Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Call me!

“Mom,” says my almost middle school-aged daughter, “not that I want one, but when can I get a cell phone?”

I cringed and gave her the old, “We just have to wait and see,” response. But her question sent my mind racing: Oh, how I would have loved to have had a cell phone when I was her age and older.

Instead, we had one rotary dial phone, a yellow one to match the kitchen. I remember it vividly because my parents just packed it up and mailed it back to the phone company. It seems they’ve been paying rent on it for 30 years.

“I told your dad back then that we could buy it, but he didn’t want to listen to me,” said Mom.

Now that Dad’s paying the phone bill (due to Mom’s health issues), he decided he no longer wanted to pay $10 per month rent to Ma Bell or whoever owns her these days. He called the phone company, and they sent him a box and told him to pack it up and mail it back to them, despite the fact that my parents have paid thousands of dollars for it over the years. And to add insult to injury, he was required to pay the postage!

Of course, when he called the phone company, he had a little trouble pressing #1. It just doesn’t work that way on the rotary dial. He was able to get in touch with an operator, who finally told him that he needed to just come down there in person!

So, now there’s a bare spot on the wall with a few wires sticking out where my beloved phone once was. I can remember stretching the cord to its max to get out of earshot of my family. I’d always try to answer the phone before my little sister, too. Otherwise, she would yell things like, “Leigh, phoonnee…it’s a boy!” I had one friend whose voice changed very early, and, to my sister’s defense, it WAS deep. He called, and she yelled, “Leigh, phooonee…it sounds like a MAN!”

To make matters worse, if I didn’t respond fast enough, she would say things like, “I’m sorry. My sister’s in the bathroom. She should call you back soon because she’s been in there a looong time!”

Another tricky part of having a rotary dial phone is the dialing itself, especially with the larger numbers. Much technique was involved, and if you lifted your finger too early in the rotation, you’d have to start all over from the beginning. In other words, speed dialing was not an option.

I remember it being hard to hang up on people with the rotary dial. Yes, as sweet as I am, I’ve hung up on my fair share of people. I’d slam the receiver down, then lift the lever to dial my girlfriend to tell her what my boyfriend just said to make me hang up on him, when guess what? He’s still on the line. That’s when I would say, “Hang up!” And he would say, “You hang up!” and I would say, “I already hung up on you!”

It was very frustrating.

Another disadvantage was we did not have answering machines, so during dinner or on Sunday afternoons when my dad would take a nap, he’d take the phone off the hook. Remember that awful buzzing noise, followed by, “Please hang up your telephone.” I hated that sound because that meant if my boyfriend called, he would get a busy signal, then he would dial another number, and some other girl somewhere would have the pleasure of hanging up on him.

Not many teens these days have seen a rotary dial phone. My parents had a recent young visitor ask to use their phone. She came back five minutes later and asked, “How do you work this thing?”

Kids these days…Good thing they have cell phones, facebook, twitter, IM, e-mail and texting…They couldn’t handle a rotary dial.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Our county passed a sign ordinance that prohibits those tacky temporary signs along the roadway such as house for sale, open house, big sale, closing sale, 50% off sale…you get the idea.

Shortly thereafter, people started appearing on street corners. No, they weren’t begging; they were holding signs. And, boy, did they look miserable. Who can blame them? I mean, the Georgia heat coupled with a steady supply of exhaust fumes--brutal. It’s no wonder most of the sign holders looked as if they were ready to fall over.

Then something remarkable happened in our town. I don’t know if it was the result of the economy—more people willing to work and work with more enthusiasm--or perhaps all it took was the right person with the right attitude.

But one day, instead of hanging his head, one man decided he would dance with his sign. And dance he did, really “getting it,” as my dad would say, for hours and hours at a time. He made people smile, he made people wave, he made people honk, and more importantly, he made people whip their vehicles into the parking lot to buy a pizza, perhaps hoping it would give them a quarter of the energy its salesman had.

Soon other businesses were no longer content to have a sign holder who looked as if he or she would drop dead in a matter of minutes. Competition—one of the things I love the most about our country’s free market—kicked in. The next thing I know, every corner had a dancing mascot—dancing hot dogs, dancing cows, dancing pizzas. Nowadays, just dancing isn’t enough. I’ve seen clowns on stilts jamming to "Back in Black" and the Statue of Liberty followed by Uncle Sam catching disco fever while jumping on a mini-trampoline.

I look forward to seeing what's next. Though, I can’t say it’s made me patronize any of the businesses, it sure has made my commute a lot of fun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Water woes

I was taking my son to school this morning when I remarked how my car was covered with yellow pollen.

"And to think we just washed it," he said, which meant he and his buddy sprayed the car for three minutes and then played in the water hose for two hours. If it's 70 degrees, that's considered hose-playing weather down here. At least before the heat, drought and water restrictions kick in.

When that happens, precious plants begin to die, and neighbors turn on each other, some of them reporting their best friends for "suspicious watering" to the water police (local water authorities who've been known to drive around looking for offenders). It's so unfortuate how a lack of rain brings out the worst in us. Neighbors start commenting, "Have you noticed how GREEN their yard is?" while casting knowing glances. Even protests of "But I have a well!" doesn't seem to phase the local water snitches. During the drought, you'd better hope your lawn doesn't look good.

In addition during the past two dry summers, the park's recycled fountain was turned off for fear someone would think the water commission was wasting water. Since we didn't join a pool last year, and the kids weren't allowed to play in the sprinkler, I ended up filling a storage bin with water. My son and his friend spent all day swimming in it as if it were a pool. I wonder, does that make him/me a redneck?

Anyway, this weekend, we were able to get the cars washed, thanks to child labor. I looked out once and saw my son's friend scrubbing one of the vehicles with a tiny paintbrush that he found. I didn't stop him.

"Thanks for washing it," I told my son this morning. "It looked good."

"You're welcome," he said. "I couldn't wash Dad's windows because they were rolled down."

"You mean you washed his truck while the windows were down?"

"Yes, ma'am, but we were real careful not to get any water inside."

Ah, well, at least we have water, thanks to a nice amount of rain this year. By the way, my flowers are beautiful. Let's hope I can keep them that way without too much gossip!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sleepless in Seattle

So, I took a quiz on Facebook to determine which city I should be living in. Facebook has a five-question quiz for everything, by the way, sort of an advanced 8-ball. Some of the quizzes are on things I’ve never even thought of. For example, what will be your job in heaven? Uh oh, you mean we have to work up there? Mine’s a snowmaker, in case you’re wondering. Hopefully, I’ll only be responsible for the Southern region; that wouldn’t be so bad.

In addition, there’s a test to find out what kind of writer one is. Supposedly, I’m a social commentator like Jane Austen. If that’s the case, then I certainly use fewer words to do it. I have to admit these quizzes are somewhat addicting. I could probably sit down and take all of them, except I’d really hate for people to know I have that much time on my hands. The more people are on Facebook, I’ve discovered, the more they try to deny it when you see them in “real” life.

“Oh, I’m not really on there that much.” “I hardly ever check mine.” “Facebook? What’s Facebook?”

“Really?” I think. “But you change your status and profile picture four times a day.”

Don’t ask me how I know.

But back to the quizzes, there’s even one to learn which alcoholic drink you are. I’m afraid to take it. I don’t really want to hear how fruity I am. I’m also steering clear on the “How many children should you have?” quiz. I fear it would tell me I don’t need any. How would I break that to my three kids?

The one I really like, however, is “What is your redneck name?” Everyone needs to know this. Mine is Leanne Cornhauler. Now, ain’t that purty?

Are you curious to find out where I should be living? The answer was Seattle, a place I’d never really considered, not even for a visit, although I’m sure it’s nice. Apparently, most of my Georgian friends belong there, too. It seems everyone had the same answer to question #4--Are you tired of the heat and humidity?

It wasn’t the location that struck me, though; it was the explanation below it that read “You have an adventurous spirit.” You see, I had heard those words before. I was a shy child and had asked my seventh grade teacher to sign my yearbook. She stared at me for the longest time before finally writing, “Beneath that quiet exterior lurks a very adventurous spirit trying to get out.” I remember because I read it over and over.

Those words stuck with me through the years and even though I’ve never jumped out of a plane, scaled a mountain, and have only scuba dived while wearing a life preserver, it’s nice for someone to recognize that trait in me, even if it is a stupid Facebook quiz.

And who knows? Perhaps one day, I’ll drink a pitcher of strawberry daiquiris, change my name to Leanne Cornhauler, have a dozen more kids, and move to Seattle. After all, I have a lot to do before I die and begin my job as a snowmaker!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Looking for little green men

I’m not sure when St. Patrick’s Day became such a big holiday at my house, but somehow it did. Trust me, I had nothing to do with it…Christmas, Valentine’s Day, if you read my blog, you know I reluctantly celebrate them, so to add another holiday to the fray--not I.

Yet, my children have embraced it as if we just came from Ireland, instead of Britain and Germany centuries and decades ago, respectively. Part of the appeal of St. Patrick’s Day lies in their quest for gold—leprechaun gold to be exact. He has it; they want it. And they build elaborate traps to get it.

Each year I never cease to be amazed at the complexities of their leprechaun-catching contraptions. Give them some string and a roll of tape, and it’s a miracle that the little mischievous fellow, whom my kids call “Lucky,” manages to gets away. One year, Lucky left a note, laughing at their failed attempt. Another year he left plastic gold coins, while another he left a trail of shiny peppermint patties.

Fortunately, my children aren’t daunted. They know if they ever catch the leprechaun, they get to keep his pot of gold. And even though he’s tricky, they keep trying. Perhaps this year they will outsmart him. If not, maybe we will see a rainbow. I hear there’s treasure at the other end, and, hopefully, they will never stop chasing it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How was your day?

I work several days a week writing at a corporate office, a freelance job I enjoy and am very happy to have. The downside of it is, on those days, I am not able to greet my children when they get off the bus. Don’t get me wrong. They aren’t latchkey kids. Their father, who works from home, is there to pick up the slack.

I’ve learned, however, that the first ten minutes that the kids are home is crucial. That’s when all the best information is revealed. By the time I’m home, all I get is “good,” “fine,” and “okay,” in response to my questions about their day. Calling their dad while I’m at work doesn’t help me much either. When asked how they are, he responds with “good,” “fine,” “okay” and an occasional “all’s well.”

But today, I was home and ready. I pounced on my son as he clamored off the bus.

“How was your day?” I asked.

“Let me tell you what happened,” he was shouting, before the bus could even pull off.

I struck gold. He was very excited, first and foremost, because a girl named Alicia gave him two stickers, which he wore proudly on his shirt.

“That was really nice of her,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “I got these for free, but next time I have to buy them!”

After explaining to him that we didn’t really need to spend our money on stickers, he said, “Oh, I have to bring something in that smells tomorrow because one of my spelling words is aroma.”

“Okay. What do you want to bring?”


“Well, that might stink,” I explained.


I still have a lot to learn about boys.

Then he asked if he could take off his shorts and his shirt. Now, I can appreciate the fact that he wants to be comfortable and seeing him in his boxers amuses me, (one day his wife may disagree), but my daughter, on the other hand, just doesn’t get it.

“You don’t see Mom and me walking around like that,” she said, disgusted.

Ignoring her, he asked, “Mom, do you want to hear what I learned in school today?”

Oh, boy, did I!

“Yes, please tell me!” I said eagerly.

“Well, there was a scientist, a newspaper reporter and a dumb guy in an airplane.” he began. (All of his jokes include a dumb guy, btw, since he is allowed to say that one in certain context, like a joke!)

“The scientist threw an apple out of the plane,” he continued, “and said, ‘Let there be more fruit in the world.’ Then the newspaper reporter threw out his typewriter and said, ‘Let there be more writing in the world.’ Then the dumb guy threw out a hand grenade.”

At which point, my son paused for a deep breath, making me think I’d missed the punch line.

“Down below, a man runs into another man who is holding his head and laughing,” he goes on. “The first man says, ‘What happened to you?’ and the second man said, ‘I was walking home, and I got hit in the head with an apple and a typewriter. ‘Well, why are you laughing?’ the first man asked. ‘Because I just passed gas, and the house behind me exploded.”

Then all of us, including his sister, howled with laughter. No wonder everyone responds with “good,” “fine,” and “okay,” when I ask about their day. They don’t want me to know how much fun I’ve been missing!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My little secret

Back in sixth grade, we used toilet paper. As adults, women buy bras that have basically the same effect, except we pay $50-60 from Victoria Secret, so the stuffing won’t fall it.

And it’s worth it. If you’re going to stuff, they are the best. Back in the early 90s when padded bras became the rage, I bought one from Wal-mart. Not a good idea. I was in a business meeting with all men, when something made me look down. One of my figure-enhancing pads was now on the outside, having slipped out of the top of my bra and my shirt. Nice, real nice.

So, I’ve shopped at Victoria Secret ever since. I figured they know what they are doing. I mean, you’ve seen the models, right? They had a prime time special not too long ago. My problem with VS is the marketing, not the models, the fact that each bra they offer promises to do more than the next. When does it end?

First, there was the Miracle bra. I rushed out and bought it. Guess what? No miracles. Lucky for me there’s the all NEW Miracle bra. Then I tried the water bra. It was perhaps my favorite, except for worrying about leaks, and the fact that I felt a little silly.

After that I tried the Curves bra, guaranteed to give me (what else?) curves, since, according to the marketing, no amount of working out would do that for me. Okay, they had a point there. The less-than-comfortable Curves was soon followed by Biofit, totally fitted for my body. Uh huh.

I read in Cosmopolitan magazine (while I was in the check-out line at the grocery dressed in my favorite shabby formula-stained sweatshirt with three sticky young children in tow) that women should wear pretty unmentionables, so they’ll feel more confident. Having just run into an old (childless) friend from high school who was dressed to the nines after attending a wine tasting, I decided it couldn’t hurt.

So, I bought the Sexy bra. Little itchy but not too bad. It definitely beat the nursing bra I had continued to wear even though my children were long since weaned. Just when it was starting to make me feel a little more like a woman versus a washer-woman, enter the Very Sexy bra. Now, how can I walk around feeling sexy when my socialite friend from high school was feeling VERY sexy?

This season’s catalog arrived, and it unveils the latest (and greatest) bra…Perfect One. Apparently, “No one’s perfect. Until Now.” I can’t wait for next year’s. I bet it will be called, “Even MORE perfect.”

It’s enough to make me want to stage a bra burning—right outside Victoria Secret.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cat scratch fever

We recently had some more worldly boys move into our neighborhood. They aren’t bad kids, just a little rough around the edges, which is okay, except they brought their cat with them. And their “kitty,” apparently deciding that it was tired of the boys’ tough love, took up at our house.

Now, I’m not one to give animals human traits or to talk about them as such, but this cat is one big bully. My sweet little cat has been in a frazzle ever since. For one, my cat doesn’t even know she’s a cat. I’m not saying she thinks she’s human; I believe she perceives herself more like a dog, really, just smarter. (Oh, wait, that’s the definition of a cat!).

Anyway, the big new bully cat is making her life miserable—and mine. Yesterday, she had my cat cornered against the door. Fed up, I opened the door, made like I was going to grab her, and yelled like a banshee. The bully cat didn’t blink. Her blue eyes looked at me as if to say, “Is that all you got?”

My cat just gave me a disgusted look.

The truth is cats tend to scare me. I think it stems back to my childhood. Ever the animal lover, my sister befriended a stray Tom cat. She was the only one who could get near him without falling victim to his claws and terrifying hiss. My sister had just talked my parents into letting us keep him when, as suddenly as he came, he disappeared.

During which time, I watched Old Yeller. (Yes, I know it’s not about cats. Please keep reading…)

Reappear, weeks later, the old Tom cat, looking scrawnier then ever, therefore, in my sister's eyes, more lovable. She opened the door to greet the howling thing, when he tried to dart into the house, something my parents did not tolerate. She put her leg out to stop him, when—CHOMP--he bit down hard.

My sister didn’t want me to tell mama because she feared (correctly) that we could no longer keep him. I kept quiet for about 30 minutes until the thought of my sister foaming at the mouth from the rabies I was sure she had contracted got the best of me.

The vet advised we bring the cat in for a two-week observation. But first we had to catch him. My dad bribed him with food, leading him onto our screened-in back porch, and then quickly slamming the door behind. The cat must have sensed he was trapped because he went nuts, bouncing off the walls like a ping pong, until he finally burst through the screen.

Fortunately, we were the cat’s current food source, and the greedy, ill-behaved fellow came back, much to my sister’s relief after I explained to her in great detail how she would need seven excruciatingly painful shots in the belly button in order to prevent a horrific death by rabies. Hey, what are sisters for?

Even though I’m sure it wasn’t in their job descriptions, two of Dad’s employees showed up with an aluminum trash can to collect our wild cat. Donning heavy-duty gloves, they finally succeeded and drove the can with the cat banging wildly inside to the vet.

The vet’s office was crowded with animals, and the two men, who were sweating nervously by this point, warned the doctor that this was no ordinary cat.

“Oh, he’ll be fine,” said the vet. “Go ahead and lift the lid.”

They reluctantly complied, and the cat shot straight up hitting the ceiling, before proceeding to run around the room knocking over plants and upsetting the “patients’ in the process.

The end result? $250 in vet charges, plus damages--a fortune in the 70’s. The good news? We didn’t have to take my sister out back and shoot her like Old Yeller. As for the last cat we ever owned? He was given a clean bill of health--right before he escaped.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Our first taste of snow

We had our first (and probably only) snow day of the season here in Georgia. In keeping with our crazy winter weather, Saturday was in the 60s and warm, but by the time we got out of church on Sunday, giant snowflakes were falling, and our cars were already covered with snow.

And I said the first thing that came to my mind, “I can’t drive in this!” If you’ve ever been down here during a “snowstorm,” you’ll know that I’m not alone. Fortunately, we only had a five minute drive home, and, on the way, I was amazed to see a snowman already waving at me. We Southerners can really take advantage of the snow!

Of course, I had to stop by the store for bread and milk. If you live here, you know what I’m talking about. The slightest hint of white stuff, and people rush to the store to stock up on those staples, and, apparently, chili fixin’s, too, because they were totally out of kidney beans.

In addition, someone at church told me to fill my bathtub up with water in order to prepare for the winter storm.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she laughed. “That’s just what I’ve always been told!”

Once home, my kids piled on their “snow clothes.” Having just returned from skiing, one would think we’d have them in ready position. The truth is, having just returned from skiing, we’d had the opportunity to lose half of them. Nevertheless, I sent my children out with a hodge podge of clothing, which included one glove and one sock on the hands of my son. But, they didn’t care, this was the moment we’d all been waiting for—it was snowing!

I spent the remainder of the day snapping photos, drying clothes, making hot chocolate, and resetting the clocks every time the power went off (I think that has something to do with the bathtub full of water). It had been three hours, and I was beginning to be a little tired of wet stuff, no matter how pretty it looked.

I got my second wind, however, when my son burst through the door and announced that the little neighbor girl was making snow ice cream by adding vanilla, sugar and milk. Having a weakness for homemade ice cream, I braved the cold and asked for a spoon. I was about to dive in when my better judgment stopped me.

“This IS clean ice snow, right?”

“Yes,” my little neighbor friend said. “We got it off the top of the trashcan.”

I glanced around, waiting for someone to crack a smile. No one did.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so hungry for snow anymore. Good thing, I guess, I hear Friday’s temperature will be a balmy 74 degrees.