Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Extra Pissy Thursday Rant

The other day, I noticed a bunch of kids throwing acorns into the trees overhanging the playground at my kids' school. When I got closer, I realized that they were throwing acorns at a HUGE hornet's nest. In my most parental, authoritative voice, I told them to cut the crap, that it is just stupid to throw acorns at a hive, especially when you don't know if the hive is active or not, and if they learned nothing else in their public education, it should be that pissing off a swarm of bees is idiotic. I said this in a nice way, of course. Then I went into the office to report both the hive and the acorn throwing. The town had been notified about the hive, and it was an active one; hornets had been seen milling about. And a teacher went out to stop the silly little bastards from getting stung a billion times.

The very next day, when going to pick Medium up early for a doctor's appointment, I saw a town truck idling in the school driveway next to the playground, and a grown man, cigarette hanging from his mouth, THROWING ACORNS AT THE HORNET'S NEST.  A town employee, someone paid by my taxes, was doing what I had just told a group of children NOT to do because it was STUPID. I stood there trying to find a single GOOD reason he might be doing this, and could come up with nothing. Lots of bad reasons, but not a single good one. The hive had been reported as being live, so he shouldn't have been testing that, especially by throwing stuff at the hive. He shouldn't have been trying to knock it down, because not only is that the dumbest thing ever (again, angry swarm of hornets) ,but to try to do it with acorns is embarrassing and pathetic. I am also assuming he was specifically sent to the playground and did not show up on his shift to play on the tire swing, noticed the hive and thought that throwing acorns at it would be fun. 

In my world, it should have gone like this: 
1. Town gets call of active nest at school playground.
2. Town dispatches team of EXPERIENCED hornet's nest removers AFTER school hours to remove it, with cherry picker, protective clothing, and whatever other equipment is needed.
3. Town removes hive.
4. Everyone is happy, kids are safe, and no one is in the hospital recovering from their billion stings, jonesing for a cigarette. 

Since the kids are home sick AGAIN, I don't know what the status of the hive is, but it had better be gone. We have sacrificed a lot to live in this town where the taxes are astronomical, and I honestly don't think it is too much to expect that the town quickly, safely and efficiently remove an obvious danger and potential lawsuit from the playground.  But bureaucracy being what it is, throwing acorns at the nest MAY BE the most efficient way to get things done.

God, I need another soda.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dental Hygiene Is No Joke.

I was just sticking my Sonicare toothbrush head into the very cool UV Sanitizer, watching the blue glow light up the bathroom, when I realized what a crazy person I am. I bought one of these things. One of these sanitizer things. I am probably the only person ON EARTH who bought one, actually believing that it would make my toothbrush sparkly clean. But it should have been when I was cleaning out the motorized handle of the toothbrush with a frigging q-tip that I accepted my insanity. But if you had teeth and gums like mine, you would be just as obsessed. Or you would have no teeth or gums. It really is that simple. And anyone who has witnessed their 83 year old grandmother swish her dentures around in her mouth, as I have, would be scared straight into the dentist's chair. Then there was the time at the nursing home when she put in someone's else's dentures. Oy. I know I will probably be senile, but it would be great to not have someone else's teeth in my mouth at that time, dignity being in such short supply.

This all started with our first dentist, seriously named Dr. Smilovits. Simply put, he was a quack. The worst dentist ever. Much of the dental work I had in the late 80's was simply undoing the terrible work of Dr. Smilovits in the 70's. His icky pornstache coming at me, and his then-groovy blue sparkle laminate dental office is indelibly etched into my brain. He looked like a clothed Mark Spitz with a drill.  One of my enduring memories is my father, in all his hugeness, standing over me in the dentist's chair when I was eight years old. My father was shaking the hell out of me, shaking me by my shoulders, and as I was coming to from the overly large dose of nitrous Smilovits had given me to pull some teeth, my father was saying, "Never(shake) Again (shake). While I Am Alive( shake shake shake shake)!" And yet, in the way of many who follow my Mechanic's Theory (continue to take your car to a mechanic you think is no good/cheating you because at least you know what you are getting from him) my parents' continued to take us to this guy until my really, really bad root canal. During my short tenure at Ohio State, I spent much of the time at the Dental Clinic, trying to manage the lingering pain in my mouth. When I ran from Ohio for Boston, I left bad dentistry behind, which led me to where I am now, the excellent and adorable dentist I will call Dr. Flintstone.

Dreamy and dark, Dr. Flintstone remembers everything he has ever done to every tooth in my mouth. I have been seeing him for around twenty years, and there has been a significant amount of stuff he has had to do, and he remembers each and every one. He can tell me from across the room what year he worked on the crown on the left bottom side in my mouth, how long it took and how many tries it took to fit it properly. The man has Mouth Memory. Truly. And while I know OCD gets a bad name, don't you want your dentist to remember every dirty thing he has ever done to your teeth and gums? Dr. Flintstone saved my tooth from the bad root canal, filled my cavities with lovely white amalgam, and has gotten rich off of my crappy gums.And yet, back then, no matter how much of my paycheck I would deposit directly into his contractor's bank account, I didn't floss, didn't care for my mouth properly.  Then he got his stupid gum pocket measuring machine.

Many years back, Dr. Flintstone lost his office, and almost his life, to a major fire. The only upside to that was he was able to build a really state-of-the-art, blue sparkle laminate free dental office with all the bells and whistles.  One of these whistles was this nasty machine that measures how deep the pockets in your gums are. If things are bad, the hygienist scrapes them out to prevent periodontal disease and any enjoyment of anything you might have for the next three days. Truly, it is awful. I am genetically blessed with really bad gums, and I have long been familiar with  gum pocket cleaning hell. But then he got this machine, this evil machine, which was designed to take the guesswork out of measuring the depths of the pockets while having the added bonus of making the patient feel like the biggest dental degenerate of all time. Stick the little needle thingy into the gums, and it actually CHANTS the numbers out loud, for everyone in the office to hear. 1-3 is peachy, four is dicey, and anything after 5 is an invitation to the ritual scraping. Lying there in my drool covered bib, hearing "FIVE", "FIVE","FIVE" over and over again, I wanted to take the little dental drill and put a hole in my own head. Dr. Flintstone came in from ACROSS THE ENTIRE OFFICE, which is not small, and said to me, his big brown eyes staring into mine, "Are you ready to take care of yourself now?" Weeping, I nodded. And together, we went into the promised land of excellent dental hygiene.

Thus, I own the best Sonicare toothbrush one can buy. And I change the head every month. And I have the UV cleaner. And I floss EVERY DAY or I am unable to sleep. And I use that rubber tipped thingy to stimulate my gums. And I am FANATICAL about using a straw to keep my teeth as white as can be. AND I see Dr. Flintstone and his band of merry hygienists every 3 months. And I am happy to report that he got rid of that stupid gum pocket measuring machine, at the nearly universal request of  his patients. Which is a shame, in a way, because I would like to hear that machine chant my periodontal triumph to the whole office. All twos and threes, with the very occasional four. So his OCD and mine worked together in complete harmony, and my smile is all the better for it. How I heart Dr. Flinstone.

But I still won't let him fix the space between my two front teeth.

Singing Under the Influence

DISCLAIMER: I am sitting in front of the computer now, at 1 p.m., after a useless earlier attempt to write this week. I would like to say I woke up from my return to bed refreshed, but at least now I am somewhat coherent. Somewhat. I promise no more.

This weekend was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Clean house, new boots, fancy schmancy honey from virgin bees in the Amazon, and dinner with friends. And, oh yeah, services. Topped off by a Sunday afternoon doing a mitzvah--participating in Singing Out Against Hunger, raising money and supplying food for the needy in Rhode Island. All good things to start a great new year. And then I got sick.

Not surprising, really, because Small and Medium have been hacking up a lung for the last week. It was only a matter of time. When they are home from school, you can practically see the germs swarming around me, like a cloud of mosquitos. I felt absolutely fine until Saturday, when I had to go back to sleep for the second time, after being awake from a nap for an hour. I awoke with a 1,000 pound head and the inability to keep my eyes open. This was just as well, since I knew I would have to sing on Sunday, and this shut me up for an extended period of time. I have a tendency to talk too much (shocking, I know) and sleeping for 16 hours does protect the voice.  Sick or not, I was going to play on Sunday, no matter how much Sudafed it required.

It turned out to be quite a lot, with spectacular results. I do have experience with Sudafed. I am a constant allergy/sinus infection sufferer, and it is very effective. Usually it has the delightful affect of making me more spastic and hyper than I usually am. But what I found was, taking a bit more than the recommended dose had the effect of a weak dose of Valium. I felt no pain, and everything was just so very very pretty--the blue sky, the smiling people, everything! I know I was. Everything was happening a split second slow, like it was underwater. It was lovely. But I didn't know if I could sing in my dreamy state, because I  am not an indulger.This is not a personal philosophy (Drugs are BAD!) as much as a self-preservation instinct--I am one of those annoyingly sensitive people that will sleep for a day and a half from one Children's Benadryl, or have the lampshade on my head after half a drink. So aside from the occasional forays into Pepto-Bismol and Nyquil, I am generally drug-and-booze-free.  So it was brand new for me to experience a show as Janis Joplin.  

The performance was a challenge, but not because of me. As it often is outdoors (I am told) the sound was very bad and none of us could hear the other. Neither Danielito nor I could hear ourselves AT ALL, which is incredibly difficult and annoying when trying to sing. Rather than worry about it, which helped no one, I just sang and hoped to God I was somewhere close to on-key. It went both exceedingly fast and unbelievably slowly. I had to remind myself that I was singing and to stop being distracted by what people were eating at the table in front of us. And at one point, I got a pain in my left big toe that was so excruciating, I had to struggle to stay with the song and not collapse on the stage, weeping and clutching at it.  I saw people singing along to our 80's covers, mesmerized by their moving mouths. But I'm told we sounded great. I personally believe we rocked Rio harder in Danielito's living room, but money was raised and food items collected for the needy. And I have absolutely loved playing with these fabulous musicians the last few months, so it was fun, too. Danielito, Captain Ron, Knitting Natalie, Jamie the Giant, Joe Drummer and Lisa OurBiggestFan, you are all amazing. And so very very pretty.

And so, after the family had eaten obscene amounts of crab cakes, fried clams, clam cakes (or clunchkins, as the husband called them) and, of course, chicken fingers for Medium, and I said my good-byes, we headed back home. I was too wasted to drive, and that should tell you EVERYTHING you need to know. I am the worst passenger there is, pressing the invisible brake and gasping in anticipation of an accident every five feet, and thus, have done all the driving in our marriage. My children were shocked to see me climb in the passenger seat. I proceeded to stare out the window stupidly and serenely for the next hour and fifteen minutes. I thought for sure the pictures would tell the story, that my over-sudafedinizing would be obvious. It doesn't look that way to me, but maybe I'm wrong. The show must go on, and all that. And it did. I have the pictures to prove it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Capitulation Wardrobe

7:15 a.m. and already at my desk.  But with a feeling of great accomplishment, which is amazing for a Monday morning. When Mr. Simone B. is traveling, which he often is, I am up and at 'em early and against my will. But up I am, the kids are ready to go and gone, a load of laundry is in the machine, the dishwasher is empty and everything is quiet. I sit here with my first can of the day in my hideous Monopoly pajamas and contemplate the day. And with that, of course, is the question of what to wear.

Those who have actually seen me probably marvel at the fact that this actually requires some thought. I have seasonal uniforms and rarely veer from them. And, shockingly, it involves a t-shirt and jeans. In cool weather, there is a v-neck sweater and a pashmina added. The shoes are the wild card--boots from Fall to Spring, flip flops for the summer, and my Chuck Taylors interspersed. When I look at the 8th graders at my kids' school, and realize I dress almost exactly like them, the question of whether this is appropriate dress does cross my mind. I do know that I need to address the issue of "dressing my age", whatever that means, but part of this stubborn dress code is my fear of the Capitulation Wardrobe. The moment when I don't care what I wear and I've given up. The moment I look middle aged. The day that I shop at Chico's.

This is in no way meant to malign Chico's or the lovely women who shop there. But Chico's is my personal point of capitulation. The minute I look at rectangular linen jumpers, square cardigan sweaters and quirky earrings as my new uniform is the day I will have moved into middle age and beyond. The day I dress STRICTLY for comfort, as I did when I had babies, is the day I know that Naot sandals and Vera Bradley purses/publicly carried toiletry bags are close at hand, as are bad, short haircuts and going gray. That will be my official, personal, expiration date. Simone goes bad, like an old carton of milk.

My BFF had an intervention in order to stave off the Capitulation. Her husband put the kibosh on her denim overalls. Yes, she is busy, and yes she is a mom (the arguments she used in her defense) but she also happens to be an absolutely gorgeous woman who had stopped looking at herself in the mirror. Somehow, he wrestled her away from her urban farmer attire and saved her. He risked his own hide for that, but then BFF's husband is unusual that way. He actually notices what she wears, and complains when her jeans are too loose. True love!!

And then there are those that never Capitulate, because the Capitulation Wardrobe IS and has ALWAYS BEEN their uniform. If you have been wearing slacks, walking shoes, carrying a "handbag" and have had the same haircut for years, you have been living on the dark side for so long it feels like home. But these things are, and have always been, WRONG and you should not do them!  Style has morphed into habit, and a habit, unless it comes in a frosty red and silver can, is a bad thing.  A recurrent, often unconscious, pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition is NOT the way life should be. That is something I have come to realize and embrace in my forties. And if my way of not capitulating is to wear a Nirvana t-shirt or a pair of jeans that do not make my ass look huge, then so be it. So be it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Am In Love

That deserves all capital letters. It truly does. Because I want to proclaim it to the world. I Am In Love. With my new boots.

My personal tradition, of the last ten years or so, is to buy a new pair of boots to celebrate my birthday. So I begin the hunt in July, when all the best boots are in the magazines and stores. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole Birthday Boot tradition, visiting all the shoe porn sites to find the perfect pair.  Deciding which color, heel height, style--all part of the delicious process. But there is one absolutely unchangeable element: the boots MUST be knee high. Not over-the-knee (which is very big right now, and NOT for women who are shorter than most 5th graders) or calf height (which accentuates the "athletic" calf and makes one look squat) or ankle height, (which is, again, all the rage right now and can only be worn by an 85 pound waif in an empire waist dress and red tights.) Knee high for tucking in the jeans. Knee high for bringing on the attitude. KNEE HIGH, damn it, because really, why bother otherwise?

Now, while I do enjoy spending money (which is why Sugar Snow Joe keeps all the band money at his house) there are certain things I will not spend a lot on. I have not ever purchased a lamp anywhere but the Christmas Tree Shop. I buy my sheets and curtains at IKEA. All rugs come from Target or Lowe's. I shop for the bulk of my clothes, as well as the family's clothes, at Saver's.  Shoes--the dress shoes I occasionally have to buy, the flip flops I buy for the summer, I will pay marginally more for, usually at Marshall's. But the boots fall into their own category. I have a budget, yes, but it is far more elastic than any other limits I set. The margin of error is generous for the boot budget because, a) boots last for years, and my OCD requires that I take meticulous care of each and every pair, and 2) it's my birthday.  So, I suppose, one could make an argument that it doesn't really count as a budget. I don't buy that argument, but I can see where you are coming from.

This year, this GLORIOUS year, I found the most amazing boots. I saw them last year, could not fit them into my "budget", but I did not forget them. I could never forget such perfection. Now, markedly cheaper because of their "last season" status, I snapped them up. But buying shoes is like online dating, and what you see is definitely not always what you get. So I was wary, of course, that they would not be as remarkable as I thought. And my worry was all for naught. They are camel suede, lace up the front with an industrial strength zipper for on-and-off ease, three inch heel, right up to the knee. And--BONUS--comfortable!! I wore them as soon as I got them. Wore them around the house. Put on my Winter jeans (the tucking-in-the-boots jeans) and walked around the house in them. Mr. Simone B. approved wholeheartedly. LZ approved, and I believe she may have heard a chorus of angels. Neighbor Ken approved, in his droll, understated way. Even Small, my harshest critic, approved, although she did comment that I wouldn't be able to skateboard in them.  Eventually, I took them off, and they are now a shrine on my desk, right next to my computer screen. To the right of them sits a bag of  M&M's. At the toe is a can of Diet Coke and a fresh straw. My lip balm. My cell phone. And my Cleveland snow globe. 

Last night, at my dear friend Ms. P's Coming Of Age party, it was cold. It was downright cold outside. And all I could think was, Only 3 more weeks. 3 more weeks until my birthday, and the official beginning of my boot wearing season. October 1, folks, and the suburbs will be in danger of being overwhelmed by my Boot Coolness. Prepare yourselves.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Cooking Cult: Hell, No! I Won't Go!

This is a repost of a ranty old myspace blog. Enjoy!
It isn't true that I can't cook. But there is nothing that I hate more. The sight of raw meat, the shopping involved, the time it takes--I hate every bit of it. But I can cook. My very traditional mother made sure of that. She is waiting for the moment that my husband decides he is going to leave me because I won't cook. Or because I didn't change my name when we got married. Or because I drink too much Diet Coke. Or.....

As you might guess, I only identify the kitchen as the room that one walks through to get to the bathroom. Mr. Simone B does all the cooking, and registered for everything when we got married. When he travels, which he does often, my children fly into a panic and anticipate starvation. Two large pizzas from Pino's for all three meals of the day is my answer to their fears. And I, myself, enjoy eating Rice Chex for dinner. Or a Kit Kat.

So, when I was invited to a Pampered Chef party, you would think I would run screaming. And maybe I should have. Being surrounded by kitchen utensils and storage containers is, in general, enough to make me ill. That's why I walk through the kitchen quickly, averting my eyes from the counters, when I need to go to the bathroom. But the BFF gave the little soiree, and she is a great cook, so I went. I brought my friend Laura Zigman, published author, brant writer and my current girl-crush, for company. And hilarity ensued. But more on that later.

What is Pampered Chef, you ask? Why, you don't know? Shame on you, blog readers, for not being familiar with this particularly insidious cult. How will you protect yourself from the Chef's Tools and Silicone Crown Cake Pan? It is the cookware equivalent of Mary Kay, without the blue eye shadow. The woman who did our particular show has her shtick down to a science, including the whole history of her abduction and consequent assimilation into the Pampered Chef "family". Just think how much bigger the Manson Family would have been had he offered stoneware baking dishes.

Laura came to spare me the pain of the glassy eyed kitchenistas that always come to these shows. But she was immediately made to wear a name tag with a V on it, for Virgin. Virgin to the Pampered Chef. Why she didn't flee then, knowing that virgins are generally sacrificed, I'm not sure. Maybe because there were a few other virgins to choose from. My name tag had "ice cream scoop" on it, the only thing I bought at BFF's last show that didn't break and was still in the drawer at home. I'm told. And the Blessed Virgin Laura, poor dear, had to listen to my profane comments about how many of the utensils looked like sex toys. A girl has to entertain herself , after all. 

Round and round the circle of ladies went the bowls of ingredients to make fresh salsa (ladies, use those kitchen choppers! you'll wonder how you ever made salad without them!), the chocolate cake in the Batter Bowl-Classic that ended up sticking to the non-stick pan, (painfully funny to watch the horror), the almond crusted brie that demonstrated the mini-nut chopper. One snarky woman next to me muttered "So handy, you could use it while driving." I love nothing more than snark. I didn't touch a single one of these ingredient bowls, for fear of cooking cooties. But I did find myself sucked in, highlighting the smooth-edge can opener, the large and small micro-cookers, and a variety of other things. Mob mentality is very powerful. I wisely called Mr. Simone B before writing any check, who limited my purchase to a cutting board and bamboo tongs for the kids to use to remove frozen waffles from the toaster oven. I always thought the burnt fingers were part of the charm of frozen waffles. And if you burn them enough, you eventually don't feel it anymore. 

Now, I don't mean to imply that it wasn't fun. It was great fun. Watching these suburban ladies gushingly extoll the virtues of their stoneware is worth all the fresh salsa in the world. I love watching people search the catalogue for the one thing they haven't purchased yet. But I feel no shame, no matter how hard my mother has worked at it, for not being turned on by kitchenware. And these little parties exploit the elements of shame and guilt, to make people feel bad for buying nuts pre-chopped or never using nuts in a recipe because it is too much work. But if people really want to feel shame and guilt, they can come to MY next party. Frozen drinks and sex toys, ladies?

Here is a link to Laura's brant/blog:

I know she is planning to talk about her side of this experience. If it's not there yet, read about her love for Hugh Jackman, who starred in the movie of her novel.