Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lime Rickey, On the Rocks

When I arrived fashionably late it was clear that some women weren’t taking things slowly at all. A tall redhead with crazy wild eyes held on to a Green Dragon with both hands. A petite brunette kept pointing and laughing at the candy pink Sexy Rexy in her hands. I saw one older woman push her way through the crowd to the front. She forcefully asked the man behind the counter, “Do you have a double for me?”

The woman next to me couldn’t decide between getting a Sweet Rocket and going for the Many Happy Returns. “Oh, who am I kidding. “she said. “You know I’m gonna get both! I’m sooo bad!”

Two other women held on to each other as they pointed across the room. “I don’t know about you but I think it’s about time one of us went native!” They giggled loudly as they walked away.

I struck up a conversation with a man leaning on a table. “I never thought I’d get this lucky.” he beamed. “That lady just gave me an Ace of Diamonds. I hit the jackpot! Now I’m off to get some Sultan’s Water.”

The place was crowded and overwhelming. It was loud and busy and chaotic. It was full of people who were crazy and confident and full of character. They seemed to be having the time of their lives. They were throwing money around like they had just won the lottery. And I was pretty sure after hearing the word “labiatae” twice that some of them might have even been talking dirty. I was intimidated and uncomfortable. I knew that I didn’t fit in with these people.

I was pushing my way through the crowd toward the exit when that all changed. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I’d like to say that I was different than those crazy people. I’d like to say that I was able to have complete self control. I’d like to say that I just said no.

But I didn’t say no. I took one look and I knew I had to have it. It was when I couldn’t say no to that gallon of Lime Rickey, that I knew I might have a problem. I tried to stop the grinning and the laughing and the money from flying out of my pockets. I was powerless. I was addicted. I really was a plant person-just like all of the other crazy people there.

After ultimately spending two hours at that arboretum plant sale, I went home to plant my own supply of labiatae in my herb garden and the double petunias in the front yard and the Lime Rickey heuchera in the rock garden. And I vowed that next year, I was going to get in line early. My new plant friends told me that you’ve got to show up early if you want to have a chance at getting some Aunt Eliza’s Rat Tail. Apparently, it sells out quickly every year.

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When I arrived in the husband's family it was clear there was one woman who didn't take things slowly at all. I began to hear stories about this woman being struck by lightning and memorizing the bible and having something to do with runaway horses and buggies. Regular readers of this blog may remember a posting from January 8, 2009 about this same woman flying a Volkswagen over a snow bank.

Once in a great while, if you are lucky, you will meet a person who is larger than life. If you are really lucky she’ll share a Dr. Pepper with you and tell you some of her stories. The husband’s great aunt, Katherine “Kay” Keating,
passed away this week. She really was a larger than life person, full of more stories and fortitude and gumption than 10 men. The husband had the great honor of having her commission him as a United States Naval Officer. Because of Kay I learned that heaven really does exist underneath a lilac bush in the foothills of the Rockies. The teenager has learned, without one shred of doubt, that a woman can absolutely do whatever she sets her mind to. The boy has learned that barns are cool and mules are cool and falling on a barbed wire fence is definitely not cool.

I cannot encourage you enough to check out the link to Kay's obituary and a hometown editorial about her. She was quite a woman and she will be missed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Occasional Tickle

It started with an almost silent, innocent and occasional tickle. It ended with violent, debilitating and constant hacking. Somewhere in between we found the drugs, he fell asleep exhausted and I cried.

We were saved when the calm soothing voice of the doctor told him to “just relax, be the boss of your cough, everything is going to be ok, push your belly out when you breathe, use your nose to overcome your inflamed airway and it will all be ok….” Apparently, all we needed was a little hypno-babble, a bottle of water, a referral to a speech therapist for breathing lessons and a permission slip to pee…and cough… as much as he wanted to at school.

Go figure.

The boy has been ill the last few weeks. It was nothing more serious than a simple virus that morphed into his attempt to remove both of his lungs by violent expulsion.

At an earsplitting level.

Every 3 seconds.

We’ve been to the doctor too many times. He’s had hot baths and hot cocoa and Life Savers. He’s had nose sprays and allergy medications and antibiotics. He’s had pep talks and motherly love and fatherly concern. He’s had codeine and cough suppressants and ibuprofen. He’s had enough steroids to make him either ineligible for his Little League team or the MVP of the entire region. He’s had x rays and blood draws and breathing treatments.

We’ve been charged more co-pays in the last two weeks than we normally pay in a year. The bills that will arrive in the next few weeks will be more money than my so called writing career produced all of last year. The boy has missed more school in two weeks than the teenager has in 9 years. The family has been stressed. The family has been annoyed. The family has been altered. We’ve been put out. We’ve been inconvenienced. We’ve eaten too much pizza. The boy has eaten too much chicken soup. The boy has lost 3 pounds. I’ve probably gained them. The teenager accused him of faking it. The husband secretly wanted to escape to work.

We’ve filled out more forms than it takes to become a citizen. We’ve divulged our inner most secrets to the computer system. The thread count of our bed sheets, the sleeping preferences of our pets and my penchant for nasty Mexican TV dinners during pregnancy has been thoroughly analyzed and critiqued by those who apparently know more than we do. I’ve been asked if I’ve ever been concerned about the boy’s heart rate. I’ve been asked if the boy’s toe lint has ever appeared abnormal. I’ve been asked if I feel safe in my own home and if the husband is a threat to a stable family environment.

I’ve been asked why I wasn’t concerned when I heard that first tickle in his throat.

What I heard was, “Why aren’t you a better mother?”

I’ve been upset. This has been rough. We’ve had it hard.

And then, finally, we walked out of the children’s hospital, after our final visit with our specialist, the one who’s from the Mayo Clinic, the one who ALL the coughing people go to, the one who held the magical answers.

It was then that we saw the girl.

She was 2 weeks old. She was tiny. Her parents seemed so very young. She was in an adorable pink car seat attached to a stroller. She was sleeping.

Her father carried her oxygen tank while her mother pushed the stroller.

She needed that tank to live.

And as we waited for our elevator, we glanced back at that sweet baby girl.

And we felt lucky.

Check This Out!

In our many days of illness the Slightly Exaggerated family has watched Bolt, Hotel for Dogs and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Not being picky folk, we enjoyed them all. The coughing boy would like to point out that Journey to the Center of the Earth was his favorite. The husband would like to recommend the book, The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby. This has kept him occupied during many waiting room sessions. I would like to recommend the August, 2006 issue of Good Housekeeping. They have a great chicken recipe that I know you’ll love.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In This Economy

“Healthy breasts are something every woman deserves, especially in this economy. Can we count on you to help ensure the breast health, breast education and breast peace of mind for all women?”

The woman on the phone wanted my money. She was hoping that I would help pay for mammograms for uninsured and low income women.

“We find that our ‘most caring’ contributors enjoy donating two mammograms for women who can’t afford to pay themselves. Each mammogram is $90. Now let’s just confirm your address and I then I can put you down for our ‘most caring’ contribution of $180.”

“Oh wow!” I said with a bit of shock. “No, I’m sorry but that just isn’t going to work for me.”

Before I had finished my sentence the woman had begun to speak again. “Yes, I certainly understand that in this economy not everyone is comfortable being a ‘most caring’ contributor. Since breast cancer has touched so many lives however, we find that people still want to do their part to encourage breast health, breast education and breast peace of mind. Why don’t I put you down for our ‘just doing my part’ contribution of $90 to help pay for one mammogram.”

“No….no…I’m afraid that isn’t going to work for me either.”

“Yes, I certainly understand that in this economy not everyone is capable of doing their part. That is why we have begun to offer our ‘working together’ level of contribution. Your contribution of $45 will be combined with another ‘working together’ contributor to provide one mammogram for an uninsured woman.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, but even that is too much for me.” I apologized to the woman.

There was a moment of silence. The woman huffed ever so slightly. Then she started to speak, “Yes, I understand that in this economy…”

I interrupted her. “I too have been touched by breast cancer and I’m a huge fan of breast peace of mind and all the other stuff you’ve mentioned. I would love to help you out. But, in this economy, I can only afford to give $5. You don't by chance have an 'it takes a village' level of contribution, do you?"

Check This Out!

Here's a nice little song that just might get your toes tapping. Miss Kiss Kiss Bang by Alex Swings Oscar Sings is Germany's entry into the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest held in Moscow. No one seems to mind that Oscar is from southern California.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cat-1 Me-0

I’d like to make it clear from the beginning that it never crossed my mind to actually hurt the cat. I have spent an inordinate amount of time, however, thinking up ways to scare the living daylights out of it. The fluffy, long haired, orange cat from the next block over is a regular visitor to my yard. He likes to sit underneath the tree right next to my bird feeder. He hides in the evergreen branches, stealthily stalking and taunting the birds.

Seeing that my bird friends were in imminent danger of death by cat, I knew it was my responsibility to defend them. I needed to let the orange cat know that he was most unwelcome in my yard. I tried pounding loudly on the window. I tried opening the window and yelling at the cat. I put large sharp rocks underneath the tree. I even tried actually chasing the cat out of my yard. Appearing amused by my commotions, the cat would eventually trot out of the yard at a leisurely clip. Each time, he mocked me with his tail held high, brazenly stared me down and always registered a growly complaint. And within hours, he always returned.

It was when I saw the boy shooting the teenager in the head with his Super Soaker water gun that I knew I had found my answer. “In this family, we don’t shoot each other!” I scolded him. “Now give me that gun. I’ve got a cat to find.” I primed the boy’s water gun so it was ready to go and propped it up outside the front door. The next time that fluffy, orange menace threatened my birds, I was going to be ready.

My heart started pounding when I pulled into the driveway the following day. I saw him in his usual spot under the tree. I quietly snuck from the car to the porch and grabbed my loaded Super Soaker. I surreptitiously moved
behind the Japanese maple tree until I was within 3 feet of the cat. My finger was ready to pull the trigger when the cat finally noticed me. The jig was up. He sensed the new found liquid threat and he started to bolt. With lightening quick speed, I lunged after him with my Super Soaker. And with pure joy oozing from my pores, I aimed right for that evil fluff ball and pulled the trigger.

When the teenager and the boy found me on the porch they paused briefly to assess the situation. And then they let me have it.

The teenager yelled out, “Oh my gosh, mom! I seriously hope you never, ever own a real gun. “

The boy came up and grabbed the Super Soaker from my hands. “ I wouldn’t have given this to you if I knew you didn’t have a clue what direction to point it!”

I went into the house and got a towel to dry off my hair. I washed the dripping mascara off of my face. I changed my water soaked shirt.

I walked back downstairs and looked out the window at the bird feeder.

And under the tree, curled like a snake around the sharp rocks, and looking utterly content and dry, sat the fluffy, long haired, orange cat from the next block over.

Check This Out!

If any of your high school memories involve the band Van Halen, if you have a hard time driving 55 or if you’ve ever been to Cabo Wabo, then you might be interested in the hard rock sounds of Chickenfoot. With Sammy Hagar as lead singer and a few other well known musicians such as bassist Michael Anthony from Van Halen, guitar legend Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Chad Smith, Chickenfoot is a great surprise for those who like that sort of music.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to Clear a Stadium In 10 Easy Steps

1. Pull the boy out of school early to attend the teenager’s first track meet of the season by pretending he has an “appointment”.

2. Persuade the boy that sitting still for 2 ½ hours really will be fun by bribing him with saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup.

3. Drive just a bit over the speed limit, hit only green lights and get lucky finding a close parking spot because after all, the teenager is running the first event of the meet and you are not allowed to be late.

4. Haul the video camera, digital camera, hand held games, books, sunscreen, water, blanket, extra coat, hat, sunglasses, the paper with the order of events on it, and all of the boy’s bribery food from the parking lot to stadium.

5. Find a seat in the crowded stadium near the largest group of people you can find.

6. Cheer on the speedy teenager in an appropriate parental manner that will not embarrass her in any way.

7. Be somewhat inattentive as the boy begins a coughing and sneezing fit like none seen or heard before.

8. Appear shocked as you realize that the boy is only managing to cover his bodily emanations about 52% of the time.

9. Look empathetically apologetic toward the people as you watch them quickly gather their children and their cameras and their own bribery food and scurry to the other side of the stadium, glaring at you in harsh judgment the entire time.

10. To ensure that there are no stragglers left sitting around you, encourage the boy to replace the word, “achew!” with the words, “swine flu” when he sneezes.

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This week at the Slightly Exaggerated home office, we have been smelling the lilac bush, eating a lot of sun dried tomatoes and searching for 3/8 OD aluminum tubing. The lilac bush smells great. The tomatoes taste great. And the tubing connects the old AC condenser to the transmission cooler lines that go to the radiator so that the AC condenser can now magically become a heavy duty transmission cooler instead of the radiator so that the transmission will not overheat because of the super loose stall converter. The Slightly Exaggerated home office highly recommends that you try to find your own lilac bush and your own jar of sun dried tomatoes. Slightly Exaggerated can not claim any responsibility for injuries sustained if you decide to attempt your own tubing project.