Monday, December 26, 2005

This year our annual Coney Dog Bowl takes place on January 2 which makes me feel a whole lot better. Since the party coincides with watching the major Bowl games, we usually hold it on New Years Day--hungover and miserable. But I'm looking forward to the party this year since we'll have a day to recover before opening our home to our friends to partake in this annual shindig.

What, might you ask, the hell is a Coney Dog Bowl? It's a time honored tradition in our home. Given that Pa is from Michigan and prides himself as a lover of Coneys-- which, if you don't want to take the time to read the article (and I wouldn't blame you but it is a good one), is a hot dog loaded with beanless chili mustard and onions. These are, thank God, only eaten in our household once a year, when Pa arranges to have two blocks of "Coney Sauce" imported from the Midwest. This year, Grandpa and Grandma have been our Coney mules, which saved us a boatload in Fed Ex costs and the blocks are thawing nicely--ready to be gobbled up by the 2nd.

Part of the preparation of the Coney Dog Bowl is the design of the invitation, which Pa does entirely on his own. The first Coney invitation featured our pal Moofie as a pup--to serve, not only as the Coney mascot, but as an interpreter of sorts--to provide a clear definition of the event.

Year after year, Moofie modeled in some more adventurous scenes, including posing with Audrey Hepburn or as a bandito

Moof was able to take a break this year when Pa produced a flyer designed as an invite to an art gallery opening. Titled "THE CONEY IN MODERN ART" the invite features artwork presented by the fictitious "Oscar and Cheryl Mayer Traveling Collection" with "closely held masterpieces never before seen in public including de Kooning’s One with Everything, Ellsworth Kellly’s Beige, Brown, Yellow, Maroon, Warhol’s Chili Cans, Stuart Davis’s Detroit, and Max Ernst’s tormented Zehn Frankfurter -Acht Brötchen! (Ten Hot Dogs-Eight Buns!)

The highlight of the flyer is the infamous "Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp which had been defiled by his brother, who threw a Coney in the urinal and wrote "U.R. Stupid" and titled it "Wiener" in mustard as explained in the text below:

"In 1917, under the pseudonym 'R. Mutt', Marcel Duchamp entered Fountain (a urinal laid on its backside) in a show promoting avant-garde art.
The prank was intended to challenge conventional thinking on the use of found objects and taunted artists and critics alike.

Duchamp’s brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon was in attendance and was not amused. Immediately recognizing Fountain as his brother’s doing, Raymond responded in anger by placing his lunch, a coney dog, inside Fountain. Entitled Wiener! and signed 'U.R. Stupid' in mustard, Duchamp-Villon’s sophomoric message to his brother is widely recognized as the first appearance of the coney in modern art.

One would think, after reading the invite, that Pa has a lot of free time on his hands. Well, he does, since he's decided that sleep is for the weak.

In any event, the party will be free flowing with laughter and Coneys. And new this year (since we haven't thrown a Coney Dog Bowl since Na's been home) is that "the wet wipes will be plentiful and the sippy cups bottomless."

Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is Mr. Mom (you gave a baby chili?) But thank goodness Na won't go near the stuff!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Medicare, Shmedicare

I feel for the hundreds of thousands of senior citizens living in America who, after January 1, must begin the painful process of enrolling in Medicare Part D. Like anything with this practically worthless, fucked-up system, Medicare Part D has to be one of the hardest things to figure out, let alone apply for.

Why is someone like me, a 37 year-old, even remotely concerned? I'm enrolling my mom. And aside from tackling the holidays and dealing with the visiting relatives and spreading comfort and joy, I spend the majority of my time making phone calls to Medicare, Social Security and the Department of Health and Social Services to try and get what I thought were simple answers to some very basic questions. Today, I was on hold for about an hour and a half total, after calling the three agencies mentioned above--and each entity referred me to the other, so it was like being stuck in a goddamned traffic circle without a way to get out.

Oh they try to make things easy by automating their frickin' system so that instead of waiting for a live, clueless person, one gets lost in a phone tree, taking direction from a canned, clueless voice. And they try to make it personable by playing Baby Boomer appropriate hold music while you wait; but, honestly, wouldn't anyone have the right mind NOT to include "SHOUT!" as a hold song? Because, after all, isn't that what one wants to do when one is stuck on hold all afternoon?

It isn't just a matter of choosing or enrolling in one medicare-approved third party insurance company either; for me, it's about getting my mom enrolled after meeting low-income requirements and then finding out who decides to choose the insurance carrier: me or Social Security. Funny thing is, Social Security couldn't tell me!
I swear they make this complicated so that people will miss the deadline to enroll (which is actually May 15, 2006) so that they get penalized and will pay higher premiums.

I still haven't gotten anything accomplished and the deadline is fast approaching. I'll tell you though, once I'm finished with this mess, I'm going into business for counseling seniors because I don't know how anyone can get themselves enrolled.

Tomorrow's another day, eh?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ho, Ho--H-, aw hell 10 more miles?

'twas the week before Christmas with all of its stress.
I said "I'll run a race," and Pa said, "Surely you jest."
"You're running already--all throughout town.
Traffic makes you crazy, the malls bring you down."
"And that's exactly why," I said with a smile,
"if I do something for me, it'll make all this worthwhile."
So off we went--two hours away,
way down to Olympia on a chilly Sunday.

The Christmas Classic Marathon was the name of the race.
It was freezing cold, so I quickened my pace.
I ran the half, all 13.1 miles,
I saw Santa headgear in various styles.
For two hours and fifteen, I was really hopping,
while Pa and Na spent their free time shopping.
See they were at the mall, all cozy and warm
while I passed lots of horses and a Christmas tree farm.

I wore racing Santa socks on my very cold feet.
They wicked away moisture and people said they were neat.
I carried my phone so I could listen to music
but it kept taking pictures, so I barely used it.
I carried Clif Bar Jellies and ate them after an hour,
but they went down too hard and my stomach went sour.
So the last half was a little harder than the first,
but I felt much better after the gas bubble burst!

When I finally crossed the finish, Na and Pa were on hand.
They took lots of pictures, they said I did grand!
There was hot apple cider inside of a kettle.
We noshed on doughnuts and candy,
and I even got a medal.

I feel so much better after running this race.
The Christmas blues are over,
I've got a smile on my face!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Oy, the Dilemma!

Ok, so since our heating oil debacle is pretty much history, I can now move on to dilemmas that are more trivial, meaningless and downright stupid.

Every year, I get a new portable MP3 player--not because I need to be up on the latest technology or anything (though certainly that is a bonus) but because I usually beat the shit out of the one I have, thereby rendering it useless after 12 months.

Good thing Pa bought me my first MP3 player with a buyer protection plan--which, by the way, is TOTALLY worth the extra $30-$50 depending on where you buy your electronics.

This whole "leasing" program I developed started roughly 4 years ago when Pa bought me my first player--a Nike 120PSA made by Rio. It only had 64MB of memory (ROFL!) and it took an AA battery, but it sounded awesome and it was the smallest of its kind and perfect for running! It died actually two years later, and like I mentioned, we sent it in through our buyer's protection plan.

Even though I hated the fact that the AA battery died after every use, I decided to get the next version and was especially excited since Nike partnered with Philips. To me, the Philips Nike PSA 128 Max was an upgrade -- not only in memory, but the fact that it required two AAA batteries that lasted longer than the previous generation. Well it, too, died a violent death a year later and so I sent it in and last year, bought the next version: The Philips Nike PSA 220. Again, it was a great upgrade AND as an added bonus, no additional batteries required!!! The unit has a lithium ion rechargeable battery that lasts a really long time.

Anyway, it was great while it lasted--which was about a year and so after the headphones broke and the backside began to corrode, I boxed it up and sent it back for a refund, which brings us to today.

I'm faced with the ultimate dilemma. At first, I was going to cave and buy a Nano or an iPod, but after reading the sucky reviews for the Nano and knowing that the iPod is so, like, two years ago, I decided against that idea. Then my darling husband reminded me that we have a free Rhapsody account and now they make MP3 players compatible with "Rhapsody to Go"--which basically means I can load any of the 1.3 MILLION songs and borrow them whenever I want.

Sounds great, huh?

Yeah, well, Philips Nike has a new player and's probably got like the smallest amount of storage on the market but for runners, it's an absolute dream. It works with a pod you put on your shoe and basically, it will TELL YOU, through your headphones, how far you've run, how long you've run and your pace. To me, that's like the coolest thing next to sliced bread; but it's not compatible with "Rhapsody to Go" which means I have to be like everyone else and buy my music, not borrow it (Sheepish grin).

So what to do, what to do, what to do: Buy a great new MP3 Player that has ooodles of storage and is compatible with Rhapsody to Go or buy another Philips player that has the cool running features?

See? I warned you this was meaningless, trivial and downright stupid!

A Christmas Miracle!

For those of you intimate with our heating oil debacle, I'm happy to report that our homeowner's insurance is going to cover everything, except for the first batch of oil we ordered. But hey--$800 is better than $8,000!

Did you hear that big sigh yesterday? That was us! PHEW!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tis the Season -- Part Two

One thing I enjoy most about the holidays is baking everyone our dog's world famous biscotti. In a town notorious for coffee addicts, biscotti is one of the best gifts one can give to friends!

This was our original label; but of course, when Aspen died, and Mr. Na came into the picture, we modified it accordingly. The tasty flavors include: Double Chocolate; Chocolate Cherry; Biscotti Toscani (almond, orange and chocolate chip); Cinnamon Hazelnut; Italian (anise, almonds); and Lemon Poppyseed.

Want a recipe? Let me know and I'll ask Oatie to send one to you!

Moofie’s Own

Holiday Bisc-Oatie
(Tasty treats for humans)

These are good cookies so please eat them!
One day my good friend Aspen and I were enjoying our morning cookie and as my Dad left for work I thought to myself what a shame that my Mom and Dad don’t have a tasty cookie to start their day. Good cookies improve your overall outlook on life by giving you a good reason to, sit, shake hands and speak. In short, they just plain make you friendlier, and friendliness is a leading cause of world peace! So I went back to my ancestral home of Snohomish and retrieved my Great Grandma Sophia’s Biscotti recipe. And the rest, as they say, is history. May these Bisc-Oatie bring you peace this holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

'Tis the Season

We have been on a party circuit since Friday night with no end in sight. Much as I enjoy parties, it'd be nice to take a little break. I never thought I'd be saying this, but thank goodness tomorrow's Monday!

On Friday night, we went to Pa's office party. There was a live Rockaroke band and of course, after three Cosmos each, Pa and I got up on stage to sing "Love Shack." Now we'll be forever known in his office as "The Love Shack" couple. I think Pa did an awesome Fred to my very busy Kate AND Cindy.

Yesterday was non-stop (or, rather, Na Stop). After Pa and Na came home from soccer, we went up to North Bend to hop on the Santa Train so that Na could present his Christmas list.
Cheeeeeeeeeese! Ma and Na aboard the Santa Train.

This year, Mr. Na fits into an outfit Pa and I had bought lonnnnnng before we adopted the cutie pie. Here he is---Mr. Johnny Bravo (he fits the suit) himself:

After the Santa Train, we headed over to a birthday party for one of Mr. Na's friends. Here he is with the birthday girl:

Now we have to duck out and get another birthday present for another friend so we can make it to another party this afternoon. Phew! I'm beat!

Next week, it's another party followed by The English Beat in concert and a 2.5 hour drive down to Olympia on Sunday morning to run in this race. Weeeeee!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Much as I've studied about World War II, I never spent a lot of time reading about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For me it was like learning about the Civil or Revolutionary Wars. They happened, of course, on U.S. soil; but so long ago...way before my time.

I suppose it is, in part, my ancestry that led me to focus more on the European Theater instead of the Pacific. To my knowledge, I'm not related to anyone who fought in the Pacific War so I wasn't personally affected. But, aside from that, the Pacific War was confusing. I didn't know why we cared about Japan's invasion of China, or why England fought over Burma, or the significance of the Battle of Midway. Little did I know that one of the main reasons we were dragged into the Pacific War had to do with oil. Hmmm...some things just never change.

Believe it or not, after I read Winds of War and War and Rememberance , I had a better understanding of the Pacific War's nuances than I learned from any history teacher in school; but it wasn't until I had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor last week that I truly felt the loss of the 2,280 military personnel and the 68 civilians who perished 64 years ago today.

Visiting Pearl Harbor is a humbling experience. The National Park Service maintains the landmark meticulously, urging visitors to treat the U.S.S. Arizona with the utmost respect for the shrine it has become. Prior to visiting the memorial, we were led into a theatre to watch an overview of the events leading up to and on December 7, 1941. It was a Sunday morning, just before 8:00 a.m. when a fleet of Japanese pilots flew into Pearl Harbor from three different directions. A second wave ensued and by 9:45 a.m. nineteen naval vessels, including eight battleships were destroyed.

Silence blanketed the theatre after the film had finished and the crowd quietly filed through a corridor and onto a ferry that would bring us to the memorial.

Once aboard the memorial, I couldn't help but think that I was standing above a mass, watery grave of the 1,000 victims who perished on the Arizona. Their names engraved in the shrine room heightened this awareness and my sadness was compounded by reading clusters of the same last name which, according to our guide, was not a coincidence. The Arizona was home to families of servicemen--some brothers, some fathers and sons. But what had affected me most was seeing names of those who had died in 2005, 2001, 1998, and 1982. Those were the men who survived that fateful day but chose to return to the Arizona as their final resting place.

I left the memorial with a heavy sense of sadness and I wondered if, what I felt, had anything to do with experiencing 9/11--not firsthand, of course, but one who became paralyzed by the same fear and terror every other person alive experienced that day. Would I have felt the same emotion about Pearl Harbor had I not lived through an attack on U.S. soil? And will our son view 9/11 as I did Pearl Harbor? Because by the time he's my age, he'll have learned about a tragedy that took place long ago...way before his time.

An Open Letter to the Clerk at My Neighborhood Bartell's Drugstore

This got rejected by McSweeneys. A pox on you Ed Page!

Dear Sir,

Notice that I start off addressing you appropriately, for, unlike you, I have learned to respect others.

Now then, my reason for writing to you is as follows: At least once a week, for years, I've been coming to your pharmacy--whether it's been to fill a prescription for myself, my mother, my husband, my son, or my dog. My loyalty primarily lies in the fact that the store is a convenient 5 minute walk from my house--with the next closest pharmacy two miles away. I feel you know this piece of information and therefore, use it to your advantage as justification to be a collossal asshole to me every time I come to the store.

I have no idea what it is about me you despise. I know it can't be my three year-old son, since you've often initiated conversation with him and have indicated to me before how much you adore children; nor is it a reaction to the way in which I treat you since, despite the fact you've earned zero respect from me, I still manage to force a smile while I give you my order. No, if I were to take an educated guess--it would be that you're a crabby old fart who's just sitting out the rest of your working days behind a pharmacy counter, doing nothing more than the two things you absolutely must do to keep your job: take prescriptions and, once filled by the pharamcist, ring it up.

Case in point: Last Thursday when my son and I arrived to place an order, you asked me if we were going to stay and wait to have it filled. I asked how long it would take and you replied, "Approximately five to ten minutes."

"Great," I said, "we'll wait."

"Shall I page you when it's ready?" you asked.

"Please do," I said, smiling.

Waiting for five to ten minutes for a prescription is doable with a toddler. Waiting 30 minutes is not. My three year-old is a busy child, with a busy mind, and hands that are equally as busy. No one expects a toddler to sit still for more than five minutes. And so, spending five minutes following him around the store--watching him play with the blood pressure machine, the scale, the chair massager, and then making a beeline to the toy aisle--and arguing with him for the remaining few minutes because he will not get a toy--is manageable.

However, doing all of the above-mentioned activities AND THEN follwing him to the candy aisle--arguing over the fact that there will be NO CANDY; and realizing that it's past his lunch hour so the child is set to detonate in T-minus five minutes; then, diverting him to the toothbrush aisle so he could replace his electric fire engine toothbrush, but realizing he intentionally made a left instead of a right to head back down the toy aisle; and prying his little hand from the strategically-placed toddler-level Matchbox cars and protecting my ears from the high-pitched shriek followed by a temper tantrum fueled by desire. And perhaps, Mr. Pharmacy Clerk, I might have remained composed if I HADN'T seen you from behind the counter WATCHING US WITH A SMIRK ON YOUR FACE as I placed my child in a time out for being such a little shit.

After several deep breaths and watching my son transform from a gelatinous mass back to his solid form, I approached the pharmacy counter and I calmly asked,

"How's that order coming along?"

To which you calmly replied, "Oh, it's ready."

And I stood horrified as I watched you walk to the back of the room--to where you hang the COMPLETED prescription orders and when you returned, I asked,

"Why wasn't I paged?"

"I don't know," you said as you shrugged your shoulders. "If I tell you that you'll be paged when an order is ready, it means that the pharmacist will page you. Not me."

And so, dear sir, my only wish for you is that when you're wallowing in your own filth in a nursing home bed, and you've pressed your call button for a nurse to change your linens, that the nurse who actually does come in, merely shuts off the call button and says,

"I only come in to shut off the call button, not to clean up your shit."

Sincerely yours,

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Heatless in Seattle

We came home last night from O'ahu to a very, VERY cold house! The furnace is kaput and it's Sunday--which means the repair service is going to charge us double time and a half for having a look see. Never mind about the parts...if they can get 'em. I guess that's the price we pay for owning an old bungalow, eh? The only warm spot in the house last night was the heated bathroom floor and I seriously contemplated sleeping there.

The trip to Hawaii was awesome, of can you go wrong with 80 degree weather every day? But talk about extremes! We went from 80 to 30 degrees in a matter of five hours. On Friday night, I got up in the middle of the night to crank the AC in our room. Last night, I slept with two comforters, a blanket, sweats, long johns, a heating pad (cramps) and my dog pal Moofie, in addition to Pa. I'm so frickin cold in here that I'm about to sit in my car for a few hours, just to enjoy the heated seats.

Well, as soon as we're up and running again (read: fingers not stiff from the cold), I'll write more about the trip. Honolulu was nice, though not as nice as Maui. It was way more crowded and a little on the cheesy side, but for the most part, very relaxing and WARM!

I really could do this every day.