Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Housewife's Life - August


This brought to mind Jenny Wren's "A Day in My Life" from awhile back. That was always fun to write, and it's fun to look back at now and then and be reminded of all the little ordinary things that make up a lifetime.

I was out of the house by 6:15 this morning for Mom Duty. C has been having some health issues for the last month or so, and today I took her to her fluoroscopy appointment ~ basically a 2-and-a-half-hour x-ray. Good thing I remembered my book!

After the appointment we stopped briefly at the bookstore, and by then it was well into lunchtime, so we drove through our favorite drive-thru, Chick-Fil-A, on our way home.

When we got home we found the other grandma watching Mickey Mouse with the little kids while the big kids played a round of football against a team of stuffed animals.

I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what to do next. We moved recently and still have piles and piles of boxes all over the house waiting to be unpacked and put away, or better yet, donated. Gotta get busy on that!

After dinner I watched NCIS. I usually have a date to watch it with M on IM, but he had better things to do tonight, so I just caught up folding the laundry while I watched the rerun, and later I shopped for an airline ticket for a trip to California to visit my mom and her sister, and my brother and his family who will be there from Japan for a couple of weeks.

Now it's bedtime, and it's still HOT! Nothing like going to bed and sweating all night under the fan.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Fine Print

Shouts of "DO WE GET A REFUND???" provided a welcome interruption to the tedium of malingering at the end of the long, slow line to check in for our flight to Jamaica. A quick glance around the terminal revealed the source: a knot of women chattering excitedly as they frantically waved their passport-card-bearing hands around.

It did not take long to learn that these women would not be taking their long-anticipated, eagerly-awaited vacation in Jamaica, because when they applied for their passports they opted to save $35 by going with the $65 passport card rather than the $100 passport book.

All but one of the women walked away, to the general murmur of sympathy among the rest of the passengers. Consensus: It wasn't their fault. WAAAAH! It should have been explained to them that the card is good only for cruises and for driving acroxx into Canada or Mexico.

My mind floated back to the day I saw the question on my passport application: Card? Or Book? I DON"T KNOW!!!! And nobody explained it to me, either. The difference between me and them was...I asked. And I guess their friend asked, too, because she was the lone one in the group with a book passport and no compunction about going on to Jamaica without them.

My best advice is: Read the fine print. And if you can't make it out, ask. Because the vacation you save may be your own.

Signs of Jamaica

Traffic signs:
  • PROTECT YOUR HEAD, DON'T END UP DEAD, illustrated by a picture of a motorcycle going off in one direction while its rider takes a conk on his helmeted head.
  • GIVE WAY = Yield.

Other road signs:

  • Only fools break safety rules.
  • Children our future - Watch out for them on the road.
  • NO SMOKIN ~ We thought at first that the "G" had fallen off, but on second thought...Maybe not?
  • Have a COOL day.
  • PROUD TO BE JAMAICAN ~ A caricature of a horse head saying "Yeh, Mon."

  • Spruce up Jamaica. Nice up Yourself ~ Some sort of tourist promotion?
  • My Life Soon Set with Lotto.

Business names:
  • Stronger for Longer ~ Name of a battery store.
  • Choice Cut for Choosy People ~ Deli, grocery, meat store.
  • Haberdashery ~ I'm not sure I've ever even seen a haberdashery store, but in Jamaica they abound, a holdover, I suppose, from their recent British past.
  • Liquor and Ice Cream ~ The store with something for everybody.
  • Long and Strong ~ A party store.
  • FDR ~ Franklyn D Resort.
  • Art's Car Park ~ I saw several of these, kinda like a chain business. I never could figure out if it was a parking lot or a car dealer, but at least it rhymes.
  • Devon House I Scream, Devon House I Cream ~ The Baskin-Robbins of Jamaica, I'm guessing.

And, the WINNER! Seen at a gas station:
  • NO NAKED LIGHTS = "No Smoking."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Primary 2010

214 Republican, 39 Democrats. That was the final count on Primary Election Day last month. A pretty typical voter turnout in Small Town, Texas.

I worked my first election in Harris County, Texas back in 1992, when my Man and I were approached by a fellow homeschool mom who I later found out served, with her husband, as the county chairman. We did not know, when we both agreed to do our Civic Duty, that it was actually a paying job. Not a big paying job, but still. When one is unemployed, as my Man was at the time, any pay is more than no pay. Since then I have worked at elections of all sorts ~ city elections, special elections, runoff elections, primary elections, presidential elections, off-year elections, school board elections, you-name-the elections ~ both as a clerk and as a judge.

Whatever one’s capacity, Election Day is one l-o-n-g day, beginning long before dawn and ending long after dark. Some elections, such as the Presidential election, are much more popular than others, but whichever it is, and no matter how un/popular it may be, you can just rest assured that somebody is going to be there well before opening time to whine about something:

  • The door wasn’t unlocked until three seconds after 7:00a.m;
  • The yellow sheet wasn’t posted;
  • The VOTE sign is sagging at the corner;
  • The distance markers aren’t exactly at 100 feet;
  • This voter didn’t get a card in the mail;
  • That voter’s mother is on oxygen and can’t make it to the poll, so she is being disenfranchised;
  • The other voter wasn’t told who was on the ballot;
  • The next voter doesn’t speak English, and an Urdu interpreter hasn’t been provided.
What doesn’t really matter; the object is to complain. Loudly and bitterly, making sure everyone in the vicinity is privy to the voter’s pain and suffering. And since, in the age of PC-ness, we are in the business of appeasement, well, we better be good and ready to fix up every little one of their little hearts’ desires. And that’s the way most elections go.

You might think all elections are equally easy/hard to hold, but you would be wrong. City and school board elections are usually easy ones, because only the most dutiful and informed citizenry are even aware of those. Presidential elections, on the other hand, tend to be somewhat hazardous, particularly when there is a hotly contested or polarizing competition. Voters who have never seen the inside of a polling place come out for those, and they all have “issues.“

If I had to choose the hardest/worst election to work, it would be, no contest, the Primary. That’s because that is the election where the most uninformed show up. All they know for sure is that they have rights: the right to vote, the right to have a ballot in their language, the right not to have to wait in line, things like that. Conspicuously missing is their duty to educate themselves, and they are often ignorant as to what is at stake and/or how the system works. This results in a whole lot of clueless voters, who, when asked if they wish to vote Republican or Democrat, lose not a moment unleashing a torrent of abuse and foul language on the poor miscreant who dares to inquire.

“WHAT do you mean??? You can‘t ask me THAT!!! How DARE you infringe on my right to privacy! That is NONE of YOUR BUSINESS!!! I have the right to a secret ballot!!! Where’s the complaint number??? I’m going to report you!!!” Etc.

Well, Primary Election Day, 2010 wasn’t any different. We had the usual assortment of righteously indignant voters who threatened not to vote if we made them divulge their party affiliation, but only one or two actually made good on their promise. And then there were those in the wrong precinct who heaped outrage upon us for trying to direct them to the right one. There were the requisite two or three illiterates who had to have the ballot read to them, and don’t forget the few who found it too difficult to get out of the car and had to have a ballot taken to them outside. Add to that two election workers who nearly came to blows. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Until…

Enter the voting Nazi (Am I allowed to use that word without being offensive to somebody?). In all my years of working elections, this lady was a first. My first thought was how much she reminded me of one of my children’s piano teachers. But I was quickly disabused of that notion.

She wore a pencil-skirted business suit and stiletto heels, and hair pulled severely back into a braid that was clipped onto the top of her head. In her left hand she carried a wallet/planner/something-or-other, and with her right hand she shook hands with everyone in the room, showing off her badge as she introduced herself. She made sure we alllll knew she was a special officer from Fort Hood who did background investigations for top secret clearances (Hmmm….Is that really something you go around advertising?).

“Rep or Dem?” we asked.

“I’ll take Dem,” she crisply informed us. “I’m not going to vote like everyone else.” And away she clicked across the freshly polished faux-wood floor to the corner of the room where the *e* voting machine was set up.

But almost immediately she was back. And she was frantic. There was only one person she specifically wanted to vote for. He had told her she could vote for him! But he wasn’t on the Dem ballot! And that’s when she bothered to look at the Rep ballot (which was prominently displayed on the wall next to the door, but which neither she, nor anybody else, had ever bothered to look at). Lo and behold, there was her man, and oh-so-fortunately, she had not yet hit the *enter* button on her ballot, so we were able to cancel her Dem ballot and give her a Rep one. That was our one-and-only canceled ballot of the day.

Off she scurried again with her ballot, presumably the right one this time, and she soon came back to our table, once again securely in possession of all her self-confident persona, for another round of smiles, head-bowing, hand-shaking, and “thank you’s” to each of us for doing our civic duty.

So in case you’ve ever put any faith in our “Democratic Process” or in our duly elected leaders, or in those who elect them for that matter, you may want to reconsider. Sometimes I think we would do just as well with a roll of the dice…a crap shoot, so to speak.

Happy Voting!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Census, Anyone?

People are funny. If you don’t believe me, try taking census. I did. Twenty years ago. In Houston, Texas of all places! I must have been out of my mind.

My first assignment was “non-response follow-up.” That meant going door-to-door to all the houses that had not returned a census form. Well, at least according to the Census Bureau's record. More than one of my “clients” claimed they had already sent in the form, and they weren’t all that pleased about now being interviewed in person, particularly when they had originally been sent the 6-question short form and were now being asked to fill out the 12-page long form. Can’t say that I blame them…

Talk about intrusive… How is the number of bathrooms in your house any of the government’s business? Or how much you paid for your house? Or what time you leave your house to go to work in the morning? Or whether you go to work in the afternoon? Yep. Definitely intrusive.

That distasteful aspect of the job aside, there was a sort of fun and fascinating side to it : going all over Houston to all sorts of neighborhoods and places I would never ordinarily go, and meeting all sorts of people that I would never meet on my regular daily rounds.

I’m pretty sure I would not tackle that job today; as I say, I was probably out of my mind. If not, I was at least Naïve, with a capital N. The country girl come to town.

Some of the people I met:

  • A 35-year-old grandmother of five babies, all under the age of 3, all children of her 18-year-old daughter who was then pregnant with her 6th child (This, I learned, is possible, if you have four pregnancies, each 11 months apart, one of which results in twins, and, of course, you have to start early.). As Grandma lamented bitterly that the judge kept taking the babies away from the daughter and giving the custody to her, the bedroom door opened, and who should emerge but the pregnant daughter and her boyfriend. “MOM!” I wanted to say. “Get a clue!!!!”
  • And then there was the guy on the bayou. A house on a bayou is no novelty in Houston. In fact, my own backyard ended at a bayou. But this guy was a wee bit different. His back yard was full of five alligators and 13 raccoons, and I left with an invitation to bring my children over to see them. Anytime.
  • One address that had failed to respond turned out to be not a house, but a bar, where several of the midday patrons offered to buy me a drink. They didn’t really accept “no” for an answer, until the kindly bartender pointed out that I was “on duty.” He did, however, invite me to come back when I was no longer on the clock.
  • Some people were just plain nice. They invited me to come in and have a glass of lemonade, and you know what? Sometimes I did. We were trained/cautioned/instructed NOT to go inside any houses, but, well, sometimes the heat and the humidity joined together to persuade me, and I must say, I was never sorry.
  • Maybe the strangest place I went was the mannequin factory. As far as I could tell, it was just another old house in another old neighborhood. I knocked on the screen door, and in response to “Come in,” I did. And got the shock of my life. There was not a soul in the room. What there was in the room was a whole slew of body parts. Some hanging from the ceiling, others on the floor, yet others on a table. The sound of the voice calling to come through to the next room kindof jolted me back to, uh, reality, and I started to notice that these were parts of mannequins. Well, as I say, I must have been out of my mind, because I went on through. To another shock: Sitting in the next room on a stool, painting a mannequin head was…Santa Claus. I swear. He was sitting there, just like in the movies. Red pants. White t-shirt. Wire-rimmed glasses. Long white hair. Flowing white beard. As I looked around I could see into some of the other rooms, and they, too, were full of body parts. Santa explained that this old once-upon-a-time house had been changed into a mannequin factory, one of only a handful in the country, and he was it. He sanded and painted and whatever else it is one does to dummies and shipped them off to various clients all over the country. So he said. In hindsight, I think it might have been a toy factory in disguise.
  • Another strange thing I encountered from time to time was a respondent who did not know who lived in the house. They were usually ok with their own name and maybe another one or two, but before it was over they would be yelling across the room: “Honey! Who else lives here?“ “Does Becky’s boyfriend stay here?“ “What about that guy that always wears a polo shirt?“ “Do any of them work?“
  • More than once I encountered a less-than-friendly dog, but only once was I threatened with one, unlike another member of my team who complained that it must be mandatory to have a junkyard dog in Houston.
  • Another time, while climbing the stairs to a garage apartment, I was met with a shower of dust and debris from above. I looked up through the cloud and discovered Magilla Gorilla sweeping off the landing.

I think the very best benefit of the job was that here I met SE. She happened to be driving out of the park one day as I was driving in to meet my team leader. I really didn’t notice her until she whipped around, got out of the car, and came towards me. She had seen my bumper sticker and wanted to ask me about it. It was love at first sight, and she remains one of my dearest friends still, 20 years later.

So now it is Census Day again. April 1st, 2010. Hmmm...Isn't that April Fool's Day? I can't help wondering about the significance of that. In another bizarre moment of madness, I applied for a job, which entailed taking a bonehead test and filling out some papers. I heard I did very well on the test, and if the number of follow up phone calls is any indication, I believe it. Someone or other calls from the census bureau just about daily to offer me a job, but somewhere between the test and the phone call, sanity kicked in, and so far I have declined every offer.

It’s a decent-paying job by any standard, especially so in the current economy. But…I am older and wiser now, and I fear I may get the task of going to any of several Edgar-Allen-Poe houses that I have seen around town. What if I run into Magilla or Santa again? What if they invite me in again? Twenty years down the road I have lost a lot of my innocence, and things just don’t seem as benevolent as they once did.

2010...it’s a different world. No, thank you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Say AAAHHHHH! Part 2

I believe in allowing my fearfully-and-wonderfully-made self every opportunity to heal itself. Alas, I am aware that we live in a fallen world, and despite the Perfect Design, sin sometimes gets the upper hand. So, after suffering through four days of rock-swallowing pain, yesterday I conceded and went to The Doctor. That is a big, big deal for me. Fortunately, I was able to get an appointment with Dr. K, so that made things better before I even got there.

The Good News: Throat is nice and pink, ears and nose and lungs clear. This eliminates strep, pneumonia, TB, and a host of other respiratory undesirables. Dr. K cannot find a single thing wrong with me, so he wants to write me up in the medical journals, because:

The Bad News: I have the most severely painful sore throat, I can't swallow and I can't spit, and I keep coughing up crap, although . . . hhmmmm . . . come to think of it, that has lightened up considerably since I started washing out my head with the neti pot.

The Good News: Dr. K believes me, and he has a suspicion of what might be causing my pain (hemosomethingorother). And, he knows the perfect antibiotic to take care of it.

The Bad News: This antibiotic is distantly related to another one which is distantly related to penicillin, and I am allergic to penicillin. Oh, and it tastes vile. According to Dr. K, "If you don't get this good and all the way down, you will be tasting it for the next 12 hours."

The Good News: "Nine out of ten 'pen-allergics' can take this drug with no ill effects, but if you react badly to it, we'll try something else." Well, that's great for the Nine. I hope I am one of them.

The Bad News: I could be the One. But I am desperate.

The Good News: They have generic.

The Bad News: The generic costs $67!!!

The Good News: I have $67.

The Bad News: Not anymore I don't.

As anti-antibiotic as I am, I was actually anxious to take this nasty pill. I could not wait to get rid of this sore throat. But, whoa! Maybe I should wait until morning to take it? You know, where if I have an allergic reaction I can call the doctor's office instead of hitting the ER.

My impatience won out, and I took the first evil-tasting dose and went about my business. A little bit later I had an itch on my stomach, and an ever-so-tiny little welt. NNOOOOOO!!!! It's starting! Then my hand itched, and then my foot, then my back and my hair, and here an itch, there an itch, everywhere an itch, itch, ITCH, and . . . PSYYYYCH!!! It was just those little everyday itches. No ulterior motives. It reminded me of how a bunch of moms start talking about lice and pretty soon they are all scratching their heads.

This morning I woke up soooo much better! Not good, but compared to how I woke up yesterday, it was practically a miracle. I took the second dose, making sure I ate first, as per directions, and...

So Far, So Good!

Dear Dr. K, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 4

Sorry to say, I am something of a connoisseur of sore throats, and this one is absolutely the sore throat from hell, complete with knives and fire. At least the headache hasn't made a re-appearance.

Yesterday I tried oil of oregano and GSE. Oh, and chocolate. Nothing made a dent, and what a waste of chocolate that was.

Today I am still doing the hourly gargle with one thing or another, and still spraying as much as I can stand. Not that anything helps.

On tap for today: a steaming bath, reflexology, Aleve, and more fervent pleas to the Great Physician. If I don't miraculously recover by tomorrow morning...the doctor it is. I am desperate!

Friday, March 5, 2010


I have the dubious distinction of playing host to the biggest, baddest sore throat on the planet. To borrow a phrase from the deadly departed Saddam Hussein, it is The Mother of all Sore Throats.

The last time I had this sore throat was, hmmm.... back in January. It was a just-shoot-me-now kind of sore throat, but it lasted only one day. Alas, it was followed by five solid weeks of rib-shattering coughing, but last Monday I noticed that the coughing had eased up quite a bit, so, even though my ribs were still sore, they were getting a break.

Tuesday my ill health took a Sabbatical while I worked a 14-hour day at the election, but yesterday, oh, my...

Yesterday the sore throat was back, with an edge, and instead of hanging out with D and the Princess and the Gingerbread Cookie, I spent the day trying out different cold/sore throat remedies:

  • Tried-and-true hot water with honey and lemon. Check.
  • Hot whiskey. Check.
  • Salt water gargle. Check.
  • Vicks. Check.
  • Tea tree oil gargle. Check.
  • Sore throat spray. Check.
  • Hot tea. Check.
  • Zinc lozenges. Check.
  • Plain hot water. Check.
  • Raw garlic. Really.
I tried them allll. Nothing touched it. It's a sore throat on steroids. I'd say the prize for the worst remedy was the tea tree oil gargle. Until I tried the garlic. Holy cow! That might have been the longest ten minutes of my life. It put tears in my eyes and fire in my mouth. If it had half the effect on the germs that it had on me...wow, the possibilities are endless. But no. Same old sore throat, and now I definitely need a new toothbrush.

That was yesterday.

Today, Round Two: Airborne, vinegar gargle, nutmeg tea, more Vicks, more hot tea. So far no good. I would have tried the dark Karo syrup gargle, but I don't have any of that, and I would have tried the neti pot, but I don't have any plain salt on hand, so those will be for tomorrow after a quick trip to the store.

So. Advice and suggestions welcome. I am willing to try anything. If anybody out there is working on any experimental drugs, I'm your guinea pig. For now, I am going to go to bed. At 8:30. Hardly proper.

If things don't improve around here, I may have to resort to my very last resort...GASP...the doctor...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Worthy Winter

So much for Wispy Western Winters. This wet and wild and windy one has hung on longer and colder than any in recent memory.

Winter Weather isn't just Weather. It is a whole other entity, demanding to be consulted and considered multiple times every day, beginning as soon as I get up.

Actually, it begins before that...Am I even sure I want to get up? Trade in the cozy comfort of my warm bed to do battle with the frigid air waiting right outside the covers? Shiver into a wooly bathrobe to make my way to the bathroom so I can splash icy water onto my sleepy face?

What's the menu today? Forget salad or sandwiches. I better dig out the crockpot and load up some chili or some bean soup or some other warming, comforting thing.

How early do I need to leave to allow for windshield-scraping, road-icing, traffic-jamming, and still get there on time? And WHERE is the ice scraper?!

Will a jacket be enough? Do I need a serious coat? Gloves? What about some layers? And don't forget the scarf!

Outside? Can I take a walk? Maybe I better stay in and chase down the exercise videos. Can I plant my garden? Or do I need to unearth the peat pots and play in the garage?

The nerve. Coming in here to micromanage every minute of my day. But here you are, and what can't be cured must be endured. So, to the third member of our little two-person family ~ Welcome, W/interloper.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Not even three weeks into winter, and It's Snowtime! Winter in this part of the country never really begins until well into January, and then it's basically in name only. Nothing really to write home about. But this year...!!!

  • *Snow* on Xmas Eve!!! True, just a slight dusting, but in central Texas snow is snow, and on Xmas morning, there was some still left in the shady places. Almost-White Almost-Xmas. UNHEARD OF!!!
  • Just a few days later, it happened again! Two snows in less than one week's time! Now, according to M, in New York these would barely qualify as flurries, but in Texas we take what we can get.
  • Yesterday, after scraping and de-icing, my Man took off for work one hour later than his usual 5:30 am departure time, only to return in half an hour with this report: "I barely got as far as Walgreen's. My windshield kept icing up, and I had to pull over four times to scrape the ice. So I turned around and came home, and I am going to call in."
  • According to the news yesterday: "Anchorage, Alaska; Someplace in Antarctica (I really should take better notes.); and Another Anonymous Place (I really should take better notes!). Q: What do these three places have in common? A: They are all warmer than Austin, Texas today.
  • We are going for our third night of record-breaking cold, as in overnight temperatures of 8-10º. Previous record is 15º. In 1913. That is almost a century!
  • No frozen pipes for us, thank goodness, unless you count the outside faucet connected to the dog-waterer. But, we did have a friend over for a shower today, due to frozen pipes at his house.
  • And it isn't just Texas. From the wastelands of Kansas, D reports that it took three city trucks and a monster tow truck six hours to free the garbage truck from the snowdrift in front of her house.
Somebody call Al Gore! This Global Warming simply has to stop!