Category Archives: rants

Reluctant Cheer Mom Tears Up, and Other Random Events…

Here’s what’s been going on around Hammond River the last little while (this stuff is true…not like my recent Mark Twain post!).

1. Regular readers of this blog know that even though three of our four daughters are or have been cheerleaders, I’m not a fan.  Anna’s first competition of the year was Sunday, and her team was so amazing, I actually stopped thinking about how much my butt hurt from sitting on the hard bleachers, and teared up a little!  Here’s Hope and Jake before we left:

Hope and Jake before competition (photo by Jim)...apparently you can tie Jake's ears in a bow...

Anna’s team made callbacks for the first time in five years! I guess those ten hours of practice the week before competition paid off! Here’s the team during the routine:

Harbour View High Cheer team...Anna is the one under the middle red banner (photo by Jim)...

The girls were even better in the callbacks, but ended up fourth (several spectators around us were as shocked as we were…we thought they’d won!). We’ll get them next week!

2.  Jim’s been buying camera equipment on Kijiji to keep up with the girls’ competitions…we met a guy in the Wendy’s parking lot on Monday night to buy a flash meter (Anna’s comment: “That wasn’t sketchy at all!”), and then drove to another guy’s house to pick up a lens.

3.  Monday night, I learned that not having a plunger in each bathroom is a mistake…Hope flushed the toilet in the “kids’ bathroom” and it started overflowing.  I panicked, and it took several minutes for me to turn the shutoff valve off.  By the time I found the “good plunger”, Jim had already used the crappy one to unclog the toilet!  Then I got to wash the mats and the dirty clothes which had been on the floor during the mini-flood.  Note to self…do not put clothing in the dryer with rubber-backed bathmats…little balls of rubber will come off, and permanently attach themselves to very expensive hoodies…

4.  Speaking of sewage, we found out this morning that the lot next to our place has been sold (bad news).  This means that the landlord is redoing the septic field (good news!), but that our yard will be torn up (it will be flatter when it’s finished…good news), and we will lose the lilac trees by our back deck that the birds like to hang out in (bad news).  On the upside, they will be redoing the driveway so that it actually drains instead of a 20-foot puddle forming in front of our garage every spring…the bad news is that the neighbours’ new driveway will be through our front lawn.

5.  Hope made cinnamon muffins, but neglected to read the mixing instructions under the ingredients in the recipe.  They tasted okay, but were rather lumpy and heavy.  She redeemed herself last night with some delicious chocolate chip cookies, which she proclaimed were better than mine!  I actually agree with her this time!

6.  Anna baked chocolate chip muffins, and almost forgot to put in the chocolate chips…she ended up poking them into the individual muffins just before putting them in the oven!

7.  Jim and I went to see the movie Source Code last night while Anna went to a school dance…I’m not usually a sci-fi fan, but I made an exception for the chance to drool over Jake Gyllenhaal.  It was quite good, and had us on the edge of our seats a lot of the time.  While we watched, I ate a couple of Lowney Cherry Marshmallow Creme Eggs…almost as yummy as Jake G.!

Jake with his "Source Code" co-star Michelle Monaghan...photo from tom-samp-journal.blogspot.com

8.  Anna found out this week that a design she submitted for the Drama Fest at her school had been the one chosen for use on posters, brochures and T-shirts!  Her teacher wanted her to submit a short bio to be included in the brochure…I wrote it for her.  We’re very proud of her!

9.  We’re hosting Easter dinner for the family at our house this year…Jim’s parents are serving Easter Breakfast at their church, and his mom says she’ll be too tired to cook.  We’re still on the hunt for a turkey (Kaylee can’t eat ham)…will try to find one tonight.  We also need to clean up our house for company!  I’m looking forward to seeing everybody, especially my “Puddin’ Pop”!

"Oh, dear...how did that get there?" Elise tries fingerpainting for the first time...

10.  I got a Facebook friend request from musician Thom Swift a couple of days ago…I “Liked” his fan page…maybe he read this piece I wrote about his concert last summer…

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Filed under family, food, rants, satire

Facebook Ads That Made Me Go “Hmmm”…Spring Edition

Last fall, I wrote a post about the ads that show up in the sidebar on Facebook while I’m trying to concentrate on my extremely crucial games of Scrabble, Lexulous, Wordscraper, Bejewelled Blitz, Hexagonized, Jeopardy, and Bomboozle…the marketers are still after me!

For goodness sake...keep your voice down! Someone might hear you!

The ad said:  “1 Tip for Wrinkles

Dermatologists don’t want you knowing this $5 wrinkle secret.”

My response:

Dear Wrinkle Guy:

I already know how to get wrinkles!  I got mine the natural way: from my children (and there were those years of picking fruit and vegetables in full sun with no sunscreen).  I didn’t pay money for them (the wrinkles or my children!).  Maybe Oprah can afford $5 for her wrinkles, but I can’t!  Besides, she’s steered me wrong before…I bought Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River because it was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks…it was so depressing, I was tempted to call Dr. Phil!  What were we talking about again?

That doll's creepy...let's just leave her hidden, shall we?

The ad said: “New Hidden Object Game

Play the new addicting hidden object game on Facebook!”

My response:

Dear Game Pimps:

I am already hopelessly addicted to seven of your games (see 1st paragraph of this post), which I play when I’m not reading/commenting on one of the more than 50 blogs that I follow, or writing my own blog.  I’m not quite sleeping at the keyboard yet, but that’s coming soon!  Besides, I spend a good deal of my real life looking for “hidden objects”: books that somebody’s ordered in our bookstore, Jim’s keys, teenagers’ homework, cellphones, iPod earbuds, the jeans with the diagonal pocket on the left hip, shoes, cheerleading Spankies, etc.  Thanks but no thanks!

She looks awfully happy about her profession...

The ad said: “$84/hr At Home Jobs

Can you type? Get paid $84/hr working from home.  Requirements: Computer”

My response:

Dear Mr. Scammer:

I can think of very few jobs where one can make $84 working at home…none of them require a computer or typing ability, and at least a couple of them are illegal.  I suspect that my body type would be unsuitable for the type of employment you have in mind…I also hate having my picture taken!  Find another sucker!

Kobo is for dodos...

The ad said: “Reading from your iPad?

Click here to get 20% off eBook Coupon!  Kobo has more than 2 millions of FREE eBooks and low-priced bestsellers.  get yours now!”

My response:

Dear Dodo Kobo:

I do not own an iPad, or a smart phone.  I do not Tweet, and I’m the world’s slowest texter.  When I read, I read books with paper pages…they are rarely bestsellers (unless they were bestsellers of the 1860s!).  If your last “sentence” is an example of the material available in your eBooks, I hereby offer my services as an editor.  I can help you reel in more live ones convince more people to buy your product!  I’ll use the money you pay me to buy real books!

Funcheez...really?

The ad said: “Try NEW Funcheez

Let your imagination go wild with NEW Black Diamond Funcheez Marbelicious Moons and Planets.”

My response:

Dear Black Diamond:

Even though I have a sentimental fondness for your brand of cheese since it’s made in Belleville, Ontario, where I went to high school, I feel compelled to comment on your latest marketing idea.  You’ve mispelled “cheese”, and “fun” and “cheese” should be two words.  Moons and planets?  I hope you didn’t make a “Pluto”!  When I grew up, the only cheese “shapes” we had were fresh curd purchased direct from the cheese factory on a Sunday drive…yummy!  The Black Diamond cheese I buy for my family comes in rectangles…I buy the 500-gram one (which used to be 700 grams but is getting smaller all the time!).  By the way, we’re running low…how about sending me some coupons?

Advertisers…you can’t fool this old fool!

  

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Filed under rants, satire

Things I Learned This Weekend…

Here are a few of the things I learned this past weekend:

1. That we have a new bird hanging around our back deck.  Anna called me on Saturday to let me know that we had a brown-headed cowbird.

Brown-headed cowbird (photo from allaboutbirds.org - couldn't find Anna's photo!)

  

2. That the Habitat for Humanity ReStore has neat stuff.  We went on Saturday morning.  In addition to every building material known to man, there were used books (nothing I wanted for the store though), brand new 1″ binders, used furniture and appliances, and even scented candles!  We were looking for lumber to extend our fence posts higher.  We got two bundles of nine 2″x 2″‘s, 8 feet long for $10 each.  We will string twine between them and put streamers and ribbons on the twine to hopefully prevent the deer from trying to jump the fence.  As the teenage boy loaded the wood into the back of the van, I drew a blank on how to thank him:  He was only about 17, so he wasn’t really a “Sir”.  I didn’t want to call him “Son”, because he wasn’t my son, and I didn’t want to sound ancient.  So I said, “Thank you…dear!” which is what Saint Johners call people that they’re not on a first-name basis with.  I don’t think he heard me… 

3. That Kaylee makes better homemade pizza than her mother (yes, I said that).  We had supper at her house on Saturday, and she made three awesome pizzas using essentially the same dough recipe that I do!  I need to get some pizza stones…

4. That 19-month-old toddlers are great imitators.  Scott set his ice cream bowl down on the floor for the cat to lick, and a couple minutes later, Elise bent from the waist, stuck her tongue out and her bum in the air, and tried to lick the bowl too!  We all wished we’d had a video camera going at the time.

Elise getting fit with mommy's weights...

5. That our van registration expired over a month ago.  As we drove home from Kaylee’s, there were four Rothesay Police vehicles setting up a roadblock…they waved us through.  Jim asked me to check the van registration in the glove compartment just in case…it’s a really good thing they didn’t stop us…it would have been a $185 fine! 

6. That even the deer don’t like Rebecca Black’s song.  When we came home from Kaylee’s house, there were about 5 deer grazing in the side yard.  They stood and looked at us as we got out of the van.  Then Hope had an idea:  she did a perfect rendition of Rebecca Black singing “Friday”, complete with nasal congestion.  All the deer took off running immediately! 

7. That people running extra-curricular programs in our schools expect way too much from the kids (and their parents).  Hope had a two-hour cheerleading practice on Saturday, followed by 8 hours of competition and another 2 hours of practice on Sunday.  Devin spent more than 24 hours at his school on Saturday and Sunday doing backstage stuff in preparation for the upcoming musical.  He’ll be at school every night this week until about 11.  Anna has two 5-hour+ cheer practices this week to get ready for their first competition on Saturday (about 7 hours).  At least, Jim enjoys driving… 

8. That I’m too old to stay up until midnight three nights in a row.  Late nights Thursday, Friday and Saturday led to a Sunday migraine.  I missed Hope’s cheer competition and my sister-in-law’s birthday party (Happy Birthday, Tracy)!  On the plus side, Hope’s team didn’t get any deductions this time (but she managed to leave her track pants and jacket at the host school – we hope to get them back tomorrow!).

Hope in her sparkly eye makeup from the cheer competition…

9. That Anna will do laundry if I’m sick.  She even came up and asked if we had any darks in our hamper she could do for us!  It’s a good thing I was lying down at the time.  Now, if I can get her to pick up her dirty dishes off the family room floor…

10. That the price of lactose-free milk can jump by 25 cents a litre in one go.  We now pay $5.19 for 2 litres (a litre is a little bigger than a quart) of Lacteeze (three people in the family are lactose-intolerant).  We go through about 3 litres of Lacteeze a week, in addition to 4 litres of regular milk.  Thank goodness gas prices only go up 2 to 3 cents a litre at a time!

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Filed under cooking, family, rants, satire, self-discovery

Post #200…What Do You Mean “There’s No Party”?

This is my 200th post…do I have anything earth-shattering to report?  No.  A profile of an extremely interesting person?  No.  Great news?  Not really.  What I’ve got is another collection of random things:

1. Dread of Deer.  About three weeks ago, we looked out the window into the back yard, and discovered with dismay that the deer have learned that they are capable of jumping the fence!  Unless I can think of a plan to keep them out, gardening this year is going to be a dangerous thing…I’ve been so obsessed that I actually dreamed that we had three baby deer in our living room (I let them out the back door)…

"Are you lookin' at me? Because I'll totally snort at you if you come any closer! It's way more fun on this side of the fence!" (photo by Anna)

2. Discriminating Darlin’.  My granddaughter, Elise, is almost 19 months old, and has recently learned how to count to 10…sort of.  She starts at “3” because she feels that “1” and “2” are too trivial to bother with!  

 3. Doh!  Every morning as we’re on our way into town to the bookstore, we listen to the CBC News World Report at 7 p.m., which is usually hosted by Peter Armstrong.  When talking about the ongoing issues in Ivory Coast, the illustrious anchorman reported that the militants were “fighting definitely”.  Um…I think “defiantly” is what your copywriter meant, Peter.  While we’re at it, can we talk about your improper pronunciation of potash (“pott-ish”), Afghanistan (“aff-gan-i-stun“), and Pakistan (“pack-i-stun“)?  Wrong, wrong, wrong!

4. Decisions and Debates.  Speaking of CBC, they’ve been promoting a nifty new “tool” on their website which is supposed to help decide which tool party leader to vote for in our upcoming federal election on May 2nd.  I used the Vote Compass, and was not at all surprised that I lean left on both economic and social issues.  I still don’t know who I’m going to support…all the candidates have not been announced in our riding yet.  The lone female, Green Party candidate, Elizabeth May, is fighting for the right to be included in the leaders’ debate…I hope she succeeds!

The Candidates..."Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe, and Curly" (photo from workliveplaycafe.com)

5. Dunce.  Yesterday afternoon, I received this e-mail from my daughter’s high school, I have copied it verbatim, except to remove the principal’s name and change his initial, to protect the  idiot innocent:

Good afternoon all,
This is Mr. B. calling to inform you that the school recieved a threatening phone call today. Although it turned out to be a crank call, we took it very serious placed the school into a lockdown. The police were called and very quickly resolved the problem.
I also want to tell you that this is the week of our musical and the tickets are going fast. If you are thinking of attending, you better pick up your tickets at the office or get them at the door.
Thats it for now,

Mr. B.

Hmmm…97 words…three grammatical/spelling errors that I can spot immediately.  My daughter tells me the students refer to the author as “Slow Marvin” (not his real name), and that he doesn’t actually teach any classes (what a relief!).  I’m so glad that the school took the threat “serious”…I wish they were as serious about grammar.  “Now Mr. B…please don this dunce cap and go sit in the corner!”

This isn't "Slow Marvin"...(photo from businessinsider.com)

6. Deliciousness.  A random Herding Cats post wouldn’t be complete without food!  Feast your eyes on these photos of Jim’s banana bread (we have to hide the banana bread bananas from my dad, or he’ll eat them!), and my cornbread-topped chili!

Jim's banana bread: regular, flax, and chocolate chip

 

Chili topped with cornbread...yummy!

You can do this chili yourself:  Make your regular chili, and then put it into a casserole.  Mix up some cornbread batter and pour it over the top of the chili.  Bake it in the oven until the cornbread is done.  Instant deliciousness!

Thanks for coming over to celebrate my 200th post…I sincerely hope that none of the stuff you’ve learned here keeps you awake this evening…

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Filed under blogging, cooking, family, food, rants, satire

I’m Not a Ghost, But Yesterday I Played One in Real Life…

This isn't me...I'm a lot taller! (photo from daddytypes.com)

Have you ever had one of those days when you wonder if you’re invisible, a mere figment of someone else’s overactive imagination?  That was my day yesterday…all day!

It all started in the morning, after I arrived at the bookstore and sat down at my computer.  As per my routine, I updated our store’s Facebook page with a “Today in History” fact and a book relevant to it, and added a daily quote about books.  Then I opened my Hotmail.  Since it was Monday, there were lots of new blog posts to comment on…

I opened the first one, read it, typed my comment and posted it.  Everything was going swimmingly until I reached the fourth new post.  I read the post, chuckled heartily, wrote a pithy reply and hit the “Post Comment” button, making sure to tick the box so I would receive notification of further comments.  The page refreshed, and my clever comment had disappeared into the vast realm of cyberspace, never to be seen again!  After a few choice words (none of which were nice), I reconstructed my response as best I could, and attempted to repost.  ARRGGH!  Gone!  I thought, “Maybe it’s my computer.”  I rebooted, and reopened all my windows.  Version #3 of my formerly hilarious comment was a mere shadow of its earlier incarnations, which I suppose doesn’t really matter, because it vanished too!  I gave up on that one…I was sure that person’s blog had technical difficulties.

I opened the next new post in my e-mail.  Another brilliant post!  I congratulated the writer on his wit and writing skill, and sent my compliments hurtling once again into Never Never Land!  I tried once more (are you familiar with Einstein‘s definition of insanity: doing something over and over and expecting different results?).  Remembering one of the tag lines from The IT Crowd, “Have you tried turning it off and on?”, I not only rebooted, but flipped the router off and on as well.  That should do it!

With my Hotmail window reopened, I clicked on another new post.  This one was about blogrolls, a topic dear to my heart.  I offered my input in a couple of paragraphs, and confidently “posted” my comment.  NOT!  I looked around and briefly considered sticking my head in the oven, but our microwave was far too small…Instead, I sent an urgent-sounding e-mail to WordPress Support:

Subject: My Comments are Invisible!

I made comments on other people’s blogs (multiple times).  I saw: NOTHING!!! (one time when I was smart enough to copy and paste a comment before I sent it, I got a notification that it was a duplicate comment…still nothing showed up!).  I expected my comments to be visible!
I have cleared my cache and rebooted my computer (twice).
Help please!!!
 
Wendy

A little while later, I got a nice e-mail from a “happiness engineer” at WordPress apologizing for the “inconvenience” (at that point I’d been trying to post comments for more than an hour!) and advising me to send details to Akismet (the spamcatcher).  “They’ll be able to sort you out.”  I really hoped that somebody could…and maybe they could fix my problem with commenting while they were at it!  I sent a similar e-mail to Akismet, explaining my difficulties and imploring them to do everything in their power to remedy them!  I continued to read new posts, but knew that commenting on them at this point would probably be useless…I also wrote this post so that my friends would know that I wasn’t ignoring them on purpose.  I contacted a couple of the bloggers via Facebook, one of whom told me that my comments had ended up in her spam bucket.

In the afternoon, we had some of our regular customers come into the bookstore: a couple of book dealers from Fredericton accompanied by a friend who was a book collector.  The collector inquired about books by Mika Publishing (which happens to be located in Belleville, Ontario near where I grew up).  I checked our database, and found we had a Mika book about Lunenburgh, and asked Dad to locate it in its box with the other Loyalist-related material.  I went into the other room with one of the book dealers to find something for him.  Dad came back with the book and asked me what he should do with it.  “Show it to the guy who asked about Mika books!” I replied.

“Why…is it Mika?” Dad asked.

“Yes!” I answered, barely concealing my annoyance.  Is this thing on?  After Dad left the room, the dealer I was talking to burst out laughing…

“I wouldn’t have believed that if I hadn’t heard it for myself!” he said.

“Multiply that by 9 hours a day for 11 years,” I answered.  “And he lives with me too!  It’s a wonder I still have my sanity.”

Jim came and picked up Anna and I, and we headed for home.  Hope had an appointment at the after hours clinic for 6:15, and we would have to hurry if we wanted to eat before we left again!

We bolted some Sloppy Joes and fries, and arrived early at the office.  The doctor wrote a prescription for Hope.  We took it to the drugstore and dropped it off…the woman at the counter told us it would be ready in about twenty minutes.  To kill time, we went to the dollar store and looked for things that Hope and Brianna needed for school projects.  We amassed quite a pile of stuff between the three of us, and took it to the checkout (there was no one there).  Eventually a clerk came from the back and called to us from the other counter, “I can help you over here!”

“I was afraid of that!” I answered while smiling through gritted teeth, as I tried to scoop up our 57 items to move them.

“Oh, I can help you with that,” she said, cheerfully.  We paid for our purchases and went back to the drugstore.  There were six people in line at the prescription counter…Hope and I took our place at the back of the line.  The customer who was holding up the line had a prescription that her insurance company wasn’t covering the full cost of, and she couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that she needed to ask her doctor to call them.  We’d been in line more than ten minutes when one of the pharmacists came out and asked if anyone had any questions or if we were all picking up prescriptions.  No one had any questions.

The pharmacist asked, “Who’s next?” and a lady who’d been standing off to my left (not in line) piped up.

“I’m just here to pick up my prescription.”

I thought, “That’s what we’re all here for, Lady…that’s why we’re in this line.”

She continued, “I was here before…I just came back!”  Guess who got served before I did!  I had Hope pinch me to make sure I really existed…

When we got home, I went to my computer and opened my e-mail.  Still no response from Akismet, but I decided to give commenting another shot.  I picked a blog I’d already tried to comment on, and typed a message about commenting earlier, explaining that the comment had probably gone into the spam.  I crossed my fingers and toes as my mouse hovered over the “Post Comment” button.  I clicked it.  SUCCESS!  Hooray! 

Apparently, I’m not a ghost after all!

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Filed under blogging, books, family, rants, satire, shopping

They’re G-r-r-r-eat! Cereals of My Youth Remembered…

It seems that this week’s blog theme has been food…might as well continue the trend!

I was born in 1961, and grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons on our black and white TV.  We didn’t have cable either…on a good day, our “rabbit ears” would bring in 4 channels (yes, children, I said FOUR channels)!  We looked forward to the commercials as much as the cartoons…they would give us something to bug our parents to buy for us on the next shopping trip!  Sure, there were commercials for toys, but the cereal companies had the Saturday morning hours pretty well locked up…what were little Johnny and little Susie eating while they were watching cartoons?  Cereal, of course.

My parents had a pretty strict budget, which usually didn’t include the “good cereals” as my brother and I longingly referred to them (the more sugar and artificial colour they contained, the more we wanted them!).  Mom and Dad’s version of “good cereals” were Corn Flakes (yawn), Cheerios (boring), Raisin Bran (they got really soggy, really fast!), and Shredded Wheat (who decided that cereal with the texture of a steel wool pad was a good idea?…”Just put a little milk on it…the old farts won’t even notice!”). 

You can put all the strawberries on it that you want...it won't make the texture any better! (photo from art.com)

 

Other entries were Rice Krispies (never Cocoa Krispies!), Puffed ______ (fill in the blank with Rice or Wheat), Life (which was okay…it tasted all right and we liked the “Mikey” commercials!), and Shreddies (“Good, good whole wheat Shreddies” – sure…if you don’t forget about them while you’re busy watching the Road Runner!).  Did I also mention that we didn’t actually put real milk on our cereal?  We used powdered milk, the most vile of concoctions ever foisted upon poor people!

The cereals Mom and Dad bought never had anything good “Free Inside”…if you were lucky, there would be some pencil game on the outside of the package you could do if you managed to grab the box before it went into the trash.  Once in a while, they’d cave and get cereal with a toy inside (they’d have to buy two boxes, so we’d each get one)…here’s a picture of my brother, Jeff, with a balloon boat:

Jeff and his cereal balloon boat...lots more fun than the peas he was supposed to be finishing...

 

The other kind of cereal my parents almost never bought were the “little boxes”…those individual serving sizes of ten different kinds packaged together in a cardboard tray.  I always thought it was neat that you didn’t even need to pour them into a bowl…you could use the box as the bowl if you opened it right!  I think Mom and Dad were environmentally-aware even before it was trendy, much to my brother’s and my chagrin!  Lucky for us, our grandparents were not!  When we went to Grandma T.’s house, my Grandad always stocked the cupboard with all the cereals they flogged in the commercials (big and little boxes)!  We were in heaven!

These are cereal snack packs from the late 80's (photo by planet-Q on flickr.com)

Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Krispies, and Count Chocula would always turn the milk into chocolate milk, and Franken Berry turned the milk pink (Grandma also had strawberry Quik, which we used to make strawberry milk…yum!).  Cap’n Crunch was another favourite, especially the Peanut Butter Crunch…crunchy goodness!  We always picked the little marshmallow shapes out of the Lucky Charms, and ate them first!  In a pinch, we’d eat Alpha Bits, or Honeycomb, but their colour wasn’t that appealing to us!  I loved anything with the word “sugar” in the title…Sugar Pops, Sugar Crisp or Sugar Smacks would always disappear as fast as I could eat them!  Just try finding these now: Sugar Pops has been politically corrected to Corn PopsSugar Crisp is now Golden Crisp (I wonder if the Sugar Bear got to keep his name?); and Sugar Smacks is simply Smacks, which smacks of stupidity if you ask me!

Occasionally, they would advertise cereal in time slots other than Saturday mornings…I’d forgotten about Corn Flakes’ sponsorship of one of our favourite sitcoms, The Beverly Hillbillies…Click here to see the commercial : http://www.retrojunk.com/details_commercial/3344/           

Excuse me…I feel the urge for some ShreddiesHoney Shreddies, of course…they didn’t have those when I was growing up!  I wonder why they didn’t call them Sugar Shreddies…it has a nice ring to it!

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Filed under memories, rants, satire

The Reason for My Silence…

It doesn't look like an object of torture, does it?

Back in 2006 (after being in business for six years), my dad and I decided to step into the 21st century and begin accepting debit and credit cards at our antiquarian bookstore.  Phone calls were made…a salesperson came to our store, and bibbity, bobbity, boo, we received our first terminal via courier a couple of weeks later.  I was able to follow the instructions provided with the terminal to install it, and a tech person on the phone walked me through the configuration of our new technological advance.

Fast forward to last month: we received a phone call from our credit card processing company about a letter they’d sent last October…apparently, we were required to switch over to a machine capable of processing the new chip cards…the deadline for conversion was the end of March.  I didn’t recall getting a letter…then I remembered my dad’s annoying habit of putting mail from this particular company unopened into a drawer (his strategy with things he doesn’t understand is to just ignore them…perhaps they’ll go away).   I apologized profusely to the woman on the phone for our lack of action, and asked her to e-mail the letter to me.  We had it within the hour.  She also sent a form which was to filled out and faxed back to them in order to get our new terminal.  We submitted it the next day.

Our new “baby” arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  I unwrapped it, scanned the pictorial instructions, and assumed I could pull out the old machine, plug in the new one, and be good to go.  Most people are aware of what happens when one “assumes”…you make an a$$ out of you and me!  Boy, was I was wrong!

The old machine had two phone line sockets…an input and an output.  The new one had only an input…what was I supposed to do with the other cord?  I plugged the power cord in on the new terminal, but left the old phone lines plugged into the old machine, and called the 800 number on the letter we’d gotten with the terminal.  I spoke to Zach, a patient guy, who told me to unplug the phone cord from the old one.  [Click]…”Are you there, Zach?” I plugged the cord back into the old one, and dialled again.  I got voicemail.  “Hi, this is Wendy.  I was trying to install our new terminal and got cut off with Zach…please call me back at 1-IAM-ANI-DIOT.”

Zach returned my call, and we replayed the last scene again, down to the last detail!  When Zach called me back again, I decided to take the easy way out.  “Hey, Zach…my fiancé’s a computer tech, and he works for the phone company…do you think it would be okay if I get him to install this, and then I’ll call you back?”  Zach quickly agreed.  I called Jim and asked him to come in to the store when he came to pick Anna and I up after work.

He assessed the situation quickly after looking at the new terminal.  “You need a splitter.  The old terminal had one built in, but this one doesn’t.”  I think he said “splitter” but he could have said “giraffe” and I would have said “Okay.”  We picked up a splitter at Dollarama that night while we were waiting for Anna to finish cheerleading practice…it was $1.25.  Jim and I had talked about going to the store that evening and installing the machine, but by the time we finished getting groceries, didn’t have time.  We agreed that it could wait until morning.  Just before we went to sleep, I had a Eureka moment:  “I bet I could just plug the splitter into the new machine, plug the two cords into the splitter, and it will work!”  I was quite proud of myself after Jim agreed that it was a good idea!

Wednesday morning, I put the splitter into my purse and took it to the store with me.  I tried to put it in the hole in the back of the new terminal…the plastic rectangle of the splitter was too close to the connection point to allow it to go in.  Foiled again!  I called Jim at 7:50 a.m. and explained the issue.  He advised me that I would have to “do it underneath.  It’s really simple!”  I looked at the mess of wires and cables under the desk, and told Jim that I didn’t know what I was doing.  He replied that I just had to plug the phone into one part of the splitter, the machine into the other, and then plug the splitter into the phone extension cord (the jack was eight feet away, in a tiny hole cut through the upright of one of the bookshelves…nearly buried).  An hour and several four-letter words later, I called Jim back…I was nearly in tears.  I repeated that I couldn’t do it and needed help.  I explained that there were two cords coming out of the wall jack (not one), and that one of them was burned and breaking because of being too close to the radiator.  I had tried every possible combination, and nothing had worked.  I also came to the conclusion that the splitter I’d bought was no good.  Jim advised that I would probably have to get a new extension cord for the phone to replace the burned one.  He also told me that he had a conference call in ten minutes, so wouldn’t be able to stop in before work (there was more swearing after that!).

At lunch time, I picked up a new phone extension cord with a built-in splitter at an electronics store…this part cost about $10…I hoped the quality was better!  With my dad at one end and me at the other, we worked together to replace the burned cord, and then pull it out from behind the bookshelves.  By this time, my black pants were getting pretty dirty from crawling around under the desk!  I tried again to get the connection to work…no luck!  I resolved to let Jim deal with it when he came after work.

It was nearly 5:00 when Jim arrived.  He spent at least 20 minutes moving connectors and wires around under the desk.  Finally, he had the new machine connected.  I forced him to acknowledge that it wasn’t “really simple” and that I couldn’t have done it myself!  As a person who finds it very difficult to ask for help, I let him know that when I do ask for it, I really need it!  I tried to get hold of the people at the credit card processing company to get the machine configured…voicemail again.  I decided to call them Thursday morning.

First thing in the morning, I called the 800 number again (I’m surprised I didn’t have it memorized by then).  After leaving yet another voicemail message, a very nice lady named Susan returned my call.  I told her that I thought we were finally ready to configure the machine.  She walked me through which buttons to push to unlock the keypad…that was successful.  Then we started to do a sample transaction.  I got a warning on the terminal screen telling me the machine was offline.  Crap!  I told her that I’d have Jim look at it again, and call them back.  I called Jim at work with the bad news:  “It’s still not right!” I said, more than a little bit annoyed. 

When Jim arrived, he unplugged the phone line from the new terminal, and plugged it into the phone to test it…there was a dial tone, so the connection was okay.  Then he asked me if I was trying to do the sample transaction while I was on the phone with Susan.  I had been.  “That’s your problem…the phone and the machine are on the same line, so it won’t work while someone’s on the phone!”  DUH!  We used my debit card and tried a test transaction for $1…it worked perfectly.  Jim says, “Let’s try one with my chip credit card now.”  It wouldn’t read his card.  CRAP!  I tried to call the company again, but got voicemail…I would call them with my cell phone in the morning!

This morning, I called the company at 8:30.  An hour later, they still hadn’t returned my call, so I called again.  After waiting another hour, I called them from the store phone, thinking they wanted to be sure it was really me calling, and asked them to call back on my cellphone.  Finally my cellphone rang.  It was my old buddy, Zach.  He apologized for not calling back sooner, and let me know there were only two people in their department.  I explained that we had gotten the debit part to work, but that the chip reader didn’t function.  That’s when he let me in on a well-kept secret: “We haven’t enabled that part yet…it won’t be rolled out until the end of March!”  Somehow, I’d missed that in the literature…

I asked Zach to stay on the phone while I balanced the new terminal from my sample transaction yesterday.  Everything worked fine.  I thanked him for his help and told him that I probably wouldn’t bother him again (he protested that I wasn’t “bothering” him).

So, after day 4, my battle with technology has ended…I wonder what will happen after the new chip reader is enabled the end of the month?  Just thinking about it makes my head hurt!

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Popcorn, Puddin’ Pop, and Provisions for the Privileged…

Sorry for the long break between posts…it was a busy weekend.  I’ll do my best to catch you up on happenings in Hammond River over the last little while:

1. Popcorn.  Jim, Anna and I finally got to see The King’s Speech last weekend.  We loved it!  It had sharp writing, pathos, and humour all in one p-p-p-package!  Helena Bonham Carter was particularly good as the Queen.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please go…you’ll be glad you did!  While we were enjoying ourselves in the company of civilized adults, Hope and her friend, Gabrielle, were down the hall in another theatre, watching the premiere of the Justin Bieber movie, Never Say Never, with two or three hundred screaming tweens (I felt sorry for the theatre employees who had to clean up afterwards).  I did appreciate Bieber’s impression of Obama when he was a guest on Conan the other night…it was bang-on!

Hope with her idol outside the theatre...photo by Jim...

2. Puddin’ Pop.  For new readers of my blog, “Puddin’ Pop” is what I call my 17-month-old granddaughter, Elise.  On Friday, I was called upon to babysit while Kaylee and Scott went to Moncton to see the Great Big Sea concert I gave Kaylee the tickets for at Christmas time.  Despite the fact that I have three children and two stepchildren, I don’t consider myself “the mommy type” and was a little nervous about spending several hours alone with no backup “Aunties” to help care for my Puddin’ Pop.  Kaylee took pity on me, and prestuffed the liners in the cloth diapers (which I’ve never used…they’re a lot fancier and more expensive than they used to be…velcro and liners and snaps, oh my!).  Jim dropped me off at Kaylee and Scott’s on the way to work.  The first thing we noticed was that Scott had shaved off his beard (yay…I like beards on certain people…my son-in-law is not one of them!).  He was all ready for those questions at work like “Where’s your beard?”  He saved the clippings in a Ziploc bag, so he could pull it out and say, “Right here!”  All together now:  “EWWWWW!”

Elise and her bearded Daddy at Christmas time...

Kaylee gave me detailed instructions about when and how much to feed my granddaughter (the milk with the cow on the pitcher was for Elise), and when she went to bed.  She showed me the gold-plated baby toothpaste ($4 for a tiny tube).  Scott showed me how to get Netflix on the Wii (they only have 21 channels on the TV)…seeing the blank look on my face, he wrote it down.  Kaylee put the baby down for a nap about 11:30, and she and Scott left shortly after that, almost forgetting the sushi they’d bought to eat for supper.

Puddin’ Pop woke up a couple of hours later.  The next five hours is a blur of activity: trying to get her to eat something besides grapes and baby banana rusks, chasing her down the hallway when she tried to “escape” to her room, watching “Barney” on Netflix, reading stories (Elise recognizes her letters already – she is also learning sign language), and taking the lid on and off the wooden block container (over and over and over again).  By 6:30, one of us was ready to crash…I put Elise to bed too, after putting the triple-stuffed nighttime diaper on her.

"Whatchoo talkin' about, Gramma?"

 

I went back into the living room and turned on Cake Boss…on one of the episodes, the bakery had run out of sugar…how ludicrous is that?  Puddin’ Pop took a while to settle down, but she seemed happy to talk to herself in her crib.  I was ready to go to sleep by 10:00 p.m.  I changed into my jammies, and curled up (or more accurately, “doubled up”) on the loveseat.  Kaylee had suggested I bring our air mattress, but I was afraid her cats would poke a hole in it.  I woke up in the middle of the night with one of the cats’ faces peering intently into mine…Yoko is the one that races you down the hall to the bathroom to get a drink if you’re foolish enough to turn the faucet on for her (I’m not that gullible!).  Cats aren’t nearly as good at cleaning up under high chairs as dogs are either…

About 8 a.m. the next morning, Scott brought Elise in to change her diaper.  “Hi, Sweetie,” I called, as they went by.  The response was considerably more masculine and mature-sounding than my granddaughter: “Hi!” answered my smartass son-in-law.  After we had breakfast, and the kids told me about the concert (uncomfortable seating, the “yelling yahoo” sitting beside them, etc.), they drove me home.  I stayed in my jammies for the rest of the day…I was exhausted!

3. Provisions for the Privileged.  Jim, Hope and I went to Costco yesterday.  We left Anna at home, because I didn’t feel like spending $200 in one go.  We needed acetaminophen, and their price was far less than the drug stores (I remembered afterwards that we also needed allergy meds…oops!).  As we were going in, Jim flashed his member’s card at the doorperson.  Hope asked, “Do you have to show your card?”  

“Yes,” I replied.  “They don’t let just anybody into Costco!”  It was at that point that I realized just how “lucky” I am to be one of the families they admit to the home of the biggest jars of olives you’ll ever see…three years ago when I was a single mom, I couldn’t have afforded the membership fee.  My parents certainly would never have been able to swing it when I was a kid either. 

I don’t enjoy going to Costco…it represents the kind of greed and consumerism I hate, and it’s a cold experience to shop there.  Nonetheless, I spent $55, and picked up a few bargains on essentials.  While we waited in the checkout line, Hope wondered why the clerks didn’t have a microphone to call on when they needed something, instead of just yelling out?  Why indeed?  She was also surprised that we didn’t get bags to put our purchases in.  I explained that that’s how they were able to offer such low prices…no frills! 

I would like it if I got a warm and fuzzy feeling shopping at Costco, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen… 

4. Bonus: Hope-ism of the Week.  When Hope brought me a form to fill out for cheerleading, I asked her why she didn’t do it herself…she knew all the information.  “My messing’s writey!” she replied.  She’s also left-handed…

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Talking to Strangers for Fun and Profit…

A note to those who may misunderstand my title, and think I work in radio (like my ex-husband and many of our friends)…unfortunately, radio is fun, but no longer very profitable (and some veterans may disagree on the “fun” part, too)!  I might have ended up doing radio news (I took Broadcast Journalism in college), but I chose not to enter that field.  The “talking to strangers” refers to face-to-face interaction with people I come into contact with in my daily life.

Maybe it’s because of my journalism training that I’ve always enjoyed chatting with people…or, it could be sheer nosiness!  Either way, it is an interesting way to pass the time, and I’ve learned a lot from some of my random interactions.  This practice horrifies my children, however…I can barely get them to acknowledge their school friends with more than a shy smile or a little wave!  When I took Hope to the after-hours clinic the other night, I was talking to a young father whose infant daughter was ill.  I tried to distract the baby from her fussiness by talking to her, and helped the man get her into the carseat.  After they left, Hope said, “Why do you have to talk to strangers?  You’re embarrassing me!”  When we got home, she informed Anna that I was “doing it again.” 

Yesterday, a good-looking guy in his mid-40’s came into the bookstore…tall and well-built, with prematurely grey hair (oops…I just drooled a little on my keyboard!).  As per my habit, I asked if it was his first visit (because I surely would have remembered if he’d been in before!)…he replied that it was, and offered that he was in town from Los Angeles.  We don’t get many people from California in Saint John, New Brunswick, except The Jolie, and the occasional cruise ship passenger, so my next question was “How did you end up here?” 

Tall Guy answered, “I’m a musician…we’ve got a gig here tonight.”

“Oh, which band are you in?” I asked.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when he replied, “The Goo Goo Dolls. ”  We’ve had celebrities in the store before: comedian Ron James, Vinyl Café host Stuart MacLean, and the Canadian rock band Alexisonfire, but to have somebody from an internationally-known rock group find our little store is pretty amazing (he found us on Google)!

I quickly picked myself up off the floor and responded that I had almost bought tickets for their show for Jim for Christmas, but he preferred to see the Classic Albums Live tribute to The Who that we went to last month.  Casually, Tall Guy said, “I can probably get you in.”

“Seriously?” I asked eagerly.  Those tickets were going for $49.50 each before service charges!

“Really!” he answered.  “Give him a call and see if he wants to go.”  So I did!  Jim was excited too!

Tall Guy spent a fair amount of time looking at our books, while I chewed his ear off.  I asked what he played…he responded modestly that he was “just the drummer.”  He told me about their shows in Newfoundland, and mentioned that his wife back in L.A. wasn’t very happy about him being gone on Valentine’s Day.  He would be back home in a couple of weeks though, and then off for a month.

My euphoria was disturbed when Tall Guy’s phone rang with a text message…he had to go back to the hotel and make an important phone call he’d forgotten about.  I gave him my card, and he promised to leave some tickets in my name at the door.  I got Tall Guy to sign our guest book, and took his money for the book he bought (World War I history)…he didn’t even make it into the room with the art, music, and literature…I’m hoping he might order more books from our website!

Our celebrity's signature...

After he was gone, I Googled Mike, because I couldn’t read his last name (Malinin)…in the course of my stalking research, I also found out that Mike was a marathon runner.  How cool is that?  A drummer for a rock band and a runner!

Goo Goo Dolls watch as guy from Virgin Records cuts a ribbon...Mike is the hunk on the left...(photo from justjared.buzznet.com)

*****

Showtime was 7:30 p.m.  Despite our best efforts, Jim and I didn’t make it to the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre until 7:15.  The line for General Admission snaked out into the neighbouring mall.  Most of the people waiting were half our ages.  Luckily, the queue moved quickly, and soon we saw a special table at the door where a woman had a box full of envelopes.  I left Jim to hold our place and hurried over to her.  “I’m Wendy M.,” I said.  “Mike the drummer left me a couple of tickets.”  The woman shuffled through a pile of white envelopes and pulled one out with my name on it.  She opened it, and discovered two triangular Goo Goo Dolls sticker passes with “2/14” and “A.S.” written on them in permanent marker.  I was excited, because I surmised that “A.S.” stood for “After Show.”  The woman told us to just go on in and take our seats…we did, after carefully applying the stickers to our chests (we had a little trouble freeing them from the backing paper…I think they were “boomerproof” stickers). 

Our passes...

The opening band, Crash Parallel, was a group of young Canadian guys based in Toronto.  They could sing; they could play; and they were suitably enthusiastic.  I particularly enjoyed their cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (Genesis was one of the first bands I ever saw live, back in 1981).  During the intermission, we chatted with two other couples from our generation who were seated near us (one fellow worked in Emergency at the hospital, and has put multiple casts/splints on my girls!).  Yes, children…I was talking to strangers again!

Jim took this shot with his phone during the show...despite my demonic grin, I did not just consume a small child...

Finally, the Goo Goo Dolls took the stage.  Most of their material was new to me…in their heyday in the late-90’s, I had already stopped listening to mainstream radio.  The youngsters at the show felt the need to stand in front of the stage, so we spent the rest of the time on our feet (which was tough on my almost 50-year-old body!).  My favourite Goo Goo Dolls song is Iris:

After the show, we filed out into the lobby…we walked around and asked several people whether they knew what the “A.S.” meant on our passes.  No one did (not even the burly security guy with the headset), and it didn’t appear that there was an “after show.”

We went home…I’ve decided that “A.S.” stands for “Amiable Stranger.”  Thanks, Mike, for the tickets!  Sometimes it pays to talk to strangers!

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Ten Cheap Valentine’s Gifts Moms Will Appreciate…

I know I’m a little early for this…most men will probably be hitting the stores on Sunday.  Forget lingerie that requires an instruction manual to put on…I would like to offer this list of ideas for inexpensive gifts for the mother in your life:

1. Let her sleep in on the weekend.  Feed the kids breakfast.  Get them dressed.  Keep them quiet.  For bonus points: bring her breakfast in bed after two hours. 

2. Pick up your socks.  Put them in a hamper near you.  If you’re feeling really generous, do a load or two of laundry (in the correct temperature), fold it, and put it away.

3. Empty the dishwasher.  Put the dishes in the correct places in the kitchen.  Don’t leave the ramekins on the counter and claim you don’t know where to put them.

These are ramekins (the dishes, not the food)...put them in the cupboard...

4. Her own snacks.  Does she love Ruffles Sour Cream and Bacon potato chips?  Buy a bag just for her, and hide it from the kids.

5. An hour of uninterrupted bathroom time.  Shaving one’s legs in the shower just isn’t practical sometimes.  Threaten to subject the kids to watching golf on TV if they disturb her!

6. Fuzzy slippers.  Check her shoes to make sure you buy the right size.  Most of us have cold feet in the winter.  If her toes are warm, she’ll be a happy girl.

Happiness is warm tootsies...

7. Make dinner for the family.  Try to find the ingredients/dishes you need yourself.  It doesn’t matter what it is (with some obvious exceptions)…food always tastes better when someone else cooks it.

8. Quiet time.  Take the kids out for a minimum of two hours, and leave her with the house to herself.  Give her a call when you’re on the way home, so she can avoid the kids catching her in mid-dance move.

Make sure if your kids are going to see this, that their friends are with them!

9. Movie night at home.  Let her pick a movie she wants to see and watch it with her.  Bite your lip if you’re tempted to complain about the lack of ninjas or machine guns.  Agree with her when she comments on how attractive the male lead is.

10. Kiss her and tell her you love her.  Cup her face in your hands and look deep into her eyes when you say it.  

There’s nothing to keep you from doing the whole list if you want to…I’m sure your actions will be rewarded!  If you print out this post and save it, these suggestions work equally well for Mother’s Day!

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