Sunday, November 29, 2009

Crafts for Christmas - or Stuff I Shouldn't Do

Below is a piece that ran a few years back in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  However, due to my editor's snip happy fingers, the piece that made it to the paper was much abridged (thanks, Janet!  Just kidding).  This is the article, in its entirety.
 I promise, I'll get back to "normal" writing soon!  And, to my Aussie fans, send more comics!!!

I often tease about being crafty; I’m being facetious. Martha Stewart would have a heart attack at my house.  The only thing we have in common is cooking.  Crafting is for people with patience.
 I was watching her show the other day, and she was showing off all these homemade Christmas presents.  I’m sure if one of my kids had made one of them for me, I’d be THRILLED!  However, these were produced to be gifted upon your children.  All I could think of, though was what 16 year old wants a set of coasters made out of gift wrap?  As an adult, I’d think they were adorable.  But I’ve got kids who would think their mother had finally flipped her lid.
Besides, I don’t even own coasters – a magazine or newspaper works just fine, if we use anything.  Plus, we have “kid friendly” furniture (translation: really cheap, easily replaceable, & with no sentimental value whatsoever.).  A hole in a sock can easily be fixed with a safety pin, super glue, or just thrown away.  At my house, a sewing machine would be purely decorative.  But, we would get a good laugh if someone remarked that they didn’t know I sewed. 
All that being said, I have to admit I actually did do something really, really crafty one year.  I’d been out shopping at a mall, and just loved those huge, bushy garlands, dripping with ornaments.  I went everywhere to find one to buy.  Sadly, I had no luck.  Well, I’ll just make one myself, I thought.  That should have been my first clue – that I was thinking about crafting anything - ever.

But, once Lucy gets an idea, it’s pretty much a done deal.  I bought yards and yards of garland, and wired 4 strands together to make one big bushy one.  The week after my fingers healed, I set about stringing the lights.  Have you ever had an electric shock?  Ask me about it some time.
Two weeks, several trips to the craft store, countless bloody finger pricks & a few glue gun burns later, I stood back & congratulated myself on a massively bushy garland fit for any mall.  It was time to light her up & gloat.
I probably should have considered making it closer to the banister, though – all 15 feet of it.  I had to call the girls, a bunch of times.  They had pretty much avoided me during this project.  It was probably better that way.  Even though I used made up curse words, I used them quite a bit while making my mall worthy creation.
We all began to lug what was now being called, “The Beast”, to its’ resting place.  Two hours, several broken ornaments, and two irritated daughters later, we finally had “The Beast” up.
Now, I should point out that it wasn’t half bad.  And, after we’d vacuumed up the mess all over my living room floor, the hall, and down the stairs, it actually looked pretty.  We were ready to light it up.  (You have just GOT to know what’s coming!)
I had checked the strings of light to be sure that they were working before I began.  What I didn’t think about was connecting them together.  Turns out, there’re “male” and “female” plugs.  I’m trying to think of a way to put this delicately, so let’s just say my poor garland was celibate.  
I’m fairly sure my scream could be heard two towns over.  That, and the torrent of made up curse worse that seemed to flow from my mouth as if a damn had been burst & words I didn’t even know I knew spewed forth like molten lava, rolling gleefully & with utter abandon from my mouth.
Aubrie and Elyse were laughing, not knowing that I was about to turn my wrath on them.  As soon as they saw my face, they ran faster than a Mormon missionary from a bar at happy hour.  Yep, I’d proven again that I was no Martha Stewart.
I stood there glaring at The Beast.  Then, I fumed, fussed, plotted, planned & even cajoled.  There was NO WAY I was taking all those ornaments off that stupid garland to start over.  Finally, a decision was made.  I squared my shoulders, lifted my chin, grabbed my purse & went to the store for more lights.  I planned to drape them over, under, & around the decorations, making a chain to plug all the lights into together.
By the time I was done, I lit that bad boy up – and, boy did it ever LIGHT UP!   If I’d known Morse code, I could have signaled a space invasion from opposite sides of the planet.  Fortunately – for the family – no one said a word about the brief interruption in power, or the fact that their eyes were burning as surely as if they had been staring at the sun.
They oohed & ahhed, & told me what a lovely job I’d done (after they’d pilfered through their rooms to find sunglasses).  They didn’t think I’d noticed that they occasionally glanced nervously at the sky in the event an errant plane thought it had found its runway.
  But it was done, it was up, & I was finished!  I’d had my fill of crafts for Christmas for, well, ever.  My new motto is if I can’t buy it, we don’t need it.  And if I want it badly enough, I can usually whine & annoy someone else to do it for me.  To me, Martha, THAT’S a good thing.

It’s been a few years now, and I’ve learned a thing or two. Dogs and the beast don’t get along well.  As they bound up the stairs, their tails inevitably break a few ornaments or take out a string of lights.  By the time we take it down, the beast looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  The next year, we tie it to the banister and THEN replace broken or tattered ornaments.  We don’t even bother re-doing the lights.  We just drape new strings on top of the old ones.  Once it’s lit, though, you can barely notice (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it). 

So, if you come to my house at Christmas time, feel free to admire the Beast.  Word of advice, however; don’t look too closely or allow a body part to come into contact with it.  Remember that shock thing??

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Cell Phone Wars

When it comes to technology, I’m like pitting Gomer Pyle against Steven Hawking.  My kids keep trying to drag me into this century, but I always manage to find something to hold onto.

However, I have had a cell phone for a few years.  But, only as a matter of convenience.  You know, the car broke down, I’m at the grocery store, do we need anything?  Having one and knowing what it can do are two very different things.

So, when my husband, Matt, looked at my cell bills and realized that we were paying $45.00 a month for over 600 minutes, but I only used around 30, he decided it was time for a change.  Of course, I whined like a toddler being weaned from the pacifier.  After 2 years, I pretty much figured out how to use the phone I had.  But, logic won.  We switched to one of those “pay as you go” phones.  He asked what I wanted in a phone.  And here was my simple list:

1.       Must be a flip phone.  I know this is old school, but I’ve always felt that a phone should be large enough that you actually know that it’s there.  I did have one of those small ones for a while, but I always felt like Andre the Giant using a paper cup and string.  When people would call, I’d hold it to my ear to hear, then move it to my mouth to speak.  Ear, mouth, ear, mouth – honestly, I must have looked like a chipmunk on crack.  That phone didn’t last long.

2.      Must have a large address book.  For years, I lugged around a large organizer, solely to keep people’s phone numbers and email addresses.  It took a while to understand how handy the “contacts” portion of my cell was.  The only problem I have is that I can’t figure out how to put spaces between each word.  Fortunately, we homeschool, so I can decipher pretty much anything.

3.      Must ring LOUD and vibrate.  It had to be loud, because I can never hear those things.  The vibrating feature was a must as the stupid thing was usually at the bottom of my purse.  The vibrating allowed me to reach in and find it; or at least give me a shot at it.  Bonus, I usually find loose change.

Matt bought the phone that had all my criteria.  When we got it home, my daughter, Elyse, had a chance to look it over.  She exclaimed, “Mom, this is a camera phone!  Now you don’t have to try to fish your camera out of that suitcase you call a purse!”   I, of course, am thinking, oh, great, something with a lens.  I wonder how fast it’ll take me to break this bad boy.

She played with it a while, then asked if I’d like to try to take a picture.  She pointed to a button on the side and explained that all I have to do is point and shoot.  I held the lens thingy to my eye, and told her I couldn’t see anything.  “Is this thing on?  Elyse, I can’t see anything!”  I kept squinting through the little hole, but nothing.

Of course, my family is in stitches on the floor.  I couldn’t understand what was so darned funny.  We just got this thing, and it’s broken.  Finally, they turned the phone around and explained that I was trying to see through the part that was taking the actual pictures.  The “view finder” was the big screen on the other side.

The stupid phone also came equipped with “blue tooth” technology.  This is where you get this small device to stick in your ear, to both hear & SPEAK!  I looked at it & thought, “Beam me up, Scotty”.  Then I laughed really hard & gave it to the Boy.   

Another feature on my new little gadget is the speaker phone.  I had no clue until I hit the button by mistake, and suddenly everyone at the grocery store knew we were out of toilet paper.  Of course, I didn’t know how to turn it off, so I just hung up (and got the toilet paper).

So, yes, I’m far behind when it comes to this new age of technology.  But, so what?  Most of my friends are in the same boat.  And, if you’d like a laugh, give me a call on my cell.  I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll hear something like, “Why can’t I hear anything?  What did I just do?  Is this thing on?”

The Curious Case of the Brunette Lucy

The Curious Case of the Brunette Lucy
She was pretty dumb.