Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lucy and Ethel or a Reasonable Facsimile

Before my children grew up and moved out and we moved on, one of my best friends (known in our house as My Cindy) happened to live next door.  The close proximity and fact that our kids were best friends provided countless opportunities for us to hang around one another.  Many was the day where one of us would say, "Hey! I was thinking about doing X, come with me. .. help me. . .whatever."  And sometimes (most times), the ideas seemed a little crazy to the outside world.  Somewhere there is a home movie taken by a family who came to a New Years Party My Cindy and I threw for the millennium.  And sometime during the evening after a lot of champagne, she talked me into photo bombing - even before it was a thing - their home movie of this party.  So, as we danced around the dance floor, we maneuvered ourselves in front of the video camera and Cindy whispered, up close to the lens, "Riley (name of the camera holder's son), Date my daughter. . . .Erica M." and then we danced away without the camera man really even noticing (until they viewed the video at home. . .with their family.)  It was antics like that that earned us the nicknames of Lucy and Ethel.  We interchanged who was who depending on the situation and who had the hair-brained idea.  Although I maintain I was Ethel way more often!

One of the things I miss, having moved away, are my Lucy and Ethel days. So, when Moondoggy asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said I wanted a spa day and I wanted him to join me.  I showed him the website of Two Bunch Palms Spa and left the room.  He gave me that "Lucy????  What are you planning?? " look but 20 minutes later he emerged from the den and said, "You're booked."

"Just me?" I asked.

He huffed and conceded, "No. . .both of us.  Mud baths, herbal wraps with facial and massage, mineral spring soak and lunch."  I was elated!  Him?  He was being a good sport but, joy!  I had an Ethel

When we arrived, we were given robes and lead to the hot spring to soak before our mud bath.  "Can't we just stay here?"Moondoggy asked as we basked in the hot mineral spring. Nope.

Our therapist met us and led us to our own private hut with two tubs brimming with hot peat mud, instructed us to get naked and climb in, wiggling ourselves deep into the mud. "This is disgusting," Moondoggy murmured as he lowered himself into the tub.  I ignored him and let the warmth and weight of the mud blanket me.  And then it got quiet.  We lay there submerged up to our necks in mud with occasional sips of water provided by out therapist who held the glass and gently placed the straws to our lips.  Not a word was spoken until the therapist informed us we had 5 minutes left.  Then, out of the mouth of my ever complaining Ethel who was simply being a good sport for my birthday came this, "I don't want to get out."

By the time the herb wrap and facial with massage was started, he was like an old pro.  As we lay there on separate tables allowing the herbal oil soak into our newly massaged bodies, I said, "Thanks, Ethel, for doing this.  I've had fun."

His response, "Shhhh.  Don't harsh my mellow."  I fear he may become a Lucy.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Teaching Moments. . .Not Always What You Expect

For many years I worked in an elementary school as a paraprofessional; specifically in the fourth grade. During those years I worked in the classroom of probably one of  the most loved science teachers to teach there.  Mr. B was tall with long (and I mean very long, waist length) hair usually pulled back into a pony tail or long braid.  He wore worn blue jeans, lumberjack shirts and hiking boots most of the time and he often veered off course with stories; teaching moments about his experiences in the prairie, knowledge of rocks, his interest in native americans or other random bits of information that kids held on to like nuggets of gold.  Except, often those teaching moments were more for entertainment value, as it were. Many were the times I'd bury my head in my hands as he imparted kernels of wisdom like the fact that milk is produced in the sweat glands of the cow so, essentially, milk is cow's sweat.  Fodder for a 10 year old's brain. And he wouldn't leave it there, when passing out milks during milk break, he would say, "Cow sweat for you, cow sweat for you, etc."  

More enlightening, even, was the day he stopped whatever lesson he was teaching to tell the kids that if they needed to survive and there was no water available, they could drink their own urine.  Yep.  He said that -- and he'd emphasize, "But it HAS to be your own!" The classroom fell apart with "Eew, groooossss," and kids falling over each other in mock gag before one would yell, "May I have a pass for the bathroom?  I'm thirsty!" 

 So, once, when discussing water and energy, he began a lecture on dams of which the next town over had a nice one.  He said the word a few times and the kids started giggling, the way 4th graders do, about Mr. B saying "dam".  And he took off with it, "You can see it if you drive there.  Just park your car in the dam parking lot."  Titters and giggles. "You might even take a dam tour.  I think there is a dam store for souvenirs," he continued and the kids were rolling, trying to make up their own. "Hey!  Where does all that dam water go?" another kid piped in.  And it went on and on.  Such was the nature of Mr. B The thing is, I'll bet if you ask any kid in that class that year, they remember those moments.  

Last week we were in Alaska.  There is a lot of roadwork happening there right now and one of the companies doing work is called Quality Ashphalt Paving or as they are known in Alaska, QAP (pronounced KWAP). Sitting in front of a man who proudly wore an orange vest with QAP emblazoned across the back, holding a stop sign to keep traffic in one place until the QAP backhoe could move. . .we turned into 10 year olds.  Moondoggy said, "I wonder if he likes his QAP job?" and we started; delighting ourselves with the silliest of thoughts:
He works for QAP
QAP is big around here
It's a QAP job
That loader is a QAP loader
Wonder if he has a  QAP boss. . .

Mr B. left teaching 10 years ago to move west and work for something environmental but for a few moments last week he was right there is Alaska with us.  So go ahead. . . join in the fun.  Sometimes being 10 is the perfect stress reliever.  Throw some QAP my way and you might even learn something in the process.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's All About Customer Service

If the Universe has a sense of humor, her name is Karma and I got to watch her in action the other day. She really is sweet.

It's no secret the Moondoggy has a car problem.  I stopped counting long ago but just know that I have driven american, japanese, swedish, and german cars; small, large, frugal and extravagant, some outstanding and some disappointments.

Before we moved west, I drove a very nice car.  I loved it.  I loved the dealership - we'll call it M,"Can I get you some wine, Mrs. Coltman, while they wash your car?"  Loved it. But, with our then impending move from the midwest to the west, we sold the car and ordered a new one of the same make for when we arrived in the sunshine state.  That was seven months ago.

When we arrived, we picked up the new vehicle from M, let's call it GLK.  I loved it.  I loved the look, I loved the drive. . . I loved it for the first 800 miles until it suffered a massive computer glitch that threatened the integrity of the engine.  "We're sorry.  Bring it in.  We'll try to fix it."  Try. And 12 days later they called to let us know it was a software issue and ready for pick-up.  And thus began the trips to the dealership for brake issues, a cracked engine cover and yet MORE software problems. Moondoggy was not tolerating this and took it through the channels of management with dismal results.  Finally, upon the 6th time in with less than 13,000 miles on it, he asked them to just buy the damn thing back.  Hands up, palms out, the M dealership says, "Oh no, it isn't our problem." Really?  The  M dealership that sold us car GLK is saying it isn't their problem?  And worse, "We aren't in a position to buy that vehicle back"  followed by and GET THIS, "Go hire a lawyer."

Moondoggy weighed the prospect and decided it wasn't worth the hassle.  He went to a competing dealership  A, that sells a competing vehicle (lets call it MDX) that he likes and made a deal.  They bought the GLK and we are getting one of theirs.

This whole story is leading up to the following moment. . . friends, meet Karma:  After shaking on the deal, we walk out of the salesman's office and run into one of his clients.  It is the service manager of Dealership M and he is there to pick up his brand new MDX because. . . drumroll. . . . apparently he prefers to drive As.

Karma grinned.



Monday, February 3, 2014

Breaking Bad Put Me Through the Ringer

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT for Breaking Bad and my apology for a long post.

I came a little late to the party as far as Breaking Bad, the TV series is concerned.  I knew about it, understood the premise and had even seen snippets here and there but did not start watching it until some time in late October.  Through the magic of Netflix, we were able to watch 5 years worth of show in a few short weeks.  At first we figured we'd watch it when nothing else was on but, when I (we - Moondoggy was equally invested here) did start, I was hooked; pun intended.

I don't think I've ever experienced this depth of emotion with a television show; characters I loved and loathed, often in the same breathe. The subject matter was ugly, the presentation often humorous.  That's life.  One of the arguments I've read against the show was that it glorified crystal meth.

Glorified? I lost count of how many people died because of the stuff - perhaps more indirectly than directly. Periferal characters that had great potential died via murder, overdose, greed. Countless also are the many lives beyond the immediate users and producers that were negatively impacted simply by the production of the stuff.  Glorfied?  No.  To me the obvious message was Meth = Bad. I see no glory in that.  But here is where the brilliance of that message, the writers, directors and actors drive the point home.   They are not gorgeous, well dressed, financially successful people. In fact, they define ordinary with all of the blemishes that come with it. Walt, Skylar and Walt Jr. (Flynn) are just average people, we identify with them and understand that on some level, we are them. How close am I (you) to finding yourself in a desperate situation?  At what point is doing bad for good acceptable?

There are long running themes and literary devices that ribbon their way throughout all 5 seasons.  Dual identities: Walter/ Heisenberg, Walter Jr./ Flynn, Marie/ any number of personas as she flits from Open House to Open House. Good vs. Evil: Walter as the teacher and family man vs. Meth cook and murderer, Gus Fring as a Do-Gooder Chicken Franchise Owner vs. Cold blooded Meth Kingpin, Saul "Good"man as the crooked lawyer. I won't even explore the nuances of color.

What was most shocking to me was the way the show's themes stirred my emotions.  As I said , from the first episode I was hooked.  I loved it.  I wanted more.  And so, through the magic of Netflix, we set out to watch an episode when there was nothing else to watch on tv.  That quickly escalated into a episode a night, which by the 5th episode became two and three at a sitting.  We watched as Walt, in his best teacher role, guided Jessie through perfect cooks to attain the purest meth around. It's all fun and games until someone dies (and believe me, they start dying in droves).  Then, it get's intense.  What does a chemistry teacher do with a dead body?  Dissolve it in a barrel of acid, of course.  Shocking.

And after a nightly marathon of Breaking Bad, depending on the episodes, I would feel exhilarated, or anxious, sometimes sad or even downright pissy.  We both felt it. We knew it was from the high dose of "Bad" we had watched and had to force ourselves to watch something funny before going to bed just to take the edge off. We rollercoastered through seasons 3 and 4.  High highs, low lows. Moondoggy would ask, "What do you want to do today?"  I'd reply, "Nothing. Nap, maybe.  Another Breaking Bad."

With each episode and each new season, affable Walter allows his bad ass alter ego to emerge.  Through 5 and a half seasons we watched as he faced true evil in Gus Fring and later with Uncle Jack. He faces them and outwits them and continues to produce a product that has been called the downfall of our nations youth.  His justification?  His product is pure.  He is doing it to secure the financial future of his family because, after all, he has cancer and is going to die.  Does that make all of it more pallatable?  Is it supposed to? I don't know.  It didn't for me.  I despised Walter by the fifth season. And then something terrible happened, the fifth season was released in two parts; the second and final part UNAVAILABLE on Netflix.  Not only was I not going to get my fix of BB, it wasn't going to be available for awhile.  My heart pounded, I felt panicky.  And that is when I realized my addiction to BB was parallel to what addiction is like for users.  I was willing to go out and buy the whole boxed set just for the last 8 episodes (thankfully Moondoggy talked me out of it).  I checked Netflix daily sometimes hourly to see if it updated with no luck.  Finally, I found a video store (an actual store where you can rent dvds - almost impossible to find around here).  Motherlode! I could feed the monster that was my need to see BB to the end.

In a two day marathon, we watched all 8 epidodes;  the final demise of Walt. He dies. . .gunshot wound, death through meth, not cancer.  Fitting.  I worried about Jessie who wanted out so badly but was always dragged back down because of Walter until he was not only a figuative prisoner of Meth, he was literally a prisoner to Uncle Jack, forced to cook Meth to stay alive.

But even with the closure, a few concerns remain. I worry about the effect of all of this on Walter Jr. I wonder if Skylar was able to get out of her money laundering charges. Jessie is finally free, but what happens to him?  These questions weren't answered so I have taken it upon myself to sketch out what I'd like to have seen after the credits were finished rolling.

A small group of people sit in a circle.  It's a rehab group. One of the group, a young housewife, is talking about a particularly difficult  moment during the week where she wanted to use.  An unseen voice thanks her and then asks another young, withdrawn, angry looking guy if he'd like to say anything.  Anything.  He is silent, his jaw is twitching.  Finally he sneers and looks up at the group leader and snarls, "You bitches have no idea what I've seen and done,  you'd never understand."  The camera pans to the group leader, Jessie Pinkman, "Probably not," he responds, "but why don't you tell us."


Finally, in a busy Dunkin Donuts in Omaha, Nebraska, Saul Goodman runs the counter.  There is a jar on one side of the counter marked "Tips" and a jar on the otherside maked "Legal Tips".  A thug stands in line, orders a donut and stashes a handful of cash in the Legal Tip jar.  Saul Goodman hands him an envelope.  The thug leaves, Saul cleans out the Legal Tip jar and then puts a five dollar bill back in the jar .

End.

Now I have to go watch some Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother reruns.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Playing Eighteen


I had the pleasure of spending last week with my sister who makes me laugh until I am crying, hacking and peeing.  Amongst our laughing this week, came this gem of a story. I so wish I could take credit for it, but this bit of genius goes out to her friend, Annie.

My sister Betsy’s good friend, Annie and her husband, Mark, had come up to Traverse City for their annual “Up North” vacation.  On one of those days, the tradition is for Annie and Betsy to spend a day at the pool lounging.  That’s what they do.  So, a few days before their rondevouz, Betsy received a text from Annie:

WTF??? I CANNOT BELIEVE THEY HAVE THE NERVE.  AAAAGGGHHHHH!

Betsy replied: OMG!  What’s wrong?

Annie responded: THEY WANT TO PLAY GOLF SATURDAY

Betsy:  That’s great - clears the way for us to sit by the pool.

Annie:  THAT’S NOT THE POINT.  TELL YOU WHEN I SEE YOU.

The all caps should signal that Annie was PISSED!

When Betsy and Annie finally hooked up that Saturday, Annie shared the following story. Please picture a small, dark haired fireball with a slight yiddish lilt.

“So, we were sitting with Mike and Patty the other night at The Lake Inn having a nice dinner -  broiled fish, light but still filling.  Anyway, they start talking about playing golf.  The good courses, the difficult courses, their best and worst shots.  Well, anyone who knows me KNOWS I loathe golf.  Don’t play, don’t watch, don’t care so I checked out. But these three people, unbeknownst to me, had the NERVE to make a golf date for the FOUR OF US on our last Saturday of vacation without even asking me if I wanted to join them.

So Mike and Patty showed up today about an hour before Tee time and I announced that I would not be joining them for the game.

There was silence.  Blank stares.

Patty asked, ‘Why not?’  So I pasted a big ass smile on my face and reminded her, I dont play golf, I don’t watch golf and I don’t like golf.  To which Mark and Mike both said they thought I could drive the cart and watch. AND WATCH!? Doesn’t that sound fun?

I told them I would happily meet them for dinner but would not be going out on the course with them.  Golfing was not something I wanted to do.

Silence. More blank stares.

So I said. ‘Let me put it in terms you might understand.  Lets say all four of us go to the Grand Traverse Mall.  Shopping, now that’s something I enjoy doing. We can go to eighteen different stores where I can search for an incredible outfit. . .one in each store.  Then, I’ll go try it on while you guys watch.  You can clap for me when I come out of the dressing room and model for you.  Doesn’t that sound fun?

Silence.

Mark finally spoke, ‘Tell Betsy I say hi!’ and he lead the golfing group out the door.”

Point made.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Everywhere

My husband comes by it honestly.  You know, that penchant for exaggeration?  His mother suffered from the same affliction.  A bleeding hang nail was hemorrhaging.  If someone spoke pointedly, they were hollering at her.  We learned early on to put it through a reality filter.  My husband and his oldest brother are the same only their targeted victims are the family pets.  Their favorite phrase?  It's EVERYWHERE!

My husband is convinced that the animals in our household intentionally make messes to irritate him.  He is so convinced of this that he has, on many occasions, mistaken something as simple as a wet leaf for a dog pile.  "Your dog pooped all over the basement," he will announce in disgust as he comes upstairs.  If I laugh he follows with, "It's EVERYWHERE."  To which I will dutifully go downstairs and find three or four leaves that came in on paws scattered around the floor looking for all the world like wet leaves not piles of poo. 

You can interchange my husband for my brother-in-law and the conversation is the same.  It's become a code for us Coltman women when we think our spouses are going overboard.
 We will roll our eyes and say, "It's EVERYWHERE."

Last week my husband, Moondoggy, got a true dose of what everywhere really means.

It is important to know that we have two dogs.  Moose, our Bichon is almost twelve, wise and sneaky.  Our Goldendoodle, Porter, is a puppy - eleven months old.  He is the happiest dog on earth and he will tell you so every minute of every day.  He's never really been in trouble so he has no frame of reference for "naughty".

We were in the final phases of moving with the house clear of all furniture when we decided to go out for supper.  These changes had caused some agitation with the dogs to which Moose reacted by moving one of the gates just enough to escape into the basement and torment Porter who could not fit through the small opening.  As furniture disappeared, we were forced to come up with different ways to keep the gate in place. So, on one of our last nights, Moondoggy hauled in a 5 gallon bucket with my basil and thyme plants and set it in front of the gate.  We were gone no more than an hour.  When we returned, I entered to find the basil and thyme pulled from the bucket and the partially eaten plants strewn across the hardwood floor among clumps of dirt. The gate had been moved just enough so that Moose could go downstairs while Porter was stuck in the kitchen.  As I looked around at the mess, I could see Moose giving me that look that said, "Don't blame me, I was downstairs."  I didn't say a word and quietly swept then vacuumed the floor as Dave shook his head, his lips pursed, holding in his mounting anger.

The next night we again headed out to grab some food.  This time, we had a heavily packed box that we dragged in front of the gate, certain that it would do the trick.  We were gone four hours.  Upon return, I opened the door and peaked inside.

The lower cabinet lazy susan was pushed open.  From the cabinet had been pulled a twp pound bag of confectioners sugar and the remnants of a five pound bag of flour.  They had been gutted.  They had been dragged across the room.  They had been been deposited in every nook and cranny available, on the walls, in the cabinet grooves. The happiest dog in the world greeted me at the door, tongue hanging out. It was as if he was saying, "Look!  Look what we found!  Watch.  If I roll in it and shake I can make a cloud.  If I get a running start, I can slide across the floor and if I lick it, it sticks to my fur.  I LOVE this! Come!  Roll in the sweet white stuff with me!"  Moose, on the other hand was cowering in the corner.  He knew he was busted because he is the animal that knew how to open the lazy susan in the first place.

I turned to Moondoggy who was hyper-ventilating and said, "See THIS?  THIS is everywhere."




Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's a Girl Gotta Do?

If I were to simply list the stats for the past two weeks, you might think I am a fairly avid athlete.  I have run about 27 miles, walked close to 10 miles, biked 23 miles and participated in 3 sessions of water aerobics and lap swim.  Impressive for a 52 year old woman who believes beaches are for lolling, not volleyball.  

I began the whole run thing last September in an attempt to shore up my heart.  My family heart history errs to the side of weak and I wanted to beat the odds. . .and drop some weight.  I have been successful at both.  My resting heart rate is in the mid 40s, I've lost a significant amount of weight and in the process have become addicted to running.  Bravo.

So, here is the problem.  My resting heart rate (which I already mentioned) is at the same level as a Lance Armstrong type. . .which would be great if I was in the same physical shape.  I'm not and I've had that heart rate for several years, so really there has been no change.  I still have high blood pressure and always will (thanks, Dad, Grandpa, etc.). I have high cholesterol (same family). I have made a concerted effort to accurately and honestly write down everything I eat and drink (and yes, that includes the 2-3 glasses of wine on Fridays with my friends).  I literally cut most restaurant meals in half and take the other half home.  That being said on MOST days (sometimes you have to live a little) I stay between 12-1500 calories a day.  You would think I would be completely transformed.  Yeah, you would think.

So, I look in the mirror and assess.  What do I see?  I don't cast as large a shadow (credit to Ralph for that phrase), but it's still the same body.  Still round, still fat.  This is where I will tell you that it's ok.  I am happy with the achievement, accepting of a body that carries genetics beyond my control.  I am at peace.

But, that would be a lie.  


I can't leave on that sour note so I will let you in on a secret.  It is my summer cocktail-- low calorie, yummy and effective.

Hole in One

If you enjoy an Arnold Palmer (lemonade and ice tea sweet). . .this will kick it up.

1 packet Crystal Light lemonade
2 oz Seagrams Sweet Tea Vodka
1 large tumbler

Mix the Crystal Light (I like mine stronger so I use about 2/3 C. water to mix) with water.  Add ice.  Pour vodka over the top, mix and enjoy.  132 calories.


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