I Don’t Know The Answer To Your Question But I’d Be Happy To Make Something Up

img_1750.jpgThe 23 year old took me on a “city sample” last night as her Christmas gift for me.  It was somewhat like bar hopping or a pub crawl, but without the inebriation. We started at one end of the Redondo Beach Riviera and worked our way through five establishments, eating appetizers, sampling soups and browsing shops in between.

In all it was a wonderful evening and I told her she can feel free to give that gift to me for any future gift-giving occasion.

Since we both have to avoid gluten, part of the challenge of the evening was to find things on each menu that we could safely eat.  It’s a normal part of eating out for us – having that conversation with the waiter about whether the corn chips are actually wheat-and-corn chips and whether the chicken, fish, shrimp or French fries have been dipped in batter and whether the omelettes have pancake batter in them.  Responses generally fall somewhere between, “Gee, I don’t know, I’ll check” and “Hey, I’m gluten free too!  Let me tell you exactly what you can eat on this menu and I’ll make sure the chef doesn’t cross-contaminate.”

At the third restaurant we visited tonight, we encountered a waitress who brought a whole new dimension to the gluten-free discussion. It went something like this:

“Are the Shepherd’s Fries gluten free?”

“….Prrrrobably not.”

“Probably? Can you check?”

“Oh… Yeah… they have gluten in them.  They’re definitely not gluten free.”

“Oh, so the fries have flour on them?”

“No, but they’re definitely not gluten free.”

“Okay then, what about the Pub Nachos?  Are those pure corn chips or are the chips a corn/wheat mix?”

“Yeah, they probably aren’t gluten free.”

“Really?  The chips have wheat in them?”

“Well, I mean, they have a lot of cheese and stuff.”

“Okay, but we’re not asking about dairy free.  We’re asking about gluten.”

“Oh yah, they have gluten. (Widens eyes) I mean, I don’t really know what gluten is, but they just look like they have gluten ALL OVER them (nods sincerely).”

“Okay, could you go ask the chef about the Pub Nachos?  And also the Irish Nachos? Those are just potatoes, right, no batter?”

“Ohhh, I wouldn’t know.  They probably have gluten too.”

“Okay, can you check please?”

“I’m pretty sure they have gluten.”

“Okay, but can you ask the chef? We need to know for sure.”

(reluctantly) “Well, okay, I’ll ask the chef.” (Goes in the back.  Comes back in a couple of minutes.)

“Yeah, he said that they both definitely don’t.”

“Oh good, they don’t have gluten?”

“No, wait” (looks confused). “I mean… neither of them are probably not gluten free.”

“Neither of them are not?  Probably? So you’re saying there’s wheat in the corn chips and there’s flour on the potatoes?”

“Well, I don’t really know… but, like, he has a list, and it only has salads on it.”


Me? Annoyed? I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.

At that point we simply thanked her and asked for the check for the one appetizer we had already ordered, paid it and walked to the restaurant next door to get some food that we knew was gluten free.

We also spent the rest of the evening trying to find ways to work double-negatives into our conversation…

“Are you working tomorrow?”

“I’m probably not not working tomorrow but I might not be staying home.”


Do you want to get gelato next?”

“I either do or I don’t but I don’t not want to decide whether or not I don’t.”



The next restaurant we went to was a French restaurant, staffed entirely by French staff, which made the “Weekly Specials” sign a mystery to me. img_1760

It announces that Thursday night is a 3-course prix fixe meal.  I’m sure any of the staff members know how to spell that in their native language, but apparently no one told the sign-painter.

One wonders if the suffixes are served on Fridays.


After we left that establishment, quite satisfied with the gluten-free seafood crepe we had split, the 23 year old suggested we go back to Restaurant #3 and order water, and then ask the waitress if it had ice in it.


Instead we chose to take advantage of the photo-op provided by the Christmas lights on a nearby shoe store.

And also posing with an angel that’s tucked away in an alcove between two shops, just begging for an Instagram moment.

And finally, after we talked ourselves into “just a morsel” of gelato, we stopped to pay homage to the strange blue fellow who was advertising the special “First Friday” event that appeared to be going on in the Riveria but that we never did figure out.

At least, one of us did.

Others of us didn’t not get in front of the camera, but also didn’t not opt to stay safely behind it at least most of the time.

Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Family, Food, Los Angeles | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Day I Went Looking For Trouble

My 23 year old daughter walked to our local Target this afternoon.  It’s something we all do – it’s only about four blocks away so it’s a good way to get exercise when you are only buying a few things.

She, however, is young, blond and pretty. Just about every time she goes to the store she gets cat calls and comments from men passing by.  Once she was actually followed home from the store and had to sit in her car and wait for the middle-aged creep to drive away.  He had pulled up next to her in the street in front of our house, so that she couldn’t open her car door, and was trying to strike up a conversation with her from his car. She pulled out her phone to call the police and he drove on.

Today she was stalked in the parking lot by a car containing two rough-looking young men.  She had earbuds in at the time, so she couldn’t hear what they said, but their facial expressions were neither smiling nor somewhat apologetic, which is what an innocent encounter of the “how do I get to the bank” variety would have looked like.  They were driving slowly next to her, calling out to her.

She did what my husband had drilled her to do in a situation like this.  She simply did an about face.  They would have had to reverse or do a U-turn to continue driving next to her, and that apparently would have called too much attention to them, so they drove off.  A few minutes later, however, she thought she saw their car approaching again so she called me.

My 16 year old son was in the room when I took the call and, catching my tone of voice and putting two and two together from what I was saying, he immediately put his shoes on and offered to come with me.  The two of us jumped in the car and drove to Target.  Halfway there I discovered he had grabbed my husband’s new wood-chopping ax and was cradling it in his lap. More, I’d like to think, in a show of solidarity for his sister than an actual plan to use it.

We picked her up, and she was fine, but she asked if we could drive around the parking lot to see if they were still there.  If they were, she was going to call the police so that they didn’t hassle any other women.  We didn’t see them, so we parked and walked into the store with her so she could complete her shopping  (I did make the 16 year old stash the ax in the trunk).

She kept an eye out for the two men in the store, but didn’t see them, so she relaxed a little and went on with her shopping.  I, on the other hand, was in full Mama Bear mode.  Without really thinking about it, I found myself wandering away from my son and daughter and prowling the aisles, looking for two misguided young men with shaved heads and thick necks.  Apart from those two details, I didn’t know what they looked like, but I figured two guys sporting the attitude she had described would probably stand out.

And I’m not sure what I was going to do.  Take their photo, maybe – I held my phone in my hand as if it were a weapon. Report them to security, probably.

Or if they didn’t look too threatening, I might have struck up a conversation and then given them a Mom-talking-to.

It was a different dynamic for me, combing the aisles at Target looking for a couple of specific shoppers.  I’m usually avoiding the other shoppers and concentrating on finding the items I need.  In fact, I generally go there early in the morning on a week day so that I will have fewer shoppers to deal with.

But today I was looking them in the face, one at a time, searching for the men who had caused my daughter such pain.

After about five minutes of roaming the aisles looking at the shoppers, I had tears in my eyes.  Because while I hadn’t found those particular men, I had come across a number of young to middle-aged men who were muscular and who looked like they could hold their own in a fight.  But each time I saw one, I noticed he was there with this wife, his kids, his son, his girlfriend…

I saw men of different ages, different skin tones, different ethnicities, many of which have been falsely stereotyped as the type of men who cause trouble.

But I didn’t see trouble.  I saw loving, kind men.

Young men joking with their girlfriends about buying a Santa onesie.

Young and middle-aged men wrangling their kids and pushing their cart while their wives shopped just ahead of them.

Middle aged-men showing their adolescent sons which razor to buy.

Men helping their mothers put a heavy bottle of detergent in the cart, pick up prescriptions, shop for cards.

By the time I met back up with my son and daughter, I was overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with the beauty of the people in the store, with their love for their families, with the sheer ordinariness of the afternoon.  I had gone looking for trouble and this time humanity had proven me wrong.

Sure, there are jerks around who objectify young women.  Sure, some of them can be dangerous, so she won’t be walking to the store by herself again. But the overwhelming majority of people are just beautiful.

I think I could have walked up to any one of the men I saw in that store today and asked for help, and they would have willingly given it. I think if they had seen my daughter being harassed in the parking lot, they would have at least offered to let her walk with their family.

I think we live in a fallen world and as a result, sin abounds and there are scary people out there.  But I think they are outnumbered by the decent ones.  At least, in my neighborhood they are.

And I don’t actually live on the “right” side of the tracks.

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

Dying, As You Do

My friend is dying.

We found out at the end of last year that Georgia has a brain tumor.  In January some friends and I flew out to spend a weekend with her and go out for one last over-the-top meal before the chemo-necessitated diet kicked in.  We accompanied her to doctor appointments, invading the waiting rooms with our Very Much Diva presence.

023I mean, we were polite and all, but there were five of us.  Still, apart from that one incident with the unattended wheelchair and the empty hallway at the hospital, I’d say we behaved ourselves pretty well.

Even so, four middle-aged women, who are used to advocating for themselves and their children – we each have at least one with some level of special needs, so we are all very used to doctors and hospitals and insurance companies – accompanying a fifth woman who is, from sheer height, physically imposing, with a personality to match…

Well.  We made the day interesting for the staff, at any rate.

087cropAnd then we went out for dinner at the second-fanciest restaurant I’ve ever been to (the first was the night I met Georgia) and accidentally spent $132 on a plate of caviar.  Okay, but the “1” was really, REALLY small, and did I mention we’re all middle-aged?

When I finally returned home, I figured that was probably the last time I would spend time with my friend.  As much as I wanted to hop a plane again and hang out for a weekend, I knew my schedule was not going to allow it.

And then, miraculously, she was able to come here this weekend for the 4th of July celebrations.  It was like a bonus round.  She has quit the chemo, so the diet is off, so once again we went out to eat food we know better than to eat, because if you can’t eat foie gras with your friend who is dying, when can you eat it?

My heart is full today, full of love for my dying friend, for my friends who are walking her through this, and for the inevitable day that approaches far too rapidly when we will all come together once more on her behalf, but without her presence.

003For now, though, I will focus on the laughter last night around the table, the delight we took in each new dish that arrived at the table, the moments of bliss we shared with that first bite of that steak sampler, that song that we enjoyed so much as it wafted through the sun-warmed patio, the sea breeze that was just enough but not too chilly.

None of our lives are easy at the moment, and every now and then one or the other of us would bring up something we’d had to deal with during the week, and we would find the funny side and laugh about it, and then move on to another topic as if to say, “Yes, this is hard, but it too shall pass and what matters is this – this moment now, this shared joy, this camaraderie, this love for each other.”

Death puts life into focus. Death lines up our priorities with lightning speed. While I do not want to let my friend go and every ounce of my being screams that it’s too soon, that the world needs her, that we need her, that this isn’t fair, I can’t sit beside her with only that in my heart.  I can’t waste these precious last moments I have with her on this earth on complaints about the manner in which she is exiting.

So in my sorrow, there is joy.  I dig deep and focus tightly on that joy, and the sorrow that wails in the periphery, threatening to rush in at any moment and extinguish it, only serves to make that joy all the more precious.

There are any number of Scriptures I could quote here, but each one that comes to mind seems trite in the face of this reality.  Not that they don’t apply, or that they aren’t true, but I don’t think you can just pull out a verse and slap it on a situation like this.  Reality is hard, life is messy, and death is heart-breaking.

It helps to have the assurance that one day I will see my friend whole again, cancer-free and in full command of the words that now elude her grasp.  But there isn’t one tidy little verse that I can recite to encompass all of that, nor do I think I should try.  It’s in times like these that I can only draw on the full extent of faith, of walking with God, of having tried and rejected pat answers and legalistic forms of religious behavior, and having come to the end of myself and having realized more than once that without Him, I am nothing.

And I can rest in the knowledge that as dear as my friend is to me, as much as I love her laugh and her joie de vivre and the mischief we bring out in each other, God loves her more – really loves her, gets her on a level no one else does, cares for her and is walking with her every step of the way until the day He welcomes her into His arms for eternity.

Until then, there are still moments to savor, smiles to share.

And baked olives to eat.

(Something, incidentally, I would not have known had I never met Georgia.)

Categories: Faith, Family, Food, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

To Write–Perchance To Dream

I spoke at a homeschooling convention yesterday.  Part of me was wowed by the fact that I had been asked to speak at the convention that, in years past, had been the iconic Homeschooling Event Of The Year in these parts.  The other part of me mitigated that with the fact that, facing competition with other conventions, it has become a much smaller affair.  And the fact that I was only doing an exhibitor’s workshop.

So it wasn’t like I was a keynote speaker or anything.

But I was still thrilled.

In a vague attempt to fool myself into not thinking too highly of myself (because, come on, seriously.  We all do.), I had myself convinced that I would probably attract three or four attendees, and I pictured us pulling our chairs into a circle and having a nice Socratic Dialogue about the topic.

After all, I was representing Classical Conversations, so that would have been fitting.

It turned out to be standing room only, and they turned people away at the door.  Small room, so maybe 40 or so people.  I had made only 10 copies of my handouts.

But it went well, I think. It seemed well-received.  They laughed at most of my jokes, anyway.  I probably told too many – I usually do. But a couple of people stayed after to ask questions, so it couldn’t have been awful.

When I got home, the 14 year old asked me how it went.  I told him how amazed I was that so many people attended.  He looked thoughtful, and then asked me what my topic was.  So I told him it was “How Do I Teach All These Children And Still Get Dinner On The Table?”

He rolled his eyes at me.

“Mom, of COURSE they wanted to hear about that. You should have booked a bigger room.”

It was at this point that it really started to dawn on me that after 17 years of homeschooling, I might know some stuff that people need to hear.  Because while, in my mind, all those articles have already been written, it occurs to me that there is a whole new crop of homeschoolers who aren’t likely to dig through back issues of Home Schooling Enrichment Magazine for the answers to their burning questions.

So I have decided to start writing again.


As soon as I get my curriculum chosen for the British Lit. class I’m teaching in the fall.

But right after that.  I am TOTALLY going to start writing again.

Bug me if I don’t. (Although, if you do, you may want to stand ready to duck, because if you have chosen the wrong time to nudge, like, say, when grades are due, I may throw something).

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

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

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