Friday, February 21, 2014

My expired yoga pass

How sad is it that I couldn't use a 10-class pass in six months? I had all sorts of good intentions when I bought it back in August. I was ready to make the investment in myself. "Is it really an investment?" I was asked. "Yes, it is -- not just the money, but the time."

As it turned out, time was the biggest challenge.

It always is.

Lack of it is the same reason I have eight stories in progress and haven't had time to write in weeks.

My other half says, "How can you say you don't have enough time when there are in a week?" (He knows the number offhand, but I do not -- he's really good with numbers.)

I don't know. I guess maybe it is because it is so rare that I actually have the two hours I need for a yoga class (or to do any writing) available at any one time. Often I might find 15 minutes to myself and might do half a treadmill workout (but even then it's rare that no one wants to either talk to me or ask me to do something.) Just yesterday I needed to take a private phone call, got up from my desk, went to my room, and closed the door. Within five minutes, someone was knocking. Today I was about to do my nails when someone pointed out that there were spots on the carpet, which required the SpotBot and major scrubbing by hand (so it would be pointless to put nail polish on before doing that.)

I sent the studio a note imploring that they extend the pass. I think I had only taken four classes in the six-months since I bought the pass. They told me that while it is not their usual policy, they would give me two weeks to use the remaining six classes.

And I did it!

I am sore, but feel really good.

This is a reminder that, as the flight attendants say, "you need to put on your own oxygen mask first."

Now, to work on the stories...they are taking up too much room in my head...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lorem ipsum dolor -- in other words, "blah blah blah"

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. 

I had a blast from the past today when I was using a template to construct an email promotional message. I was supposed to fill in the placeholder text with my own customized message.

I learned on wikipedia that this comes from sections 1.10.32–3 of Cicero's De finibus bonorum et malorum (On the Ends of Goods and Evils, or alternatively [About] The Purposes of Good and Evil). The original passage began: Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet consectetur adipisci velit (translation: "Neither is there anyone who loves, pursues or desires pain itself because it is pain"). 

I first became acquainted with it maybe 20 years ago when it was used as placeholder text in graphic design programs. My mom and I used to say "Lorem ipsum" to each other when we meant blah blah blah. (We'd say it under our breath to each other at meetings when someone was droning on and on and try not to crack up.) Today when I am writing drafts and I know I'll need to flesh out a part I just write xxx or blah blah.

But why use blah blah blah when you can use nonsense Latin?


Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Singing Monsters

I was telling my son's friend's mom, "Oh, I meant to write back to you to let you know we're all set with the homework, but it's the first time I had a chance to sit down all day and I checked my phone and got caught up with this game, 'My Singing Monsters.' Literally, I am right here in front of my computer, but that's where my phone was charging..." my voice trailed off because I realized the whole things sounded so ridiculous.

We'd had a snow day that day and one of my boys was worried (so much so that he couldn't sleep in) about an assignment he had due the next day and he'd expected to have time in class to work on in class that day, and in any case, he didn't have the assignment with him, so I had asked the mom if she could text me a picture of it (which is probably weird to her to begin with, but my fax machine is broken). I'd wound up getting a hold of the teacher and getting a real copy of the assignment, but apparently peace of mind was all my son needed...he barely looked at it...but having kids home on top of my usual work load had just about put  me over the edge and I needed a breather, a few moments to do something inane.

Did you tell her you play My Singing Monsters? He sounded horrified.

"Yeah, honey, why not?"

"What did she say?"

"Nothing, really."

I could tell he was embarrassed. However, what I have learned since the time I was a child and embarrassed of my own mother, is basically, who cares? Is it any of his business if his friend's mom thinks I am a whackjob because I am playing a game on my mobile device? It's not like I am playing Clash of Clans or Minecraft (ahem, son), or announcing to all my Facebook friends that I play Candy Crush Saga, or worse yet, sending them invitations to join me. The reason I play this game is so I have a way to connect with my kids (other than Instagram) with something that is amusing. And this little game doesn't have any bloodshed or criminal activity or shooting or weapons. It amuses me.

At hockey the other night I told one of my youngest's friend's moms, "Hang on a second, I just have to manage a couple of monsters in this game I play with my kids." I did not worry what she thought. When I was done, we spent the rest of the time chatting about kids and hockey, and cheering on our kids playing hockey.

 My brother commented one time about our mom that she was one of the biggest football fans he knew. He got her a "Mom Brady" shirt, even. I told him around the time of her passing, "I am not sure she was that into football as she was wanting to find a way to connect with you."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The shape of a family

"This is my sons' brothers' mother," I told my plumber, who I ran into at the restaurant that one of my older sons' older brothers manages.

He shook his head and did a double take.

We were there to celebrate my oldest's birthday, at the invitation of his older brother. His other older brother and sister were not with us as one of them has moved to California and the other had a previous engagement.

"Yeah, we both have the same ex-husband."

"Well, it's nice that you can get along."

"We actually have a lot in common, aside from the fact that our kids are siblings."

And we do. We've gone to church together and women's events together. We network about jobs. We get our nails done together. We celebrate birthdays and holidays and have other mutual friends now. We have even since returned to this restaurant for a ladies' outing with some of them.

I am certain that families come in many shapes and sizes. Nuclear families are not necessarily universal, nor is it the essential form of family. According to, there is a diversity of family across cultures and eras. "For example, the Zinacantecos of southern Mexico identify the basic social unit as a house, which may include one to twenty people."

There was a period of time when Grandma lived with us. After she passed away, and I really had to think hard about who to list as my "emergency contact," we realized the importance of our church family, and our friends who came to our weekly Pasta Nights, which were my effort to create community for my kids since we don't have much local family. (Pasta Night has become catch as catch can, now that it's a rare day when someone doesn't have "something.")

Our "house" is made up of five people with three different last names. I have always wished I could have one of those plaques on the house that says, "The So-and-so family." That will never happen, unless we call ourselves "The Er Family." (All of our last names end with E-R.)

Thursday, February 6, 2014


We talk about grammar and spelling a lot in our house. I want my boys to know how to speak and write proper English, even though it is so common nowadays to abbreviate things, when thumb-typing. "K" means "okay," "newhere" means "anywhere,""ne1" means "anyone," and "RU" means "are you" (that's far more obvious than newhere or ne1, but still...). I cringe when people use these types of abbreviations in business, as some of my younger colleagues do when IMing. I wonder, is it actually acceptable nowadays and I am just old? Or is it because many of the people I correspond with via IM are in other countries and perhaps it is customary to spell English phonetically? I don't know. But I do know that my sons, who are native English speakers, with that being the only language they really speak even though my older two have taken several  years of foreign languages in middle school, should be able to speak and write correctly.

My boys love to correct each other an me, if they catch me, which is fine, but I have told them it is not polite to correct other adults and they need to be careful about correcting their friends.

"Yeah, I can't stand it when so-and-so says "lay" instead of "lie," my oldest said.
"Don't try to correct him," I advised.
"Yeah, he never thinks he's wrong," my middle son chimed in.
I barely managed to control snorting my beverage out my nose. "You're so right, honey!"

I remember being horrified when my oldest's kindergarten teacher did not know when to use "lay" and "lie" (true, I still have to look that up if I am using the past tense, to avoid putting anything incorrect in writing). I would especially hope teachers don't proliferate bad grammar, but they do, I have come to discover, throughout the years, since he is now in 8th grade.

Some people tell me I am being too critical, that why should a teacher be expected to have good grammar if they are not an English teacher? I have come to learn to move on. These are not the types of people with whom I should be discussing grammar with. (See, I am not perfect, but I do care!)

I had a seventh grade science teacher actually write "youse" on the blackboard, as in "Hey, youse guys!" I just couldn't respect him after that.

My other half challenged me recently on the difference between "may" and "might." I realized I did not exactly know the difference (one denotes higher likelihood of something happening than the other), so I looked it up on my mobile device as we were driving. Imagine my thrill when I googled and found The Grammar Girl's website. I am not alone!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The rice experiment

“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”
~St. Augustine

 We are doing an experiment about the power of our words. What happens when we use good words; what happens when we use bad words. We got the idea from a Facebook friend who posted a link to this story about Scientific Proof That Thoughts and Intentions Can Alter the World Around Us.

We have three containers of plain white rice in the boys' bathroom. If you zoom in on the picture, you can see that one of them says, "I love you" and "Thank you" on it. Another says "You fool." The third says, "I do not see you" and "You do not exist."

In the video that accompanies the above article, the experimenter, Steve, conducted his experiment for 147 days. His "thank you" rice still looks white. "The 'ignore rice' is the worst," according to Steve. "It looks like sh**." The "fool rice" looks pretty bad, too, but not as bad as the "ignore rice."

We have been doing our experiment since January 29. In less than a week we have had some interesting conversations about it.

My oldest told me he said some really awful things to the "fool" rice. I told him, "fine, get it all out." This could be a useful thing to do from that point of view, too (providing a way for kids to express things they shouldn't be repressing).

My middle son told me he feels bad ignoring the "ignore" rice. "And I don't really like saying the "f-word" to to fool rice."

"I don't like it either, honey. I usually just stick my tongue out at it," I told him.

I thought about the "ignore rice." It made me sad to think that being ignored can be worse than being insulted (per Steve's experiment, anyway). That would explain why people would seek negative attention over nothing.

I had a so-called friend who gave me the cold shoulder once -- and probably still would to this day if I ever came across her again. The last time I saw her was in the supermarket on the 4th of July nearly four years ago, when I had left a pool party to run out to for swim goggles. I did a double take because I did not recognize her as the person who was once my supposed friend. She just stared straight ahead. (I am sure it takes a lot of effort to consciously ignore people, when most people naturally acknowledge even strangers.) What was so surprising was that she had stood by my side when my mother passed, even hosting a get together after the memorial service. She had told me that my mother appeared to her in a dream a couple of weeks before she passed. I found this odd at the time, since my mom thought my pretend friend was troubled and was not rejoicing in my brother's relationship with her), but who knows about the metaphysical realm (which is the point of this whole story anyway). Several months later because she did not agree with how I was handling something, she completely cut me off from every aspect of her life with an "I'm done" via text and social media blocking (just like Jr. High!). It made me rethink our so-called friendship. Real friends don't do that. I guessed she just used me to date my brother, to enlarge her circle of friends, to...what? I don't know. What I do know was it was not so bad being snubbed as it was to realize that our friendship was a lie. It is horrible to have the memories of my mother's final days tainted with memories of this fake friend. I will never fully understand it because I burned the hate letter she sent me without reading it (I felt that if she had made a choice to cut me off, she no longer had the right to spew judgmental venom at me -- you can't have it both ways). It was hurtful, but truthfully, my life became a lot simpler without all the drama she had brought into it. That saying about people coming into your life for a reason, season, or lifetime...I guess she was a r/season. And I (unlike the "ignore rice") am not the one that turned rotten and looked "like sh**. I have plenty of real friends." Goodbye and best wishes.

(Well, now, I wasn't even planning on writing about any of that, but since this blog is about "something different altogether" it really is quite liberating to write whatever I want.)

We got a notice from the elementary school a couple of days ago about a science fair. We're wondering if we should enter this experiment, or if it's too far to the left of "science."

(It has been almost a week and all of the rice is still really white.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Status symbol

"You have to change your status? What is that, like hashtag in the car on the way to the bus, hashtag swag, hashtag doctor's appointment, hashtag YOLO, hashtag status update. Cackle snort."

"No, honey, it's nothing that exciting. It's just letting people know I'm not at my desk." It was only 7:15 but I'd been working a little because my colleagues across the globe were getting ready to end their day. Not that anyone in our time zone would expect me to be working...or maybe they would. I just closed my work laptop and it's the middle of the Super Bowl, for example.

Regardless, I set my status to "I am away from my computer right now." I'd told my hashtag son I'd drive him to the bus stop before I took his brother to his before school doctor's appointment for the foot pain he's been having (turns out he just needs to listen to his body and quit overdoing it -- like playing on three basketball teams might be a bit over the top).

I suppose the fact that I was untethered from my computer until 9 a.m. that day was a status symbol...

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...