Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Hope you have a good Halloween! Betty will be scaring children at a friend's home tonight. I'll leave a bowl of candy on the front steps for the trick or treaters here. I miss those days of dressing kids up, parading them around, stealing Mr. Goodbars and Mounds Bars from their buckets.

When they were little and dazzled by the prospect of being given the OK from the parents to go up to the doors of strangers and ask for candy, we could take the good stuff from their buckets as they walked from house to house. This way, the goods were fresh and it was before the little gatherers had time to dump the bounty out on the table and memorize each jewel.

Ah, back when the pickings were easy.

Betty was deprived as a child, not allowed to go Trick or Treating. The reasoning was always vague--something about not begging, something about safety, with overtones of religiosity thrown in just to shut the conversation down completely. I did get to wear costumes and go to the party held at the school, but that was it. No Trick or Treating.

Scarred and deprived at an early age, is it any wonder I have a fascination with strangers and large bags of candy now?

I hope you and yours have a Happy Halloween. Save the good stuff for me!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Where in the World is Betty? Part III

Ah, it's Friday! Let's all join hands, sing a song and then go out for veggie burgers afterwards. Oh but wait. There's a stack of laundry to be done, there are things starting to crawl out of he refrigerator, and then there's that whole personal hygiene thing. What's a girl to do? Escape through the magic of photography and very highly caffinenated beverages. Here are a few pictures to take us to another place in the world.

Let us bow our heads.... (Readers will sense the irony of statement when they reach the last photo in this series.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where in the World is Betty? Part II

So this morning, as I was checking the back of the cereal box for comma splices, (I really need to stop grading so much) I decided I was not ready to stop pretend traveling. Today's is a little easier for all you Betty fans. Go slowly on this and see if you can guess before the last photo. If on the last photo, you are still having trouble, please have a drink of water, take a nap, and then call a caring relative.

Did my creative composition in the last photo give your brain at least a little fun?

Have you checked the back of your cereal box for grammatical errors lately?

Just asking....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where in the World is Betty?

OH MY. This is the time of year when Betty gets restless and just wants to GO somewhere. I am not sure what it is about October that pushes my Eject Button, but the yearning to go somewhere, and see something different always comes around. Normally, we go to northern California to see friends or up to see Sonny Boy, but this year with HOB's work schedule and my unrelenting school schedule, there's been no scratching of the traveling itch.

So, readers, we're going to play, "Where in the World is Betty?" today and on other days when Betty just wants to get away and you want to go with her. I'll post pictures of past travels and you tell me where the pictures were taken. We'll start with an easy one.

(I've chosen this location because the other day when I had my head on my desk, looking at the stack of papers I have to grade, I noticed they resembled the third picture in this series.)

Scroll down SLOWLY so as to make the trip last longer.

Now, readers, let's all go to:

Where are we readers? And yes, spelling counts! (Hint: It is NOT in Oxnard.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Fiction"


--Mark Strand

I think of the innocent lives
Of people in novels who know they'll die
But not that the novel will end. How different they are
From us. Here, the moon stares dumbly down,
Through scattered clouds, onto the sleeping town,
And the wind rounds up the fallen leaves,
And somebody—namely me—deep in his chair,
Riffles the pages left, knowing there's not
Much time for the man and woman in the rented room,
For the red light over the door, for the iris
Tossing its shadow against the wall; not much time
For the soldiers under the trees that line
The river, for the wounded being hauled away
To the cities of the interior where they will stay;
The war that raged for years will come to a close,
And so will everything else, except for a presence
Hard to define, a trace, like the scent of grass
After a night of rain or the remains of a voice
That lets us know without spelling it out
Not to despair; if the end is come, it too will pass.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Your Monday Morning Flowers 'N Quote Package is Here!

This one's for all those teachers out there who can't quite see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet....

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

--Albert Schweitzer

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Photo Study In Black and White. Have a Seat. Relax. Rock Out.







Betty wants to know: Which one do you like the best? Don't worry. Unlike the fascinating Chair-Based Personality Test posted a few weeks ago, your answer will not reveal any deep, hidden, mold-ridden corners of your psyche. Betty's just curious.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Celebrating with Bossy Betty!

Decorate the house, break out the carnival food and soda pop, and pull on those shiny spandex pants you save for special occasions. It's Bossy Betty's Birthday! This blog is officially one year old today. You have my permission to eat candy all day long.

Betty takes this opportunity to thank my faithful (and even the unfaithful) readers. I really do appreciate all of you--and especially those of you who signed up as followers. It makes me so happy to see your beautiful faces there when I sign on every morning.

Writing a blog is a little like going out onto a big, deserted stage, looking out at a dark auditourium and singing a song. At the end of the song, you hope to hear maybe a clap or two, just to know somebody was out there listening. So to all of you who make comments from time to time--thank you! I can't tell you how ridiculously happy it makes me to see a comment. (Back when Betty first started, the comment system was whacky and people had trouble getting through. Things have changed and it's much easier now! Hint. Hint. )

This year has been an interesting journey. Some people I thought would be faithful readers decided not to read at all. Some folks I never dreamed would join me have come along for the ride and have been delightful companions. I've made connections with some great people and am grateful for the whole experience.

Thanks again for dropping in and I hope you'll continue to do so. This is Betty's 324th post*. Betty MAY slow down in the coming year, but she may not as well. You never can tell. Now pass the bag of candy, flip on the strobe light and let's party down!

*Mable has just corrected me, reminding me that she wrote four of those posts. I stand corrected (and bullied) by my cat.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Found Photo Trilogy. Three. Norge Men.

Of all my found photos, this one is my favorite. I bought it for 75 cents at a garage sale up in Northern California. A very friendly older woman was selling it. Her friend had died and left boxes of things the family didn't want. "You can cut open the back and take that picture right out," she said. I stood staring at the group of men in the photo. The inscription in the corner read "Chicago 1957."

"Any idea who they are?" I asked. She narrowed her eyes and looked, "Oh, yes. Her husband was a Norge Man. Those are Norge Men."

"Norge men?" I asked. "Yeah, you know, the refrigerators. All those guys sold refrigerators." She looked at the picture again. "Oh yeah. Those are Norge men. Her husband used to go to a lot of their conventions."

Needless to say, I bought the picture and the Norge men have been a part of my home decor for about 25 years now. It's a small picture, but when you look closely at it you see all the details. The room they were meeting in might have been in a basement. The AV equipment is draped with tablecloths; there are boxes of slides and a pack of cigarettes on the front table.

Mostly, though, I like looking at the men and seeing their personalities come through. You can tell the older, serious types are in for the long run with Norge. You can see the ones who you can tell are meant for other lines of work. The playboy, the goofy one, the grandfather, the socially awkward--they are all there.

For instance in this section of the picture we have in the front row we have

1. Son-in-law of someone in the business.
2. The guy everyone likes--for the first five minutes and then he becomes a little overbearing.
3. The playboy. He is destined for greater things.
4. They called him names in high school. Never quite fit in. Still doesn't. The only one with bow tie and two-toned shoes.
5. Older gentleman thinks these meetings should be run with seriousness and gravity.
6. Another older gentleman who realizes these are just refrigerator sales conventions and thinks the guy beside him should lighten up. Life is short. Wants to go home and fish.

What is it about group photos? How many have you been in? We stand, should-to-shoulder with others that most of the time, we know only for very short periods of time. Class pictures, convention pictures, family reunions. There is a certain power in the group shot.

And so these Norge men took this shot in a hotel in Chicago in 1957. They turned their chairs; they smiled. They heard the photographer say, "On the count of three!"


Retail price--$395.95!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Found Picture Trilogy. Two. Suave Man

When I picked up this picture at a garage sale, the seller made it clear that this was an expensive frame and that's why she wanted $14.00 for it. I didn't care anything about the frame. I was mesmerized by the man in the picture (she didn't know who he was) and I knew he had to come home with me.

In the picture, he stands beside a table near a doorway in his fine suit, his white handkerchief tucked artfully in his breast pocket. His cigarette burns in his fingers, and he is turned just slightly toward the camera. There is a table with a dramatic fringed tablecloth and a vase of flowers. It seems to have been taken in the lobby of a restaurant or nightclub and there he waits happy and suave. Perhaps he is greeter and he welcomes the regulars who come more for his greeting than for the food.

I hung this picture in our dining room. There are nights when I come in, dragging from work, change into my sweats, push the mail, homework, the groceries not yet put away to the far end of the table and plop food on the cleared section for dinner. All the while, he stands looking over the scene, but through his eyes he sees it all as the perpetual nightclub--low lights, beautiful people in gowns and suits, crystal glasses, fine food on sparkling plates, a jazz band playing in the background. We are the regulars he greets every night in his sophisticated, urbane way. From the table I lift my sloppy joe and Diet Pepsi in salute to him and he nods to me, so happy we are back, enjoying this fine establishment once again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Found Picture Trilogy: One. Mary at Grandma Bertha's

Sometimes the universe just hits us with the unexpected. While at garage sale about a year ago, I found an old file folder stuffed with papers and pictures. The person (an acquaintance of mine) was selling things that a friend of her neighbor had been keeping in her garage and just wanted to get rid of. There were boxes and boxes of glasses, dishes and old books. Tucked down behind some picture frames was this folder.

I picked up the folder and being the writer (and snoopy person) that I am, I sat down and began to go through the papers there. It was was filled with old documents, pay stubs, grade cards and photos. The old faded and torn tab read, "Sarah's Divorce." Slowly, the file began sharing its secrets: the ragged divorce petition, the tattered child support papers for "Mary" aged 16 and "John" aged 15. After the divorce came the poor report cards for the son, then the orders to appear in court for him as well. Also included in the file was an informational handout on Parkinson's disease and (strangely enough) a manual for a new refrigerator. Then there is a letter from a high school counselor to a judge concerning the son, saying he is "making progress," but noting that the boy needed to make new friends, "better friends who have less destructive habits." There is a court document requesting a urine test. From other papers, it was clear the father had moved to Missouri.

I sat there, peering into these lives, feeling a bit guilty but mostly melancholy for this family, and especially for the son whose family had broken up at a pivotal time in his life. I thought about all these papers and forms, the legal notices from the court, how papers can only tell superficial and surface stories. I wondered what had become of these people.

Then at the back of the folder, I saw it: It was a picture of one of my own students that very semester. She was there, posed for a Christmas picture with her husband and son. Then, it all came together--her last name, her picture--she had married John, the son. My mind shot back to her first narrative essay in which she mentioned her husband in which she had used his name. In the essay she had written about he didn't really support her returning to school, and so she had to work during the day and take one night class a semester. She had married early and had a baby early, but now she was determined to get her education for the sake of her family.

My immediate thought was that I would give her this file. It had so much information in it, a few pictures of her husband, her child, not to mention social security numbers of her husband and his family. However, then I thought again. How would she feel, knowing I had seen all of this information? Surely she would be embarrassed, and well, a little freaked out. I thought about mailing it to her anonymously--too creepy.

Betty Fans, what would you have done?

Well, I stole that file. I didn't even ask the person running the garage sale if I could have it. (I didn't want to run the risk of her saying no.) I just tucked it up under my arm and walked right to my car. I wanted to protect my student at least that much. I had planned to destroy the file, but for some reason I just couldn't. There's so many stories that tug at my heart in that folder and for some reason that I really can't explain, I feel like I need to keep it, at least for a little while.

The picture below comes from that folder. Written on the back in loopy letters is "Mary, at Grandma Bertha's." Mary, the older sister was mentioned only in the child support document.

As a photographer, I love this picture for a lot of reasons--the colors, the background of the wire gate and the old RV behind her set the scene of her grandmother's place. The spontaneity of the little girl shows, as the camera captured her in mid-stride, in the act of wrapping her towel around her, fresh out of the pool, her wet hair drying in the sunshine.

As a writer and a mother, I love it because it freezes her in time--before her family fell apart, before her father moved to Missouri, before her brother got involved in drugs and the whole complicated court system, before Parkinson's invaded her family's life. I am glad she is preserved there at this happy, free moment, under the California sun, at her grandma's house.

In my mind, she is running into the arms of someone who loves her.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Apple Season"

Apple Season
          -- Joyce Sutphen

The kitchen is sweet with the smell of apples,
big yellow pie apples, light in the hand,
their skins freckled, the stems knobby
and thick with bark, as if the tree
could not bear to let the apple go.
Baskets of apples circle the back door,
fill the porch, cover the kitchen table.

My mother and my grandmother are
running the apple brigade. My mother,
always better with machines, is standing
at the apple peeler; my grandmother,
more at home with a paring knife,
faces her across the breadboard.
My mother takes an apple in her hand,

She pushes it neatly onto the sharp
prong and turns the handle that turns
the apple that swivels the blade pressed
tight against the apple's side and peels
the skin away in long curling strips that
twist and fall to a bucket on the floor.
The apples, coming off the peeler,

Are winding staircases, little accordions,
slinky toys, jack-in-the-box fruit, until
my grandmother's paring knife goes slicing
through the rings and they become apple
pies, apple cakes, apple crisp. Soon
they will be married to butter and live with
cinnamon and sugar, happily ever after.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Your Monday Morning Somewhat Disturbing, But Oddly Intriguing, Face Made Out Of Plant Materials Has Arrived!

Happy Mondays!
Let's Get Out There And Do Some Good Work.

Life is real! life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

                                                              --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"At My Back I Always Hear, Time's Winged Chariot Hurrying Near..."

Believe it or not, I have been in homes where all the clocks read the same time. How do people live like that?

Over the years I have worked out a complicated and sensitive time programming technique that incorporates the intricate mechanics of clocks with the even more intricate and sensitive psychological mechanics of humans. Here's how it works:

This is our kitchen clock. It is the one that's always there. It's the one that gets the most eyeball views. Once it was down for about a week and we were all close to wearing neck braces at the end of said week because we were constantly snapping our heads up to look for it. It is set six and half minutes early. Since the walk to the bus stop for the high schoolers is about five minutes, this allows them to leave "late" and still have about a minute to spare. That six minute difference is a life saver when it comes to leaving for work, getting dinner ready, or getting well-meaning but boring guests out the door just a tad bit early.

This the the clock at my treadmill desk. I took this picture today so the astute reader will note that the day and date is incorrect. It appears to be August 11th. The time is two minutes slow. Since my goal on the treadmill is to keep walking, this day/date/time thing can be used as a motivational tool. I use the two minute time delay to make me hurry just a little, while for days when an particularly sluggish, the day and month thing really get me going. "I'm so late! I'm so behind! I must walk faster!"

This is the clock at my bathroom sink. It is only 2 minutes fast. When beautifying in the morning, I need to have some grip in time, but that two minute cushion is important in deciding whether or not to use eyeliner. Once again, the astute reader will notice that something is a little off. According to this clock, it is currently 112 degrees outside. (It is not, by the way.) I make no attempt to correct this, instead I let this fantasy weather help me decide against eyeliner since it would simply melt down onto my cheeks and when not be attractive when collapsing from heat prostration.

This is my favorite one. It is the clock in my old car. It is a full ten minutes fast. You wouldn't believe how many times I've been driving, smug in the fact that I have a whole extra ten minutes than what it says in the clock. It's like having extra food and drink at a party when extra guests show up. "No problem!" I would set my clock in my new car the same way except it's all mixed up with the radio/GPS/bluetooth and I have no idea how to set it. Let's face it, it's a little intimidating and just a tad bit bullying too. My new car and I have a few issues to work out....

This is the clock beside our bed. Yes, I do believe it is circa 1970. Let's play some Neil Diamond cassette tapes and have some fondue. It is set eight minutes fast--just the right amount of time to wake up a little late, but then realize it's not really that late, but still the red lighting is dramatic enough to get us up and out for the day.

While writing this at 9:34 AM, (according to my computer,) I must note that Blogger states it is 4:29 PM and my AOL mail that I just received came in at 3:05 PM today. Hummmm.....could it be that the professionals that these organizations have taken up Betty's philosophy of time/clock management?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Youngest Son Speeding Ahead in Life (Excessive Use of Parentheses Indicates Mother's Resistance to this Fact)

I took Evan to the DMV yesterday for his driving test.

Does anybody out there like going to the DMV? (Note to government building designers: any way to make the atmosphere just a little less oppressive? Would some padded chairs, rugs, curtains, and maybe a few decorative pillows be a crime?)

Since this was a big day for Ev, I was hoping to get some happy, pleasant employees who would recognize what a milestone this was for all concerned. (Note to DMV workers: I know yours is not the most pleasant job in the world, but would a smile, a greeting, and maybe less robotic, apathetic behavior kill you?)

(Years ago I was at the DMV and saw a guy arguing with one of the workers and I swear I saw her change the height/weight information on his license. The longer he argued with her, the shorter and fatter he got. Now that's power!)

I am very happy to say that Evan passed his test and is now a full-fledged licensed driver. (Note to California drivers: that's my boy out there. Slow down, put the cell phones down, and pay attention.)

Now, I remember very distinctly the day I got to drive by myself--with no one else in the car. I was so excited. I turned around while I was driving just to confirm that there was no one in the passenger's seat and no one in the back seat. (I told Evan this story when he said he was excited at the prospect of driving by himself. I suggested he might be tempted to do the same thing, but to do it while the car was at a complete stop.)

So last night I had that moment most parents have at one point in their lives. We allowed Evan to drive around the block by himself. I sat on the porch, (acutely aware that the chairs there are rocking chairs) and watched as my youngest boy drove away by himself, out into the street and around the corner, out of view. (Sarcastic Note to Universe: Thanks for the terrific gift basket of emotions life plopped in my lap at this point--joy, sorrow, gratitude, pride, hesitancy, fear, excitement--it was all in there.)

I sat in my chair (rocking, nervously rocking) until I saw him come back around and park in front of our house at which point I jumped up and greeted him with a hug as if he had just returned from a long trip to Europe.

He actually hugged me back.

(Note to Life: You just keep marching onward, don't you? Any chance of slowing down? Just a little? Pretty Please?)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mrs. Olson to the Rescue

Remember Mrs. Olson? As a girl, I used to watch these ads with rapt attention, soaking in all of Mrs. Olson's advice and praying one day, if I learned to make coffee the right way, I'd have a husband who loved me or at least one who didn't mock and ridicule me too much. What more could a girl want, really?

Is it just me or could Mrs. Olson be the mother of Hoss?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom turns 87 years old today. Thanks to my incredible sister who lives near her, she'll be surrounded by family and she'll have a good time visiting with her son-in-law, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. I will send my good wishes from afar, here 2000 miles from my birthplace.

After my wedding twenty-eight years ago, my mom presented me with a box of rice left over from the reception, with a twenty dollar bill and a note inside. She wrote she wanted me to have the rice in case I ever wanted to cook it, but she hoped I wouldn't need to. The twenty dollar bill was so that I would never be poor. "There are worse things than being poor," she wrote, "though sometimes you wonder."

My mother recognized the security the box of rice and money would bring me because, unfortunately, she lived through years of poverty and little hope of escaping from it. When she was 20 years old she was given a glimpse at another world when she had the opportunity to go to college for a short time to get an emergency credential to teach during WWII.

She never forgot those two years of college and although she never said so, I know she would have gone to college longer if she could have. Instead, she came back to her hometown to fulfill her obligation to teach. Soon after, she met my father and settled down on his family farm. She had five daughters with my father and every year was a financial struggle.

When I graduated from high school, most of my classmates' parents urged them to get jobs, apartments and cars. Not me. Even though, economically, I was the least likely in my class to go to college, I was the first one signed up. Grants, scholarships, and my mother's determination got me to the university. There was never any doubt in her mind (or mine) that I was going to college--I was just raised believing I would.

Years later, I was reading an article orb weaver spiders and how they build their webs. They begin the whole miraculous process by sending out a bridge line into the wind so that it connects on something. Once that bridge line is secure, they can build their webs. I know it was through my mother's sheer will that she cupped her hands together and boosted me up and out of that mire of poverty, making sure the winds were blowing in the right direction so that my silk thread, my bridge line, connected to education. Thanks to her urging and some inspirational teachers along the way, it stuck. I was able to make my way over on that line and begin building my life on the solidity of education.

My mother always told us when we were young that we could go anywhere, and do anything. She urged us to fly away and make our own lives. Now that I am a mother, I see that is true love.

Happy 87th Birthday, Mom.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Any Prince to Any Princess" by Adrian Henri

Any prince to any princess

August is coming
and the goose, I'm afraid,
is getting fat.
There have been
no golden eggs for some months now.
Straw has fallen well below market price
despite my frantic spinning
and the sedge is,
as you rightly point out,

I can't imagine how the pea
got under your mattress. I apologize
humbly. The chambermaid has, of course,
been sacked. As has the frog footman.
I understand that, during my recent fact-finding tour of the
Golden River,
despite your nightly unavailing efforts,
he remained obstinately

I hope that the Three Wishes granted by the General
will go some way towards redressing
this unfortunate recent sequence of events.
The fall in output from the shoe-factory, for example:
no one could have foreseen the work-to-rule
by the National Union of Elves. Not to mention the fact
that the court has been fast asleep
for the last six and a half years.

The matter of the poisoned apple has been taken up
by the Board of Trade: I think I can assure you
the incident will not be

I can quite understand, in the circumstances,
your reluctance to let down
your golden tresses. However
I feel I must point out
that the weather isn't getting any better
and I already have a nasty chill
from waiting at the base
of the White Tower. You must see
the absurdity of the
Some of the courtiers are beginning to talk,
not to mention the humble villagers.
It's been three weeks now, and not even
a word.

a cold, black wind
howls through our empty palace.
Dead leaves litter the bedchamber;
the mirror on the wall hasn't said a thing
since you left. I can only ask,
bearing all this in mind,
that you think again,

let down your hair,


Monday, October 12, 2009

Your Monday Morning Pile O' Pumpkins Is Here!

Happy Mondays to All!

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion”

--Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Red Alert; Impending Panic; Crisis Averted

If you've been missing Betty the last few days, I recommend you skip down two entries and start at the beginning of this fascinating trilogy. I also recommend you re-evaluate your priorities in life. You know I worry sick when you don't drop by....

When we last left Betty, all was well in her Happy Valley. Her dishes were clean and glasses sparkled. THEN....

The message was waiting for me when I got home from work: "Betty. We have a Red Alert. I repeat: Red Alert." It was Neighbor Linda--a woman who had raised boys and therefore, not prone to overreaction.

So I knew it was big.

And it was.

"They are out of Lemi Shine at Albertsons. I checked at all the other stores in town and no one is selling it. I've got the manager at Albertson's trying to get it. This is a red alert. What are we going to do now?"

I understood her reaction. Before Lemi Shine she had been soaking her glasses for hours in vinegar. After experiencing Lemi Shine, there was no way she as going back to that way of life.

I went to the store myself to check it out. No Lemi Shine. A week later I went back. Home supplies were running low and the neighbors were getting restless. While checking out, I asked the register lady about Lemi Shine. She immediately tensed up, her eyes got wide and the fear was evident in her voice, "No. No. We haven't had any and we don't know when it's coming in." She relaxed only when I smiled at her and said "OK." She leaned towards me and said, "Sorry, but I usually work at the other store, the one by Leisure Village." (Leisure Village is our large retirement compound, sometimes referred to as "Seizure Village.") She continued, "People over there are getting really upset about this whole thing. You get yourself a shipment of Lemi Shine, take it over there and you'll never have to work another day in your life."

Evan, always ready to make some cash, got wind of this and insisted that we drive him out of town, to another store that shall go unnamed. He found the beloved crystals, bought out the six bottles available there, came back to our town and proceeded to plan to sell the supply to our desparate neighbors at inflated prices. Before he set out, we discussed the importance not gouging the people we live among.

Also, knowing people would be rabid to find out his source, I also suggested he use this script when asked where he got the stuff:

Neighbor: "Where did you find this?"

E: "Look, lady, the point is not where I got it. The point is I've got it and you want it. Now do we have a deal or not?"

Unprepared for the passion and urgency expressed by the first woman he showed his stock to, he did not stick to this script and caved on the first conversation! However, the women of the neighborhood, dazzled by the return of the happy yellow and green canisters, bought them even at Evan's somewhat inflated prices.

Lemi Shine has not reappeared at our local store yet, so Evan stocks up at the store that shall go unnamed when he can.

The women nod appreciatively when he passes by.

He's the man in the 'hood who has what the ladies need.

Oh yeah.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Miracle Occurs

When we last left our Betty, she was distressed over the condition of her dishes. Even after buying a brand new dishwasher, Betty's dishes still looked scuzzy. Mr. Sears came out, unloaded numerous techno devices from his van and set to work....

I watched as Mr. Sears tested all aspects of the new machine. I had saved some of the newly-washed, but still icky dishes for him to view and waved them in his general direction periodically as he stuck probes into the machine here and there, looked at his flashing boxes. He pulled the machine out from the wall and stuck more probes in, jiggled this, tightened this. He was an amiable fellow who spoke very little, as I tried to engage him in the drama that WAS my battle for clean dishes. When he did speak, it was clear he was very serious about dishwashers--very serious. He knew these machines inside out. He spoke of their history, phosphates, microprocessors, sound dampening, cavitation. I sat, admiring his crisp uniform, listening in awe. This was a great man. I began to fall in love. He had me at phosphates

It took him two hours to finish the diagnostic. I waited nervously for his verdict.

"I want you to get a piece of paper and a pencil," he said. I did so immediately.

"I want you to write this down," he said. I nodded.

"Lemi Shine. That's L-E-M-I S-H-I-N-E."

I wrote it down.

"You can get it at Albertson's grocery store."

I wrote that down too.

"Now, here's what you do. You get the Lemi Shine and pour a thin layer of it in both compartments of the detergent dispenser. Then you get a powdered detergent like Cascade and you put a thin layer of that over it. Close the dispenser door and start your machine."

He stood there while I transcribed this too. All of it. Every word that came from his mouth.

He packed up to go. "So that's all I need?" I asked. "There's nothing wrong with my machine?" He looked around nervously. "In 99 percent of cases in this area, it's the hard water that causes problems. I still have to check out the machine, see, and I'd probably be trouble of mentioning the Lemi Shine, but that's all you really need."

He left, as quickly as he'd come, leaving me only with memories of our time together and that memo he'd had me write to myself. At least I had that.

I went in search of the Lemi Shine, found it, came home and followed his directions exactly.

Cue dramatic music here.

I opened the door to my dishwasher, NAY! I opened the door to a whole new world!!! Clean dishes from my dishwasher! I knelt at the open door and nearly wept. Indeed, a miracle had occurred. Even the glasses that had been foggy for years were crystal clear.

In a fervor, I took it upon myself to be the ambassador of this good news. I told the women of the book club. I told my friends. I pounced upon people just lingering in the aisle of the dishwashing detergents and told them of this miracle powder.

And so the people of Betty's valley lived happily every after. Or DID they? Tune in tomorrow, my dear friends. Tune in tomorrow....

*Your key to Water Hardness Map above.

Sociological Question to Consider: Does a region's water hardness level correspond to its collective Intelligence? Compassion? Moral Fortitude? (I'm just askin'....)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coming Clean

A few years ago we made a simple request of our dear sons: we asked them to clean up the kitchen after a meal and to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Shocking, I know.

In their zeal to do a really great job (heavy sarcasm here) one threw a very wet sponge at the other one who backed up to avoid said sponge and stepped on the door of the open dishwasher. The door was sprung, so HOB took his drill and drilled a hole up near the top of it (well, he drilled about four holes trying to get it right, but we'll overlook that). In the hole he stuck a screw which screwed into the body of the dishwasher.

Here was the procedure for starting up the dishwasher:
Step One: Feet planted firmly on floor, lift up on door, pulling hard to left side.
Step Two: Slam door hard.
Step Three: Grab screwdriver with hand not holding door.
Step Four: Keeping up pressure to door to the left side, turn screw and hope it is hitting hole, not
starting new one.
Step Five: Step back. Pray to Kitchen Gods while pushing start button and observing to see if any water is leaking out.
When the dishes were done, all we had to do was reverse Steps 1-4.
We did this for about two years.


We had been plagued with semi-clean dishes before the door incident, and the door repair hadn't made it any better. In our typical home repair mode (regular readers will remember the infamous sink story) we put off shopping for the new dishwasher for as long as we could. We stripped out one drilled hole and HOB made another that lasted for awhile.

Finally though, our dishes were coming out worse than when they went in. We had to go out there and shop for a new dishwasher. We were stunned. We found that the world of dishwashers had changed considerably. We went from store to store considering stainless steel interiors, built-in garbage disposals, turbo scrubbers and settings galore.

Too. Many. Choices.

We ended up at Sears, pointing and grunting at a semi-expensive machine and bought it from a salesman who looked like he was twelve years old. We had the machine installed, put our dishes in it and eagerly awaited the results.

We opened the door (still grabbing the screwdriver out of sheer habit) pulled out the dishes and found that they still had scuzzy marks on them.

We called the 'tween salesman, who called the company who sent out a guy.

Part II of this tension-filled adventure continues on our next post. Can you stand the the excitement?

Be patient, Grasshoppers. I'll be back.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Poetry Tuesday: "Poem for the Family" by Susan Cataldo

Poem for the Family

Before I went to sleep, the soft lamplights
from the tenements across the street,
still, in the night, resembled peace.
There is something I forgot to be grateful
for. But I'm not uneasy. This poem
is enough gratitude for the day. That leaf
tapping against the window, enough
music for the night. My love's even
breathing, a lullaby for me.
Gentle is the sun's touch
as it brushes the earth's revolutions.
Fragrant is the moon in February's
sky. Stars look down & witness,
never judge. The City moves
beneath me, out of sight.
O let this poem be a planet
or a haven. Heaven for a poet
homeward bound. Rest my son's head
upon sweet dreams & contentment.
Let me turn out the light to rest.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Monday!

Betty wishes all her people a good start to a fine and productive week. Let's go out there and do good things in the world!

Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.

--Henry Van Dyke

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

OK, so which Cartwright male would you choose? This decision has occupied a great deal of cranial space over Betty's lifetime. It was temporarily dormant, leaving time to make other important life decisions, but was reignited this morning while flipping through TV channels.

Adam, of course, is the dreamy oldest, but he's a little too serious for me. Tightly wound, he could never let loose, even in the light-hearted denouement scenes.

Hoss had that sweet heart, but a Rhodes Scholar, he was not. Looks? Well, since all the boys had different mothers, we're going to have to assume there was a shortage of fine looking women during this phase of Ben's life.****!!!**** (Sorry, Hoss.) Still, there was something about Hoss.... There was that Big Cuddly Bear quality.

Little Joe. Oh, Little Joe. Those tight pants, that passion. Even his horse was incredibly cute. As the youngest, he was prone to being a tad immature, but I think I could overlook that. (Did I mention those tight pants?)

I think it is a sign of aging that I never used to even consider Ben, but now he's starting to look pretty good. Oh dear.

On slow days I like to consider the Television Test. If sitting on the couch with one of the Cartwright males, which one would be most the most amiable TV viewing companion?

Adam--Though nice eye candy on the couch, my guess is he'd be into watching the History Channel or National Geographic and would not allow for the witty verbal bantering that Betty is known for.

Joe--Not likely to share the remote. My guess is he would want to make out during the commercials, but when Nascar came back on, he'd switch off and go right back to the screen.

Ben--Might be a good companion, but unlikely to go and fetch me snacks when I need them. Might expect me fetch him snacks. Oh no. Might pay a bit too much attention to the AARP, Scooter Store, and Cialis commercials. Disturbing.

The obvious winner in the Man Test: Television Watching Category:
Hoss--Most likely to watch Food Network with me. Most likely to fetch me snacks. Most likely to give control of remote to me. Most cuddly on the couch.

Let me know which Cartwright male you prefer and what test you would put the boys through. What? Like you have other things to do today?

***Oh my gosh! The universe gob-smacked me by showing the "Bonanza" episode in which Ben meets the mother of Hoss right after I published this post! I was SO wrong! Here's the actress Inga Swewnson who played the woman who would give birth to Hoss:

Genetics! Oh mysterious science!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Snuggie Saturday! It's For the Dogs!

Yes. That's right!
I can't wait until they come out with Snuggies for cats....

Just listening to the narrator's voice in this one will send you right over the edge.
I especially like the first couple lines of this one.
Apparently, the Snuggie does not just keep your dog warm, it will also alleviate any bowel/urinary tract pressure your dog might have as well.

Now that's handy!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bossy Betty's Guide to the Seasons


Not Summer

I love the way Fall moves in like a beloved Maiden Aunt to settle our lives down, urge us to put on sensible clothes and just curl up in a chair, eat some pears and read for awhile. Betty marks the great transition from summer to fall with the traditional removal of the red toenail polish. This not only lets her toenails breathe, it also provides a handy reference guide should she ever get confused about which season it is.

Not only do I remove my toenail polish, and put away my delicate, lady-like sandals (shown above) I also mark the occasion by moving furniture around to make the house more cozy. I sometimes even change out the dishware and the rugs. (Here in California, the change of seasons is not all that dramatic, so I have to add drama where I can.)

Fall is also marked by the return of the Flycatchers!

(I had to borrow this picture from Wikipedia since the one who come to sit on my clothesline are apparently camera-shy.)

Every year around this time the Flycatchers come back from their vacations in Mexico, to sit on our clothesline and see what's happening with us. Since our bed faces the window that is about five feet from the clothesline, I get the treat of watching them in the morning, as they sit on the lines, looking in, watching me read the paper. They are fantastic little birds and their return to us has become a sure sign that fall is definitely here. (Most of them have taken off their red toenail polish as well!)

Betty wishes you a fantastic fall. Get out the sweaters, make some chili, and go roll around in the some leaves. (Checking first for sharp objects, allergy-causing molds, and animal feces.* I mean, we're aiming for festive here, not irresponsible.)

Until tomorrow!


*It's the pile of leaves I want you to check, but if you need to check your sweaters and chili for sharp objects, mold and animal feces, by all means, go right ahead.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bon Voyage Every Day

When I leave for work in the morning, I run into the local school traffic--parents dropping off their kids at the local schools near our house. If I am early enough, I also see some parents dropping off their high schoolers at the nearby bus stop. The traffic is slow, stop and go, and there's plenty of time to gaze into other cars and do some people-watching.

Yesterday morning I caught sight of a woman in a car who was moving her mouth as though it was full of old, dry toast that she was determined to chew up then spit it out. At first I thought she must have Bluetooth in her car and whoever was on the other end of the line was getting an earful, a royal chewing out. She stared straight ahead and worked that mouth vigorously without stopping. I watched her and couldn't help but almost start to laugh at the scene. But then, as she pulled the car forward, I saw her high school-aged son in the passenger's seat. It was clear: he was the one she was directing all that sputum towards. My amusement turned to sorrow. You could see the defeated look in his eyes as he turned his head and gazed out the window.

The traffic moved ahead and in another car I saw another parent, obviously not too happy with her middle-schooler who sat slumped in her seat. There was a Lecture in progress in that car for sure. You could just see the yearning of the girl, waiting to get out, away from that voice, away from the negativity. In another car, a father looked expressionless and silent as he drove his daughter to school.

Those scenes yesterday morning made me think about those days when I was in high school and felt like no one understood me, or even cared about me. It was rare, but there were days when my mom was mad at me as I left for school, and it set the tone for the whole day. I went to school and found no love there, only rules I had to follow, and more adults I had to placate. It was miserable.

Every year we go to our son's Back to School night and we get a taste of what he faces on a daily basis. We follow his schedule of classes, (for short, ten minute classes instead of the hour long ones he goes to) going from one room to another and then to another, from one teacher to another, to another, pushed along by an obscenely loud and harsh bell. His high school is huge, his classes are huge, every teacher assigns work, and there is very little time for individual attention. There are different rules in every room. This teacher wants them to use a blue pen. This one demands they write out the date and not use numbers. One teacher wants a certain kind of binder. The math teacher demands graph paper. The English teacher wants them to put their names on the left hand side of the paper only. Every day he leaves home where he has to follow our rules and then has to deal with six authority figures at school AND meet all the expectations all of us have for him.

It seems to me, as parents, we have a golden opportunity every morning, and we often blow it, not understanding the power that we have in those few minutes before our children set out on their days. So often we use any time we have with them to inform, direct, instruct, and to make very clear the things we are not happy about, and make very clear how they can make the changes we see as necessary.

So this morning when a certain young man leaves for school, I intend tell him that I love him, that I am proud of him, and if he needs me for anything, I am just a phone call away. I know he'll roll his eyes, shirk away from my hug, and go "OK, Mom, OK."

He'll leave, walking with his heavy backpack on those shoulders, with that familiar gait I can spot for a mile. More than anything else, I want him to know that as he navigates these turbulent waters of his high school years, if he drops an oar now and then that it's OK. I want him to remember he's got people who will help him find it, help him steady himself, and then send him out on his journey again with love, encouragement and best wishes.