Friday, August 31, 2007

Addendum to My Will

After reading about Leona Helmsley's will (leaving her dog, Trouble, $12 million but nothing to two of her grandchildren), I decided my will could use a little work. Granted, I don't have $12 million to leave to anyone, much less my dog, but I do have some very specific wishes that should be carried out, a la Leona Helmsley.

(1) Immediately after my death, I order that my house be sealed until such time as my best friend H can go through the house and get rid of any and all embarrassing items, including, but not limited to, diaries, clothes, videotapes, letters, photographs, books, and a certain box in the back of the closet. She knows which one I mean.

In exchange for H’s service in this manner, she gets all of my clothes, shoes, accessories, and coats. In particular, H must receive my black leather motorcycle jacket because, frankly, she’s the only one I know who will get any use out of it.

(2) I hereby bequeath to my Aunt J all of the ugly engraved and personalized gifts she has given me over the years. They are in the black plastic bag in the basement. Be assured, I just put them there yesterday - I swear they were in full display until yesterday. In addition, Aunt J gets my T-Shirt that says, "Jesus loves you, but everybody else thinks you’re an asshole." She'll know what I mean.

(3) I hereby bequeath to my Cousin S all of my jewelry, including those earrings she has coveted for years and our grandmother’s ring (which everyone thought was lost). I require Cousin S to wear at least one item of my jewelry every day for the next ten years. In addition, every time she puts my jewelry on, she must sing "Swinging on a Star." All verses, complete with the dance we made up on the night before her wedding.

(4) I hereby bequeath to my brother B custody of my cat. He already has three cats so one more won’t really make a difference. I provide a yearly stipend of $250 to cover additional toilet paper costs.

(5) I hereby bequeath to my cousin G custody of my dog. Sorry, no stipend available. Your only reward is the love and company of a 100 pound yellow lab who thinks she is a lap dog.

(6) Every year on my birthday, I require at least one of my relatives to visit my grave and bring three bottles of champagne (actual champagne, not "sparkling wine," valued at least $50 per bottle). One bottle must be poured on my grave. The second bottle must be consumed by the relative or relatives at the gravesite. The third bottle must be left at the grave for the first lucky homeless person to pass by. I have provided $500 per year to complete this task.

(7) And to all those people who have pissed me off over the years (you know who you are), I leave nothing, zero, zip, nada, $0. You all know why.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Status Report

OK, so, it's my 36th birthday. Every year I like to make a mental status report of my life, usually keeping track of the things that are good, the things that need work, the things that suck, etc. Since I am sort of a glass-half-empty person, this exercise usually serves to depress me. But things have started to look up in my 30s and the list is not as bleak as it once was. Here is my 36th birthday list:

Family: good
Children: wonderful!
Work: very good
Physical Health: fairly good
Home: love it!
Wardrobe: good
Love Life: intermittent, pathetic
Mental Health: good
Friends: very good

Compare to five years ago (31st):

Family: good
Children: none (sad)
Work: getting better
Physical Health: good
Home: OK
Wardrobe: needs work
Love Life: intermittent, pathetic
Mental Health: OK
Friends: good

Or 10 years ago (26th):

Family: good
Children: none (good)
Work: sucks (law school)
Physical Health: OK (too much drink, late nights)
Home: sucks
Wardrobe: OK for student
Love Life: intermittent, pathetic
Mental Health: poor (again, law school)
Friends: good

Or 15 years ago (21st):

Family: OK
Children: none (good)
Work: what work??
Physical Health: good (vodka's good for you!)
Home: party on, dude.
Wardrobe: OK
Love Life: intermittent, pathetic
Mental Health: party on, dude.
Friends: great!

Or 20 years ago (16th):

Family: leave me alone!
Children: none (very good)
Work: good
Physical Health: good
Home: leave me alone!
Wardrobe: OK
Love Life: intermittent, pathetic
Mental Health: whatever
Friends: good

It's good to see that some things never change.

Monday, August 27, 2007

And I Thought Dogs Could Really Talk

My sister-in-law and I had this conversation when she was in town recently. We were having dinner at Jills on Galena (more about that later) and received New York Strip wrapped in bacon. Everyone, except for my sister-in-law, was a little drunk.

Me: Bacon!

My dad: Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon!

My mom: BACON!!

Me: "It's not bacon, but he doesn't know it! It's Beggan Strips!!" (quoting from the dog treat commercial - I can't help it. Every time I say the word bacon, I have to say it like the dog on those commercials).

Sister-in-law (giving us all the evil eye): Yes . . . we can all see that it's bacon.

Me: Don't you know that commericial? Beggan Strips? The dog rushes around, slobbering and drooling because he thinks his treats are real bacon? Hilarious!

Sister-in-law: [blank stare].

Me: You know . . . BACON!! Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon . . . ?

Sister-in-law: [blank stare].

Me: Oh, maybe not . . . I forgot you don't have a TV.

Sister-in-law (without a hint of sarcasm): Right. And, you see, because we don't have a TV, we realize dogs can't really talk.

Well, I'll be damned. You mean Scooby-Doo can't really talk?

Like Rats Jumping Off a Sinking Ship

Karl Rove and now Alberto Gonzales? I don't think I have enough champagne to cover all of these celebratory occasions. I will have to order a case just to make it through the rest of the month.

Oh happy day . . . .

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What is Wrong with My Cat?

I have discussed before that my cat has some issues. My biggest problem with him is that he eats toilet paper. And that is a really annoying problem, when you think about it. Not only is it annoying because I can't have toilet paper in the holders in my house but it is also annoying because, when he does get a hold of some TP, he shreds it and spreads it around the house. It is very annoying to pick up tiny, semi-damp pieces of toilet paper all over the house.

Today, I discovered a new level to my cat's paper psychosis. I went grocery shopping and brought all of the bags in the house. However, after putting away the perishables, I had to take care of my son who desparately needed a diaper change and a nap. Upon returning downstairs about an hour later, I walked into the entryway to gather the rest of the groceries. The cat (who may now be called "The Damn Cat") had chewed holes in the paper bag of all-purpose flour. In the middle of the entryway. On top of a dark red oriental rug.

Of course, merely chewing holes in the paper was not enough. After releasing a good portion of the flour, he thought "Oh, this resembles kitty litter in an abstract way. I must now bury my treasure." While he didn't use the flour as kitty litter, he did dig in it to "hide" his mess. However, this just resulted in both spreading the flour in a fine dust around the room and grinding it into the rug. With his paws suitably covered with flour, he walked all over my dark green couches before I managed to catch him and hose him down.

Anybody want a cat?

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Day I Almost Killed My Boyfriend

Otherwise known as my 24th birthday. (That was more than 10 years ago, folks.) I was reminded of this story on Wednesday night when I was having dinner with the book club and Kate and I shared tiramisu. I told them I had a great tiramisu story and here it is.

The summer before I turned 24, I was dating this guy. It wasn't a perfect relationship for several reasons including the fact that he was 32, not quite divorced, had two kids, and was a recovering alcoholic. He had a lot of good qualities but mostly things I can't mention on my blog. It was a good summer relationship and lasted only two months past my birthday.

Anyway, on my 24th birthday, he took me to a nice Italian restaurant that served dishes primarily family style. In my opinion, it wasn't the best choice for a romantic dinner for two, but at that point in my life, it was enough for a guy to actually take me to a restaurant with waitstaff. After stuffing ourselves on dinner, the waiter asked us if we wanted dessert. Boyfriend encouraged me to order something because it was my birthday so I ordered the tiramisu. And that was my biggest mistake of the evening.

When the tiramisu arrived, I suddenly remembered it was a family style restaurant with family style portions. So here I sat with a vat of tiramisu in front of me. Seriously, it was in a bowl that was at least six inches in diameter. Boyfriend started to laugh and said, "I dare you to eat that whole thing." Well, there was no way I was going to eat the whole thing in front of him, so I told him that he better help me or the rest of his plans for the evening would be ruined because I wouldn't be able to move, much less . . . well, you know.

I placed the vat in the middle of the table and he took a big spoonful and stuck the whole thing in his mouth. That was his biggest mistake of the evening. When I asked him, "How is it?" He frowned, swallowed and said, "What's in it?" I replied, "Mostly custard or marscapone cheese, ladyfingers, and coffee liqueur. Why?" He said, "Well . . . that's the first taste of alcohol I've had in three years." Oh, shit. I thought I was the worst girlfriend ever because I had pushed my boyfriend off the wagon. However, before I could apologize, he said, "And I think we need to go to the ER."

I laughed at him and said, "Well, that's just a little bit of an overreaction, don't you think? I mean, they probably cooked the alcohol and you just had a little bit . . . ." He shook his head and said, hoarsely, "No . . . we have to go to the ER because I am allergic to the eggs in the custard and my throat is swelling up." The rest of my birthday was spent in the ER with a barely conscious boyfriend and a boatload of guilt.

As I said, we dated for two more months after my birthday. It was never going to be a long term relationship but it ended because he bought me a vase and claimed it was an antique. When I saw the exact vase in Pier One a week later, I called him on it. He called me crazy. That was pretty much the end.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Hate Slow Drivers

Unfortunately, my brother has turned into one of them. He used to be a fast driver. Actually, I would have called him a too fast driver. But now he has started driving like an old man . . . at the ripe old age of 31. It drives me crazy.

I thought it was bad enough to be a passenger when he is driving slowly. I found out this weekend that it is much more annoying to be the driver of the car he is following. This weekend, we often drove two cars places (too many people plus two car seats) and I would lead and he would follow. V e r y s l o w l y. So slowly, in fact, that I often had to stop on the side of the road to allow him to catch up. And I don't drive that much over the speed limit in town (maybe 5 miles over). He missed several lights that I made it through because he was going 25 miles per hour. On University.

When we stopped at one point, I told him that the speed limit on residential streets is 30, not 25, like it is where he lives. He said, "Oh, okay, but I just like to drive slow." ARG!!!!

Perhaps this would not be so shocking if he had not previously been an absolute speed demon. He got pulled over once in Montana going 92 miles per hour in the mountains. At the time, Montana had no speed limit - you were just supposed to go a "reasonable and prudent" speed. When he was pulled over, he said to the cop, "I was wondering what a reasonable and prudent speed was." The cop said, deadpan, "It's not 92." I was with him and laughed my ass off. I also refused to give him the cash to pay the ticket immediately (which is required in Montana) because I had previously asked him to slow down. The cop escorted us to the nearest cash machine where my brother promptly handed over $80 in cash.

Who knows what changed him but I think it is a combination of several factors. First, he became a parent. While that didn't slow me down much, I think it worked on him. Second, his wife is a really annoying safety-freak and yells at him whenever he goes over the speed limit. Third, he almost never drives anymore. He and his wife are tree-hunger, granola types and they only have one car (a hybrid, no less) and she gets to drive it to work. My brother's business is less than a mile from their house, so he walks. Rain, snow, sleet, or shine, my brother walks his son to day care and then walks to work. And they live four hours north of Peoria.

Anyway, now all he needs is a seed cap, a pair of coveralls, and a pack of cherry lifesavers and he will have transformed into my grandfather.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Strange Coincidences

My family was in town this weekend and many activities centered around the kids - my son and my 2 year old nephew. Not surprisingly, we opted to go to the Zoo on Sunday morning. My dad hates zoos but, being the good grandfather he is, he acquiesced and said he would go to the zoo. However, all weekend, including our couple of hours at the zoo, he sang Simon and Garfunkel's song "At the Zoo" repeatedly. For those of you (like my dad) who can't remember the lyrics, here are the relevant parts:

Something tells me
It's all happening at the zoo.
I do believe it,
I do believe it's true.

The monkeys stand for honesty,
Giraffes are insincere,
And the elephants are kindly but they're dumb.
Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages,
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.

Zebras are reactionaries,
Antelopes are missionaries,
Pigeons plot in secrecy.
And hamsters turn on frequently,
What a gas! You gotta come and see
At the zoo.
At the zoo.

Of course, my dad was only able to remember a few of the animals mentioned and kept repeating, "I know the giraffes are insincere and orangutans are skeptical, but what's the rest?" After we looked up the lyrics, he sang the whole thing all weekend. I told him to stop because he was going to get my nephew's hopes up regarding the animals at the Peoria Zoo. My nephew was going to expect giraffes, elephants, orangutans, and antelopes (like he has at his big city zoo) and he was going to be very sad when he didn't see them. Thank goodness my nephew was on a bit of a farm animal kick and was only talking about seeing cows and "cock-a-doos" a.k.a., roosters.

We spent about two hours at the zoo (it was so humid - it felt like they had imported Africa's weather for the new addition) and went home for lunch. Everyone left my house soon thereafter, leaving me in peace. I needed some serious "vegging out" time, so I watched the movie Raising Helen on cable. (I love John Corbitt!) Wouldn't you know it - there is a video montage in the movie featuring, you guessed it, Simon and Garfunkel's song "At the Zoo."

What are the odds?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Remodeling Progress . . . Sort of

All of my fans (all four of them) will remember the story I wrote exactly three months ago about the touch-up painting being done in my office. I predicted that the painting might be done by the end of summer. Well, in my book, there are approximately two weeks left of the summer and nothing has progressed beyond the spackle sanding stage. And yes, all of my pictures are still off of the walls and the furniture is still away from the walls. A whole summer in the state of flux.

But there has been some progress - the new carpet is being laid. That's right. The new carpet is being laid before they paint the walls. Silly me, I thought it was smarter to paint with the old carpet down so, if you spill, it won't be a big deal. Silly, silly, silly.

I like the new carpet but it has been a huge disruption in our office. We are packed in tight anyway and I have a little fortress of banker's boxes full of files in my office on a regular basis. Everytime the carpet guys want to work on any area, they must move all of the stuff out of that area into another area. As it turns out, lawyers are not very good at sharing. They don't want someone else's crap in their office, even if it is for a few hours. It is very disruptive - they shut down the computers and telephones. (Actually, I don't mind being without a telephone - no phone means no phone calls which means no pissy clients.) I am trying to be flexible, but it is really hard when I have been hemmed into my desk because there are six conference room chairs in my office in addition to the tall filing cabinet, two side chairs, one desk chair, credenza, bookcase, side table, and l-shaped desk that are usually in my office.

The differences between the carpet guys and the painter guys are huge. The carpet guys only have as many people as necessary working and they all have very defined jobs, which they all do on their own. In fact, one carpet guy worked by himself yesterday and did the whole reception area and part of the hallway. All by himself.

At this point, my biggest fear is that they will get halfway done and then mysteriously disappear like the painting guys did. I will have a nervous breakdown if I have to climb over conference rooms chairs every time I have to go to the bathroom for the next three months.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Made in China

Of course, everyone has heard about the recent recalls of children's toys that were made in China. I checked the list and made absolutely sure none of them were in my house. I was fairly shocked at the number of baby toys on the list - primarily Sesame Street toys, of which I have a few. Thankfully, my son had not been sucking off the lead paint on any of the recalled toys because we didn't have any in the house.

Last night, I was doing a little shopping for some friends and thought I might buy a little toy for my son, just because. I happened to be at Marshall's and the store had tons of toys available for his age. I thought to myself, "Just to be on the safe side, I am going to purchase a toy that was not made in China." So, I started searching all of the boxes for the "Made in _____" label.

Made in China
Made in China
Made in China
Made in China
Made in China
Made in China
Made in China

Every toy I picked up said "Made in China" on the box. I was shocked. I knew a lot of toys were made in China, but I never stopped to look to see how many toys. And, also to my surprise, the brand name or cost of the toy didn't change where it was made. Even the pricier toys from brands like Baby Einstein, Infantino, Chicco, Melissa & Doug, Lamaze, and Child's Play were made in China. Fine, I thought, I'll just buy him a new book. Again, they were all either made in China, assembled in China, or printed in China. I walked out of the store without purchasing a single toy or book.

After I got home, I went through the toys we currently own and found the same thing - most of them had been made in China. Sure, I have a few toys that were made in Germany, Sweden, England, and the United States, but the vast majority were made in China.

I admit that I am a little bit stumped as to what to do in this situation. The news reports said that Mattel is one of the most vigilant product testers in the toy industry (at least among those that have their toys made in China) and this is part of the reason they are recalling so many toys - they actually test them. Many manufacturers are not as good at thorough testing. So, what about all the toys in my house that are not made by Mattel but were made in China?

I heard a story on NPR about a month ago about a mother who decided her family would not purchase anything made in China for 12 months. She talked about the difficulties of making even simply purchases, like a pair of new shoes. I thought it was an interesting experiment but didn't realize how difficult it would actually be. I'm not sure I am ready to take the step of banning all purchases from China, but checking the labels on items I purchase has certainly risen to the forefront of my mind.

Part of my reluctance is that I am not characteristically one of "those" mothers who are crazy-overprotective about germs, small bumps and bruises, little accidents, non-organic food, or all natural clothes. I have my rules, but I am not rigid about them. Another part of my reluctance is the "slippery-slope" argument. Where does it end? What if I remove all the toys made in China? What about the toys made in Malaysia? Vietnam? Korea? Bulgaria? China is certainly not the only country that has produced hazardous products, even if they are in the news most often lately.

I can't live my life being afraid of every possible illness or injury that could befall myself or my son. I can do what I can - baby proof my home, be watchful of him in other places, and check the recall list frequently.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ding Dong, the Rove is Gone!

There have been very few times since January of 2001 that I have been pleased by an announcement coming from the White House. But the announcement of the resignation of Karl Rove was cause for celebration in my house, albeit, minor celebration.

As everyone knows, Rove was a major player in the Republican agenda for the last 10 years, at least, and should shoulder much of the blame for the direction our country has taken during that time. Without Rove and his co-puppeteer Dick Cheney, Bush Junior would have never been elected as our president. (Well, okay, the good ol' boys on the Supreme Court helped a little too.) But that's why I only had a little celebration - the damage has been done and some of it is irreparable. Now, Rove is ducking out to avoid being on the sinking ship of the Bush era as it slips underneath the black water, leaving only an oil slick in its wake.

I could spend the rest of the month detailing the travesties done upon the everyday people by Rove and his ilk. However, I chose just one that I believe is representative of the attitude, the disdain for the common people, and the entitlement Rove operated under every day.

In an article in the New Yorker in February of 2001, Rove was quoted as saying:

The tax cuts will make the economy grow. As people do better, they start voting like Republicans-unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.

Nicholas Lemann, Bush's Trillions: How to Buy the Republican Majority of Tomorrow, The New Yorker, Feb. 19-26, 2001.

Republicans - this is what your party thinks of you. Don't get too smart or too educated or too independent minded. You can get rich, but you better not get too much education. You might start to vote like a Democrat (the horror!) and then where would we be?

My question in February of 2001 and today is the same - How can people consciously vote for a party that believes too much education is a bad thing? Do all these people really walk around believing our country is better off that it was before Bush Junior?

Anyway . . . good riddance, Karl Rove. Don't be sad . . . I'm sure your (totally fabricated) tell-all (ghostwritten) book will be a bestseller.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The In-Law is Coming!

I guess I should consider myself lucky that I only have one in-law, my sister-in-law. But, visits from my sister-in-law rival old wives tales of horrid mothers-in-law coming to visit and cleaning out your closets or rearranging your kitchen. Except she never does anything that useful. Here's the thing with my sister-in-law. She and my brother started dating more than 10 years ago. They have been married for eight years. In other words, she has had approximately the last 10 years to warm up to my family and she just won't do it.

Granted, we are a tightly knit foursome, my parents, my brother and I. I can see that it would be difficult to get a word in edgewise with us. But I firmly believe she has never tried to be a full member of our family. In fact, she once accused my parents of trying to "assimilate" her into the family. I think they asked her what Christmas traditions her family celebrated so we could include them in her first Christmas with us. That's horrible, isn't it? She also made it clear early on that she did not want to give or receive hugs when arriving at family get-togethers. So, the rest of us all hug, and she stands on the sidelines.

There have been family visits in the past, such as long weekends or holidays, where my sister-in-law has said no more than 15 words the entire time. If you ask her a question, it is usually answered with one word. For Christmas one year, she brought a chess book and a chess set and played sample chess games by herself the whole time. She didn't even ask one of us to play with her. Not that I would have, since I suck at chess, but still . . . .

Anyway, everyone is coming next weekend to celebrate my birthday. I have a rather small house and I decided I couldn't house my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my two year old nephew in my house with me, my son, the dog, and the cat. Therefore, I made reservations at a nearby hotel for everyone. I thought this arrangement would be acceptable since when we all visit my brother's house, we all stay in a hotel - we never stay at their house.

However, on this past Friday night, my brother called me and announced that he, my sister-in-law, and my nephew would be staying at my house this coming weekend rather than staying in the hotel. The reason? Because they didn't want to have to wake their son to take him to the hotel at the end of each night. (He goes to bed at 7:00 and we usually will put the kids to bed where ever we are and then eat dinner.)

I said that wasn't going to work for me and he hung up. Keep in mind, I could make it work. We would be tight and getting on each other's nerves (more than usual) but it could work. But here's my problem. My house is relatively the same size as their house. Last year for Christmas, we were all at their house. When I asked if my son and I could stay at their house instead of the hotel for the same reason (so I wouldn't have to wake him up), sister-in-law said NO. So, I stayed at a hotel along with my parents. When I pointed it out to my brother in an email this weekend, he said, "But your son is really good about being moved. He doesn't mind. My son is not good at being moved, he cries."

Well, god forbid the kid might cry for a few minutes. Interestingly, this is the reason they refuse to drive to see either me or my parents (we all live about four hours away from each other). They always fly. Because my nephew cries when he is in the car. Actually, they tried the trip once when he was about four months old and I guess he cried for awhile in the car. So now they refuse to go anywhere in the car with him for more than half an hour.

I say, get over it. Kids cry. Eventually, they fall asleep. I don't understand why this is an excuse for them and not for me. I travel to see them and my parents all the time by car. Sure, sometimes my son cries, but I try to plan the trip around his nap schedule. I don't demand my family only come to me because he might cry for a while in the car.

In secret, my parents and I often wish my brother would come visit without my sister-in-law. There is no tension, everyone has fun, we are all relaxed, there are no disapproving rules or comments made. But, it's not right. For 10 years now we have been repeating the same mantra, "She is part of our family, like it or not, and we will treat her like part of our family."

It's just really, really hard sometimes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Peoria Parking

I pay $50 per month to park downtown. In a not-well-lit, open-air, pot-hole covered, non-secure lot. In PEORIA. In the several years since I moved to Peoria and started paying this street-tax, these facts never cease to amaze me.

Here's the real kicker - this is the cheapest lot I could find anywhere near my office. But I didn't choose it because it was cheap. Believe it or not, I chose it because it was the safest and cleanest option offered to me. The other two lots near my building are horror-movie scary. One of them is semi-enclosed, but this means there is still no security and anyone can get in at anytime. It also is a favorite bathroom spot for the local homeless population, so the stairwells stink of urine. The elevator is never clean and usually broken in some manner. I believe the going rate for this luxury is $60 per month.

The other lot is underground. One might think this would be more secure. Nope. The lighting is so dim that I can't see my keys in my hands when I approach my car. The walls are so thick that, if I were attacked, no one would ever hear me scream. At least this one smells better. On the other hand, there are always mysterious drips coming from the ceiling that are definitely not water. I believe this lot goes for $75 per month.

And who brings us these local treasures? Good old National Garages, also known as Heartland Parking, who have an apparent monopoly on parking in downtown Peoria.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tastelessness of Peoria

OK - so that title is a little harsh. But it was the best wording I could think of to describe my frustration with this event. Why can this event be called "Taste of Peoria" when nearly half of the vendors represented are from national chain restaurants? That makes it the taste of Something, but not the taste of Peoria. Really, it is just the taste of national suburban strip mall food.

I think it is disingenuous to call an event "Taste of Peoria" when you are featuring food from restaurants like Baker's Square, Hooters, Old Chicago, Smoothie King, Culver's, Carlos O'Kelly's, Papa Murphy's, and Cheddar's. That is not the taste of Peoria - that is the taste of every city in the United States. The Taste of Peoria should be about promoting the local flavors and businesses that make our city unique.

And I am not saying this because I hate all chain restaurants. I have been known to eat in all of these restaurants at one time or another. Usually, chain restaurants are the best bet for a large group of people who may not all have the same adventurous food tastes I have. At least at a large chain, you know everyone will probably find something they like. OK, admittedly, I hate Hooters (for obvious reasons) and I had a really bad experience at a Cheddar's once and Culver's isn't really my thing. But, the others offer relatively decent food for certain limited situations.

My point is that there are so many good, local restaurants in Peoria (several of whom have booths at the event) so why can't we fill the entire event with local food selections? I know nothing about how the food vendors are selected or what kind of fee they have to pay to be at the event. However, my guess is that there are several good reasons some local restaurants choose not to be a part of the Taste. I think the event organizer, PACE, should seriously consider what they are doing wrong that is not attracting all local businesses.

That being said, I think getting the Gin Blossoms is wonderful. Too bad my current lifestyle does not allow for me to be out partying with the Gin Blossoms on a Wednesday night. Of course, this is mostly because I was out partying with other people on Tuesday night.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Begging by Invitation

Over the weekend, I received an invitation to a baby shower. This is fairly common these days - for a while, I got a wedding invitation every weekend. After weddings come babies. I actually kind of like baby showers, mostly because I kick ass at the babyfood tasting game. It used to really piss off the mommies at a shower when I was a non-mommy because I won every time.

Anyway, this particular baby shower invitation really bothered me because it was crytal clear that I had only been invited so I would send a gift. The mommy-to-be is the daughter of friends of my parents. She and I were close when we were kids because our parents spent a lot of time together. She and I spent countless hours upstairs playing Barbie while our parents partied downstairs. We grew apart as teenagers and really haven't been close since we were about 13.

Here's the thing. We really aren't close; we don't even exchange Christmas cards. I didn't go to her wedding, although she sent an invitation to that as well. I didn't invite her to my baby shower. And . . . the shower is in GEORGIA. In two weeks. So, why was I invited? My theory - so I will purchase a gift from her registry and send it to her. Begging for Gifts by Invitation.

This is a scheme that I became hip to right after law school. Right after we graduated, a lot of people got married (probably because a lot of them got divorced during law school). I got invited to so many weddings, I was double booked most weekends. And most of these weddings were of people I barely knew. Maybe I talked to them a few times in my evidence class, or we talked once or twice in the law library. But, still, I felt obligated to go to the wedding and bring a gift, or, if I couldn't go to the wedding, send a gift. (One woman even registered for a BMW convertible, which I am pretty sure was a joke, maybe.)

So, after almost bankrupting myself to buy gifts, it dawned on me that these people didn't care if I came to their wedding - they just wanted the gift. Right then and there, I decided there had to be a way to combat this trend. Not giving a gift is one way; probably the easier, cheaper way. But, there was little satisfaction in simply ripping up the invitation and throwing it away. No one learned any lessons from that solution.

In time, I developed the perfect Begging by Invitation solution - don't go to the wedding but send a permanently engraved gift that is not on their registry. There is a considerable amount of skill involved in this task. The reason you have it engraved is that they can't donate it to charity. Put as much personal information on it as possible. You have to spend just the right amount of money. If you spend too little, they don't care and just toss the cheap gift. If you spend too much money, you look like a fool. The gift also has to be the right kind of gaudy. Too gaudy means your taste will be questioned. Not gaudy enough and you run the risk they will actually appreciate the gift you have given.

For weddings, I have found that silver-plate trays work well. They can be pretty gaudy, but are traditionally considered tasteful for weddings. Also, if I ever actually go to the couple's house, I can ask "Oh, these cookies would look fabulous on that tray I gave you for your wedding!" so I can confirm they haven't thrown it out. Or, if they have, make them feel bad. And, the added bonus is that they might have to polish it!

For baby showers, I have two options. If I sort-of like the person, I will give a silver-plate engraved baby rattle. Something they feel they have to keep as a "keepsake" but has little to no purpose. If I really don't like the person, I go with personalized cutesy ceramic items, such as baby booty planters or picture frames. Throw on a couple of Precious Moments figures, and . . . viola . . . lesson learned.

So, if you ever get an engraved gift from me . . . I hope you learn your lesson.

Total Randomness

I have had several thoughts swirling around in my head all week. Nothing that adds up to a whole post, but worth writing down.

(1) I got this new deodorant that smells like silly putty. It says it is supposed to smell like "cashmere" whatever cashmere smells like. Every morning, I put it on and think, "Great, now I smell like silly putty, didn't they test the scent before marketing it?"

(2) Yes, Mr. Clerk of Court, when I requested all 200 of the government's trial exhibits, I actually meant all 200, except for exhibit # 146. Thank you.

(3) When I put on a bandana low on my forehead and put on a red straw cowboy hat, I look a little like Bret Michaels. But, you know, cuter.

(4) No matter how old I get, I still look like a 12-year-old when my hair is in pigtails, even low pigtails. I don't know why I keep trying - I see other women my age who look kind of cool and funky-sexy with their hair in pigtails. I look like Cindy Brady.

(5) I don't think anyone should ever have to work Friday afternoons. Think of how much happier we would be.

(6) Apparently, Bradley and the College of Medicine have conspired to double my 10-minute commute to and from work by BOTH blocking lanes of traffic on Main Street for their construction projects. Jeez.

(7) Another step toward total geeky adulthood - I purchased a fancy electric toothbrush for myself for my birthday. And I kind of like it, once the vibrations in my head stop.

(8) Thailand is punishing their naughty police officers by making them wear Hello Kitty armbands. Who came up with this idea? For one, this is total abuse of the Hello Kitty-ness I love. Second, they only have to wear the bands in the police station. Third, they have to wear them for offenses such as littering, tardiness, and bad parking. Yeah, that'll work.

Friday, August 3, 2007

At Least I've Never Been Arrested Wearing Mine

A recent post at the Smoking Gun had me rolling on the floor. I love a good saying on a T-Shirt and I might even be seen in a couple of these. However, I think one should refrain from getting arrested when wearing a T-Shirt saying "Out on Bail" or some of these others:

The Bitch is Back
I'm Not Anti-Social
Come Back When You're Rich
I'm Sorry . . . My Fault
Brunettes are cool, but blondes are HOT!
If we get caught, it's all your fault.
I'm Not an Alcoholic. I'm a Drunk. Alcoholics go to Meetings.

Seriously, these are much funnier when you see them with the mug shots. The drunk was arrested for DUI. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have much of a defense.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

My Grandmother's Thoughts Upon My 21st Birthday

My maternal grandmother was an immigrant. She, my grandfather, and their children immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s. Although they always made a big deal about their children assimilating (for example, their children were not allowed to speak in their native tongue on a regular basis, only when relatives from the old country came to visit), my grandmother resisted total assimilation. My grandfather was very proud of his very slight accent and total fluency in English. In contrast, my grandmother took a certain amount of joy in mixing English with the various other languages she spoke and assuming everyone understood her.

In our family, the longest running joke was my grandmother's habit of starting sentences or thoughts in English and finishing them in another language. We all got so used to it that we usually knew what she meant anyway. She also tended to start a sentence and not finish it, but move on to another topic as if nothing had happened. This occurred in both her oral and written speech or letters.

When the grandchildren got to be teenagers, every year on our birthdays, my grandmother would send us a card with one of her famous letters written on it. But these weren't everyday birthday cards. She kept all of the cards we sent her in our earlier years for Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, etc. and would send them back to us with her letters added. I loved getting these cards.

One of her most memorable cards was written for my 21st birthday. Here is an excerpt from it:

Happy Birthday to you. Some of us are [at your aunt's house]; what's left of the anniversary celebration party. I came up to help with some artwork for [your aunt's] classroom. On Wednesday, I will go back home.

So now we are back to regular "normal" celebrations like yours and [your cousin's] birthdays. We assume you will spend your actual 21st at [college]. You probably celebrated at home before driving up. We hope your new school year will be profitable in all ways.

As you see I am using a recycled card. I don't know the age of the card. But according to the printing it must be from the elementary years. People are milling about here and throwing in some comments here and there. [Your aunt] is producing - on paper - seven Mustangs because that's the school's mascot. And [your cousin] and I are coloring. Tomorrow we are doing birds with nests and underwater schemes. [Your aunt] said that all horses are being without sex. Which reminds me (PEN CHANGES FROM PURPLE TO BLACK) Now it's Tuesday and we are dizzy with bulletin making. But mustangs and birds are done. We are on the finishing stretch of fish, crabs, seahorses, etc.

I know it's your 21st, so you should vote before you drink.

Love, Grandma

I never found out what she was reminded of when she thought about mustangs "being without sex." I was busy at college when I first got the letter, so I laughed and put it away, figuring I would always have time to ask her. I found the letter again a couple of years after she died and have always regretted I didn't have the chance to ask her what she was thinking.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How About You have Some Life Experiences, and then Preach to Me About Morality

On my way to work this morning, I pulled up next to a car that had a bumper sticker on it that said, "Abortion is Murder." In my younger, angrier days, I would have given the occupants of this car the finger. I sincerely considered it this morning, until I pulled up and saw who was in the car. Inside this car were two very, very young men dressed as priests. They couldn't have possibly been old enough to be actual priests, so they were more like priest-lets . . . or priesties? Who knows.

Anyway, I started to laugh at them. The idea that these two young men, whose balls probably haven't dropped yet, had any concept what it is like to have to grapple with the decision of dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, struck me as so sharply funny. How could they possibly know the fear of wondering . . . could I be? How could they understand the fear of an 18 year old who might have to go home and explain to her loving parents that she has destroyed all of their hopes, dreams, and expectations? How could they know what it would be like to give up your education, your future, your potential, your self . . . because you made a mistake?

Why do these boys care more about an unborn bunch of cells than they care about all of the unwanted children in the world? You want to talk about murder? Shaking a six-week-old until his brains are scrambled is murder. Driving drunk with your toddler in your car and crashing it is murder. Neglecting your children to feed your drug habit is murder. Raping your 14 year old daughter is murder. Forcing a young girl to give birth to an unwanted baby is murder.

What, you say? These examples do not immediately end in the death of a child? The hell, I say. Even if the shaken baby lives, he will never live his life to the fullest. He may be permanently damaged, but even slightly damaged will forever change his ability to be a productive member of society. Even if the toddler lives, he is being raised by a drunk who cares more about her buzz than her child. Even if the neglected children survive by eating out of garbage cans and stealing from grocery stores, how does their life end? Statistics say sooner rather than later.

Even if the raped teenager survives, what kind of life doe she lead? She has learned by 14 that men are no good and will never treat her well, so why not give herself to all of them? Even if the young pregnant girl and her baby survive, what kind of life do they have? Terminal dependence on the state for housing, food, and clothes. More likely to be uneducated, poor, hungry, stunted physically and mentally. And most likely to complete the cycle started by their parents, over and over again.

So, to those two young priest-lets in the car this morning. How about this - go out and see the world, have some experiences, make some mistakes, live with the people who struggle, and care about the children who are currently living. Then see if you can tell me you think all of these children are better off because they were born. Then tell me what you think I should do with my body and my life.