Monthly Archives: November 2011


Mom was known for giving weird gifts.

One year, far from Mom, my sister Judy and I found two identical small packages from her.  One for Judy and one for me.  We saved them for last, to be opened simultaneously.

Judy was faster than I and opened hers first.  It was a little green plastic box of earrings that said “Judy” “Judy” all over it.

I unwrapped mine.  It said “Elaine” “Elaine

“Ummm, Mom?” I said later, “my name’s Elyse.”

“Well,” she responded, “They had boxes with just a plain E, but that was just too boring!”

"Elaine's Earrings" -- Yup, I still have them!


This is my entry in the Christmas with Mom Contest.

The rules?  Write  a Mom Christmas Memory of 100 words or less, link to it in the comments section at sponsored by

Deadline is December 5, 2011.  Winner gets a $25 gift card to or Starbucks, as well as having the w inning piece posted on a number of blogs including Things I Want To Tell My Mother


Filed under Family, Humor

What happened?

Sometimes I miss stuff.

When I read, sometimes I get so excited about what I’m reading that I miss something very important to the story.  Like the point of the story.  Or a major turning point in the plot.  Most often, I miss it when someone dies.  I don’t like death much.  I try to ignore it, even when I read.

Most of the time, nobody knows I’ve missed something.  Most of the time, I don’t either.  Most of the time, I go on blithely thinking that one thing happened when, in fact, something else entirely happened.  As a result, the books I read tend to be quite cheerful.

In college, I read Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.  Have you read it?  I did, although this time I am quite sure I didn’t race to the end because I enjoyed it.  I think I raced to the end of the book so that Faulkner would shut up.  But when I got to class, I discovered I’d missed a tiny little detail.  Oops.  Because everyone was talking about Quentin Compson’s death.


Spoiler alert:  If you haven’t read the book – Don’t.

I mean, if you haven’t read the book and plan to, don’t continue reading this blog.  Do something else.  Click on “My Favs.”   Click on the blogs in my blog roll.  Click on and see what other classics you haven’t read.  Most of them, at least those NOT written by Faulkner, are really great books.

Anyway, back to The Sound and The Fury. 

I was very confused that my classmates seemed to think that Quentin Compson had died!  They had to be wrong, I thought.  I clearly remembered the last time he appeared in the novel:   Quentin was a freshman at Harvard, and he went swimming in the Charles River.  I think that the line was actually “Quentin walked into the Charles until his hat floated.”  I figured that, because he was a Southerner, he wanted to keep his hat on at all times; that river gets pretty chilly, you know.  Besides, Southerners have some odd customs, and at the time I read this book, well, I didn’t know the half of it.

So there I was, taking American Literature 101, reading Faulkner, occasionally walking across the bridge that had plaques about Quentin Compson’s suicide, and I missed the part where he offed himself.  Totally.

Well, you must admit it was an odd literary ploy.

But sadly, that wasn’t the last time I missed something.  It still happens.  I can read a whodunit, and not only not guess who done it, but read it again a year later, and not guess again.  Perhaps I am just subconsciously thrifty.

So when a week or so ago, the blogs I follow started disappearing from my inbox, I wasn’t overly concerned.  After all, we all go through slow periods.  And then I blamed it on the build-up to the Thanksgiving holiday; everyone must be busy.  Surely it was simply a coincidence that everyone was having a slow period simultaneously.  Strange things DO happen, you know.

BUT as it turned out, somehow I missed the fact that I accidentally “unfollowed” all the blogs I had consciously, intentionally and with knowledge aforethought decided to follow.  Oops.  I have now re-followed and re-subscribed.

Sorry.  Sometimes I just miss stuff.


Filed under Humor, Stupidity

Too much information

I’ve had a house full of folks here for Thanksgiving for most of the week.  So I’ve been doing a whole lot of cooking.  Tonight, however, I’m taking it easy.  I bought a frozen lasagna, and not long ago, I turned over the box to read the directions.  Basically, I needed to know how long and at what temperature to cook it.  What other information do you think I’d need?

Apparently, our friends at Stouffer’s thought I needed more.  Apparently, they think that the straight jacket has just been removed from my torso.  Apparently they think that I need careful guidance in frozen Lasagna-making.

So I guess it is a good thing that the box gave me the most complete pre-cooking instructions I could wish for:

Preheat oven to 400° F

Do not exceed 400° F

Pull tab from short side of package and remove perforated strip.

Remove tray from box.

Now, I know that some people are better cooks than others, but if you can’t figure out that you need to open the package and take the entree out before you start cooking your frozen dinner, well then, maybe you need something more than a frozen dinner.

Maybe you need a drink.


Filed under Family, Humor

Great Balls of Fire!

People here in Northern Virginia are way different from the ones I grew up with in Connecticut.  Folks here just can’t seem to get away from the Civil War.  And now, I guess I can’t either.

Now, I can understand the interest.  That war is still all around us.  After all, Richmond, Virginia was the Capitol of the Confederate States of America.  The first battle was fought here in Manassas and the last battle and surrender took place here too, in Appomattox.  There are hundreds of known and marked battlefields where you can touch history, where you can learn the details of the battles and who did what to whom.  All is laid out clearly, respectfully.  We Americans do a great job at battlefield parks.

Throughout most of the year there are also reenactments of battles.  From what I’ve gathered, though, this mostly involves men dressing up in gray uniforms and blue ones and hanging out in front of a campfire.  They shoot the breeze — instead of each other, which is modern life for you — being a Civil War participant is much better in this century than it was back in the day.  Nowadays you can avoid the bullets, the bayonets, the cannon fire, the dysentery and, and, and ….

Recently, the Civil War got even closer.  You see, a history buff bought the land across the street.  And he really wants to feel the history at home.  And of course, that means history is at my doorstep.

Now, the property across the street includes about 10 acres. John and I thought that no one would ever buy it.  It’s just a weird piece of land.  It’s a triangle, with woods on the left, woods on the right and an open, grassy area in the middle, where the owner may not build.

When we ran into Beau, our soon-to-be-neighbor, he introduced himself.  “I’ve always wanted property with a ‘meadow,’” he told us, with misty eyes and a ramrod straight back.

“Actually, it’s a natural gas pipeline,” said John helpfully (because that’s what it is.)  It is a potentially explosive piece of property.  We told him that before he bought it, mind you.  When he still had time to change his mind.

But Beau has a dream.  Now we have a nightmare.

Beau didn’t specify just what his dream was.  Perhaps we should have known what was in store for us by his pronounced drawl.  Or maybe by his military bearing.   Or maybe when he didn’t know the difference between a peaceful meadow and a grassy knoll.  Can you say “Stonewall Jackson”?  Can you say “Great Balls of Fire”?  Can you say “Rhett and Scarlett”?

You guessed it.  To our surprise (horror?), Beau built Tara, right across the street.  Or maybe it’s Twelve Oaks.  I can’t quite decide.  Maybe it’s Tara Oaks, but that sounds like a new flavor of oatmeal.

OK, I cheated. The real one is (thankfully) hiding behind trees from my Yankee camera. (Google Image)

To be fair, well, the house isn’t like the McMansions that surround our more modest house.  It isn’t quite as large as I expected either (apparently they skipped some of the wings found in a real southern plantation).  But Tara Oaks is from another era, one that ended in 1865, also here in Virginia.

More visible to me and folks driving by, the property is surrounded by Civil war-style stockade fences, just right for the boys in gray to hide behind while shooting Yankees.

The real fence. It surrounds the property.

But the thing that worries me most is that there is one spot on the side of the meadow where they leveled the ground and put in a rectangular bit of asphalt.  You can see it in the upper right.  This spot is suitable for only one purpose:

And I just know it will be pointed towards the Yankee across the street.  Especially if Beau ever reads this piece.


Filed under Humor, Real Estate

“Liebster Blog” or “Lobstah Roll” Award?*

Saturday morning I woke up and found I had gotten an award I’d never heard of – The Liebster Blog Award!

Lori Franks of Sunny Side Up, nominated me, and I am touched.  Especially since Lori is such an upbeat person and I am, well, not so much.  Lori’s blog is unfailingly cheerful, funny, and makes me feel good.  And her banner — with  a lovely image of Black-eyed Susans — makes me feel sunny, too.  So thanks Lori.  Thanks for thinking of me, for making my day, and for pointing out four other blogs that I can read while I’m supposed to be working.  I presume you have also agreed support me when I get fired.

Here is what I learned about the Liebster Blog Award, casually plagiarized from Lori’s blog post:

About this award: This award is given to blogs that have less than 200 followers and deserve more recognition and encouragement. There are some guidelines that have to be followed while giving or receiving the Award.

  • Thank the blogger who gave you the Award
  • Pick 5 small blogs that are worth the honors
  • Spread the word about the Liebster Award

So here I am doing just that.  (Only I mostly don’t know how many followers folks have.  Then again, I have been a rule-breaker before this!)

My nominees are – drum roll please –

Charles writes this fabulous blog:  Mostly Bright Ideas .  He talks about family, his childhood, his escapades, his likes and dislikes.  He makes you laugh, cry, and want to read and reread his best posts.  Of course, I haven’t figured out which of his posts is the best one.  Whichever one I am reading is the best one.  I don’t actually know how many followers he has.  But if you’re not one of them, you should be.

Eleanor’s blog is How The Hell Did I End Up Here.  Eleanor is hip, funny, and damn sassy.  She’s here in my neck of the woods, Virginia, and she and I agree on politics and we are both bitches smart and articulate.

Prairie Wisdom is a storyteller and a crafts-person, making wonderful creations out of stuff that would appear useless to me.    She has a wonderful sense of balance in her life, great humor and lots of love to spare for her family and her blogging friends.

I first saw a clever comment by RVing Girl after a vacation in Maine.  During that trip there were a zillion RVs on the road, and they were all in front of me, which made me grumpy and decidedly anti-RV.  Somehow, I overcame my crankiness, and clicked on her link.  I hope you do too – click that is.  She’s smart, funny.  That’s why I like her.

SandyLikeABeach is a hoot.  She is a survivor whose skills include goat herding.  Really.  She practically has a college degree in it, and you know, not many folks do.  [But hey, I remember when, in 2008 when they were looking into the Democratic candidates’ background.  You had Dick Gephardt’s father the milkman, John Edward’s father the factory worker, and Barak Obama’s father, the goat-herd….] Check out Sandy’s very funny writing!

My husband, John, complains says that I never pass up an opportunity to tell a story.  That’s not true, though.

Still, I never won an award before.  Well, except for the time I was given an Academy Award.  Really.  It happened in the summer of 1983 …

Thanks again Lori!  Here’s your Lobstah Roll:

Lobstah Roll (Thank you Google Images!)

* I use this title at Lori’s insistence.  She threatened to tell Mom if I didn’t.  And since I don’t know her Mom, I have NO  IDEA what she’d do to me for telling.  If Lori tells my Mom, who is in Heaven, well there’s just no tellin’ the trouble that’ll kick up.  So I’m playin’ it safe.


Filed under Climate Change

A Better Way

The answer is easier than we think.  Yup, I’ve figured out how we can come up with a Republican nominee!  Now why didn’t anyone think of it before?  I’m smart, but you know I’m not getting paid for this type of work.  Do I get a bonus?  A finder’s fee?  A spot on Mount Rushmore?

Limbo.  That’s all we need.  Two upright bars, one horizontal one, a drum beat — and we have our candidate!  It’s easy!  It’s cheap!  We don’t have to spend two years doing it.  More importantly, we don’t have to suffer through another debate!

You know how it’s done, don’t you?  Here’s what Wikipedia, my oracle, says about it:

Limbo is a popular form of dance that originated on the island of Trinidad.  The dancer moves to a Caribbean rhythm, then leans backward and dances under a horizontal pole without touching it. Upon touching it or falling backwards, the dancer is “out.”  When several dancers compete, they travel in single file, and the stick is gradually lowered until only one dancer — who has not touched either the pole or the floor — remains.

We can cut to the chase and get a nominee lickety-split.  Whoever goes lowest, gets the nod.  It works for me.  And isn’t that where they’re heading anyway — and at much greater cost?

I came to this conclusion after stumbling upon a discussion on the New York Times website, captioned:  “Should Candidates Have to Pass a Civics Test?”

My answer, in a word is:  “YES.”  My answer, in a string of profanities, is  longer.

And I’m afraid I have to ask myself: “This is a question we are asking ourselves about our potential future President?”  Golly gee.  Do ya think that the potential leaders of our nation should be familiar with how the damn nation works?

You know what they say about menus without prices:  If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.  In this case, if you have to ask, you’re supporting the wrong candidate.  The bar here is pretty damn low.

And, realistically, this question is geared at REPUBLICAN candidates.  Because I think we can assume that a former Constitutional Law Professor knows, at a minimum, that there are three branches of government.  At least there are under the U.S. Constitution — you know, that document that holds up the 2nd Amendment?

A bit of disclosure is needed here, I guess.  I lecture on Civics as part of my job.  I work in a small company that has an international staff.  I’ve realized that it’s not just foreign-born, foreign-educated folks who need to learn how the U.S. Government works.  It’s been a long time since 7th grade civics for most adults, and everyone who works with us gets a refresher course.

What I didn’t realize is that folks who are running for the highest office in the nation might need my 30 minute lecture, too.  Do you think I can command Newt-like speaking fees to give it?

So here is my plan:  We’ll have Mitt, Rick, Michelle, Herman, Ron, Newt, Rick, and John Huntsman do the Limbo.  Whoever wins, by which of course I mean, whoever  gets down-est and dirty-est, well, they get the nomination.  Then I’ll give them my 30 minute lecture about how the government works.  They’ll be ready to govern!

The only problem is with those pesky military details, the Commander-in-Chief BS.  Well, that’s where I put my foot down.  Someone else is going to have to teach them which buttons to press, and which ones NOT to press.


Filed under Elections, Humor, Uncategorized, Voting


I’m not really big on guns.  I don’t carry one.  I don’t feel safe around folks who do.   And I am baffled by U.S. gun laws (see

And it’s probably just as well that I don’t do guns.  You see, I tend to be a bit clumsy, and I like my body parts just where they are.  And while losing some flesh wouldn’t be such a bad thing, I don’t want to lose a love handle and have to live with one lonely “apparently nobody loves me” handle.  A married woman like me needs both.

Besides, I do have a wee bit of a temper.  Just try leaving a shopping cart outside of the cart return at the grocery store within drifting range of my car.  You’ll see why there are folks who just shouldn’t “carry.”

Actually,  it always astonishes me that folks around here are allowed to pack heat.  Carry hand guns.  Concealed weapons.  To me, it’s a recipe for disaster.  And personally, I prefer recipes that aren’t lethal.  Recipes that result in baked goods are good.

So today when I learned that a man drove himself, his wife and their four children to the grocery store here in Virginia where he accidentally shot himself in the femoral artery while taking off his seatbelt, well, I got pretty angry.  And since it doesn’t pay to get mad at him (well, not any more it doesn’t), I’ll direct my anger where it belongs:  at the idiots who passed a law allowing that man to put a loaded gun into his pocket.  And get into a car that contained four children under twelve.

Those four kids had an outing they won’t soon forget.  They heard a bang when their father tried to undo his seatbelt.  Only it was louder than the usual click that the buckle makes.  Whoa!  Instead, Dad shot himself in his femoral artery – the I-95 of blood vessels.  When that artery is severed, it generally takes 2 minutes for shock to set in, and 4 minutes to die.  I bet his last conscious thought was: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”  I’m sure that’s exactly what the EMTs did.

Now I can just see the NRA logic behind this tragedy.  You know, he was trying to take off his seat belt when he accidentally hit the trigger.  So guns don’t kill people, and bullets don’t kill people.  Seat belts kill people.

And this totally avoidable tragedy led me to look up some information to see just how pissed off I should be at the folks in Virginia and 34 other states who have passed similar laws allowing just about any idiot to carry a loaded weapon wherever he or she decides to take it.  Bars.  Restaurants.  Sporting events.  Church.  Doctor’s offices.  Schools.  Grocery stores.  Yup, all good places to carry a gun.  Hey, relax!  What could possibly go wrong?

As I was saying, I looked up some stats, because that’s what I do when I am pissed off.  It is a healthier reaction to anger than murder, and much harder to prosecute.  And I learned that our priorities as a nation have changed. We used to try to save people’s lives. 

For example, beginning in the 1980s, here in the U.S. we started requiring people to wear seat belts to reduce fatalities.  (In case you didn’t know it, fatalities are BAD.)

The results from seat belt laws have been fabulously successful.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest statistics state that 15,147 Americans survived accidents in 2007 that would have been fatal without seat belts.  That’s a lot of people saved by a law that doesn’t really inconvenience us all that much.

By contrast, that same year, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported 12,608 homicides where a gun was the weapon of choice.   Guns were the No. 2 cause of violent death (homicides) in the U.S. that year.  But guns did win the “overall cause of violent death in America” reality TV contest that year.  Because homicides by gunfire was trumped by the 17,350 suicides using a firearm, the number one cause of violent death in the U.S.  Way to go guns!  Nobody can kill more people than you!  When there are guns around, the Grim Reaper can just sneak up on a person, when they least expect it.

Silly me, I like to think that a significant portion of those 20,000 people killed by guns in that year, along with the other thousands in other years, might be alive today if there were reasonable gun laws.  But I’m just a progressive talking.  Why should we care if folks kill each other off with guns?  Or if they kill themselves off with guns?  Or if they kill themselves accidentally in front of four children and in a parking lot full of other folks who won’t forget today either?

So buckle up, my friends.  And think about whether you’re safer with or without that handgun.

Me, I’m going to get off my soapbox now, very carefully.  I’ll  unbuckle first.


Filed under Gun control, Stupidity