Monthly Archives: August 2015

Back to School Salute: 6 Questions You Won’t Get Answered in the Classroom

Many kids don’t go back to school until after Labor Day, but mine started this past Wednesday. Yes, the body of August isn’t even cold yet, and the grind has started. And no, it’s not starting this early because of Boston’s record snow fall last winter. The district decided to be democratic and give all the religious holidays off—Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, so the kids are only going to school for like five days during the month of September. I wish I could get me some of that for work. If we all got all the religious holidays off and participation was optional, we’d all be a lot more tolerant, don’t you think? Politicians, if you can take a break from nay saying and being extreme, maybe you could get working on that idea.

But I digress. Regardless of the start date, for many people back-to-school means posting annoying (to the rest of us) pics of your favorite student all bright and shiny with a brand new back pack and big smile. I’m not jealous in the least, and don’t worry, you won’t find me clogging up my Facebook page with that rubbish. You see, for my teen school has always been a grueling event to grimly endure like a Dust Bowl farmer. Believe me, nobody wants or needs this documented, with the exception of the Dust Bowl farmers above. We’re both just waiting for it to be over.

But I didn’t come here to bellyache about school, well I did a little, but I did want to acknowledge that school is starting and in honor of that and in lieu of smiling happy students, I present here 6 questions my friends and I have been pondering lately. I submit to you that they are way more useful and interesting than questions you get in school, which is why we never got the answers.

  1. Are blue balls a real thing? My friend insists that this is a real and dangerous condition, and I say it’s a condition guys made up to get laid. So I looked it up, and yes, it can happen and involves restricted blood flow and oxygen getting absorbed during an extended erection, blah, blah, blah. But it won’t kill you, and the website I consulted described it as more of a “minor pain.” Soooo I’m going to give you that it’s an actual medical condition, but that it’s dangerous? Um, yeah, no.
  2. Do hamsters change their sex? Another friend as a kid had two hamsters that were both female, and the next thing he knew there were baby hamsters everywhere. Based on that experience, he claims hamsters can change their sex by necessity. I seriously doubted that because it’s such an anomaly, it would have been used in a biology class as an example of whatever that’s called, and we all would have remembered it, even a word girl like me. When I Googled it, you’d be surprised at how popular that question is. Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not a freak of nature. The main culprit seems to be pet stores’ lack of skill in 1) identifying males and females correctly and 2) the corollary result of that misidentification, which is that you can bring home a hamster that is already pregnant. Hence, the amazing sex-changing hamster. Not.
  3. If a tree falls in the forest and you see and hear it, does it count as a philosophical event, or is it just falling deadwood? Yes? No? Discuss.
  4. What does a typed period look like in italics? In a discussion about whether to italicize the punctuation that goes with italicized text (the answer is yes), my friend and I wondered about this. I made the font really big and in Palatino it looks ovally. My friend used Times New Roman and described it as not oval, but rather “smaller and more delicate looking.” Typeface and word aficionados could easily while away an entire afternoon doing this. Left side of the internet room, serif; right side, san serif. Get crazy with it, and bonus points for posting the description of what it looks like.
  5. What exactly does “telling tales out of school” mean? As opposed to telling tales “in school”? And why is that OK? What tales are we talking about? Gossip? Literature? Urban legends like alligators in the toilets? Tails? Inquiring minds want to know.
  6. When you go to a bar’s “underwear night” and they say to wear something you could wear out in public and not get arrested, what does that mean? Can you get arrested for wearing actual underwear on the street—say, tighty whities or women’s Hanes? Or a bikini swim suit for that matter? And if so, what is the difference, besides the type of material? I see people wearing their pajamas in public and see through tops, is that also a crime? I mean besides a crime of fashion?

Some these queries like the one about the tree falling in a forest may be unanswerable, but I think it’s still important to ask these piercing questions. After all, isn’t that what education is all about?

Photo note: I mean no disrespect to people who lived, struggled, and died during the Dust Bowl. The image is a good reminder of how lucky  we all are.

Introducing Our New Furry Family Member: Marble

A few months ago we said goodbye to Hamphrey, our beloved hamster and occasional muse/savior of this blog (Hamphrey snoring in the cutest way everSanta Hamphrey and Hamphrey inspiring me to be one of those pet people). We recently decided we were ready for another furry friend, so here he is making his blog debut: I give you Marble.

He’s already proving to have some spunk. I had to take 37 photos of him before I could get the one above, and this was in the morning, when he’s supposed to be sleepy and more susceptible to my Jedi mind tricks, or at least the promise of a carrot. Here’s what most of the other pictures look like:

Marblemoving1 marblemoving2



I’m thinking he will be more like our first hamster, Nibbles, who was a poster hamster for being active. My theory is he lived longer (for a hamster, anyway) as a result. Nibbles would always rather be rolling around in his ball. The few times we left the cage door open he escaped and set up his man cave underneath our dishwasher, complete with food and bedding, or we found him in the room furthest from his cage looking disheveled and dirty as if he’d hiked through the Himalayas.

Hamphrey on the other hand was more of a homebody, and it was even money whether he’d go in the ball or sniff it politely before turning away and settling on his couch with a clicker and a bowl of sunflower seeds. He also needed surgery and just made it to his second birthday. Just sayin’.

So, welcome Marble; thanks  for taking part in my unscientific observations on the impact of exercise on hamsters, and we look forward to your general adorableness and any blog-worthy antics.

Birthdays: Top 5 Reasons 50 is Better than 30

At least these are my reasons; yours may differ, but believe me, you have them.

  1. Scheduling surgery on your birthday is not nearly as exciting a story as you think it will be. OK, so I was 30, and still dreaming of being a literary writer, and that’s the only reason I can give as to why I thought getting surgery on my occipital bone to remove a small, harmless, but annoying growth would be interesting. Interesting, as in I’m-a-writer-which-is-the-poor-cousin-to-actor-filmmaker-and-other-cool-creative-people-love-me-anyway. Um, yeah, Tom Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Dorothy Parker never wrote about their eye surgery, so why did I think it was going to help launch my literary career? I went into the hospital on my birthday thinking I was going to have a wicked cool story to tell; I came out the next day with a black eye and sleep deprived because my roommate had a nose job, and she snorted, snored, and gurgled her way through the night. Soooo not interesting, not even in a bad way.My 50th birthday celebrations, on the other hand, were two weeks of Hollywood-like productions. I had cake with family, jumped off a 15-foot-high rock into the ocean, went sea kayaking, got taken to a fancy restaurant, spent 19 hours with friends in Provincetown wearing the tiara pictured above, eating, drinking and dancing, had dinner and walked in Boston with my son, and concluded the two weeks with a dinner and dance party at a club. Now that, my friends, is a birthday.
  1. The birthday cards you get are waaay better. Let’s face it, turning 30 can be a mixed bag. My 20s were equal parts figuring out how to find work that would allow me to eat while trying to become said writer mentioned above, and engaging in the silly nonsense you expect kids in their 20s to get up to. I was partly grateful for leaving behind a lot of the uncertainty of what a sustainable writing career might look like, but mostly I felt like I was getting old. And unfortunately all the 30 birthday cards tend to support that. It’s totally depressing, especially if you are feeling like your, um, writing career isn’t where it should be and you get as a birthday present a novel from the newest 20-something literary breakout sensation who graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop while you were slogging out a desk job and writing at night. Swell.The cards you get when you turn 50? Your friends are so excited and so happy that you made it this far pretty much intact, all the cards are funny and celebratory and people tell you how fabulous you are. I think the only other birthday number that is as exciting to your friends is 21, and that’s a waste because no one ever remembers it.
  1. I finally can tell all the “experts” to go stick it in their pie hole. For a while now I’ve been irritated by all the advice that pops up in my various social media and email feeds. Drink 6.25 ounces of water 32 minutes before you work out and then every 15.4 minutes after your work out to optimize hydration. Six things you should never eat (and gross things like lima beans are never on the list). Parenting advice, career advice, how to pick the best advice advice—it’s endless and irritating. But in my 30s I followed a lot of it—of course it came more by way of women’s magazines, but still, I read carefully about how to use my fingertips, not my nails to shampoo my scalp and how to comb my wet hair from the bottom to the top to prevent those horrible, unsightly split ends. OK, so most of it was hair advice, but still, I wanted to improve myself. Now that I’m 50, I finally realize why the advice is so irritating. It’s meant to optimize my years on this earth. And guess what? I’m not an effin’ Olympic athlete, so I don’t need to be optimized. I’m not looking to shave .0003456 seconds off my performance or have whiter teeth in minutes without pain (wait, what? Pain?), or find out what drinks to never have after dinner. I don’t care. I made it 50 years on this earth doing some things badly and getting better at them, doing some things well, and ignoring others entirely. I’ve learned the difference between what I need to do and what’s a waste of time. So, stick that in your pie hole and optimize it.
  2. I can favorably compare myself to 70-year-olds. Turning 30 felt like I was losing my youth, and that was hard. All the little things that let you know you’re aging—the stray gray hair, the twisted ankle that takes two weeks to heal instead of one—feel like loss. Being 50 means having made it through much of that transition, and now I’m grateful for all the things I don’t yet have because I’m not 70—arthritis, age-related high blood pressure, cataracts, more wrinkles than I have now. Compared to 70, I look fantastic, baby.
  3. Because I’m older than you, and I have more insurance. One of my favorite lines from “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Nuff said.


I’m 50, Fabulous and Happily Spent

 Like the Olympics, last night I had a fantastic dinner and dancing birthday party to conclude two solid weeks of birthday cebrations. That’s the upside for me; the down side for you is I’m too tired to write about it today, so you’ll have to wait till next week for all the gory details. All I will say is the reports of police intervention are highly exaggerated. They were perfectly nice and understanding.

I will also say turning 50 was way better than when I turned 30 and decided it would be “fun” to have a bump on my occipital bone removed on my birthday. You know, as a funny story to tell. Being a writer can sometimes work against me. Anyway, I’m much wiser now and will regale you with it all next week!

I’m Too Sexy for My Suit

I was at a lake this past week vacationing with my family. My grandparents had a cottage there and we spent many idyllic weeks during the endless summers of childhood. They had to sell it when I was in college, and I never quite recovered from its loss, even though as an adult I now fully understand the care-taking that went into my “easy” childhood memories. But several years ago, my sister found an excellent substitute, a rental cottage not far from the one we had. So now we get a double pleasure – reliving our childhood memories unsullied by the burdens of cottage ownership, and we get to stalk the old place under the acceptable guise of taking a leisurely boat ride. Ha! Suckers. So far I can report that the place looks moderately unkempt, which only fuels our misbegotten fantasies to buy it back.

One of our many memories of the camp were of the dragonflies and what my grandmother called sewing needles – those smaller dragonfly-like insects, but way prettier– in blues, yellows, reds, and greens. My sister and I were swimming at the rental place and saw a number of them and of course we started reminiscing about them. They used to land on my grandmother’s bathing cap the one time per year we could beg and cajole her into going swimming. Her cap had the rubber flower petals on it too, which we were convinced lured the insects to her. When she finally did get in the water, we were so excited, you’d think we’d gotten permission to eat ice cream for all three meals. The only thing more magical was seeing the dragonflies and sewing needles land on her head. Thinking about that, I lifted my fingers out of the water and said I wished they would land on me.

And one did. A beauty with black thick and electric blue thin stripes alternating down its body. My sister and I marveled and looked it over closely, taking advantage of the small miracle on my finger. Finally I had to move and it flew away. We sighed, but felt we had appreciated the moment. A short time later I was sitting on a float on the water and another one landed on me. Then a frisky pair – the male using grippers on the end of his tail to hold on to the top of the female’s abdomen. Then another frisky pair landed in a similar embrace. Then the single one started to interrupt the pairs. I had a full-scale dragonfly orgy riot unfolding on me. Suddenly that “magical” moment with nature was becoming annoying. But it didn’t end there. A single one landed on me, curved its tail,  and began to insert its gripper into my bathing suit at steady intervals. My sister and I looked at each other mystified. Was it trying to lay eggs? We couldn’t see that it was leaving anything behind, but wouldn’t the eggs be super small? We started to joke about the gestation of sewing needle eggs and that I’d be giving birth to babies when I got home from vacation. We watched for a while, fascinated once again. Then we wondered if it were an adolescent, practicing his gripping moves for the ladies. My sister swam up close, but the sewing needle just kept going about its business. She was even able to touch it and it just stayed focused on giving my bathing suit the once over. Then, fickle, impatient humans that we are, annoyance set in again. Nature is all wonder and miracle until you can’t get rid of it. My sister splashed and I tried to dunk it to no avail. I know women hit their sexual peak in their 50s and I will be hitting that magic mark in a few days, but this was ridiculous. Finally the sewing needle flew off, whether due to our efforts or its job was done remains unclear.

Back on shore, my sister looked them up, and they are officially called damselflies. When they are full on mating they bend their tails and link to each other to form a heart, so the ones landing on me were apparently just making out. They seem to have a complicated mating ritual, not unlike a certain species I know. We weren’t able to figure out what the one poking me was doing. It’s probably best that we don’t know. At least it made me realize to treat my sexual magnetism with caution and respect – if I make the damselflies crazy, what hope do poor humans have in resisting me? That is of course unless I become stuck at home with a brood (flock? herd?) of damselflies. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo credit: Wikipedia