Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hot Flash

1. Mel Brooks had a prosthetic finger put on just before he stuck his hands in cement at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I mean, come on! That is comedy gold. And if you click on that link you can watch a clip of it and see how tickled he is by the whole thing. That guy is a treasure.

2.  Does anyone else agree with me that those selfie pole thingies that you can attach to your phone are ridiculous. I've seen too many pictures recently of people with poles in them. This is absurd.  Why can't you just ask someone to take a picture of you? Or do what the rest of us do and just hold your arm out. Or stop taking pictures of yourself. I tell you this as a friend, you look a little dumb holding that pole.

3.  My seminary class is an hour long hot flash. I teach on the stage in the gym and there's no AC vent up there. It is, to say the least, a muggy mess. During most of the year it's no big deal but when we're experiencing apocalyptic temperatures around here it becomes a problem. That problem being how to effectively teach as a puddle of sweat. The kids seem immune to it. But also, I think kids are weird, temperature-wise. The other day I was stopped at a red light and a kid crossed the street in front of me wearing a hoodie and it was 106 outside!  Maybe I'm just a really athletic teacher and I can stop worrying about going to the gym. I am eternally grateful to Amanda who convinced me to get a fan the last time she was out here. I really thought I would only use it to choreograph dramatic Latin dances but now I think it will come in handy for when I swoon from the heat and the kids have to revive me.

4.  I call dibs on Hot Flash as my superhero name in about 5 years.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Books that Stick

Cynde, Stacy, and Teresa have all challenged me on Facebook to list the top 10 books that have stayed with me. (Oh brother, how grateful am I that this does not involve any ice or buckets.) I am happy to oblige but not on Facebook because, as you would expect, I can't keep it to 10. And I'll probably comment on several of them. Isn't it just the worst when you're FB friends post novellas when all you really want to know is what they had for dinner?

As you know, I forget most books a few days after I finish. So if a book leaves a big enough impression on me to be not just remembered but also regularly thought of, referenced, and recommended then that's a big deal. All of these books, on first reading, made me feel like I had come across something entirely new.

And now, the list:

1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Stay golden, Ponyboy.

2.  The Trixie Belden series. Girl sleuth solving mysteries and getting in and out of scrapes with her friends. Also, they had matching jackets. Where do I sign up?

3. Anne of Green Gables and The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. When in doubt, ask what would Anne Shirley do?

4.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It was the first of hers that I read. And thus it began.

5. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a perfectly written book.

6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Of course.

8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This book haunts me. I side-eye it every time I pass my bookshelf because it won't leave my brain.

10. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This is the book that turned me right off Dickens and then 20 years later, turned him into my literary boyfriend.

11.  These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner.

12.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

13. Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. I snort-laughed my way through this

14. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

15. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

16. The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

17. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.

18. The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.  Out of all the books I've loaned and lost, this is the one I miss the most.

19. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

20. On Writing by Stephen King. His novels are way too scary for this delicate flower. But his thoughts on writing have been invaluable.

21. The Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

There. Let's read books!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Our (county) fair is the best (county) fair."

Katie, Laura, Heather, and I made our annual pilgrimage to the LA County Fair on Saturday. Here's what you should know first, it was hot. Imagine taking a slightly damp blanket right out of a drier and wrapping it around yourself while having a hot flash. This is what it felt like. Only hotter. We spent the majority of our time walking through the shopping halls, the cool, cool shopping halls. And we snagged some fans from US Representative Ed Royce's information booth. I don't actually know who he is but those fans saved us so, ED ROYCE FOR PRESIDENT!!!

Speaking of which, don't you think it's funny that US Representatives set up info booths at the fair? Do people really stop and talk shop? I don't know about you but I'm too busy looking at useless kitchen gadgets and finding the weirdest fried foods to talk politics with people who volunteer for a congressman. I mean, sure, if Ed had been there I may have chatted before taking the fan. But at that moment I think I was on the hunt for one of those cooling towels you get wet and then snap a few times and it stays cool for 4 hours. Found and purchased, by the way.

The fair of today is not the same as the fair of my youth. Mostly there are just way fewer animals, which is a huge shame. I love looking at the animals. How often does anyone in LA get to be up close and personal with a cow's runny nose? In fact, several years ago, that was their marketing ploy. Come to the fair, city slickers, and see real live animals! I have so many memories of rows and rows of exotic chickens and long-haired bunnies and pens full of pigs. Not anymore. Now there are just a handful of cows, sheep, and goats. And notably, there are no more horses. Anywhere. The Clydesdales are gone. The horses for the western shows and fancy buggy competitions are gone. And there are no more horse races. This was a blow. The horse races have always been my favorite part of the fair. They turned the horse arena into a garden. I suppose that gardens are fine, but anyone can have a garden. What we really want are stables full of horses. Sunrise, sunset, right?

But the furnace like heat and the lack of animals did not stop us from have a great time. We did look at a lot of useless kitchen gadgets. And we didn't pass a single food sample without trying. And we watched a blacksmith demo that made me want to take a blacksmith class. Have you seen my forearms? I think I could be really good at it. Laura and I went down the giant slide. And we saw the Handicapable Foot Stompers Square Dance Club. And if that wasn't the most joyful thing I've seen in ages, I don't know what is.

And to top it off, I got 2nd place in the quilt square competition. Which isn't saying much because we live in a time when everyone gets a ribbon. So I shared it with several other people. But I don't care because now I have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbon from the fair and all of my dreams have come true. Up next, Best in Show.

Friday, September 5, 2014


From time to time I'll get a call at the Institute from someone who has questions about the church. This happens because our houses of worship don't have anyone in them during the day. The Institute is not a chapel but if you look us up on Google it lists us as the LDS church, which we are, just not a physical church building. This confuses everyone who isn't Mormon. Anyway, these people have usually called several chapels only to get messages and they're a little frustrated by the time they get to me.

I had such a call today. It started a little rough but then turned into something so wonderful that I wanted it to go on forever. It was an older gentleman who even though he was raised in Burbank and has lived in La Puente (he pronounced it poo-enty. It's pwentay.) for 35 years "in a custom home, thank you very much" he still has a drawl that tells you for sure he wears suspenders and has breakfast at a diner every morning with several other gentleman of a certain age. His name was Bo.

He was very concerned for two reasons. First, he was concerned that when he called one of our buildings that the message was only in Spanish. "I don't even speak Spanish!" I explained to him that that particular building only has Spanish congregations attending. That calmed him down. Second he heard a rumor that we don't honor the American flag. I told him that we were politically neutral but that we do have flag poles in front of every building and that the 4th of July pancake breakfasts are legendary. So that's that.

And then things took a funny turn. Bo started rambling. He went on for about 10 minutes. Here are some snippets:

"I was going to ask my friend Merle about the American flag. He's a Mormon. Not a high priest, but the one just below a high priest but he doesn't want to be a high priest because he says he'll fall asleep." (Note: High priest is a office of the priesthood, usually made up of older men who have a reputation of being dull. Many jokes are made about high priests, mostly by elders, the group just before high priest, the one that Merle belongs to.)

"I married a hot red-head. She's a Cath-o-lic and I'm a Methodist but I don't go to church, I just pray. My goal every morning is to not get into a fight with her but I've already messed it up today."

"My mom always tried to be respectful to her 4th husband."

"Back in the 70s I permed my hair (Note: this is when I LOST it.) and when I went to visit my dad he said, 'Hey there, Bo!' And I said, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'Bozo the Clown!' and it just stuck."

"I have this room that's my library slash museum slash entertainment center. I'm going to get me one of those Samsung curved TVs to hang next to my cuckoo clocks."

He told me all about his time in Vietnam as a corporal, 3rd recon (I don't know what this means but he said it at least 3 times). He told me about his knucklehead kids and his first wife (not the hot red-head). He got choked up when he talked about his dad and said he was his best friend and the greatest example he could have had. He identified the race of every single person he mentioned if they did not happen to be white (which my grandpa did and I find to be kind of racist but also endearing in that old man sort of way.) I learned all about his antique clocks and how often he has to wind them. He ended by asking me to say a silent prayer tonight for the service men AND women overseas.

Generous of you to include the ladies, Bo. Tell Merle I said hi when you have breakfast with him tomorrow and compare suspender straps.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Future President Takes in a Concert

John Williams, composer of every famous film score you know (Jaws, Star Wars, ET) puts on a show every summer at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Phil. It's a fun night. People dress up as Princess Leia or Indiana Jones. He does a million encores to get in all the pieces you want to hear. When Star Wars plays a sea of light sabers start swaying in the darkness. It's a nerdy sight to behold.
Yes, we're far away. The Bowl is mostly for the experience rather than the nearness.

This year they showed clips of the Olympics while the orchestra played one of the anthems he wrote and it made me want to recommit myself to becoming an Olympian. I think I have a shot at canoeing. That's easy, right?

Thanks to freakishly light traffic (35 minutes from Pomona to Hollywood on a Friday afternoon. This should blow every one's mind!) the sisters and I got there super early. Early enough to get good (for the Bowl) parking. Early enough to eat our dinner in leisure and in the light. And, early enough to make friends with the future president of the United States.  Spencer, age 9, was sitting in front of us and turned around and started one of the most entertaining conversations I've ever had. He plays the violin and is on a basketball team. He wants to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. His goal for the 4th grade is to make as many friends as he can. And he wants to be the school president but has to wait until he's in the 5th grade. He told us all about his family's vacation to Zion and Bryce Canyon with a stop over in Las Vegas where they toured a chocolate factory. He read a book on the process of making the chocolate. Before the show he sat down next to me and asked, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name." At intermission he asked, "How are you enjoying the show?" and then offered us slices of cake.

How do you get kids like this? I realize that precociousness is born but is there some sort of magic potion I can take that would get me a kid who puts on his fancy argyle socks because he feels like regular athletic socks would be slumming it at an outdoor summer concert? His mom seemed totally cool, she didn't hover or coddle. She just let him hang out with us and said that he does this sort of thing all the time. They slipped out before the encores started so we didn't get to say goodbye. And all of us are kind of in mourning that we won't get to see Spencer again. Until he becomes president. I'm telling you, the kid is on track.

In other news, in case you were wondering how the Universe made it up to us for the amazing traffic out, it took us nearly 2 hours to get home thanks to several accidents that shut the freeways down. We were dead stopped, engine turned off, for 30 minutes. Camille and Lindsay sang the whole opening number of Newsies, with parts, and then we watched about 20 minutes of Spice World on Lindsay's phone until a cop started motioning for us all to turn around and drive back to the nearest exit which then deposited us into East LA - Land of a Thousand Taco Trucks. If you're looking for a taco at 1 a.m., go to East LA.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Post hibernation nap

Remember how I said I was ready to get out and do things now that I finished my summer hibernation? Well, can that thing be a nap?  You're all welcome to come over in your jim jams and join in. There's plenty of couch space. But it's naps for me this weekend. Because teaching seminary is exhausting! I mean, I knew this already, but my lazy summer kind of did a memory swipe. I'm so very sleepy. For the past 3 days I've gotten into work and immediately starting thinking about how comfortable the couch in my office looks. This is a bad sign because that couch is nasty. Who knows the last time it was cleaned. I mean, the floor would possibly be a better option because I know that gets vacuumed. I could pull a George Costanza and sleep under my desk.

But, I already love my new class. I only really know 3 of the 12, the rest are from other wards and stakes, but they all seem to be really great kids. When I broke the news on Wednesday that we sing all the verses of the opening hymn, and that we sing them loudly, and one of them was going to have to come up and lead it, they did it cheerfully. They're eager and happy and they seem to be up for adventure. This has the potential of being a lovely year.

Happy Friday, by the way. The up side of getting back into seminary is that Fridays have meaning again. This is how I'm feel about the upcoming three-day weekend:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer of the Lone Wolf

And so another summer comes to an end. The Institute kids came back yesterday and seminary starts tomorrow  and I have to start going to bed at 3 pm because that's just what 80 year old women do. But I'm ready for it. Mostly because this summer has just been so relaxing. Truly, I feel very rested, like I've spent a month in a sanitarium taking the waters.

Last summer was a blur of crazy activities. This summer was a lot of taking naps after work or watching movies. And generally when I get to the end of a summer like this, a quiet summer, I feel out of sorts, like I should have done more. In fact, in the middle of this summer I thought about how it's been so low-key and that maybe I should ramp things up because I didn't want to feel like I had frittered away all this leisure time. But then I realized that I was having the summer that I wanted. I wanted to be in my stretchy pants 100% of the time. I wanted to spend a whole evening reading. I didn't really want to go anywhere. I mean, I did do things, but not a lot. And many of those activities were solo ones. This was the Summer of the Lone Wolf.

And now I find myself wanting to plan activities with friends. September is historically a packed month for me and this one is no different. I have several trips to the Hollywood Bowl planned and the fair is coming up in a few weeks. I'm ending my book club's summer hiatus. I got a haircut that actually has to be done, meaning, it can barely be put back in a pony tale. This morning I needed to be up by 6:15 and I actually got out of bed at 5:45 because I felt like it. This, literally, never happens. I am the worst at getting out of bed. But I spent the summer hibernating and now I'm waking up. Who wants to do something fun? As long as we're done by 3 pm, I'm game.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Trained at Space Camp

I decided I was going to celebrate my birthday by going to the CA Science Center and seeing the space shuttle Endeavor and convincing them to let me take it for a spin. I was successful on two counts. Look, I've seen Space Camp, which means that I know that an average person like me can fly a space shuttle. It wasn't that hard for Joaquin Phoenix to do and I'm obviously smarter than him. But they were unmoved so I just took pictures instead.

First of all, it's massive.

I mean, of course it's massive. It had to carry large things into space like satellites and whole sections of the ISS.

And it's covered in scorch marks and dents from space debris hitting it, which is terrifying and awesome.

It's a pretty good exhibit. There's lots of information on all its missions and a time-lapse video of the trek it made across town from LAX to Exposition Park (here's an abbreviated version). I spent about an hour in the hangar just checking everything out (I think I may be better alone at museums because I could spend days in them when the rest of my party has died of dehydration waiting for me to finish up.) But here's where it could improve. They could let me fly it. Or at the very least, they could let me inside of it. Is it too much to ask to sit in the captain's chair and fiddle with the instruments? While wearing space suit? And a head set so I could talk to Mission Control? I don't think it is. I would pay extra for it. Certainly more than the nothing I paid to get in. 

Later I went over to the IMAX theater and watched the 3D movie on the Hubble telescope. And Sweet Land of Liberty! You have to see this movie! It is so awesome!!! I have a wacky astigmatism that makes 3D movies hard to watch but after a while I was just so mesmerized by what I was seeing that I hardly noticed my eyes wigging out. 

And finally, I saw a lot of really cool things that day but these early astronaut boots were among the coolest. Double laces, zipper, and silver. Sign me up!

Friday, August 15, 2014

In my pursuit to bring joy to you and to make this world a little better, I feel it's my duty to share the newest Pracercise video.

It is majestic. I could watch her and her Gentleman Friend Victor prance through the fields with the horses for hours. I think she may be wearing one of those tops that you find at truck stops along the I-15. The kind that are just a ball of squished up fabric that magically stretches to fit any size. And you know that Victor woke up that morning and thought, "Yep. Today's the day! These pants are going to kill it!"

I really hope she only speaks in rhyme all the time. Like she calls up her girlfriend Sheila (I am absolutely certain she has a friend named Sheila who supplies her with all her chunky jewelry) and says, "I just went to Target to pick up some Clorox and walked out with Titanic, toothbrushes, and pink socks."

Naturally, I have come up with an elaborate tale of how Joanna met Victor. It starts with them sitting across the aisle from each other on the senior citizen bus to a local casino and ends with Joanna calling up Victor to see if he'd like to go line dancing with her since Sheila's lumbago was acting up. "Hey, Victor, how are you? Do you know Slappin' Leather? Sheila's back has gone south on account of the weather." The rest is history.

Have a great weekend!  Remember to get yourself a Slurpee (or a slushy equivalent) and let me know about it.  Let's make this the best Get Yourself a Slurpee Day ever!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


1.  Spice World is now streaming on Netflix. Which means that you now don't have to wait for me to invite you over to watch it. Which is great for you because that would not happen anyway. I've done it before and am always really disappointed when people don't appreciate it the way I do. How can I be friends with people who don't love Spice World?

2.  Amanda was in town last week and in between eating a lot of food we ended up at Cost Plus World Market and sat on one of their display couches for 3 hours and had a nice long chat. It felt very much like we were hosting our own TV show. You guys, Amanda and I should TOTALLY have our own TV show. We would say something funny and then pause for laughter from the ladies shopping around us. Then we went to Bert & Rocky's so Amanda could reconnect with her true love, chocolate orange ice cream. Those were really happy times when she and I were roommates and we would already be in our jim jams and one of us would say, "So, ice cream?" and we'd get up and put our bras back on and drive over to Bert & Rocky's.

3.  Guess what's coming up! GET YOURSELF A SLURPEE DAY!!!!! Technically it's on Sunday but I'm not going to ask you to break the Sabbath, even for a Slurpee. So we'll celebrate on Saturday AND Monday. That's right folks, we have a two-fer! As usual, please send me pictures of you and your loved ones enjoying a slushie beverage. Text (you have my number, right?), or post it on Facebook or Instagram (@rachelsaysso). There are just so many options for sharing the love. And, as an added bonus, if you share a picture you will be entered to win a $15 gift card to 7-11 or Sonic (Everyone has a Sev or a Sonic by them, right?) I am all about the giving.

4.  After paying for my groceries today I went to put my wallet back and my purse flipped over and the entire contents of it spilled all over the floor, thus exposing my collection of broken hair clips. There were at least 4.