Thursday, November 20, 2014

Watching and Listening

Remember in the last post how I said I had to settle for ham because Costco was slowly killing my soul and I had to get out of there before tracking down the turkey? Well, jokes on me, because that ham was the best second-choice purchase I ever made. We had our annual Thanksgiving feast at the Institute today and that ham was a champ. There was no repeat of the "warm gelatinous ham fat" episode from last year because there was no bone to deal with, or gristle, or giant clumps of fat. I didn't gag once while carving it. Tis a Thanksgiving Miracle!

Total change of subject, because it's time for my first ever Israeli television series recommendation to you. I know, I know. But stick with me here. It's called Srugim, it's on Hulu, and it's really good. It's like Friends if Friends was set in the orthodox Jewish community of Jerusalem. But it's not like Friends because it's not a sitcom. And no one is sleeping around because men and women can't even touch unless they're married or related. You'll have to deal with subtitles but you're cultured and literate so that's no problem. I watched the first two seasons over three days in the summer and now the third is out. On top of being a really great show with loveable and believable characters, you also have the bonus of learning all about Sabbath customs. Like, did you know that they can't cut things on the Sabbath so they have to tear off sections of toilet paper the day before. And you thought that Mormons were strict with their Sabbath observance.

While I'm on the subject of media I can't get enough of, have you been listening to the podcast Serial? It's the story of a guy convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Except that we don't actually know if he did it or not. I have to be careful with when I listen to it because I don't want to have to stop in the middle of an episode. It's great for the gym. And for my drive to and from work. What I really need is for someone to listen to it so that I can sit down with them and say, "Can you believe Jay?" "What about that phone call that Adnan made?" "Man, these kids smoked a lot of pot." If you've been listening, do you think he did it?

And finally, one more media related topic. This time, a confession. I've been listening to Christmas music for the last week. I've broken my long-held vow of no Christmas before Thanksgiving but you know what, I'm not ashamed so you can just stop judging, okay. Roll out the holly!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Huggin' and a Chalkin'

1. Stacy sent out this clip asking us if we remember Grandpa singing it.

Um, only every single time he was around.

Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say "a huggin' and a chalkin'" or "over the mountain" and we absolutely lose it.

2. I had 4 cars towed today from my work parking lot. We've had a real problem with ne'er-do-wells  parking without a permit, smoking pot, drinking, getting into fist fights, and giving us a bad name with the neighbors. It's a private lot so our only recourse is to tow. They're not our students, they're just MtSAC students who find the seclusion of the place perfect for loitering. So I thought I'd crack down. I always feel really great about it until I feel like a jerk about it. But they're the ones breaking the law, right? And I give out lots of warnings before towing. Which most of them promptly crumple up and toss on the ground. The first time I ever had a car towed the owner came in about an hour later, understandably upset, and said, "I thought you guys were a church. Jesus would never tow a car." Well, I think he would. And then he'd hug you and help you find the impound lot.

3. I heard this morning that people spend 2-4 hours a day texting. TWO TO FOUR HOURS A DAY!! This is absolutely astounding to me. I think I sent one text today. Which means I spent about 30 seconds on it. What are these people texting about? I get bored texting after just 1 minute. If you find that you are in this 2-4 hour range will you please contact me because I am legitimately curious as to what you are texting all day.

4. I braved Costco today and wanted to die. Why don't they have signs on the aisles? Why is that fresh produce room so cold? Why isn't there a single person that I can ask for help? Why did 2 people tell me that I would find the pre-cooked turkey breasts in the meat section but not a single one would come back to show me? I went there specifically for the pre-cooked turkey breasts!! I had to settle for ham because I was so tired of searching. I made it half way through my list and decided to holler uncle and get the rest of the stuff at Smart and Final. You win, Costco.  You always do.

5. Here's another song Grandpa loved. He was always whistling Big Noise from Winnetka:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wanted: A Cave

Farewell everyone! I'm moving to a cave in the wilderness to live the rest of my days in peaceful, technology-free bliss. If you need me I can be reached by pack mull.

Why the dramatic reaction, Rachel? Well, I'll tell you. Our modem went out yesterday. And it's a very long and boring story and you all know well because technology problems plague all of our lives, not just the lives of people who are dumb about it (me!), so I won't bore you. But I'll just say that it took four very frustrating hours of my life to fix it, no thanks to anyone at Best Buy, Verizon, or the tech support in India. It's fixed and I'm smarter for it. But I've had to use almost all of my decompression techniques to get back the old Bluebird of Happiness, namely a long hot shower (sorry CA water supply. Blame India), toast, hot chocolate, and You've Got Mail. And now writing.

Here's my question: have any of you ever had a satisfactory call with tech support? I mean, has your problem actually been resolved with any sort of ease? Because I can't think of a single instance where it has for me. I've either been told that there's nothing they can do about it and that I'm just going to have to buy a whole new whatever or I'm told that it's going to take a bazillion dollars to be fixed. All I want is, just once, for someone to say, "Sure we can fix that. Easy peasy." And I want it done in 10 minutes max. Why does every tech call have to last an hour? And it doesn't matter if I'm calling some place in America or being routed to a call center in India. It always takes an hour and it never works out. And, as I realized tonight, the answer I was looking for is probably online. I just googled it and within 15 minutes the problem was solved. I desperately wish that I had thought of that before calling India.

On that note, did you know that in order to work in one of those Indian call centers they have to have a college degree. And that they're the most coveted jobs in India. And did you also know that 50% of the population there does not have a toilet to call there own? That means that 500 million people are pooping in the gutter. And a job at a call center can literally raise a family out of that sort of poverty. Can you imagine getting a job and saying, "Well, maybe we can finally live in a place with a toilet. Celebrate!"

I guess what I'm getting at is that it's been a very frustrating night and a cave in the wilderness is still sounding very appealing. Just one with indoor plumbing.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


1. If you've finished marathoning Gilmore Girls on Netflix and you're looking for something interesting to watch try Women in Space from the Makers series on PBS. Did you know that when the government was looking for people to go into space back in the 50s they considered sending up women, simply because they were lighter and would therefore need less fuel, food, and room in the capsule. They put several women through the same tests as they did the men and found that on top of being just as competent in math and science they also handled isolation better and complained less. But you know, politics and men. And thus a few decades passed before scientists had to figure out what to do with a woman who has to pee in zero gravity (this is one of the funniest moments in the film). If you are looking for a real endorsement of this, here it is: Katie was engrossed by it. And Katie really hates space.

2. We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight and Katie made Yummy Pumpkin Stuff, or YPS, for dessert. It was so delicious that one of the elders, in a prayer he offered before leaving, gave thanks for it. As in, "We're grateful for this meal, especially the YPS."

3. Confession time: I really like it when we have Daylight Saving and it gets darker earlier. I just do, okay. It feels cozy and makes me want to go to bed earlier, which is just grand. The last 3 nights I've been in bed by 10.

4. I had the worst charley horse of my LIFE last night. My leg cramped for a solid 5 minutes. I woke up screaming. This is unusual as I do not usually cry out when I'm in pain. But I definitely screamed multiple times last night. When it was all done I sat up and tried to catch my breath and the first thought that came to mind was, "Charley horse is such a weird name for this. I wonder where it comes from." Nobody really knows except that they think it comes from a baseball player named Charley Hoss who would regularly get cramps.

5.  I went to a surprise party for my friend Laura's birthday. I've never been to her house before but I had an address. So I parked my car and walked up her street and because it was so dark and none of the house numbers were lit I had to walk up everyone's drive and peer at their porches to see the number. But guess what you look like when you peer at someone's porch in the dark. A creeper. To make matters worse several of her neighbors were sitting just beyond the door and could see me looking in at them. Please apologize for me, will you Laura. And happy birthday.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Cutest Pumpkin in Town

Well, I finally have a reason to like Halloween again. This little pumpkin showed up in time for trick or treating:

Welcome Phoebe Marie!!!!!! She had dark hair under that hat. And you may notice that she has a hint of the Orient about the eyes, much to the delight of Stacy. She has been praying for those eyes. I realize that most babies have a bit of the squishy eye but hers seem to be sticking. Sam and I would be thrilled to pass the torch to another generation. Phoebe, may you have many years of being asked by your grade school classmates if you're Chinese. (Do yourself a favor and click on that link. It is, without question, the funniest thing I've ever put on this blog.)

I was going to put up a manifesto here about how horrible Halloween has become but I can't word it in a way that doesn't make me sound like a cranky 80 year old. I mean, I am, but I don't want to be a total buzzkill. Instead, I'll just say this: please stop dressing your kids up like they've stepped out of a slasher movie. There is enough evil and violence in the world. Why would you want your 8 year old looking like they're about to murder someone?

On a happier note, my mom completely won Halloween.

She had ankle surgery 4 months ago and has gotten a lot of mileage out of that scooter. But I think she finally has found the greatest use for it. Boe is pretty cute in this too.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Not quite a pile of ash

In my last post I said we would talk about how I don't think it's much of a compliment when someone says, "You can NOT be 39." So let's.

I actually get this comment a lot because I spend my days surrounded by the Very Young who have no concept of age. To whom, in fact, 39 is nigh unto death. I remember being young and thinking that 40 would be the end of it all. So I get it.

I absolutely know this is meant at a compliment, but here's the subtext: "I think 39 is old and I'm so impressed with how you're not turning into a pile of ash right before my very eyes like that guy who chose the wrong cup on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." What's behind it all is that there's something wrong with being 39 and for now I've escaped it by looking younger than what they think 39 should look like. Folks, there's nothing wrong with being 39. Just like there's nothing wrong with being 16 or 52 or 78 or 3. Why do we feel like we have to cheer people up by telling them that they don't look their age. What if I want to look my age? I worked hard for this age! Those wrinkles around my eyes mean that I have spent a lifetime laughing.

"But Rachel," you ask, "what if I don't want to look my age?" Then dye you're hair and buy some face cream. I want you to feel good about yourself. But what I don't want is for you to think that there's something wrong with you simply because you've lived to be a certain age. On that note, lately I've seen advertisements for face creams that say what they're really doing is improving you. Which is just a bunch of baloney. Your wrinkles neither add to nor subtract from your value.

Don't think that it's not lost on me that I'm constantly referring to myself as an 80 year old woman, or that I have complained about feeling the effects of age (hello, arthritic shoulder!) But know that I don't think it's the end of the world. Plus, I'm jealous of the 80 year old ways. I'm going to be that sassy old lady, so you have about 10 years before I start saying what I really think.

I kind of want to get a group of people together and ask them exactly what it is about aging that makes them so uncomfortable. Is it the gray hair? Is it the thought of death? Is it that things stop working and their knees are creaking and there are weird bumps showing up in random places? Or is it that we have been conditioned to think that aging is bad? Do they genuinely feel like there is something wrong with getting older? I'm really curious about this. Who wants to be in my focus group? We'll eat cookies afterwards and watch the Golden Girls.

While we're on the subject, doesn't it just bum you out when you get excited for someone's birthday and they're all, "Ugh, yeah. Let's not talk about it." I mean, there is cake and celebrating in their future and all they can think about is the price of burial plots. We've got to stop this madness!

So I'm issuing a challenge. When you learn someone's age, instead of saying, "Wow! You do not look it." I want you to say, "Congratulations! Keep up the good work!" And when mentioning your age, stop looking like such a sad clown about it. Think of how smart you are for always wearing a seat belt and putting on sunscreen. You did it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My standard of beauty

Does anyone else feel sort of bad for Renee Zellweger and her new face? Like, what is she feeling today now that those pictures are out and she looks drastically different and everyone is all, "Hmmm. Ummm. Whaaaaaat?" Do you think she went to the event hoping that people would just comment on how youthful she looked? And now she's home crying into her scrambled egg whites because that was absolutely not the reaction? It's just awful to think about. I feel doubly bad because I've been guilty of commenting on her old face, thus adding to the obvious problem that these poor women in Hollywood have to care so much about their looks that they end up doing things to themselves that make them nearly unrecognizable. I've repented and won't say mean things about faces anymore. I'm sorry Renee. It was a perfectly lovely face. I hope you really, truly love your new one.

Which brings me to my complicated thoughts on altering our looks. On the one hand I wish that we could all just age with grace and perspective and wisdom, embracing our wrinkles and sun spots and dark circles and love handles and gray hair and still have the Bluebird of Happiness in our hearts to keep us young and fresh. And on the other hand I think that if you're truly unhappy about the way something looks, I mean really down in the dumps, you should have the freedom to change it. I wear mascara, don't I? Because I like the way it makes my eyes open up. Is there a difference between wearing mascara and getting botox injected into your forehead (other than botulism)?

I suppose the difference is that I can leave the house without mascara on. While I almost always wear it I don't think I'm a deformed short-lashed freak without it. It doesn't alter who I know I really am, is what I'm saying. The other day I slept through my alarm and woke up 10 minutes before seminary started (heart attack!!!). I had 5 minutes total to get ready which means that I had to cut it down to the bare essentials: clean clothes and brushed teeth.  I didn't even consider putting make-up on. But that's my standard. Other people's standards could be a lot higher. Higher as in cutting yourself up and putting a brand new face on because you don't like the face you've had your whole life.

Personally, I think it's all in our heads. You know how you feel when you're having a really gross hair day and all you can think is that the world will finally know what kind of hideous monster you are and they'll shun you and you'll spend the rest of your days in a cave. And then you walk into work and someone says, "Hey, you look super cute today." We have no idea what the world sees in us. It's usually a lot better than what we see.

Later, I will discuss how I think, "You can't possibly be 39," is not a compliment.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book the Old Lady Cruise!

I've had this shoulder pain for about 3 months now and I finally went in to have it checked out. You know how I am about going into the doctors. I don't go unless limbs are falling off. Or worse, I'm losing sleep. And I was losing sleep because of the pain. Unacceptable. So I went in and the doctor checked me out and we had the following conversation:

"So you didn't have an accident where you hurt it?"


"You didn't fall and land on it?"


"Did anyone or anything hit you there?"


"And it just started hurting one day."


"Well, it sounds like just regular wear and tear. You may even have a bit of arthritis. That's pretty common for your age."

FOR MY AGE?! She means 80, right? Which is terrific because that means I can retire and move onto one of those residential cruise ships that sail around the world year round. I can play bingo with all the other senior citizens who have arthritic shoulders.

She gave me a pamphlet that had some cartoonish pictures of activities that could cause this sort of pain. And with the exception of pitching in a local softball league, I do every single one of them. Reaching for my purse in the back seat while sitting in the drivers seat, yes. Carrying a heavy purse on one shoulder exclusively (and before that a back pack), my whole life. Carrying enormous loads of groceries all at once, of course, because if I don't do it in one trip then I have failed. Reaching up for and retrieving heavy objects, all the time, because I'm short and have to reach for everything. She also said I have the tensest shoulder muscles she's ever felt, which could be a contributing factor, and that I must have a really stressful job. Sure, if sitting around eating tootsie rolls and talking to college kids about super hero movies is stressful, then okay,

She took some x-rays to rule out a tumor or anything torn and sent me home with exercises and drugs and a suggestion to stop using my right arm for repetitive motions. Easier said then done, Doc. Have you tried using your mouse on the left side of your key board? Hard. Although my shoulder does feel slightly better today since switching over.

The ray of sunshine in all of this is that I have to go to physical therapy, which means I get to hang out with senior citizens in stretchy pants. I'm going to scout out a good roommate for my cruising years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Art Society Field Trip

Heather sent me an email saying that Jarron mentioned what he would like the next Art Society to be. He said, "Either we go with Rachel to LACMA or antique shopping." Can you believe this kid? I mean, seriously.

So Kaiya, Jarron, and I had an LA adventure on Friday night.

First we got dinner at the Original Pantry, this old diner in downtown, where I had the best omelette of my life. It got middling reviews on Yelp, but that omelette may be worth paying for parking. The kids were properly impressed with the downtown vibe.

Then onto LACMA, where we:
messed around in this is cool installation that was just a bunch of hanging yellow tubes and pretended we were swimming in a pond,

sketched Picasso,

posed with sculptures,

and mirrored paintings,

and took the requisite picture in the lamp installation. I mean, anyone who has ever gone to LACMA has a picture with the lamps, right?

Lest you think these are serious, high-class kids I should mention that before I could stop them they both spit off the forth floor balcony of the contemporary building. Fortunately, it was onto a walkway cover so no people were harmed in the antics. Also they would get very close to the art. Now, I have this issue too. I just love the texture. I want to touch every painting I see. But I would remind them that getting kicked out of museums is not what the Art Society is all about.
Naturally, there was Neveux ice cream at the end of the night. Which means that they also got to see Hollywood at night, which is an adventure. But this is what I love about these kids. They're always up for it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Punch Bowl Set

1. Lydia had some time to kill between our song practice and a girls night so we went over to the Upland farmers market and looked at antiques and ate empanadas and got a demonstration of some stun guns. The antique shopping made me recommit myself to finding the perfect punch bowl set. You know what I'm talking about right? The glass punch bowl with the little matching cups and the ladle. I firmly believe I cannot become a full-fledged Lady of Elegant Leisure without one. Naturally, Grandma Knecht had at least half a dozen complete sets and I could just kick myself for not snagging one when they were offered. But I was going off to college at the time. How could I possibly have known the significance of a good punch bowl set at that age?

2. Remember how I've told you before that you wear too much perfume? I stand by that. I love you, but you're making the deep recesses of my ears tingle. It is not a good feeling. Anyway, I have a bit of sympathy for you now because, if you can believe it, I have found a perfume that doesn't make me gag. This. While putting it on this afternoon I liked it so much that I wanted to wear more. I refrained, of course, but I get it now. You have my permission to slightly resent me when you're applying your scent and you stop at just one spritz even though you're tempted to do more. Don't do more!!!

3. The classical station is holding their membership drive and today's give away was a CD of 100 Christmas carols which means that they played a lot of them on my drive to and from work. Thus making it the first carols I've heard in the pre-Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas season. And for once I wasn't cranky about it. Normally when I see decorations or hear carols in October I get a little feisty. But this filled me with good cheer and made me rethink my no-carols-til-after-Thanksgiving rule. Merry Christmas, everyone.