Sep 5, 2011

This is One Herb of a Story

Everyone has their ten minutes of fame. I’ve already have had mine, as you might have read in my recent posting, Protests End Quickie Mart Tyranny. People like you call me a hero, but I’m just a regular person who thwarted a dangerous, armed man from robbing the store and possibly murdering an innocent. I guess I’m just “that guy” who does heroic stuff.

All good deeds should go noticed or there’s no point to doing them, I always say, so I was lucky that my boss, Mr. Patel, noticed. Three weeks ago, he fired everyone at the quickie mart except for me. He wanted to get rid of the lazy employees. You have to understand that these people were my closest friends. They were like family to me lo these many years. “Good riddance,” I thought, as I hugged each of them goodbye. I made a mental note to change my cell phone number. I’m all about a fresh start.

The new crew was full of energetic, vibrant people, much like me, and Mr. Patel entrusted me with training them. They were all terrific, but a charming, young college student was my favorite. I liked him from our first encounter, when he extended his hand to say, “Nice to meet you.”

You don’t expect such manners from a college kid, so I was immediately impressed. My hand had some sticky slushee syrup on it, so I quickly licked it off and gave him a warm handshake.

“I’m Robert, ma'am” he said.

“Nice to meet you, Herbert,” I said. “But you don’t have to call me ma'am. You can call me Mrs. Jackie Phillips or J Flo or Jackie from the Block.” I wanted this kid to know I wasn’t some geezer who can’t connect with younger people.

“Robert,” the boy said. I could see this chap had a sense of humor.

I laughed and said, “No, my name is Mrs. Phillips.”

“No, my name is Robert,” he said.

“Oh sorry, Herbert,” I said.

Herbert caught on quickly. I taught him how to stock shelves, sweep the floor, and work the cash register, which is the tricky part. You have to run the barcode of each product under a red, radioactive scanner light that rings up the price. “You scan the product, hit TOTAL, and you’re done,” I explained.

It took me about six weeks to learn how to do this, but Herb, as I began calling him (young people love when you shorten their name – it shows you like them). . . Herb took about five minutes to learn. “I personally like to run the product under the scanner wand several times to make sure I got it,” I explained to Herb.

“But that means you ringing up the product several times,” Herb said. “It beeps when it scans the product, so you only want it to beep once.”

See, I told you Herb was funny! I laughed and laughed and gave him a friendly slap on the back. “You really had me going, Herb.” I said.

“Robert,” he responded. Again with the Robert? This kid was hilarious. He should seriously be on SNL.

Everyone liked Herb, even the customers, and business began to pick up when he was working. He called customers by name and asked about their personal lives. I worked at the quickie mart for years, and I never knew they had personal lives or names. I had nicknames that I called them in my head, but they weren’t real.

One morning a young boy walked in wearing a Cubs jersey, a baseball cap, and gray pants with grass stains on the knees. Herbert greeted him and said, “Hi Johnny, how’d the game go?” Herb was like a super detective. How did he know that little Johnny played some sort of game? Johnny’s parents chatted with Herb as if he was an old friend. I was warmed by this young man’s presence in our store, and his glow rubbed off on me.

Herb even gave people cute nicknames. He called a very shy girl “Princess” and got her to talk and smile. Now I was in business! I can’t remember real names very well, but nicknames are definitely my thing. I’d always kept them to myself, but Herb taught me it’s ok to use them.

A minute later, a man walked into the store wearing a baseball cap and grayish pants. “Hey, Old Yeller!” I said. “How’d your game go?”

“Shut up you old bat,” the octogenarian responded and moved his walker to Herb’s register. I guess not everyone likes chit chat.

The next guy that walked in was a regular customer in his 40s. His brown, silky hair was his most distinctive feature. “Hey, Bowl Cut,” I greeted him. “I can ring you up here.” But Bowl Cut must have been deaf. He went to Herb’s register, despite having to wait behind other customers. Poor deaf people. They have so many challenges in their day-to-day lives.

Herb’s register had a line about six people deep now, and mine was empty. It was awkward. A gawky looking, pimply teenager who comes in everyday to buy chips walked up to my register. “Nice to see you again, Adam’s Apple,” I said, but the boy didn’t respond. The scanner beeped three times as I rang up his bag of chips, and I chuckled as I thought about the funny joke Herb had made about the beeps.

As the days went on, people would always line up in Herb’s register line, as if mine was closed. I didn’t mind. It gave me time to take naps at the counter. “People love you, kid,” I said to Herb admiringly. I was happy for him.

“Thanks,” Herb said. “Can I suggest that you don’t call people by nicknames anymore?” he asked bashfully. How cute -- and very smart! His advice made sense.

A guy walked up to my counter with a Wall Street Journal and a coffee. “Beautiful weather outside, sir,” I said, imagining what Herb would have said.

“Yes it is. Can I have a pack of Marlboro’s?” he said smiling ear to ear. I was working magic like Herb does!

“Sure thing,” I said cheerfully to the customer. “You have a grrrreat day!” I took a chance with rolling my r’s, and it was successful. The customer smiled and left. It felt good to be Herbert, I thought.

Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Patel was standing nearby watching the entire encounter. “You idiot, that kid was like 10 years old. You can’t sell him cigarettes,” Mr. Patel shouted.

“I had been so focused on providing good customer service that I didn’t even notice,” I yelled back.

Patel was not angry since somehow the cigarettes rang up three times. See, if you live well, the angels always watch over you, even when you have a defective register.

So life has been good of late, and I can’t help but reflect that we’re always learning in life, no matter how old we are. If you’re open to growing, you will always be happy. I’ve become so fond of little Herbert that I can honestly say I love him as much as my own sons, but not as much as that Great Dane I had who ran away. I sure do miss Mr. Winkles, pictured here. (Note, his name has been changed to protect his identity.)

Have a great week!
~ Jackie

Aug 21, 2011

Movies Cause Madness and Mayhem

Do you hate it when people talk all through a movie? You’re trying to relax, but someone behind you can’t follow the plot, they get the characters confused, and they ask questions every few minutes?

Apparently, I am that person. My son, Raphael, just told me so. He didn’t want to watch a movie with me because he said it takes all the fun out of it -- I need too much help. What a shocker to hear such a thing and from my own son! Who wouldn’t want to hang out with me? I am so fun to be around. Hurt, I lashed out by throwing his cell phone in my neighbor's bird bath.

My husband and sons came to Raphael's defense, saying I'm annoying because I gasp and laugh too loudly. This hurt even more. I threw their cell phones in my neighbor's pool. Now my family never calls me. Talk about immature.

Their comments were crushing. I thought my laugh was melodious and soothing. That’s why I laugh even when laughing is not dictated, like at the neighbor boy's orchestra concert or when I was getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist. I just want to share the joy.

But time heals all wounds, and a day later, we were all friends again. The kids made amends by saying they’d watch the widely acclaimed movie Inception with me. Their teenage friends said it was awesome. Sometimes teenagers act dumb by liking movies that adults don’t like, so I consulted my friend Bob, an old person with dementia (shoutout to Bob in Maryland). He said Inception was great, so I agreed to see it. If it's good enough for Bob, it's good enough for me.

My sons said Inception is complex and that I would need to be alert the night we see it. Their words made me anxious. I wanted to have a clear head to clear my name. I wanted to make sure I understood without assistance. I tried to cheat by looking up the answers on Google, but I didn't even know the questions. I ended up just Googling pictures of aardvarks. It was of no help.

On movie night, I prepared by napping before dinner and not having that second whiskey with my meal. I hadn’t been this nervous about an event since they replaced Michael J. Fox with Charlie Sheen on Spin City. And look what happened to Charlie Sheen! I think he did something bad! And then he got replaced by Ashton Kutcher. If Ashton Kutcher could replace Charlie Sheen, what's to say he can't replace me?

Well, movie day finally came, and let me capture the essence of Inception in one word -- B-O-R-I-N-G. With a capital B. And the ORING part too! I could not understand how everyone at the theater was riveted, while I felt like I had fallen into a black hole of nothingness. I wondered if this is what Nerd Hell is like. I sat in the dark, staring at people, checking the time on my cell phone, waiting for each successive minute to pass. It was excruciating! It reminded me of that time we spent New Year’s Eve watching the C-SPAN Marathon on TV in that hotel on Time’s Square in New York City.

But I’ll be fair to you who haven’t seen Inception. Maybe you’ll like what the movie offers. The premise is that a person can enter into the dream of another person by falling asleep and sharing that dream. While in the dream, one can alter events and even alter reality. Even more boring, multiple people can fall asleep at the same time and enter one communal dream. Huzzah! There are dream police or something, and they play an important role as well, but I don’t know what it is because I was staring at someone’s mole at the time.

The big finale is that you don’t know whose reality is really real. However, at that point, I didn’t even care. I had no idea who the good guys and bad guys were. I was just glad the movie was almost over. I hoped all the characters would die to produce a happy ending, but that didn’t happen. Oops. Spoiler alert. Let’s just say that once you see Inception, you probably will avoid the movies for a long time.

Now if you want to have a good time, definitely see the movie Unknown with Liam Neeson. I’ve watched other movies with Liam Neeson, and he’s really fun to be around and never hogs the popcorn. He laughs and gasps just like I do, and he doesn't criticize me. I’ve never found the need to put his cell phone in any kind of liquid. He gets me.

Anyway, Unknown was an intelligent movie that made even me think. I have no idea what it all meant, but I remember thinking, "Wow, I like this film!" It was awesome and had a lot of action. It was so fast-paced that I didn’t have time to stare at the other movie-goers. That’s the highest compliment I've ever paid a film.

Well, I hope my movie reviews have given you something to ponder. You probably wondered why I haven't blogged for so long, but now you can clearly see how busy my life has been. Liam Neeson is out of town, so I promise you I can lighten my schedule and write sooner next time.

And, just in case you were concerned about all our ruined cell phones, don’t worry. My neighbor Ann agreed to replace them when she discovered they were damaged on her property. Life always seems to have a happy ending around here. Have a great weekend. Enjoy the last days of August.


Feb 25, 2011

Protests End Quickie-Mart Tyranny

Today was another slow day working at the quickie mart because it snowed yet again. Snow means all schools are closed, which means no students are skipping classes. No students, no business. That’s how it goes in the fast-paced world of convenience stores.

My boss, Mr. Patel, recently found out I have a blog, so he said I can write it at work as long as I mention his store and catchy slogan. So please stop by Patel World, “Home of the giant, eight-ounce slushie, where your service makes our living.” I know that makes no sense. Mr. Patel has a bad grasp of English, but he was so proud of his dumb slogan that he wrote it on the front pockets of all our uniforms in permanent marker.

Anyway, work has been oppressive for a while. Mr. Patel’s inability to communicate combined with his quick temper make for stressful days. The man knows only a few words of English, and the words he does use don’t form clear thoughts. When we don't understand him, he yells at us in front of customers. He called me lazy once in front of a group of third-graders who have taunted me ever since.

Another time he chastised me in front of teenagers, shouting, “You can’t tie box if someone holds gun in head.” See? I have no idea what that means. He’ll yell one minute, and then he’ll be friendly the next, asking us to teach him new English words.

My coworker, Fred, and I got tired of these mood swings. We decided to sabotage Patel’s efforts to learn the language. For Christmas, we got him a biology word-a-day calendar so we could teach him new words. We made up crazy meanings so he’d look like an idiot. We said “zygote” is a synonym for cereal. There were other words, "mitochondria" (customers who can't pay), "cytoplasm" (people who browse without buying), etc. That was great entertainment for a while, but then things got ugly.

A few weeks ago, I had just come in for the night shift and was trying to make my way around a large stack of boxes in the stock room. Mr. Patel popped up from behind one of the boxes and gave me my assignment for the night. “Jokey, your please to check in the freezer,” he said and pointed to the boxes.

I assumed he wanted me to check the freezers to make sure they’re working. They often break down, and then our food goes bad. That would be an easy task. I immediately checked each freezer and saw the temperatures were just fine at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Mr. Patel stared at me with his usual look of disgust, so I smiled and gave him the two thumbs-up sign.

He sighed and said, “I become black at 7:00 morning.” I didn't correct him. I just kept smiling and rolled my eyes as he left.

I spent the rest of the night shift sitting at the cash register. I didn’t do any work. I filed my nails. I whistled for a while. Then I took a nap at the register while sitting on my stool. Not a single customer came in. At 7:00 a.m., I awoke to the familiar jingle of the back door bell, which announced that Mr. Patel had just walked in.

“YOU PLEASE TO CHECK IN THE FREEZER!” he started shouting. I tried the two thumbs up and a smile again, but he ran to the boxes in the back in a panic. He ripped one open and held up a package of leaky, overly thawed chicken parts. “Check in the freezer!” he yelled. I suddenly understood. I was supposed to put the chicken in the freezer! Oops. I was about to apologize when Patel shouted at me in Hindi right in front of the morning coffee crowd. Then he mimicked me filing my nails at the counter and whistling.

“I don’t need this,” I said, and walked out.

“Blastocyst!” he yelled after me. He kept screaming it as I walked out the automatic front doors, but I refused to look back. I was trying to storm out, but the doors open too slowly for a dramatic exit.

My anger surged. I called Fred on the cell phone from the parking lot. I told him that was the last straw. We weren’t going to take this tyrannical rule anymore. Fred was angry too. He said we should protest exactly like the Egyptians did, except we should use violence.

Before I knew it, Fred was outside of the store with me, watching Patel walk out the sluggish automatic doors with his broom. He was probably going to sweep the sidewalk. As the double doors creaked open, Fred swooped on Patel and knocked him to the ground face down. I yelled, "You’re the blastocyst!” and took his monacle and poncho. Patel whimpered under Fred’s 300-pound frame. Fred turned him over, and what we saw made our jaws drop.

It wasn’t Patel at all! It was another Indian whose name happened to be Patel too. We just beat up an innocent man and were guilty of racial profiling. What had we done? "Noooooo!" Fred cried out to the heavens. Our eyes widened in fear when we heard police sirens behind us. I'm too pretty to be in jail, I thought.

A second later, the real Mr. Patel ran out to us smiling and patting us on the backs and grabbing the "broom" that the fake Patel had been carrying. It wasn't a broom after all. It was a machine gun.

“Endoplasmic reticulum!” Patel kept repeating while he hugged us. He held up his camera phone and snapped a picture of us sitting on the still-tackled Indian guy.

It turned out that the man we tackled was an armed robber who had been holding up stores all over the Midwest. We were hailed as heroes and appeared on the local TV evening news. The police gave us reward money, and Mr. Patel gave us each a fat bonus for increasing business through this publicity. He hung a framed photo of us attacking the robber in the entrance of the store and wrote a sign above it, “Chlorophyll Beware!”

So the next time you’re thirsty, make sure you come visit us at Patel World, where your service really does make our living.

Feb 13, 2011

थे इक्य डे स्टोरी गेट्स The Icy-Day Story Gets Worse

Translation of Canadian writing (above): The Icy Day Story Gets Worse, a Dis-ICE-terous Follow-Up

When you last tuned in, my son Alfredo had slipped on the ice as he went to retrieve the mail, and you readers were left to guess at his fate. Fear not. I'll fill you in.

To recap, after his fall, Alfredo said it hurt to move his left arm. We told him to move his right arm instead. In retrospect, that was not the best advice. The next morning, Alfredo woke up in pain and had no mobility in his left arm and shoulder at all. We decided to take him to the ER after school to get some x-rays. Dr. Wu (who later turned out to be a custodian impersonating a doctor) told us Alfredo didn't have any fractures, but that he did injure his growth plate. The "doc" stuck Alfredo's arm in a crumpled-up looking sling that he pulled out of his pants' pocket. Wu then mopped the floor around our feet and propped up a yellow sign that said, "Caution: Wet Floor" in many languages. It should have aroused our suspicions, but we were too worried to notice such a subtle clue. Before he walked out the door, Dr. Wu told us to see an orthopedic surgeon in a week. He recommended his cousin, Abe, who works out of a pawn shop downtown, next door to "Pizza Village," home of the $7 party-sized pepperoni pizza.

When I went home and told my husband all that had happened, he became worried. Our family has some height challenges, so an injury to a growth plate would mean this son might have an arm that would not grow to potential. As it is, our whole family tends to not grow to potential, so this was yet another blow to the ego. But, like all smaller people, we quickly laughed it off and moved on.

By Wednesday, Alfredo began to move the arm little by little. His mobility increased in leaps and bounds throughout the following day, but we told him to limit his jumping after that.

On Friday, we couldn't get an appointment with Wu's cousin, so we settled for consulting with a Dr. Beakman. "The Beak" as I jokingly called him (though he didn't laugh), examined Alfredo's arm and shoulder. He had him do various exercises to reveal his degree of mobility. He had Alfredo raise his arms above his head, to the side, and do a few pushups. Next, he asked Alfredo to carry all the hazardous medical waste from the examining rooms and throw them in the cardboard-recycling dumpster behind the building. He explained that this would test if Alfredo had regained strength in his arm and shoulder. I waited anxiously for Alfredo to return. When my son came back with a giant smile on his face, I knew he was ok. The doctor smiled for the first time too, proclaiming that Alfredo's growth plate was NOT injured. He said the first x-rays were not well defined and it was probably just a strain all along. He chuckled as he quipped about all the medical mistakes he had made in his own career. He wrote a doctor's note to give Alfredo the clean bill of health and told him he could resume all normal activity immediately. "I can even make ice angels and ski?" asked Alfredo?

"Of course you can, my boy!" the doctor responded. We invited the Beak to go skiing with us the next day, and that's just what we did. My husband and son and the doctor met in the morning, lost the free ski-lift passes that the kids earned for getting As, and then had to pay full price. As Shakespeare said, "All's Well That Ends Well."

P.S. The title of this posting is, "The Icy Day Story Gets Worse." For some reason, as I wrote each word in the title, the computer automatically it to Canadian or some kind of foreign language where they put numbers and musical notes on horizontal lines. Whatever the language, they don't have a translation for the word worse. What a shame. I know I don't have a lot of Canadian readers who will understand what that funny title means, so I will look into changing the titles back to English for the next posting. And might I add that I am very impressed with Google, who has created blog templates that arbitrarily change text to different languages. Visionary!

Feb 8, 2011

The Dis-ICE-terous Snow Day

We got yet another day off work and school due to snow after my last “Snow Day” posting. I took it as a sign that God must have wanted me to write more about snow.

I considered listing the hundreds of words that Eskimos have for “snow,” but as the day unfolded, other events became a more worthy subject for this posting

Anyway, I should clarify that the day was icy, not snowy. That was terrific because it meant my sons were entrapped in the house with me. It was too icy to drive. I was delighted we were all together in the daytime, like when the kids were little, so I did what any mother would do. I made five pounds of meatballs and homemade sauce. I froze about eighty of the meatballs, which we will eat until Y3K. I also overbaked and burned a batch of oatmeal cookies. We bounced a few cookies on the floor to see if they would break. They remained intact, so we ate them. We threw the others in the trash, of course.

The kids ventured outdoors in the afternoon, only to find that the driveway was literally a sheet of ice. They could stand still at the top of our slanted driveway and slide all the way down to the bottom. Trying to get back up to our house kept them busy for 15 minutes, and then trying to get in the house after I locked the front door took another hour and a threat that they would call the cops on me again.

Alfredo, my youngest son, who happens to weigh more than a small bear, went into the backyard where there was a foot of snow so frozen that his weight couldn’t crack it. He tried to make snow angels in the ice laying belly down in the snow (he’s not well versed in snow-angel making) and somehow emerged with a deeply cut palm and hand. There was blood everywhere. It’s embarrassing when your kid gets injured making snow angels. I sent him to his room and told him to think about what he had done.

Meanwhile, I checked on another son who had to ice his thumb because he hurt it bowling two days before. He could barely move the thumb, and he retold his story several times, each time adding more drama and intrigue to the part where he releases the ball improperly. Riveting, yes. Still, I sent him to his room too for incurring another embarrassing injury. It’s bad enough to have the snow-angel injury, but the dropping-a-ball injury was even worse. We told him to "man up" his tale a bit by telling people he was in a knife fight. He spent the rest of the afternoon practicing his story in front of a mirror.

Later in the day, as the sun was setting, the snow-angel son ventured out again, this time to the mailbox at the end of the icy driveway. He slipped and took a hard fall on the ice right by the street, hurting his shoulder and arm quite badly. The poor fellow couldn’t even move it without pain. I became more and more upset as he told me what happened because he was interrupting a wonderful Seinfeld episode, and we missed finding out what the Soup Nazi said to George when George refused to pay for the free bread. I always tell the boys not to interrupt me when I’m watching TV, but the youngest son refuses to mind the rules of our home. Exasperating! I took the ice from the thumb son and gave it to the snow-angel son. Then I threatened the oldest boy not to move the rest of the evening or at least until my husband got home.

When Joe got home, we got to tell him all our adventures over a nice dinner of meatball sandwiches with homemade sauce. We gave the injured boys a couple Advils each and suggested that the uninjured son take a couple Advils as a preventative measure. He began choking as he swallowed it, but a playful slap on the back from the boy with the injured shoulder got that Advil down his throat. And, by the way, taking Advil as preventative medicine really works -- the oldest son remained unscathed the rest of the evening. Then we turned on the TV, and guess what was on? Another channel was playing the Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode. ("No soup for you!") It turned out to be a great ending to another fun day. And, as if life wasn’t terrific enough already, school and work were called off again the next day due to the icy weather! Now that’s what I call a happy ending!

Have a great evening!

Jan 21, 2011

Snow Day Reveals Ugly Side of Oldest Son

We had a day off school today due to snow. Yea! Snow days are the best days in the world. You get to sleep in, eat, then nap and sleep some more.

My favorite part of snow days is having my kids at home. That said, they all made plans (rather quickly) to abandon me and leave me home alone. Now that the kids are older, they are no longer interested in me. I’m not sure why because I think I’m really interesting. I like origami and beavers. Who wouldn’t love to hang out with someone like that?

Many parents feel slighted when their teens would prefer to hang out with their friends rather than the family. I never feel slighted. The emotions I feel are better described as rage or vengefulness. Anyway, it makes no difference to me whether my kids think they are close to me or not. I have access to something all teens like, but few have. Something that strengthens our bond much more strongly that some friendship with another teen. No, it’s not a grasp of the English language. It’s money. I have money.

So if I feel lonely, I can use this money to buy my kids’ company. I recommend young parents get out their notebooks and write down this advice because it’s invaluable.

For example, say your teenager is about to leave the house to go to McDonalds with his friends. You can casually say, “Oh, you’re going out with friends? I was going to take you to The Cheesecake Factory" (that’s a nice restaurant, for those of you who don’t know the place). Now your teen faces a dilemma. Does he want to hang out with his "homies" or with his old mother, who is offering him fine cuisine? If you’ve raised your teen properly from Day One, the child will pick food every time. (If you didn't raise your kid right, stop reading my blog right now and choose another website. Shoo!)

Today I won over my youngest son by taking him to an Indian restaurant. My other kids don’t like Indian food, so I got to have special time with Roberto. (Remember, it is pronounced Robert-Oh, like Jackie O.) He is grateful for any kind of food, so Wendy’s would have worked, but I felt generous.

Sometimes you make horrible mistakes as you are raising your kids. I did this with my first son. I introduced him to expensive foods when he was young. He quickly developed a taste for lobster, crabs, mussels, filet mignon, Crème Brulee. Once you make the mistake of introducing real foods and creating a sophisticated palate, you are just plain screwed (pardon my French). For goodness sakes, younger readers, learn from my mistakes . . . avoid feeding your toddlers expensive foods! You are just creating a monster. There is no turning back, believe me, because when your kid is older, you may be forced to decide to sever the relationship with said child. My oldest son, Hans, is a great person. He's quick-witted, and I just love being around him, but it doesn’t matter. I cut ties with him years ago.

So anyway, when we went to the Indian restaurant for lunch today, the food was horrible. But I didn't care. I had a great time with my youngest son, who is always a delight and very entertaining. Plus they gave us free soda.

Raphael, my middle son, did not join us for lunch. Instead, he left me for his friends. Not a problem. I will find some superficial reason to ground him when he comes home tonight. For example, I might notice that he dropped a napkin on the floor of the car and then I can punish him for littering. Then we’ll be able to spend the whole day together tomorrow.

In case you’re wondering, the oldest son was left to fend for himself at lunch. Again, we wouldn’t be in this situation if he liked cheaper food. It’s his fault, not mine, and I don’t appreciate your accusatory tone. He’s lucky I let him live in our house after what he’s done. Many parents would have thrown him out on the street by now. I’m just kinder than most parents. I like to think of myself as a giver.

Well, I hope you are enjoying this snow day, wherever you are, whether in Maryland, Pennsylvania or New Jersey (like many of my old friends) or in Utah (like all the people I don’t know). I am assuming that everyone in our great nation, except for the Hawaiians, were out of school today due to the snow. I hope you enjoy the rest of your three-day weekend, America.

Your friend, Jackie

By the way, I've been neglectful of notifying people when I publish a new posting. Scroll down to see if you missed other postings in the past. Thanks.

Jan 15, 2011

Has Christmas Gone to the Wolves?

My, my. Another Christmas has passed. What a great holiday, but even the nicest people who keep the Christ in Christmas (me, for example) can easily be sidetracked by running around malls and dumpsters looking for the perfect gifts. Before you know it, advent is almost over and you’ve spent most of December looking for “stuff.”

I’m so against stuff. I wanted no part of it, so we decided to do something different this Christmas. Back to basics, if you will, and it was a doozey. We kept it as a surprise, so the kids had no idea what we had planned. Then Christmas morning came, and while your Average Joe’s kids were running down the steps looking at yet another boring tree surrounded by meaningless stuff, my kids ran down to see a living room filled with . . . . chinchillas.

You should have seen the looks on my three boys’ faces. Their mouths were agape, speechless with excitement. We told them that instead of presents, our family was going to attempt to break the Guinness Book record for the largest number of chinchillas squeezed into a North American, two-story residence. And break the record we did! Chinchillas were pouring out of everywhere – the stockings, the furniture, even the water supply. We posed for a Polaroid picture and sent out for the film to be developed. The kids loved it.

Now something the folks at Guinness Records don’t tell you is that the chinchillas don’t automatically leave after the pictures are taken. This came as a surprise to all of us. Naturally, we rented a manatee, a predator of chinchillas according to Wikipedia, to come scare the chinchillas away.

We told him our problem and left him alone for an hour while we went for a burger. We were horrified when we came home to find that we had it completely mixed up. Manatees are the natural prey of chinchillas. Very embarrassing.

Anyway, we called an exterminator, who asked for $5,000! I was not going to spend another $5,000 after losing my deposit on the manatee (never rent from Home Depot, by the way) and, besides, Christmas is about the thought, not the money, so we had to find a creative solution. We had to find a way to think outside the box, which is something we’re not used to.

Luckily, we remembered that we have a gang problem in our community. A gang of wolves terrorizes the woods behind our house. We lured them in to take care of our chinchilla issue. And take care of it they did, but then another unforeseen problem presented itself. The wolves now occupied the living room, and they didn’t want to leave. They were smelly, messy, and shed too much hair. It was pure chaos. Strangely, our son Hans was like a fish in water amongst those wolves. He connected with them immediately. As he passed out cups of egg nog to each of them, he asked if he could keep them, but I was livid when I saw that none of the wolves were using coasters. That was the last straw!

“For goodness sakes,” I said to Hans, “what would the neighbors say if they saw a pack of wolves in our house?” The fun was over.

After some thinking and a quick vote, we determined that we could strap meat to our son Raphael when he returned from the restroom, and then he could run back into the woods to restore the wolves to their natural habitat. It would be risky because we wanted the steak back. It was a certified Angus Kobe Delmonico, an expensive cut, you know. (The Japanese hand feed and hand massage these cows to create a tender cow. Oh to be a cow in Japan – that’s a better life than I have here in America.)

Anyway, why we sent the kid with ADD to solve this wolf problem is beyond me. As he ran by my neighbor’s house, Raphael saw that SpongeBob was playing on their TV. He never misses an episode. Bam, within seconds he forgot his mission and ran directly into our neighbor’s house. So, sad news, the meat fell off in their living room and we were not able to recover it. The good news is that there is no longer a wolf problem. Raphael trotted home when SpongeBob ended, and that’s how our Christmas adventure ended. We had a quiet dinner and enjoyed the rest of the evening. We avoided the materialism that seems to entrap the massess and realized it was our best Christmas ever. Likewise, I hope your holiday was fun and memorable. Merry Christmas fashionably late.