Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Road Trip

Happy Sundays to All!
I thought I'd share some pictures I took on our short road trip last week.

This is a small lake in our county--Lake Piru. Who doesn't love a lake?

Here's a California shot for sure: a fir tree, some palm trees and two fully loaded orange trees.

In the distance were what passes for mountains around here.
I am not sure whether it was the time of day the season, the weather or just the light, but it looked like someone had poured tempera paint on them.
They won't stay like this for long, so it was a treat to see them like this.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nordic Betty

Yesterday we established that Betty is a Walkin' Woman. Today, we confirm that she is also a pioneer and a visionary. For is it not the visionaries among us that must go out and pave the way for others even though they themselves be scorned and ridiculed by the less informed?

You see, I am a Nordic Walker. I walk with ski-like poles around a town which never sees snow. Let me tell you, people just can't seem to get over it. They stare, they back away, they stare some more. The more bold (I really mean "stupid" here) yell out things like "Headed for the snow?" or "Are you looking for the mountains? Man, do I get tired of it.

I've got poles.

I walk with them.

Get over it.

Now, WHY do I walk with poles? OH. MY. GOSH. It is so much fun! I get out there, planting my poles and propelling myself down the sidewalk--it feels great. I really don't know why it feels great, but I am hooked on it like a lab monkey on cocaine.

OK, so here's some 411 for you gleaned from various sources:

Nordic Walking burns at 480 calories an hour vs. 280 calories an hour with regular walking.

Nordic Walking utilizes 90 percent of the body's muscles while walking.

Nordic Walking strengthens the neck, arm and shoulder muscles.

Increased rotation of the spine, less impact on knees and other joints, reduced back pain--all of these are benefits of Nordic Walking.

I've tried to get my buddies to walk with me with poles. So far, only one has gotten hooked. The others back away and worry about how they'll look. Oh. Stop. It.

Now, at one point, I thought I should dress up just a little for my sport. I felt I owed it to Nordic Walkers everywhere to look sharp when I was out and about with my poles. I bought some cool matching jogging outfits, but these days, I am more prone to wear my very comfortable high water sweats and my torn sweatshirt. Did I mention I wear my MBT's (funky looking sneakers) as well?

The other day a math teacher and I were talking and he asked me if I watched "Modern Family." He then went on to describe a scene in which the dad of one of the families is describing his workout routine--walking with "special" shoes and poles. This teacher was laughing, telling me how hysterical this scene was. I was nodding and smiling and then I said, "You know I walk with poles and those same kind of shoes?" "Yeah, right! Good one!" he said, laughing, and nodding. "No, I really do!" I said. He laughed some more.

Here's a clip from the show. The magic moment occurs around 1:30.

This clip only sets my cause back about two years or so. Soon people will realize the wisdom of walking with poles. You can Google "Nordic Walking" and find all sorts of sites about it. (It's a huge sport in Europe.) My advice is: get yourself some good poles, learn the technique, and you'll be hooked too.

Join the Betty Club and just try Nordic Walking. Before Nordic Walking I had neck and shoulder pain that plagued me night and day. Now, I have no problems with it. I've lost weight and gained arm muscles. I've gotten a raise at work, can now do complex mathematical equations, and my wrinkles have virtually disappeared.

Did I mention I'm also very popular in my neighborhood?

Nordically yours,

Friday, February 26, 2010

OK, I'm Going to Sit Down Now

I sometimes think I would go crazy-crazy-crazy out-of-my-mind if I didn't take daily walks. I am hardcore when it comes to walks--eschewing the sidewalks and hitting the asphalt of the street instead. I guess that makes me a Street Walker.

Still having a third grade mentality, I stamp my calendar every time I take a good walk. For years and years I used a star stamp. Then, in a wild, impetuous move, I switched to a bird stamp. Thus, an entire switch in vocabulary had to take place. A "Star Worthy" walk is now called a "Bird Worthy" walk. "I have to earn my Star," is now "I have to earn my Bird."

You get the idea.

My goal for the year is 409 walks, but Ev's surgery and a bout with a nasty cold/cough got me off track for a bit. THEN I heard this article on NPR:

A new study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that women who get moderate amounts of exercise in middle-age tend to be much healthier at 70 and beyond. Active women cross-over into the senior decades with far fewer chronic diseases and greater mental acuity.

Picking up the pace to a brisk clip could be enough to help ward off disease as we age.

So, you may wonder, how much exercise? Well, there's good news for the 85 percent of Americans who don't have a regular, vigorous work-out routine. Turns out, walking is enough. And the brisker, the better.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the health of more than 13,000 women who had reached the age of 70.

They found that women who regularly walked at a moderate pace had much higher odds of staving off disease and aging successfully than their counterparts who didn't exert themselves beyond leisurely, easy walking.

And there's evidence that picking up the pace -- beyond just moderate intensity -- may be very beneficial. The women who walked at a very brisk clip increased their odds of successful aging by 3-fold.

The benefits of exercise held up for women across weight-ranges, from thin to heavy.

The Archives' study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that regular, moderate-intensity exercise helps protect against a range of conditions -- from osteoporosis, to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and even cognitive declines.

Does this not inspire you to put some middle-age exercise in the exercise bank so it pays you big time dividends in old age? It inspired me!

Now, I don't want to be a big shot, but I happen to have a very cool pedometer which measures both regular steps and aerobic steps and has a seven day history feature. So, this week, I strapped on that puppy and went out and hit the pavement. Honey, I earned some Big Time Birds. I hereby present to you Bossy Betty's Walking Totals for the Past Week:

Friday: 11,373 steps / 5000 aerobic
Saturday: 16134 steps/ 9816 aerobic
Sunday: 14,233 steps/ 8284 aerobic
Monday: 10008 steps/8480 aerobic
Tuesday: 13,519 steps/ 9816 aerobic
Wednesday: 11,373 steps/ 4404 aerobic
Thursday: 14,760/ 9816 aerobic

For me, walking is as much a mental necessity as a physical one. Tomorrow we find out what makes Betty a happy walker--both revered and a little feared in her neighborhood.

Happy Days to All!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is It Cold In Here Or Is It Just Half Of Me?

As a new mother, the one thing you want to do is get out of the house and rejoin society, if only for a little bit.

When Sonny Boy was a baby, I was alone with him all day in a house with a TV that received only a single station--a local one that ran mostly infomercials, including one they ran over and over and over about a truck driving school.

Now, I had nearly completed my master's degree in English, but due to post-pregnancy hormones, a lack of sleep, and a lack of relatives and friends around to visit and snap me out of it, I was nearly convinced that long haul trucking could just be the career for me. Freedom! Money! The Thrill of the Open Road! "It really is a GREAT career!" said the good-looking man beside the door of his big rig and who seemed to be looking right at me.

"Oh yes," I whispered as rocked back and forth, folding onesies and winding up the Swing-O-Matic to which Sonny Boy was addicted.

After one such day, I announced to HOB (Husband of Betty) that unless he wanted to lose me to the romance and excitement of the open road, we really had to get out of the house and go out to dinner. I took a shower and fixed my hair before he got home from work in anticipation of my re-entry into the world.

Now, we were new, nervous parents--especially HOB. He wanted to protect his firstborn and was somewhat reluctant to the whole idea. However, the glazed look in my eyes told him that he had better get the baby in the car seat and start up the engine of the car. Sonny Boy was only about five weeks old. At that time, I was the ultimate Dairy Queen--a lactating machine open 24/7. I carefully prepared myself for my journey into the outside world by feeding the boy before we got in the car. Then, I pulled out a knit shirt with packets strategically placed so that if there was a problem with the pumps, I'd have just a little extra coverage.

I sat in the back seat with the baby and envisioned our time out at Happy Steak--Home of the Dancing Spud. (No, I am not making that up. That was our favorite restaurant. And yes, their mascot really was a dancing potato.)

However, on our way Sonny Boy got fussy, then mad, and then irate. HOB got nervous and jumpy. "What's wrong with him?" he shouted back at me. "I'm not sure!" I yelled up to him as I saw Happy Steak whiz by our window.

"Where are we going?' I asked as I pulled out toys, tried the pacifier, anything to get Sonny Boy to calm down. Nothing seemed to be working. "No time for Happy Steak!" HOB called back. "We'll go to McDonalds!" Oh great, I thought. Well, at least I would be getting out among people again. Sonny Boy was still wailing when we pulled up. HOB, yelled back, "It's gotta be the drive through!"

I started to protest, but was nearly thrown out the door of the car by the wild swerving of HOB pulling in the drive-through lane.

So there, I was in the back seat when HOB tossed the bag o' food back to me. By this time, Sonny Boy had calmed down some, so instead of going home, we sat in the parking lot and ate--me in the back seat and HOB in the front. The grocery store was just next door and so I begged HOB to stay with Sonny Boy in the car while I just ran in for a few things. (I don't think I really needed anything, I just wanted to walk down the aisles and feel normal again.)

He agreed, but told me to hurry. I went in the store and started to pick up items. It had been so long since I had been shopping by myself. It was sort of thrilling.

What was REALLY thrilling though was the reaction I was getting from men in the store. That shower and shampoo had obviously done the trick. I was apparently was still attractive to men in general. I made subtle eye contact with some just to let them know that I knew they appreciated the beauty I was. I as SO happy to know I still had IT! I stood in line and smiled, chatted it up with the checkout guy who was apparently entranced by me. I stood up straight, flipped back my hair, and walked out of the store slowly, so they could appreciate the view. I got back into the car. I was a new woman. I was beaming when I got back to the car.

Sonny Boy was getting fussy again. "Where's his pacifier?" asked HOB, looking between the seats of the car. I began looking too, but just a glance downward told me where it was. I had stick it, nipple up, in the pocket on my knit shirt. I had just paraded around the grocery store with a giant nipple on my left breast.

Needless to say, I was in no hurry to get back to the grocery store, or even out and about in our relatively small town.

In fact, that job in long-haul trucking was looking better and better....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Beach Attitudes" by Robert Dana

Beach Attitudes

--Robert Dana

Blessed is the beach, survivor of tides.

And blessed the litter of crown conchs and pen shells, the dead
blue crab in all its electric raiment.

Blessed the nunneries of skimmers,
scuttering and rising, wheeling and falling and settling, ruffling
their red and black-and-white habits.

And blessed be the pacemakers and the peacemakers,

the slow striders, the arthritic joggers, scarred and bent under
their histories, for they're here at last by the sunlit sea.

Blessed Peoria and Manhattan, Ottowa and Green Bay, Pittsburgh,

And blessed their children.

And blessed the lovers for they shall have one perfect day.

Blessed be the dolphin out beyond the furthest buoy,
slaughtering the bright leapers,
for they shall have full bellies.

Blessed, too, the cormorant and the osprey and the pelican
for they are the cherubim and seraphim and archangel.

And blessed be the gull, open throated, screeching, scolding
me to my face,

for he shall have his own place returned to him.
And the glossy lip of the long wave shall have the last kiss.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Your Monday Morning Fruit and Flower Bonus Combo Pack

"Every minute of your life is infinitely creative
and the universe is endlessly bountiful.
Just put forth a clear enough request,
and everything your heart truly desires must come to you."

--Shakti Gawain

The fierce strawberries were fine for the weekend, but these patient, kind, and gentle oranges will help you through the week ahead.

Of course, Betty did not forget your flower delivery for the week:

These flowers were near the little fruit stand we stopped at.
Magnificent, aren't they?
I picked these just for you.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Strawberries

We are lucky enough to live in the heart of strawberry country. These little beauties start to appear about this time of year at roadside stands all over our area. We are really spoiled rotten when it comes to strawberries (and other produce too!)

We bought these yesterday. Normally, the stands are decorated with homemade signs of happy, happy strawberries, often waving, holding hands, or dancing, but yesterday HOB and I found this fruit stand with what seemed to be a very angry strawberry as a mascot.

We asked the girl at the counter about it and she said her father had painted the sign. "The strawberry's not angry," she said. "He's fierce."


We ate most of the berries last night, welcoming back the season. Maybe the mascot of the stand was fierce, but these berries were pretty sweet.

Wish I could send you all some of these signs of summer!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Until I'm Blue in the Face

(This photo left blurry for dramatic/metaphorical/symbolic/thematic purposes. Work with me on this, people.)

My new car came with Bluetooth Technology. Cool! I thought. Now I could stop trying to balance my cell-phone on my knee in an attempt to be "hands-free" as the law here requires.

When it was time to program my new handy little built-in device, I sat in my new car, my 180 page instruction manual on my lap, and proceeded to read the instructions. Oh, dear.

What I remembered most from the instructions was reading about the various things NOT to do while setting up the system:

Do not yell into the microphone located above the rear view mirror.
Do not give non-prescribed commands to the system.
Do not speak into the microphone until prompted by the system.
Do not try to override the system by pushing buttons at inappropriate times.

The manual listed the suggestion of not yelling or shouting into the microphone at least five times.

Well, I thought. Of course. What kind of idiot is going to make those kinds of mistakes?

In ten minutes, I was exactly that kind of idiot, yelling out commands (and NOT prescribed ones!), hoisted up in my seat, my hand gripping the steering wheel, my mouth one-half inch from the speaker as I repeatedly punched at the controls. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My hair was askew, my face coiled up and twitching in areas I never knew it could twitch in. I looked crazed because I was crazed and nowhere near recognizing the situation as out of control.

The woman on the Bluetooth remained cool. "Please enter the number you wish to call."

I said in my nearly hysterical voice, for the fifth time, "803..."

"Pound," she said. "Continue to enter numbers. "


"Pound," she said in her smooth voice.

"Oh, I'd like to pound you. I would!"

"I don't understand," she said.

"Yes, you do!" I yelled. "I know you do!"

It was Sonny Boy who found me there, drenched with sweat and searching in the glove box for a weapon with which to disembowel the system. Mama was gonna pull the obviously rotten tooth right out.

"Calm down, Mom," he said in that even, flat tone that denotes, not concern for the frenzied but a eye-rolling disbelief at idiocy. Ever my techno therapist, he suggested I take a break and then we'd take a "nice ride" to the park and do the programming there.

We did and it was somewhat successful, meaning I only have the numbers that Sonny Boy programmed in there.

Now, the Bluetooth woman and I have become mildly friendly with one another. (Don't tell her, but I really like my GPS woman a lot better.) I have been the flexible one though, not her. She's rather rigid, if you ask me, but I'm a wily one. After fighting with her for weeks, I figured out that to call my friend's cell phone I have to say "Home" and then Bluetooth Lady says, "Do you want to call L's cell phone?" "Yes," I say, a little proud that I have tricked her into doing what I wanted her to do in the first place.

Oh yeah. Who's the smart one now?

Being the good daughter I am, I try and call my 87 year-old mom every Tuesday and Thursday morning while I am on my way to work. For a number of reasons, these calls are sometimes hard to make. The guilt button at being 2000 miles away and unable to help her out is not just pushed--it's taped down. Let's just say that most of the time these calls take a lot of energy and also force me to face realities that I really, really don't want to face. It would be much easier not to make the calls, but I do.

I get into my car, start to drive, push the button and say, "Call Mom."

Each and every time Bluetooth Lady asks, "Do you want to call Mom?"

It's like she's really asking me, like she wants me to think about this and how these calls affect me. I hesitate. What I want to say is, "Well, it's really complicated. I do want to call. It's just that sometimes...."

"Do you want to call Mom?" repeats the Bluetooth Lady, now turned therapist. She knows exactly what I am going to say. She just wants me to be the one to say it.

I push the correct button at the correct time, take a deep breath and say "Yes."

The phone rings, and my mom picks up and starts to talk.

And during the conversation, I remain seated and calm.
I use a normal, tranquil, even tone of voice.
I never yell or scream.
I say only silently agreed upon, prescribed responses at the correct time and only when prompted to do so.
I do not push buttons that should not be pushed.

I guess you could say I've learned a lot about talking to my mom from the Bluetooth Lady.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Teacher Betty

Every teacher knows those dark days: days when no one in class seems to care, days when you find yourself repeating the same thing you said the last fourteen days, and days when you sit, surrounded in your office by papers filled with the very errors you've been railing about and correcting in class. You sit, your head upon your desk unable to move the grading pen any longer. There are truly days when you feel like you have very little to show for all your effort. Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? Are you making any difference at all? Sometimes in those dark days you lose your direction, can't seem to find your bearings.

Don't get me wrong. Those days happen infrequently. I love my job of teaching English at the local community college AND today was on the opposite end of the spectrum.

About four years ago I had a student named Jose in my class. He was a bit older than most of my 19-22 year old students. He sat in the front row and was quiet during most of the class. In his introductory essay he wrote that he had gotten out of prison not too long ago (drug charges), was taking one or two college classes for the time being, but expected to take over his friend's painting business one day.

He was a good writer and an interesting person. Call it a teacher's sixth sense, but I knew there was more to him--more in there waiting to be developed. I asked him to walk me back to my office one day and asked him what his plans were. That's when we told me about the painting business again. I asked if he had ever thought about transferring to a university. He laughed at me like I was totally out of my mind. "Nah," he said, shaking his head. "Nah. I'm just here to do a few classes then that's it. "Well, think about it," I said. "I really think you could do it."

He finished my class and took the next one in the sequence. By this time, he was hooked on learning and I could tell he was starting to see himself in a different light.

Well, guess who showed up at my office door today? It was Jose, looking healthy and happy and wearing a polo shirt with the name of the nearby university on it. He had a name tag on and under his name read "Transfer Center." He had indeed transferred, was nearly done with his degree and was now working to recruit students to the university.

We chatted about his degree and then he said, "I give you all the credit. I still remember that talk we had when you asked me about transferring. I went to my counselor that afternoon and started talking about the possibility. If you hadn't brought it up in the first place, I'm not sure where I'd be right now."

We continued to talk about his classes, his experiences and what was going on in his life. Just as he was about to leave, I asked him what his plans after graduation were.

"Going to grad school?" I asked.

"You know, I think I am," he said. "In fact, I'm sure I am."

I smiled and he stuck out his hand. "Thanks again."

I shook my head, "No, thank you," I said, ignoring the hand and going for a hug instead.

Teachers can live on this kind of stuff for years. Really, we can.

Jose was giving me far too much credit. He was the one who did all the work, struggled through all the tough classes, and scrambled to pay for it all as well. He gave me a great present today by coming by to say thanks.

When those dark days do hit and I feel like I am not making a difference, I'll look through that darkness and see a little of the brightness Jose brought to my office today. Then, I'll pick up that pen and grade those papers, and plan those lectures, and remember that I'm headed in the right direction after all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday Wanderings

Hello Betty Fans!
Hope you are all having good days out there.
Betty is up to her eyeballs in grading, meetings, and classes, so I thought I'd post some pictures today instead of spewing out my usual salient musings.

I took these when I went on a walk with Sonny Boy this weekend. It had just rained and the air was so clear and clean. It felt wonderful. I have tried to replicate this feeling by inhaling the whiteboard markers in my classroom, but it is not the same.

Happy Wednesdays to All!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Poetry Poetry Tuesday Tuesday: "Road Trip" a 2fer from Bossy Bossy Betty Betty

Two Poems:

One about my recent adventure to Santa Cruz:

Road Trip

I was sent off on this journey
With kisses and hugs
Wished bon voyage by two people
I love very much.

Excited, nervous, happy on the
Road to my destination at last!
I maneuvered the complicated highways
At the beginning of the route.

I was so eager, but the roads
Were so crowded, fast and busy
Everyone seemed to travel them
Better than I did.

Then, then, then, the road opened up!
I sped up, passed some people,
Stayed behind others, avoided some,
Traveled in sync with the great majority.

I stopped occasionally for refueling,
For welcomed food and drink.
My soul was fed by the landscape around me.
Green hills dotted with black cows,
A white egret in flight.
Wonder all around me.

I never got bored.
I loved it all.
It went so fast!

Then, near the end of my journey,
The traffic got heavy again.
I drove on, much slower now,
Still anticipating with joy
My arrival.

From freeway, to highway,
To narrow street. I slowed,
then stopped.

I arrived, tired, but happy,
I looked up--there they were
To welcome me:
Two people I love very much.

Poem #2

One about my life which I am quite sure can be read at my funeral years and years (and years!) from now:

Road Trip

I was sent off on this journey
With kisses and hugs
Wished bon voyage by two people
I love very much.

Excited, nervous, happy on the
Road to my destination at last!
I maneuvered the complicated highways
At the beginning of the route.

I was so eager, but the roads
Were so crowded, fast and busy
Everyone seemed to travel them
Better than I did.

Then, then, then, the road opened up!
I sped up, passed some people,
Stayed behind others, avoided some,
Traveled in sync with the great majority.

I stopped occasionally for refueling,
For welcomed food and drink.
My soul was fed by the landscape around me.
Green hills dotted with black cows,
A white egret in flight.
Wonder all around me.

I never got bored.
I loved it all.
It went so fast!

Then, near the end of my journey,
The traffic got heavy again.
I drove on, much slower now,
Still anticipating with joy
My arrival.

From freeway, to highway,
To narrow street. I slowed,
then stopped.

I arrived, tired, but happy,
I looked up—there they were
To welcome me:
Two people I love very much.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bossy Betty Has You Over for Pie and Pictures

Betty is back from her road trip. Ah, I loves me a road trip and soon we shall proceed into the parlor while I will inflict multiple pictures of my time away upon you as you sit in straight-back chairs, smiling tight little smiles and glancing at your watches.

First I would like to say that Betty may be one of the luckiest women on earth to have such people as Sonny Boy and Girlfriend of Sonny Boy in her life. I wrote to these college juniors and said I was restless and was thinking about coming up to see them in Santa Cruz. Instead of taking this as their cue to shut down all forms of future communication, they instead welcomed me up. Sonny Boy then mapped out a day of fun for the three of us in nearby San Jose. Both SB and GoSB refuse to let me use their names nor their likenesses on Bossy Betty (their only weaknesses) but let me assure you they are both above average in both attractiveness, intelligence and likeability. It was a pleasure to spend time with them.

So without further delay, let us begin our slide show:

We started our day at Moffett Air Field where we saw Hangar One which as the hangar for the airship Macon, one of the largest airships ever made. There is a small museum there, run by earnest volunteers. The airship itself had a full crew, could stay in the air for as long as two weeks and could carry five biplanes.

After that it was time to journey to Lick Observatory, high in the hills above San Jose. The drive up was winding and narrow. Sonny Boy was driving, so I could just sit in the back seat like a dog and enjoy the view.

It was a gorgeous day, with clear skies. (My snow-bound Blogger Buddies! Please breathe deep and do not attempt to throw objects at your screen. Spring is on its way to your home very soon!)

The Lick Observatory was finished in 1889 and is an incredible structure.

We got to go inside and gawk at the telescope. All the building materials and the telescope had to be brought up the mountain by horse-drawn wagons. Each trip took about two days.

After a trio down the mountain we stopped at on Oriental Market. We declined to buy any of the following:

Then it was on to the lovely Japanese Garden:

At last, it was time to go see Muffler Man--a large fiberglass man holding a muffler.

I gotta admit, I swooned a little over Muffler Man. What girl wouldn't?

He's a Babe for sure!

This officially ends our slide show.

Betty's back home now. My traveling ya-ya's have been satisfied for the time being.

Thanks for going on the photo tour with me.

Now, I must go write to Muffler Man and see if he felt the same connection I did. I'm pretty sure it was mutual. My witty opening line: "Dear Muffler Man: You must be exhausted just standing there day after day...."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all you Sweet Things!
I'll be back on the 101, singing Barry Manilow songs at the top of my lungs (an advantage of traveling alone) and heading back to my own sweet Valentine today.
Quick, HOB! Get something wrapped!
Hope you all have great days!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bossy Betty Takes a Road Trip

Hi Betty Fans,

Just reporting to you from Santa Cruz where I am enjoying some time with College Sonny Boy and Sonny Boy's Girlfriend. We went to the ocean yesterday. The surf was high and the surfers were rabid to catch some waves.

Oh, Surfer Man!

We are off to have some Big Time Fun in San Jose today.
(Yes, we DO know the way!)

Hope you are having great weekends!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bossy Betty 's Washer/Dryer Theory of Relationships

Washers and Dryers just go together. Mine match in color (white w/ rust spots) and style (fairly old) and have been with us for many years. I love them both: battered and slightly unattractive though they may be. They are both faithful and hard-working. We've called the repair man in only a few times through the years and he says the same thing every time: "They just don't make them like this any more."

Our washer and dryer sit in a small closet that is part of our kitchen. It's handy to have them there and their prominent place enforces a semi- strict carry-in/carry-out policy since it's a small, galley-like kitchen and a big pile of sheets, jeans, and shirts there tends to block the oven door. (Though if the pile is high and skinny enough, it can serve as a good place to place a cookie sheet when pulling another one out of the oven.)

Perhaps it is because I am around them every day and hear them chugging away on a regular basis, I have had the opportunity to observe them and one with Betty-Like clarity I have come to a startling theory:

In every romantic/life relationship there is a washer and there is a dryer.

Let us consider the dryer partner first:

It is fairly simple, with very few bells and whistles. It works without fuss, without changing from cycle to cycle---no dramatic shifts in temperature or movements. It does its job and does it well. All it needs from time to time is the opportunity to vent--to clear out the lint that accumulates over time. Every once in while the accumulation of small debris builds up and impedes its task at hand. This is a hazard to all around. Though the removal of this lint is not always pleasant, done regularly it helps the dryer to maintain its even temperature and long life.

Now let us consider the washing machine partner:

This one is a little more complicated. There's more moving parts, more cycles. Filling up, churning, draining, spinning, rinsing, more spinning. It's a lot of work to be a washer. It must be given the appropriate liquids for it to be effective. It must be constantly reminded to soften its contents as well as clean them. In the most dramatic of scenarios it overflows and wrecks havoc on its surroundings. When it becomes even slightly unbalanced, everyone around knows about it by the noise it makes, but the dryer is the most affected as the washer moves itself over to its steady, faithful partner who feels the bumping, bumping, BUMPING against its side.

Who are you in your relationship? Are you the washer or the dryer?

Though HOB might disagree, I consider myself to be the dryer. I am happy just to do my job and as long as I occasionally get to vent and clear out the cobwebs, I am fine. I am a pretty low-maintenance kind of person. Although some unenlightened people would mistaken me for a none-too-exciting, I am dependable and reliable. I like the security of routine.

HOB is the washer. He is a hard worker, a faithful partner, and his intentions are good. However, he is always coming up with new ideas on the spur of the moment: "Let's go to Moscow!" "Let's buy a condo in Vegas!" "I'm buying a truck tomorrow!" He exercises at ungodly hours. goes to bed late, spins and refills, and yes, agitates at times. He comes over to bump, bump, bump against me as I am trying to do my rote chores of everyday life. Sometimes it's merely unnerving, sometimes it's maddening and sometimes it is exactly what I need.

And so, as Valentine's Day approaches, I want to say Happy Valentine's Day to my washer/partner. Thanks for standing beside me, working hard, and yes, even bumping me out of my routine once and awhile. Also, thanks for letting me clean out my lint trap every so often. After all these years, I still warm up just for you. I promise to remember I have more than one setting and to occasionally flip from Timed Dry to Permanent Press just for some wild variety on my part.

Note: For your convenience Betty's Washer/Dryer Theory of Relationships can quickly and easily be applied to other-than-romantic relationships, such as work and friendship. Step forward and proclaim your identity!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bossy Betty's Guide to Hosting Out of Town Guests. Discussion Questions Included At No Extra Charge.

Apparently, she was too busy looking up synonyms for "I don't really care."

A few months ago a lovely couple came to stay a couple of nights with us. HOB had gotten to know them from his workplace. They were acquaintances, not close friends. They had just recently moved to Mexico and had come back to take classes to be grief counselors. We had a nice time sitting and talking. We took some great walks and had some good meals. They were perfect house guests--bearing appropriate gifts when they came, polite, appreciative, unobtrusive.

Evan's room has the double bed, so he moved into one of the other rooms with a twin bed while they were here. Now Evan's room is fairly typical of a teenage boy. There's quite a bit of stuff in it. The rug is fairly atrocious, but we've decided not to replace it until Ev leaves for college. We cleared off a short TV stand for their one of their suitcases, straightened up as best we could and cleared out, giving the couple privacy, emphasizing that they needed to keep their door shut tight at night so the cats would not come in and disturb them.

Our guests stayed for about three days. They left early in the morning, leaving a lovely, heartfelt thank-you note on the bed. Evan entered his room and called me. The smell in the room was a mixture of aftershave/perfume with an undertone of a putrid, rotting smell. We opened the windows. Neither of the couple had smelled bad, but the aroma of the room was almost overwhelming. I had no idea what perfume that was, but I fanned at the room with the door to get it out.

Later that day, I went back in the room and found the perfume smell was nearly gone but the rotting smell was even stronger. My first suspicion was food, but what but the devil's own kitchen could have even originated something so hideous? I looked under Ev's bed, under his desk, but found nothing. I came back later and the smell was overwhelming and unmistakable this time.

There was something dead in there.

Now, Betty does not do well with dead things, and HOB was out of town. so I called my friend K to come over and she brought her son David. We looked and looked but found nothing. Finally, just as we were about to give up, I picked up Evan's guitar from the corner where it was propped, right by the stand we had cleared for their suitcase. There it was: a giant dead, rotting, rat.

To say that Betty exercised her lungs and vocal cords just about then would be an understatement. Thank goodness, K and her son were there to cart the thing to the trash can. I gave her a pair of kitchen tongs and a plastic bag, permission to throw out the tongs with the rat and my undying appreciation.

It's a true friend who will come remove dead rats when you need them removed.

As far as we could tell, the rat had probably been in there, decomposing during the couple's entire visit. According to K, who had done a quick post-mortem, there had been no trauma to the rat--no sign of the cats arising from their fluffy beds to take the time to chase it down. It was not already prepackaged in a can with gravy on top, so why bother?

Our guests had probably been too polite to mention the decaying rodent smell coming from the space near their suitcases, instead choosing to spray aftershave and perfume around the room. Our admonition to shut the door tight at night must have been a tough one to adhere to. I can just see them in the bed at night, trying desperately to convert the covers into gas masks.

Now, my dear reader, here is my question for you: Would you have you contacted the couple after they left and said anything to them? There was a small chance that they did not notice the smell. (If, say, they had no olfaction action at all.) Should I have apologized and informed them that we had found a rotting rat in their room? Would there have been the unintended undertone of accusation? (Where DID that rat come from anyway? I did not ask K if the rat looked slightly Mexican, but one wonders....)

Mas Preguntas:

1) Do you suppose this experience helped our guests in any way with their training to become grief counselors? Really, shouldn't they be thanking us?

2) Does Emily Post cover this particular situation in one of her books?

3) Would you have contacted the couple after the visit? What would you have said? Betty wants to know.

Hasta Manana, my darlings....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bossy Betty's Handy Guide to Purse Shopping: Ladies! Use Your Heads!

That's a seven-head bag mistake.

Fashion: It's a tough world out there and a girl could use some guidelines.

I've seen some giant bags on some little-headed people lately which makes me think that perhaps not everyone follows the same guidelines that I do when it comes to purse purchasing.

You see, for years my theory has been, the smaller your head, the smaller your bag should be and vice-versa.

Now, I happen to be a small-skulled person with some very large-skulled friends. (In terms of drink sizes, mine is the free water cup at Taco Bell and theirs are Double Big Gulps from 7-11.) Don't get me wrong. They are perfectly proportioned and stunning. Moreover, these big-headed gals can carry off the look of a big bag with no problem. However, if they try to carry small, cutesy bags, it looks as if Bigfoot has escaped from the forest and has stolen Barbie's First Purse.

I, on the other hand, have a small head. It's really small. (OK, OK, it's not TLC Special "My Head is the Size of a Softball" size, but once at a party HOB measured everyone's head and mine was the smallest.) If I were to carry a big purse, people would stop and stare at me to make sure I was not one of the shrunken Olsen Twins carrying off a freakishly large baby.

So, my rule of thumb (head) is that purses should not be bigger than one and a half of your heads.


It's easy and fun to test for this in the store.

One method is to simply place the bag over your head. Then, place the thumb of one hand on your nose and the palm of your other hand on your temple. Measure for the half-head, then move the nose hand over to the temple while keeping the distance between the hands. Easy, right?

If you prefer, simply take a balloon with you into the store. When you find a purse you like, blow up the balloon to half your head size when flattened. (The balloon, not your head.) Having trouble with this? Ask a passerby to compare the balloon and your head as you hold it up next to your head, flattening the balloon against the side of your head. Strangers will understand completely and love to help. Next, stick your head in the bag and then squeeze the balloon in. Snug fit? Fine. Too much room? You may move to a bigger purse. Balloon Pop? Move on to another selection and if this happens several times in a shopping trip, consult a otologist for help with possible hearing damage.

A third possibility is to find someone in the store who has half your head size and ask her to please stick her head in the bag with you. Again, making friends while shopping can be fun and easy.

Fear not! As soon as my selection process becomes more popular, stores will stock fake styrofoam heads and half heads in a variety of sizes for your convenience. I can see them stacked up there by the front door next to the Shopping Hats.

(By the way, the stores are not really moving on my invention of The Shopping Hat. Perhaps public outcry is warranted. I set you readers loose to do what you will to bring these hats into being.)

(Click on the words "Shopping Hat" above for a link to this all-important subject.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "This Paper Boat" by Ted Kooser

This Paper Boat

--Ted Kooser

Carefully placed upon the future,
it tips from the breeze and skims away,
frail thing of words, this valentine,
so far to sail. And if you find it
caught in the reeds, its message blurred,
the thought that you are holding it
a moment is enough for me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Morning Flowers!!!

Happy Monday!

I'd like to send a special thank you to Melissa at Getting My Ducks in a Row for featuring Bossy Betty as a blog she likes to follow! I felt so special and dressed in sequined finery all day long! You can check out her blog by clicking on that handy-dandy link I provided for you. She's a whiz at balancing four kids and life in general.

Betty believes every week should start with a flower delivery, so here's yours. Betty also believes each and every week should begin with a great deal of envy directed your way, so be sure to tell everyone you got flowers and ask if he/she did too. People like this. It's a good conversation starter.

A true friend is someone who thinks you are a good egg even though he knows you are slightly cracked.
--Bernard Melzer

A Checklist for the week ahead:

Do you have your brown bag of happiness packed for the week ahead?

Have you put an encouraging little note in it for yourself?

Have you looked in the mirror and smiled at the pretty person there?

Have you got all the good attitude you'll need for five or so days? (Stop looking in your candy stash! It's not in there!)

OK, then.

Let's get started on this week. Go get 'em, Gorgeous!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Ice Queen Speaketh

Betty is an ice snob.

It's true.

Ice is an essential element in all of my hydration rituals. Just ask HOB who, 28 years ago, went into a 7-11 and came back with a can of Diet Pepsi.

That's right--just a can.

No ice in a cup.

Oh. Oh.

He didn't make that mistake again.

So profound is my ice snobbery that I have been known to refuse liquids if the shape and/or pebbling is off just a bit.

Also, it must taste tasteless. This is very important.

What is the epitome of perfect ice? Well, for those of you who live near a Sonic (I do not) you know that they have the PERFECT ice. Clear, pebbled, tasteless. (My sister lives near a Sonic. I have asked her to mail me some ice, but she keeps sending me water instead! What's the deal?)

Let us discuss those half moons that come out of most people's ice makers. Oh dear. Always a lady, Betty handles herself well in social situations in which drinks with these wedges of refrigerator odor are presented to her. A tight smile, a nod of the head, and a knowing look at HOB all add up to a signal to call it an early evening.

Ice cube trays with tap water? Let's be serious. Betty's Taste Buds rise up in disapproval.

This extra sensitivity has placed an extra burden upon Betty. For years I have had to lug frozen ice home from the store. Since I like to do everything BIG, this meant buying giant bags from giant stores. I had to get a deep freeze for the garage. Alas, there were some incidents of HORROR--going to the deep freeze and discovering we were out of ice.

Finally, Betty went out and got herself an ice maker. It was a risky move, knowing my sensibilities, but so far it is working out. I make about four bags every weekend. I am not crazy about the shape of the ice, nor the color (I prefer crystal clear) but I have discovered that by slamming a bag full of the ice down on the garage floor about four times can almost replicate the texture of Sonic ice.

I'll still buy bagged ice from time to time, but my ice maker allows me to reconnect with my pioneer ancestors who did not rely on stores or corporations. No, they got in there and went to work to tame this land and produce the necessities for their family and community.

When I hear the motor humming away, it's like the prairie wind in my ears.

When those ice modules drop from the metal plugs, it's the wheels of the Prairie Schooner on the hard-packed sod.

When I get a bag of ice out of the deep freeze, hold the Ziplock Freezer Bag with Double Zipper Technology above my head and slam it to the ground, I know my sweat and toil merely serve to bond me with my female ancestors who probably held just a whole lot of things above their heads to smash to the ground.

It feels good to be so grounded in solid, hard work.

My ice maker.
It only has ice for me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Food Friday: Bossy Betty's Sandwich of Happiness and Bordering-on-Disturbing-but-Nevertheless-Intoxicating Bliss

You'll rise up and yell "Youch! That's good!" when you put those pretty little incisors of yours around this warm sandwich. It's a Betty Exclusive, written in Betty-Ease. Feel free to add, subtract and generally Make Your Will Known when you make it for yourself.

Betty no longer eats the proud, territorial bird known as the chicken, so you'll note everything here is veg. In fact, I made this for my vegans and they loved it. You can make it with fake chicken, with real chicken, with shredded tires. I believe anything coated with mayonnaise/veganaise, mixed with toasted pine nuts and slapped in a grill tastes good.

Here we go:

Bossy Betty's Sandwich of Happiness and Bordering-on-Disturbing-but-Nevertheless-Intoxicating Bliss

1 1/2 cups chopped chicken substitute. (I use Trader Joes "chicken" strips, and fry them just a bit)
Blob of Veganaise/Mayonnaise
Half Blob of prepared mustard
2 cloves of garlic (I use the frozen cubes from Trader Joes)
Curry to taste
Quarter cup or so of toasted pine nuts (I toast mine in the toaster over.)
Some chopped onion
Some chopped red pepper
About 1 or 2 TB of lemon juice.

Mix all this magic together.

Prepare two slices of sourdough bread by slathering (don't you just love that word?) one side of both pieces with Earth Balance or butter.

Flip over one piece of bread (am I going too fast here?) and put the filling on.

Slap on the upper piece (butter side out) and place in grill like a George Foremen.

(Got a panini maker? OH! I am jealous! Use it!)

Your inner Paula Dean will tell you when it's done. (Your inner Paula Dean will also urge you to slip a stick of butter in the sandwich and then deep fat fry it. Resist this.)

Have a Happy Friday! Betty Adores You!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Naming Children The Stress-Free Way

May I introduce my daughter, Astedysi?

Thanks to all the sweet Betty Fans who commented on my post yesterday. I have no intention of backing off from forcing words upon you without pity or shame. I'm like the wart that won't go away when it comes to blogging. I plan to become just a regular feature in your lives and pretty soon, only a trained professional will notice the unsightly but benign growth and suggest it be removed.

My first comment yesterday was indeed from a Chinese spammer. How sweet of him to drop in. For those of you who don't read Chinese (let's get on that this weekend, shall we?) apparently this person was offering his kind services for something that had to do with sex and breasts. HOB found this out when he clicked on it and pushed some sort of translating button. Unfortunately, he did this while at work. I suggested he take some cookies and Cokes for the friendly computer/moral police who will most likely show up in his office today.

Spammers have been finding my site a lot lately, so this morning I put in Word Verification on my comment thingamajig. This means my commenters will need to take an extra step to post their brilliant comments.

Let us approach this with a positive attitude and think of it as just strengthening those mental synapses that will eventually come in handy later in life. While others are wandering around in the grocery store wondering just why the heck they are there, thanks to your work with Word Verification, you'll already be in the air freshener department sniffing away, trying to decide between Cherry Morning or Vanilla Sunrise. (The fact that later in the afternoon you try to snack on these very same air fresheners simply means that you did not comment enough.)

I was working with my class on blogs one day and told one of my students that whatever word came up in Word Verification, she had to promise me she would name her future child that name. It was something like Butterwillow which is brilliant! I got very excited! I put it with her last name of Rodriguez and said it loudly about twenty times! (It was weird that she dropped the class later that very day. Scheduling conflict, probably. It happens more than you think it would.)

So, for those of you who are willing and able, please push the comment button and tell me just what the name of your next real and/or imaginary child will be. Personally, I think this is a great way to choose a name for your offspring. It takes all the drama/family hysteria/personal responsibility out of it.

When the child comes to you years later and wants to know just WHY you named him Putridad, you can just shrug your shoulders and say, "Hey, it's what came up on the screen when it was time. Now hand your Mama her air freshener and a spoon, won't you? It's time to read my Bossy Betty for the day."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On the Occasion of my 400th Post

My most faithful reader.
(I suspect she may have ulterior motives.)

When I started this blog, (in October 2008) I was sure that my followers would be in the hundreds within a matter of a few weeks. Readers? Oh, I'd have 'em--no problem. I told both my book clubs, my friends, my co-workers, and my relatives, even acquaintances I ran into in the the grocery store. I was sure, absolutely SURE that everyone would want to come and read every little thought I had. After all, many of these people were the ones who were always urging me to write down my stories. They were my biggest supporters. Surely they would tune in.

Boy, did I get a big ol' life lesson.

Apparently, people had other things to do, other interests, and though many greeted my news with enthusiasm, they never managed to sign on and read my posts. Hummm....

There were times in those early days when I threw myself some pretty good pity parties. It was frustrating knowing, for instance, that the woman who has been my best friend from first grade didn't read my blog. One of my sisters shows zero interest. Some of my good writing buddies don't read my blog. I had to beat my head against this for quite some time before I got some inner composure.

The worst situation is when I am talking to friends and I'll want to tell them something I wrote about in my blog, but to avoid repeating a story, I have to ask, "Did you read about ----- in Bossy Betty?" Then I get the sheepish "no." I feel bad about putting that person on the spot. I think they feel like I am disappointed too. (To be honest, sometimes I am.)

The other day I had a situation like the previous one and my friend admitted she didn't read my stuff. "It's know...just too much."


I guess I could take that a couple of ways. I do tend to write long posts and I do tend to post almost every day. For awhile I thought maybe I was coming across as that obnoxious student in the front row, holding up her hand and making "O! O! O! Notice me! " sounds. I decided I wouldn't post as much. Maybe I was putting people off. I skipped some days, but missed posting.

I also thought "...just too much" might refer to my personality. I do get a little wacky in some of my posts. I also get pretty heavy sometimes. And I HAVE always been that bulb that burned just a little too bright. I used to chastise myself for it, and tried to change, but at some point I think you just have to start liking yourself and stop changing who you are for others' approval. That brightness serves me well in most areas of my life anyway.

So, on the occasion of my 400th post I stop and reflect on what I have I learned from this whole journey.

First, it made me think about my own actions when my friends and others have launched projects. I know now that it's important to show up, to lend support. I may not have been the best about that in the past, but having a blog has taught me that small actions mean a lot.

I've learned that not everyone shows support in the same way. This was a tough one. I have a dear friend who refuses to sign up as a follower. Refuses. He won't leave comments either. Yet, I know, deep in my heart that he supports me--just not in the way I may want him to. I think this is the universe telling me once again that I don't always know best.

I've been blessed through my blog with some great people who share their lives and thoughts with me. I love the small, but very groovy band of people who have jumped on the Bossy Betty wagon--for the whole trip or maybe for just a short portion of it. My faithful readers mean so much to me. Sometimes posting feels like going out on a stage, singing your heart out, and just hoping someone out there is listening and maybe even chooses to clap once and awhile.

There were times in the early days when I'd have, maybe eleven visitors, most of them lost, that I thought about chucking it all. However, something always drew me back. Like any author I wanted people to like my work, but more importantly, I found I liked the process of writing my pieces. It made me happy. In an essay Annie Dillard talks about this and said she had discovered " do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself." Pretty simple, huh?

So, maybe it's a little off-key.

Maybe it's a little "too much."

But maybe, just maybe, it's just right for me.

It's my song.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Small Town" by Philip Booth

Small Town
--Philip Booth

You know.
The light on upstairs
before four every morning. The man
asleep every night before eight.
What programs they watch. Who
traded cars, what keeps the town
The town knows. You
know. You've known for years over
drugstore coffee. Who hurts, who
Why, today, in the house
two down from the church, people
you know cannot stop weeping.