Othello And His Frenemies Are In The House

029My neighbor dropped by yesterday.  Or more accurately stated, marched up my front walkway with a stack of papers under her arm and a determined expression on her face.

The house was unusually quiet for a Monday afternoon, and the table was unusually clear.  Well, there was a spot in front of one chair without school books or art supplies, anyway.  The front door was open, so I called for her to come in from my corner of the table.  She slid into the chair with a sigh, dumping her papers on the table, and exclaimed, “I have to get these graded and I keep falling asleep at my house.”

I warned her of the impending barrage of piano students and siblings that were due in the next hour, but she assured me anything would be better than waking up on her couch again and discovering that she still hadn’t finished.

And so she corrected English papers and I fielded emails and worked on lesson plans.  She is an English teacher for a high school in Long Beach.  She has been teaching for over 30 years.  I have been teaching and tutoring English for the last few years myself, so we often commiserate on the state of the language.

After a few minutes she grimaced and said, “What the–?”  She handed me a test paper on the Shakespearean play, Othello, and asked,  “What does that say?”

The question on the test asked for a description of the character Brabanzio’s reaction to a certain event.  In answer, the student had scrawled the words “In the hose.”

After some deliberation, we determined that the lad had intended to write, “In the house.”  Wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, I conjectured that perhaps during a lively discussion of this event in class, one of the students had summed it up with the euphemism, “in the house,” and that this student had thought the phrase so fitting to the event, that he assumed she would know what he meant by it.  And that also, he was perhaps dyslexic and therefore didn’t realize that he was leaving concepts out of his sentences. I then tried to come up with a connotation of this phrase, (“I have arrived!”  “The gala can start now!” “Everyone is glad to see this certain person!”) that would fit the event.

A few minutes later, she came across another paper with the same response.  “Ah,” I responded to her wisely. “This just adds credence to my theory.  This must have been a comment that was made in class, because another student remembers it.”

When she discovered a third paper with the same answer, I was about to claim it as proof positive, until she noticed that one of the other answers on the page was identical to the same question on the other two tests.

“Oh,” I responded flatly. “So they were just cheating.”

“Well, that’s bad enough,” she exploded, “but they copied something that made no sense, and this one kid didn’t even copy THAT correctly!  ‘In the hose,’ indeed!”

She continued correcting, then stopped again, puzzled, and read aloud another question: “Describe the relationship between Iago and Roderigo.”

I waited.

She sighed and read the answer: “They were frenemies.”

026“Okay,” I reasoned, “Perhaps the student truly does not realize that that is not actually a word.  They hear it used all the time – how would they know it’s not correct?”

“Oh, it may actually be accepted in the dictionary already,” she countered.

I looked it up.  It is.

Eventually she came to an answer that stopped us, speechless, in our tracks: “What is the play Othello about?”

The answer: “An African American guy.”

I just don’t even know where to start with that.

Categories: Education | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Diagnosis Diabetes: After a Year

025It’s actually been a year and almost three months since the 12 year old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  A year and three months of shots, insulin, blood testing and Those Infernal Glucose Test Strips scattered all over the floor.

He swears he puts them in the trash can.  But there they are, on the floor, stuck to the bottom of my shoe, under the couch.  I have even found them inside my book bags. And of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, once in my salad.

Our floor has also been carpeted this year with the paper seals from insulin pen needle cases, and the little green caps from pen needles (which, just for the record, hurt JUST as bad as a LEGO if you step on them barefoot), and occasionally the needles themselves (I think we have already established that those hurt worse than LEGOS).

We had some real fun back in August, when the 12 year old left his insulin pen in its case on a bench at an outdoor mall, and five minutes later, when he ran back to get it, found the case, but no pen.

At least it didn’t have a needle attached to it, so whoever took it couldn’t have given him or herself a shot, because that could have been really, really bad, if not fatal.  But seriously, what kind of person takes an insulin pen that they find on a bench?

A month ago, the 12 year old was finally put on an insulin pump.

<pause for heavenly music and rainbows>

No more pen needles!  Only one needle every three days instead of 5-6 shots a day!

The blood testing remains a constant, however, 5-6 times a day.  So the Infernal Test Strips are still the bane of my existence.

The pump gives him a steady supply of insulin throughout the day, as well as delivering extra when he reports that he is about the eat carbs, so overall his blood sugars have been much more manageable.

Everything is wonderful.

027Well, EXCEPT FOR the times when the pump doesn’t work.  It can be bubbles in the tube, or the catheter (infusion set) not being set correctly, but when the pump fails to deliver insulin, it gets very bad, very quickly.

A week after he got the pump, there were bubbles in the delivery tube, which meant he wasn’t actually receiving any insulin. His glucose number was so high then the meter couldn’t read it. That means it was over 600.  Normal is 80-150.  Very bad, very quickly.

Although we gave him an injection of insulin and brought it down right away, he ended up with such bad stomach cramps at 6 a.m. the next day that I called 911 for the first time ever.  By the time the ambulance and paramedics arrived, the stomach cramps had lessened enough that they let us drive him to the ER instead of giving him a $1000 ambulance ride (phew).  And by the time we got to the ER the cramps were pretty much gone, so after some tests, they sent us home.

But still, the neighborhood appreciated the excitement early in the morning.  I know this because the 8 year old from across the street called me, much to her mother’s chagrin, in the middle of the excitement (no fewer than 9 people in my tiny living room) to ask me why the ambulance was outside our house.

And then there was the other day, when he rolled over in bed at 6 a.m. and knocked the infusion set out of his side, and then shoved it back in (all the nurses reading this scream “Noooo” in unison) and taped it in place with medical tape. He got up at 8:30 a.m. and told me “Oh, Mom, by the way, I don’t have any infusion sets left,” so I called the pharmacy, only to be told us we couldn’t get any more that day because the insurance company wouldn’t pay for more until the following Monday, six days away.  Just then he came out of his room and said, “I guess the infusion set isn’t working right after all, so I’m not actually getting any insulin, because I just tested my blood sugar and found it was over 500.” Well, that’s just an example of spectacularly bad, very quickly.

Diabetic supplies sharing the table with Halloween candy... the new normal.

Diabetic supplies sharing the table with Halloween candy… normal around here.

The day was saved by Shelley, our rep with Roche, the pump manufacturer, who drove over here that afternoon, in the RAIN (again, a big deal, here in So Cal this year), to drop off a couple of infusion sets to get us through the next few days.  Luckily the 14 year old had just baked some gluten-free cookies and we were able to share some with her.

All this to say, if you are diabetic and are considering a pump, we highly recommend the Accu-Chek Combo System.  Especially if you live in Southern California, because then you might get the World’s Best Rep, Shelley, who delivers miracles with or without cookies. :)

And that if you do get a pump, check for bubbles in the tube.  Often.

And also, that even with a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, life goes on.  After a while it stops being the “new normal” and just becomes “normal.”

And that life with diabetes is nothing, if not interesting.

Categories: Diabetes, Family | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Excuses

I must be the meanest Mom around.

First of all, we didn’t watch the Rose Parade.  Well, we couldn’t, because we don’t have a TV.  Halfway through last year, realizing that the only time we watched the thing was, well, on New Year’s Day for the Rose Parade, we moved it out to the garage and reclaimed a nice chunk of the family room for more important things (i.e. a bookcase).

Besides, I really dislike parades.  I don’t much like firework shows either.  And I’ve never been to a baseball game. This year I plan to apply for U.S. citizenship, and I truly hope these facts do not impinge upon my application’s acceptance.

059I did make donuts this morning, so I’m pretty sure my kids didn’t really miss the parade much. I would like to report that I put the proper amount of salt in my batch of donuts, but the fact that I accidentally doubled it, given the 14 year old’s unfortunate misreading of the same measurement last night, is completely inexcusable.  Fortunately I noticed right away, so I was able to fish the extra salt out of the bowl.  Most of it, anyway.

The 14 year old completed our nutritionally bankrupt meal this morning by deep frying some bacon.  Big pot of oil, just the right temp… how could she not?

Once I had them all sugared up on donuts, I dropped the bomb.  We would be doing our school work today. My resolve stayed flinty, even in the presence of heartfelt wails of injustice. “But it’s a HOLIDAY, Mom.”  “But even the BANKS are closed today, Mom.”  Nothing moved me.

I happen to know that both of my younger kids are quite a few lessons behind in their math, among other things. I also happen to remember hearing multiple promises of “I’ll catch up over Christmas break” in the past month or so. So I put my foot down and pointed out that if they hadn’t taken little personal holidays on days when there was no excuse for not doing their school, they wouldn’t be doing school today when everyone else had the day off.

Unfortunately for them, I possess the ability to compartmentalize doom for days, even weeks at a time, as long as there are enough fires that need to be put out and other deadlines that need to be met.  My last deadline was Boxing Day, when we visited with my side of the family to exchange gifts.  It took exactly five days of not having a deadline looming on the horizon for me to realize how many things I had been letting slip for the past few months.   I had my crisis yesterday, while they were at the movies enjoying The Hobbit.

Today it was their turn.

They will thank me later.  Like, next Thursday, when they get to their respective Classical Conversations classes and actually have something finished to turn in.

As firm as my resolve is today, given the freshness of my Biannual I-can’t-do-everything-I’m-supposed-to-do Meltdown, I sincerely hope and pray that it will continue, at least until the end of this semester.  Because I know myself too well to think that this one foot planting itself firmly today is going to remain that way without major changes being made, not in my kids’ hearts and attitudes, but in mine.

And I know how I am.

For example, my husband found this workout program in a drawer the other day, unopened.  I bought it at least four years ago.


At least I can use this with my Brit Lit students as a good example of the concept of “irony.”




Categories: Education, Family, Homeschooling | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Filter December – Day 31: The Final Day

No Filter December has come to an end. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of blogging under the No Filter title so much, I may just declare next year “No Filter 2015.”  Let’s just consider it that between ourselves, though, so I don’t have to preface every title with it, because frankly, that got tedious this month.

041At any rate, it’s New Year’s Eve. Time for the Traditional Schmidt Household New Year’s Bash, a rollicking good time wherein we drink Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider and do a jigsaw puzzle.  Sometimes, if we’re feeling daring, we light a fire.  This year we added a pot of chili to the mix AND were treated to gluten-free donuts made by the 14 year old.  (There was a slight misunderstanding about the difference between 1/2 tsp and 2 tsp when it came to the salt measurement in the recipe, however, so we didn’t actually eat the donuts.)

When I was young and single, I did my time at New Year’s Eve parties. I remember one in particular, a rather large one for the Singles group at a popular church.  After a painful hour or so, a friend and I, having recognized a certain desperation in each others’ countenances, politely sidled out without drawing undue attention to ourselves. As soon as we got to the sidewalk, we ran, yelling “Aaugh,” down the street.  Yes, we literally yelled, “Aaugh.” It was that bad.

We ended up at a party at the home of a friend of his. It was a handful of people, and we sat around and played quiet games and chatted and I do believe it was the best New Year’s Eve party I have ever attended.

That was the last year I attended a big party.

A quick look at my Facebook newsfeed tells me that I’m not alone in enjoying staying home on New Year’s Eve, so either I’m getting old or a lot of people have come to the same conclusion as I that large New Year’s parties are overrated.

So to those of you who are joining the loud, the frantic and the raucous this evening in your celebration, I tip my hat.  To those of you who are joining me in staying home, I lift my glass of sparkling cider to you and offer you a quiet and understanding grin.

And, since I spent some time with this little guy earlier today while his mistress and my daughter were riding bikes at the beach, I also offer you a Happy New Year grin from Sam.  No, he’s really grinning. Really.






Categories: Around Town, Blogging, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

No Filter December – Day 30: iPhone Christmas

It was an iPhone Christmas around here this year.

It all started back in October when my LG Extravert gave up the ghost.  Or rather, when the slide-out keyboard started having sticky keys, which is a problem that phone tends to have. This was our 3rd or 4th phone, between my daughter and I, and every single one of them has degenerated into sticky keys within 6-9 months.

030cropThis resulted in texts that said things like, “I cannnnnnnn commmme to the performmmmannnnce,” and after a while, even your best friend starts to lose patience (and text back things like, “donnnt mmmake funnn of mmme,” especially if you have made reference to a typo she has made).

I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth buying another Extravert, so I started looking for a used iPhone.  I figured, since my other alternative was a $20 flip-phone with phone keypad and T9 word recognition, even a used iPhone 3 would be better than that.  I quickly discovered that unless you are lucky enough to know someone with an old iPhone they want to offload, you can’t really buy one.

Well, you can, if you want to spend hundreds of dollars.  Or, you can buy one cheap, but there is no way of knowing whether you will actually receive the item you thought you purchased.  We went through that with a purchase of a “Used-Excellent” 3G Kindle Keyboard last year. When it arrived, it turned out to be WiFi only, not 3G, and was refurbished.  After a month of emails going back and forth (very slowly on the seller’s part), we sent it back, only to be told a week later that we had to prove to them that they had received it before they would issue us the refund. Fortunately my brilliant husband had sent it via Fed Ex, having foreseen just such an eventuality.

At any rate, there was no way I was going to get into a purchase of electronics from a third party or eBay seller again.

My 20 year old has had an iPhone for two years, so I asked his help.  He showed me a plan offered by Verizon where we could get free iPhones and a month-to-month family plan. We did the math and it worked out to about what we were already paying for our pre-paid phones.  The only problem was that we had to wait until his contract expired in December before we made the change.  This gave me the bright idea to get phones for my husband, the two oldest kids and myself and give them as gifts for Christmas.  For free!  What’s not to love about that?

035In the meantime, since I had an old flip-phone lying around, I used that. Three months of T9.  I should get an award.

Did you know that T9 does not recognize the word “Valentines?” It comes out “Takeouines.”  So my family and friends have, from my years of flip-phone use, gotten used to me wishing them Happy Takeouines Day on Feb. 14.

Also, the word “right,” if one of the letters was not picked up by the phone as I was typing it, would come out as the S-word, which was quite unfortunate when I was answering a text with a sarcastic “Oh, right” and didn’t notice the change before I hit send.

Especially if it were to one of my kids.

At any rate, two days before Christmas (I think I have already established my affinity for the ragged edge of disaster), my son and I were at the Verizon store signing a contract and picking up the phones. At the last possible second we suddenly realized that my husband has a phone from work, and that he really doesn’t need an iPhone however much he would like one, and that there was no way he was going to strap an iPhone to his belt next to his gigantic Samsung Galaxy every day. He’s a bit of a tech nerd, but not that bad.

Which was fine and all, but then that left me, two days before Christmas, with no gift for my husband.

Oh, but it was worse than that.  Not only did I not get HIM a gift, but I got myself an iPhone. All of a sudden my genius idea of October was turning into a very, very bad thing.

How did I not see this coming? How did I not figure this out until I was about to buy the dang phones?  That could be the topic of another blog.  It probably will be.  Let’s just leave it at the fact that this is not unusual behavior for me.  Despite the (now-expired) Mensa membership card.

I agonized over this predicament.  I had so wanted to surprise him with my foresight and thriftiness, getting us all superior phones for the same price as the throwbacks we had all struggled with for years in the name of living within our means.  I could find no easy answer for it.  My elation at finally having an iPhone — and a pretty GOLD one, at that — was overshadowed by the sour taste of Christmas Fail.

My son had no qualms about this, mind you.  He started using his phone right away, quite gleefully, and no one noticed the upgrade.  I had to keep mine and my daughter’s hidden, so they lay hidden in the bottom of my tote bag, a token of my shame.  I didn’t even want to wrap them.

I couldn’t stand it any longer and finally confessed the whole debacle to my husband later than night.  He stared at me, speechless.  I couldn’t read the expression on his face and this worried me.  Finally he sighed and said, “Well then, I guess I’ll just have to take back the phone I bought you for Christmas.”

As if it hadn’t been bad enough before.

I was saved from total despair by the realization that it was playing out like a scene out of “The Gift of the Magi.” We both had a good laugh about it, and when he lamented, “Now I don’t have a gift for you either,” I pulled the box out of my tote bag and handed it to him.  He wrapped it in front of me, chuckling all the while.

The next day I sang at an afternoon Christmas Eve service, so my focus for most of the day was preparing for that.  With that deadline out of the way, I once again turned my thoughts toward my husband’s gift.  I still had a good 8 hours of shopping time left at this point.  The sky was the limit.

The 12 year old offered, after the service, to accompany me on my shopping trip.  There was a hardware store around the corner from the church, and I remembered Alan showing interest in a tool there a few weeks before and saying he had always wanted one, and I was confident I could remember where that tool was located, so we headed there.

It turned out to be the wrong hardware store. I knew right where the tool was in THE OTHER store.  But not in this one.

A helpful employee, noticing my aimless wandering, asked if he could help.

To make a long story short, my husband received from me, the next morning, a gift card for the hardware store with the attached note: “Apparently a ‘handheld tool that looks like a drill but isn’t one and that has a spinny thing on the end of it’ isn’t enough to identify that tool you wanted, so you’ll have to go buy it yourself.”

075So Christmas morning worked out okay after all.  He was very happy with his hardware store gift card (note to self: remember this next year), the 20 year old was ecstatic with his new phone, I was over the moon with mine, and the 19 year old, the only one for whom the phone was a surprise at this point, actually cried when she opened hers.

All the gatherings of relatives for the next two days now had a focal point. Well, okay, celebrating the birth of Christ and the spending of time with family, but ALSO, the giving of iPhone tips.

I now have an Instagram.  I’m not sure why, given that I have a blog and a Facebook account, but I’ve always wanted one, so I have one now.  I may even venture into the unknown territory of mobile banking.  I still don’t understand how the bank considers it a deposit if you just take a picture of a check, but the 20 year old assures me it’s a thing.

I have also become that woman, the one who is so focused on her phone as she walks across a parking lot that she walks right across a parking space just as someone is trying to pull into it.

Perhaps I should put increased capacity for multitasking on my list of New Year’s Resolutions.

Categories: Christmas, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Filter December – Day 29: The Rules

My friends in Mexico live in a community with a security gate.  Apparently most of their neighbors are also Americans, and although part of the charm of the place for me has been that friendly neighborhood dogs roam the streets and take themselves down to the beach whenever they feel like it, someone in the community must have become uptight about it, because signs have been posted all over the complex.

And really, since English is not the guy’s first language, he did a pretty good job, all things considered.

I went ahead and laughed at it, at length, anyway.  I have a feeling that parts of it will be quoted among my family for years to come. Especially Rule Number Three, aka “The Unfinished Rule.” It should come in handy whenever I feel chaos ensuing.


Rules To Live By


Categories: Around Town, Family, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Filter December- Day 28: Flu With a Side Of Diabetes

So, the flu hit. I took the day off yesterday, and was planning to lay low today too, but then the 12 year old made himself breakfast.

Which would have been okay, but he has Type 1 Diabetes and gave himself enough insulin to cover for waffles and syrup.

Which also would have been okay, but the waffles turned out to be freezer burnt, so he couldn’t eat them, and once he has given himself insulin, he needs to eat within the next 30-45 minutes or his blood sugar could drop too low and he could pass out and the paramedics would then have to pay us a visit.

No problem, thought I from my cozy chair by the fire, he can just make himself some pancakes.  Except it’s 3 days after Christmas and I was sick yesterday so no one has been grocery shopping, so we were out of eggs, and all the other drivers in the house were either at church or sleeping off a late-night band practice.

There was no way around it. I had to run to the store to get eggs.

The 12 year old apologized profusely and promised me that he would run in and buy the eggs while I sat in the car, but once we got there, I felt okay so I said I would go in with him.

And then this happened and I realized I really should just have stayed put.014

Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Diabetes, Family | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

No Filter December – Day 27: Driving Tips For Mexico

I have ranted on this blog in the past about how much I hate four-way stop signs, but I found I actually don’t mind them in Mexico.  Down there, everyone works together and you all get through the intersection, and if someone pushed in a little ahead of you when it was technically your turn, it’s not all that bad, because at least they do it quickly, and with sure intention, so that there is no question in your mind that you have to stop and wait a bit.  And they tend to get out of your way with equal alacrity.

There is this one intersection in Rosarito that almost defies description, but I’m going to try anyway. Or perhaps I will draw a diagram.

Here’s how it looks on the map:

Mcdonalds Rosarito intersection

The top orange line on the right is a freeway off ramp, and the bottom orange line is a freeway on ramp.  The white road between them goes over a bridge that starts right about where the ramps begin. The yellow lines on the left show the main road through town.  Doesn’t look so bad, right?  Except for one thing.  If you are coming off the freeway on that top orange line, but you want to go across the bridge (and it seems that a large percentage of the traffic does want to do that particular maneuver),  you have to pull a U turn across the white street.  Okay, so that’s not so bad either, especially when you consider that the west-bound traffic on that white street has a stop sign right there.

Except that this seems to be one of the busiest intersections in Rosarito. Not only are people coming off the freeway and wanting to U-turn to cross the bridge, but some of them also want to go to the McDonalds across the street.

Plus there are people coming out of McDonalds who want to go across the bridge.

Plus, let us not forget that freeway on ramp at the bottom, and some people coming east from the main road want to get on the freeway.

Also, some of the people coming across the bridge, who have stopped at the stop sign, also want to either get on the freeway or go to McDonalds, so some of them are turning left there.

And to make matters more fun, a large amount of people are coming off the main road and going across the bridge, and at the other end of the bridge there is an equally busy intersection that often gets gridlocked.

All this means that this intersection is almost always choked with cars, and that much of the time traffic is backed up across the bridge.  So if you are coming off the freeway, you don’t just have to make a U Turn.  You have to make a U turn while pushing your way into traffic that is backed up while not blocking the people who have stopped at the stop sign.

And you also don’t want to accidentally get on the on ramp instead of the bridge because then you will find yourself the other end of town, at the off ramp that empties directly into the parking lot of a very popular Pemex gas station.

Mcdonalds Rosarito intersection satellite2At any rate, the satellite picture on Mapquest shows the mayhem a little more accurately, although this was obviously not taken during rush hour.  Notice there are no sidewalks or crosswalks.  More than once I have seen pedestrians crossing this road.  Not at the intersection, though, but kind of in the middle between the intersection and the bridge, i.e. the absolute worst place to put your body in front of a moving vehicle because the driver is already distracted with trying not to hit the cars coming at him from five different directions.

Just to make it more fun, when you get to the other side of the bridge, if you want to turn right, you have to be aware of an off ramp coming up alongside the bridge on the right.  You can’t actually SEE it, because it’s lower than the road, but there could be a car coming up that way, so you have to do your best, before you cut over to the right turn lane, to catch a glimpse of something in that direction so you don’t crash into them as they merge onto the main road.  This is why it’s always good to have a passenger with you when you drive in Mexico.

Within a few hours of arriving there my first time driving in Mexico, I had to face this intersection – the hard way, being one of the U-turners.  I should also mention it was the evening rush hour.  And dark.

It was surprisingly easy, because as I said before, everyone worked together. As long as you don’t dither, and take your turn the second it opens up, you do just fine.  I find this far preferable to the waving-on wars that happen in intersections up in the States.

Come to think of it, while this U-turn intersection actually seems to work in Mexico, I’m pretty sure it would result in some shootings if it were up in L.A.

At any rate, after my two days of driving across the border, I came up with this:

Mexico 2013 Ems Camera 403Driving Rules For Mexico

1) Drive slower than you think you should.  You never know when a car, pedestrian or dog will appear in front of your car.  Or a pot hole.

2) If you think it’s your turn, go. You’ll figure out it really wasn’t your turn if you find someone else in your way, and you can always stop then. If you hang about too long trying to figure out if it’s your turn, though, you’ll mess up the whole flow of traffic.

3) Always take a passenger.  This gives you someone to talk to during slow traffic, as well as equipping your vehicle with another pair of eyes.

4) If someone honks you, they are not upset.  They are just saying, “Hey, I’m over here, don’t hit me.”  There is a good chance they are breaking traffic laws at the time, hence the need to get your attention.

5) Stop signs are a good idea, but no one really takes them all that seriously.

  • Corollary A) If the paint has washed off the stop sign, you really shouldn’t have to stop there.
  • Corollary B) On the other hand, it’s a good idea to treat every intersection like there is a stop sign, just in case someone else is not taking them seriously coming the other way.

6) Traffic lights are also suggestions, but it’s usually a good idea to agree with them.

Mexico 2013 Ems Camera 3597) If armed men in fatigues or uniforms tell you to stop so they can look in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to comply.

Corollary A) Don’t take pictures of them.

8) Develop an innate sense of the width of your vehicle ahead of time. You will use this information often.

9) If too many pedestrians are clogging the crosswalk and taking their time to get across, just start easing forward to encourage them to hurry up, especially if they are students.  They need to develop a healthy fear of moving vehicles.

10) If you need to back out into traffic, just go.  Nobody wants to hit you.  They’ll stop.

11) Don’t worry about doing the right thing. You can’t really do the wrong thing.  We’re all making it up as we go.

Come to think of it, that last one is a good rule of thumb for life.

Categories: Around Town, Los Angeles, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Filter December- Day 26: The Art Of The Wrap

I’ll be the first to agree that Christmas is not all about the presents.

Except, you know, let’s be honest. No matter how devoutly you celebrate the birth of Christ (and yes, He wasn’t actually born in December, and much of what we celebrate comes from a Church-power-play co-opting of pagan rituals, and personally, I celebrate his birth every day so I don’t really get all that tweaked by Santa this time of year anyway), it is LARGELY about the presents.  Especially if you have kids.  And relatives. And friends.


My “niece” joined the tradition this year. I think she does indeed get the Ugliest Wrap Job Award.

I wish wrapping was an aerobic exercise because I would have burned ALL my Christmas food calories and then some this year if it were.  Sore feet and back (and papercuts) aside, however, I must admit that wrapping is actually one of my favorite parts of the process.

This goes back to my childhood. I love surprises.  I hate knowing what is in the present ahead of time; my family is the same way, so over the years we developed an ever-increasing repertoire of ways to disguise gifts.  We did the small-gift-in-a-big-box, the tape-toilet-rolls-to-the-outside-to-disguise-the-shape, the throw-a-handful-of-pebbles-in-the-box-to-make-it-rattle.  We even did the there-is-no-possible-way-to-wrap-this-neatly-so-it’s-just-going-to-look-like-crap wrap.

One of the fun things about wrapping is the whole secrecy thing – locking the door to the bedroom, only letting certain people in the room. It’s a little difficult when you share a room with your husband, though, and you need to wrap his gifts.  Luckily my husband is very focused on whatever is right in front of him much of the time, so this year I perfected the art of wrapping his gifts right in front of him.  I even took a little item he bought for himself right out of his hand (“Oh, cool, can I see that?”) and went straight over to the wrapping paper and wrapped it up, while asking him questions about something else. He didn’t even notice. It made for a good laugh Christmas morning.

There was one gift I wrapped for him while he was in the kitchen making me a cup of tea (I know, I know.  What a guy). I felt like living on the ragged edge of disaster right then, so I left the door open and started wrapping his main gift.  I could hear him out there, but I knew that at any minute he might walk back to the bedroom, so I tried to stay calm and hurry.

Okay, that’s just not possible.  For me, anyway.  You know those spy TV shows where the spies are breaking into someone’s safe or computer and the owner is walking down the hall and putting their key in the lock, so the spy has to hurry, and they act all cool and methodical and get the job done and dissemble completely when the person walks in the room?  Yeah.  I could never be a spy.  My hands were shaking.  I dropped the tape at least twice.  I kept doing breathing exercises and telling myself to calm down and talking myself through the process, but my heart was going a mile a minute and my brain clicked into slow-mo mode.

But you know, when you have presents to wrap for 13 relatives and about as many friends, you take your excitement where you can get it.

A couple of years ago we ended up wrapping the kids’ gifts until midnight Christmas Eve, and I was getting pretty punchy.  After 10:30 p.m. the wrapping jobs and gift tags began to degenerate.  I present here a photo-documentary of my slide into befuddlement.

Gift wrap degeneration (2)

9:30 p.m.









Gift wrap degeneration (3)

9:49 p.m.

Gift wrap degeneration (4)

10:32 p.m.








Gift wrap degeneration (5)

11:15 p.m.

Gift wrap degeneration (6)

11:57 p.m.


Categories: Christmas, Family | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

No Filter December – Day 25: Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas From the Beach


Categories: Blogging, Camping | Tags: | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 853 other followers

%d bloggers like this: