Saturday, February 28, 2009

Etiquette Lesson # Three from Betty and Emily: Children and Manners! What's a Parent To Do?

Beware!  Set down rules NOW or you'll end up with children like these unruly monsters!

Betty knows most of you parents try your hardest to make those children of yours behave at the table and elsewhere, but all that talking, and cajoling, and reasoning with the little beasts is getting you nowhere.  It's time to face it: trying to understand your children and treat them as rational human beings is not getting you anywhere and is, in fact, robbing your children of their future need for self-medication/therapy.

Betty and Emily are here for you.  Here's a no-nonsense guide to making those children behave at the table and elsewhere.  

 The Baby Feeds Itself
pg 743 from Etiquette

Girls are usually daintier and more easily taught than boys, but most children will behave badly at table if left to their own devices.  Even though they may commit no serious offenses, such as making a mess of their food or themselves, or talking with their mouths full, all children love to crumb bread, flop this way or that in their chairs, knock spoons and forks together, dawdle over their food, feed animals--if any are allowed in the room--or become restless and noisy.

Once graduated to the dining-room, any reversion to such to such tactics must be nipped in the bud.  The child should understand that continued offense means a return to the nursery or eating, wherever it may be, by himself.

The Spoiled Child
pg 763

It is only necessary to bring to mind the most irritating and objectionable child one knows, and the chances are that its mother continually throws the spotlight on it by talking to it, and about it, and by calling attention to its looks or its cunning ways, or even, possibly its naughtiness.

It is humanly natural to make a fuss over little children, particularly if they are pretty, and it take quite superhuman control for a young mother not to "show off" her treasure, but to say instead, "Please do not pay any attention to her." nine cases out of ten, the old-fashioned method that assigned children to inconspicuous places in the background and decreed they might be seen and not heard, produced men and women of far greater charm than the modern method of encouraging public self-expression from infancy upward.

The Chief Virtue: Obedience
pg 764

No young human being, any more than a young dog, has the least claim to attractiveness unless it is trained to manners and obedience.  The child that whines, interrupts, fusses, fidgets and does nothing that it is told to do, has not the least power of attraction for anyone, even though it may have the features of an angel and be dressed like a picture.  Another that may have no claim to beauty whatever, but that is sweet and nicely behaved exerts charm over everyone, 

When possible, a child should be taken away the instant it becomes disobedient. It soon learns that it cannot stay "with mother" unless it is well-behaved.  This means it learns self-control in babyhood.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Etiquette Lesson # Two from Betty and Emily: Women in the Workplace! Know Your Place!

Sure, Betty's dedicated her role as Domestic Goddess, but Betty's also a Career Gal.  She understands the delicate tightrope that a woman must walk between home and the workplace.  The major problem, as I see it, is that even after a woman has put on those faux pearls and sensible, but calf-enhancing heels, and heads to the office, her mind may still wander back to the domestic front.  The marred glass of the photocopier can remind her that she needs to wash her windows at home.  The aquarium in the lobby can make a recipe for tuna casserole pop up in her mind like forgotten toast in the toaster.  The employer who sits like a fat rodent at his desk calling for her repeatedly may inadvertently remind her that she really needs to do something about those troublesome gophers that are currently tearing up the front lawn at home.

What's a Career Gal to do?  How can we be MOST efficient at our jobs?  Well, luckily, I've found that Emily has some advice for us and it's darn good advice for all women employees, not just secretaries. 

The Perfect Secretary
from Emily Post's Etiquette, pg 662

The perfect secretary should forget that she is a human being, and be the most completely efficient aid at all times and on all subjects.  Her object is to coordinate with her employer's endeavor and not make any intrusions, which would be much more likely to affect him as hurdles than as helps.

She should respond to his requirements exactly as a machine responds to the touch of a lever or accelerator.  If he says, "Good morning" she answers "Good morning" with a smile and cheerfully.  She does not offer a remark--unless she has messages of importance to give him.  If he says nothing, she says nothing, and she does not even notice that he has said nothing.  In fact, when she notices his preoccupation she waits, if possible, holding back irrelevant messages until he has finished the letters he wants to dictate or whatever business it was that made him ring for her.

Needless to say, a secretary must not betray  the secrets of her employer.  His business dealings must be regarded as professional secrets that it would be dishonorable to divulge---no matter how inconsequential they may seem.

Well!  At last we have some guidelines with which to work.  You may not be lucky enough to be a secretary (yet!) but adapt this basic philosophy, adding your own special ingredients to like you would a cookie dough recipe, to your current job and see what happens.  

Who knows?  You may even get a Certificate of Recognition at the next employee luncheon.  Better yet, your boss may get one and you can sit back and smile, watching him accept that award, with the secret, thrilling knowledge that you made it all possible.  You'll clap and smile along with all the other employees, thinking only of him and his outstanding achievements, not even remotely thinking of that Gopher Gasser currently in the trunk of your car.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Etiquette Lesson # One From Betty and Emily: Young Women! Be Particular!

Betty is quite aware of her popularity among all the young ladies who study the Way of Betty, hoping to learn what makes her "tick," what makes her ooze a nearly fluorescent trail of culture and sophistication as she treads upon the sidewalks of life.  

I do not take this responsibility lightly, nor have I forgotten my younger days, those intoxicating days of dating and romance.  Before HOB arrived on the scene to mesmerise me with his finesse behind the wheel of his Pinto Wagon, and his hypnotizing talk of the wonders of Agronomy, there were plenty of young suitors willing to woo Betty with sweet doughnuts and cold Coca-Cola drinks.  However!  Betty was Particular and YOU SHOULD BE TOO!

Here, from page 355 of Etiquette is Emily Post's warning/guidance:  


But what happens when young women are not particular, when their manners are too free and the precepts of the formalities forgotten, is not the melodrama's story of wrecked reputation so much as one of lost romance through being no longer able to sense or exact in its fastidious requirements.

Continuous pursuit of thrill and consequent craving for greater and greater excitement gradually produces the same result as that which a drug produces in an addict; or to change the metaphor, promiscuous crowding and shoving, petting and cuddling have the same cheapening effect as that produced on merchandise which has through constant handling become faded and rumpled, smudged or frayed and thrown into the bargain counter in a marked-down lot.  One danger of a certain dominant iconoclasm that might be called the chaperonless attitude, is that values may be appreciated too late.  And when one of these reckless squanderers longs for something of real value to give, there may be nothing left worth giving. 

There you have it, my young female readers.  Do you want to be the bedraggled shirt with lipstick stains found in the bin at Ross or do you want to be the clean, fresh blouse hanging upright upon the racks at Nordstroms?  The choice is up to you!

Note: It might do you good to memorize this, especially those of you in the colder climes, for instance, say, Colorado, where the low temperatures may wreck havoc with your sensibilities and make you believe you are scot-free from your duties and responsibilities as young ladies.

Tomorrow!  Betty and Emily discuss the World of Work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Betty and Emily: Together At Last!

Are you a buffoon around a butter knife? 
A dolt when it comes to dating? 
Are you a simpleton at a baby shower?  
A nincompoop with a napkin?  

Betty is here for you, readers. I have dug out my 1942 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette and will be dispensing certain gems of advice for you in the next few posts.   

First, a few words from our guide, Emily Post:

"A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one's decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one's decent appearance; and precisely as one wears the latter without being self-conscious of having on shoes and perhaps gloves, one who has good manners is equally unselfconscious in the observance of etiquette, the precepts of which must be so thoroughly ingrained as to make their observance a matter of instinct rather than of conscience obedience."

Your lessons begin soon, so change your shirt, and run a brush through that hair, will ya? We gonna get us some manners!  Yahoo!!  

Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Poetry Tuesday

Ode To The Lemon
                   ---Pablo Neruda

From blossoms
by the moonlight,
from an
aroma of exasperated
steeped in fragrance,
drifted from the lemon tree,
and from its plantarium
lemons descended to the earth.

Tender yield!
The coasts,
the markets glowed
with light, with
unrefined gold;
we opened
two halves
of a miracle,
congealed acid
from the hemispheres
of a star,
the most intense liqueur
of nature,
unique, vivid,
born of the cool, fresh
of its fragrant house,
its acid, secret symmetry.

sliced a small
in the lemon,
the concealed apse, opened,
revealed acid stained glass,
oozed topaz,
cool architecture.

So, when you hold
the hemisphere
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
you spill
a universe of gold,
yellow goblet
of miracles,
a fragrant nipple
of the earth's breast,
a ray of light that was made fruit,
the minute fire of a planet.

       --Translated by M. S. Peden

Monday, February 23, 2009

At Any Rate, That Is Happiness...

From My Antonia
by Willa Cather
(For Susan)
I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin. There were some ground-cherry bushes growing along the furrows, full of fruit. I turned back the papery triangular sheaths that protected the berries and ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines. The gophers scurried up and down the ploughed ground. There in the sheltered draw-bottom the wind did not blow very hard, but I could hear it singing its humming tune up on the level, and I could see the tall grasses wave. The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Do Those Pants Come in My Seismic?

Some months back,  I was in Macy's, on the second floor of the three-story building.  I had been on the hunt for a good deal ever since I had eyed the "60 percent or more off " racks at the back of the store. The pickin's were slim, but had the time and I had the hunger.   A few near misses on the blouse rack had only intensified my appetite, so I journeyed on, hoping to flush out hidden prey.

Finally, I spotted them: black pants with a blue pin stripe running throughout.  Oh, they were cute, cute, cute and my size and they were marked down, down, down, from $80.00 to an incredible $10.00.  I made my way back to the fitting rooms and tried them on.  Success!   I stood there in the dressing room admiring myself in these dreamy trousers. Oh, this was the deal of the century.  I changed back into my clothes and emerged from the dressing room just as I felt the floor beneath me shudder.  

I was hoping it was just my own personal earthquake registering my excitement at this deal, but the swaying mannequins told me this was a bit bigger.  The lighting fixtures that hung down swung in that eerie, uniform way.   I looked ahead at the cash register counter where a man and woman employee stood, befuddled.  They were looking around, while the woman ashen-faced, was holding on to the counter in front of her.  The large sign reading "Customer Service" swayed above her, creating just a bit of a creepy, horror movie-like creaking sound. Determined, I walked amid all the gently rocking racks of merchandise, and confused customers who were heading for the doors, to the counter.   

The employees were looking around.  "I'm not even sure I should use the cash register," the man said. "Should we leave the building?" the woman asked.  "I'll call down and see what we should do," he said, grabbing the phone.

Were they kidding?  Even if the walls started to come down, and the floor gave way, I was going to leave the store with these pants.  I could just see myself emerging from the rubble, bloodied and battered, but with these pants in my fists.  I had to act quickly to avoid such a fate. Quickly,  I whipped out my credit card and stood there, shoving the pants in the woman's direction.  She just stared blankly at me, so I waved the credit card under her nose like smelling salts.  "I'm ready!" I announced, hoping those words, combined with the whiff of the credit card would spark in her a deeply-instilled sense of service or at least a robotic reaction programmed in her by some rigorous employee training sessions. 

She showed a glimmer of consciousness, so  I gave her a reassuring smile,  shoving the pants closer and positioning my credit card in the little machine on the counter, all the while hoping she did not look up to see the 75 pound sign still swinging above her.  

"I'm sure it's all over now," I said, in a brisk, no-nonsense voice.  Finding the tag with the UPC code on it,  I flipped it over and positioned it just under the scanner.  Now all she had to do was move it three inches.  She looked over at the man on the phone who just shrugged.  

I stared into her eyes and, willed entirely by my incredible mental energy, she finally completed the transaction, all the time talking about how scared she was, how these things freaked her out, about aftershocks, the dangers of living in California, she hoped her kids were OK, blah, blah, blah. When my beloved pants finally made it into the bag, I breathed a sigh of relief.  

Oh, I love my pants.  I wear them with my pretty blue sweater.  I call them as my "earthquake pants" because of how they came to live with me.   

One time after hearing me refer to them this way, Evan asked, "Hey Mom, why would you need special pants just for an earthquake?"  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Our Friday Snack and Meditation

 Little Brother of the Wilderness by Meridel Le Sueur is a children's book which tells the story of Johnny Appleseed.  Bossy Betty's Rx if you are having a Frantic Friday:  Go find yourself a beautiful apple, slice it up, (careful with that knife!) then sit back and read this passage very slowly while enjoying your calm, fat fruit.

But Johnny Appleseed was not lonely.  He walked back and forth across the country like a shuttler tending his apple trees.  He went into the wilderness, out of the wilderness.  He was in the snake and buffalo country, into the tall grass and the short grass country, through the forests, down the rivers.

With him walked the animals, and above him flew his friends, the birds, and deep down in the tall grass and the short grass, the tiny eyes of quails saw him.  Worms and snails moved out of the way of his toes.  All the crawling, creeping, singing things watched Johnny Appleseed going by, wearing the morning and the evening light, reading the sky, with a hoe instead of a gun.

They all said, "There goes Johnny Appleseed, going back for seed, or going West to plant them, with one pants' leg blue and the other one red, his cup, the palm of his hand."

OK.  Don't you feel better?  Do you need another apple?  Do you need to read the passage above again?

Now, my friends, it's time to go out there and tend your own apple trees, wherever or whatever they might be, in and out of the wilderness.  The world watches as you carry out your quiet, persistent work, and cheers you on silently, but fervently.  Enjoy your journey, leave a trail of kindness for others to follow, and recognize that all the small actions of your days matter in some way to somebody, either now or in the future. 

Thanks for reading.  Betty salutes you all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chicken Barley Casserole

When I walked into Wanda Kenyon's home, I thought I had walked onto the set of a television show.  I was in high school and visiting Wanda's daughter, a girl I knew only slightly through 4-H.   Wanda's kitchen was spotless, with a gleaming Formica table and white, lacy curtains at the windows.  I was dazzled by the sparkling clean appliances and the freshly-baked and frosted cake on its stand on the counter.  Wanda herself was the picture of domesticity/serenity with her apron on, and her hair pulled back in a bun.

Then she sat me down and served me Chicken Barley Casserole.  It had exotic ingredients my Puritan-like parents would have considered showy and pretentious.  She had used mushrooms, almonds and onion soup mix--complex, big-city items that had never darkened the door of our simple farmhouse.  THEN she asked if I wanted soy sauce to sprinkle on it.  I didn't even know what that exotic liquid was, only that it had the smell of foreignness and danger and I wanted lots of it.

I took one bite of this casserole and tasted the ingredients dancing together in a salty group tango in my mouth.  Right then and there I asked her to please write down the recipe.  It represented all I wanted to attain in life.  She pulled out a fine pen from her desk and wrote the recipe on the card I still have today.  

I never went back to her house and the only reason I know I did not dream up that idyllic afternoon is this recipe card, worn and stained from years of use.  Below, I have copied the recipe faithfully, using Wanda's exact wording except where noted.

Chicken Barley Casserole

1 cup pearl barley
½ c margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
1 envelope dried onion soup mix
1 can (4 oz) mushrooms, drained
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 c slivered almonds
1 cups chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

[Parboil barley first. Drain.]  Brown barley in margarine. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the next five ingredients and simmer for five minutes. Put in casserole and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for one hour.  If you wish, serve with some soy sauce.

Betty makes this as a vegetarian/vegan dish by substituting the chicken with fake chicken from Trader Joes, and using chicken-less broth. Yum! During baking I sometimes cover it for the first 40 minutes or so and then take the foil off for the rest of the time.

I hope you'll try this recipe.  Release your inner Wanda and see what happens.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February's Grain of the Month! Can You Contain Your Excitement? Well, Maybe! Well, Yes! Well, OK, But Just BARLEY!!!

Oh Yes, Oh Yes!  It's time to announce Barley as Grain O' The Month!  It's just what February needs--a dependable, healthy grain that can actually shovel out more cholesterol from those arteries than its more ostentatious cousin, Oatmeal.  Barley is often overlooked on the grain aisle, stuck on the bottom shelf, pale and white in its thin plastic bag, no flashy Quaker to advertise its goodness.  It's time to liberate this grain from its own shyness.  

Here's a wonderful excerpt from the 1881 Household Cyclopedia:

"Next to wheat the most valuable grain is barley, especially on light and sharp soils. It is a tender grain and easily hurt in any of the stages of its growth, particularly at seed time; a heavy shower of rain will then almost ruin a crop on the best prepared land; and in all the after processes greater pains and attention are required to ensure success than in the case of other grains. The harvest process is difficult, and often attended with danger; even the threshing of it is not easily executed with machines, because the awn generally adheres to the grain, and renders separation from the straw a troublesome task. Barley, in fact, is raised at greater expense than wheat, and generally speaking is a more hazardous crop. Except upon rich and genial soils, where climate will allow barley to be perfectly reared, it ought not to be cultivated."

My favorite line here is "It is a tender grain and easily hurt in any of the stages of its growth, particularly at seed time."  If that doesn't open your heart to Barley (and perhaps make you identify with it)...

How about some good nutritional info?  

1 cup of barley gives  you 54 percent of your daily fiber, 36 percent of your daily selenium, 32 percent of your daily copper, 31 percent of your daily manganese, and 23 percent of your daily phosphorous needs.

But wait, there's more!

Barley offers arthritis sufferers protection from atherosclerosis, lowers cholesterol levels, lowers your chance for type 2 diabetes and helps in the development and repair of body tissues. All that fiber will sweep out your pipes as well!  

Face it: with Barley as February's Grain of the Month there is absolutely no reason to be sluggish, churlish, or generally out of sorts anytime in this awkward stepchild month of the calendar year. 

Your date with barley begins tomorrow with the unleashing of a recipe for this quiet but powerful plutocrat of the grain world.  Barley!  Pick up a bag in the grain aisle tonight, and dance with it all the way to the cash register.  Tomorrow we dine!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: Three Poems About Radishes

(Note to Betty fans: By now you can probably tell Betty had a picture-taking spree in the produce department.  In the coming weeks, you'll be seeing more of these pictures.  They have inspired me!  Produce does that!)

Write About a Radish. . .
                         -- Karla Kuskin

Write about a radish
Too many people write about the moon.

The night is black
The stars are small and high
The clock unwinds its ever-ticking tune
Hills gleam dimly
Distant nighthawks cry.
A radish rises in the waiting sky.

The Man Pulling Radishes
                            --Kobayashi Issa

The man pulling radishes
pointed my way
with a radish.

Spoon River Vegetables
                         --GC aka BB

It is true.
I have squandered my life.

While the frugal celery
strove to tower,
and the conscientious pepper
struggled for dignity,
I was busy admiring the way 
my healthy-rosebud-complexion
spread so evenly over 
my satin polished skin,
taut over my
luscious rotundity.

I loved it there
in my darkness.
I relished the warmth
of the moist lover 
enveloping my swelling belly.

How was I to know
I wore green flags on my head?

But I have never been angry.
I have no regrets.

When they pulled me
from the ground
the earth kissed me goodbye.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bossy Betty: Routineer

Friends of Betty occasionally “kid” her about her propensity to maintain a certain schedule in her every day life. They mention her early bedtime, her strict feeding schedule, and the stars upon her calendar denoting her daily walks. They think (falsely) that Betty hampered by a lack of spontaneity.

Oh how wrong these people are. I can be just as spontaneous as the next person, if you give enough warning that spontaneity is going to be absolutely necessary. Give me enough time to prepare to be spontaneous, and I can do it. I’m flexible. I can bend and weave like a lithe boxer in the ring as life occasionally throws those jabs and punches that require swift and certain action. For instance, while reading a good book, I have been known to get a little crazy and stay up until 10:30 some nights. That’s an hour and a half past my regular bedtime. If a friend calls me up and wants to go out to lunch at noon, I’ll say yes, even though I normally eat at 11:15. So what if I risk blacking out from low blood sugar right there at the table in the restaurant as my friend is prattling on about her day? I’m showing spontaneity, aren’t I? Isn’t that what the world touts as being so fantastic? Spontaneity rules! Oh, it’s just so great to be spontaneous! That’s what we are led to believe! OK, well, why don’t we all just go live like feral cats in the alleys back of the mall, eating Long John Silver’s scraps out of the dumpster? Wouldn’t that be a life of spontaneity? Wouldn’t that just be so awesome, so adventuresome, so spontaneous?

(Betty’s getting worked up now; you may want to stand back from your computer.)

Why is it that spontaneity is so valued by everyone? I say it has been used like a weapon and a crutch by all the non-planners of the world, and for too long we who take it upon ourselves to have the foresight to plan and the discipline to carry out those plans have allowed ourselves to be bullied by this warped and falsely-worshipped concept.

It’s time for those of us who like schedules, lists and routines to stand up and be proud of our nature. We ARE Routineers!* We will be ashamed of it no longer! You! Hiding your alphabetized grocery list! Bring it out! You over there, making up excuses why you can’t go to the movies at the last minute, say it: “I had already planned to wash, dry and iron my sheets and I am going to do it AND I’m going to LOVE doing it!” Shout out your adherence to reading the newspaper in a certain order. (1) Front section, 2)Local News, 3)Features, 3a) Hints from Heloise, 3b) Annie’s Mailbox, 3c) Dr. Gott.) Proclaim it! Hide your regularity no longer! Declare that Wednesday night IS Pizza Night: always has been and always will be!

(By the way, wouldn’t The Routineers be a fantastic mascot for a High School sports team? The team would always play the same opposing teams on the same schedule, at the same time every week. The snacks at the game would always be the same. The cheers on the field would be scheduled at 3 minute intervals and be chanted in the same order every game. At 9:15pm everyone would check his/her watch and go home to go to bed. Go Routineers! Go! In a swift and orderly fashion!)

Here’s Betty’s take on it: These lists and routines are actually the only way to keep a wild filly such as myself in check. They are the pens, fences, and corrals that allow a free-spirited creature such as myself to operate in the world. I think that’s the way it is with all my fellow Routineers. We NEED these self-imposed boundaries because we are all just a little too exciting. What a minute! I guess that makes all those spontaneous people the dullards, the ones who need the “stimulation” that unscheduled events bring to them.

Oh, my people. I am sorry I did not understand this sooner. Your kidding, your quips, your disparaging remarks about Betty’s schedule and her adherence to it have all been signs of jealousy, desperate cries for assistance. I now understand and can help. I shall schedule in a time (9:00-9:15am tomorrow) to make lists for you. With your lists, a sense of boundaries in your otherwise boundry-less worlds, and regular feeding schedules, you will no longer be bound to that wheel of fire that IS Spontaneity. Instead, you will be free join the exciting life: the life of the Routineer. Congratulations. We'll have a celebratory snack at 2:13pm. Don't be late.

(*Routineer: One who adheres to or insists on routine.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bossy Betty Bellies Up To The Bar

Can You Hear Me Now?

Once again, I wrapped up the Baby and entered the glass doors of the Apple Store, having procured my appointment at the Genius Bar the day before. This Apple store is in the same mall that Fancy and I frequented just one week earlier and I couldn't help but wistfully think of our Day of Beauty and how much fun it had been.  

I noticed the The Genius Bar, located in the back of the store was not nearly as pretty or nice as the Lancome Beauty Bar had been, but said nothing as I unloaded the Baby and opened it up.  The Girl Genius who had been assigned to my case looked at my old model Apple Baby, its case scratched, its neck askew, its white surface permanently stained, and reacted a bit as though I had just placed a dead house cat upon the counter.  She reluctantly made room for the battered carcass among the sleek, powerful cougars already purring away smugly on the counter.

(I knew the cosmetic ladies would have never behaved this way!  They would have immediately offered help, hurriedly unscrewing jars and applying expensive but soothing balms, assuring me that, with just the right foundation and constant care and maintenance, all would be well.)  

Genius Girl took no time to deliver the death sentence:  It was either my hard drive, or a glitch in the operating system.  It was bad and if she sent it out it was going to be at least $800.00, and the computer was not even worth that.  She dropped this bomb upon me like it was her shopping list and then turned to the Genius next to her and started talking some shipping problem she was having. It was like one of those bad doctor drama moments in which the professional has lost all humanity and, though brilliant, has no bedside manner.  This would never have happened at the Clinique counter where even a simple age spot is treated with astounding depth of understanding and compassion.

I managed to get the Genius Girl's attention again and once again mentioned that the computer had been working fine until I had installed the updates.  She shook her head and used a bunch of computer lingo designed to teach me a little lesson about WHO the genius here was.  

Then, I told her about the badger sound. There was a lot of noise at the Genius Bar and impossible to hear the sound coming from within the computer, so I leaned over the counter and did a loud, stunning rendition of the badgers-with-ratchets sound.  

At this point, the Genius moved her stool back about a foot.  There are two possibilities for this: 

1) she wanted to enhance the acoustics and get the full effect of the sound.

2) since to make the sound properly, one must throw the head back, open the mouth completely, bare the teeth and open the larynx to make the high-pitched  sound, her shrinking back may have been an involuntary reflex stemming from our shared evolutionary roots in which she recognized the facial expression and sound as that of a distressed female baboon defending the life of her child.

In any case, to help her out, I continued making the sound for about two minutes as she sent her fingers flying over keys.  She finally held up a shaky hand to let me know I could stop.   She had found the problem:  my preference files had been corrupted.  She had deleted them, reinstalled them and now everything was fine. I could take the Baby home.  Girl Genius even helped me pack up the Baby and made sure my departure was a speedy one.  

As I left the store, holding my newly-restored computer there was a certain spring in my step.  My spirit was radiant and renewed, uplifted and firm.  There were no free samples at the Apple Bar like there had been at the cosmetics counters (note to Apple: think about it!) but still, there was much to be happy about: no $800.00 bill, no need for a new computer.  

The sun was breaking through the clouds as we stepped out of the mall, me and Baby,  just a couple of happy geniuses, ready for the weekend.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bossy Betty, The Baby, and The Badgers

Now that Beauty Week is officially over and we have reviewed how to lube up one's face until it is nearly incandescent, and how to hitch up that same face with scotch tape and elastic bands, we can point our moisturized skin and taut countenances toward the future and see what it holds.

Betty's immediate future holds a visit to the Apple Store to belly up to the "Genius Bar" to see what is ailing her laptop. "The Baby" as I call my computer, started having indigestion trouble on Monday when I updated some whatchmadiggers and installed some diddlywhats as I was instructed to do by the Gods of All at Apple. As soon as I installed these, small badgers snuck inside my computer and took up residence. I can hear them, clicking away in there with small ratchets, fiddling with my programs and slowing everything down. Their first endeavor was an attempt to block my contact with the outside world by destroying my Internet Browser.

Compounding this problem is Baby's bad battery problem and a slightly broken neck. About a month ago, I was carrying the laptop with the top open (bad idea) when I dropped it (another bad idea) and discovered that there are just a whole lot of connections between the laptop top and the keyboard. (Note to Apple: bad idea? I am not sure if you are using the human body as a model, but when that connection between the head (screen) and body (computer) goes, it can have dire consequences. I don't want to bring up the sad story of the Superman actor but, really, did we not learn anything from his tragedy? Let's work a bit on that design, shall we?)

So yesterday Betty wrapped The Baby up in its finest swaddling clothes and took it to the Apple store at the mall and entered full of hope. There, at the back of the store were the ones who could help my injured and badger-infected Baby: the Geniuses at the Genius Bar.

I cradled the injured Baby in my arms and began my walk back to the glowing Bar only to be stopped by on Orange Shirt Boy #1 who wanted to know if I had an appointment. With moist eyes and luminous skin, I shook my head and began to get the Baby out to show him just why I needed this appointment. He quickly directed me to Orange Shirt Boy #2, probably giving him the Secret Apple Sign that means "Alert! Loony Lady coming your way!"

I kept my gaze upon the Genius Bar as I explained the Orange Shirt Boy #2 that no, I did not have an appointment, but I was sure it would not take much time.... Once again, I attempted to withdraw the Baby from its pouch when he held up his hand. This Orange Android's heart as not SOFTware at all, but was HARDware. There were no appointments available until tomorrow at 12:30 he told me. I glanced down at his appointment chart and saw the times blocked off with names and notations: 4:00 Liz G: Can't get I-Tunes loaded. 4:30 Peter D: Difficulty with Editing Software. Oh Please. "Excuse Me!" I wanted to yell out, "Is there NO TRIAGE here? Hello! I've got a baby here with a bad battery, a broken neck, and a ratchet-wielding badgers infestation! Besides that, I've got a blog to keep up. People are waiting for the Grain of the Month recipe!"

I am sure if I had this explosion, they would have rushed me right up there. "Oh, my gosh! You've got a blog to maintain? We forgot it's The Year of Grains! Why didn't you say so?" they would have said, pushing the woman with the trivial I-Tunes problem to the floor to make room for me. I enjoyed playing out this inevitable scenario in my mind, but those years of training by my children paid off. I decided to "chill out" and not make a scene this time.

So, I am using HOB's computer right now. I am grateful to have it to use, but using someone else's computer is a little like staying at a hotel. It's good to have what you need, and it can even be fun at first, but then, despite the free ice and soap, you just want to get out and go home where it's comfortable, familiar and you know where everything is.

(You will notice there is no fun, colorful picture accompanying this post because when we had a "tutorial" on how to install and then export pictures, HOB's patience gene imploded. I mean it just went Poof! Fast! Wow! He is not naturally patient and good at sharing like Betty is. When I pointed this out to him, he merely confirmed through his reaction my salient observation.)

The next time I write to you, I am hoping it is on The Baby, badger-free, sitting on my lap, right where it belongs.

Until then, Betty Fans!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Poetry Tuesday

Barbie Doll

This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.
She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.
In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker's cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.
--Marge Piercy

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Answer: At Last!

Dear Rejuvenique,

Thank you so much for sending me my Facial Toning Mask.  I am finding it very useful for exercising my face with electrical impulses sent from its gold-plated cushions in the patented facial mask from the tiny nine-volt battery in the control unit.  (This thing is super scientific!  Wow!  You guys really knocked yourselves out on this!  Good job!)

Because I am very busy, and enjoy multi-tasking in general, I took the opportunity of wearing my Rejuvenique mask to work last week and discovered another benefit of your product. Walking through the halls of our corporation, I found I did not have to expend energy on unnecessary looks of recognition on people who I really don't recognize and don't even particularly care about.  

In a meeting later on in the day, I found freedom from having to correspond my facial look to the subject being discussed.  Cut in funding for something I really do not care about?  Before,  I had to strain my facial muscles in order to make sure I expressed what others would regard as sadness and regret, but with my mask on, I could actually smile smugly and no one knew!  

But wait!  There's more!  When I was bored, I no longer had pretend not to be!  When my co-worker Marsha (BOO!  HISS!)  got up to spout off about some goody-two-shoes project she is working on, I could make the "I'm about to vomit" look I have controlled for years!  It felt so GOOD!

When that idiot John came in to see if I had finished up the work I had promised him last week, (the paperwork is actually somewhere in my apartment.  I am pretty sure I used some of it to write my grocery list on last week) I did not have to have my call up my fake "oh, yes, we really are doing everything we can to get that done" look.  I just nodded repeatedly and let my mask do the talking.  He left thinking I was calm and actually had everything under control!

I feel you are missing out on a real marketing opportunity here.  Let's face it, (pun intended!) we are all sick and tired of 1) realizing that someone is waiting for an appropriate facial expression 2) dressing our face in that facial expression from our worn out facial expression wardrobe and 3) having to judge whether we have underdressed or overdressed and 4) changing it if necessary.  It's such a hassle!

Your mask solves all those problems!  Feel free to use this angle in your ads.

Now, my question to you:  Is this mask is safe to use in bed?  I need your answer soon--VERY SOON, if you get my drift.  (We have a strong night light in the hall which illuminates the bedroom just a tad too much if you ask me.) Hubby is beginning to question the validity and safety of wearing my mask even at night, especially during what he dubs our "romantic interludes." So give this girl a little back-up, would you?  Isn't it medically necessary?  Could you put that in writing?  It would save me so much time and effort! Pretty please?

Thanks ever so much!  

P.S.  When do I start looking like the ladies in the infomercial? 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oh, Possum, My Possum!

(New Bossy Betty Fans and Forgetful Old Ones may want to review my Possum
post to see just how far Betty has come!

Oh Possum, My Possum
                      (With apologies to Walt Whitman)

Oh, Possum!  My Possum! Our fearful trip is done;
The credit card is put away; the shopping was quite fun
The soap and lotions are in the bag, the lipstick in the tube
The serums, the moisturizers, with them my face I'll lube
But O heart! Heart! Heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the floor of Nordstroms my possum lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

She plied me with fast food, sweet bubbly drinks, and a ride in her fine car and before I knew what was happening, my friend (we'll call her Fancy) had me walking right up to the brightly lit make-up counters of Nordstorms.  There stood  an army of black-coated professionals, some wearing tool belts made of black leather, equipment at the ready for these carpenters of the face. 

For Betty, who for years has stumbled down the stark alleys of K-Mart for her beauty essentials, it was a new experience.  There were no displays of Charmin and Comet across the aisle from the lipsticks.  No Almond Joys or socks were strewn over the shelves of foundations. Instead there were slick counters, black leather stools and lots of shiny bottles and glossy tubes.

The possum was active for about the first fifteen minutes while I followed Fancy around to the various booths like her pet lamb.  I wanted to leave when one of the ladies wanted me to put my face in a glowing alter-like structure to have a "facial analysis as featured on Oprah."  Fancy dispensed with that helper and moved me to another booth where she instructed the worker "we" were looking for a good moisturizer.  Bottles and jars appeared, all with shiny silver lids.  Large prices also appeared, as did a new vocabulary, words like "Fibrelastine" and "Imanance" and "Primordiale." 

Soon, I found I was slowly starting to enjoy myself in this new land.  The natives were nice, the language was becoming familiar, and once I resigned myself to the high cost of living,  I found myself ready to hand over gobs of money to these trained, impeccably made-up professionals because it seemed to be the custom here.  

Fancy left me for a few minutes and I found myself alone with a very nice lady who explained to me the various deals of the day.  I didn't really understand all the language, but I was ready to hand over the dough when Fancy pulled me to the side, and growled, "Listen here," she said, "We are not going for any PWP.  We want a GWP."  I nodded, dazed and confused as we moved away.   Just when I thought I was getting the lay of the land!  Apparently, PWP means "Purchase With Purchase" where you buy expensive stuff and that makes you eligible to buy more expensive stuff (that comes in a FREE Tote!) for a supposedly great deal.  We, she explained, guiding me by my elbow over to another counter, were hunting down the even better GWP--Gift with Purchase instead. 

Fancy preferred the black-coated professionals at the likes of Lancome and Mac, but finally, sensing that the possum might possibly still be breathing and capable of challenging her authority, allowed me time at the Clinique counter where they mostly used real English words for their products and the salespeople wore white which made them seem like medical professionals, helping me justify the high prices. I bought some things there and got a bunch of GWP's!  Yeah!  Score!

In a facade of placation, Fancy took me to the bathroom at Nordstroms where we hung out on the couches in the Lounge Area and looked at the art on the walls, which Fancy claimed were of a lascivious nature.  I was sure we were done with our beauty supply shopping, but this "rest" time was actually a tool of manipulation and in one final tenacious attempt to kill the possum completely,  Fancy suggested we "swing by" the Lancome counter.  There, under the pretense of finding make-up for Fancy, we met a lovely make-up consultant named Mahalia who made it her mission in life to find just the right shade of foundation for Betty and just the right moisturizer for Betty and complimented Betty's supple skin.  Betty listened.  Betty bought.  Betty got more GWP's!  Yeah!

Ever the scholar/cultural anthropologist, (and now a well-moisturized scholar/cultural anthropologist!)  my field research on this day included a collection of words that seemed to have magical powers as they flowed from the mouths of the leaders of this sect of beauty.  These words, in conjunction with the application of lotions and subtly colored powders, seem to serve as hypnotic incantations to all those sit in the high leather chairs under the mesmeric lights. These words include:


Thanks, Fancy, for my big day out! 

Mahalia and Fancy in action at the Lancome booth:

Tomorrow:  Beauty Week Continues!  Finally, an alternative to all those creams and lotions!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is That a Bomb Pop or Is It Just Your Phenomenon Flaring Up Again?

Can You Do This?

I didn't think so. What if I told you I could will this to happen using only the incredible power of my mind? Wouldn't that be impressive?

I have what is referred to as Primary Raynaud's Disease or the less scary sounding Primary Raynaud's Phenomenon. (I prefer the latter since I like the sound and the connotations of "phenomenon" and really, the word "disease" should be saved for really, really serious stuff.) This means that when there is a fairly sudden change in temperature, my fingers (and sometimes my toes) tend to turn white because of a lack of blood supply. If it goes on too long, the fingers turn blue from lack of oxygen and then, when the blood vessels do finally open up again, the area turns a pretty shade of deep red. (I feel so patriotic when it happens. Go U.S.A!!!!)

Oh, it's quite the show and one I do not mind sharing with friends and co-workers. When it happens at work, I enjoy going to my colleagues' offices and making sure they get a good look by shoving my hands in front of their faces when they are trying to grade papers or are on the phone. They just love it and I get the reaction a dramatic gal like Betty craves.

I have to seek these reactions at work because around the house, it's no big deal. In fact, I was making supper when I got the above attack and to get this picture taken, I had to impress upon Evan that this really was a photo op moment and explained it was for my peeps on my blog. He took the picture, but then wondered when supper was going to be served. Numbness in the hands is no reason for a delay in food delivery by the female food-delivery system.

"Oh Betty!" you say, concerned, worried, distraught. "Does it hurt?" Thank you for your overwhelming interest. It's irritating when the fingers are numb and a bit painful when the blood supply is cut off and also when it starts flooding into the digits, but I just live with it, and smile through the pain. This suffering means nothing to Betty whose constitution and will to live is strong. After a confab with my doctors (Web MD and Wikipedia) I have been assured that it's not serious unless it is associated with another disease. ( I have been to my real doctor who said the same thing. Thank goodness she reads the same web pages I do.)

To avoid having this reaction, I tend to wear gloves when it gets a bit chilly. One time I was at a coffee shop with a group of women and after MANY remarks about my wearing gloves indoors and how I looked like Michael Jackson in the early 80's, I did the following, 1) whipped off my gloves and smiled as they watched in horror, my fingertips turning a ghostly white and 2) dropped in conversation the "disease" portion of my affliction. (OK, it was cheap, but they immediately began buying me warm drinks and complimenting my hairstyle.)

Changes in temperature bring this on, but so can extremely stressful events or situations. So, if you are ever in conversation with me and there has been not sudden change in temperature and you notice my fingers changing colors like those light-up, color-changing pens purchased at the 99 Cent Store, you may want to change whatever subject you've been expounding upon. Betty is sending up Awkward Social Situation Flares, five of them to be exact. Think of it as an Early Warning System. Betty might just blow. Get her some warm gloves, a warm drink, and some good chocolate. Remember, excessive, heartfelt compliments have also been known to help the situation too. Apply as necessary.

Yours in Good Health,

Monday, February 2, 2009

Poetry Tuesday

The Unknown Citizen

by W. H. Auden
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Trees of the 'Hood

The trees around the neighborhood have been particularly lovely, so I took a cruise around on this first day of February to take some pictures. (My apologies to my snowbound brethren. Just breathe deeply and know that Spring is on the way. Really, it is.)

I am not sure what the first tree is called but it is gorgeous with its white flowers against the dark bark. HOB has forbidden me from gasping when I see one as we are driving since he gets panicked that a semi-truck is headed in our direction. No, it's just me expressing my delight at these gifts that just seem to pop up overnight.

The second tree is the orange tree in our back yard. How lucky am I to get to see this every day?

The last tree is not a beauty, but it tugs at my heart. We call it the crying tree. Why do you suppose it is so sad? I intend to start having intensive talk therapy sessions with it to get the root of the problem.