Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speaking, Without Words

Yesterday I came home from Ariel’s music lessons (that girl has to get a driver’s license soon) to find the front lawn littered with massive magnolia branches.

Me: Hmm. Look what Dad did while I was gone.
Ariel: Yeah.

We go into the house, and I find my beloved husband.

Cal smiles. (Now for those of you who haven’t been married for twenty plus years, I will have to interpret.) A smile with a twinkle in the eye means: Neener! Look at what I did while you were gone.

I raise an eyebrow. Translation: You never would have done this if I would have been home because I would have pitched an absolute hissy fit. And I would have been justified in doing so because you were foolhardy! (BTW, if the eyebrow would have been raised a fraction of an inch higher, it would have included an mild accusation of a violation of the 6th commandment—Thou shalt not kill—even yourself, by accident. But the eyebrow didn’t go that high.)

Cal raises the corner of his mouth. Translation: Don’t be a hypocrite, sweetiepie. You would have done the same thing, only you’re too wimpy and can’t move the massive ladder without help.

I wrinkle my brow. Translation: I would NOT have climbed up the ladder, shimmied up the very high pitched roof, and sat on top of the chimney to cut tree branches. (Yes, he really did this.)

Cal raises both eyebrows. Translation: Are you or are you not the woman who stood up on a sled and rode it over a jump that was so dangerous that other parents said to their children, and I quote, “Don’t even think of doing what that woman just did!”

I lick my lower lip. Translation: Okay. I’m guilty as charged, but you should have let me do the climbing since I have much better sense of balance than you do.

Cal’s other eye twinkles. Translation: So, what do you think?

Finally, the conversation becomes verbal once again. I say, “Honey, the tree looks great!”

You too can learn to speak facial expressions—it only takes a couple of decades of marriage. But, I must warn you occasionally the gesture for words method of dialogue can lead to interesting communication errors, and your conversation can morph from the kids need to be hung upside down by their toenails to you did what to the van with a jar of honey?

Here’s a picture of Cal and the tree. Unfortunately, you don't get a sense of the pitch or breadth of the roof that was so extreme that when we had to re-roof several years ago, many roofers weren't even willing to consider our roof once they saw it.

Here’s a picture of some of the beautiful flowers I picked from the chopped down branches. The scent is interesting, sort of like sour oranges.

Monday, June 29, 2009

God's Sense of Humor

Ariel got three deliveries today. They were textbooks—economics, public speaking, and linear algebra. When she opened the package containing the last book, I heard squeals of delight. Then she opened the book. “Oh…my…gosh, Mom. Did you hear that?! The spine cracked—I’m the first person to ever use this book!!” Ariel proceeded to hurry to her room with the book cradled reverently in her arms.

After thirty minutes or so, she came to find Calvin and me. “Guess what? I just read the first chapter and did all the homework on matrices…” She paused for effect. “And I got all the problems correct.” Cal and I looked at each other and said, “Great!”

Cal found something to do, so I had to listen to a lecture on Row-Echelon and reduced Row-Echelon forms—does she seriously think I have any idea what she’s talking about? And then there was some new uber-cool vector thingy—this is how I know that God has a sense of humor. I hated vectors with a consuming passion—Ariel loves them almost above parametric equations, so she’s always explaining some new vector analysis protocol. When she came up for air, she moved on to some Gauss principle/constant/formula/elimination/whatever. (Gauss was a late 16th century math nerd/genius. Apparently, he wasn’t the nicest guy to be around, but I was told it was because he was “one of the greatest math minds, EVER.”)

She just told me, “Mom, I moved on to chapter two, and this is so cool.” I think I just heard Calvin go outside to finish trimming the magnolia tree. I’m so jealous.

Our Little Monkey Girl

One of the other “blessings” of very hot weather (notice I didn’t say ridiculously hot weather or infernally hot weather—see, I’m embracing the heat) is that my dog can’t stop shedding. She’s been shedding for months. Normally, a Lab sheds fur for a few weeks. But, Jezebel is going on two months plus. In fact, the boys’ new fun activity is pulling out hunks of fur while they watch reruns of Star Trek. This might be amusing to them, and the dog loves it, but, they forget what they’ve done by the end of the movie, and they bail leaving piles of black fur all over my bedroom floor. Of course, then there’s the time the piles of fur got wrapped up in Jez’s blanket along with clean laundry (it happened to be piled in a chair where some nameless male child wanted to sit), my pillow, etc. Needless to say, I had a conversation with the boys. They said, “Oops. Sorry.”

You’d think Jez would be completely naked by now. But she’s not, instead she’s still got a thick coat except on her tummy where pink skin is starting to show through. Ariel calls her “Monkey Girl” because her belly looks just like a monkey’s. The boys aren’t fond of Jez’s new nickname—you don’t call a big black Lab with a spiked collar, “Monkey Girl.” That’s like calling a Rottweiler “Tinkerbell.” It just doesn’t work unless you’re going for the irony factor.

Right now, Jez is out running with Calvin. She has to get in her morning run regarding of how hot it is. Afterwards, she comes home with her tongue hanging to the floor. I tease Cal that eventually either he or she will trip over it. Then, Jez flops down to the floor and closes her eyes—she’s done for the morning. Cal’s tried to run without her, thinking the heat and humidity is too much for her. But now, Jez won’t let him out of her sight. She won’t even eat her breakfast because she’s so anxious that he might go running without her. In fact, first thing in the morning, she whines at the bedroom door because she’s afraid Cal might sneak out the back door of our bedroom to go running without her.

Maybe it’s not the heat that making her lose her fur, maybe it’s anxiety making her go bald. Poor Little Monkey!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Whole New Frontier

It was 102 yesterday (according to the electronic billboard at the doctor’s office where they make money by encouraging women to feel inadequate about themselves) when Cal and I went out for dinner. Thursday was our 21st wedding anniversary, but since we were too busy on Thursday, we celebrated yesterday. After dinner, we went to see the new Star Trek movie.

Let me say upfront that while I do appreciate some sci-fi (I’ve read Ender’s Game, Dune, and Interstellar Pig—if you haven’t read it, you must even though the book is middle grade), I am by no means a “trekkie.” I’ve only watched some reruns of the original series, some episodes of ST: the Next Generation, and a few of the assorted movies. I went to this new movie thinking, “How are they (the writers) going to breathe new life into a series that’s already been beaten to death?” After all, the second batch of Star Wars movies should be ample evidence that you “can’t get blood from a turnip.”

But these writers didn’t need a turnip, they got a whole new warm body. Without giving any spoilers, let’s just say that alternative realities can shake a lot of things loose. And Iowa never looked so cool. Not to mention Mr. Sulu—who went from being scary-happy to a fencing dude: Mr. Sulu gets assigned to a mission because he has “advanced tactical weapons training.” Just before Kirk and Sulu “space jump”, Kirk asks Sulu what kind of weapons training he had. Sulu says, “Fencing!” How can you not love that?! Especially since it comes in handy. Not to mention Scottie, who comes in halfway through the movie with all of his Gaelic “charm.” (Is it Gaelic—if not, I’m sure I’ll get lots of comments.)

My only issue with the movie is Spock. In the original series, Spock always lifted his eyebrow with ironic charm and an only barely concealed twinkle in his eye. This Spock has none of that. Of course, there’s a reason, and by the end of the movie there’s hope that in the next movie the Vulcan-human paradoxical sense of humor will be back. I’ll be waiting!

ps You even find out why McCoy is called "Bones", and it's not because he's a doctor.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Embrace the Heat!

In my last post, I complained about the heat. And it’s still hot. But here’s the thing, I’ve decided to embrace the heat. You see, I’ve lived places like Southern California and Northern California where the differences in the seasons are measured in minor temperature variations and the amount of rain that falls. Those things don’t mark seasons—at least, not very well. I like seeing the passage of time, knowing that everything changes.

I’d much rather endure the heat then give up the seasons. Besides, I learned one thing in New England—weather is a character-builder. I can put up with the bitter cold (Once when it was negative 70--as in below zero--with the wind chill factor, Cal and I stood outside in our pajamas to prove our toughness—a blast of Arctic winds ended it quickly.) But heat is harder for me to bear, so this is my opportunity for sanctification. When I’m old and gray (though my kids think I’m old now and I do have a few gray hairs), I can just see myself sitting in a rocking chair and telling my grandkids, “You think this is hot? You should’ve been here in the summer of ’09. By golly, it was in the 100s in June. Yep, those were the good ole days!”

My new slogan is “Embrace the Heat!” Of course, right now I’m enjoying the heat from the study of my air conditioned home. But, hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

Monday, June 22, 2009

High Temperatures

Yesterday it was 98 degrees. My grass seedlings wept and only survived because I drown them in water. The only living things enjoying the heat are my hedge of knockout roses—they’re in a blooming nirvana. Today, I’d like to avoid thermometers—it’s easier to handle the heat if you don’t know how hot it is.

Only I can’t avoid thermometers unless I close my eyes when I drive—the doctor’s office on nearest cross-street proclaims the temperature and a “coupon” for $500 off a breast augmentation surgery. The doctor is a plastic surgeon. He also advertises getting ready for “bikini weather.” His slogan is “Diet and exercise—yuck. Liposuction—yeah.” I’m not sure which advertisement I find more offensive. The fact that he (yes, I’m a sexist and assume the doctor is male) thinks women need their glands enlarged or the fact that he wants people to believe that the way to deal with excess adipose tissue is to suck it out of your body with a glorified vacuum.

But wait…I was talking about the heat. (Sorry, went crazy on a tangent there for a moment.) Back to the temperature. It’s in the high 90s outside, maybe even pushing 100. Inside the air conditioner is running, but we still have people living at 100 degrees. Matt still has his upper respiratory infection and a fever just over 103. Thankfully, ibuprophen keeps it down to 101. However, we’ve added another malady to our house. Ariel now has a fever and throat infection. I’m either going to learn patience really soon or start buying Sam’s Club-sized cartons of masks and gloves.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Plague Redux

Since early May there has been at least one sick person in our family. And just when I thought we were finally getting healthy, Matthew came down with the scourge. He’s coughing and stewing an aggressive fever. His cough is slightly different though. Instead of the wet cough that sounds like a backfiring tuba, Matt has a croupy cough that sounds like a seal on steroids.

What is prolonging this plague? Why couldn’t everyone get super sick at once and then we could be done with it? I’m sure there must be some heavy-duty sanctification behind it, but if I knew what exactly I was supposed to learn I’m sure I could do it much faster.

I’m probably supposed to be more patient, which means I shouldn’t have said, “Jacob, we’re getting really tired of listening to your cough.” Yeah, that was the epitome of tact and motherly compassion. Or, “Matt, you don’t need to announce your fever every five minutes.” After all, he doesn’t have anything more exciting to do. (Though I will state for the record that digital thermometers that measure to the tenth of a degree were created by engineers who had never taken care of a sick, bored pre-teen.) Or, my favorite, “If you don’t cover you mouth when you hack, I will duct-tape your mouth shut.” Okay, I didn’t really say that—I only thought it. Hmm…I see a pattern here. Patience. I need to hurry up and get some.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


All four of my children have major roles in this summer’s Shakespeare production of A Winter’s Tale. This is all well and good. However, two problems come to mind. First, costumes. Ariel now makes her own, which is cool because she needs two costumes. In one scene she’s pregnant so she has to bind a pillow around her tummy and a wear Medieval/Renaissance maternity wear. A gown is bad enough but maternity wear—yuck. Luke is wearing a costume I made for him a few years ago. Matt doesn’t get to wear the cool doublet, cape, shirt combination I sewed last year because this year he plays “The Clown.” So, I only have to whip up a ratty looking tunic. Jacob gets the uber-costume this year. He picked out the pattern for a belted doublet with a lined cape. Yep, it’s a lot of work. He got to bear a small amount of the burden when I made him cut out the pattern. But the bulk of it awaits me. I’ll be sewing for several weeks. Still I’ll listen to a book on tape, preferably an Elizabeth Peters’ novel detailing the lives of the Father of Curses, the Brother of Demons (who seems to be the exact representation of Luke, even down to the scowl), Nefret, and Amelia Peabody, who could best Indiana Jones with her umbrella/saber tied behind her back. Now you’re in on my secret—sewing isn’t a burden, though I’ll say it is once I get started.

No. The real burden is all the soliloquies that are going on all over the house. (Thankfully, Matthew doesn’t have a line this year that is equivalent to last year’s “You are an ass!” Yeah, he always “needed” to practice that one.) Instead, my assorted children meander around the house spouting Shakespeare. When one starts, the others begin. The practice session morphs into who-can-be-the-loudest-without-flubbing-their-lines, and I experience cacophony by Shakespeare. I can be heard above the din only if I shout and say, “I’m writing and your noise pierced my bubble.” (The kids call writing mode my “bubble” because they believe that I become so deeply involved in my imaginary world that nothing can penetrate. Writing is referred to as “Mom’s in her bubble.”)

But, now the kids have found a way to penetrate the bubble—Shakespeare. Hmm. If I complain, they’re going to say I brought it on myself. I’ll have to withdraw into my bubble and consider a comeback line.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Little Less Caffeine

Last Thursday and Friday, Luke, Ariel and I were stuck at UTC for orientation and registration. When I was in college, orientation and registration consisted of turning in a class registration form to a person behind a glass window in the administration building. They handed you back a campus map and a checklist—you were registered. “See you the first day of class!” the woman told me. I was done and went back to work.

Of course, I expected things to have “evolved” since then. But I couldn’t imagine why the process would take two days—from 8am to 11:30pm on Thursday and 7am to 3:30pm on Friday. After attending, I’m still not sure.

When we showed up the first day, we were greeted by Orientation Leaders (OLs) who clearly had way too much caffeine and had no sense of personal space. Imagine flailing arms and shrieking, followed by “AREN’T YOU EXCITED TO BE AT UTC!?!” Luke and Ariel were taken aback. They looked at me with expressions of you-evil-parent-why-have-you-subjected-us-to-this. I shrugged—I mean, what else can you do?

After we escaped from the crazed OLs, we met more OLs who, though slightly less caffeinated, were completely ignorant of the questions we asked and sent us on wild goose chases around the campus. (I will mention that Cardiac Hill is nothing compared to the hills we run near our house.)
You would assume that orientation would include a tour around the campus, but apparently that only works if lunch, placement exams, and tours were properly coordinated, which they weren’t. You’d think a trip to the library would be at the top of the list. It wasn’t. So, Luke and Ariel got the Mom Tour (I love, love, love libraries)—they even learned where the microfilm machines are and how to use them. Ariel complained that the library didn’t carry any good books. She was thinking of Ally Carter’s latest book, Don’t Judge a Girl by her Cover, which I recommend though you should read the series in order starting with I’d Tell You I Love You, But then I’d Have to Kill You.

After the cool Mom Tour, we joined the rest of the freshman and parents for the mass get-acquainted meeting. We filled the lecture hall. After the Assistant Dean and the Chancellor spoke, the OLs were introduced again. The students were told that they’d get separated into small groups, each with their own OL. Luke shot me his Look of Impending Death—my looming demise because I brought him to this hideous waste of time.

The reality-challenged OLs were introduced, several of whom couldn’t remember what numbers their small groups were even though it was written on their tags. As the ridiculous screaming started again, I heard a parent mutter, “Clearly, medications were not taken this morning.” I heard several boys threaten their parents, “If I end up with any of those weird chicks, I’m so not going to their stupid small groups!”

I could go on about the Orientation, but I think you get the picture. The next day was slightly better and ended with Luke and Ariel actually getting classes. Luke had no problems as his advisor knew something about registration, and Luke had come with a list of classes he wanted to take. Ariel, on the other hand, had a different experience. But she’d been warned that the Mathematics Department lives in a world not quite among the rest of us, sort of a parallel universe where normal rules and concerns don’t exist. I’d love to tell you about it, but Ariel would kill me. It’s her story, and she wants to blog about it. Here’s a link. http://ariel-grace.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Ever since Luke and Ariel thought about going to the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Ariel has talked about joining the UTC rowing team. (Luke, Ariel, and Jacob took rowing at Yale University one summer, and they loved it.)

Tonight was the club night at UTC orientation. Ariel eagerly went up to the rowing club booth.

Rowing Club Dude: Oh, hello.

Ariel: Hi.

RCD: So, you like rowing?

Ariel: Yes, I learned to row at Yale a few summers ago.

RCD (sizing Ariel up): So…you were the coxswain? (For those of you who don't know, a coxswain is the tiny girl who sits in the shell and yells "Stroke!")

Ariel: No. I rowed.

RCD (looking at Ariel again): Really?!

Ariel: Yes.

RCD: We could really use a coxswain—they have to be under 110 lbs., and you’d be perfect.

Now the humor in this is that ever since Ariel has talked about UTC rowing, I’ve told her, “Ariel, if you show up to the crew club, the first thing they will say is, “Oh, are you a coxswain?”

As a parent, it’s always nice to be proven right!

I think Ariel is mulling the idea of being a coxswain. She has perfect rhythm and loves being out on the shells. And besides, how often does a petite woman get to yell at anywhere from four to eight brawny men and have them obey the very words that roll off her tongue?! Sounds like fun to me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bribery 101

I remember talking to someone, actually several people, about teaching, and I mentioned the word bribery. You would think that I spoke the name of he-who-must-not-be-named. Frowns and looks of malediction all came my way. Apparently, we don’t bribe kids. Bribery is bad. Rewards are good. Okay, I am a word person, so I get the distinction. Bribery has connotations of corruption and wickedness while reward is a positive “Johnny did a good job” type of thing. Though, according to Webster’s, a bribe is simply “something that serves to induce or influence.” So, I’m not sure the difference is as great as people think. For example, I hate ironing. I mean, I abhor it with a consuming passion. But I like neat, pressed clothing. So, I iron. But I bribe myself first. While I iron, I stream a detective show like Inspector Alleyn on my computer. Since we don’t have cable and we’re on the back of a mountain ridge, we don’t pick up any local programming so video stimulation is a treat. Thus, getting to watch a TV show during the day is almost naughty. It’s my treat for doing something I despise. I think of it as a bribe.

I bribe my kids all the time—hey, no piano practicing, no computer time. Is that a reward, or a bribe? How about let’s get the dishes done and we can play “Bang,” which is the coolest card game around and unfortunately no longer available in the US due to licensing issues. I think those are all bribes of a sort. So, the next time you see me in dark sunglasses with a hat pulled low over my face, it’s probably ironing time and I’m bribing myself with a Campion.
Here's a picture just before I bribe myself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Written for You!

For some reason, American publishers and agents think teenage boys don’t read. I assume they know that teen males can read, but they choose not to read. Instead, they assume that the teens spend all their time in front of a computer or Wii. I’m sure if you asked one of the big publishers about the reading tastes of male teens, they would shake their heads and moan. However, my boys have a response to that: It’s hard to read what doesn’t exist! US publishers publish very few books (if any) that are geared for middle to late teen males.

When Ariel comes home from the library with her arms laden with books, I hear much gnashing of teeth from my teen sons. Ariel gets to read yet another story about a teen girl, but there’s nothing available for males that they haven’t already read. So, the boys are forced to read middle grade books like the Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson series, which are great but those series are finished. One of the cool things about the Harry Potter books is that, though they started off middle grade, they ended young adult, just like my guys. Their other reading option is adult books—and let’s just say that outside of a couple of series, what’s marketed toward men is not what you want your teen reading.

Don’t publishers realize that part of the reason the Christopher Paolini books were so popular was not because they were so well written (they weren’t), but because they were about the only thing available to teen males that was interesting and written for teen males? And those books were originally self-published, until a publisher saw the way his son was devouring the book and thought, “Hmm, this might be something we could market.”

Why is this so important to me, besides the fact that my boys have nothing good to read? It’s because I’ve written a young adult novel geared toward teen males. Recently, a literary agent passed on the book even after she told me that she loved the book, the characters, the plot, the voice, etc. Why did she pass—part of the reason was because the book was geared towards teen boys, although she acknowledged that girls would like the book too. My boys nearly hit the ceiling. They begged me to keep trying to find an agent who understands that lots of guys would love to read a book entitled, Screwing Up Time. In fact, many of their friends have said they’d buy the book just because the title is so cool—because someone’s written a book whose title says, “This was written for you.”

So, guys, I’ll keep trying. And just so you know, a couple of different agents are interested—I’m sure there’s someone out there who knows guys would read if given the chance.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Up, Up, and Away

Yesterday I went with nine kids of various ages to see the new Pixar movie, Up. After watching it I would have to say that it accomplishes a rare feat. It is a children’s movie and an adult’s movie. Not a movie for kids that adults like, nor a grown-up movie that kids enjoy. It addresses suffering and selfishness with whimsy and magic, and yes, even silliness.

Themes of loss, grief, loneliness and friendship abound—I cried. The teenagers who were with me were of various ages and sexes and some, though they will remain nameless, also wiped away tears. Normally, I’d wonder what the little ones were thinking, except that six year old Luke sitting next to me was so enthralled by the movie that he couldn’t stay in his seat. He’d stand and lean forward as though he might be able to get just a little closer to the wonder of the film. And in the light reflected from the screen, his eyes sparkled and danced in delight.

I can’t help but wonder if this year instead of winning the Academy Award for best animated picture, Pixar might actually win best picture. Of course, if they were nominated for best picture it wouldn’t be fair to the other nominees. In the meantime, go and see Up with someone you love.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Death of GI Joes

Calvin was gone for nine days on a trip. (Ariel thinks it’s important to note that I get through these extended absences through the use of blended adult beverages. But this post is not about me.) Instead, it’s about Jez. She was heartbroken that Cal was gone.

Jezebel sat by the door waiting for him to come home. (Have you ever since the movie, Return to Me, where the dog sits by the door waiting for the dead woman to come home? Well, it was just like that.) She’d glance at me with her sad black eyes and a quizzical look that said, “Where is he? Has he abandoned us?”

Of course, her grief wasn’t confined to sad eyes. She also refused to eat. In case you’ve never had a Lab, they never, ever refuse food. They live to eat and retrieve.

At some point, she decided it must be our fault. Her doggie mind reasoned that we must have chased him away. So, she punished us by being heinous. She chewed Matt’s GI Joes—now they’re only good for playing “the wounded.”

Since Cal was “dead”, she figured the pack leadership was up-for-grabs. She began to randomly chase after Ariel and chew her arm. To prove her alpha capabilities, she wanted to show that she’d protect us well—so she began barking at…fireflies. Yeah, they’re really scary and dangerous.

Just before Jez drove us crazy, Cal came home. Jez was giddy. She followed him everywhere, so closely that her nose was against his knee at all times. When she bothered to look at the rest of us her eyes said, “Yeah, it’s me and the master. We’re good. We’re in control. Yep, it’s the master and me.” Our response is “Whatever, Jez.” We’re just happy that Matt’s no longer yelling, “Jezebel ate another GI Joe!”

BTW, thanks, everyone, for your concern about Mr. I. He did call again, and I gave him a dose of the bo’sun’s whistle. (Matt was extremely jealous.) He tried one more time during the middle of the night, but I don’t answer the phone between 11pm and 7am. And he wasn’t too interested in the answering machine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cro-Magnon Dude

Luke bought a Dell computer around Christmas time. You’d think that it should function properly for six months. But you’d be wrong. So, Luke spent time on the phone with tech support (please notice that it was not me or my computer—though there is a rumor going around that the reason Luke’s computer developed “hardware/software failure” is because I spent 16 hours on his computer. But I’m sure that’s a coincidence.) Anyway, back to the story. The on-line tech person decided Luke had serious computer issues that were actually under warranty and they’d send a tech guru to fix it.

The tech guru called me. “Uh, (unintelligible jabbering) computer (more unintelligible jabbering).”

Me: So, you’re going to come and fix the computer?

Guru: Uh, yeah. Three o’clock.

Me: You’re going to be here at three o’clock?

Guru: Yeah.

Me: Great.

Three o’clock comes and goes.

Three thirty comes and goes.

Four o’clock comes and goes.

Four thirty comes, and the phone rings.

Guru: (Slurred speech) Uh-I’m-coming-over-now.

Me: It’s a bit late.

Guru: (grunts) Did I say (grunts again) I was going to be there at three?

Me: Yes, you did.

Guru: Uh, yeah, I was in Alabama.

Me: Oh. (He doesn’t seem to realize this doesn’t solve the problem.)

Guru: I was in Alabama. (Does he think I have a hearing problem?)

Me: Yes. But the problem is that I have to pick up my van from the car repair any time now.

Guru: I’ll be right there. I’ll be fast.

Me: Okay. ( I end up having to give him directions again since he lost the ones I’d given him earlier.)

Half an hour later, the guru shows up. (Curiously, I don't think 30 minutes qualifies as right there.) He’s also frighteningly pierced and really does speak in grunts.

Of course, at this moment the UPS guy comes and drops off massive 100 pound carpets that my parents ordered for their house. And the repair garage calls and says I need to pick up my van.

This calls for quick thinking—there’s no way I’m leaving Ariel, Jake, and Matt at home with the Cro-Magnon dude. Even with Jez. I mean, Jez might bite him, and then she’d catch a disease. So, I left Luke home with them. (I left the truck at the repair place, paid for the van, and drove it home. Luke and I returned for the truck later.)

After a while, pierced guy announced the computer “healed” by a new motherboard, battery, and power converter. Luke showed the guru to the door. Everything went along swimmingly until Luke tried to use his computer. The battery would charge now, which was a good thing, but the computer claimed it had no audio device. And Luke got to spend the evening on tech support again—truly one of the joys of modern life. Okay, not really, but it was a joy for me since I wasn’t on the phone with tech support.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

For the Children

Just so we’re clear, in the South, the spring lies. Everything is so amazingly beautiful beginning in March. The city of Chattanooga blooms in a cornucopia of flowers. Even the embankments on the Interstates flower with pear trees, daffodils, red poppies, etc. It is breathtaking and you can’t help but think, “This is paradisiacal!” The air is crisp, the clouds are fluffy, and the ground buds with life. But (and this is a big but), then calendar segues into summer. The temperature rises, the flowers shrivel, and the humidity crushes. And you know that it was all a lie. This is not paradise—paradise could never be this hot! In fact, it reminds me of, well, the nether regions.

Today was the first nasty day of the summer. I have friends who said stuff like “Oh, today’s going to be so hot.” I said the same thing, but I said it with a scowl. They said it with giddy anticipation. Clearly, early dementia has set in. Why would someone get excited about temperatures that make the ground shrink and crack? And levels of humidity so high that Harper Lee refers to Southern women together with their face powder as frosted cupcakes? Or, atmospheric pressure levels so high that they have to call an “Orange Alert” to keep people from using their lawnmowers and polluting the atmosphere? Why does that make Southerners giddy? After all, if that’s so amazing and wonderful, why does everyone have an air conditioner?

I will admit that I’m not an unbiased observer. I’ve been heard to say, “I’d rather go through a New England winter twice than go through a New England summer once.” And, of course, a Southern summer is a New England summer on steroids—the nasty, illegal, get-you-suspended-from-major-league-baseball steroids.

But then, it occurred to me that it’s a matter of attitude. Maybe if I embrace the heat, it’s a way of conquering the roasting temps. Yeah, that might work. From now on, I will say, “Oh, how wonderful—it’s going to be 105 in the shade with 99.9% humidity. It’s just like a Finnish sauna, only it’s free!” Of course, I’ll be saying that from the comfort of my air conditioned home. If you question me on that discrepancy, I’ll say, “It’s for the children.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wild Ride

This morning I had Luke call the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, (UTC) to find out where Chatta State was supposed to send Luke and Ariel’s Calc 1 and Calc 2 grades. These have to get transferred ASAP because L and A have freshman orientation/registration next week.

Luke took the phone and UTC undergraduate catalog. After 20 minutes, he came to find me.

“Uh, Mom, some person said I needed to send the transcripts to the Bursar’s office.”

“Bursar’s Office?!” I said (okay, I screeched). “Absolutely wrong!” (In case you don’t know, the Bursar’s Office is where the scholarships, financial aid, etc., is organized and dispensed.)

“Yeah,” Luke agreed, “it sounded strange to me too.”

He made more phone calls and found me again. “Hey, Mom, I penetrated the bureaucracy. Everything gets sent to the Undergraduate Admissions Office.” He smiled happily. Too happily.

“Great, Luke,” I said and shook my head. Clearly, he has forgotten that these people lost both Luke’s and Ariel’s SAT and ACT scores as well as their original high school transcripts. We ended up having to hand deliver all these documents to Undergraduate Admissions because they couldn't keep track of the paperwork.

Luke and Ariel may be in for a big surprise next week when they try to register and discover that their transcripts have been lost in the black hole of institutional government administration. It could be a wild ride.