So I spent last week with my parents since my husband was on a business trip, and since my dad had to travel as well for a couple of days, my mom and I decided to have a girls’ night out.
As we split an exquisite slice of chocolate cheesecake we shared stories of crazy experiences we’d had-or heard of-on the job, such as corporate controllers who did not believe in math, companies who listed as one of their values the ability to make fast decisions with little to no information, and people who based their decisions on whether or not to purchase inventory on a simulation tool rather than the reality of which items actually were or were not in stock.
As my mom and I have both spent a number of years as teachers, eventually talk turned to our crazy experiences as educators.
“You know I worked with a principal once who believed that as long as someone had the textbook, then any person was capable of teaching any subject,” my mom said.
“Oh yes, I remember him,” I replied.
“Well I also worked with a colleague-another math teacher-who was adamant about the fact that he did not believe in Indirect Proofs.”
Now, I am the first to admit that I myself hold some crazy beliefs. For example, I don’t believe in peanut butter as dessert. And I do believe that having a goatee turns you into the Evil Version of yourself. But I’d never before heard of a math teacher who did not believe in a particular part of math.
“So what did you say?” I asked.
“I told him that I didn’t realize that that was a belief stance. Plus, you can’t prove that the square root of 2 is irrational without indirect proofs.” (Which apparently is an important thing to be able to do, but I’m not sure exactly why that is, because math makes my head hurt. So I sort of tuned that part out.)
“That’s like being a language teacher who doesn’t believe in verbs,” I said. “But you couldn’t proclaim this belief, because you couldn’t use the kinds of words in which you didn’t believe. So it would be like, ‘I! No!’ Which would make it pretty difficult to convert anyone to your cause.”
My husband had some time between work and poker last night, so he came home to change clothes and say hi to me.
We were sitting on the couch when he caught sight of the Bible I’d left on the side table, so he picked it up and started to flip through it. After a few seconds he stopped on one page and then began to read closely.
I waited for a minute or so, and then cleared my throat to get his attention. When he turned to look at me I said, “Am I really that boring?”
“No”, he said, “I just can’t believe what I’m reading here.” And then he proceeded to give me some examples.
-“If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the marriage price and marry her. If her father absolutely refuses to give her away, the man must still pay the marriage price for virgins.”
-“Do not let a sorceress live.”
-Anyone who has sex with an animal gets the death penalty.”
-“Don’t eat mutilated flesh you find in the fields; throw it to the dogs.”
(Exodus 22:16-18, 31 from “The Message”, by Eugene Peterson)
“I mean, who were these people, and what were they doing that they had to be told these kinds of things?!”, he asked, stupefied.
I must say, he did make a very excellent point.
“Hm”, I replied, thinking back over my elementary and middle school years spent at a Christian school, but coming up blank. “I never thought about it that way.”
“Oh, he continued, incredulously,” And then down here at the bottom of the page it says, ‘And, hey-make sure you throw me a party three times a year’.” (Exodus 23:14, a bit, um, loosely translated)
And then after that, neither one of us knew quite what to say. Thank goodness for poker.
Although I’m sure that was covered, in great detail, on the next page.
We decided not to look though, just in case.
“Random Access Memory” (first published October 30, 2005)
I’ve been very conscious of my mind lately, as I have been making a concerted effort to quiet down the mental chatter that is frequently taking place in my head. So this weekend after much breathing, visualizing, and cognitive retraining I was able to connect with a place of intense inner stillness and quietness.
And what did I encounter in this amazing place of clarity? A deep insight into the mystery of life? A powerful connection with the Divine? Actually, yes. But in the middle of those incredible experiences, somehow there was also still room for the following thought:
“Whatever it is I think I see, becomes a Tootsie Roll to me.”
So what that says to me is that apparently, I will never truly understand how the mind works, no matter how much I may study it.
For example, why is it that I often have trouble remembering simple things like my age and my phone number, yet I can recall almost the entire sign language alphabet which I learned in 1977 when I was in kindergarten?
And it’s not just my mind I don’t understand, either.
This weekend my husband and I were visiting some friends, one of whom was telling us about her brother’s recent wedding. She began by describing how her brother called her on a Thursday to tell her that he was getting married that following Monday. So she and her mother decided to fly out and help with the preparations. After running around all weekend they finally made it to the day of the wedding, and she and her mom were with the bride-to-be as she was getting her hair done for the ceremony.
Our friend: “So, she finally found someone to do her hair. He was a little person. You know, that’s what you’re supposed to call midgets now.”
Us: “Huh. That’s different.”
Our friend: “Yeah, so as he was doing her hair and riding around on his scooter…”
Us: (interrupting with snorts of laughter)
Us: “What?! He was riding a scooter?!”
Our Friend: “Well, yeah, because he couldn’t walk. So, anyway, I had to be his assistant and hand him his tools because his partner had to go out.”
Us: (the snorts have become shouts now)
Us: “What?! He was a gay midget hairdresser?”
Our Friend: “Yeah. But his partner isn’t a midget. He’s a regular-sized person.”
At this point further conversation became impossible, because my husband was laughing so hard that he was crying, and I was laughing so hard that I fell off of their couch and onto their living room floor.
But believe it or not, that was not the funniest part of this story. The funniest part was the fact that our friend told us this story with absolutely no reaction whatsoever. She. Never. Laughed. Once. And she honestly did not understand why we were in hysterics. She told the story in a tone of voice that suggested that gay, scooter-riding, hair-dressing midgets are a time-honored, traditional part of everyone’s nuptial experience.
I don’t really have anything more to add to this story, which I truly believe was a gift from the humor heavens. So to close, I will share with you the additional mental gem I received during my weekend of quiet contemplation:
“Pass, pass, pass, pass the Old El Paso.”
I just got back from seeing my chiropractor, whose waiting room featured the newest copy of Health magazine, one of whose featured cover stories was an article entitled, “Just A Pimple…Or Cancer?”
I can only assume this article is sponsored by The Department Dedicated To Making Sure You Never Run Out Of Things To Worry About.
You know those weeks where every single medical problem you have attacks you all at once? Yeah, me too. That pretty much sums up what the last 10 days or so have been like for me.
I’ll spare you a litany of my ills, except, have I mentioned here before that, because the Universe is apparently exploring the concept of irony with my own personal life as its classroom, the medicine I take to manage my fibro pain causes severe swelling, which in turn causes severe pain? (Oh, and Universe? SO NOT AMUSING.)
So I went to see my fibro doctor and begged him to please, please, OH PLEASE do something to relieve the ping pong sized edema in my ankles. I was thinking of something along the lines of possibly draining something out, or injecting some kind of pain medicine in, but do you know what he said?
“Well, some support hose would probably help you with that.”
And then he Kept. On. Saying. It.
Until finally I said, “Look-every time you say that, I just get this image of a 98-year-old grandma, hunched over, hobbling along with a cane.” Which was my polite way of saying, “Hell no! That will not be happening in this lifetime!”
And then, in what I can only assume was his genuine desire to help me find some relief, he said, “Well you know, they can measure you now so that you can get an exact, customized fit.”
And I thought, “Um, what?!”
Was that supposed to be some kind of selling point for me?
Because I’m sorry to report that, if it was, it failed. Miserably.
So the other day I was flipping through one of those local little newspapers when my eye was drawn to a picture of someone’s pointer finger tied with a red string, and the caption, “I know there is something I have been meaning to do…”
Naturally I kept on reading, because I’m always worried that there’s something I’ve forgotten to take care of.
Continuing on I read, “If you are like most of us, taking the time to document your cremation arrangements is something easily put off, but something you have been…meaning to do.”
Is this really what “the rest of us” does? Because I think that this time, I’m REALLY HAPPY to be an outsider.
So the other weekend my husband and I were up visiting my parents. As it happened, my grandparents were there at the same time, so in honor of the mini-family reunion, we decided to grill hamburgers and hot dogs out on the porch.
As we were waiting for the food to finish cooking, we chatted about various bits of neighborhood gossip, and then talked turned towards the past, and how our memories of the past tend to be more idealized than realistic.
“I guess we all think there’s a time in our past that’s better than where we are today, and that we’d rather be living then than now,” said my dad.
“No, not me,” my husband disagreed. “There’s no time in the past that is better than right now.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” interjected my grandmother. “There are a lot of times in the past that I’d like to go back to.”
“Yes,” agreed my grandfather. “For one thing, there was a lot less crime back then, and the world was a much safer place.”
“Excuse me,” my mom interrupted, “but I think you’re forgetting about The Shooting.”
“Oh yeah, ” I said. I forgot about that.”
“Yes,” she continued, “there was a murder. In your very own home.”
(Very Important Side Note, So As To Prevent A Deluge Of Phone Calls By Angry Family Members: this did not involve my grandparents in any way, and was many years before they even lived there)
“Well, now” replied my grandfather, straightening up in his chair and pointing his finger at us, “there was a good reason for that.” (I don’t actually remember what that reason was, because by this time I was convulsing on the floor with laughter, but I think it had something to do with a love triangle.)
“The bad thing was,” he continued, “that he only had the one bullet. So he had to walk all the way down to the next town to get another bullet so that he could shoot himself.”
“Hm,” said my grandmother, still lost in thoughts of the past and determined to prove her point. (And, incidentally, the only one of us who still retained the power of speech.) “Yes,” she announced, visibly brightening. “At least the air was much fresher back then!”
After the rest of us had picked ourselves up off of the floor the conversation turned to other things, including a local man who lives on a nearby golf course and who is apparently worth, conservatively speaking, infinity billion dollars. So now, no longer bothered by the pesky worry of having to earn a living, he is free to turn his attention toward other, more important matters, like wading around in his swimming pool, fishing out all of the errant golf balls that end up in there.
“I guess he’s got so much money now that he just does whatever he wants and doesn’t care what other people think,” commented my grandfather.
“Oh,” I replied. “Well, I’ve just gone ahead and jumped straight to the ‘doing whatever I want’ part, without worrying about all that money stuff. It’s much more efficient that way.”
“So what you’re saying is that, even if you had all that money, you’d still fish the golf balls out of the pool yourself?” asked my husband.
“Heck no!” I snorted. “I’d hire someone for that and then watch them do it.”
“Well, as long as ‘the someone’ isn’t named ‘Paolo’, or, ‘Jose’, or anything like that,” said my husband.
“Oh, so no hot pool boys for me?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
I thought for a moment. “Well, what about hot, gay pool boys?”
I never got to hear my husband’s response to that question, because it was at that moment that the conversation reached my mother, apparently having had to travel across a distortion in the space-time continuum first, because she exclaimed, “Hey, [name of male relative] has a Paolo!”
(Silence, as my father, my husband, and I all experience simaltaneous brain aneurysms.)
“Um, WHAT?!” one of us managed to choke out, feebly, knowing that the man in question is a very heterosexual, strait-laced accountant. Who, incidentally, does not own a pool
“Oh, yeah,” she said, happy to be a part of the conversation, and then she, my grandmother, and my grandfather began chatting amongst themselves. And it doesn’t even matter what they were saying, because TRUST ME ON THIS ONE; everything that comes after an exchange like that sounds dirty.
When oxygen began to return to my brain, I managed to pick up a tiny thread of the conversation, which sounded like the person in question was hired to assist with various and sundry accounting duties.
“Um, and does he perform them shirtless, with his rippling muscles glistening with oil?” I asked my mother, still not entirely sure that I understood what was going on.
“No,” she replied, confused as to why I should ask such a question, and apparently not yet noticing the three members of her family who were currently bleeding from the eyes.
And then, slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, the pieces clicked for me.
“Oh,” I said. “You mean that [our relative] hired someone to help him with his accounting business, and his name really is Paolo.”
“Yes,” replied my mother, not wanting to say anything, but really wondering why the three of us were being so dense on the subject.
I’m sure there’s probably a moral in here somewhere, but honestly, the only one I’ve been able to come up with is, ‘Dammit! Why do I never have my tape recorder when I need it?!”
My husband and I spent this afternoon running around, doing errands. As we were driving down the road, sun shining, breezes blowing, he began to speak.
“I saw,” he began thoughtfully, “as tastefully as something like this could be done, someone playing the kazoo with their vagina.”
Me: “WHAT?! WHERE IN THE WORLD DID YOU SEE SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!”
“Hey!” he protested, “I saw it on a talent show. It’s not like this was some dark, hidden corner of the Internet. This was on TV!”
“I have no idea what to say to that,” I told him, as I watched all the pieces of my brain float out the window and land on the side of the road.
“And it’s not like it was some kind of trashy, trailer-park woman, either,” he continued. “You know, it was a nice, well-dressed woman-someone you might see in church.”
And then I thought for a few minutes, about how long it’s been since we’ve been to any church, about how even the idea of church makes me feel as though I’m breaking out in hives, and about my problems with the whole concept of organized religion in general.
“You know,” I said thoughtfully, “that would be a church I might actually attend.”
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
While there are many things I can’t do (math-especially word problems, logic puzzles, anything involving a car other than driving it, computer programming, and, oh, I’m also missing whatever gene it is that enables you to operate electric can openers), one area in which I truly excel is that of the hand-written thank you note.
I was trained exceptionally well in this art by my mother, who explained that a graceful and elegant thank you note included the following aspects:
1. It was written by hand.
2. It mentioned, by name, the gift you received, and
3. It specifically described the manner in which you were using and enjoying the gift.
I paid attention whenever my mom talked about the rules of etiquette while I was growing up, because etiquette was a subject her family took very seriously-to the point of having etiquette-related discussions and practice lessons during their dinner hour. It must have been quite a shock, then, for her to end up with a daughter like me. (See: “The Word Ass, My Deep And Abiding Love For”)
But I did take her thank-you note lessons with me when I moved out on my own, so that by the time my husband and I got engaged and began to receive wedding gifts, I had honed my gratitude expression skills to Olympian heights. I had all thank-you notes written and ready to send BEFORE THE CEREMONY for every gift received before the wedding (and yes, I am STILL extremely proud of that, even thirteen years later, SHUT UP!)
But the gold medal, the jewel in my gratitude crown came three weeks after the wedding, when sadly, my husband’s grandfather passed away. As the family were all standing in the receiving line after the wake, I was introduced to one of my husband’s parents’ friends who said excitedly, “Oh, you’re the one who wrote that charming thank you note!” And I was so, SO excited, as if I actually had just won a gold medal in a hotly contested Olympic event, and had just stepped onto the platform to watch the American flag rise to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner”, because, OMG! My thank-you notes and I had a fan!
(Yes, I know, I’m a sad, scary woman. I can already hear my sister-in-law snorting at me from two states away.)
But now I’m facing a challenge that was never covered in my personal etiquette training, which is the fact that we were recently gifted with a…toilet. A slightly used toilet, at that. I’ve never been in this situation before, and so I’ve spent a very large amount of time and energy trying to figure out exactly what the hell the correct response is to such a gift.
Because first of all, if I tried to use The Three Rules Of Thank-You Notes, well, then, er, you can see exactly where THAT would go-all my hard work and the reputation I’ve built up would go right down the…um, never mind.
Also, it doesn’t help that I’m still a little hazy on just how, exactly, we became the recipients of such a gift. I seem to remember my husband arriving home from work one day with a boxed-up toilet in the back of the Explorer, and joyfully announcing, “Guess what? [A guy from work] gave us a toilet!” It was really hard for me to share in his excitement because, 1-that was really weird, and, 2-I didn’t know we needed a toilet, and 3-did this guy just happen to have an extra toilet just lying around the house, and then one day he was all, “Hm, I wonder what I should do with this?” And then thought something like, “Extra toilet? I know-this would be perfect for the Ryans!”, and 4-EEWW, MY HUSBAND JUST BROUGHT HOME SOMEONE’S USED TOILET IN OUR CAR, AND NOW MY OCD HAS BEEN TRIGGERED SO BADLY THAT I WILL PROBABLY JUST DIE, RIGHT HERE IN THE GARAGE! I HOPE THE TOILET WAS WORTH IT!
Also, I know how things can sometimes go around here, and I was really afraid that this toilet would turn out to be exactly like The Horse Poo Episode of a few years back. (Important Side Note: And while we’re on that subject, earlier in the week my husband turned to me and asked, “Do we have any plans for Saturday?” “No,” I answered, wondering what cool thing he might be planning. “Why?” “Because I think it’s time to put in another order for some poo,” he replied.)
But happily, my husband was just as eager to install the toilet as I was to not have it sit in our garage for months and months, and so it has happily taken up residence in our bathroom and begun to perform its duties. (We shall not speak of its predecessor, which as of this writing still does reside in the garage. But I’m sure it is actually just moments away from being dragged to the curb by The Person Who Wanted A New Toilet In The First Place, And Who Is Not Currently Suffering From A Chronic Pain Disorder And Chronic Fatigue Like Some Other People Who Live Here, If You Get My Drift.)
Meanwhile, I’m just gonna have to hope that my husband was adequately able to express our thanks and gratitude to the toilet’s former owner because, honestly, hell if I know how to do it. But, in a fitting and ironic conclusion to this story, I will most likely be spending this weekend up to my ankles in s*&%.