Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Live From Grand Rapids, Michigan...It's Monday Night!

I'm here in this cute little town, trying to prepare myself for a whirlwind day tomorrow. Have you ever been to Grand Rapids? It's a cute little town. Lots of brick roads and charming buildings. I'm not going to see much of it as I'm freaking out about preparing for tomorrow. It's not that I don't know my stuff, it's just that I haven't overprepared, which is a habit I have from my last job.

It's also not that I overprepare...I just overangst about preparing. I've really got to stop this and trust my expertise. Also, I need to trust my ability to dazzle them with bullshit when brilliance fails me (which it won't). Sigh.

I drove 6 hours to get here, which was a snap. I listened to most of a delightful little book called Quite Honestly. I saw some deer and snow and Cabella's super store. I made good time and I didn't have to stop once. Yes, I have an iron bladder. Once I got here, I stashed my gear, such as it is, and headed out to BD's Mongolian BBQ. I really enjoy preparing my own meal there, as I'm certain to get what I want. I usually enjoy myself there. But not today.

In their defense, it was early for dinner (4:30 p.m.) and the place was rather empty. I got the full-on Friday's Customer Service treatment as soon as I hit the table. You know, had I ever been there before, how was my day...woo, woo, woo. Also, bad 80's music was blaring and no one was there but me and 4 other tables, so the fun vibe seemed forced. The waitress practically fell over herself to make my experience "fun" but failed to check in with me regularly. She had plenty of time to make conversation with me about the Oscars, but when my glass was empty and my mouth was on fire from the chili/garlic dish with red peppers and fresh ground pepper, she was no where to be seen.

I finished my meal and I was ready to get out of there already when she finally brought me my check. On top of the check was a little electronic gadget that brought to mind early 80's handheld video game technology not seen since the disappearance of Merlin and 2XL. At first I thought it was the check. But Perky McGidget explained that it was a brief satisfaction survey. Oh boy.

I agreed to take the thing and realized after reading a few of the questions that all the "fun" was the result of a home-office mandate. Was my experience fun and invigorating? Did the staff interact with me in a fun way? Did they interact with me in a fun way at the buffet? They were trying to measure "Fun." Not once did they ask me if the service was good. This is called missing the mark, people. Of course, I could only give the highest ratings, lest some douche from corporate come down and give the staff a remedial training on emitting fun onto the guests.

The evaluation video game thingy was really cool, but I don't really think that the information they were collecting is going to help them all that much. How do you quantify fun? And by quantifying it, don't you kind of in a way kill it? I mean, it's like being asked, "Are we having fun yet?" which is another thing I hate from the 80's including every single song played on the 80's fun hit list at BD's this very night. Maybe "Are they having fun yet?" is the inside corporate slogan behind this campaign to make sure we are all having a good time while eating food we prepared ourselves in a place that I mistakenly thought would be above that kind of thing.

If you would have given me the opportunity to comment, BD's, I would have told you to relax. Play some exotic music. Tell the grill boys to chill out. And reduce the metaphorical pieces of Flair hanging all over your wait staff before someone gets hurt.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Signs of Spring: Skunk Funk

Ever since Groundhog's Day, I've been on the alert for signs of springs imminent arrival. The Sunday morning after our party had the distinct feeling of springtime. There were birds chirping, snow was melting and it was warm for the first time in weeks.

Last night, after picking up the girls I took them to Dollar General to spend the $5 they each got in bribes so that my Mom could trim their bangs. Lucy picked her items out quickly, as usual. She found some rubber ducks and playdough. Riley, on the other hand, acts as if she'll never be given an opportunity to pick out a toy ever again. We wandered around that store over and over again. She finally settled on a plush piggy bank that oinks when you put money into it.

"I think that was a very wise choice, Riley," I told her, thinking that next time she could drop her $5 in the bank instead and save us all the heartache of choosing between a $3 piece of crap and $5 worth of garbage.

We finally paid the lady behind the counter and hit the road. There's about a mile stretch of highway between Dollar General and our house. We pulled on to the on ramp and started our zoom home. About halfway down the road, I could smell the distinct odor of skunk. It's not unpleasant at first, but dead skunk on the road always has a crescendo of unpleasantness.

"You smell that?" I asked at the first hint of it.

"It smells like hamburgers," Riley said.

"Nope, that's skunk."

"Huh...it smells like hamburgers to me...oh, wait...EEEEW!"

"Yeah, it stinks," I said, "But it means spring is coming."

I was about to launch into a lecture about how dead skunks on the road means that they are out and about and not hiding from the cold. It's a good sign. But the girls started singing, and I decided to let this lesson pass. But I got home and saw the green grass on my front lawn. I smelled the warmth in the air. I took a peek at the thawed out Tiki bar across the back yard. Summer's coming, ya'll. Summer's coming.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

--Sullivan Balloou, Civil War Letter

I forget in my day to day life what love is. I move through the motions and apply myself to tasks on my list. I am frustrated, bored, amused, tired, pleased, surprised, and moved. But these fleelings are fleeting and I go to bed, get up and do it again. But there are moments when Lucy holds my face with both hands and kisses me sweetly and smiles. Or Riley shares a laugh with me about something that she just now understands. Or Doc laughs and pulls me into a bear hug. Or my Grandma emparts something profound from her life. Or my Mom struggles to hide the fact she's bluffing. Or my Dad lights up when the girls rush to greet him. Or Spooky spouts a perfectly crafted zinger. Or the Cap'n loses himself in laughter. Or Rachel nods after hearing me talk about the kids and says, "Just Wait..." And I remember love.

Love can be grand. It can be diamonds and Carribean cruises. It can be violins and chocolate. While these are soaring winds that can lift you for a while, I prefer the small, steady flow of love's everyday movements. If you feel the small breezes and note their movements, you will see how much love you have. Carry that with you in a small jar around your neck and open it up when things are bleak. Let the spirit of love soothe your throbbing temple.

And please accept this kiss I blow to you today. It carries with it my hopes for your that you are happy and loved.

Happy Valentine's Day, dear friend.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exclusive! John Mayer's Birthday Song Lyrics

If you hadn't heard, John Mayer has penned a tune in honor of Jennifer Anniston's birthday and I happen to have caught a glipse of it while we were in rehab together last week. Now, the man doesn't have a good track record for birthday gifts, so I'm sure you're all dubious. But, it's actually not too bad.

Happy Birthday, Jennifer

40 years isn't old to a sea-turtle
In fact you'd just be hitting your prime
And we could swim together forever
In Australian brine

Wrinkles are signs of beauty
My lovely Chelonioidea
Your tough exterior turns me on
Why don't you come out of your shell

Chorus
Swim with me
Through eternity
Your old age
Doesn't bother me
We'll smoke and drink
And laugh at others
We can be superior
Because we're sea turtle lovers

Anyway, that's all I caught. You can thank me later. I look forward to hearing this overplayed on top 40 radio stations for the next 3 months.

Friday, February 06, 2009

She Gets It Honest

"Uh, Mom?" Riley asked.

"Yes, baby?" I said.

"Lucy and I agreed we each need time alone."

"Oh, really?" I asked. "That's nice." Riley had been complaining to me earlier that she wanted to spend time alone in her room reading and Lucy wouldn't leave her alone.

"Yes, well, she signed a contract anyway."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Adventures In Stay-At-Home Mommery

I went to pick Riley up from school and parked my car in the usual spot. My neighbor pulled up and I hopped out of my car and got into her's to wait till Riley was released. We chatted briefly until our girls came out. Her daughter wanted to come over and I said it would be fine. We all piled into my car and I went to find my keys and they were nowhere to be found.

My neighbor had already driven off, so I called her.

"Are my keys in your car?"

"I don't see them," she said after searching around, "Do you want me to come back?"

"Would you mind?"

"Not at all."

She came back and we searched and searched and retraced steps. Nada.

"Are they in your jeans? Your coat?" she asked.

"Nope," I said, looking again.

"How about in your sweater pockets?" she asked.

"My what?" I said then looked down and realized my sweater had pockets. Reaching in, low and behold, I found them.

"Oh my God!" I exclaimed, "How stupid am I?"

"That's something I would do!" she said. "Hey, if you want, the kids could come to my house," she suggested.

"No," I replied, "It's ok...I'm not drunk or anything."

She laughed and said that wasn't what she meant. We parted ways and I started the car and headed to Sheetz to get kerosine. Doc had asked me to pick up some sandwiches while I was out and I knew Sheetz had food...or should I say, "food." I hadn't had good luck with food there, but I thought I'd save a few steps and get food and gas in one stop.

"Are you girls hungry?" I asked.

"Yes!!!" they hollared.

"Well, we could get Wendy's or we could get food at Sheetz..."

"I want McDonalds," Riley said.

"Well, that's not on the way."

"How about Wendy's?" the neighbor girl asked.

"Well, why don't we look at the menu and see what Sheetz has. If you don't like anything there, we'll stop at Wendy's."

"What kind of food do they have?" asked Riley.

"Well, they have hamburgers and sandwiches and nachos..."

"You had me at nachos!" Riley said.

I had to laugh. So, we got Sheetz and headed home to an enthusiastic Lucy who was thrilled to death to see us all. Doc had finished installing the new toilet seat and our bedroom was clean as a whistle! Ah, it's good to be home.

My Daughter Riley: The Conservative Voice In Our House

"Mom," Riley said, "We have a problem in the bathroom..."

"What is it?" I said heading in there, dreading what I might find.

"Look," she said pointing to the toilet seat. It was sitting crooked on the pot.

"Oh, yeah," I said, "I know; I'm buying a new one today."

The toilet seat came with the house. It's one of those awful puffy ones that exhales when you sit on it. It's white and has butterflies embroidered on the lid. It's starting to split at the front and it has simply seen its day. I've been looking for a good reason to replace it for ages.

"Oh, but I love this toilet seat...we can't get rid of it!"

Honestly, that girl gets attached to the strangest things...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'm On Vacation

Sorry about all the dust and cobwebs around here. I've been lax in updating you. I've also become addicted to Facebook and it's just so much easier to pop in and drop a line there. I've actually used my real name over there. What? Didn't you know Flannery Alden wasn't my real name? Sorry to have lead you astray.

In the spirit of Groundhog's Day, I've decided to reveal my true identity. My name is Jenny Shaw. If you want, you can be my friend over there if you can find me. I'm not sure how to link to myself, but my profile picture is the same one that's over on Social Zymurgy.

I'll pop in here throughout the week, but for sure, you can see what I'm doing over there.

In the meantime, why not enjoy this video? I've been listening to it over and over and over since Lucy discovered how to find it on Youtube: