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Friday, March 29, 2013

An Experiment In Terror

At one point during my career as a bank teller, I worked in the drive-through of a bank in Downtown Denver. Our security staff were off-duty officers of the Denver Police Department. One was, in fact, the first female African-American in Denver to become a Sergeant, and was assigned to the Internal Affairs Division. I just now remembered that one day a coworker and I asked her to come to lunch with us on one of the days she wasn't working at the bank. She showed up wearing a gorgeous dress and heels, and had a clutch purse tucked under her arm. It was still tucked in there during lunch, and we suggested she put it with our purses. "No," she said, "it stays right here. My gun is in there." We were quite impressed. In fact, we were stunned that she was wearing a dress and heels during her work day as a cop, and told her so. She smiled and told us, "There isn't anybody in this city I can't run down and chase over a fence, even in my high heels." What a woman!

Most of the officers worked in the Crimes Against Persons Division, AKA Homicide. I found this quite fascinating, and in our slower times I would talk to them about their work. I asked the kinds of questions the other tellers didn't think of asking, like whether the DPD thought that they had any missing or deceased women that they thought might be the victims of the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, who did come through Colorado. And yes, they did suspect that they had at least one case that may have involved him, but he refused to answer their questions before his execution in Florida.

One day, one of the officers got a really concerned look on his face. Why was I so interested in murder and serial killers? What was the reason? I am sure he might have been worried that I might be one of those murder groupies who have crushes on killers. Or that I was of a murderous bent myself. Both of those were very far from the truth. I told the officer that my father had killed my mother when I was barely seven years old, and I thought my interest in the subject revolved around wanting to know what made a killer who they were. Why did they kill? What made their brains tick? He looked relieved after I told him the details of my mother's death, and that I had no hero-worship of any kind for killers. Actually, I seem to remember him saying something to the effect that since that was where I was coming from, he would be glad to talk to me about anything that he was free to discuss.

Fast forward to my married life. Trent spent the first several years of our marriage being amazed at my enjoyment of horror movies, as well as thrillers and true crime stories. I think he was surprised that I didn't have a stereotypical "girly" reaction to books and movies of this nature. I'd go to see a scary film and not be all nervous afterward as some people are. And I could watch a lot of true crime programs on tv and then sleep like a baby. He likes to joke about me watching Discovery ID, which he refers to as the all-murder channel. I certainly do not immerse myself in gore and crime. I spend much more time watching everyday humdrum programming than crime. I love all kinds of books, but have read several by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I actually think my tastes in entertainment/reading are fairly well balanced, and  I would spend money to see Les Miserables but not pay a nickel to see most horror flicks in the theater.

Over the years Trent became more and more aware of all that I had experienced in my life. After my siblings and I found our mother clinging to life as a result of my father's beating, we were taken to orphanages and foster care. Liz and I were in an orphanage, and our life there was truly depressed and miserable. Then we were taken in briefly by distant relatives, and Liz was quickly dumped on Gram. I spent more time in the home of a woman who hated me because I was not what she would have chosen. After all, the child of a murderer seems less artistic and enchanting than a Native American child. I was reminded constantly, especially during frequent beatings and abuse, that I was crazy like my father, and that nobody wanted me. I was then shipped off to her mother, my Gram. But during the entire time I lived with her, I was reminded by various people that if I didn't live up to their expectations, I could and would be sent away.

Trent would say that he didn't know how I had survived it all. I did because I had to, I suppose. One night he was talking about how he just hadn't been able to understand how I could watch scary stuff without getting very affected by it. He said he had given it a lot of thought, and figured out why I was able to handle it. I was curious to hear his theory, and noticed that he was trying to stifle a smile. "It's simple," he said, "your whole life has been an experiment in terror." We both got a huge laugh out of that since it is a variation of one of my favorite lines from Steel Magnolias. But we also both agreed that it was probably true. How could I get terrified by some made-up hauntings or monsters, when I had experienced plenty of real horrors? I am more likely to be frightened by Psycho than Alien, because I know all too well that the person next door is more real and scary.

I'll never really know if Trent's theory explains it all away, because I will never know what my alternate reality would be if I hadn't had those experiences. I may not have ended up in Colorado. I'd probably still be able to speak German and Hungarian. I most likely would never have had a pet dog. And I probably would never have met my husband. And I'd probably scream like a girl during horror movies!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Funniest Woman In The World?

This is another tale from our trip to Disney World. It was my maiden voyage there, and my traveling companions enjoyed seeing the parks and Downtown Disney through fresh eyes. I also got immense pleasure from seeing various creatures that don't exist here in Colorado. You may know from reading some of my other posts that I am an animal lover. To a person like me, Florida was a bit of a paradise because I got to see so many different creatures in their natural habitats. I had seen some of them on the telly before, and some were entirely new to me. 

When we arrived at our lodging, a large condominium complex, I was pleased to see that there were surrounding areas of woods, as well as many ponds. On our first day, we went for a brief drive through the complex just to enjoy the view. I was stunned to see a pair of swans in the main pond. Not because I hadn't seen swans before, because I had. But these swans were immense! They had to be at least three times the size of any swans I'd seen before. Even my "we've already been here and seen that" traveling companions were amazed at their size. My friend Marie kept wanting to see armadillos, and one day I said, "We're going to see an armadillo on the way home tonight." And wouldn't you know it, we saw one just a few buildings away from where we were staying.

We also saw several opossums, a critter I have never seen in Colorado. We have some here, but not as far west as the Front Range area. What really amazed me the most, though, were the birds. There were multiple varieties of cranes and herons, and large birds of every color. One morning when we were headed to the parks, we were delayed by a group of large birds casually strolling down the street. Naturally I made my friend Thayne stop the car so that I could walk behind them and take some photos. And one day we even saw a gator in a large pond off the highway, his eyes and nose barely above the water, waiting for something delicious to swim by and become dinner.



And there was no shortage of fun at Disney. Not only were there fun rides and great food, but lots of wonderful people. We met people from all over the world. There were Canadians who were glad to get away from the sub-zero temperatures back home. And forgive me for perpetuating a stereotype, but the Canadians we met were all very polite! We sat at the same table with a delightful couple from Perth, Australia one night at dinner. They had been from coast to coast; their travels had taken them to California, Arizona and the Grand Canyon, and then to Florida. While the Canadians were enjoying the warmth, the Aussies were enjoying a climate a little cooler than the hot summer weather they were having at home.

I also enjoyed talking with various employees (they are referred to as "Cast Members") at the Disney parks. They come from across the US to work there, as well as from around the world. They come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. There was one evening I decided that some of the younger Cast Members had limited experience with life. Trent went into one of the gift shops looking for a cover for his cell phone. I was wandering around and got back to his location just as he was finishing his purchase. We started to walk out when he realized he had forgotten something. There was a purchase-with-purchase and he wanted to ask if he could take advantage of it if it was something I'd like to have. We turned around and went back to the counter, where he asked if it was too late to make that purchase. He was told it was okay, and he replied, "Well, I have to ask my wife if she wants it. Where's my wife?" The funny thing is that I was beside him the whole time, but slightly out of his range of sight. And naturally when he turned to look for me, he turned his back on me. So the whole time he was asking, "Where's my wife?" she (I) was right there. In my usual smartypants manner, I said, "MyWife is right here."

The young staff members thought that this was hysterical. They were laughing and saying, "Oh, my gosh, she is so funny! Did you hear her? She said MyWife is right here! That's so cool!" Trent and I got a chuckle out of their enjoyment of the moment, and I decided I didn't  want the sequined reversible tote bag, so we went on our way. I loved it when when we had only gone a few steps and I heard one of them say, "She is the funniest person I have ever seen! Did you hear her? He said where's my wife, and she said MyWife is right here! That is so funny! They're awesome!" I allowed myself to bask for just a few moments in the knowledge that some sweet, naive kids thought in that moment that I was the funniest woman in the world. It isn't often that you have the chance to be the center of the good gossip in the employee break room! It's also good to know that you have managed to brighten someone's day. Maybe if I am lucky I can make a habit of it!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Hate?

Some years ago, when I was being interviewed for a retail position, I was asked the most unusual interview question of my life. The shop I was hoping to work for, and eventually did, was a franchise of a company started in England. They sell naturally-based cosmetics (that includes soaps, lotions, makeup, etc.) and didn't do any animal testing. They also tried to create products using fair-trade principles. This was a company that that believed in inclusion rather than exclusion. Everyone was important, no matter what category they might fit into. After a round of the usual types of questions, Bridget asked me, "Whom do you hate?" It didn't take me very long to come up with an answer, which was that the only people I might hate were the ones that made a habit of hating others, for whatever reason. She was pleased with my answer, and told me that it was a question she had been asked during the process that determined whether the company wanted her as a franchisee. Her answer was pretty much the same as mine.

Over the years, every time I have thought about this interview, this is the only part of it that has really stuck in my memory. I believe that the question is one of the most brilliant ways to get a glimpse of what makes a person tick. When I think about it, it occurs to me that who you hate says just as much about you as who you love. We aren't born hating. It is in our nature to love and accept people as they are. But the things we learn from our families and our circumstances can impact our opinions of others. There is a profound song in the musical South Pacific that includes these lyrics: "You've got to be taught before it's too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate, you've got to be carefully taught!" Often we become a product of these teachings, whether by following them, or by going against them.

Hate is such a strong word, and a strong emotion. I was fortunate to realize at the age of fifteen that any hate I might have toward another person (in this case it was my father) does not hurt them or affect them in any way. It only hurts and affects me. I can't say that there aren't things about people that don't rub me the wrong way. One thing that really irritates me is people making assumptions based on who they perceive me to be. An example is two customers who co-owned a business that had their accounts in the bank where I was working as a teller in the drive-through. They assumed that since my skin was pale like theirs, that I was going to appreciate the terrible jokes they made about other ethnic groups. I started to get stressed out knowing that they might be driving up to make a deposit and force me to listen to their mindless drivel. 

One day I decided to talk it over with one of my managers, who just happened to be latina. I really hated their jokes and didn't want to hear them. What should I do? She said, "Katrina, if you don't like hearing their stupid jokes, then tell them!" I was pleased but also a bit scared. "But what if they get mad at me and close their accounts? I don't want to get fired." She looked at me and said, "You will not get fired for telling them not to talk to you that way. Besides, if they leave the bank, so what? We don't want jerks like that as customers anyway!" I felt so relieved. She had given me the power to do what I felt was right. The next time they drove up to my window, I greeted them with my usual courtesy. One of them started telling a joke that included the infamous "n-word." I very calmly and quietly told them that I really didn't care for ethnic jokes, and would they please not tell them any more. They sat in stony silence while I finished off their deposits, and although they didn't close their accounts, they never came to my window again. The funniest thing about all of this is that in shunning me, they had to go to one of the other two commercial tellers - both of whom were latino!

So in a nutshell, I try not to hate other people, although I sometimes hate their behaviors or beliefs or assumptions. Don't assume that as a practitioner of a Christian faith, I hate people who are LGBT and/or think that they should not have rights equal to mine. Don't assume that as a caucasian, I think my ethnicity is better than anyone else's. Don't assume that because I don't have a degree, I am stupid or uneducated. Don't assume that because I don't have any kids I am too stupid to give you advice about yours. And don't assume that because my hair is mostly gray and my body is showing some wear and tear that I am cranky and set in my ways and intolerant and unimportant. My point is this: we are all sort of like the facade of a building. The exterior may be fancy or plain. It may look well maintained, or very worn. But you can never tell from the exterior what you will find inside. You may dislike the impersonal looking brushed stainless steel exterior and find the inside is warm and cozy. But only if you have the courage and intelligence to learn what is inside rather than letting your hate hold you back. If you think about it that way, hate just stems from our lack of understanding about what is on the inside. Kind of puts a whole new twist on things, doesn't it?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shrimp Wars And Burgers

It was September of 1999, and Trent and I were in Las Vegas to get married. We were staying at the Paris Hotel, which had opened only eight days before we checked in. It was a lovely place, and since it was so new, we kept getting really good prices on dinners at their buffet. The food was delicious, so we ate there several times. On one of our first visits to this buffet, after we were seated I said to Trent, "Hey, I'm an adult now, so I can do whatever I want. I want to eat dessert first!" Trent chuckled and agreed, and I did indeed have dessert first. I could not resist the temptation of the chocolate and whipped cream and delicate pastry and fruit. Yum! Apparently my husband thought it was charming - he still mentions it from time to time, and sometimes teasingly asks if I want to have dessert first when we go out to eat.

What he doesn't mention very often, though, is The Shrimp Wars of '99. We were having our first dinner in the buffet, and Trent was excited to dive into a large serving of shrimp cocktail, which is one of his favorite foods. For some reason, he decided to put the sauce on the shrimp rather than on the side of his plate. As I was sitting at the table eating something (what it was, I cannot remember) I was vaguely aware of seeing something come flying through the air. THUD! A flying shrimp had just bounced off of my eyeglasses. Trent was horrified. "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry! I was peeling it and it shot right out of my fingers!" I had a good chuckle over it and reassured him that I was not mad. We went back to eating and THWACK! Another flying shrimp. This one bounced off my shoulder. Luckily I was wearing something dark and the sauce came right out, leaving no evidence. "What is this, the Shrimp Cocktail Wars?" I chuckled. "Nobody tells me nothing!" Trent switched to sauce on the side after that, and I have not been hit by any more flying shrimp. But I am always on the lookout for another Shrimp War.

Our body clocks seemed to get sort of whacked out while we were in Las Vegas. After all, you can find someplace to go or something to do at any time of the day or night. One night we realized that neither one of us was asleep during the wee hours of the morning, so we started talking. "I'm hungry," Trent said, "are you hungry too?" I had to admit that yes, I was pretty hungry. "Well, let's go down to the lobby and get a burger." So at three-thirty in the morning, we got dressed and went down to the cafe in the lobby for a burger. To this day, if we find that we are both unable to sleep, one of us will say, "Let's go down to the lobby and get a burger!" It makes us smile, and reminds us of our love for one another. And every so often, just to make sure that the other one is really listening, one of us says, "Hey, it's three-thirty...let's go to WalMart!"

I guess it is in any couple's favor if they can relax enough right at the beginning of their relationship and approach life with a sense of humor. Little things that happen can either make you crazy or just make you laugh. We have enough challenges that can make us crazy, so we try to laugh whenever possible. I hope that whatever your relationship status is, your life is full of heartfelt laughter. And I hope that you will not be dive-bombed during a Shrimp War!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tooth Fairy

Some friendships can be very unique and special. There are friends that you can go months without seeing, and then when you get together, it's as though you last saw them just yesterday. We have a couple whose friendship with us is like that. They have wonderful children and are just great people and parents. When we get together, we do it at their house because of their kids. It's just a lot more convenient because the kids can go to bed when it's time, and we adults can spend some more time having fun and catching up. I usually volunteer (or am asked) to cook on these occasions, which pleases me greatly. The first time I cooked dinner for their family, I was warned that their kids (two of them at the time, under six years of age) might be a bit picky. Yeah, right. I made a casserole, and these two children finished their servings and then helped themselves to seconds and then thirds! 

Since then, I have introduced the family to Hungarian food, and shown the dad, who says he doesn't really care for cookies, that I could bake cookies that even he could love. I have breezed into their kitchen and appointed the kids as my sous chefs. One of my favorite moments has to do with the kids helping me to make a dessert. Two of the three that were helping needed to use step-stools to reach the counter. They paid close attention to my instructions, and tried very hard to follow them to the letter. At one point I said, "Okay, now put in the chocolate chips like this...swoosh!" The kids grabbed handfuls of chips and sprinkled them in the pan with the same hand gestures I had used, all while saying, "Swoosh!" Talk about a Kodak moment! It is one my favorite memories regarding their children.

Another fun memory that happened at their home had to do with the Tooth Fairy. After the kids had gone to bed, the daddy told us about what had happened first thing that morning. They had been quite busy and forgot that their oldest child had lost a tooth. He woke up and looked excitedly for his money from the Tooth Fairy. And found his tooth. They tried hard not to laugh when they heard him say, "D--- it! The Tooth Fairy didn't leave me anything!" So dad asked us to remind him to make sure that the Tooth Fairy got the job done properly that night. Since I really love their kids, I asked for a piece of paper so that I could write a note on behalf of the Tooth Fairy. I explained, as the Tooth Fairy, that I had been really busy. It was baseball season, after all, and a lot of players had lost teeth during games lately. I sure was sorry to have missed him, but I finally made it to his house. I hope he enjoyed his personal note.

Some people might have thought that it was silly to even care about that situation, but I really do love this kid. When we first started to get to know their family, he looked at me during dinner and exclaimed, "Oh! I just figured out who you remind me of!" His dad was concerned and asked his son to whisper in his ear so that he could make sure it was someone okay. He told his son to go ahead and tell me. I was eager to find out. When his son asked me if I had seen Finding Nemo, I said yes, I loved that movie. "I hope you're going to say that I remind you of Dory! She's my favorite!" He had a huge smile on his face and told me that yes, I did remind him of Dory. That was one of the best compliments I have ever gotten from a kid. All in all, life is great if you can be both Dory and the Tooth Fairy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Riding A Runaway Train

I am the conductor of a runaway train. And I use the word conductor loosely. The runaway train I am referring to is my itty-bitty brain. I have written in the past about how I have an ongoing problem with the connection between my brain and my mouth. It has caused me embarrassment on numerous occasions, as well as the potential to get me into trouble. The connection problem I refer to is sort of a lag. I guess a good way to describe it is to compare it to a movie that was filmed in, say, Japanese, and then given a voiceover treatment in English. So you're stuck watching a film while your ears hear something and your eyes get a completely different message. This is a variation of the situation with my brain and mouth. While my mouth is still trying to talk about tasty cupcakes, my brain has moved on to the movie I watched on tv last week. So I end up saying something really bizarre, like the cupcakes were chocolate with buttercream frosting and sprinkled with Ben Hur.  Actually, that is not a real example, but a dramatization for entertainment purposes. You get the picture.

I have had this runaway brain-train problem for as long as I can remember, and it has more symptoms than just the mouth flying without a pilot. There's the related symptom of thinking ahead about what you are going to say during a conversation, and then getting totally derailed. You are having a chat with a friend, maybe telling her about something that you did during your favorite vacation. As you are telling her about accidentally ending up in the red-light district in New York City, you're thinking that you just can't forget to tell her about having dinner in a beautiful restaurant in Central Park. Suddenly the engine goes on overload. You forget what you were going to say about the restaurant. You forget the sentence that you were right in the middle of saying. Heck, you can't even remember the subject of the conversation. Talking comes to an abrupt and uncomfortable halt. You hope that your friend doesn't judge you when you say, "Okay, I just drew a total blank. What was I talking about?" Chug along, train.

For me, one of the most irritating parts of being the conductor of this erratic train has to do with being unable to shut down the motor. Even as a kid, I was a natural-born worrier. Well, that's probably not true. My life gave me plenty of reasons to worry, and lots of opportunities to practice. I have made a great deal of progress in this regard. Sometimes I am actually able to say, and believe, that what will happen will happen. But if worrying was an art form and I let myself go unchecked, I could be the Monet or Van Gogh or Picasso or Michelangelo of worrying. Not that those are bragging rights. 

The other part of not being able to shut down has to do with sleep problems. I find myself tired and sleepy and lay down, ready for a restful night's sleep. And my brain the train goes into high gear. At the same time that I'm thinking about how exhausted I am, my train is speeding away from Sleepytime Station. I start to wonder if my library has an e-book version of some book that I want to read. Should I get up and look it up, or wait until morning? Will I remember it in the morning? Maybe I should get up and just write myself a note so that I don't forget. But if I want to write it down, I'll have to go into the living room to get the notepad out of my purse. If I do that, I might as well just look it up online right now. Oh, to heck with it, I'll remember it again sometime. Oh! Did I remember to pay the cable and the phone bill? I guess I can just check it tomorrow. I'll remember. But what if tomorrow it's one day late? I really can't afford to pay a late fee. No way am I going to pay something for nothing. Okay, you get the idea. 

Several years ago, Trent and I got mp3 players that came with a one-month free trial of an online audiobook service. I wasn't terribly eager to try it, but what the heck. I fell in love with it. It had been so long since anyone read me a story! But that wasn't the best part. Listening to books was like switching my train to a slower track. While I was hearing the story I was distracted from all of the thoughts that could have been racing through my brain. I could set the timer on my player and manage to fall blissfully asleep. It was heavenly. 

My doctor found out a few months ago during a casual conversation that I have been doing this, and told me I had to stop. It isn't good for me. It is not conducive to sleep. So I didn't take my player to Florida when we went there in January. All of that recreation we were enjoying left me pretty tired, so I did get some good nights of sleep. When we came home, I told Trent I wasn't going to listen at bedtime any more. And I found myself still awake at two a.m. and three a.m. and on one horrendously restless night, at half past five. But I just couldn't give up until Trent said, "Honey, just listen to a book so we can both get some sleep, please." So, like an addict who has fallen off the wagon, I'm back on the audiobooks. But it's so much nicer than trying to ride a runaway train.  


Saturday, March 16, 2013

S.O.P.

There are a lot of words and phrases that have negative connotations. For example, traffic jam. Personally, I'd prefer some strawberry jam, or maybe a not-too-tart, not-too-sweet orange marmalade. I think one of the most evil, insidious words used regularly in the American home is leftovers. This word conjures all kinds of negative images. It might be the food you brought home from a restaurant to eat for lunch the next day. It sits in the refrigerator for an insanely long time. You find it when you are looking for something else, like ketchup. You wonder aloud what is in the container. When it is opened, the smell assaults your nose. You see colors you never expected to see in nature, much less your refrigerator. You can't even tell whether it was originally chicken or beef or some sort of mutant fish. It ends up in the trash, and you end up washing your hands for five minutes, with an antibacterial gel chaser.

Leftovers sounds like something that wasn't eaten at the original meal because it, well, sucked. After all, if it had been super tasty, it would have been eaten with gusto, right? Another thing that seems to happen with the lefties (not you left-handed readers, but a shorter way of saying leftovers) is the not-enough syndrome. You put a little portion of an absolutely mouthwatering dish into a container in the fridge for eating within the next couple of days. Lunchtime rolls around the next day and you scan the fridge for tasty, viable foods to fill your tummy. You see the super-delicious right there in front. It fairly calls out your name, asking to be reheated and eaten. But it's so...small. In fact, it's so tiny it could be used on Top Chef as an amuse bouche, a one-bite appetizer-type dish. Poor super-delicious gets passed over for something more substantial. This continues until it becomes yet another science project. More amazing colors and a container that ends up being tossed in the trash because you're afraid you will die if you ever eat anything out of it again. 

Enter SOPs. There are times when I like to make a big batch of something. Maybe ground beef was on sale, or needs to be used before it's too late. Or maybe I have a whole chicken begging to be turned into a delicious soup. Or sometimes I just want to make extra for those days when I just don't feel like cooking, but of course we will still want to be eating. So I might whip up enough spaghetti sauce to make three or four meals, or a vat of soup. Before we even begin eating, I package some in sturdy freezer containers. I have my methods almost down to an art form, so there is little opportunity for icky stuff like freezer burn to set in before they are defrosted, heated and eaten. Since they never hit the table in the first place, they are not classified as leftovers. No, we have christened them SOPs, because that is what they are. Cooked foods that we have Saved On Purpose to be eaten on another occasion. Sometimes they are so good that they get eaten within the next few days. And sometimes they may be in the freezer for a few weeks. But the SOPs generally do not get wasted unless they get sucked into the black hole located in the left rear of the freezer.

I can tell you that my SOP chicken noodle soup has delighted my body and soul when I have not felt well enough to cook. And on days when I just don't feel like making anything complicated, I have thawed out and heated my spaghetti sauce while the pasta was cooking. Heck, I even used to make SOPs for our sweet little Paris the poodle. She sure did love Mommy's chicken stew, a dog-friendly recipe which I made just for her. I certainly wouldn't serve anything less than freshly-prepared food for any guests in my home. But if I have some SOPs for lunch or dinner, I won't be complaining to the chef. After all, it's not like they are tired old leftovers!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse

I saw a headline the other day that said that maybe the reason zombies are so popular right now may be because a lot of people "feel dead inside." I don't know about that, but I do agree that zombies seem to be the current scary creature of choice. After all, we have rather emasculated the vampires with all of that glitter and whatnot. Twilight fans, calm down, I'm not hating.

The other day, one of my friends on Google Plus posted a graphic-novel type picture of zombies with this message on it: "QUICK! You are under attack by ZOMBIES! Grab the first thing to your left! What did you kill the zombies with?" Let me say right off that I have probably hit the saturation point with those cutesy "name a ____________ that does not contain the letter __" thingies. But this seemed a little different, so I opened up the comments to post, "My tv remote? But we've only had the tv for two months! Argh!" And that is when my not-so-well-hidden inner smart aleck broke through.

Someone observed that all that they had was a walnut, which caused me to advise them to carefully crack open the shell because the nutmeat looks kind of like a brain, and would distract the zombies. (For anyone wondering about why this matters, brains are the number-one food choice of zombies.) The recipient of this tidbit of advice picked up the ball and ran with it. He said that he would pretend to pull the walnut brain out of his ear, and thanked me for saving him. I responded that I was suddenly a hero in the Zombie Apocalypse, but would not let it go to my head. I would also try not to let any zombies go to my head. He returned the lifesaving favor by advising me to use the remote to turn on Seinfeld and keep the zombies busy for hours.

A young woman didn't respond to the advice, which I thought was brilliant, that I freely gave her. She said that all she had was a cookbook. Open up the cookbook to the recipes for cooking organ meats, I suggested. The pictures of preparing brains for cooking will act as foodporn during a zombie attack. Surprisingly enough, I got no response from her whatsoever. Perhaps she ignored my advice and ended up as a zombie appetizer. Oh well. You have to act quickly to survive.

I quit commenting and began to simply enjoy the fun everyone was having with their answers, some of which I want to share with you. Several people killed their zombies with their laptops. Given the choice, I'd rather have just used my tv remote, but you've got to admit that some laptops would be great for zombie fighting. Blammo, and another zombie head rolls off into the dust. Then there were the people who had only a water bottle, a napkin, or a cup of Dr. Pepper between them and the zombies' gnashing teeth. A 50-inch plasma tv was sacrificed to save the human race, as well as a few walls and lamps, and even a long sword. Some unsuspecting people sitting to the left of the zombie fighters, including a math teacher and a cute boy at school, unwittingly became pawns that enabled someone else to escape. Come to think of it, I had one or two math teachers I wouldn't have minded using for zombie fodder...

There were numerous other answers, and a lot of people just having a few minutes of fun. You may be thinking, "What's the point, Katrina?" I am sad you have to ask. The point was having a few minutes of all-out silly and creative fun. After all, it's not every day that someone tells you they managed to kill a zombie with a straw after they used their thumb to plug the other end. Or a paper plate. Or even a chocolate chip cookie. So be aware of your surroundings and you, too, might survive the Zombie Apocalypse.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Do You Feel Lucky?

Some years ago, I went to spend a week with my friend Julie and see some of the beautiful sights in the state of Utah. When we were on the way to her house, she told me about the kitten she had recently taken into her home. He was a bit wild, but she had high hopes that he would calm down into a loving cat. When I first saw Mister Butters, as she introduced him to me, I thought he was aptly named. He had light butterscotch and white stripes and was soft and fuzzy like kittens tend to be. Julie also told me that her grandson called the kitty Anakin. I thought that Mister Butters and Anakin were wildly different names, but hey, he wasn't my pet.

Imagine my surprise when I started to see what life was like with this kitten. He had moments when he was completely lovable. He would follow me into the bathroom and try to curl up for a nap inside my jeans when I was, ahem, occupied. He'd look up at me with those cute little kitty eyes and I would feel all gooshy. Then there was the showering drama. I didn't want him stuck in the bathroom while I was showering, so I would shut him out of the bathroom. As I was getting ready to get in the shower, I would see his little paw poke under the door as if he was trying to pull me out into the hall from across the bathroom. Just precious.

Then when I headed down the hall, the little beast would pounce on my feet like they were the tastiest of all mice. And not in a cute batting at your feet kitty way, either. It was all out claws and teeth and bloodletting. Playing with him was the same thing. He'd spend a few moments batting at the feather on a stick and then see if there were any fingers or toes he could rip apart, or perhaps a houseplant he could overturn. He sought death and destruction at the twitch of a whisker. Then he would lay on his back and say, "Love me, aren't I just the cutest thing?" If you fell for that act, he'd sink the claws from all four feet into your hand while biting as hard as he could with his razor-sharp teeth. And hold on tight enough that you could have carried him down the block that way. I quickly understood that Anakin was an appropriate name for this kitty. Anakin, after all, began as a sweet, adorable, and loving boy. Then he changed into the villainous Darth Vader. The only big difference was that the cat switched personas without waiting for his adulthood. He went from happy kitty to killer tiger at a moment's notice.

While I was visiting, we took Mister Butters to the vet for shots and to get his nails clipped. Julie explained the behavior problems and the vet said they could easily be ended. All that was necessary was to take some rolled-up paper and smack yourself near where the cat was biting. The sound would startle him and the biting would come to a quick end. There was also the option of using a spray bottle to give him a mist of water in the face when he was doing something undesirable.  We both though these ideas sounded simple, painless, and brilliant. Yeah, right. In a day or so, our hands and forearms were turning red from the constant beatings we were giving ourselves. And the cat didn't give a hoot. We switched to the water bottle method. It was just about as effective.

On the evening that I was packing up my suitcase to go home to my husband and my non toe-killing dog, Julie was in her home office on the computer. I'd pick something up and walk over to the suitcase, which I had set on the bed. This was a true delight for killer kitty. He was hiding under the bed and attacking my feet every time I came toward the bed. He seemed to sense that my hands were busy with the task at hand and therefore unable to hold the spray bottle. There were two things he didn't realize, though. I had the spray bottle next to my suitcase. And my patience was wearing a bit thin. 

After several bite-and-grabs, I reached for the bottle. Mister Anakin Butters was halfway out from under the bed when I had my Clint Eastwood moment. I picked up the bottle, shook it, and glared at him. "This is a spray bottle filled with cold water. Did I spray it six times or seven? What you've gotta ask yourself, cat, is this. Do you feel lucky, cat, do ya?"  Sensing my disgust, the cat decided to move on to some other form of entertainment. Julie was still in her office, but was having a good laugh at my Dirty Harry moment. I think she must have been replaying it in her mind, because she spontaneously burst into laughter several times.

Unfortunately, despite Julie's continued efforts to tame Anakin, she was unable to do so. So to protect herself, her grandchildren, and any other visitors to her home, she had to make the difficult decision to return him to the shelter from which she had adopted him. When she told the staff there about her problems, they said not to feel guilty. Some cats just can't be broken of their feral habits and behaviors. They said that they would have done the same thing, but would have given up on the cat much sooner. A few months later, Julie got a sweet and loving adult cat that everyone adores. But I still think she sometimes feels bad about Anakin Butters. That's when I want to say, "Julie, look at this sweet cat, Lily. Do you feel lucky, Julie, do ya?"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fox Paws

Back in the days when my little Gram was a youngster, the rules regarding education were different than they are today. I was quite surprised, actually, when I found out that she had only gone through the eighth grade. In those days, it was the standard required schooling period. It didn't seem to hurt Gram at all, though, because she was pretty bright. I am pretty sure that her father never gave a thought to her going to high school. After all, there was no need for a female to have that much education. (Note: this is not the opinion of the author of the blog. I am simply relating these events as they happened.) I know that little Bessie butted heads with her dad on some subjects, one of the most memorable being the time she broke into her piggy bank and went to the barber to get all of her long hair cut off. Her dad was so upset that he refused to talk to her for several days. But since very few kids went to high school, I doubt that she put up any fuss about it.

As I have already said, Gram was not a dummy. Although her father did not send her to high school, she was very well-read. She told me something about her daddy that I found very impressive. Even though he was a devout Catholic, if he heard that the Church didn't want you to read a certain book, for example The Sheik, he would go straight to a bookseller and buy it. He firmly believed that if anyone wanted a book censored, he'd should read it, and used to say something to the effect that it was up to him to decide what to read. He didn't want anyone making those decisions for him. This attitude directly affected Bessie because he always had her read the books aloud to him. When he was a child working in a factory, his eye was injured, so he couldn't read any print smaller than newspaper headlines.

So with all of her reading and life experience, she managed to hold her own. She married at age seventeen and had four babies, the first of whom was stillborn. When her kids were in school, she became active in the parent-teacher association, and at one time was the local president. She used to regale me with stories about some of the women she worked with in the PTA. One story that always gave her the giggles was about a woman who really did a lot of good work for the organization. One of Gram's responsibilities as the leader was to recognize high achievers at meetings and luncheons. So she had to introduce this very kind lady on a number of occasions. The problem? Gram found her name a bit embarrassing to say, and so she tried to kind of mispronounce it on purpose. The lady in question would come up to the podium for her recognition and proudly announce, "Thank you so much, Mrs. Curtis, but you have gotten my name wrong. My name is Mrs. Nickleschitz." When Gram told me this, I got the giggles from it too, I have to admit.

Like most people, Gram had one or two words that her mouth just couldn't seem to pronounce. For instance, if she told me about a story in the newspaper about a drug bust, she might say something like, "The police confisticated ten pounds of marijuana when they raided the house." And I found it adorable and charming. On the other hand, though, she used the normal pronunciation of the French phrase faux pas. Another lady in the PTA did not, however. This lady liked to think that she was very refined and otherwise smarter than the average bear, so she tried to throw phrases in various languages into her conversation on a regular basis. It neither bothered nor impressed Gram as she could spot a phony from across the street, but sometimes it gave her some entertainment. Especially when the lady would say something like, "Did you hear what Bernice said during the meeting last Tuesday? That was really a fox paws!" Gram did not reveal her amusement. She simply agreed that yes, Bernice had committed a social blunder. 

I loved hearing Gram tell this story! It really tickled me that the lady was trying to be superior to Gram (my hero!) and failing. It also became a part of our secret language. From time to time, one of us would ask the other, "Do you think it would be okay to say thus-and-such to Mrs. Jones, or would it be a terrible fox paws?" Then we'd laugh until we cried, and if I was lucky, she'd tell me another delightful story - and she had plenty!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Interesting Times

Some years ago I read a little tidbit that really made me think, and therefore stuck with me. The author of the book I was reading mentioned a Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." When you first hear these words, they sound pretty cool, right? Nobody wants to lead a humdrum, boring existence, after all. But if you give it some thought, you will soon realize that it can, indeed, be a curse to live in very interesting times.

Let's start with boring times, shall we? In boring times, you most likely have a  reasonable income and therefore not spend time fretting about how you will be able to meet your expenses. Prices will be in line with most people's incomes, and supply and demand will be fairly well balanced. You will be in fairly good health apart from the occasional cold, although if you were to get sick, your moderately-priced but very comprehensive insurance coverage would leave you with no worries about affording medications or hospital visits. You could eat or drink pretty much whatever you chose without worries about food contamination or coronary disease or diabetes or weight problems. Your nation would not be at war, so you wouldn't have to worry about you or your family or friends dying in a far-off land. And it wouldn't be an election year.

Sounds lovely, right? Now let's take a look at interesting times. Interesting times are often full of events that really catch people's attention. History is full of interesting times. That's why we know about them. Oh, here's a good one - the Black Plague. I'm pretty sure that it had everyone talking. Any news of possible causes or cures would have caught everyone's attention. Oh, but that's old, you're thinking, and you're right. Okay, let's take a look at some things that are more recent.

There was the Revolutionary War, pretty interesting stuff there, and don't forget the European cousin, the French Revolution, and Madame la Guillotine. Oh, and the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq. And the American Suffragette Movement, Prohibition, The Great Depression, and the Civil Rights movement. Hippies, yippies, and pot and cocaine and heroin. And polio, mumps and measles, Ebola, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS. Bank failures and Ponzi schemes. Climate change, formerly known as Global warming. Hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis. And it isn't like any of these are exclusive to our recent history. These types of things have happened to humans all over the world, as long as humans have been here. 

I hope that in my efforts to explain this Chinese curse, I haven't put you on a big downer. I am just trying to make a point. Let's not forget those times in between, whether they be single days or weeks or months or years or decades. The wonderful times that are "boring." I can imagine that many of us hunger for more of them. So my wish for you is this: May you live in boring times, and may you find them interesting.