Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Break at Bossy Betty's: Part 1

For the Sophisticated, Discerning Home Decorator...

Sonny Boy came home for his Spring Break from college about a week or so ago. Now, when he moved out a couple of years ago, Evan moved into his old room and the smaller room became the guest room. It was somewhat painful for this mama to make this transition, but Evan deserved the bigger room and after I got going on the guest room, I realized I could girly it up a little and had a good time with it.

Now for many complicated reasons, this room is also the site of the Cat Food Distribution. The cats jump up on the desk and chow down on an at least-twice-daily basis. Unfortunately, this means that the room has a constant not-so-faint smell of dry cat food and the aroma of half-eaten Marinated Beef Feast in Gravy courtesy of Fancy Feast. We've never had a real guest stay in the room, and Sonny Boy manages to tolerate the smell fairly well. (Amazing since he is a vegan.) The 6:00am rattling of the cans and the meowing cats is a little tough on him though.

Recently our very old, but beloved dog, Maddie, was put on some medication that made her lose control of her bladder for a couple of weeks. For some reason, it happened in the guest room on a frequent basis. We tried to catch it when it happened, but there were some days when we didn't. In preparation for Sonny Boy's visit home, we took up the area rug that was in the room, which helped tremendously, but dog urine is a tough smell to get out of a carpet. We plan to get new carpets in a year or so, and I have a fairly high tolerance for bad smells, so I didn't get too bent out of shape about this.

However, being the good mother that I am, hours before Sonny Boy was due to arrive home, I was in the guest room, cleaning up errant empty cat food cats and using about fifty pounds of baking soda on the carpet to try and get rid of the urine smell. Evan had purchased some really hideous smelling air fresheners--the kind that are shaped like trees. The worst one was "New Car Smell." I put one of those around the lamp pull and one in the window, hoping the overwhelming coating of of hazardous chemicals upon the cardboard tree would mask all the other smells.

The combined smells of dog urine, cat food, and "new car smell" was, to say the least an intoxicating aroma. (I use "intoxicating" here not in the urbane-Audrey-Hepburn, kind of way, but more in the morning-after-a-big-Ovaltine-and-vodka-substituting for-Bailey's-Irish-Cream-Liqueur-night-leaving-you-with-a-sickening-feeling-in-your-stomach kind of way.)

It was while I was in the room cleaning up, that I heard scratching coming from somewhere. I climbed on the desk by the window and looked at the giant ficus tree outside, wondering if the branches were making the scratching noise. I took a break and, while enjoying my snack of iced tea and potato chips, I heard the scratching again. I sat, chip in midair, as the horrible realization came over me: it was coming from inside the wall. I went over, pounded and heard the creature (I was sure it was a rat) scurry away.

When HOB and Evan came home from the movies, I informed them that we had a CODE RED. "A rat!" I announced in a tone of voice keyed precisely to produce swift and immediate action in the males. Instead, they both told me it was just the wind and the tree branches.

Sonny Boy arrived home. I welcomed him with open arms and told him about the possible rat in the wall. HOB told him it was my imagination. Welcome Home Sonny Boy. Happy Spring Break. Your parents have had a tense conversation within the first three minutes of your arrival. Now, sweet dreams in the the cat-food, urine-laced, new-car-smell Rat Room!

The next morning the college student was up at 7:00. I went out to find him, bleary-eyed on the couch. "The rat is real. The rat is very real," is all he could say. Apparently the rat was a morning rat, and had awakened Sonny Boy around 4:00am.

I called for an "All Hands on Deck" approach to the situation. HOB went to the attic and set traps, put out poison and he cut down most of the ficus tree which he believed was the rat's dream bridge to the house in some way. (Personally, I think he just wanted to use his seldom-used chain saw. He had never liked that tree in the first place.)

Throughout the week he was here, I hounded Sonny Boy for a daily "Rat Report." I would have preferred a written report in the form resembling a seismograph noting the movement and the intensity of movement on a minute by minute basis, but all I got was a verbal report, and then only a sentence or two. He noted the scratching was still there, but becoming less frequent. I sent HOB up to the attic to check on the traps. He called it his "Snap, Crackle, Pop" report. Alas, no action in the traps. By the end of Sonny Boy's visit he reported very faint movement.

My hope is the rat is now on its way to Rat Heaven. Something tells me we'll know in a day or so....

Oh, and surprisingly Sonny Boy announced that he plans to stay near his college this summer and won't be coming home to stay. Hummmm..... Wonder why not?

We'll miss him, but, hey, that frees up the guest room!

Who wants to be Betty's Next Guest?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Turtle" by Kay Ryan


by Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
a packing case places, and almost any slope
defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
she's often stuck up to the axle on her way
to something edible. With everything optimal,
she skirts the ditch which would convert
her shell into a serving dish. She lives
below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
the sport of truly chastened things.

Note: Betty is aware that the pic above is a tortoise, not a turtle, but it's the only picture I had. The tortoise in the picture is named "Doodle'!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Your Monday Morning Flowers!

May your Monday be sweet and simple.
Here's to a great week!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Betty Likes Shiny Things

Betty enjoys all things shiny.

Golden necklaces purchased at carnivals and glittery fingernail polish keep me entertained for hours, so you can imagine how I felt about the buildings in downtown Los Angeles.

Here are some pictures I hope you find entertaining as well!

Hope you have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Road Trip With Betty: Los Angeles

Yesterday, I buzzed into LA with the college kids before they head back up to the wilds of northern California.

We visited with the stars first:

Then we went to an obscure little part of LA not many people know about:

(They really need to fix up their sidewalks...lots of graffiti!)

Everybody sing with me: "Stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive! OOOO..."

Isn't it nice that Forest Lawn makes it possible for you to die for only $38.00/mo?

This sign is for all you vegan, gluten-intolerant cupcake lovers out there.
Imagine, cupcakes for only $3.50 each!
What a deal!

OK, enough with the reading!
(Aren't just exhausted?)
Tomorrow Betty will have a sign-free day of our visit to the Big City.
Come back and visit me then!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Betty's Journal

One of my favorite presents of all time is my 10-year journal. Sonny Boy got it for me four years ago. Every night I enter four fascinatin' lines about my day. The journal started in 2006 and ends in 2016. It is so much fun to look back and see what I was doing four years ago, three years ago...well, you get the idea.

I have a collection of journals from my past. I used to write long, involved entries. Reading them now is rather a painful experience, as I look back at that girl I used to be and wonder why she couldn't see what is so painfully clear to me now. Still, I keep them because they are a part of my life, a part of me. Someday, I will probably throw them out, but not just yet....

When kids came along, the journal entries got much shorter and more infrequent and yet they reveal that wonderful, dizzying, time as well.

(Hint to my beautiful blogger friends with small children: I wish I had had this journal when my kids were smaller. I think I could have cranked out four lines a night and now I would love to look back now and see those years lined up.)

At this point in my life, this journal is perfect for me. I like summing up my days in four lines. If I have some deep thinking to do, I grab a notebook and work it out there, but most nights, I grab my trusty green diary and write about my day. Occasionally, I look back at the past entries for the same day in years past and I always look ahead at all the wonderful, promising, clean, wide-open, full-of-possibilities blank spaces for the years ahead.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Chat with Betty

(originally posted 11/08)

I hear it all the time. "Oh Betty, you're so pretty and smart. I'll bet you were a cool kid. I'll bet you had more segments on your book worm in Mrs. Shockley's 3rd grade class than anyone else." Well, yes, it's true. And I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to that certain classmate whose anemic worm was covered up by my colorful, robust, ever-growing worm.

Sorry about that, but let's face it: I needed the room and you, apparently, did not. Hope things are going OK in Attica. I hear New York is real nice. Back to my thesis: Reading shaped my life and it can shape yours too.

Growing up on the farm, fed on a steady diet of library books of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary, was it any wonder that Betty, upon finding the section in the Reader's Digest entitled "Drama in Real Life" would develop a taste for the vivid, for the sensational?

Sitting on my bed, sipping strawberry Kool-Aid and eating graham crackers, I read about the exhausted, broken farmer at the bottom of the well, pleading for help as the water rises above his ears. The mother in the burning house searches in vain for her infant daughter.

Oh yes, those were happy times for me. I had found the drama, the excitement that my everyday life on the farm lacked. Looking back, I can see those hair-raising stories ignited a spark within me that burns to this day and makes me one dangerous gal. I have been known to drive extra miles while the "low fuel" indicator glows on my dashboard. A sale on extra hot salsa at Albertsons this week? I buy three bottles Sometimes, I take the bun off my veggie burger and eat just the patty.

Now let us pause for a classic poem by John Keats, that plagued-by-bad-luck-and-tuberculosis poet. (A perfect subject for one of the Digest's "Drama in Real Life" articles, by the way.)

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I traveled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer rules as his demesne;
Yet did I never breath its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold'
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his keen;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He started at the Pacific--and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise--
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Now while our English major friends swoon with delight at seeing this poem (aren't they an annoying bunch?) let me paraphrase for the rest of you:

"Damn! I never understood all that mumbo-jumbo that Homer wrote, but since this guy Chapman wrote it in language even I can understand, I finally get it! Wow! I feel great! I feel like that lady on the infomercial who finally understands how to make quick and easy potato slices with her Slice-O-Matic after years of using a dull, unwieldy knife! No! No! I feel like the guy on the sunglasses commercial whose new Blue Ray Shades cut through all distortion AND provide extraordinary UV protection Where have these babies been all my life?"

Though I had been an avid reader for years, it was only when the Reader's Digest began publishing segments of "I Am Joe's Body" that I felt the epiphany that comes through reading great literature of which Keats speaks.

While this series ran, every issue featured a different part of Joe's body, speaking in first person narration. This was the ultimate in Drama in Real Life! After reading the first entry, I knew that never again would I be content to hear about a body part in third person. No, now that I had heard, felt, and experienced Joe's bladder speaking directly to me, I knew I could never go back to secondary sources.

This written series came into my life after a firm foundation set in darkened grade school classrooms of the Walter Cronkite "You Are There" films, in which the modern day reporter goes back to interview, say, Julius Caesar or George Washington. These films, combined with my previous experience with the"Drama in Real Life" series AND now this series of talking body parts blended together like the potent ingredients of a Dairy Queen Blizzard to create in me the chilling belief that these were not just articles in a magazine. Joe's spine, his eyetooth, his testis, his adrenal gland, thyroid, his pancreas, these chatty body parts were seeking ME out and they could only do it through this "cover" of public magazine.

In my mind, Joe's kidney and I escaped to an outdoor cafe in Paris, where we sat across from each other sipping tea. The kidney sat back, took a long drag on a cigarette and sighed, "I do so many things for Joe that the doctors still don't have a complete catalogue of my activities."

I shivered there on the dark street corner in New Jersey where I met Joe's ominous adrenal gland who whispered, "Gram for gram, I pack more dynamite than any other organ in Joe's body. I can cripple him, sicken him, send him to the madhouse, kill him."

After walking up the creaky steps of the old building I sat in the cramped apartment of Joe's stomach, nodding sympathetically as it sat on a ragged couch and lamented, "I am afraid I am not a very inspiring sight."

These articles were eventually combined into the book, I Am Joe's Body. Now I don't mean to alarm you (unlike Joe's prostate who menacingly growled from his penthouse office overlooking the city, "Red-brown, about the size of an English walnut, I produce a variety of grief") but this book is now out of print. That's right. Just as an original Gutenberg Bible is tough to get these days, the book I Am Joe's Body is going the same route. That is why I am here to alert you to get your copy NOW while there are still some out there. Run, do not walk, to your nearest used book store and purchase all copies that you can. Be cool. Act nonchalant, even while your heart is leaping for joy.

Then, go home and have an intimate dinner with Joe's intestine who may need a little lovin'. "I am the ugly duckling of Joe's anatomy. Other organs behave with quiet modesty. Not me."

Take a long soak in the tub as Joe's thigh bone looks on and lovingly but persistently reminds you to open that bottle of calcium tablets and start taking them on a daily basis.

Did I mention parts of Jane are also included in this book? Have a small intimate gathering with Jane's womb and breast or make it a big bash and invite all the Glands of Internal Secretion too!

Just watch the punchbowl! These guys may be little, but when they get carried away, there's big trouble.

Happy Reading, my people.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Monopoly" by Connie Wanek


by Connie Wanek

We used to play, long before we bought real houses.
A roll of the dice could send a girl to jail.
The money was pink, blue, gold as well as green,
and we could own a whole railroad
or speculate in hotels where others dreaded staying:
the cost was extortionary.

At last one person would own everything,
every teaspoon in the dining car, every spike
driven into the planks by immigrants,
every crooked mayor.
But then, with only the clothes on our backs,
we ran outside, laughing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Your First Monday Morning Flowers of Spring!

Happy Monday!

Betty's People all get flowers to start the week.
These beauties are the perfect way to start the first full week of Spring.
When I bought them, they were closed up, but one day in water and here they are in all their glory.

Hope you have all you need to bloom today!

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
~Mark Twain

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy 17th Birthday, Evan!

When Evan was small, I feared he had been born without a funny bone. Was it possible? When he came from a mother with such a large, overly-developed one? He simply stared at me when I told jokes, looked at me with skepticism when I made a play on words. Often times he had that look look of suspended suspicion associated with protagonists who are on the brink on discovering they are indeed adopted.

Little did we know that for years he was merely surveying, studying, scrutinizing the situation, so that one day he would not merely match us, but surpass us with his wit and power of observation. He now does it with such finesse and timing that often times we find ourselves on the floor laughing while also trying to catch up with the full impact of what he has just said.

Today is Evan's 17th birthday. He is just about the best boy a mom could have and I am so darn proud of him. Tonight we will have a party to celebrate his life. Friends will come and we'll sing, eat cake, and take pictures. He'll be surrounded by people who admire him, but his number one fan will always be the woman who held him tight 17 years ago and welcomed him to the world.

Happy Birthday, Evan!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mini-Slabs of Happiness and Joy

You know a dessert is going to be good when it weighs about 500 pounds coming out of the oven. I made one recently, took it to the office and was called "Beloved Colleague" throughout the day. Plans were being made to erect a statue of me, but when the snacks ran out, so did the enthusiasm for the project. By the end of the day "Beloved Colleague" had been replaced by the more familiar "Loud Blond Lady."

Since I recently purchased a ridiculous amount of dried apricots, I now firmly believe that apricots must be added to every dish possible. The dessert I made for the office gang started with your basic oatmeal cookie recipe:

1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3 cups Quaker Oats
1 cup chocolate chips

So far so good, right?

Now to Betty-ize the recipe start grabbing assorted ingredients and throwing them in. I added:

a GOB of chopped dried apricots (I buy the squishy, gooey kind and cut them with scissors.)
a bunch of chopped walnuts
a good-size clump of dried cherries
a lot o' shredded coconut
three or four drops of almond extract.

As you can see, I just grabbed handfuls of the add-ins and put them in. (You want exact measurements? Go to Martha's website. You're with Betty now and this is how she rides. You're still here, aren't you? Yeah, That's what I thought. You really do want to live on the wild side.)

Now you could drop these as cookies, but I believe this is best baked as one big slab and then cut into mini-slabs.

Just press it into a 13 X 9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Hope you do a frisky little dance in your kitchen as you make your Mini-Slabs of Happiness and Joy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Letters from Home. Letters from the Heart.

Yesterday's poem made me think about the beauty of handwritten letters and how much I miss them. Yes, I love the speed and efficiency of e-mail and texting, but e-mail is fast food in a bag, and texting is a cellophane wrapped roll of doughnuts from the vending machine. A handwritten letter in a real envelope, with a real stamp, is a home cooked meal with a tablecloth and flowers on the table. There is a presence, a substance to it. To me there is nothing better than finding a real letter in my stack of bills and advertisements. When I get one, I take it to my favorite spot in the house, sit down with it and relish all of it, beginning with the sensory experiences of the tearing open of the the envelope and the almost majestic unfolding of the paper.

I graduated from grad school and moved away from my grad school buddies around 1984 or so. I moved to a new city so HOB could go back to school. My circle of friends from school wrote and wrote and wrote letters to me. Oh, Blessed English Majors! The letters were long, descriptive missives and they sustained me. Their letters kept coming after I had moved again and had Sonny Boy. I would cradle him in one arm and hold their letters in my other hand. They kept me connected to the world and to them. Once e-mail snuck into our worlds, and beckoned us with that crooked finger, we started using that to keep connected, but it wasn't the same. Granted, our lives changed and we probably would not have kept up the letter writing, but I think e-mail hastened the end of it.

I kept all those letters, plus some from my sisters and my mom. I am so grateful to have them, to have that ink upon paper, those envelopes with 15 cent stamps. The letter pictured above was from my Grandma Bessie to me when I was a sophomore in college. I loved her and she loved me. I thrived in college and liked pretty much everything about it, but there were parts that were new and challenging and I wasn't prepared for it. For one thing I lived in a dorm where partying was BIG. I tried to fit in but wasn't really a party girl. However, I wanted desperately to be like everyone else. Luckily, I had a loud and crazy personality even while stone sober, so all I had to do was carry around a glass of 7-Up at parties and people were sure it was alcohol and that I was drunk.

I remember getting Grandma Bessie's letter amid all the parties, all the craziness of college life. I'd read it while sitting my room at school, someone cussing out in the hall, the faint smell of pot wafting from the room across from mine, my roommate dragging in from a late night date with some sleezebag she barely knew. I sat there with my grandma's letter in my hand and knew she was writing to the real me. For just a few minutes, I didn't have to act like or be someone I wasn't. While I was holding that letter, I could relax and be that uncomplicated girl that she knew and loved.

Here's the text of the letter above:

March 21, 1979

I've been meaning to write you for some time. I am still enjoying the pretty carnation you gave me. It's so nice yet. I'd like to give you a hug every time I look at it. Hope you are getting along all OK. Well, this is the first day of Spring. Guess it feels like it too. Didn't we have a lot of snow this winter? I can shut my eyes and see some of the snow banks. Donald came and took us for a ride in the country and I never saw such banks of snow.

Get yourself a little treat and come and see us whenever you can.

Lots of Love,
Grandma Bessie

She always included a dollar bill in the letter, and I always did just what she suggested. I'd take a break from studying, go to the union and buy myself a bag of jawbreakers or some ice cream and think of her as I was eating my treat.

Now I have a son in college and I realize that I have never written him a letter. We e-mail occasionally and text occasionally and believe me, the child is frighteningly well-adjusted. But, I've decided I'm going to write him a letter now and then--a real letter, one that he'll find sitting in his mailbox, one made from paper and ink and in my handwriting, one that takes more than just a click of a button to read.

Because he is of the generation of technology, texting and tweeting, perhaps it won't mean that much to him, but I'll still send it. One of my commenters, Double Wide Mom, said yesterday, that she still sends her college kids handwritten letters "...because I can." I loved that. It summed it all up for me.

It will be a letter from home sitting in his mailbox. A letter from Mom.

I'll send it because I can.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Elegy for the Personal Letter" by Aliison Joseph

Elegy for the Personal Letter

--Allison Joseph

I miss the rumpled corners of correspondence,
the ink blots and crossouts that show
someone lives on the other end, a person
whose hands make errors, leave traces.
I miss fine stationary, its raised elegant
lettering prominent on creamy shades of ivory
or pearl grey. I even miss hasty notes
dashed off on notebook paper, edges
ragged as their scribbled messages—
can't much write now—thinking of you.
When letters come now, they are formatted
by some distant computer, addressed
to Occupant or To the family living at—
meager greetings at best,
salutations made by committee.
Among the glossy catalogs
and one time only offers
the bills and invoices,
letters arrive so rarely now that I drop
all other mail to the floor when
an envelope arrives and the handwriting
is actual handwriting, the return address
somewhere I can locate on any map.
So seldom is it that letters come
That I stop everything else
to identify the scrawl that has come this far—
the twist and the whirl of the letters,
the loops of the numerals. I open
those envelopes first, forgetting
the claim of any other mail,
hoping for news I could not read
in any other way but this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Your Monday Morning Flowers and Bad Mystic Cat Video Have Arrived!

Happy Monday to all my Betty People out there!

Hope your week is a good one!

Hope you enjoy this video. I did!

Betty Fans: If you get a chance visit the blog Living and Loving Today. The author writes such a sweet blog and has yet to be discovered by the blogging world.


Betty sends you big kisses!

Here's to a Happy Week ahead!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Forevermore. A Love Story.

A few years ago our family (including my visiting niece) was driving back home from a basketball game when we saw a very peculiar sight. It was a young crow, walking in the crosswalk of the busy street. My first impulse was to shield Evan's eyes since I was fairly sure the crow was going to get creamed right there are the street. Instead, the crow went to the corner, turned and when the light changed, proceeded to walk in yet another crosswalk to get to the other side of the street. It was fascinating to watch, but it was obvious that one wing of the crow was damaged and he was in pretty bad shape.

Now HOB (Husband of Betty) loves birds and in particular, crows, so he pulled over, grabbed the bird and brought him into the car. He was convinced that the other crows would kill the injured crow and he would be safer with us. We took him home, found a cage for him and put him in the back office, away from our very curious cats. We spent a lot of time trying to get him to eat, giving him water and calling bird rescue places in hopes of giving this crow a second chance.

We named him Edgar Allen Crow.

Now, I don't know if you've ever been close-up and personal with a crow, but they are beautiful beyond belief and regal and incredibly intelligent. I liked just hanging out in the back room with him, watching him. I turned on the TV for him during the day when I had to be at work. I chose Food Network, thinking it might spark his nearly non-existent appetite, but soon discovered the alarming number of poultry recipes demonstrated there in living color, bird bodies splayed out on a bed of potatoes and rosemary every half hour or so. I switched to the Home and Garden network and he seemed to be happier watching humans decorate their nests. At night we watched American Idol together, totally agreeing on which contestants should be thrown off

It had been about two weeks. HOB was working on getting Edgar to eat, and we still had calls in the bird people in the area. I really thought Edgar was going to make it, but alas, one day, I went in to find him dead in his cage.

I took it harder than I thought I would. I went in and told HOB about it. He was sad too, but thank goodness had no problem carrying out the body.

About a week later, I was late for work and digging around in the deep freeze out in the garage in search of a frozen burrito to take for lunch. I came across what seemed to be a bunch of white plastic grocery bags. The kids often left bags in the freezer and it drove me crazy. I picked it up and realized there was something inside.

Inside the white bags was a Zip-Lock Freezer Bag.

Inside that bag was Edgar Allen Crow.

I slammed down the lid of the freezer and picked up the phone.

In my phone call to HOB I explained to him in a very terse voice that there were certain things one should tell one' s spouse and high on that list is when one places the body of a dead crow in the deep freeze.

HOB said he would explain when he got home.

Now, living with HOB is a very interesting experience. He tends to surprise me on a regular basis. It seems he had been talking to a Native American friend in Arizona and had been convinced by his friend that it was essential that Edgar be disposed of in an official Native American ceremony in Arizona.

I sat HOB down and broke it to him that he was a white man from Kansas and was in no way Native American, that Edgar was just an injured crow who needed to be disposed of in any way possible, including, I mentioned, the convenient trash bin we had sitting outside our house. HOB was unmoved. He was merely freezing Edgar until he could take him to Arizona.

"And just how do you intend to get him to Arizona?" I asked, in a high-pitched, strained voice. "I'll just take him in my carry-on luggage," he said. I could just see the lady at the x-ray scanner calling security. "I really don't think you can do that," I said. "Maybe I'll just mail him," he said. Uh, no, I tried to tell him. That was only going to get things added to his file that the government was, no doubt, already keeping on him.

I decided to give it some time and hope he came to his senses. However, there was the matter of the frozen crow in the freezer.

"There is no way am opening that freezer (aka 'The Crow Coffin') for anything," I said. HOB agreed he would handle it. So, when I needed a frozen pizza, he moved the dead crow and got the pizza. When I needed a bag of ice, he dug deep under Edgar and got it for me. I found I needed quite a few things from the freezer on a weekly basis. HOB got tired of getting things for me. One night I asked him to please go and look for some fudge bars in the freezer. "I'm really hungry for a fudge bar," I said, smiling and pointing to the general direction of the freezer. He looked at me and said, "Oh, now you're just pulling the Crow Card."

One night when I was hosting my book club, HOB overhead our conversation that generally had to do with the metaphysical and the afterlife. That's when he offered to show the ladies the frozen crow in the freezer.

I couldn't take it anymore. I had been the patient, cool, and understanding wife, but I told him he had to get Edgar out of the freezer and deal with the situation. He called his friend in Arizona and talked for some time. The next morning I heard him digging in the back yard and saw him with the bags. Thank goodness, I thought.

At least three months passed. I was happily getting things out of the freezer again and life had returned to normal.

Then, one day I was in HOB's home office and was looking for some papers when I saw an unusual box. I opened it.

Edgar's wing.

That's right. Apparently HOB's Native American friend had given him instruction to save just the wing for eventual ritual burial.

Now, I love the man, but loving a man and understanding a man are two different things.

I've decided just to go with the former and if the latter happens someday, well, that would just be a bonus.

As far as I know the wing is still in HOB's office. I don't ask about it anymore. I've learned that in every relationship there will be the metaphorical dead crow in the freezer from time to time. It's surprising, it's unnerving, but you learn you can deal with it. You learn you can be flexible.

You learn that sometimes love gives you wings, just not in the way you ever expected it to.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Fam-Bam Vocab

It could have been worse....

Years and years and year and years (you get the idea) ago, before children, HOB and I were playing Pictionary with a couple friends and it was one of those rounds where it was an All Play. I picked up the card which instructed me to draw out the word "Jab." Now, even without of the aid of any liquor, I managed to mangle my instructions. Instead of saying, "It's an All Play," I announced, "It's an All Jab."

This sent us all into laughter and we went on to another card, but for some strange reason the term "All-Jab" stayed with us. It came to signify something we all did together. "Hey, we were thinking of going out to dinner tonight. Want to make it an All-Jab?" "How about an All-Jab hike this weekend?"

The friends with whom we shared this term moved to another state about the time our children came along, but the phrase remained firmly embedded in our vocabulary. "It's an All-Jab to the grocery store. Everybody in the car." "We are going to Grandma's this summer. It's an All-Jab." "It's garage clean-up day and it's an All-Jab."

When Sonny Boy was in high school he came home one day, confused. Apparently, he had used the term "All-Jab" with his friends and they had no idea what he was talking about. He had insisted to them that it was a real term that meant everyone participates. "Why don't they know what it means?" he asked.

OH OH. We had to explain to him that it was a family term, not one recognized by the larger society. He threw up his hands, "Well, thanks for telling me! What other words do we use around here that no one else understands?" We had to think. To be honest, I am sure there are others, but we couldn't differentiate them quickly.

In my now-contorted mind, All-Jab is now the perfect word to indicate an all-inclusive activity. I have to be careful not to use it in my English classes, especially in my lower-level ones where I am also teaching vocabulary.

On second thought, perhaps this is my chance to make a real contribution to the growth and development of the English language. I could begin the process with my unsuspecting students and watch the term flow across this great land....hummmmm....

What terms or sayings do you have in your family that are exclusive to it? In what ways have you managed to caress or mangle perfectly good words to suit your familial needs? What is the story behind the term/saying?

You've got your assignment.
The comment box is open.
And, yes, it is an All-Jab.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ding Dong Betty

It was sixteen years ago that HOB (Husband of Betty) and Betty finally decided to buy a house. It was a long, drawn-out process of looking at houses with postage-stamp-sized bedrooms and high ceilings in the family rooms. "Look at all that room!" the real estate agents would say, throwing their hands skyward and looking up in religious-like fervor. Uhhhh... yeah....but, we walk around down here we thought.

"I need a house that needs us," I said to HOB. I didn't exactly know what I meant by that. I knew I didn't want a fixer-upper, but I also knew I didn't want a new-fab hollow-door one either. When we walked through our current house, a 1973 ranch style, it just felt right. I knew it had good bones and I knew it needed us. I just felt it.

Now, when I married HOB I knew that maybe he wasn't the handiest guy in the world, but I knew he was a MAN and I figured that home ownership would awaken the surely-vibrant-yet-strangely-dormant handyman genes that were within, yearning to breathe free.

About a year after we bought our home, the massive sliding glass doors in the dining room got stuck. Once in awhile, I could get one open about a foot or so, but then there was the chore of shoving it back. I asked HOB to take a look at it. He did. He walked in front of it, examining the bottom, the top, the sides. He walked around back, squatted down, shook on the door a little. I stood inside, looking at my man looking at his door. I was so proud. He came back and said in a sure, confident voice. "OK, we've got a problem here. We need to stop using this door."

"Uhhhh," I said. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," he said, "it's broken. Don't use it."

"Can't you fix it?"

He looked right at me, "If you want that fixed, it's going to cost a thousand dollars. I mean, we are talking major money here. We've got to get a contractor in here and he'll probably need to rip out the patio...."

I held up my hand. We were broke. "OK, OK," I said. "We just won't use it."

About six months later, our garage door stopped working. He looked at it with the same concern, the same movements, and made the same pronouncement.

"A thousand dollars?" I asked. "Really?

He nodded his head. "Oh yeah."

Then the faucet in the kitchen sprung a leak. Actually, it had a hole on the upper side of the faucet so that doing the dishes also meant getting my face spritzed with hot water.

HOB looked beneath the sink and groaned. "Oh, man. Have you looked down here?" he said. "If we get that faucet fixed, a plumber has got to come out here and pull out everything and replace it."

"Really?" I said, alarmed.

"Oh, yeah. I mean, those pipes are shot to hell. It's going to cost a thousand dollars to gut it all and get it replaced."

Now the two non-working doors were one thing, but constantly getting drenched while doing dishes was another thing, and putting my thumb over the hole while trying to do the dishes with the other hand just wasn't cutting it.

"Well, we can't afford to get it ALL fixed, but I think you could fix the faucet if you wanted to," I said. "Idiots all over America are fixing their faucets."

HOB's face turned red at my last comment. "I'm telling you we need a plumber and it's going to be a thousand dollars at the minimum."

My voice rose, "Well, can't you do something?"

"Do you want me to fix that faucet?" HOB said a menacing, almost threatening way.

"YES" I shot back.

He stared at me and then this voice rose, booming out, the cadence resembling that of a Russian dictator speaking to a crowd of a thousand, "DO. YOU. WANT. ME. TO. FIX. THAT. FAUCET?

"YES," I said, dramatically matching his tone and phrasing.

"Fine!" he said. He grabbed a roll of scotch tape and wound it around the faucet about twenty times.

"There!" he bellowed. "It's fixed!"

"OK!" I bellowed back.

About every two days, I would announce the faucet was leaking again and he needed to continue "fixing it." Every two days he wound more tape around it. Soon, a sticky, tumor-like growth formed around the faucet. It began to sag and smell.

Finally, HOB relented and went to Home Depot with me. He pouted in the aisle until he finally, reluctantly, picked out a faucet, throwing it in the cart like a petulant child. He installed it, all the time huffing and puffing and claiming the plumbing was worn out anyway and that soon we were going to have to call that plumber and then..."a thousand dollars!" I stood by the open doors at the sink, looking at his lower torso sticking out and heard the muffled "...a thousand dollars!" at least ten times. When he was finished, he was still pouting, but we had a new faucet. (And new sides for the hot and cold water but that was OK. Hey, I was walking all the way around the house just to get to the back patio because of the broken doors. The reversal of hot and cold water was nothing compared to that.)

In July a couple years later, at HOB's birthday party three half-drunken men asked about the sliding glass doors and why we never opened them. "Oh," I said. "It's a really mess. We have to get a contractor to look at why it's off. It's going to cost a thousand dollars to fix it." One guy got up to look at it. "Let's go to the hardware store," he said to another guy.

Ten dollars and one hour later, the door we had not opened for three years had new rollers and was fixed.

By this time, I was highly suspicious, but patient. Six months later I tested HOB, "You know, the fence in the side yard is starting to fall down.

"Oh, yeah. That fence. It's a mess. If you want that fence fixed it's going to cost at least a thousand dollars."

AH HA!!! I had figured it out! HOB knew me and knew my penchant for saving money. He had figured out that "A thousand dollars" was my Pavlovian cue to stop pestering him to fix things. He KNEW what my reaction would be. I felt like such a lab rat for being so vulnerable to this mind game!

I started calling his bluff. "OK" I'd say.

"Oh yeah," he'd repeat, "It's going to cost at least a thousand dollars." he'd say, looking right in my eyes as if to hypnotize me with those words.

"OK," I said, staring right back.

It's been years since the "thousand dollars" thing has worked on me. Oh sure, we still have plenty of home improvements that need to be made. I've learned how to call repair men when I really, really need to and HOB has learned that he really can do some of the stuff that needs to be done around here.

Well, except for that sink that needs to be replaced in the master bathroom.

Apparently it's going to cost at least ten thousand dollars to fix.

That's what he tells me anyway.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House" by Billy Collins

Another Reason I Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House.

--Billy Collins

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday! Flowers, a Video, and a Blog Suggestion. Could You Ask For More?

Welcome to a new week!
As you know all of Betty's People get flowers on Monday.
Here's yours, up close and personal.

Here's a short video that has been floating around the Internet that made me laugh out loud:


And finally, a blog suggestion: Abby Sunderland is a sixteen year-old girl from this area who is sailing around the world on her own in her attempt to become the world's youngest solo circumnavigator.

You can find her homepage at I follow her blog at:

She is out there by herself, sailing around the world on her boat named "Crazy Eyes." Although there was some controversy about her trip. you have to admire her and wish the best for her on her voyage. Her blog updates always make me happy!

Whether you are headed around the world, to the office, or just to the other side of the counter to make pancakes, I hope you have a wonderful week!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Scenery: Walkin' With Betty

I took my camera on my walk the other day and captured some images around the 'hood.

Hope you enjoy!

Happy Sundays to All!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Betty's Boots

Years ago I heard a fascinating interview with Temple Grandin. If you haven't ever read any of her books or heard her speak, take a little time and check her out. She is an autistic woman who has incredible talents. Not only can she explain some aspects of autism in a way that everyone can understand, she also has the ability to understand how animals think and react to situations. She is truly awe-inspiring.

In one of her first interviews on the radio, she talked about when she was a young girl visiting a farm and discovered "squeeze chutes." These were devices that cows would be placed in for vaccinations. The firm hold would immediately calm the animals down. She went home and created her own squeeze chute and discovered it had the same calming effect on her. Later, when they tested these on normal college students, researchers found that the students also relaxed and reported feelings of well-being.

Just last year I decided would jazz up my wardrobe with a pair of boots. In Kansas, boots were just a part of my winter wardrobe, but I hadn't worn any since moving to California. It was Saturday, so the shoe store was busy and I was pretty frazzled, but I scooted some boxes out of the way, glared at the person who was walking too close to me for me to even bend down and get my sneakers off, and grumbled to myself about the general state of the shopping world.

I then pulled on my first pair of knee high boots.


The world seemed to slow down. The people near me seemed to fade away as I sat there, smiling, oddly calm. For the first time since entering the store I heard the overhead music. Say, was that Barry Manilow singing "Weekend in New England"?

I just sat there, content and calm, placid and serene. I looked at the boots and knew I should try on others, but I was so happy with these, tight against my shapely lower legs.

Then it hit me. I remembered the interview with Temple Grandin.

These were squeeze chutes for my legs!

Then, remembering all of Temple's work with livestock, it hit me even harder: they were squeezing my calves.

I purchased them at once and even though it was still summer, I put them on when I got home and walked around in them wearing my jean shorts and ripped Grand Canyon t-shirt. I nearly went to the grocery store like this but was stopped at the door by my teenagers.

I love my squeeze chutes. I wear them to school when I know I have to go to stress-inducing meetings. (In fact, I would like to prescribed these mini-squeeze chutes to some of the other people in the room at these meetings. How do you think that would go over?)

Oh, and if I ever need to be vaccinated, I'll wear them then too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Half-Full Friday!


I am joining Eye Girl over at her blog Life As Eye See It in her Half Full Friday activity. She lists things she is grateful for/happy about for the week.

Here's Betty's List for the Week:

I love my book club! Our meeting was on Monday.

I am grateful for a job that is meaningful, and one in which I can use my creativity.

I am grateful that Evan's arm is healing well and he went back to the gym to play basketball for the first time since his accident.

I am happy that my mom (87 years old) has started to adjust to her new location--an assisted living facility (though she sometimes complains about the "old" people there!)

I am happy to share my life with some very cool people.

I am grateful for my sisters who are among those very cool people.

I am grateful for really good veggie burgers.

I am happy to have my blogging friends.

I am happy to be here!

Hope you have a Half-Full Friday too!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Random Thursday/Random Pictures

Inside the Lick Observatory.

Hangar at Moffett Air Force Base--Left at this angle just to mess with your mind....

Old Gast Pump. Left at 41 cents per gallon, just to mess with your mind....

Close-up of flower that lives near us.
I am not responsible if this messes with other parts of your psyche.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sheepish Betty

As I teacher, I strive to create a sense of community in my classroom. If I can get my students to like, care about, and help each other out, it makes my job a lot easier. I had an Intermediate Composition class that was coming together nicely. However, there was one girl who seemed painfully shy and kept to herself. Adriana was heavy-set, wore dark colors, and kept her head down most of the time. She would participate in group activities, but it was clear she was more comfortable working on her own, so many times I gave her that option.

One day she turned in her homework first, placing it on the desk even before I had come into the room. When I saw it, I said, "Look at that, Adriana is the bellwether for the class today." I thought I was pretty clever throwing out a new vocabulary word for them to gobble up.

They took the bait. "What does that mean?" one female student asked.

"Guess you'll have to look it up in that magical book called the dictionary," I said, directing one of them to the cabinet where I keep about six dictionaries--all purchased at the 99 Cent store.

I waited for the student to look it up, expecting Adriana to be quite pleased when she heard the definition of "one who leads, one who takes initiative for a project."

The student with the dictionary gasped, glared at me, and passed the book to another girl who also looked at me, appalled. "Oh, that's really mean."

"What?" I said. "It means she's a leader."

The girl shook her head. "According to the 'magical book' you just called her a male sheep."

I looked at Adriana who seemed to be sliding down farther in her chair.

I grabbed the book. Damn 99 Cent dictionary. I had forgotten the origin of the word came from the male sheep who led the other sheep. There is was: the one and ONLY definition read "a male sheep."

I quickly babbled on about how that may have been the origin, but now it was used to indicate a leader, not a male sheep. It was a good thing to be a bellwether. I said. Really, it was, I said. The group of girls around Adriana glared at me. I kept babbling on for awhile and then switched topics quickly.

Throughout the class girls continued to shake their heads and give me hard stares and --the kind these nineteen year-old girls normally reserve for those who shop at K-Mart for their wardrobe.

Finally, it was time for a class break. I planned to go to my office and get my moderately expensive, but thorough dictionary to show to Adriana the definition there. Then I heard it: some of the other girls were asking Adriana if she wanted to wanted to go to the cafeteria with them. Surprisingly, she agreed to go. They walked off together, whispering and looking back at me occasionally.

Well, I thought, I had indeed created that sense of community I had wanted in the classroom, just not quite in the way I had intended to.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "The Summer Day"

The Summer Day

-- Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Your Monday Morning Flower Delivery with Bonus Baby Penguin!

Ah, Monday!
It's the start of a brand new week.
Isn't it great that we get a fresh start every seven days?
It's also the start of a New Month!

Here's your Monday Morning Flower.
Get lost in it just for a bit if you can.

Here's your bonus Baby Penguin to brighten your Monday.
(He doesn't smell as good as the flower, but he can't help it.)

Have a great week!