Friday, March 30, 2007

Idiots: What You Don't Know

What an idiot! At times it seems the world is full of people exhibiting unusual, unkind and unpredictable behavior for no apparent good reason. Is it possible, though, that there is something we don’t know?

You think the idiot in his black Escalade with tinted windows and aftermarket wheels, who aggressively and arrogantly stole your parking spot, is a perfect example of the selfish, materialistic, ignorant American. What you don’t know: He’s rushing into the pharmacy because he forgot to pick up infant Tylenol earlier on the way home from work. Now the baby’s screaming at home with yet another ear infection and his domineering and thoughtless wife has threatened to leave him, yet again, for being a stupid moron who never listens. Things will only get worse when she finds out he lost the $5 million dollar deal today and that he doesn’t know where they will get the money for next month’s $2800 house payment, $800 Escalade payment and the medical bills they have for his hair plugs and her implants.

You think the idiot checker at the grocery store could be a little friendlier, bag a little faster and remember the first time she asks whether you wanted paper or plastic. After all, that’s her job. What you don’t know: Her divorce was just final from her philandering husband of 24 years who left her for a 22 year old Deal or No Deal girl who also happens to be in medical school. Trying to regain some self esteem as she re-enters that dating world, she recently bought contacts, started using self tanner and began wearing a thong. Who knew today would be the day she’d lose one of those contacts in the parking lot, find out she’s embarrassingly allergic to self tanner and realize, amid much discomfort, that she is definitely not a thong kind of girl?

You think the neighborhood teenager who wears only black, listens to horror metal music and smokes like a chimney is an idiot lowlife who will steal your car on his way to a life of drug addiction and prison. What you don’t know: He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, was beaten by one parent and eventually abandoned by both. He’s seen his best friend die of leukemia. He has witnessed his elderly grandparents battle diabetes, a stroke and two heart attacks. If they die, he will be homeless. He’s fascinated by architecture, has seen every James Bond movie at least 3 times and thinks the gothic girl from history class with the purple hair is totally hot but is too afraid to ask her out. Besides, he doesn’t even have a car….at least not yet…….

You think the idiot driver that has been on your tail for the last 2 miles and then crossed the double yellow line to pass you right before the semi came around the bend in the road has a real problem with road rage and will kill somebody if he doesn’t get some serious anger management help soon. What you don’t know: This poor man has found himself in an extremely unfortunate situation and needs to get home quickly. He is about ready to spew forth copious amounts of diarrhea into his pants and all over the driver’s seat of his car. Now, of course, nobody wants to be an accessory to that sort of biological calamity. So, just let the poor man pass and get as far away from you as possible.

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Moscow, 1941 is an amazing musical composition by 31 year old composer, Brian Balmages that I heard this week at the local school district's band festival. The festival featured bands from 6th grade beginners up through the highly enjoyable high school jazz band. The best performance of the night, however, was Moscow, 1941 by the 8th grade musicians. It silenced the room. You can listen to it at
Scroll down to Grade 2 and click on Moscow, 1941. Then click on "play recording" about halfway down the page.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I am very short. While I’ve never been unhappy being short, I do believe I have had some unique experiences that taller people just don’t have.

When I sit down on a sofa or a chair, my feet never touch the ground. My pants are always too long and have to be rolled up or hemmed. I will often buy clothes in the kids’ department which explains why I have the same coat as a 7 year old neighbor. I’m always placed in the front for group pictures. I’m quite comfortable in the pint size 1st grader’s chairs at my son’s school. The dentist uses the children’s tools when he cleans my teeth. When walking, I have to take twice as many steps just to keep up with taller people. I often get stuck at the kids’ table at parties. For someone my height, 5 pounds is a noticeable amount of weight to gain. However, if I lose those 5 pounds I no longer qualify to donate blood.

The grocery store is often a challenge. Items on the topmost shelves are always out of reach. I’ve resorted to climbing the shelves to get the pine nuts, asking complete strangers to fetch me some chutney beyond my reach, and changing my dinner menu from couscous to rice halfway through the shopping trip because I saw I wouldn’t be able to reach the couscous.

I do have a stool that I can use in my kitchen if I need to reach something in the upper cabinets. Often it’s just easier and faster to jump up on the cabinets or on top of the fridge to reach what I need.

While it is true that I am very close to needing a child’s booster seat when I am in the car, I normally have no trouble driving. One day, however, the power seat in the car stopped working. I was unable to move the seat forward to where I could reach the pedals. My legs were dangling off the seat in mid air. In order to get my son to preschool, I had to get all of my living room throw pillows and prop them up behind me so that I was seated forward enough to reach the pedals.

I was walking home from the nearby elementary school one day and took a shortcut through the playground. The recess teacher began repeatedly blowing her whistle at me and demanded to know why I was leaving the playground during recess. She was shocked when I turned around and she saw my aging face. When she apologized for stopping me, she said she saw the back of my coat and thought I was a kid.

Perhaps the biggest problem with being short is that it is difficult to be taken seriously and garner the basic respect most adults take for granted. Just because I’m a cabinet jumping, grocery shelf climbing, recess escapee who sits in the tiny chair in the front of the picture, wearing my rolled up pants, unable to occasionally operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner does not mean that I shouldn’t be taken seriously. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go and get my stool. I have to get something out of the microwave above the stove.

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This week's obsessions: The game Yahtzee, the movie Sherrybaby, and chicken bacon ranch pizza.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Doggie Took Me Down

I think the blog is now set up so anyone can comment. So let's hear it! Comment away.

I was attacked by a dog the other day. It was a frightening experience. It happened so fast there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was running in my neighborhood when I saw a woman with two young children approaching. She was focused on the youngest child who was throwing a tantrum on the sidewalk. The other child, a boy around 6 years old, had a dog on a leash. As they approached, I slowed down and offered my hand for the dog to smell. The dog was extremely excited to see me, almost agitated. I could sense that it was a friendly excitement. It soon became apparent, however, that the dog was not well trained and the boy was not at all capable of controlling it. The overzealous dog jumped up and into me. He was not purposefully trying to hurt me, yet his front paws repeatedly pawed my legs. One paw caught the cord of my MP3 player and ripped the ear buds right out of my ears. Soon the cord was also ripped right out of the player. I was completely taken aback. I began to feel overwhelmed. The dog then pawed the MP3 player right out of the carrying case that was in my hand. I reached down to try and pick up my things. In his continued excitement to say hello the dog clawed a large scratch down my arm. I stood up and his front paws were right back on the front of my thighs. It was almost if he was trying to climb me. I felt sharp pain in my thighs. His very long and very sharp claws had gone right through my pants and punctured my legs twice. I could feel the blood running down my leg. About this time the mother had the youngest child under control and looked up to see the older boy struggling. She instructed the boy to “get moving” so they wouldn’t be late for school. She looked at me, apparently oblivious to the “friendly”, aggressive greeting her out of control dog had just presented me with and said, “I’m so sorry if he got in your way.” And then they moved on.

I put my MP3 player back together. Despite being injured and a bit shaken, I decided to finish my run. When I got home I inspected the puncture wounds on my leg. As I went to get the first aid kit I vowed that if I ever saw that little white cockapoo dog ever again, I was going to cross the street.

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I am having book withdrawal today after finishing The Caliph's House, by Tahir Shah last night. In this wild, utterly astounding and truly unusual travel/adventure book, Shah moves his young family from London to Casablanca, Morocco. This book was one of Time magazine's 10 Best Books of 2006 and it deserves it. Shah is my new favorite author. I've read 4 of his books so far. It won't be the last time you hear me sing his praises.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I Want a Do-Over

I’d like to go back in my life and do a few things over again. I’m not talking about anything large and life changing. But there are a few small incidents I wish had gone another way. If I had it to “do-over” again:

I wouldn’t have peeked out my window when I was 5. My aunts and uncles were secretly assembling a swing set for my birthday the next day. I was supposed to be asleep. It would have been the greatest surprise.

I would have found some paper. I wouldn’t have written on the freshly painted wall with permanent black marker 10 minutes before potential buyers were showing up to view our house.

I would have gone down the slide instead. I would not have gone across those wet monkey bars and fallen onto the asphalt below breaking both of my arms at the same time.

I would not speed write during the penmanship contest. It was shocking to find out I did not have one of the top 10 papers in the penmanship contest in 3rd grade. I wish I had realized the point of the contest was to write carefully and neatly, not quickly.

I would settle for a triple. In an attempt to hit an in the park homerun during my 6th grade softball game, I aggressively and without care, mowed over the catcher for the other team when she tried to tag me out at home plate. Did I mention she was my best friend at the time?

I would have read more books. I temporarily stopped reading books in the 7th and 8th grade in order to focus all of my time and energy on being head over heels in love with a boy.

I would have taken the back roads. I held up traffic in the busiest intersection in town, through three light cycles,
during rush hour, two days after receiving my license, because I couldn’t successfully let the clutch out of my 1973 baby blue, Ford Pinto without killing the engine. That was my first experience with road rage. I was on the receiving end.

I would have washed dishes by hand. I would not put liquid dish soap instead of dishwasher detergent into my aunt’s dishwasher. A truly shocking amount of bubbles soon poured forth from the sides of the running dishwasher and covered the kitchen floor.

I would have parked on the street. I parked in a friend’s driveway once. It sloped steeply downhill toward her garage doors. It was raining when I went to leave. I’m 100% sure I put the car in reverse. Or at least 98% sure. I stepped on the gas. The car went forward. I put on the brakes. The car still moved forward, sliding into and bending the garage door.

I would have asked for Farrah Fawcett hair instead. My number one incident that I would do-over if I had the chance is the dreaded 7th grade perm. I would ask my hairdresser exactly what she meant by “soft, loose and relaxed” curls.

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Snack of the Week: Triscuits dipped in ranch dressing. Addictive.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Barbeque Took Me Down

Hi. My name is Melissa. I am a suburban soccer mom and it’s been 12 years since I’ve driven an SUV or had a Costco membership.

I have been known to walk, yes, I said walk, to the grocery store instead of driving the ¾ of a mile to get there. I have purchased and actually worn garments from the local second hand store-more than once. I admit to owning a dented and rusting compact car with 215,000 miles on it. I actually get out of the car to open the garage door instead of pushing a button. Even more shocking, is the fact that our garage is used to store our cars and not our extra stuff. I’ve already given away all of the unused stuff in our house. We borrow CD’s, DVD’s and books from the library instead of buying them. I’ve reused plastic baggies. I regularly make dinner… from scratch. I choose a parking spot far away from the store instead of circling around in search of a closer one. My family has one TV that is neither flat screen or plasma. We have one computer that was bought used a few years ago. My kids do not have a Nintendo or a Playstation. They have never owned shoes with wheels in the heels. We don’t have an iPod or a digital camera or a Blackberry. And most shocking of all, no one in my family has a cell phone.

I’m sure you can see that we probably are throwback freaks not yet fully embracing the 21st century. Yet, somehow, our friends and neighbors have managed to accept us and our eccentric, quirky behavior. They assumed it wasn’t a conscious choice but instead a temporary situation due to a lack of disposable income. They knew it wouldn’t be long until we would be able to embrace the bigger is better attitude. They would be patient and friendly and supportive until we got there.

But one day that all changed. We crossed a line. It wasn’t cute anymore. They found out we didn’t have a barbeque.
Here we were lacking current technology. We were lacking style and class and refinement. We were borderline geeky, granola, left wing liberals. And it was our lack of a barbeque that bothered them the most. They asked us what we ate if we didn’t have a barbeque. They said that it was “just plain wrong” to not own a barbeque. We were accused of being anti-American. It only got worse when I told them that we used to have a barbeque but I had gotten rid of it. Assimilating into society was serious business and we had failed. We were kicked out of the suburban club of excess. We were exposed for the imposters we had been all along. Our reputation was ruined. It wasn’t the cell phone. It wasn’t the Playstation. It wasn’t the rusting car. It was a barbeque. A barbeque took me down.

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The movie The House of Sand tells the lifelong story of a woman desperately trying to escape the isolating sand dunes of northern Brazil. Gorgeous movie. Gripping story. Subtitled. Rated R. Edit two scenes and it's a safe PG.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

"Has anybody seen the transmission?"

We have a car project at our house. When I say "we", I mean not me. Or the kids. When I say "car", I don't mean basic transportation. I mean a '69 Camaro drag racing car that has a name and is as much a part of the family as the pets are. When I say "project", I mean a significant negative drain on the bank account.

I received a call the other day. It was a message for my husband. Apparently, Dirty Dan the Tranny Man would be done working on the Camaro transmission in a few weeks. It would cost hundreds of dollars.

I had no idea the transmission was even out of the car.

It's not the first time my husband and I have been on two different pages concerning this car. At times I feel we are even speaking two different languages. I speak English. He speaks a mutated auto-geek, gearhead version of English.

Gearhead English
The rear end is the back end of the car and has its own gears. The carb is under the hood and has its own jets. The intake manifold connects the carb to the heads which are on top of the block. The rockers are on top of the heads. The main studs are on the bottom of the block. The quarters are in the back of the car. The tranny will be returned after we pay Dirty Dan the Tranny Man. Cash only, of course. My husband's dream is to cut a perfect light and finish the quarter mile race in 12.9 seconds with his newly restored sbc-which obviously means small block Chevy if you're a gearhead.

Wife English
My rear end is always a little too big and has it's own cellulite. The carb can either be whole wheat good or white bread bad. A jet is always an airplane. My intake is always connected to consuming too many carbs which my head said would taste even better with a little butter on top. A manifold seems like a dream since I have rarely had a man fold any laundry at my house. Rockers are on the top of the music charts. Olivia Newton John certainly thought John Travolta was a main stud in the movie Grease when she said, "Tell me about it, stud." Before I met my husband, the only thing I thought was on the block were the New Kids. Quarters are lost money underneath the seat of the car. Dirty Dan sounds like he should be on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List with a $10,000 reward attached to his head. Cash only, of course. My dream is to have perfectly dimmed light during a romantic meal with my main stud of a husband where my intake of healthy carbs allows me to eventually have a smaller rear end. Oh, and during this romantic evening we won't talk at all about the letters sbc-which obviously mean sucks big cash, if you're a gearhead's wife.

Check This Out!
Justin Timberlake's song What Goes Around and accompanying video with Scarlett Johansson off of his most recent album "FutureSex/LoveSounds" will make you want to get up and dance.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

"Has anybody seen the butter?"

I've been thinking for a few weeks now how to begin my blog. I've thrown out many ideas. They weren't big enough. They weren't smart enough. They weren't funny enough. So I wrote nothing. I was waiting for the perfect story.

Then a few days ago my cat figured out how to open the door to the kitchen cabinet. He climbed in the cabinet and up onto the second shelf. He somehow found the bowl that was holding a new stick of butter. When I found him 15 minutes later, he was on the other side of the house. I managed to find the route he took from the kitchen by following the butter trail he left on my carpet. I saw that he had only half a stick left. His whiskers were thick and yellow. His face was a greasy mess. His paws were leaving butter prints on the floor. He was in a gluttonous coma in butter heaven. I was furious, of course. 

I attempted to wipe him up and then put him in a "time-out". As I was cleaning the floor and listening to him howl in protest from his kitty jail cell, the whole incident became very funny. I was on my hands and knees cleaning butter from my well worn carpet that my cat had stolen from the shut and presumably kitty safe kitchen cabinet, and then proceeded to drag through 5 rooms of my house to where he felt safe and relaxed enough to sit down and eat half of the stick before he was caught red pawed with his nose buried in butter. How could that not be funny?

A few days later I was in Babies R Us shopping for items to "baby proof" my kitchen cabinets. The sales lady who approached me asked me how old my baby was. I told her he was 10 months old. She told me it was the perfect time to be babyproofing as my baby was now most likely becoming quite mobile. It was then that my 7 year old son piped up and said, "Oh he's mobile all right! He's our cat!"

I decided then that I didn't need to wait for a "big" story to start my blog. It is the stuff that happens every day that often make the best stories. So I hope you will join me as I explore the stories that happen every day. And I promise, they will only be Slightly Exaggerated.


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At the end of each blog I hope to tell you about things I find interesting that you might as well. It might be a great book. It might be a fabulous recipe. It might be a website.

Today I am highly recommending the book "The Bookseller of Kabul" by Asne Seierstad. It gives a great post 9/11 account of life in Kabul and Afghanistan in general.