Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's Not Like the Cheese Plate

I spent part of my Thanksgiving vacation in the Chicago suburbs visiting a good friend. On my first night there, we decided to go out to eat. We needed a place that would be tolerant of my one year old’s dining "abilities" and have good food to make me happy. I usually don’t like to go to chain restaurants, but she suggested one that was relatively new in the area called Claim Jumper.

It was Friday night and, although the place is ginormous, there was a wait for a table in the main dining room. So, we decided to eat at a table in the bar, which utilizes the full menu (so, one asks, what’s the difference?) And, they were willing to bring a high chair into the bar for my son. Which reminds me of that line in Sweet Home Alabama, "You have a baby . . . in a bar."

Anyway, the menu was huge and offered a lot of variety in American chain restaurant food. Steaks, pastas, chicken, some seafood, salads, and fried appetizers. They also have a kids’ menu but I don’t like to order off kids' menus in general because the food is all fried or covered with cheese sauce. So, I ordered a meal that I thought both my son and I could eat - homestyle pot roast. What we got was the largest plate of meat and potatoes I have ever seen.

The following was on my plate - a huge portion of meat, which melted in my mouth. Slow-cooked carrots, onions, yams, and potatoes. All of this was covered by a red-wine gravy, which was very tasty. All of that sat on top of a mound of mashed red skinned potatoes. Next to the meal was a biscuit that was at least four inches across.

I ate some of the yams, carrots, roasted potatoes, and meat. My son ate all of the mashed potatoes and cried when they were gone. He also ate a good portion of the meat. He loved it. And there was plenty left over for lunch the next day. The biscuit was nothing much to speak about, so I threw it away.

But here is the real reason I am writing this review. This restaurant had something that I had never seen before at any restaurant. When the waitress saw that we were there with a small child, she offered us the "Baby Plate." I have never heard of such a thing and said, "Sure!" I don’t know who thought up this thing, but it was genius.

Before our meals arrived, the Baby Plate came out to keep my son entertained. It had a small dish of mandarin oranges, a bowl of applesauce, two packages of saltine crackers, two slices of cheese, and a rolled up piece of turkey breast. This is exactly the type of kids meal I would offer if I ran a restaurant. It was perfect for my little guy. This restaurant really understands kids. Babies can’t (or shouldn’t) eat a lot of fried foods and most restaurant food is hard for kids with only a few teeth to eat. This is the type of food I feed him at home! Love it!!

The only questionable item on the Baby Plate was the sprig of parsley. Just for laughs, I gave it to my son to try. He made a wonderful gross out face! Maybe that is the parsley’s purpose on the Baby Plate - parental amusement. I'm all for that too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Parenting Tips from My Sister-in-Law

Because my parents decided to spend Thanksgiving in Switzerland (without their children or grandchildren), my brother and I decided to get our families together for the first time for the holiday without them. In general, it was a lot of fun. My two and a half year old nephew and my almost one year old son had a great time playing together. However, it is difficult to spend time with people who have such different parenting styles than I do.

Here are some parenting tips my sister-in-law taught me over the weekend. Before you read them, I would like to say in her defense that both she and my brother are highly educated, intelligent people. They really love their son and try to do their best. However, sometimes the common sense isn’t there.

Tip # 1 - Only place a child in time-out if you have given him at least seven warnings to stop a behavior. Let the child decide when he is done with time-out (usually about 20 seconds).

Tip # 2 - If you pour some soap into the tub during a bath, there is no need really to wash the child’s body or hair. You figure that if he splashes around enough in the tub, he will be clean.

Tip # 3 - There is no need to supervise a child in the bathtub once they are fairly steady on their feet, say, at 18 months old.

Tip # 4 - The way to tell when your baby is ready to eat solid food is when he starts eating dry cat food out of the cats’ dishes.

Tip # 5 - It is perfectly acceptable to allow your child to strip naked during Thanksgiving dinner and climb up and down on his booster chair (naked) and sit spread eagle (naked) at the head of the table.

Tip # 6 - If you are in a drug store to shop for one item and your child sees a tube of toothpaste with Thomas the Tank Engine on it and he screams to have it, you should buy it for him. Furthermore, you should let him remove the tube from the box, remove the cap from the tube, throw the cap in the street, and suck half of the toothpaste out of the tube on the way home.

Tip # 7 - If your child throws a stuffed animal on the stove while his aunt is cooking Thanksgiving dinner and his aunt takes the animal away from him, it is very helpful to immediately retrieve the animal and give it to the child.

Tip # 8 - "When my son was a baby, I used to cut up all of his food into small chunks. But then I noticed that he just shoved a handful of chunks into his mouth, so I just gave up and starting giving him the whole piece of food. I figure it all ends up in the same place." Such as hot dogs, grapes, etc. (I might add, it does all end up in the same place. The question is, does it get stuck on the way there?)

Tip # 9 - To help your child go to sleep, send him to bed with the following items - a sippy cup full of orange juice, a sippy cup of milk, and a bowl full of Teddy Grahams. If your child gets out of bed and demands the entire package of Teddy Grahams, give it to him. Then act surprised when he wakes up from his nap covered with sticky Teddy Grahams because he dumped the entire package in his bed. Then pick up all Teddy Grahams and put them back in the package.

Believe it or not, I held my tongue all weekend. It was very hard.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Into the Wild

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mount McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. . . .

That paragraph is printed on the front cover of the book, "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. Well, with a lead-up like that, who wouldn’t be intrigued? This, of course, is a non-fiction book based on the true story of Chris McCandless. The basic synopsis provided on the front cover sums up the story well. It was a fascinating story, but the interpretation of the story must change dramatically depending on who is reading it.

For example, the author seems to alternate between revering McCandless for his bravery and gumption and ridiculing him for his stupidity and careless decisions (walking into the Alaskan wilderness with only a few books and a ten pound bag of rice). I suppose this is on par for the basic feelings about McCandless. I admire him somewhat for the nomadic, no-strings-attached life he led for two years after graduating from college. He seemed to just want to live life, with no possessions, no connections, no responsibilities, no duties, no home, no security, and essentially alone. I think everyone has had moments when they want to leave it all behind, particularly when obligation and responsibility gets to be too much. But few of us actually do it.

Two-thirds through the book, the author reveals that he also made a similar voyage and trek into the Alaskan wilderness. Obviously, he didn’t die and seems to almost resent McCandless’s conviction to stick it out. Perhaps a conviction that the author didn’t possess. The most compelling part of the book was this paragraph:

It would be easy to stereotype Christopher McCandless as another boy who felt too much, a loopy young man who read too many books and lacked even a modicum of common sense. But the stereotype isn’t a good fit. McCandless wasn’t some feckless slacker, adrift and confused, racked by existential despair. To the contrary: His life hummed with meaning and purpose. But the meaning he wrested from existence lay beyond the comfortable path: McCandless distrusted the value of things that came easily. He demanded much of himself - more, in the end, than he could deliver.

Personally, I think the author read too much into McCandless’s journey and sparse writings. I think he was crazy and not just crazy in a "that guy’s a real nutjob" way, but truly mentally ill. He had been showing signs since his early teens that he was walking down the path to mentally ill - a loner, few friends, odd hobbies and interests. After he went away to college, far away from his parents, these characteristics intensified. He was the oddball on campus, again with few friends, and often lived in an unfurnished room with no telephone. His closest relationship was with his car, which he later abandoned. From the information provided by the book, no one close to him did anything to help him. It seemed as if he was simply ignored by his parents and the college. It is sad to think this downward spiral could have been prevented.

It has been a few weeks since I finished the book and my thinking has changed. I still think he was crazy, but I also think he was an asshole. His parents and a family friend paid for his four years at a very expensive private college. McCandless wasted that education. He took off on his "adventure" right after graduation but never told his family were he was going and never gave them a way to contact him. It would kill my parents if I had done something like that. McCandless was so thoughtless, so unaware that other people existed and had feelings, that he thought contacting the people who loved him was a waste of his time. He was gone for two years and dead for months before his family knew anything.

I am all for soul-searching and a certain amount of naval-gazing. However, when it is done at the expense of other people, it is not OK with me. In my opinion, McCandless was in fact, a "feckless slacker."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mama Said There’d be Days Like This

The morning went pretty well. Up, showered, fed, and out the door by 8:30. At day care by 8:45. Waving bye-bye at 8:52. In my car, on my way to work at 8:53. I arrived at work at exactly 9:00 am. Then I stepped across some invisible line into the “Friday from Hell.”

9:20 - Day care calls. Son does not have pacifier at school. Naptime will be hell (my word, not theirs). I think - must have dropped it in the car on the way to school. I will be right there.

9:31 - Found pacifier under passenger seat of car. Drive to day care, wondering why it is we only have one day care pacifier but 25 pacifiers at home.

9:43 - Leave day care, scratching my neck. Wonder why my neck itches. Scratch, scratch.

9:50 - Arrive in parking lot at work. Pull neck of sweater down to investigate itchiness. Realize my sweater is on backwards.

9:51 - Decide to switch sweater in car. As I am swinging back to front, notice homeless man watching me from the sidewalk. Nice.

9:58 - Back at desk. Working.

10:36 - Doctor’s office calls. They don’t have new insurance card for son’s surgery on Monday. Surgery will be canceled unless I fax it immediately.

10:38 - Dig through purse for insurance card. Damn.

10:41 - Dig through desk for insurance card. Damn. Decide I will have to go home for lunch and look for insurance card.

11:52 - Leave work for home. In the next hour I must: (1) find insurance card; (2) change a load of laundry; (3) finish making cheese straws for neighborhood party tonight; (4) eat lunch; and (5) unload dishwasher.

11:59 - Arrive at home, mad dash for possible locations of insurance card. Five steps in the door, slip in wet spot on floor. Manage to catch myself on side of couch, but lose shoe and step in wet spot. Look down. Yell dog’s name. Dog cowers under dining room table, the obvious guilty party.

12:01 - Having removed nylons, search for floor cleaner while yelling at dog. Clean floor.

12:07 - Wash hands and feet in bathtub. Wipe down shoes. Put on new nylons. Turn on oven.

12:09 - Remove cheese straw dough from fridge. Dough is rock hard. Remember only supposed to chill for 30 minutes, not overnight. Damn.

12:10 - Commence rolling out rock hard cheese straw dough. Work up sweat. Take off sweater and finish rolling dough in bra only.

12:25 - All dough rolled out, start twisting dough, place on cookie sheets. Put in oven. Set timer.

12:32 - Re-read party invitation. Realize I have not RSVPed yet. Call neighbor, apologize, and RSVP. Promise outstanding cheese straws.

12:34 - Remember I was supposed to be looking for insurance card. Race around looking for card.

12:39 - Find card. Remove cheese straws from oven. Drop one as I am transferring to cooling rack. Damn dog catches it before it hits the ground, swallows it whole. Well, at least she is good for something.

12:42 - Change load of laundry.

12:47 - Empty dishwasher.

12:55 - Put sweater back on, put shoes back on. Leave house.

12:56 - Almost have accident with neighbor as I am pulling out of driveway. Smile and wave.

1:08 - Arrive at parking lot. Neck itches again. Look down. Yep . . . my sweater is on backwards. AGAIN.

Mama said, mama said.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why I Don't Smoke

Today is the Great American Smoke Out. So, given that and the title of this post, you might think I was getting ready to lecture all of you on not smoking and hold myself out as a perfect example of a non-smoker. Sorry to disappoint, but I am not going to do either one of those things. I am going to tell you why I personally don't smoke.

My decision not to be a smoker has nothing to do with saving my lungs from looking like week-old road kill. It really has nothing to do with wanting my teeth to be white rather than yellow. It has little to do with the price of cigarettes. My decision did not stem from a fear of cancer or other hideous diseases. It's not because I think smokers have bad breath or look gross. It is not because I don't like smelling like an ashtray. In fact, there was a period of time when I thought smokers were the absolutely litmus test of coolness.

I wanted to be a smoker in college. All of my friends were smokers and, I admit, I thought it looked cool. Smokers always had an "in" with a stranger. "Do you have a light?" "Can I bum a cigarette?" I saw my friends pick up more men with those two lines than they could have by taking off their shirts in a crowded bar.

Considering all of that, here is the reason I do not smoke. I watched my dad quit smoking after being a heavy smoker for 20 years.

My dad became a smoker when he went to college in 1958. He was a very heavy smoker (even smoked a pipe for many years). Of course, these were the days when everyone smoked. He smoked when my mother was pregnant with both me and my brother and smoked when we were growing up. For some reason, he decided to quit smoking in 1978. I don't remember the reason. I don't remember whether there were all of the PSAs on the air about the effects of smoking. But I do remember the day he quit.

It was early Spring and we had been out to eat at a diner-type restaurant. I was 7 years old. My dad said at dinner that he was going to quit smoking today, right now, cold turkey. (I had no idea what cold turkey meant.) He left his pack on the table, along with his matches. We bundled up and left the restaurant. As we were getting in the car, the waitress came running after us saying, "Sir, sir! You forgot your cigarettes!!" My dad said, "Keep them. I'm done."

What followed that moment of incredible strength was the worst four weeks of my family's life. My dad had terrible withdrawals. He shook all of the time. He was coughing up gross stuff. He had constant headaches and would lay on the couch with a pillow over his face. He didn't play with me or my brother anymore. And he was incredibly grouchy and mean.

This is the only time in my parents 40 year marriage that I remember them fighting in a semi-violent manner. No physical fighting, just yelling and slamming doors. (They fought other times, but mostly heated discussion fighting.) This is also the only time I ever heard them discussing divorce. At the worst point, they were fighting and my dad screamed, "Do you want me to leave, is that it? Fine! I'll leave!" And he walked out the door.

To my seven year old brain, I thought he was gone forever. I cried and cried and my mother tried to explain to me that he was sick. To me, sick was coughing or throwing up. She explained that he was sick because of the cigarettes and soon he would be better. He came back a few hours later and things were fine. But the incident scared me enough to scare me away from smoking for life.

In the end, I don't know how well PSAs work against combatting smoking. I think it really does take a personal reason for people to make the decision not to smoke, especially for teenagers and young adults. I don't smoke because I do not want to go through what my dad went through physically, my parents went through in their relationship, or what they put their children through. And, pretty much, that is the only reason I don't smoke.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Robin Williams's Last Appearance on the Today Show

I love Robin Williams in general but I love, love his appearances on the Today Show. He gets under Matt Lauer's skin like no other and I love to see Matt Lauer squirm.

This morning was the best bit ever. Robin is talking, talking, talking and then he says (with a Chinese accent):

"You like our Chinese toys? You should try our Chinese pharmaceuticals! Special today - Viagra mixed with ExLax! So you can come and go at the same time!!"

I laughed so hard, coffee actually came out of my nose. I had to sit down I was laughing so hard.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Favorite Holiday

Yesterday was one of the best holidays of the year - Veteran’s Day. I love Veteran’s Day. And I’ll tell you why. Most holidays require some sort of forced family participation. In addition, because I have no family in Peoria, most forced family participation holidays require travel. I love to travel . . . well, let’s say I used to love to travel, but that was prior to having a child. It is not so much fun to travel with a baby.

Anyway, as I was saying, most holidays require forced family participation. You know - Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Those holidays are considered family holidays and every one expects you to hang with your family. To make matters worse, not only do you have to see your family but you have to partake in specific holiday activities with your family.

Easter - dying eggs and egg hunts and uneven candy baskets.

Memorial Day - picnic (for which sister-in-law refuses to use paper or plastic plates and utensils, so we have to pack the real thing and drag to the park and back) and talking about dead people.

Fourth of July - fireworks (which equals very freaked out dogs and crabby babies these days) and homemade ice cream.

Labor Day - always falls right after my birthday so we have to dwell on that horror and discuss my various embarrassing moments from birth on.

Thanksgiving - planning the meal and cooking the meal, which is always tense with a professional chef and two very good (but not professional) cooks in the family.

Christmas - the worst forced happy family holiday with the added pressure of maybe getting really crappy gifts or one sibling getting toys and the other getting socks and underwear.

Don’t get me wrong - I love my family (most of them) and I like spending time with them. But I find that, often, it is easier to spend time with them when there is not the added holiday we-must-make-good-memories pressure. So, this is why I love the "lesser holidays" - MLK Jr. Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day. I have these days off from work but there is no expectation of family gatherings. I can run errands, do laundry, clean the house, read in bed, shop, embroider, paint, or whatever else strikes me. It’s a free three-day weekend.

I know what you nay-sayers are thinking. "You know, Ms. PH, there are good reasons for these holidays and you are supposed to be _______ on these days." I know, I know. I know I should be celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays. I know I should be thanking Columbus for discovering our country after the Native Americans and Vikings discovered it. (What a feat that was.) I know I should be honoring the men and women who have served our country.

And I do celebrate these days. Like I said, I celebrate by running errands, doing laundry, cleaning the house, reading in bed, shopping, embroidering, painting, and whatever else strikes me. Is that bad of me? Probably. But, did you also notice that I don’t go to church on any of the religious holidays mentioned above? Or that I don't go to church at all? That’s probably bad of me too. Oh, well . . . I guess I’m going to hell one way or another. Too bad I don’t believe in hell. I bet every day is like Veteran’s Day in hell. Sounds like heaven to me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Julep's Closet - the Best Shopping of the Year

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year - Julep’s Closet is this weekend! Sponsored by the Junior League of Peoria, the enormous garage sale is held annually at the Riverplex in downtown Peoria. I have religiously attended every year I have lived in Peoria and I get some of the best deals on everything from clothes to toys to books to housewares.

For example, one year I got a really beautiful antique lamp. All it needed was a little cleaning and a new shade. I get compliments on this lamp everytime someone new comes to my house. It is quirky and a little weird, kind of like me!

Last year, I got a great deal of baby clothing for my son and my nephew. In fact, today my son is wearing one of the Zutano outfits I got for him last year for only $4. A lot of the children’s clothing is barely used - they grow out of it so quickly - and it is always reasonably priced! I have also purchased him toys and books at great prices.

The adult clothing is great too, although you really have to be in the mood to dig if you want to find the best stuff. A lot of the clothes are name brands and all of the clothes are in good shape. I have found cashmere sweaters for my mom and silk ties for my dad.

And don’t forget about the New Merchants section, which only sells absolutely new stuff from area merchants. I have found great purses and shoes in this section. Last year, I got my dad three packages of new black dress Goldtoe socks (his favorite) and my brother a bunch of Brooks Brother’s dress shirts. As you can tell, I do a lot of my Christmas shopping at Julep’s Closet.

The sale starts on Friday night, which is called "Twice the Price Night." You pay $1 to get in and pay twice the marked price for all the merchandise. Why? Because, in addition to being a great community service, Julep’s Closet serves as one of the Junior League’s fundraisers. The money you spend at Julep’s Closet allows the Junior League to invest in its various community projects, including the Peoria PlayHouse. Past projects of the Junior League of Peoria also include Race for the Cure, Family House, and Sonar Tide at the Civic Center.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Year of Pleasures

Sometimes books just show up at my house. Many of my friends know how much I read and pass on piles of books they don’t want anymore. (My parents do this as well, but their cast-offs tend to be things like the complete diaries of Anais Nin or Carl Jung. Sometimes I just don’t have the brain power at the end of the day to read books like that.) The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg was one of the books I found in a box from a friend.

Frankly, I put off reading this book for sometime. It just kept going further down on the to-be-read list. Mostly I put it off because I try to limit the amount of "chick-lit" I read. Too much chick-lit is like too many jelly beans at Easter. So, I have a rotation system that involves classifying books into several categories including fiction and non-fiction (it is usually two fiction then one non-fiction), chick-lit, mystery, favorite authors, must-read classics, and recommended reads (that I otherwise would never touch).

In the end, this book wasn’t really chick-lit. Sure, it was written by a woman primarily about women, but it wasn’t as frivolous as most chick-lit. The basic story is this: A middle-aged woman has just lost her husband to cancer. They were deeply in love and had been married for approximately 20 years and had no children. After his death, she sells their expensive home in Boston, nets more than $1 million, and drives aimlessly to the Midwest to a small, quaint town to restart her life. Of course, she only does this because her husband has told her he thinks this is how she should deal with her grief. When she finds this small town (which happens to be in Illinois), she immediately finds the perfect old house in the perfect neighborhood and buys it.

There were parts of this story that I was really drawn to while reading it. I have always thought it would be an adventure to pack up all of my stuff and drive randomly to some small quaint town where no one knows me, get a silly no-stress job, and live a simple life. (You know, like Sleeping with the Enemy but without the homicidal husband.) This dream ends in about five minutes when I remember how much I hate small towns and not being able to buy good produce, good coffee, and good wine. But, the dream kept me going through the book.

My biggest problem with the book was the unrealistic nature of the relationships described. The main character thinks adoringly of her husband at every moment. The way he dressed, the food he ate, the books he read, the love notes he sent her, his passion for his work, the way he picked his nose . . . everything about him was perfect. It made me sick. Of course, I know that there is a tendency to obsess about the good things when you lose someone you love. But there is no one in the world that has only good qualities and no bad qualities. It just simply wasn’t believable. Even in grief, you remember the bad parts too.

The other unbelievable part was this character’s relationship with her friends. After her husband dies, she realizes she has no friends. (Of course, her justification for this is that she and her husband were so complete together that there was no need for other people. Barf.) Feeling lonely, she contacts her friends from college, whom she hasn’t seen for more than 20 years. And, of course, those friends pick up everything from their lives and come to her rescue and everything is back like it was 20 years ago. Whatever.

Relationships don’t work like that, at least not in my world. People change and grow and, believe it or not, people do not just sit around waiting for you to re-enter their lives after you ditched them for a man 20 years ago. I don’t buy it.

Aside from this, the book was well written, the story well crafted and woven together. It was a short book, so my irritation was over quickly.

Monday, November 5, 2007

One Curl Merle

As a parent, you get sort-of used to the silly or stupid questions people ask you about your child. I frequently get, "Oh, he's a big one!" or "He doesn't miss many meals, does he?" or "Does he look more like your husband?" or "Isn't he going to smile?" I usually just smile and say something short and sweet and walk away.

Over the weekend, I got one of the oddest questions I have ever heard. A middle-aged woman came up to me in the grocery store and said, "Why is his hair like that? I mean, did you do that on purpose?" I wanted to say, "Bite me" or "Step off, bitch" or "Why is your hair like that?"

I should explain. My son does not have much hair. He has been pretty much bald since birth. Basically, all the hair he has is just filling in the hair-area on his head. It doesn't grow very fast or very long. Except for one piece. Without any coaxing from me, there is one lock of hair behind his left ear that has grown longer than the rest. When it is wet, it hangs down to his shoulder, a good inch past the rest of his hair. When it is dry, it is one single curl. The rest of his hair is stick straight.

Many people have said to me, "Why don't you just cut it off?" Well, because I think it is funny (and what is parenthood if you can't laugh at your kids), cute, and unique. And it allows me to call him "One Curl Merle," which cracks me up. And it will provide endless funny stories when he brings girlfriends home.

So, I looked at this nosey woman and said, "We keep it that way for religious reasons" and walked away. When we passed in the frozen food aisle, the woman wouldn't make eye contact with me. I really hope she spent the rest of the day trying to find out what kind of crazy religion I belonged to and how dangerous we were to the community.

Funny, because the only religion I belong to is the Church of Mind Your Own Damn Business.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Yeah, Bitch, I'm Talking to You

This post is addressed to a certain group of women. Perhaps you are a member of this group. Please answer the following questions:

(1) Do you drive downtown on weekdays?
(2) Do you drive through the intersection of Main and Madison?
(3) Do you drive through said intersection between 8 and 9 am and 5 and 6 pm?
(4) Do you turn left in this intersection, either from Main to Madison or Madison to Main?
(5) Do you always have on your bug-eye sunglasses?
(6) Are you talking on your cell phone while driving through this intersection?

If you answered all of these questions “yes,” then keep reading - I have something to say to you.

First, a little driving lesson. You should have learned this in driver’s education, but hey . . . you were probably too busy writing I “heart” Dave on your paper and snapping your gum to really listen. So, here is a refresher. When you are turning left at an intersection with a stoplight, you must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk who are crossing with the green light and walk signal. Also, it is not a good idea to start your left turn before looking to see if there are any pedestrians in the crosswalk. By starting your left hand turn prior to checking for either oncoming traffic or pedestrians will create a very interesting problem for you. You will be stuck between oncoming traffic and a pedestrian and neither of them will really care whether you make it through the intersection.

Second, a little warning. It’s never a good idea to hit a pedestrian. Even the most empty-headed of you have probably figured that out. But it is particularly not good to hit this pedestrian. Really, it is not even good to come close to hitting this pedestrian and then give this pedestrian a dirty look while she wonders whether you are paying any attention at all and whether you will hit her and whether it will hurt when her head hits the pavement.

You see, this pedestrian is fed up. She is sick and tired of having her life flash before her eyes when simply crossing the street every day on her way to and from work. So, get this through your thoroughly moussed head - it will not be pretty if you hit this pedestrian. Yeah, sure, I’m talking about the blood and brains all over the pavement. But I am also talking about the pain you will feel when you realize you have hit this particular pedestrian.

You see, even non-litigious lawyers like myself do not take kindly to being hit by a car. It ruffles our feathers. It makes me wonder who will take care of my child if both of my legs are broken. It makes me wonder who will plan his first birthday party if I am in a coma. It makes me wonder who will care for my parents in their old age if I am dead.

But, mostly, it makes me think about one thing . . . damages. Compensatory and punitive damages.