I know that someday you'll find better things.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Personal Dictionary

My phone has one, and maybe yours does, too. The phone adds and stores phrases that are frequently used by the owner to its basic dictionary.

In theory, this allows the phone to more efficiently auto-correct and auto-complete the user's messages.

In practice, it means a whole bunch of typos, gibberish, and peculiar phrases that eventually get automatically substituted at the least desirable times. I was mortified when I saw "playboy" listed, until I remembered Mia's recent independent google search for playdoh ideas-- a perfect example of auto-complete technology in action.

My personal dictionary paints an image of a neurotic hillbilly with a penchant for fine cheese.
What does yours say about you?

Here's an excerpt from the 'C' section. You can see the full list by clicking here.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012


For the first time in as long as I can remember, the leaves are turning in Texas.

Some years, it seems like the fall leaves are still clinging to the trees even as spring arrives; the tender new sprouts have the responsibility of evicting last year’s residents before they can begin their own lives.

When I first moved here, I hadn’t realized how much I would miss leaf-peeping. I hadn’t thought about the leaves at all. August, September, and October passed—all hot—and eventually it was November, with the only real sign of winter’s approach being that the pool temperature had decreased to an unswimmable status.

One day I received a notice that I had a package waiting at the post office. A friend had mailed me a shoebox stuffed with fall foliage.

“So you can smell autumn,” his note read.

I kept that shoe box for years.

The leaves this year are spectacular—I should probably start gathering shoeboxes and addresses of distant friends. Twice while driving, I’ve pulled the car over to take pictures of the lovely trees. 

The leaves lining a particular section on Hedgcoxe were especially magnificent. They were saturated in an array of the very best crayon names: maize, raw umber, mahogany--and more!-- smokey topaz, tiger's eye, burnt sienna. Vermillion.

Last week, I piled the kids into the car after school and drove up and down the strip beneath that firey canopy. They rolled their eyes each time I hollered, “Here we go, guys! Get ready to look up!”

Back and forth we went, making illegal u-turns, until the kids finally asked if we could please head home to start homework.

Party poopers. Don’t they know how fleeting this beauty is?

My carpe diem spirit is maybe not as authentic as I’d have them believe, for this thought prowls at the edges of my mind:

I drove this route every day for the past five years and NEVER noticed these glorious flaming pillars. Are the leaves truly more colorful this year, or am I merely more mindful? Less stressed? Less preoccupied?

I told all of this to my husband; he’d driven that same road, too.
I asked if he’d noticed the leaves.

He hadn’t.

On Saturday we made a point to drive by, but the once-coppery leaves were now dull and shriveled. Many had already dropped. We’d missed it. Disappointment swelled inside of me. I’d wanted to share the magic with him.

Two days later on the way back from the library, I noticed a new grove of colorful trees—and later that week, the ones in our own yard morphed into personal sunsets, too.

I’m thankful that the leaves don’t turn at once, all on the same day. 
Mother Nature, perennial parent, is so good about giving us second chances to absorb the beauty and the wonder of the world around us.

How to Safely Crack an Egg

  1. Remove carton from refrigerator.
  2. Check date on carton. Pause to determine today’s date. If the expiration date is approaching and is less than one week from today, discard carton directly into outside trashbin, just to be safe, and then determine alternate recipe plan. If date is approaching but is more than one week from today, proceed to next step.
  3. Remove egg from carton. Examine closely for abnormalities. If it looks odd, discard it directly into the outside trashbin, just to be safe. If you determine it is a normal “good” egg, proceed to the next step.
  4. Crack the egg. This can be done by tapping it against the the edge of the countertop or the side of the bowl. Try to minimize the amount of goo that gets on your hands, the countertop, and/or the side of the bowl.
  5. Carefully—CAREFULLY—move toward the indoor trash or countertop compost bin, angling your wrists so that any stray goo lands on you and not the floor or counter.
  6. With your pinky, attempt to open the cabinet door (or pantry, or compost bin lid) and dispose of the shells with deep purpose and finality.
  7. Proceed to sink. Turn on water, apply handsoap. Scrub! Turn off water.
  8. Locate Clorox wipes.
  9. Wipe the counter (or side of bowl) used to crack the egg. Dispose of wipe.
  10. Use a new wipe to clean the pantry door handle and/or compost lid. Dispose of wipe.
  11. Use a new wipe to clean the soap dispenser and sink handle(s). Dispose of wipe.
  12. Use a new wipe to clean the box of Clorox wipes. Dispose of wipe.
  13. Consult recipe. Are additional eggs required? If so, repeat steps 3 through 12.

We don’t eat eggs very often—too dangerous.

The Magic Treehouse

Caleb: "Mia, if you liked the Magic Treehouse book about DaVinci, you should get the one about Mark Newton."
Russ:"Mark Twain?"
Me: "Isaac Newton?"
Caleb: "No! The one Grandma likes."
Hannah: "Chuck Norris?"
Caleb: "No-- the guy from Russia..."

Oh. Rasputin
Of course.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Highway Robbery

Among the many joys of living in the thriving metropolis of North Texas is our toll-road system. For the most part, the two main toll roads are state-of-the-art superhighways with speed limits of 70+ miles an hour with nary another vehicle in sight. If your timing is just right, it’s the equivalent of the Autobahn mixed with a closed-course car commercial. The reason it’s such a dreamy, lonely driving track is the hefty cost to use it. Picking up company at the airport? Nine dollars. Delivering out-of-town guests back to the airport? Nine again. Did I mention that the airport is only thirty minutes away?

This is truly highway robbery.

After procrastinating as long as I possibly could—mostly on principle, because I just can’t wrap my mind around paying those huge fees to a website that ends in .org-- I finally had to bite the bullet and get current on my account.

I tried to login to the webpage (stupid .org) but unfortunately, I guessed my password incorrectly one time too many.

Security question? Favorite song.
What year did I establish this count? Was that during my rap phase?
Nevermind. Time to reset.

Creating a new password was a rare and special variety of hell:

Your new password must be 8-15 characters.
It must include a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and at least one of the following symbols: @#$%*.

Oh, I’ll give you @#$%* all right.

The instructions continued.

For maximum security strength, consider using a phrase with personal and significant meaning.
Note: please do not use the examples listed above. Doing so may compromise the security of your account.

Oh good grief.

Once THAT was done, I was prompted to make changes to my account.
Did I have any vehicles to add? Why yes, I do. Click, click. Enter. Submit.
Your new tolltag should arrive in 7-10 business days.


Did you need to update your account info?
Hmm. Let’s see.
Oh, schnitzel. Old address! Old last name!
My mind went bonkers imagining the trouble a scoundrel could cause using MY new tolltag.

I had no choice but to call the company.

Every time I’ve ever called the toll tag customer service line--which is twice, I think--the wait to speak to a representative exceeded forty minutes. This is where my procrastination was going to pay off, though, for today was a special day: Election Day. Surely the masses would be so busy waiting in line at the polls that they wouldn’t have time to trifle with the tolltag folks. THIS was going to be my reward for early voting, I was sure of it.

And it was.
I was only on hold for 21 minutes.

Most people are probably not this enthusiastic about speaking with a customer service department. For the last decade, it seems like our society’s biggest gripe in customer service calls has been the strong accent of the representative. As so often happens with cultural-trends-cum-stereotypes, radio DJs snark about it and Saturday Night Live pokes fun, and eventually somebody (usually Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler) makes a movie about it. (Actually, this time, Josh Hamilton starred in the movie. The film Outsourced was a tender, touching little comedy with far more heart and compassion than its NBC spinoff series of the same name.)

My customer service representative spoke English without even a trace of an accent.
He had a deep, rich, beautiful voice.
I could barely understand a word he was saying.

Barry White’s voice is a full octave higher than this man’s. My phone could not sort out the sounds of the words, and huge chunks of his sentences blended together in a deep, fog-horn bellow. I wasn’t sure what to do. Accents and lisps can be blamed on technical difficulties (“I’m very sorry, my phone seems to be cutting out. Could you repeat that, please?”) but in this case, it didn’t matter how many times he repeated himself, this difficulty was going to continue.

I did the only thing I could do. I tried to use context clues and logic to respond to each request.
In short, I guessed.

“Could I have your hhhmmmppphhmmm-ber?”
“Sure. Is it somewhere here on the statement?”
“No, ma’am. Your hhhmmmppphhmmm-ber.”
“Whoops, sorry. It’s 214…”
“Ma’am, your driver’s hhhmmmppphhmmm-ber.”
“Oh, of course! My apologies. I just don’t know where my mind is today.”

It was a very long and awkward conversation. He was very patient and professional the entire time.

After our call ended, my thoughts of this mysterious baritone brother persisted.

Surely I can’t be the only one who had this type of encounter with him. Are there people out there who ask to speak to a different agent? Are there letter-writers who complain to his supervisor?

My prediction is that if there are other people like me out there (please let there be others!) who try to limp through the conversation graciously guessing, it must be very frustrating for this fellow. Can’t you picture the conversations in the breakroom?

“Man, what is up with the callers lately? It’s like they don’t know their phone number from their driver’s license number! And it took this one lady six tries to answer me when all I’d asked for was her name…”

And—this is probably not very nice—but for heaven’s sake, no wonder it takes so long on hold if each conversation follows the path that mine did.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Poop Worshippers

Bill, our mortgage lender guy, shared an unusual perspective about how future societies will view our culture. He did not claim to have developed this theory, and I can only hope that he heard about it from David Letterman or some other late-night television comedian and not a late-night conspiracy theorist like Art Bell.

“Think about it,” he’d said. “A thousand years from now, when the archeologists uncover evidence of our lifetime, they’re going to be so perplexed. The amount of documents they find—the paper evidence of our culture—will decrease starting around 2003, and maybe it will cease entirely by, say, 2020. But you know what they’ll find an abundance of? Poop. Baby diapers. Cat-litter. Bags of doggie doo from those folks kind enough to pick up after their pets. All of it perfectly preserved in layers of plastic bags. It might even look ceremonious to the archeologists of the future. They’re going to wonder why in the world we’d go to such lengths to save the stuff. They’ll probably try to determine if it was religious, but all the records will be gone. Just like the mummies…”

Russ and I turned to face each other, and our raised eyebrows had a conversation.
“Am I dreaming all this?” my eyebrows asked.
“Get a load of this nutcase!” his eyebrows replied.

“Wow. I never really thought about it that way before,” I said.
Thank God we don’t have pets, I thought. And why wasn’t I better about those cloth diapers? Goodness knows we’d purchased enough of them!

Back at home, I surveyed our documents. No records? Ha! Our home is bursting with documents that I just can’t seem to part with. Let the archeologists make our address an excavation site. They’ll be able to track the trend of water and electricity costs back to 1999, at least. They’ll find notebooks filled with grocery lists, sermon notes, and consignment-clothing descriptions for the Big Sale. They’ll find toll-tag statements and gas receipts and fortunes from the cookies at Pei Wei.

I don’t want to hang on to all these things, mind you, but now I feel that I must.
After all, I don’t want the archeologists of the future to think we were a bunch of poop worshippers.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween Decorations

Russ brought lots of these into the marriage. Most of them are hideous. Many are also annoying, like the cottony spider-webbing that never dies. We find clumps of that horrid stuff throughout the yard long after Halloween.

How long? Try July.

There is one decoration that I’ve become particularly fond of, though. So fond, in fact, that when I boxed up all the decorations on November first promptly at 8 a.m., I deliberately left this one in the yard.

This magical decoration is a fake rock—fairly subtle, until you trigger the motion activated sensor and it roars to life. It emits a spooky, surprisingly loud, shockingly long echoey laugh straight out of a nightmare. It gets better! The rock also bears a light-up message: “GO BACK!!!” in big purple letters.

It is very annoying to anyone who uses the front door during the month of Halloween, which is mostly Hannah and sometimes Caleb when he goes out to get the mail.

My plan was just to startle Hannah a little bit, just for that one day after Halloween.

Something very mysterious happened that day.

The rock went off THREE times!

Each time, I raced to the window to see who was at our door, and each time, all I could see was the back of those door-to-door advertiser guys as they moved on to the next house. Here is the best part. None of them—not one!—left their stupid advertisements rubber-banded to the doorknob.

It’s as though they thought the rock’s message was just for them.
Or maybe they just got too freaked out.
Either way, I see this as a victory.

That rock is going to stay out there all year long.
Sorry, Hannah.