertsons at 6:45am. My lark-like ways were working to my benefit and I was avoiding the late-shopping riff-raff that would be filling the stores Wednesday night. Judging from the parking lot, my plan to beat the crowds had worked, so I entered the store, Kleenexes in one hand, and efficient list in the basket of the cart. As soon as the double doors opened, I could immediately sense a change in my normally sensible, prudent Albertsons The store had been stocked so thoroughly overnight by men with three lettered names, that it resembled those jumbled, illusion-filled Houses of Horror some baser persons delight in at Halloween. Even from the front, the absolute pregnant nature of the store saturated each and every corner. Displays where no displays had ever been before sat, fat and heavy in the aisles and around corners, creating a dizzying obstacle course. I suddenly wished I had asked HOB to come along, but I knew he had to be at work soon and was at home, showering and getting ready for His Busy Day.

I took a deep breath and plunged in. I am woman. I will procure food for my family, I thought, slightly sweating and rubbing at my sore neck. I made it by the dozens and dozens and menacing pies, tip-toed through the valley between the plastic-wrapped turkeys, piled one on top of another and the bleachers of bacon who seemed to be just watching, waiting, perhaps, hoping for the show that an avalanche of the turkeys would provide. I turned the corner into the baking aisle to find no peace as each huge bag of flour and sugar seemed to groan from the weight of the writhing bag atop it. The bread aisle was a stuffy, oxygen-deprived zone as yeasty, plastic wrapped rolls strained at the little Plexiglass fences designed to keep them in. Like crowded, desperate refugees, they seemed to leap over one another in an attempt to GET OUT
Hoping for the serenity that soup connotes to the ill, I turned to that aisle to find the kind of soup I wanted was dispensed in one of those top-of-the-shelf gravity-fed dispensers. I reached for HOB'S favorite soup, withdrew the can and another can immediately took the place of the one I had taken. This irritated me. I took another and it was immediately replaced. Now who knows what undeveloped issue I have with the temporal nature of life, or perhaps this display represented this cold that had persisted within me, even though day after day I attempted to get rid of it, but this can thing really started to bother me. I couldn't help but think this dispenser was somehow mocking me, taunting, challenging me. I took another; it replaced it. I took another; it replaced it. My resolve grew. I took another. The cans just kept coming with more vengeance, as if thrown by an angry dictator who would have his will known and enforced. In a maniacal battle of wills, we fought until my knees weakened and I could stand it no longer. My nose was now completely blocked and I could feel a rash coming up on to my throat. I was exhausted by my outing and now my shoulders sagged. I dragged my cart to the cashier, unloaded it, all the time my shoulders stooped, my back bent. Despair filled my soul like the mucous that filled my nose. Alas, there is no Sudafed for the soul. I left the store knowing I had been defeated by the Campbell's Soup display.

I came home, unloaded the 143 bags of food, plopping them on the table, and dug through to find the perishables. I pushed them into the refrigerator and then, feeling perishable myself, crumpled onto the couch, checking the clock to see I had about and hour and a half before I had to go to work. It was then I heard the footsteps. HOB emerged, unshowered, stretching after an apparently exhausting hour of watching TV in one of the spare bedrooms. "What are you doing home?" I asked. "Oh," he replied. "Didn't I tell you? I have the day off."

I went to work early. When I got home all the groceries had been put away and the kitchen was really clean.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sick

Yes, that IS the Collared Lizard standing there, rising out of the mass of Kleenex. Today he is symbolizing me, or at least what I hope is to be me soon, rising out of this sickness that has overtaken me and threatened my naturally sunny disposition.


Basically, I am against illness of any kind. I don't see much good in it except perhaps to throw into sharp relief those days when we are healthy and we carelessly think nothing of it. We gobble those days up like meringue puffs out of Grandma's bottomless candy dish. It's only when we chomp down on the pearl onion that's snuck in there that we realize how good we normally have it.

For the most part, I eschew medicine of any kind for this kind of dramatic head cold, preferring to make it on my own through the Valley of the Mucous without the crutch of pharmaceuticals, but this time I was lured into the drug world by some dark, shadowy influences in my life (a certain friend kept yelling "Take a pill!" every time I sneezed) and the innate desire to breath. I took a couple of tiny, red, expired Sudafeds last night just before I went to bed. It did help with the congestion in a strange, just-out-of-the-swimming-pool-after-five-hours kind of way, but each time I turned my head on the pillow, tiny squirrels inside my head rushed to the upturned ear and began working on the ear drum as though it was the dial to a safe they were frantic to open. The clicking continued throughout the night. Perhaps they were sure the fabled golden walnut was just there for the taking.


Anyway, it was in this Sudafed-induced haze last night that I thought of posting the Collared Lizard for you all today. My regular readers know that that Collared Lizard means a Sing-Along Betty is coming up and are probably already rabid to know today's song. It's a short one today sung to the tune of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."



Nobody Nose The Kleenex I've Used
Nobody Nose the The Tissues
Nobody Nose What's In Those Red Pills
That Gave me so Many Issues.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Big Day Out


Knowing my penchant for bottles and cans, and my humming bird-like thirst for the thick red nectar for glamour and excitement, my friend Ellen came over today and carted me to "Bottle Village" in Simi Valley. It's a place created by a woman named Grandma Prisbrey who started making structures out of bottles and other items from the dump to house her collection of 17,000 pencils.

Oh, she lived a tragic life, my people. She married a 52 year-old at the age of fifteen and then had seven children, most while homesteading in North Dakota. Finally, she left her husband, took her children and headed to California. Unfortunately, all but one of her children died while she was alive. Depending on the information you read, there are a couple of theories about why she started Bottle Village. One theory is that she needed a way to work with the incredible grief of losing so many children to death and so she threw her broken heart and soul into creating art out of broken, discarded items that would help her express this unspeakable pain. Another theory is that she started the first wall to help block out the stench and dirt of the turkey farm next door. I prefer the tragic romance of the first theory but totally understand the practicality of the second.

She used just about anything she found in the dump or around town to create walls and walkways. Look down and there are more than few guns and scissors embedded in the walkways alongside ashtrays and dishware. Look up and there are random doll heads strung about. She also often dyed her white cats with different colors just for fun. In other words, she was just the kind of person with whom I would have loved to have spent time.

Unfortunately, Grandma Prisbrey died in 1988 and the structures, which were not cared for in any formal way, were damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The city of Simi Valley which likes to think of itself as a Modern Day Pretty People Family with its Ronald Reagan Museum and Super Sleek New Mall is not quite sure what to do with this awkward crazy, loony aunt. People from out of town keep showing up to visit and they seem to love her!

I enjoyed my big outing today. Regular readers, don't worry. I did not name nor become emotionally involved with any of the bottles. Well, I might have just whispered a few words of encouragement to some of the more downtrodden. It was really the least I could do. Besides, they talked to me first.

Bottle Pics:







Warning: Creepiness factor about to go waaaaaaaayyyyyy up. She also collected dolls from the dump and found over 60 of them which she scattered about. There was one barrel with doll heads on sticks that was more than somewhat disturbing. One brochure called it a "Whimiscal Doll Head Garden." OK. Right....










All you overachievers can get more information on Google by typing in Bottle Village. I tried a link here, but apparently that's not a skill I possess as of yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Patience is a Virtue; I Wish You'd Hurry Up And Learn That.

Do I Try Your Patience with a Gratuitous Artsy Photo That Has Nothing To Do With Patience? Hummmmmmm.


To me, patience is like a big can of tomato juice. At first, everybody agrees that it's a great idea to have a lot of it, and everyone admires the generous person pouring it out for others, for being generally "good" and "benevolent." Then it starts to get a little irritating. The can starts oxidizing at the top, so the patience starts to taste a little "off." Is this sincerity and excessive tolerance for real? The impatient begin to get suspicious, a little irritated, but if he or she SAYS anything, it only emphasize the "goodness" of the patient person and the impatience of the one inquiring. Oh, the patience keeps coming, but near the end gets thick and granular, covering those who want more action, less talk. Is it any wonder the impatient snap? Do you see that it is actually the overly-patient people that drive others to BE impatient in the first place?

I've been thinking about patience a lot lately. (Well, not too much because I lose patience with thinking about it too much.) Quick, which are you patient or impatient? Hurry up and choose! Well, which one are you?

If you had trouble choosing between the two, you have helped to make my point: I think part of the problem may be the vocabulary we are forced to deal with. Since there are only two adjectives to work with, people choose one and then attempt to live up to or (down to) the expectations that come with that label. Most likely, they will say one or the other and then take a great deal of time to explain that they are patient with this, impatient with that, that there is situational patience, etc, etc., blah, blah, blah. It just becomes too much, too much!

In my opinion, we need a term for people who are neither excessively patient, nor impatient. My suggestion at the moment is is Semi-Patient. This term does not thrill me, as I think it lacks pizazz and I am all about pizazz, but when we review use of semi- as it is used in other areas will also see how this could be the perfect definition for people who fall in the middle of this spectrum.

For example,
PAINT:

High Gloss (Extremely Patient Person) : Shiny Surface, Good for use in the kitchen. Can get slick and emit irritating glare. Certainly NOT for every situation.

Matte (Impatient Person): Flat, easily marred. Takes special care to maintain. Lacks durability.
HOWEVER:
Semi-Gloss (Semi-Patient Person): Good for everyday use. Very adaptable, works in most situations.


PUNCTUATION:

Comma (Overly Patient): Generally weak. Let's things go on and on without stopping. Often misused.

Period (Impatient): Stops thoughts prematurely. Terminal mark. Decides quickly when things are over. Can produce short, choppy thoughts.

HOWEVER:
Semicolon (Semi-Patient): Takes best aspects of both definitive period and permissive comma. Combines thoughts that are short and closely related in thought in smooth, logical way.

And Finally,

CHOCOLATE:

Milk Chocolate (Overly Patient): Excessively sweet but sometimes bland. Needs other flavors to work well.

Dark Chocolate (Impatient): Sometimes bitter, overpowers other flavors.

HOWEVER:
Semi-Sweet (Semi-Patient): Good in most mixtures. Sweet, but not too sweet. Substantial, but not overpowering. Works well with nuts or no nuts.


By my calculations, over 9000 hours per week are lost by the overly-patient trying to demonstrate their goodness and by people who are afraid to speak up because they will be seen as impatient. However, NOW we can re-classify ourselves as Semi-Patient and no longer be bound by the constrictions of the English language.

When that meeting drags on and on and you interrupt the bore at the front of the room, it's OK. You are not impatient, you are Semi-Patient and that's VERY different.

When that person in the line ahead of you at the Big Box Store dawdles and does not prepare a form of payment in a timely manner, you can rest assured, your reaction is not because you are impatient. You are, instead perfectly justified because you are Semi-Patient and (repeat after me) "That's OK!"

Medical experts will confirm that an overly-patient patient will not get well soon, and an impatient patient may be the patient who wears down everyone's patience, even the patient's patient care-giver. So you see, it's better to be a Semi-Patient patient.

Let's all save that impatience energy for ending world hunger, bringing peace to war-torn countries. Let's have no tolerance for injustice in our society.

Let's celebrate the overly-patient people in our society for their ability to stand and sort the socks at the bottom of the laundry basket when the rest of us have moved on.

The rest of you, come out, come out wherever you are. You now have more than two pre-set stations on Patience Radio Dial. Claim proudly your status as Semi-Patient! Please help me in my quest to institute this new term into the English language. I figure if we all work on this very hard we could get it done in two weeks top! Let's go! No dawdling! I want all hands on deck! Chop-Chop! Let's go, People! Spread the Word!

Oh, and thank you all for your patience and attention to this matter.



Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bossy Betty Tells a Story to Warm Your Hearts and Soothe Your Souls, And Today It All Ends.

(Please note: Using all the available contextual cues, you can probably tell you are coming in at the last part of the story here. Scroll down and read parts 1,2, and 3 before reading this one. It's a little like coming in extremely late to a very important dinner party, but I think we can all put on our happy, frozen smiles and handle this very awkward situation.)





Donald Ray Smith:
The Tail End of the Tale.

I left the office early and went to get our sons are their respective day cares. I tried to explain what had happened as best as I could without implicating Dan too heavily. Both boys, aged 3 and 7, nodded solemnly when I told them we needed to say good-bye to Donald. Together we entered the darkened bedroom where Dan had put him. I looked at our once-beautiful cat and tried to hold back my emotions. Donald's ears were nearly gone and only two of his long white whiskers remained and they were mangled like overused twist ties. His tail now bent like a broken twig and jutted out at an unnatural angle just about three inches from the top of his body. The smell of scorched fur filled the room. He lay there, panting, his eyes barely opened. Together as a family we said good-bye to our beloved cat. The boys took turns petting him gently and saying farewell. I bent low over his body, my tears falling on his black fur and thanked him for gracing our lives for so many years, and for making cat lovers out of my husband and sons. We went to bed that night, Donald close by on his blanket.

The next morning Donald raised his head slightly when I went to him. Dan used an eyedropper to dribble the juice from canned tuna onto Donald's tongue every few hours. The next day, Donald grew a little stronger and began eating and drinking on his own. We took him to the vet who shook his head in disbelief and then charged us $150.00 to cut off Donald's broken tail. Slowly, day-by-day, Donald slowly regained his strength. Dan had been right from the very start, I thought. This truly was a Wonder Cat.


He slowly recovered and we treated him like the miracle he was. Wherever he wanted to be, that was fine with us. Whatever he wanted to eat, we would seek it out. Perhaps it was our guilt at work after sending him on the dryer ride, but he was The King of the House. One night, about 3am I heard a strange, yet somewhat familiar sound and I roused myself enough to see that Donald was perched on Dan's shoulder as Dan slept on his side. I heard the sound again and tried to fight through the fog of sleep to respond. It was a retching sound coming from Donald, and I recognized it too late as the pre-vomit sound of a cat. He gave one final shudder and sound and then out came the vomit, streaming down Dan's neck and shoulder. I thought this might be the end of Donald's favored status, but no, Dan just immediately limped to the shower without a word and then came back to bed, gently moving the sleeping Donald who, now feeling better, had taken over Dan's pillow.


After Donald had fully recovered his health, the first thing we did when people came to our home was to show them our cat, Donald Ray. We knew it would be a real treat for them to meet him! We were so proud of our survivor and in our eyes he was truly beautiful, in fact, regal. In retrospect now I can see the looks we so willingly took to be looks of awe and admiration from our visitors were most likely looks of revulsion as they recoiled from the sight of a nearly tail-less cat with mere shards of ears and two twisted, contorted whiskers sticking out. Despite a few baths, Donald never smell quite right again, but we didn't care. We'd push him toward our visitors, "Here's our cat Donald! Isn't he great? Would you like to hold him?"


Donald lived another year and died a peaceful death at age 17. We held a funeral and buried him under the lemon tree in our back yard. Dan and I have always had a plan that upon our deaths, we will meet at a cabin in the hereafter. We have no doubt that Donald will be there, curled up in a chair, waiting for us. Dan, who after all these years is still on stress leave from family laundry duty, assures me there are no dryers in heaven, only Wonder Cats who wait patiently for the people who love them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bossy Betty Tells a Story to Warm Your Hearts and Soothe Your Souls: Today the Story Heats Up.

(Please note, if you missed installments 1 and 2 of this story, please scroll down and read those first. No, I am not upset at your absence. I just want what is best for you and apparently what you believe is best is to check in on this blog willy-nilly whenever it suits your fancy and that's just fine. It's just that now you have some background reading to do if you are to make sense of this extremely heart-warming story I have written just for you.)







I'm Hoping You Used
Fabric Softener on that Load.



Back to our story...


Over the next fifteen years we moved four times, both had numerous job changes, both got our master's degrees and became parents to two children and Donald was there for it all. He was the creature who curled up between us at night, woke us in the mornings, and was a constant companion during the day. He was there when we brought both sons home from the hospital and watched as they grew. He who scowled at our boys as they wrestled in the living room, was also the one who was always nearby when their tears ran and willingly let them clumsily pull him close to snuggle.

When I went back to work full time, our lives got incredibly busy and Donald was witness to more than one conversation concerning the uneven distribution of household duties. I was the one doing all the cooking, cleaning, and I wanted a change. Finally, after about a year of these conversations, Dan said in exasperation, "OK, from now on, I'll do ALL the laundry." "Even the folding and putting away?" I asked quickly, like a car salesman eager to seal the deal. He nodded in agreement. I was relieved but skeptical.

The first thing I learned about my husband from this experience was that multi-tasking was out of the question. As the washer was chugging away, he'd sit in the recliner, Donald on his lap, even though there were dirty dishes to be done, a lawn to be mowed, trash to be taken out. "What are you doing?" I'd ask as I entered the house loaded down with grocery bags. He'd look at me with an incredulous look and motion from his chair to the washing machine. "I'm doing laundry," he'd say slowly with a feigned patience. The he'd look down at Donald, raising his eyebrows and nodding as if to confirm my idiocy with the cat.

Now, watching Dan stuff fifty pounds of unsorted laundry into the washing machine was painful enough, but watching him stuff it into the dryer was even worse because I knew it would be hours and hours before he pulled out the faded and fried clothing. You see, when the dryer stopped, he knew he was supposed to do something with the dried clothes. Setting the timer for another 60 minutes and punching the start button again bought him more time. So many times I almost said something, but always caught myself. I knew this was part of his evil plan. He was just waiting for me to say something, anything, critical so he could throw up his hands and say, "Fine! If you don't like the way I'm doing it, then YOU can do it." I vowed I would not fall into that trap. I would stay the course for myself and all women everywhere.

One morning I was the last one out of the house and as I prepared my lunch to take to work, I heard the infernal sound to the dryer. It had been going for about two hours and I couldn't take it anymore. I flung the dryer door open to stop it and went to work.

Six hours later, I was in my office at work and Dan called. I could tell by the way his voice was shaking that something was terribly wrong. He had come home for lunch and on the way out to talk to a neighbor, had slammed the dryer door closed and started it up again. Ten minutes later he had come back and (miracles of miracles) opened the dryer door, pulled out the hot clothing and there, among the towels, jeans and blouses, was a limp, nearly dead cat. Dan rushed the smoldering cat to the bathtub, ran a thin layer of cool water and called the vet with the details. "16 years old? Ten minutes on high fluff? Don't even bother bringing him in," the vet had told him. Dan told me the whole story over the phone, his voice wavering. "He's still alive, but I don't think he's going to make it much longer," he said.


Tomorrow: The Conclusion, The End, The Denouement, The Cool Down Cycle.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bossy Betty Tells a Story to Warm Your Hearts and Soothe Your Souls: Day Two

Please note! If you missed the first installment of this story, please scroll down and read Part One first. (By the way, where have you been?)





Donald:
The Wonder Cat



Soon the cat care books were on the shelf and Donald Ray Smith (we had named him after Dan's boss) was firmly rooted in our lives. What I enjoyed as normal cat behavior-- his graceful jumps from the ground all the way to the top of the fence on the patio, his meticulous grooming, his quick reactions to strings dragged across the floor--Dan, who had never been around cats (and by the way was not allergic,) considered all of these feats as evidence that we had, indeed, procured a Wonder Cat.

"Did you see that?" he'd say with exuberance when Donald balanced himself on the thin windowsill and then jumped over to the counter. "Have you ever in all your life seen a smarter cat? he said, full of pride when Donald located the cabinet with the cat food inside and opened it with his paw. Proud father, he was convinced that Donald was more attractive, smarter and more athletically gifted than all the other cats in the world. "Just look at the muscles in those legs!" "I mean, this is one special cat," he'd say, holding him aloft like a trophy.


I had to admit, Donald was special. I, who had grown up with cats, had never had a one who was so affectionate. He adored being with us, sitting at the table when we ate, reading the newspaper when we read it, and when it was time to go to bed, he stretched out between us, his head on the pillow. He was also exceptionally clever. He learned how to answer our telephone that hung on our wall. When it rang, he would race to the kitchen counter, jump up and give the receiver a good whack to knock it from the cradle. After he had knocked it down, he jumped off the counter and batted the receiver around like a mouse as the person on the other end repeatedly said, "Hello?" Hello?" My mom, who had seen him do this when she was visiting, would reply "Hello, Donald!" She reported having fine conversations with him when we were not home.


Donald the Wonder Cat continued to amaze us through the years....


Continued tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bossy Betty Tells a Story to Warm Your Hearts and Soothe Your Souls And Drags It Out Over the Course of Four Days


Part One: In 1981 Dan and Bossy Get A Cat

When I married Dan, I promised to love and honor him, but that bit about "obey" didn't make it into the wedding vows and it's a good thing too, since just after our wedding and move from Kansas to California, he declared that we would not be getting a cat. He was a logical, sensible man who listed the reasons for his decision: 1) We could not afford the additional deposit our landlord required for pets. 2) We were probably going to move soon and 3) He was allergic to cats. His cat-loathing mother had told him so.

It took about two weeks of homesickness and a feminist neighbor who looked at me with disbelief when I explained "My husband says we can't have a cat," and said, "Are you kidding me? Forget him! Let's go get you a cat" and I found myself in front of the cages at the animal shelter. I knew immediately the languid grey kitten stretching in his cage was not for me, nor was the orange and white kitten playing with his little ball. No, I wanted the black and white ball o' frenzy reaching his paws out of the cage with his claws extended, his little pink mouth completely open, yowling to be released. Soon he was curled up, contented in my arms in our apartment.

Alone with the kitten, I planned. When Dan got home from work, I'd be there, looking adorable, holding the little kitten up next to my smiling face. How could he resist? So, when I did this just as he opened the door, I was stunned when he took one look at me and turned around and left. I nearly dropped the kitten. My mind went into overdrive. He would surely leave me now, go back to Kansas, send the divorce papers Fed-Ex, marry some obedient woman, have obedient children and never even think about me, left in California, working low-level secretarial job, my old sweaters covered in cat hair as I ate my lunch from a plastic grocery store bag every day before going home to live in my urine-soaked, ammonia-reeking trainer I shared with twenty cats, my only companions.

Thirty minutes later, Dan walked in again and in his hands were three thick books on cat care. "If we are going to do this, we are going to do it right," he said. I ran and hugged him first, then gently placed the kitten in his hands.

To be continued tomorrow....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winds



"Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind"

For four days now we here in Southern California have been dealing with these ninety degree Santa Ana winds, and let me tell you, hide the knives, my people. Not only are these winds wreaking havoc with the wildfires that are occurring all around us, causing death and destruction, they are basically scrambling our brains and re-wiring our collective nervous system. The ONLY good thing about these winds is that you can spend much less time on a hairdo, since you can blame a disheveled look on the wind and everyone will believe you.

Now since I hail from Kansas, not exactly a "no-wind" area, you would think that I could handle these Santa Anas, but in Kansas the winds are not nearly as bad. "Oh!" you say. "What about those tornadoes?" It's true, we do have winds associated with tornadoes, but when they do come in the form of a tornado, they come, they blow, they destroy (or not) and then they go. They don't hang around for days and days and days. Tornadoes are the visit from the out-of-town bad in-laws; Santa Anas are the in-town bad in-laws. Tornadoes are the hand slammed in the car door; Santa Anas are the leg ripped off by rabid dogs. Tornadoes are the twenty-four hour flu; Santa Anas are the flaming hemorrhoids.

When I was eight years old one of my favorite places to hang out on the farm was back of the chicken house. It was a low building that had a steep corrugated tin roof. The back area was the second stopping place for the cans and bottles from our household that would eventually make their way back to the dump by the creek. (Breathe deep, my environmentalist friends.) Since the wind and the rain had done their jobs, this plethora of cans and bottles was fairly clean. A brilliantly creative child, at one point I became consumed with digging through this mound and collecting different sized bottles and lining them up, creating families. The pickle jar father was sturdy and totally in love with the slender and lovely Wishbone salad dressing mother. The maraschino cherry bottle baby sat beside her older brother the mayonnaise jar. Grandfather Peanut Butter and the Grandmother Jelly came to visit quite often, and they would bring lanky, but socially awkward Cousin Catsup. Soon there was a neighborhood forming and it was a happy day for all when the family with the Campbell tomato soup triplets moved in. Even Uncle Butternut Coffee (nicknamed "Rusty" for his appearance) was happy there beside the Hormel brothers. Once the neighborhood was in shape, I began to scout for boxes. I had big plans for Main Street.

It was on a windy day when I went out back of the chicken house to begin construction on the neighborhood school which Mrs. Butterworth was going to take charge of. (OK, OK, I admit it, I had used extra syrup on the pancakes for days, just so I could justify bring in Mrs. Butterworth from the house to be the teacher.) I fought the steady wind all the way to the chicken house, and found my neighborhood intact. In fact, in back of the chicken house turned out to be the perfect place to hide out from the wind that was whipping over the fields.

Since Mrs. Butterworth was eager to get started and meet all the kids, I set about the work at hand, finding the perfect orange juice can to be an orphan who would happily live at the school and help the other children as they studied her message to "concentrate" written across her side. The wind howling around the corners of the building was a familiar sound, but I heard an additional sound that day, a slight scratching noise every so often. I tried to ignore it, but I kept hearing it--sometimes a short peep-like "stritch," sometimes a longer "striiiiiittttcccchh." I tried to place the sound. It was coming from above me, so I went investigate. I went far enough back until I saw them: three dead chickens in various states of decomposition on the slanted roof, one about three feet from the edge of the roof above where I was building. Apparently, my father had flung them up there to avoid attracting coyotes.

Well, what would you have done? I set back to my work temporarily, trying to ignore the danger from above, but it was not the same. I heard the scratching sound, the yellow talons on the corrugated roof. The absolute horror of even the possibility a half-decomposed chicken falling upon me caused a knot in my stomach and the feeling of apprehension overwhelmed me. I was jittery and tense. I abandoned my project. There would be no school, no park, no church and hence, even though they were perfect for one another, no wedding for the earnest Mr. Pork and Beans and delicate Miss Vienna Sausage.

Decades later, these current winds blow around me and I see how they make us all edgy and nervous. The wind stirs up things, pushes us around. We hear the scritching of the waxy yellow talons on the roof above us. The metaphorical chickens in our lives are up there and we know it. After the winds go away, we will breathe easier and get back to our normal routines. Then, one day, out of the blue, the winds of nervous anticipation come whipping up unexpectedly in our lives. We hear about the company lay-offs. We get that call that a parent is in the hospital. We hear that tone in the voice of a friend. We all walk a little hunched over then, anticipating nervously. Waiting, waiting, we pray that the winds are gentle and that this time the chickens do not fall.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bakin' With Betty


As we all know, "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts." And while I will be discussing the latter today, some of my readers may become the former. I know this in advance. However, there are times in life when a woman has got to take a stand (mixer), lash herself to the blade and ride out the quick trip from the Stir/Mix/Whip of emotions that the subject is sure to bring out in her readers. After years of careful thought and deliberation, I am now ready to take my bold stand: I am Pro-Cookie.

Oh, please, take your hands off your ears while I explain why I have taken this dramatic stance.

Yes, brownies are good. They, like the cookie, are comfortable, fun treats--at first. However, the placid surface soon cracks and when they are cut into squares they begin to get testy, argumentative, a bit overbearing. They are like the couple who agrees the divorce will be civil, but when the final separation occurs, there are crumbs to be claimed, crumbs no one wants. The division is never completely square. Some assets are bigger than others. There are rough edges that may never be smoothed out. They fall apart. They've changed; what was once sweet and unified is now more than a little bitter and overly-complicated.

Out of a sense of duty, we must tolerate the occasional doughnut as it sits, the aging plus-sized model, lined up in the box beside the other gussied up corpulent doughy has-beens, each absolutely convinced she is the star of the fashion show as they all proudly wear their coats of white icing, coconut, chocolate and the perennially garish multi-colored sprinkles. They sit, swelled up and florid. Little do they know, no matter the designer, no matter whether the stage is white or pink, we have seen this show over and over again. They are out of style, some puffed up with their own air of over-confidence, their glazed expressions hiding their lack of inner substance. Some are just plain old-fashioned.

To the inexperienced, the round pie seems to be the ideal dessert. Yes, the spherical shape connotes a sense of global awareness. The crust suggests a playfulness and sense of mischievousness, but the drama unfolds when the pie is cut and placed on individual dessert plates. Then the seemingly peaceful facade of the pie disappears. The piece sits before you. Turn it so the crust is nearest to you , and the tip points accusingly at other guests, or draws all eyes towards the dirty kitchen. Turn the plate, and the pie, without the slightest bit of hesitation or pause, points directly at you. Suddenly the table is silent as everyone looks at you and considers his or her long-held, but repressed opinions about your self-absorbed, self-important nature. You eat the tip quickly, hoping to stifle the looks, only to glance up and realize you have just reinforced those unspoken accusations. "Did you SEE how she gobbled the pie up, like someone besides Her Majesty herself was going to get at it?"

All of these examples lead me to my bold stand stance: I am Pro-Cookie. Cookies are the quiet and self-contained work horse of the dessert world. I am particularly fond of the oatmeal cookie which presents itself with an admirable sense of dignity. They are the sturdy wheels upon the wagon train of the everyday meal. They do not crumble easily, but maintain a quiet strength while knowing all along that, despite a modest exterior there is within a soft goodness and a sweet combination of lovable ingredients. My friends, is this not exactly what we, as people, should strive for as well?

Therefore, I now publish for the first time:

Bossy Betty's
Fancy-but-not-Ostentatious
Helpful-but-not-Officious,
Delectable-but-not-Dramatically-Decadent
Oatmeal Cookie Recipe.

1/2 of a tub of Earth Balance spread. (You can use two sticks of butter instead.)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (You can use egg replacer too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Tiny bit of almond extract (two or three drops)
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups oatmeal (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
handfuls of chopped walnuts, shredded coconut, Crasins, cut up pieces of dried apricots.

1. Heat oven to 350. In large bowl, beat butters and sugars until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract and beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. Add oats and other ingredients.

2. Drop by rounded tablespoons on to ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack.

Now I hear some of you out there saying, "That seems like a lot of work, Betty. Can't I just go to the store and buy some cookies?" And Betty says, "Oh, you must be so busy and tired from your long day of sitting in your cushy office chair and this IS a big job so of course you can go to the store and buy yourself some cookies! You can also quit your job, hitchhike to Las Vegas, get drunk as a skunk, get a tattoo, stumble down the aisle of a tacky wedding chapel/bar/cigarette store to marry the first pathetic person who shows you the slightest bit affection and live in a hellhole all your life too, but is that what you really want?

Straighten up, put on that apron and get to work! This is America! Do you think our pioneer ancestors, bent-over, hungry and tired from their work busting the hardened harney silt loam with a horse-drawn plow dropped into a 7-11 for some pre-packaged Nutter-Butters or Chips Ahoy and a Big Gulp? No! Now let's hear some bowl-rattling in that kitchen!

Happy Baking to All!
With Love,
Betty



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bossy Betty Gets Dirty or "A is for Agronomy"


OH BOY! Fans of Bossy Betty know just what the sight of the Lizard means! It's time to Sing-Along With Betty! "But wait!" you say. "Wait one darn, minute, Betty. This week is dedicated to learning, so what's with the singing?" Well, who better to greet you and introduce you to the subject of soil than the Collared Lizard who lives intimately on this substance that most of us merely regard as "dirt"? (And don't worry,the singing comes later!)

Land. Terra Firma. Soil. Dirt. Earth. Eluvium. Take away H2O and you've got dust. Add H2O and you've got mud. "Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for it's the only thing in this world that lasts. It's the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for...." (Quiz Number 1: Please name the source of this quote.)

And so today we examine this substance by listing some of the soils that have the honored position of becoming "State Soils." Betty believes that you should always know the State Soil of anywhere you live, or even visit. With that in mind, I have done a quick scan of my regular viewing public and have listed the state soils of my readers. Please memorize your state soil so that you can drop it into conversation at work or at school. You will honor the sacred land upon which we live AND impress the pants off those around you.

Please note Betty's invaluable comments following the name of the State Soil.

California--San Joaquin--Surprisingly NOT named after movie star Joaquin Phoenix, but should be. I'll call Arnold.

Oklahoma--Port Silt Loam--Not connected with wine in any way, but some say the state looks a whole lot better after a couple of glasses of Port.

Maryland--Sassafras--La-Ti-Da! Small State Syndrome at work here.

Florida--Myakka--Is that mucous I feel welling up in my throat after I say this one? Floridians, any way of changing this? Work on it and get back to me. From what I understand it's really just a sand and not a soil anyway--a clear case of false advertising.

Texas--Houston Black--Does NOT make good tea. Trust me on this. Menacing sounding name, too. This bothers Betty.

Missouri--Menfro-Missouri's feeble attempt to honor hairstyle of African American men of the 70's

Colorado--Seitz--Is it a soil or the name of a furniture manufacturer? I expected more. You can't depend on the flash of all those mountains forever. Let's show a little substance too.

Tennessee--Proposed State Soil--Soils of the Dickson Series--What's with all the foot-dragging, Tennessee? Could there be a contingent of anti-soil people in Tennessee? What's that all about? It's simple: choose a soil or get out of the union.

Kansas--Harney Silt Loam--I like this name. It connotes stability. The three word name speaks of stability. Sounds like the name of a kindly grandfather. Betty feels like singing about this one.

Please Sing-Along with Betty as we pay tribute to the Kansas State Soil with the following song, sung to the tune of "Home on the Range." I memorized this rendition years ago specifically for this occasion. Let's hear it now, people!

Oh, give me a home
On the Harney Silt Loam
And I'll fill it with acres of wheat
This soil is the tops
for producing our crops
so our nation has plenty to eat.

Loam, Loam on the Plain
And Harney Silt Loam is its name.
This soil is the key to our economy
and gives Kansas its reason for fame.


That was good! OK, so here is Quiz Number Two:

Please name six agricultural products that start with the letter A that California produces more of than any other state. (Hint: Apple is not on the list.)

Remember, competitive ones, sometimes you must hit the "Post Comment" Button twice for it to register your answer.

Doesn't Learning Feel Good?

Until tomorrow,
Betty

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Meditation and the Agenda for the Week.

This week Bossy Betty takes time from her busy social schedule to dedicate herself to the betterment of her reading public. Education, as we all know, is the butter upon the bread of the soul, the essential green garnish around the scattered salsa bar of emotion, the orange pulp in the big orange jug of the juice of human nature. It is essential that we sometimes stop and re-dedicate ourselves to the adornment of our cerebellum with a the splash of the glitter of new information, the shining beads of enlightenment and the rare and ruby-encrusted pendant of introspection.


Before committing to embark upon this cruise ship of exploration, you must consider the following questions: Are your bags packed with the appropriate cruise wear? Are you willing to take a room, that despite having curtains, may have no porthole upon which to look out of? Can you handle yourselves in a respectable manner at the 24 Hour Pizza station? If you have answered "Yes!" "Yes!" "Yes!" to these questions, the first thing you need to do it calm down. A course of education like this is not to be entered in such a frenzied state.


So then, to prepare ourselves for this amazing journey, let us start with a medication, er, I mean a meditation. Below you will find a picture of the spider that is currently residing on our back patio. Let us all take thirty to forty minutes to gaze upon this photo and mediate on the essences of the spider and his webby realm. Begin now.


Ah, wasn't that refreshing? (Note: Bossy Betty knows who fell asleep and who carried out the assignment. It has been noted in my log.) Now that we have centered ourselves (much as the spider is centered in his web) let us continue our journey of introspection.


For your benefit, Betty went to the World Wide WEB to find some information on spiders that would help you to weave your previous meditation in the corners of your psyche where you can view them and reflect upon your own lives. (Warning, this could get sticky.)


Here are some statements I found concerning various breeds of spiders. Please read and ask yourself the following essential question: Is this true of me?


"...generally harmless but can be a nuisance."


"...may or may not be aggressive but will inject venom if continually provoked."


"...is shy and seeks to run away when disturbed."


"Social behavior ranges from precarious toleration...to cooperative hunting and food sharing."


"In general their presence works very much in favor of humans wherever they are found."


Until tomorrow,
Betty

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Strange Christmas


I awoke on November 4th with a dimly familiar feeling. It followed me around for awhile like a mysterious shadow and then, just after voting, I knew exactly what it was. It was a trace of the feeling that comes with Christmas morning--a sense of mental exhaustion and peacefulness that comes with the arrival of The Day.

No more listening to otherwise mature children bickering about who has been the best and deserves our favor, no more weighing the drawbacks and benefits of deals, no more repetitious commercials on the television and radio, no more mailboxes bulging with slick, overdone advertisements. Some in the neighborhood had decorated their homes and some had not, but what we had done, we had done. Now all we had to do was to sit back, hope for the best, and wait to see which kids were happy and which were disappointed.

Strange Christmas has been over for almost a week now. We've thrown out the catalogs of voter information and (hopefully) taken down the yard decorations. Now we sort through and deal with what we have. While many of my presents from my California aunts and uncles were good, some disappointed me. My Ventura County cousins didn't deliver all I had hoped, but I was very happy with some of their decisions and I loved my big Santa present! Thank you, America!

Happy Week After Strange Christmas.
Peace on Earth.
Goodwill Towards all People.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bossy Betty Makes a Scene

Many have suspected and I am here to verify that I do indeed have superior peripheral vision and a highly sensitive startle reflex. While others in my household may not see this as an advantage, I have long held out the belief that these attributes would serve me well, say on a treacherous, snake-filled jungle trek, on a shuttle with various technical instruments journeying into unexplored outer space, or when looking for a specific pencil skirt in a size 8 in the first hour of the first day of a deep discount sale at a crowded Macy's.

Yes, it is true that I have screamed upon being surprised at innocent members of the household who just happen to be entering the house from the garage while I am walking down the adjoining hallway. Yes, I have been known, on occasion, to shriek when the peanut butter jar falls from the shelf in the refrigerator or perhaps let out a blood-curdling screech when coming across a leaf on the floor happens to be shaped precisely, astonishingly, Ripley's-Believe-It-Or-Not-worthy like a dead mouse. Perhaps this is annoying and, I suppose, a tad bit unnerving, but aren't I exactly the person we need in our society when the earthquake hits the library and I alert the general public, including small, highly fragile children, with a shrill, emergency-like siren of a scream to the dangers of the books shooting off the shelves like heat-seeking missiles? Instead of the derision with which I am viewed here at our home when I scream at the occasional umbrella-looking-like-a-rifle-with-a-bayonet in the hall where no umbrella-looking-like-a-rifle-with-a-bayonet has ever been before, should I not be looked on with appreciation tinged with pity? Is this not a gift that I must live with, work with, sleep with, even as it torments me?

And so, I did not appreciate the looks that passersby gave me as I experienced a moment today while walking down the sidewalk outside of Kohl's. I was wearing my new necklace which had been made especially for me by one of my best friends, Karen. She had made it with her two gifted little hands and it features a beautiful bead which I had admired from the moment she had shown it to me. Now, I am used to necklaces that are a little shorter, a little closer to my throat, so is it any wonder that my gift/burden of superior peripheral vision and highly sensitive startle response kicked in when the sunlight hit the bead just right leading me to believe there was, not a necklace, but a hard-shelled beetle upon my chest? I made the evolutionarily appropriate sounds for such an event which led others to stare at me as I simultaneously made the aforementioned sound and repeatedly slapped my chest, attempting to get the "beetle"off.

For comparison purposes, I supply here a picture of the necklace AND a picture of the beetle. I will not tell you which is which. You will have to grapple with the confusion, the indecision, the excruciating uncertainty, thereby giving you just a hint of what Betty deals with on a daily basis.





Don't envy me. Don't douse me like a flea with the with the suffocating powder of poisonous pity. Just allow me to live among you in peace.

I remain your faithful servant, Betty.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

EXPOSED!!!!: Daucus Carota

Pleasant Evening Story Time Scene
or
Horrifying Tableau?
You Decide!


Today: a Bossy Betty Exclusive Report
Only HERE! Only NOW!

We mingle with them on a daily basis. They say they are just here for salads and snacks, but what do we really know about these weapon-shaped vegetables lurking in our refrigerator drawers? Today we discuss the many issues surrounding these seemingly "normal" vegetables who sport their signature bright and happy color despite the fact that they grow and flourish in a dark underground world.

In this exclusive report, Bossy Betty sits down with a really Attractive Vegetable Guy (AVG) to answer your questions about the mysterious Daucus Carota, the so-called "common" carrot. In this searing investigative report, Bossy Betty promises the grating truth, no sweet sticky glazing of the harsh facts, as she peels back the layers to get at the root of the issues that surround these suspiciously quiet vegetables who live among us, infiltrating our schools and work places daily via backpacks and lunch bags.

!!!Warning!!!
After reading this, you may never wear your orange coat and green hat together again.


BB: First of all, did you take out the trash in the back room? Because it was getting really stinky.

AVG: Yes, I did.

BB: And did you fill up the dog's water thingy? Because it was empty earlier tonight.

AVG: Yes, I did.

BB: OK. Then let's get to the subject at hand. Carrots: Friend or Foe?

AVG: Oh, friend indeed. They have fiber, carotene, all sorts of minerals too.

BB: Yeah, yeah. We've heard that old story for years. Isn't that just a cover-up for their covert plans to take over the world?

AVG: I don't think so.

BB: Is there any truth to the rumor that our eyes will grow red as fire if we eat too many carrots?

AVG: No.

BB: Twenty years ago there was no such thing as a Baby Carrot sold in stores. Why are these desperate carrot parents now releasing their young for consumption?

AVG: Most carrots sold as Baby Carrots are not baby carrots at all. They are full-sized carrots cut into small pieces with their edges smoothed out.

BB: Gasp!

AVG: These carrots came about because a carrot processor was trying to figure out how to use up the broken bits and pieces that were left over after processing. He ran them through a mixer with gravel and discovered that he could smooth out the corners and come up with little carrots.

BB: So let me clarify for my readers (some who may be good-hearted, but a little slow). These are not actual infant carrots we are biting with our sharp, white incisors?

AVG: Most likely no. We now breed special varieties just for making these "baby" carrots. The reason they are more expensive is because the processors have to peel them before they cut them up. We've bred varieties that have very small lenticils which are the holes on the surface of the carrot. That makes them easier to peel. By the way, we no longer use gravel to smooth out the edges.

BB: Don't you think the American People have the right to know this vital information about these so called "Baby Carrots"?

AVG: Ummmm. Yes. I guess so.

BB: One more question: Who do you think is the prettiest woman on earth?

AVG: Piper Perabo

BB: Try again.

AVG: You are.

BB: Thank you for speaking with us today Attractive Vegetable Guy. You wanna go make out or something?

AVG: OK.




Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Possum in Nordstroms


A foundation of a firm, but tender crust made up of solid Midwestern values, covered with a hearty helping of a saucy, smoky-sweet liberal arts education, a generous helping of spicy bits of humor, chunks of savory personality, all finally, topped with tasteful good looks, a sprinkling of humor and genuine flakes of true empathy. If Betty was a pizza, she would be what in the pizza world is referred to as "The Works."

So why is it when I entered the Nordstroms which recently opened in the local mall, my eyebrows began to grow together, my socks lost all elasticity, my teeth grew mossy and salsa stains appeared on my shirt? I hesitantly walked the luminous floors, through the shining aisles of premium goods, all the while fearing that the medically-clad women at the brightly glowing cosmetic cube would ask me to come behind the counter where they would escort me to the elevator-like pneumatic tube concealed within the walls of the cube and shoot me to J.C. Penny's where I belonged.

My stomach began to flip as I felt my inner possum of shopping scramble about inside me. He was out of his element here under the chandeliered lights and longed for the familiar dimly lit backyard discount stores. The spacious, open displays of $170.00 cashmere sweaters were threatening. There were no warrens of crowded clothes racks to hide behind, no bins of mixed-up t-shirts to burrow beneath. He made it clear he was ready to go. I knew I had to at least try and overcome.

I breathed deep and pushed myself further into the store. I put on a casual air and stopped to look at a suit jacket. I did my best to stifle the half laugh/half gasp of disbelief and astonishment at the $700.00 price tag. The strange sound gurgling up and the fact that I slapped my hand over my mouth alerted a nearby worker that I might have been about to vomit on the expensive jacket. She was a remarkably thin woman in a black dress. She came to my side, but not too closely, to ask me if I needed help. Her impeccably arched eyebrows seemed to indicate true inquisitiveness, so much so that I wanted to grab her arm and say, "Oh yes, I DO need help. I really do! I've got to get this whole thing figured out. Can we sit down somewhere and talk for an hour or so? Can I bring my possum with me?" Instead I just smiled a crooked smile and shook my head.

She backed away, smiling and nodding politely. She could smell the Ross on me; her mind automatically calculated the thread count of my white shirt and found it below industry standards. Did she perhaps recognize the jacket upon my back as the one she donated to Goodwill two months ago? No loud Hawaiian shirt and sandals could have announced it more clearly: I was a tourist here. She knew that and I knew it too. I was not from this country of $400.00 handbags and $150.00 shirts.

My visit was over. It was time to go home. The possum, now calmer, nodded in agreement. We went and got a cookie at Mrs. Fields before leaving the mall.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It Can; We Will


It had not seemed so tall, so shiny nor quite so intimidating in the Big Box Store and yet as we slid it from its box and placed it in our kitchen, it seemed elevate even further toward the kitchen lights. It was the Sears Tower of trash cans.

We had traded in our short, happy plastic choo-choo of a trash can that fit under the sink for this sleek high speed train of the trash world. Its wide mouth stretched across the top and I immediately thought I felt a vacuum in the room that seemed to emanate from the silver silo. I looked at it suspiciously and left the room as Dan placed the trash bag down in the cylinder. When I came back in the kitchen, I gasped. He had not yet replaced the top ring of the can and the red drawstring on the plastic bag outlined the mouth perfectly, the red lips pursing up. It did not have to speak. I knew what it wanted. It was feedin' time.

Well, it WAS time to clean out the refrigerator I thought and I do have to admit there was something satisfying about just transferring all that old food right into that big trash can. I didn't have to make 48 trips out to the trash barrel and it may have been my imagination, but it seemed truly happy when I made the decision to throw an entire head of cauliflower in there. (At least I think I made the decision. I really don't remember it. I just remember holding the cauliflower and then it was gone.)

In the days after we bought it I found myself both drawn to its shiny surface and repelled by its insatiable appetite. I knew had to get a grip before I started throwing my cell phone and wallet in it. Soon we had reached a truce. I agreed to feed it regularly and it agreed to stay away from the pets. It is the volcano in the village and we villagers keep it happy with our sacrifices of old spaghetti and egg shells. If we must fetch food home from fast food establishments and feed it the paper wrappers, then that is what we must do. We understand our role here. We must keep it happy. We must.



Sunday, November 2, 2008

Time To Rejoice!


Fellow Larks of the world, Rejoice! It is the day we have been waiting for--the day when all is set right in the world and our beloved Standard Time is returned unto us. Set those clocks back and get out there to enjoy the early morning hours which now glow lighter earlier, all the better for us to arise and be industrious while others in the world foolishly snooze away these golden hours.

Alas, Betty married young and did not realize the problems a mixed marriage would bring. I thought the Owl would change, would see the absolute value of rising at 6:00a.m. or earlier. However, not only does my mate not bounce from the bed at that hour he is, in fact, more than a little grumpy at times. As I am make my breakfast singing Abba tunes i.e. "Gimme, Gimme A Man After Midnight!" (perhaps the wrong song for a Lark to sing?) into my peanut butter-coated knife/microphone, he stumbles in, squinting at me as though I am some sort of intensely glowing five-eyed alien that has landed in the kitchen threatening to take all his Raisin Bran back to my home planet. He holds up his hand in a policeman-at-the-crosswalk fashion to indicate "Stop!" Does he not understand that as a Lark I am programmed not only to arise early in the morning, but to sing as well? I try to tone it down a bit when he is in the room, but feel like the child who can't wait for the principal to leave so I can play again. I try singing a bit softer. The policeman grows more irritated. The hand goes up again, this time flicking the wrist.

I love everything about morning--the way the air smells, the dew on the grass, the delicious anticipation of what the day will bring. Every morning I open my front door to walk out to get the newspaper and there he is: a little bird who lives near our house. He comes to sit on the side mirror of my car to check out his image, peck at it a bit and sing to the world. After his mirror routine, he will fly on to his other tasks for the day. I go in the house, read my newspaper, check out my image in the mirror, peck at it a bit, sing to the world and then I fly on to my other tasks for the day.

Owls of the world, I am sure some of you are upright, moral, good people. I would love to hear your attempt to justify your seemingly wanton lifestyles. Write to me or call. Just be sure to contact me before 9:00p.m. I'll be asleep after that.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bossy Betty Goes For a Walk Through the Richly Decorated Interior of Her Mind



I am sure it is in some Nordic Walker's creed somewhere that the Nordic walking poles should never be used as instruments of violence, and yet if I hear one more yahoo yell out "Lookin' for snow?" at me when I have my poles strapped on, I just may break that creed. I even prefer the looks of pity I receive from those people who glance over and think "Oh, that person needs not just one but TWO walking aides" to the snow comments. (I think Dan wanted to wear scrubs and a plastic name plate when he first went out with me and my poles.) The fact is Nordic Walking DOES look geeky, but this is the price we pioneers of the sport must pay. We are the visionaries, the prophets of the poles who must lead our people across the deserts of exercise ignorance, no matter the stares or taunting.

When I first started walking with my poles, I did it early in the morning when it was still semi-dark and no one was out. The trouble was that I seemed to make a lot of noise, plopping my poles down with every step. Through the fog, I looked up and caught a glimpse of a sleep-bedraggled man in an upstairs bedroom window, curtains swept back to catch a glimpse of the mysterious quadra-ped lurching its way through the early morning mist. "Get over here and see this," I imagine him telling his wife who punches her pillow down and says,"Stop it, Harry. I'll get up when I'm darn good and ready. Go downstairs and pour yourself some Cheerios."

So I went on an on-line forum community of Nordic Walkers (most of them Europeans) to tell them of my noise problem and was immediately chided quite severely (darn European know-it-alls) for stabbing my poles into the pavement instead of lightly touching them down. One very concerned man took this tact: "Grip your the handles of your lightly as though they are small sparrows, never clutching them, merely caressing them, calming them, and swing your poles lightly forward." OH OH. Those sparrows are goners, baby. I've got a lot of trouble with that whole "light touch" thing. Just ask the people in my office wing who believe I am in there typesetting my e-mails with with a hot metal Linotype machine instead of the plastic campus-issued keyboard.

Also entered into evidence: this picture of my attempt at stenciling a border on my bathroom wall. To the left is the lightly mottled look described by the instructional booklet: "A soft touch is best for that fuzzy, muted, dreamlike look." To the right is how the crafts fiesta ended after one lap around the room with my brushes and paints. I think you can see that instead of lightly grasping the stencil brush between my slender fingers, I was gripping it like a killer with a butcher knife and a bad case of rage. (In fact, I had no rage at all! I was thoroughly enjoying myself as I was pounding away, swigging down my second gallon of Diet Pepsi, thinking , "Oh, man! This is fantastic! I am so GREAT at art!")



I reflect back to the early days of our marriage when I actually enjoyed playing house and putting away the dishes. I hummed happily as I grabbed dishes and glasses and stocked those cupboards with zeal. One day as I was doing this Dan came out and said crossly, "Are you making a statement with all that noise?"

This makes me think. Do I use this heavy touch with all I do? Am I destined to live life as the Leadened-Handed Woman who mothers hide their newborns from lest I touch the throbbing fontanels of their offspring? Will it get worse as I age? Will I be one of the old women standing in line at the bank with caked-on makeup and bright lipstick heavily coating her lips, teeth AND her deeply-creased phitrum? Will my pets begin to hide from me fearing spinal cord injuries? And here's the question that comes creeping up across the floor of my brain, like strange, forgotten reptile leaping up, begging to be acknowledged: Do I do this in a metaphorical sense as well? Am I too blunt with people? Am I the well-meaning, but socially inept aunt only invited to weddings out of familial obligation? "She can come, but for heaven's sake, seat her in the back and DON'T let her talk to anyone!" Am I the hyperactive kangaroo at the party for the polite flamingos?

OH OH. This is too much for Betty's brain to handle on this fine Saturday morning. I need to go do something domestic: to wash clothes, to clean, to bake. Yes, I'll bake. That will calm me down. I have a new recipe that takes crushed graham crackers. All I need is that pretty apron in the kitchen and that sledgehammer in the garage and I'm all set for a lovely day of baking.