Friday, December 28, 2012

882. Excuse Me, Spammy

I get a lot of spam comments on my blog.  I blame myself, as I have turned off the “comment verification” feature so that my regular readers do not have to squint at the screen and get out their magnifying glasses while trying to ascertain if that is a “9” or a “g” or a “w” or just two letter “v”s squished together in a wavy font.     

My spam filter catches about 80% of these spam comments.  The rest I have to delete by hand, which is annoying and time-consuming.  I was trying to think of an accurate way to describe spam.  I am a writer, so you’d think it would be easy.  However, I cannot choose only one metaphor. 

What I Think Spam Is Like

·         Mosquitoes (giant ones buzzing around your neck and ears during the hottest part of summer, even though you recently installed new screens on your windows)

·         Splinters (painful ones when you are least expecting it, like when you innocently run your hand along a railing next to a waterfront restaurant where you were having a good time up until this moment)

·         Dog poop (that you thought was dog poop, but now that it is on your expensive new shoes you realize it may in fact be dinosaur poop)

·         Food poisoning (after eating raw eggs in a Mexican prison, not that that has ever happened to me—I am using the powers of imagination here)

·         Getting an “F” (on a test that you truly truly truly had no idea was scheduled for today and you have not read the chapters let alone done the homework)

·         Someone cutting you off while driving (in heavy traffic and then they make you miss your light and the light ends up being, like, 15 minutes long which of course makes you late to wherever you were going)

·         The store being out of your size (so you try on the smaller size but guess what it is too small and the end result is that you feel bad about yourself and throw that last donut right in the trash even though it was perfectly good)

·         Realizing you inadvertently locked your cat in the basement (for 24 hours and she has been without food, water, or a litter box, and yes—that was the “weird moaning sound” you heard down there)

·         Having an expired coupon (but not realizing it and presenting it anyway and the store does not honor it and you would not normally buy the thing without the coupon but now you are too embarrassed to put the thing back because that will make you look cheap to the salesperson who you will most likely never see again, ever)

·         Patches of invisible ice (on your front porch stairs, and then you slip and fall on your elbow—no, it’s not broken, but it sure as hell feels like it is)

Yeah, spam is like that. 

It is also fairly easy to recognize because for some strange reason, spammers do not speak very good English.  It’s like they all learned English as a second language from someone who spoke English as a third language or fourth or tenth language, someone whose native language is most likely so different from English that there are no such things as verbs or nouns.  These spammers talk in a language of garbled clichés and unclear rhetoric.      
So, for the past few days, instead of deleting the spam, I saved it so I could reprint it here for you for pure entertainment value.  Enjoy!      

·         This is very interesting.  You’re an overly professional blogger.  I have joined your feed and look ahead to searching for extra of your magnificent post. 

·         This piece of writing is in fact a good one it assists new the web users, who are wishing for blogging. 

·         Hey there and thank you for your information—I’ve certainly picked up anything new from right here.  I did however expertise a few technical points using this web site, as I experienced to reload the web site lots of times previous to I could get it to load properly. 

·         Asking questions are actually nice thing if you are not understanding anything entirely, however this piece of writing provides pleasant understanding yet. 

·         Pretty component to content.  I simply stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to claim that I acquire in fact loved account your blog posts.  Anyway I’ll be subscribing for your feeds and even I achievement you get entry to constantly rapidly. 

I wish this was fiction, but honestly how can someone make up stuff like that?      

p.s. And thank you to Youngman Brown for giving me today's topic!  I was thinking about writing about this, but you definitely pushed me over the edge.  :) 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

881. You Go First, No You

We all have a friend like Katarina:  the one friend who you can truly be yourself around, the one person you can tell anything and she won't judge you, the one friend who makes you giggle for no reason.  I have known Katarina for about four years, and I am kicking myself that I did not meet her decades ago.  Where has she been hiding?     

So Katarina calls the other day and casually says she needs to stop by with a “little something for Christmas.”  I pride myself on being a great gift-giver, so I am super-excited for her to come over because I have something for her, too. 

She arrives and we immediately dive into conversation, the type of conversation that never ends but just temporarily stops until the next time I am lucky enough to see her.  We talk about everything and nothing, our words punctuated with bright confetti laughter.    
She hands me a rectangular shaped box, exquisitely wrapped in thick gold paper and finished off with a green silk ribbon.  I hand her a square box with cartoonish reindeer wrapping paper.  There is no bow, as my kids used all my ribbon to set a trap for the cat two days ago.    

“You go first.”
“No, you.”

I begin to tear into the paper and I see beautiful note cards with an ink drawing of a sweet little cottage.  Wow, I think, that house looks so familiar.  After a few minutes, the worn-out synapses in my brain reach full capacity and I blurt out,  

“Katarina!  That is MY house!” 
That's right.  She hired a professional artist to come over and draw my house and THEN have the drawing made into notecards. 

My house.  Drawn by a professional artist.  Who does this for a living. 

I am flabbergasted at her creativity and generosity.  I am completely speechless. 

Her voice breaks the silence.  “Shall I open mine now?” 
I want to snatch the inferior gift I gave her out of her hand and immediately search around my house for something worthy to give her instead, like stacks of cash or perhaps a diamond tiara.  It’s too late.  She already has it open. 

“Oh, MOV, how wonderful!  It’s a … candle.” 
Her face registers only joy and gratitude, yet I feel compelled to justify the candle.    

“Yes!” she nods. 

“Soy-based!  No chemicals!”

“Fabulous!” she agrees.     

“It’s from the high-end kitchen store!” I offer, grasping at anything to make the candle be better than a candle. 
“I know!” she enthuses appreciatively.  “I love the high-end kitchen store!” 

I stare at the notecards.  Of my house.  That a professional artist has drawn. 
“Katarina, I have to tell you:  that is one of the nicest, most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.  I feel bad.  I should have gotten you something better …” 

Why did I not get her a new car?  A car is a good gift.  She could not top that. 
“MOV, don’t be ridiculous!  I love candles, and lemon is a great flavor.” 

“Whatever.  Anyway, I adore lemon!  I do.”  She smiles sincerely. 

“Oh, okay, then.  Good.  I’m glad you like it.”  I grin back at her, almost convinced that a generic candle is as good a gift as cards of my house.  Drawn by a professional artist. 
“How did the artist do this?” I ask. 

“Well, he drove over here to your house and took pictures.  Then he drew from the pictures.”  She shrugs, as if she is saying, Then I emptied the dishwasher, no big deal.
My mind flips back to that day at the end of summer when that strange stalker-ish person was camped out in front of my house with a camera.  I had called the police. 

I decide not to tell Katarina about that. 
“Katarina, thank you.  I love the cards of my house.” 

Maybe now is not the best time to tell her we are only renting? 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

880. I Said: I Repeat That

I hate re-runs.  I hate reading the same book twice and not even realizing it until the very last page.  I hate eating leftovers, especially if they involve meatloaf or mystery cheese or vegetables of questionable origin. 

So it should come as somewhat of a surprise that I am running a blog post that I originally wrote last January.  But guess what?  I'm busy.  I'm tired.  And it was a damn good essay.  Enjoy! 

My Rebound Fling With Santa

Did I ever tell you about this?  It was years ago.  I had just gotten through a bad break-up, and that’s when we started dating. 
What first attracted me to him was his positive attitude—he was always in a good mood.  He just had this way about him, he could light up a room, so to speak.

Kids loved him.  My mom has always said you can tell a lot about a guy’s character by how children and pets react to him.  I didn’t have a child or a pet, but I could see other people’s kids adored him.
And he was thoughtful.  I’d mention I had a tough day at work, and he’d give me a little felt penguin to cheer me up.  My room-mate and I had a fight, and Santa would show up with a tiny plush snowman.  One time I called him when my car died to ask if he could pick me up.  Of course he said yes.  I smiled to see he brought a fuzzy moose with faux suede antlers.   

The longer Santa and I were together, the more shelf space I needed for my stuffed animal collection. 
But it wasn’t the materialism that drove us apart, nor the binge eating. 

Oh, I didn’t tell you about Santa’s weight issues?  He had a sweet tooth.  In fact, he liked to joke that he had his dentist on speed dial.  (This was way in the days before cell phones and iPads, I guess everyone’s on speed dial now.)  He’d have cake for breakfast, cookies for lunch, ice-cream for dinner.  It was the Sugar Channel, 24/7.  At first, that was great.  I crave sweets, too.  But aren’t you supposed to be with someone who makes you a better person, not an obese one? 
The thing that came between us, though, was Santa’s insatiable appetite for attention.  People recognized him everywhere we went, and it got to be a bit much for me.  But S.C. (that was my pet name for him) thrived on attention.  He needed it, like I needed a trip to Hawaii. 

There you have it.  Another of our fundamental differences.  When things started to get serious, we would talk about where we should live, as the long-distance thing was killing me, and he loved the cold and snow.  He’d say, “How about Montana?  Or Alaska?  Do you like Northern Canada?  Have you ever been to Russia?” 
I’d suggest Miami or San Diego and he’d cringe.  He’d say (in that upbeat way of his), “Wow!  Miami is fantastic!  But you know what’s even better?  Greenland!”  There was just no arguing with him. 

He bought me a new coat, or I should say he had a friend make it for me.  He had a lot of “friends” that worked for him, he never told me his exact line of work except that is was “seasonal” and involved “import/ export.”  Frankly, the way he hid the details of his life, I thought he was involved in dealing drugs or embezzling funds or something shady like that. 
Turns out he was married. 

He had been upfront about things when we met, saying that he was separated.  His wife was a bit of a control freak, and the other thing was that they couldn’t have kids.  I don’t know if I mentioned this, but Santa was really crazy about kids.  It broke his heart to think he might not be able to have kids of his own.  He brought up kids a lot.
Santa:  MOV, how many kids would you like to have someday? 

Me:  Oh, I don’t know.  I never really thought about it.  One.  Maybe one, or I guess I could have two.  Definitely no more than two. 
Santa:  I want 15. 

Me:  Did you say 15!?  Are you out of your mind?  How would you pay for 15 kids? 
Santa:  Oh, I’m pretty financially secure.  Money is not a problem. 

See?  There was that secrecy thing again. 
He showed up on my doorstep one morning with a giant toy polar bear.  That’s when I knew something was wrong. 

“MOV, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Carol and I are getting back together.  I’ve really enjoyed our time together.  You’ve made me feel young and merry, but I miss Carol and I need to give our relationship a chance.  You are a wonderful person, MOV, and you deserve someone better than me.” 
That was it.  That was his whole explanation.  But instead of feeling like I’d been kicked and dragged by reindeer, I actually felt good.  That was part of S.C.’s charm, allure, and charisma:  he would take his idea and make you think it was your idea.  How could you be mad at someone like that?    

I haven’t thought about Santa in years, but the other day I found an old picture of us.  I was sitting on his lap, and we looked happy. 
("Missing Old Vixen")

p.s. If you like my essay, take it viral!  :) 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

879. Throw It All Away

This time of year does it to me.  When I am in the mall frantically looking for the “perfect” present for all those people on my gift list, I have this overwhelming desire to throw it all away.  I mean, just ditch my list, walk out of the mall with my pocket full of (unspent) cash, go home and throw away all my possessions. 

Do I need two TVs?  Do you?  Does anyone?  How many TVs can you watch at one time?  Do my sons “need” any more Legos?  Does The Husband “need” another scarf/ shirt/ tie? 

Do I “need” a Starbucks card?  Does my best friend? 
My house is cluttered right now.  Since my mom died a month ago, my sister has been mailing me boxes, boxes of old photo albums or faded letters or chipped plates or vintage dolls.  I open the boxes and then immediately get paralyzed.  The boxes are currently stacked in the corners of various rooms, waiting for me to do something with them, something constructive like put the contents away or make a decision about things. 

The only decision I can make is this:  NO MORE STUFF. 
I am feeling clogged. 

A few years ago, I went on a self-imposed spending “diet.”  For Christmas that year, instead of spending money on meaningless junk, I gave everyone a handwritten letter of why they mattered to me.  Granted, the mailman and my sons’ school bus driver might have preferred the cash, but I like to think that they were ripping up my letters in front of me in an effort to respect my privacy and also to not make other mailmen and school bus drivers jealous.
My point is:  stop buying stuff. 

Tell people you love them.  It is enough. 
("Materialism Overshadowing Values")

Monday, December 17, 2012

878. So What Does MOV Really Stand For Anyway?

People ask me all the time what my pen name, “MOV,” means.  They think it is something mysterious and glamorous, or possibly illegal. 

The truth is, “M-O-V” are the initials of my great-great-great-grandmother once removed on my paternal aunt’s cousin’s side of my mother’s family.  Her name was Mildred Orian VanSprakenhausenoyster.   I was almost named after her, but at the very last minute, it was determined that it might be bad luck since she had died on the Titanic immediately after having given birth to triplets three days prior.  All five of the triplets died.  It is not something we talk about in my family.  Ever. 
Until now.   

Mildred was quite a woman, having come over to America on the Mayflower and then having fought in the Revolutionary War, dressed as a man.  She was one of those people that sets an example for others by fighting for human rights and what is right, and prevailing over wrong when she knows that what she believes is right even if she might be mistaken (which she never was).  Also, besides having discovered the cure to the Bubonic Plague (a big problem back then, what with all the rats and everything), she used to date Benjamin Franklin.  Just think, she might have been Mildred Orian Franklin. 
But the relationship was frowned upon by my distant relative Queen Victoria.  Alas. 

Anyway, the point is, I have been writing this blog for two and half years now, so you deserve to know the truth.  I have HUGE respect for my great-great-great-grandmother once removed on my paternal aunt’s cousin’s side of my mother’s family, so that is why I use her initials in my fiction writing. 
And if some so-called “friend” of mine wants to tell you that MOV stands for “Mistress Of Vodka,” I hope you will know that she is just making it up.  Vodka tastes icky.  Especially in apple martinis.   


Thursday, December 13, 2012

877. Hint

"That Time We Thawed the Ice-Cream Cake for Two Hours." 

You're welcome. 


(And while you are here, maybe read my last essay too.  It's funny.)

876. Exactly the Same But Completely Different

My old boss from the high-end kitchen store phones me last week.  “You are coming back to work for Christmas season, right?”  I jump at the opportunity to be back with all my pals and to buy gourmet hot chocolate for 40% off.   

“You betcha,” I say cheerfully, already practicing my best customer-service-friendly voice. 
My first day back is almost like I never left.  Yep, there’s my buddy Stacy selling pans.  Gina is restocking food hall.  Lisa is ringing up customers and bagging their purchases. 

My manager approaches me.  “MOV, we have a few new people I’d like to introduce you to,” she says, gesturing to two men I have never seen before.  “This is Don, and this is Mike.” 
That is when it happens.  My mind permanently reverses their names, as it consistently does when I meet two people at the exact same moment in time. 

Don is 6’5 and African-American.  He is gorgeous and looks like a basketball player or a bouncer at a really chic club. 
Mike weighs 300 pounds and is bald.  He is approaching retirement age.  His orange tie has a coffee stain on it. 

“Nice to meet you,” I say.  Don and Mike Don and Mike Don and Mike.  Which is which? 
I force myself to make up a mnemonic device to remember who is who.  Debonair Don and Mediocre Mike.  Well, that is not very nice.  Debonair Don and Mere Mortal Mike.  Wait—or is it Dowdy Don and Magnificent Mike? 

I do what I always do in a situation like this:  fake my way thru it. 
“Hi Don and Mike!” I enthuse anytime I see them standing near each other, or thank God, chatting with one another.  If one wanders off to help a customer, though, I am ruined. 

“I keep confusing Don and Mike,” I confide to Lisa later when we are between customers at the cash register. 
She laughs heartily.  “Don and Mike?!  Are you kidding me?  There could not be two more different people.”  She shakes her head, thinking I am joking. 

“No, seriously, I met them at the same time.  Now I can’t tell which is which.” 
“MOV, come on.  They look nothing alike.”

“That’s doesn't matter:  I met them at the same time,” I repeat this little fact as if it should explain everything and earn me some major compassion points.  Oh, she met them at the same time!  Of course!
“Then just do what I do:  look at their nametags.” 

I am suddenly grateful that the high-end kitchen store requires all employees to wear nametags.    
Don/Mike walks over to me to ask a question about coffee makers.  I glance at his apron where his nametag should be.  I am stymied by its absence.  He notices I am staring.  

“What’s wrong, MOV?” he inquires, making me feel instantly terrible since he remembered my name. 
“You forgot your nametag!” I blurt out.  Then, fumbling to save the situation, I hastily add, “Corporate requires it.”     

“Oh, I know.  The manager ordered one for me, I’ll have it next week.”  He smiles wide, revealing his beautiful Don/Mike teeth. 
I’m hopeless.  I resign myself to the fact that I will be stuck calling him “Hey You” in the break room for another week or possibly eternity if his nametag gets lost in the mail. 

Well, at least I know everyone else’s name.  “Nice job with food hall, Gina!” I love sharing compliments with my good friends. 
Gina turns around and scowls at me.  “MOV, how many times do I have to tell you my name is Stacy?” 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

875. Long-Distance Hoarding

“What about the dolls?” 

It should be an easy question, right?  When your sister asks you about your deceased mother’s dolls and you have no daughters and no real attachment to porcelain dolls in wrinkled satin dresses from the 1940s. 
“We should keep the dolls,” you hear a voice say, and you realize it is your own voice into the phone. 

“Really, MOV?” your sister asks quietly, tenderness in her tone.  “There are probably five dozen dolls.” 
What are you planning to do with five dozen dolls?  Or even two dolls, or one? 

Where will you put them?  Your brain spins, like a child’s toy top, which come to think of it your mom might have collected, too.  You have no room for dolls.  You also have no room for rocks, but your sister just sent you your mom’s collection of geodes and crystals for your sons.  You have no space for extra Christmas ornaments, but a similar phone call last week produced two boxes full of vintage ornaments from your childhood. 
“I said, do you want me to mail them?” 
Your aesthetic could best be described as “Virgo Zen.”  You have a couch, two chairs, and some paintings.  Your whole house would be paintings if you could help it.  You would like to live in an art gallery or museum and lose yourself in the paintings. 

“Dolls are like art, right, Oakley?” you whisper. 
“MOV, I don’t have time for this, I’m exhausted.”  The words float away from you.  She does not sound impatient, just tired.  “The estate guy will be here this weekend to sell everything.  I went on eBay to compare prices and get an idea of their value based on their condition.  All together, we can probably get around $300 for the dolls.” 

What did you expect her to say?  Three thousand?  Three million?  And yet …
“Can you email me a picture of some of the dolls?  Can I have a few?” 

A few minutes later, your phone beeps and you see a Native American doll peering up at you.  She stands next to a broken china doll in roller skates and a Dutch doll with long blond braids and wearing wooden clogs.  There are twenty more photos like this.  Your phone cannot load the photos fast enough.           

You call your sister back.  She answers on the first ring. 

“Well, what did you decide?” 

You want them all. 

You want none of them. 

“I’m sorry, Oakley, I don’t know why this is so hard for me.” 
You choke back tears, you sitting at home in your pristine Virgo living room with your art, while your sister goes through 70 years of someone else’s possessions. 

“MOV, it’s okay.  I will box them up for you.” 
You are paralyzed by indecision.  Why do the dolls affect you so much?  They are not your mother.  But they belonged to her.  You struggle to untangle the emotions from the dolls or the Christmas ornaments.  None of it matters, really.  In the end, they are just things.    

“Oakley, wait—can I think about it and tell you tomorrow?” 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

874. I Am Judgmental of Mean People

If you read my blog regularly, you already know my mom just died of cancer.  And you know that I was in California for six weeks (along with my sister and brother) dealing with that.  The part of the story I left out is what happened while I was gone. 

While I was gone and The Husband took care of the kids, people thought that I had
·         divorced my husband
·         been fired from my job
·         had a mental breakdown
·         joined the circus

Really, people?  I have no juggling skills whatsoever.  I am much better at ice-skating. 
The point is, it did not occur to these people to—I dunno—ask!  As in, Where is MOV?  Is everything okay?  Is there anything I can do to help, like watch her kids for a few hours or weeks? 

Instead, people just jump to conclusions.  (And by the way, why is the phrase “jump” and not “slide” or “jog quickly”?  It is “jump.”  Maybe it should be “parachute to conclusions” or “skydive to conclusions with reckless abandon.”) 
So, now that I am back home, I have decided that I am going to be judgmental of people who decide to believe certain things about me without bothering to verify.  I started yesterday.  I was at Tall’s basketball practice sitting on the sidelines writing a few personal letters to some distant friends to let them know about my mom’s death.  It felt too impersonal to notify them in an email. 

I have some sad news to share:  my mom died on October 29.  I just wanted to—
“I wish I thought to do that!” interrupted one of the basketball kids’ moms.    

“Excuse me?”  I looked up at her. 
“You are so smart to use this time to do your Christmas cards.  You really have your act together.  I wish I was you!” 

I cried in the car on the way home. 


Monday, December 10, 2012

873. Meet My New Girlfriend: Siri

I finally buckled and bought myself an iPhone.  After years of sharing a single flip phone with The Husband, it was time to catch up on the evolutionary tech-fest journey that even my neighbor’s kindergartner had made.      

What I was not prepared for was Siri.  Oh, sure, I’d seen the Martin Scorsese commercials about Siri, but that made me afraid, not informed.  When the guy at the Apple store told me Siri was included on the new iPhone 5, I briefly considered backtracking to the iPhone 4 or even 1.  In the end, he talked me into the iPhone 5 for a variety of reasons (“It’s cool and your friends who are not yet eligible for an upgrade will be super-jealous”). 
At first, I ignored Siri.  I had lived for 30-something years without her (okay, 40-something); why did I need her now? 

But then the Apple store sent me a friendly email informing me that they offered a free iPhone class for Beginners. 
I called the Apple store to sign up, and a chirpy girl name Terri (eerily similar to “Siri”) assured me that there was no level before Beginner (“No, ma’am, we do not offer a Pre-Beginner class or iPhone classes for English as a second language, and by the way your English sounds pretty good to me”), so I was stuck.  I showed up and sat next to a college student who I was fairly sure should have been teaching the class, not asking questions about “How to store my virtual photos in albums” or “How to send my contact a contact” (?) or “What is the fastest way to delete multiple texts”.  He was like that annoying A+ student who always sits in the front making the rest of us feel like idiots. 
“Don’t you just love Siri?” he whispered to me and then gave me a quick pat on the back like I was a puppy. 

I gave a weak nod, and then the teacher Dhan (“Like ‘Dan’ but with an ‘h’,”) said we should “meet” Siri. 
“Press this button, and then you can ask Siri anything.” 

Anything?  Like if the fiscal cliff is real or if it is just a bunch of media hype? 
“Siri, what is the population of Atlanta?” asked the woman to my right. 

A no-nonsense voice replied, “Let me check that for you,” and next thing you know, a screen popped up with all kinds of interesting facts about Atlanta, including the population.  Too bad Siri was not around in the days of Trivial Pursuit because I might have actually won with her assistance. 
Next, I heard Dhan say, “Take a note, Siri” and Siri respond, “What would you like the note to say?” 

Finally, Mr. College Know-It-All requested that Siri give him directions to the closest Starbucks.  Now Siri was speaking my language.  She told Mr. College that “There are 17 Starbucks near you, which one do you want?” and then he selected the one that was inside the Apple store. 

I was puzzled how Siri knew our precise location, but then Dhan told us there was a global locating feature, and if you enabled it, then Siri could give you directions.  Mr. College gingerly took my phone out of my hand, pressed a few keys, and voilà!  GPS enabled. 
“You have to be careful, though, because the GPS can be a real drain on your battery.”    

I smiled like I knew what that meant.   

On the way home, I thought I would test Siri and ask her for directions back to my house.  Sure enough, Siri gave me a new route I had never tried that actually ended up saving me 15 minutes. 

Now Siri and I are inseparable.  I whisper blog ideas to her, dentist appointment reminders, and Target lists.  She dutifully writes everything down.  I tell her to call Jennifer, and she asks which one.  If she does not have an immediate answer for me, she coyly stalls by saying, “Let me check that for you.”  And if I miss a turn when she gives directions, she pretends we were supposed to go that way and she adjusts the route (without even once complaining or saying, “How did you not see that sign?!”). 
The only thing she can’t do:  help me find where I left my new iPhone in my house. 

Siri?  Siri?