Saturday, December 15, 2007

What Grinds My Gears, Part Deux

This is what I looked like yesterday afternoon as I left Cracker Barrel. Yeah, kinda "Grinchy", huh? You know, I swore I wasn't going to write one of those posts during the month of December. I just wasn't going to do the full out, can't stop running my mouth, gotta gripe until my lips are sore kind of complaining during this, our most joyful and happy holiday season. But geez. It's almost like I have to or I'll bust. That's right, folks. It's another "What Grinds My Gears" post! So get ready 'cause here. I. go.

These are things that really and truly just Grind My Gears:

1) Being seated at a restaurant and then forgotten. You know, like you've become invisible. You're handed a menu and then Presto! you're all alone. For days. Take yesterday afternoon for instance. I decided to treat myself to a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I go in, I get seated at a table, I read the menu, decide what it is I'm going to order, get out my Christmas shopping list to work on until the waiter comes by, dig for a pen, mark something off my list as being done, find my mini-notebook and turn to a blank page so I can rewrite the list in a more legible form, dig around in my purse again for my paperback book (I might want to read a little when my breakfast arrives), set everything up, go over the list of what I need to look for, file for my social security and complete the paperwork for my AARP membership that I started filling out back in December of 2007 - see because, by that time, I still had not been acknowledged by one single Cracker Barrel employee. That's not to say I hadn't been near any employees...why at least a half dozen of the apron-wearing blind bats had walked right past my table. And not one of them so much as said, "I'll be right with you" or "Have you ordered?" or "Piss off, lady. You don't look like you'll tip near enough for me to wait on you". So I put my list and my notebook and my pen and my paperback book away. I put my jacket back on and I headed for the exit. On the way out, I told two employees, who were lounging around in the gift shop waving at customers as they entered the store that they could tell the hostess that my table was available for seating as my seat no longer would be occupying one of the chairs at that table. I said I found it a tad bit annoying to receive absolutely no service because, well gee whiz, if I wanted to sit in an uncomfortable chair and write out a list, I'd of headed to the library, not a restaurant. Since I was looking for a cup of coffee and a little sustenance however, I was taking myself to a different location, preferably a restaurant more interested in customer service. And I flounced out of there with just a touch of Grinch like attitude.

2) Next on the list, forwarded e-mails that contain dire warnings of truly stupid things that the sender has not bothered to verify. For example, I was forwarded an e-mail about the dangers of letting your young children play in the ball pit at Burger King or McDonalds because - gasp! -a young child was bitten by a poisonous snake while playing in one and died! Oh wait a sec. After a minute or so of research, that was found to be false. And then there was the e-mail that told of the horrors a young child experienced after his mother washed his face with a Magic Eraser cleaning pad. Well, duh. The woman washed the kid's face with an abrasive cleaning pad that is used to get crayon marks off of walls. What'd she think it would do to a young child's skin? But the e-mail chose to say that the Magic Eraser contained "dangerous chemicals" and "wasn't properly labeled". People! It is a household cleaning product. Would you let your child play with a bottle of ammonia, too? And just yesterday morning, Randey forwarded me an e-mail about a "Merry Christmas Computer Virus". Very dangerous. No "cure" for it. You open it and your computer is dead. Kaput. No saving it. Yeah, right. One minute of research later (and by research, I mean I actually clicked on the link that was included in the e-mail) and I found that the "virus" was one that had been circulating back in 2004 and is now easily caught and disarmed by most anti-virus software and that the so-called "Merry Christmas Virus" that was supposedly spotted by McAfee and reported on by CNN does not exist. I beg you - don't pollute my inbox with your unsubstantiated scare-mails. Do a little research before you pass something on as fact. It's like cyber gossip, for Pete's sake!

3) Here's something that really twists my knickers. Listening to unemployed little minor children talk about how they (which in actuality means their parents, not them) never buy clothes at Wal-Mart and in fact, only shop in stores such as Aeropostle, American Eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch, blah, blah, blah. Well I got news for you, you entitled, egotistical, arrogant and annoying little don't actually buy anything from anywhere. It's your parents who are doing the buying and, while it probably seems absolutely wonderful to have nothing but the finest in life now, it might give you a few awkward moments later on in life if you ever have to actually fend for yourself and have to do so based solely on your personal skills and/or charms. Parents, I'm all for showering your children with love, affection and gifts. But how about teaching them the fine art of modesty as well. I don't care what your and, by extension, your children's standards in life are as long as they don't preclude treating the rest of us mortals like we're human and, as such, of the same value. (This particular rant was probably brought about by my Christmas shopping woes more than anything else).

4) This one is a personal favorite of young people (my daughter and her boyfriend for example) who can't manage to hold down a job, but feel fairly certain that they deserve the world handed to them on a platter. The boyfriend, who seems to believe that he has a "career" as a truck driver, can no longer drive trucks, namely because he's got too many tickets and wrecks on his driving record (I won't even get into the stupidity of that). And, according to this genius, since truck driving is a "career", he's quite unable to look for work in any other field. Well here's the deal, buddy. I have a career as a housewife. I do. But. Should things change and we require a little extra income, I'm willing to give up my "career" and cross-train into another field. You know why? Because that's what normal people do. They work in order to pay the rent, make the car payments, put food on the know, all those little things in life that some people seem to think should be simply granted to those clever enough to have a "career". Do I sound bitter or just pissed? Hmpf. I'd say it's too close to call.

5) This is another thing that makes my eyes twitch; the news media and their stupid ass remarks, methods and practices. Here's what passed as news during the coverage of the wild fires in California...they showed film of the homes that were burned or threatened by fire followed by a long shot of the fires and then this! a close-up of the reporter saying ever so somberly, "Not quite a nuclear winter, but certainly a fiery fall". Say what? A nuclear winter? I mean, wow. The fires were quite devastating, obviously. And they might have even been caused by an act of man. But I don't see the connection between a jerk with a gas can or a careless toss of a lit cigarette and a nuclear bomb. Really. But gosh, it did sound melodramatic enough, didn't it? But I gotta tell you. I didn't need her dramatic words and delivery to better illustrate the horrors of wildfire. Really, I didn't. And then there's the "new" news...which is to say, not exactly reporting the facts as they used to do back in the day. No, no...this is something much more...oh what's the word?....ummmmm...let's about "inciting". Yeah, that's the ticket. Inciting. Not to be confused with "insightful". I recently listened to this exchange between a news anchor and a reporter: Anchor: "Bob, have you been able to confirm that report?" (This being the very "report" the reporter had just spoken of which, if it hadn't been confirmed, probably shouldn't have been reported on to begin with!) Reporter: "No, but we've been led to believe it was a Belief in God argument". Anchor: "So we believe that this person may or may not have believed in God and the people around him, particularly the teacher, may have disagreed. Is that correct?". Reporter: "Well, that's what we've been led to believe". Okay. So tell me. What factual, beneficial and newsworthy information did the reporter and/or the anchor impart to us, the public? None. Zero. Nada. The entire segment was conjecture, opinions and salacious gossip for an ever increasingly numb public who can no longer tell the difference between news and B.S. because the esteemed (and I very much use that word lightly) Fourth Estate has become more of an outlet for fodder rather than fact. These two were merely filling the airwaves with garbage because they had nothing better to say. And we, the people sitting there watching that nonsense, are why they are able to do it. Our society loves that crap. Hyperbole as news. Perhaps a sign of what our society is becoming.

6) This kind of ties in with the previous rant...I saw a woman up in Colorado way back in October talking to a reporter about why Columbus Day should be outlawed. This woman was a Native American and was quite loud with her protests. Not necessarily cogent, but certainly loud. Why did this person feel Columbus Day should be abolished and made illegal? Because the celebration of that day, i.e, parades thru the streets, talk of it in schools, etc., was "terrorizing the Native American children". Terrorizing? My first thought was "Lady, what in the hell have you been telling your kids about Columbus Day?" Now don't get me wrong. Personally, I'm not sure why we celebrate Columbus Day, seeing as how we've been told for many, many years that Columbus is not the one who actually discovered America. My concern about the reason for this "holiday" is because it seems kind of stupid if it's based in something that just isn't true. But this woman was actually stating as fact that this very celebration was "terrorizing" innocent children. Yeah. Have one of your "terrorized by Columbus Day celebrations" Native American children talk to a child living under the rule of a cruel and murderous despot (and let's face it, Saddam Hussein was by no means the last one of those in this world). Have them compare their definitions of "terrorized". I think you might see a difference.

7) Oil companies. They really get me all kinds of jack-jawed. They had to raise prices after Katrina because it affected their refineries so severely. And then they had to raise prices again after Rita for the same reason. These oil companies are almost innocent bystanders in the whole gas-price-rising fiasco. I mean, geez, if its not natural disasters, then it's our own government, who just keep taxing gas at the pumps like crazy. Yeah - God and government. That's was causing our gas prices to rise. And yet...these poor, pitiful, hands-are-tied oil companies report profits in the billions of dollars every quarter. I'm sorry, but I just don't think it takes a math major or a culinary expert to tell when we're being fed a huge quantity of bullsh*t.

8) And speaking of bullsh*t...let's talk about insurance companies. Did you know some normal, regular, not-living-in-a-mansion people in the Florida panhandle had their insurance rates increased over 4 times what they were paying prior to 2004? My sister actually works with a person who is now paying $6,000 a year for homeowners insurance. Why? Because of all the hurricanes in Florida back in 2004. Didn't you know? The insurance companies took a huge hit from those! Sure, they'd been collecting premiums for years and years without any huge payouts, but well gosh! That year was rough! So they have been legally allowed to extort money from John and Jane Doe Homeowners in order to provide coverage in the event of another disaster. And then there was Katrina and Rita the next year. We all know what happened with them. (Okay, so some of us have forgotten that it wasn't just New Orleans that was affected - large portions of the Mississippi Gulf coast were completely obliterated and I believe even some coastal Texas towns were affected, but that's not the story from most of our trusty Fourth Estate.) Anywho, since the insurance industry had to actually pay out some of that money they've been raking in year after year, they've decided to just stop providing coverage in certain areas. It just costs them too much. But, since they've already had to pay out so much, they're allowed to raise rates nationwide to help them recoup their losses! Yay! And yet, many of those insurance companies that were so devastated by these horrific disasters (geez, imagine how the people who lived thru them felt!) also pay their executive staff, particularly their CEO's, exorbitant amounts of money year after year in the form of bonuses. I suspect that the more they are able to get away with having us, the insured masses, pay for their expenditures with our increased rates, the bigger bonus these CEO's get to take home. So tell me again why it's okay and downright "unavoidable" that our rates went up? Yeah, open wide, America....

WHEW! Okay! Glad that's out of my system. I can't imagine too many of you have hung in there for this whole angry, vicious and tactless post, but for those that did, my apologies. I think I'll be able to post happy, happy thoughts for the rest of the holiday season since I've released all this angst here. Or maybe not. I'm going shopping once more today. No telling what might set me off again! But, in the meantime, here's hoping that the day brings new wonders of Christmas magic for all of us! And if it doesn't, may I be granted the strength to just shut the heck up and press on as if it did!
Merry Christmas Ya'll!

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

S'more Fun Than I Could Have Imagined

One of the many fun traditions that I didn't do with my children 'lo these many years is the making of S'mores. Yeah, I know...what can I say? We never made them when I was a kid so it wasn't something I felt driven to do with my kids. Until recently, that is. I bought one of those pre-packaged kits at Wal-Mart for S'mores making. Kaleb and Jacob thought it was pretty cool, although I'm still not clear on the thrill of S'mores making in a microwave. But, given the lack of campfire in our backyard, a microwave was, by default, the method of choice. (Okay, so I guess that means it wasn't really a choice, so much as an "only option" but let's not split hairs, okay?) Here's Kaleb making a goofy face. (I'm sure it was the thrill of the S'more that caused this look.)
And here's Jacob, also looking a little bit dorky. Don't know if I can blame the S'mores for that, too, or if maybe it was the milk causing his look of smiling bewilderment. (Hmmm...a case of lactose intolerance developing perhaps??? Okay, maybe not. Odds are good he's just a dork.)
Here's Kaleb again....almost looks like he thought the S'more was attacking his fingertips, huh?
And lastly, here's Jacob again. Caught in the act, drinking from the jug of milk almost like he had good sense. (Oh sure...Milk does a body good, but I don't think it helps with manners!)Now that I've checked S'mores off the list, what fun tradition should we try next? Wonder if I could talk the boys into a little fun, festive caroling?? lol

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Roses

I was outside, fixing my Santa display yesterday, when this caught me eye. Are roses like this supposed to bloom so close to Christmas? I want to fuss about the warm weather we've been having....but then I see something like this and think "eh - warm temperatures aren't so bad".
Hope those of you who got caught in the ice storm have gotten your power restored by now - and remember! ~ If the ice and cold get to be too much for you, mosey on down my way and warm up a bit. There's always room at this inn. lol
Merry Christmas Ya'll!

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Sunday, December 9, 2007


Traditions are a funny thing. Sometimes you'll hear of someone's favorite tradition and you think "Oh how wonderful! We should start doing that!". And then other times, you'll hear something and say "Oh. Now that's just weird". lol I remember when Nicholas, my oldest son, went to spend Christmas with his father and his step-mother at his step-mother's parents' home. Nick was probably 10 years old at the time. He was appalled that they opened all their presents on Christmas Eve! That was one of their traditions, but that just wasn't how things were done, as far as Nick was concerned. He was downright upset about it, too. You see, our tradition was that the kids got to open one present on Christmas Eve. That was it. One present. And they, the children, got to pick the present. If they picked socks and underwear, well that was just funny. (Yes, people. Single income households with 4 young children sometimes do buy socks and underwear for their children as a gift at Christmas time. When money's tight, everything counts as a gift! lol). If they picked the toy of their dreams, that was funny, too. That was our tradition and I know it's one that is shared by many. Traditions bring you comfort and joy and a sense of belonging to something, don't you think?
Well, a few years ago, when the kids got older, there was a lot of "pilfering" going on with the packages under the tree. When Mom and Dad weren't home, the kids were sneakily opening their presents and then sealing them back up before anyone caught them. But, like most kids, something gave the game away. Somehow, we found out what they were doing. I don't even remember how we found out now, but find out we did. And that's when it came to me. I remembered something that my mom did to my sister and me a couple of times back in the day (and for the very same reason, too!). She "numbered" the presents instead of putting name tags on them. Yeah, numbered them. And she's the only one who had the list of what number went to which person (we all said extra prayers for her well-being during those holidays...whatever would we do if that list became lost or stolen or - gasp - if she was hurt in a car wreck and got amnesia and forgot where she'd stashed The List?).

So I implemented the Numbered Gifts Tradition in our home, too. Oh the groans, the moans, the cries of outrage! I was the cruelest, meanest, most awful-est Mom in the whole wide world! I was taking all the fun out of Christmas! (My children can be sooooo melodramatic when they try. Wonder where they get that from?). Sure, sure. I knew how they felt. After all, my mean ol' mother had done the same thing to me. But this time, I was the do-er, not the do-ee. Much better point of view, let me tell you! And I reveled in the madness. All the packages survived the season unscathed and ready to open at the accepted time (Christmas morning). The gifts were truly a surprise, like they were intended to be. Nobody knew ahead of time what all they'd gotten. It was great. I loved it. They loved it. All was well.

Until the next year. When I put the first wrapped presents under the tree and the kids saw numbers instead of names, they were back to feeling outraged. How could I do that to them? They'd learned their lesson last year and promised not to peak and pilfer! Promise, promise, promise! Cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye-Promise! Ha. Ha. Ha. Like I'd fall for that. No, no, my little darlings. Mom has found the fool-proof method to keep little prying hands and eyes away from the gifts and I'm not about to give it up now. And so goes the birth of The Numbered Gifts Tradition in our household.
Well, a couple of years ago, Christmas time rolls around and it's time to start wrapping new gifts. I realized then that there were only 2 kids left in the house, Kaleb and Jacob. Surely it was time to go back to name labels instead of numbers. One night, we were discussing Christmas lists and I said something about not doing the numbers that year and the boys had a fit. Not do numbered gifts? What was I thinking? Mom! It's tradition! So here I sit. Caught in my own net. I continue to number the gifts, which means I have to keep a list of what's what and which number goes to which person. And I have to keep that list in a place where no one else can find it, but where I can remember where I put it! And as I get older, that last part just keeps getting harder and harder! (Oh and how do you do a mysterious enough list of numbered presents with just 2 kids in the household? You number some of your husband's gifts, too, just to keep the formula a little more complicated!).

So what's some of your holiday traditions? I'd love to hear about them!

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