Jun 29, 2005

Nosey No More

I was visiting my mom last night at the nursing home and as usual, I was hustling her out the door so we could make our weekly trip to CVS before they closed for the night. I decided to pass on stopping in across the hall to say hello to her friend Helen because we were kind of in a hurry. Thinking I could just stop in to see her another time, my mom says, "Well, I just thought you'd like to say hello seeing that she's only got half a nose now." I stopped walking, stunned by what she just said. And then my mom laughed saying, "Well, at least she won't be so nosey anymore!"

Recently I found out Helen-in the neighborhood of about eighty-five years old-had a relapse of skin cancer. My mom explained that Helen didn't want to have the surgery, but her sons kept pushing her to do it. I hear stories like this all the time from the residents at my mom's nursing home. Something really serious happens to them such getting Cancer or having a heart condition and they want nature to take its course and leave them out of it. It's almost as if they're telling Death, "Go ahead. Surprise me."

I did end up visiting with Helen when we returned. She was propped up in her chair watching Law&Order and enjoying the cool breeze outside. Her left eye was bruised and shut from the surgery and her nose was completely concealed in white bandages with crusty bits of blood from a pretty vicious nosebleed earlier in the day. She looked horrible. I said, "Helen, you look like you've been in one hell of a fight." She replied, "Yea, but you should see the other guy." I laughed knowing that it was a good sign she could make a joke being in so much pain.

But Helen was in pretty good spirits and I think her pain meds had kicked in full force by the time I talked with her. She said she was feeling much better, but was having trouble blowing her nose because it kept bleeding. (My mom whispered loudly in my ear, "I bet she doesn't even know she's got half a nose!") I glanced sharply back at my mom to let her know she should shush about the lack of nose.

Helen went on to tell me how she only had the surgery for the sake of her sons and that she didn't want to be bothered. "Let me die and then they can have my money." I brushed off her comment and tried to change the subject. The rest of our visit went okay, but I could really tell that she had no idea just how rough of shape she was in with her nose.

Helen told me they still had one little spot of cancer that they couldn't get to because it was too close to her eye. "Hey. If I go blind then I go blind. I don't care."

I can't help but feel badly for Helen. I wish her sons would have respected her wishes and not pressured her into the surgery for their sake. I told my own mother that I would never do something like that. I may not agree with her decision, but after all--it's her body and her choice to make. As her daughter and legal guardian, it's my duty to make sure she understands the consequences of her decisions.

Helen is the one suffering with post-surgical pain and bloody nosebleeds--not her sons. How do you think she's going to feel when she finds out that surgery took away half of her nose? She's going to be constantly reminded of what she lost everytime a new resident enters the home and meets her for the first time. They will ask, "What the hell happened to your nose?" And I continue to wonder what her sons were thinking knowing the doctor wouldn't be successful at removing 100% of the cancer.

On the surface it's easy to guilt a loved-one into doing something you want if you say the right words. But my advice is before you do that, take a moment to put yourself in their situation to try and see things from another perspective other than your own.

In the case of Helen, she didn't even have a visit from her sons after letting the doctors take half of her nose and that's just wrong!

Jun 28, 2005

Freecycling

I subscribe to a mailing list called Wachusett Regional MA Freecycling where people can post things they would like to give away. It's a really useful list especially if you're cleaning out a basement or trying to declutter your life. Have an old coffee table that you never use and is taking up space? Post it and someone will want it.

Sometimes I post items myself and get great responses from people who are happy to drive to my door to pick up what I'm offering for free. The only effort needed is posting the item, sending the interested party directions to my house and placing the stuff outside near my mailbox for pickup. Easy Peasy. I come home at the end of the day and my stuff has gone to someone who can use it more than I can.

But I've noticed that as the popularity of this list has increased--so have the annoying posts from people looking for a handout. Someone will post, "Unwed pregnant daughter needs diapers" or "Son wants to take drum lessons-anyone have a nice set of drums I could have?" Regardless of the hardluck stories, I always think to myself that these people can't be hurting too badly when they can afford the cost of an internet connection and many have AOL email addresses. I don't feel too badly when someone asked for a "laptop-must be WI-FI compatible".

What sparked my blog today was this post: "Wanted-someone to install my car CD stereo I bought at a yard sale. I live in holden and have a 1989 cavalier Z24. Can anyone help?" Is this person for real? C'mon. Posting something like that on a freecycle list takes a lot of nerve. Hell, maybe I'm just resentful that I don't have the guts to post stuff like that. I can think of a few things I need in the way of services:

  • Wanted-someone to tear down an old wooden fence on the side of my yard and put up a new one. You can have the old wood if you can haul it.
  • Wanted-someone to install my XM Satellite radio that I bought for a good deal at Best Buy (but I just can't afford the installation charge...but I was smart enough to buy a service plan!)
  • Wanted-someone to paint my iron railing on the back entrance of my house. I have the scrubber brush, steel wool pads and black paint.
  • Wanted-someone to make a nice pine octagonal picnic table for my backyard
  • Wanted-someone to install my new pool.

I know my fictional wanted list is strictly to make a point, but I think these people who post things like asking for a service need to go to Craigslist or some other place to share their hardluck stories.

The person looking for someone to install a car stereo shouldn't have bought the stereo unless he/she knew how to install it. The person looking for diapers should have bought a condom and the mother wanting a drum set for her son should go to Kurlan Music to rent one. Enough already!

Jun 26, 2005

The Fruit is Always Sweeter...

Every Monday it's the same conversation: "So...what did you do this weekend?" Well, for starters, I weaseled a trip to Longhorns Steak House in Marlborough with Spencer on Saturday. It was hotter than hell and what better way to cool off than with a nice hot steak and a baked potato? Seriously, I know I'm fantastically insane...but I like meat.

Our lunch was actually pretty underwhelming, but that's for another blog. What I want to tell you about today is our little side trip to a grocery store called Hannaford which is next to Longhorns. I love shopping for fruit and right now my Holy Grail is a big juicy piece of watermelon priced right at about 55 cents a pound. It's not gonna happen and believe me, I know that. But it's the thrill of the chase because after all, Summer means delicious watermelon and next up is Pomegranate season (the most holy of seasons).

Hannaford is my new favorite grocery store. The aisles are wide, the selection is plentiful and the floors aren't sticky. The was no dust to be found on their canned goods and we found a rippled no-salt bag of potato chips about four aisles into our browsing. (My mom is going to be psyched and I can't wait to present her with my new find when I visit her this Tuesday! She loves no-salt chips and can't understand why the selection is so minimal anytime we go into a superstore like Wal-Mart or Target. I keep trying to tell her no-salt anything is difficult to find, but when she wants something her needs must be met--or I'll be nagged to death.)

Spencer is all about the price and I think he was pleased that the prices were surprisingly good-especially on their health & beauty products. We didn't even have to add another one of those annoying plastic discount cards to our already overloaded keychains to benefit from their prices.

We walked the aisles of Hannaford like tourists in Disneyland. But what cinched it for me was the yogurt section. Amazingly, they were charging $.55 cents for Breyer's Creme Savers yogurt! It's normally about $.89 or more at Price Chopper and Stop & Shop so I snagged a few containers and moved (or shall I be corny and say MOOOOved) over to the dairy section to price the Bunny Milk. Although they were charging $1.29 for it, they still redeemed themselves because they had Garelick Coffee Milk. I can never find coffee milk anywhere.

Did I mention the store was completely dead? I didn't have to maneuver around annoying customers leaving their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle or deal with screaming kids in the cereal aisle demanding Cookie Crisp cereal. I expected to see pallets of food in the aisles waiting to be put away by stocking clerks hoping to take advantage of down time. Nothing. The aisles were free and clear. Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing too many cardboard displays taking up aisle space either.

Since I'm a shopper who purposely shops in the dead of the night to avoid being stressed when I want to browse the salad dressing aisle for an undiscovered flavor (to stoke my salad dressing fetish), Hannaford scores points for the discerning shopper who wants to spend time experiencing what it's like to have such a grand amount of food choices. At Hannaford, it's perfectly okay to shuffle through your coupons with ease never worrying about the agitation from a stressed out, low-on-patience mom eager to push past you to get their cans of spaghettio's. The aisles are just that spacious.

The checkout was wonderful and free of any confrontation from apathetic cashiers. I was actually asked if my two flavors of Skinny Cow ice cream was the same price and when I confirmed it--the cashier nodded, punched in the price and moved on to my next item on the belt. No price checks or surly behavior whatsoever.

But here's the best part. They give you plastic bags that are study (about the thickness of a Target bag) and say cheeky things like:
I'm observant. I may look like an ordinary bag, but I'm not. I notice things. Like that tender asparagus you selected...and that roast...Excellent choice! You know what you're doing and I can tell you have GOOD TASTE.
The bag then has a little request: Please re-use this bag as many times as you can, then return it to Hannaford for recycling.
I am here to tell you that I've witnessed patrons of Hannaford actually bringing their used plastic bags back into the store for reuse! And that's the amazing thing about these gray bags. They are so hearty that you can actually recycle them. They don't rip or tear from your trunk to your countertop. They withstand the journey sustaining the weight of glass pickle jars, Ocean Spray grapefruit juice, boxes of Lean Cuisines and a can of scrubbing bubbles.
Today we drove 16 miles out of our way-from Worcester to Marlboro- to do our weekly grocery shop at Hannaford. Our trip was not disappointing in the sense that the store was still stone-cold quiet, Bing cherries were on sale for $2.99/pound and I even found a new salad dressing that I had never tried before-Ken's Sweet Vidalia Onion.
So that's what I did this past weekend--I shopped Hannaford and discovered a wonder right in my own 20-mile radius of home.

Jun 25, 2005

Long Live Ant Music

My friend Michelle and I went to see Duran Duran on April 1st. Just before the concert began, we noticed they were playing an Adam Ant song over the loudspeakers. We both kind of looked at each other and had one of those recognizable "Ah Ha" moments. I had totally forgotten all about Adam Ant and I really, really loved him back in the 80's. I remember buying his Strip album from one of those record clubs and thinking how he was all sexy looking lying in a pile of hay with some wheat sticking out of his mouth.

Spencer was able to snag The Essential Adam Ant cd from our local library and let me tell you...it rocks! I listened to it at work about five times in a row and just couldn't get enough of it. I don't know much about Adam Ant. I do recall recently hearing he had a nervous breakdown, but after having newly rediscovered him...I've got to Google him to find out his story.

Any man who can sing these lyrics from the song "Prince Charming" is a master in my book:

Don't you ever...
Don't you ever...
Stop being dandy...
Showing me your handsome.
Here's just a snippet of the liner notes from the cd: He was the King of the Wild Frontier, the first truly videogenic star of MTV era. He was Prince Charming, the swashbuckling dandy who heralded a Second British Invasion of the American Pop Charts. He was Adam Ant, and he helped alter the rules of pop.
I don't recall Adam Ant being a mainstay on MTV over the likes of say a Billy Idol or Cyndi Lauper, but what I do remember about him is all that warpaint he wore, the tribal drums and his wicked cool costumes he wore in his videos.
I'm quite pleased with myself for reaching back to 1981. Now I'm off to find out how many Ant fans are still left....

Out-of-Office Nightmare

Working in an office requires you to leave an out-of-office reply to anyone sending you emails while you're away. It's a common courtesy to let them know when you'll be returning. For the most part, people keep their messages pretty ordinary. Except for this guy that I work with who decided to be cute in his message. Bear in mind this man is well over 40 years old and certainly should know better than doing this.

This was his out-of-office message in Outlook:

From: John Doe
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2005 8:22 AM
To: Jane Doe
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: Tech Team Monday 6/20/05 & Tuesday 6/21

I will be out of the office on Monday June 20th, making the annual pilgrimage to pay homage to the patron diety of Hedonism, Jimmy Buffett. Depending on the hang-over....I might be out Tuesday too.

If this is an important product sourcing issue please contact the product sourcing help desk.
If you are mailing about an outstanding PID request please contact John Doe II at ext XXX. Outstanding E-Form, John Doe at XXXXX

"Wastin' away again in Margaritaville....."

Mahalo,
John Doe

Can you imagine getting that out-of-office? If people can start quoting Jimmy Buffett lyrics in their messages, here's what mine is going to say:

I will be out of the office on July 4th soaking up sun and cheeseburgers to celebrate this great country of ours. Depending on if I over-indulge on sour Skittles and midori sours watching Live8...I may be in the office on Tuesday.

Holla Back, Kim

Jun 23, 2005

Sign(s) of the Times

Karen and I watched the James Brooks movie Spanglish last night together. The movie explores a multitude of relationships, but the overall joke is how the Spanish-speaking mother struggles to learn English over the course of the movie.

Karen began telling me how her niece Rebecca LOVES the cartoon Dora the Explorer. Apparently the little girl is getting pretty adept at speaking Spanish just from watching cartoons. We both laughed and said these cartoons should have been around when I was growing up and I would have never failed Spanish class. Things are so much better now. If I had Bob the Builder as a kid, my house would be so much nicer because I would know how to use all those tools in my garage collecting dust.

And what's up with the ice cream truck merrily rolling though my neighborhood each night at 6:30 with the annoying "Hello!" jingle? I never had that luxury when I was a kid. If I wanted a popsicle or an ice cream, I had to open up the freezer or wait to be taken to Friendlys for a special treat. I never just had it delivered right to my front door with such occasion.

These days kids have it too good and I feel like such an old person for saying it. They learn sign language in daycare so they can demand a cookie, can speak Spanish by the age of three from cartoons and expect cell phones by the fifth grade for their growing social web. The only way I could communicate in elementary school was to figure out how to fold those maddening origami- type things to ask questions if a boy liked me and depending on how many snaps of the paper, well--you get the picture. Today it's all about text messaging and ring-tones.

As Dora might say by the time she reaches the tender age of 35, "Soy tan viejo"

Jun 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day...Dad

It’s late and I really should be drifting off to sleep by now, but tonight’s a tough one for me because tomorrow is Father’s Day. It’s been seven years without him...

I got to thinking tonight about how I’m my father’s daughter. He taught me that the glass is always half full when my mom would lead me to believe otherwise. Thankfully his version of the truth always stuck. I am grateful that I am as good-natured and even tempered as my father. My dad taught me to go with the flow. He liked the phrase, "Don't let the turkeys get you down."

He drove an 18-wheel tractor trailer until I was 13 years old and made the decision to stop driving when he realized that he missed out on too much of my childhood being on the road. But he was never ashamed that he made his living driving a truck because he never really wanted to do anything else. He fulfilled his life long dream to drive across the country and left driving behind to work as a janitor.

He always wanted to visit Alaska and see the Grand Canyon. He told me that when he got older he wanted to rent an RV and just drive.

I know my dad was proud of me because he would tell me all the time. He was never uncomfortable about it. I think it was especially important to him that I knew how much he loved and was proud of me because his dad never told him anything like that when he was growing up other than negatively comparing him to his older brothers. My dad and I had an affectionate relationship and I miss hugging him.

One of the hardest things to come to terms with after he died was that I couldn’t sit across the kitchen table from him anymore to share crazy work stories or just talk. I was on my own.

My dad loved a good steak. I can remember that he knew where his priorities were when payday hit-visit the downtown butcher for meat and pay the bills last. He was a simple guy and never had any problem doing the things that made him happy.

He cried like a baby the day I gave him the huge framed print of him and I on my wedding day. He said it was the best present he ever received in his life and I knew he meant it.

I bet Father’s Day is tough on the people who don’t have good memories of their dad. I bet they wish the holiday didn’t even exist. As painful as this day is on me every year, the tears I cry are worth it because they remind me of how lucky I was growing up with such an amazing father.

I live every day of my life to honor his memory. I do it by looking after my mom and protecting her when he cannot. I appreciate the beauty in my own life knowing how much he loved beautiful things like flowers and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

And most importantly, I honor my father by experiencing the fresh pain of his loss every June 19th because it was one of his favorite days of the year. He loved being my father.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day. I will always remember…..

Jun 17, 2005


Lincoln Street School Posted by Hello

Lawn Party

I live minutes away from my old elementary school. I pass by it several times a week and I always experience that pang of nostalgia because some of my happiest childhood memories came from going to school there.

Recently they added a spiffy new marquee sign on the front lawn which has announcements like, "Happy Memorial Day" or "Don't forget to Read!" To me, the sign looks really out of place given it's newness set against the backdrop of a school that hasn't had many structural changes over the past 25 years. (I wouldn't be surprised to find that old bird's nest still tucked away near the recess bell if I cared to look more closely...)

But yesterday I experienced a change of heart because it said simply, "Lawn Party" and suddenly I was flooded with all the great memories of my six years spent at Lincoln Street School.

Lawn Party's were my favorite part of school aside from the White Elephant Tables during Christmas! Lawn Party Day was great simply for the sheer anticipation of what you could do with your friends outside once classes ended.

Mother's would make trays of carefully decorated cup cakes and we could gorge ourselves on penny candy, slices of watermelon, fruit punch and hot dogs. It was the ONLY time the school allowed us to play with silly abandon on the huge side lawn rather than the blacktop out back with the line dividing the boys from the girls.

For me, Lawn Party was about hanging out all day with my best friend Lisa. We didn't spend our time on lawn games or other silly things that would amuse most kids. Lisa was the type of friend who took delight in making me laugh so hard that milk would painfully shoot out my nose. Her dad worked as the janitor of the school and somehow I remember that she was cooler because of it.

But since all good parties must come to an end-Lawn Party signified the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation.

If you were in 5th grade, Lawn Party was the day you could let it all hang out because you were officially in 6th grade next year. This meant no one could boss you around. 6th grade meant our time had finally come to lord over the entire student body and we still had a whole year to worry about taking showers with the big kids once we hit middle school.

I love that I live so close to Lincoln Street School. Seeing that old brick building reminds me of how far I've come in life since being a big sixth grader on Lawn Party Day.

Jun 16, 2005

Trouble with the Sweet Stuff

I was having a pretty rotten day yesterday at work. As I was standing outside the cube of one of my co-workers, I noticed this framed print up against the wall outside one of the manager's offices. I've seen the print there before, but never really gave it much consideration. But for whatever reason, I happened to give it more than a passing glance this time and much to my astonishment, I discovered the print was actually of a collage of candy wrappers!

I love candy. I love learning about the history of candy, following candy trends and most importantly--eating candy. Thank God I am not diabetic...yet. So to find a picture of a collage of candy wrappers is a big deal to me.

Turns out it must have been hanging in the former supply manager's office and when he moved to another part of the building he chose not to take it with him. People do stuff like that all the time. They put out samples of office products or cast-off goodies on these communal department banquet tables and pretty much everyone around the area dives into the offerings like buzzards on road-kill and all the free stuff is gone in like five minutes.

This poor little print apparently had been sitting there collecting dust for months and Heather told me to just take it. "Are you sure?" I asked tentatively while secretly hoping it was MINE, MINE, MINE!

So I took it. I casually walked back to my own cube and examined it a bit closer. There was a little story about the print taped to the back of the frame basically explaining that this pop artist named Michael Albert created the collage from candy wrappers he collected in 2002 from various corner stores, supermarkets, video stores and pharmacies. But cooler than that is that all the wrappers are arranged alphabetically from A to Z in the collage. Can you imagine?

I managed to get the print into my car without corporate security grabbing me and now this amazing print is hanging in my kitchen. It's now one of my prized possessions-like if my house caught on fire this is one of the things I would save from the ashes. It's just that cool.

I did lots of research online to see if I could find out more about the artist. I had to dig a little bit, but it was worth it. He is an amazing talent and I've decided that I have officially adopted him as my favorite ARTIST of cubist pop-art. I emailed him asking if I could buy a print of his Cap'n Crunch artwork last night and he actually wrote back the next day. He wonders how I've heard about him? I'm afraid to email back because I'm in a gushing mode right now and really need to calm myself down.

It just goes to prove that you can be having an awfully bad day at work and still something good can come out of it. My friend Ginny listened to my long-winded explanation how I scored such an amazing print and she said what happened to me reminded her about a great quote from the movie Rat Race (2001) spoken by the character of Nick Schaffer:

My grandfather used to say that good things take time, but great things happen all at once.

He's got that right!

Etude by Michael Albert Posted by Hello

Jun 14, 2005

Corporate Whore

I am a bona fide badge-carrying member of Corporate America. I sit and participate in many, many meetings to discuss business issues and I'm saying right here and right now that I am fed up with Corporate Speak. I define 'corporate speak' as saying some long-winded phrase to describe something when all you need to do is simply state your point without all the fancy metaphors gleaned from management books and the like. That was a bit too long of an explanation, wasn't it?

Corporate Speak is bullshit talk. That's about as precise and to-the-point as I can manage today just coming back from vacation.

Here is the latest catch-phrases that I've collected since the beginning of this month:

  • Looking left and looking right (The corporate equivalent of the children's rhyme "Look up, Look Down, Look all around--your pants are falling down!"?)
  • Confronting the brutal facts
  • pressure-testing
  • How can we do this without more paddling?
  • Triage your time
  • How do you want your pain?

So from time to time, I'm going to post more of these phrases just for the fun of it. I hope you'll be mindful of corporate speak and jot down some good ones that you hear during the day and send them along to me, too. Please email me at kimperry@charter.net with your favorites.