Wednesday, September 29, 2004

House Rules

My Maternal Grandmother, you remember the prankster, raised 6 children. My Mom and her 3 brothers and 2 sisters, of course there was a Grandfather involved too. He just wasn't amusing. A wise man and quite loving but not fun. Sorry Gramps. Save room for me in heaven, okay? They were raised in an era where it was a luxury to have a refrigerator. Can you imagine being without one? Are we a spoiled generation or what? There I go digressing again, ahem.

My Granny was a stickler about her house rules. They weren't all that cumbersome, basic courtesies really. One of her pet peeves was to reach into the fridge and pull out an empty water pitcher. Every morning at breakfast she would remind everyone to fill the water pitcher. She would even go so far as to demonstrate how easy the task was; I can see my Aunts and Uncles rolling their eyes. I knew I came by that honestly.

Without fail every morning when Granny went to drink her first tall, cold glass of water of the day, you guessed it, empty. Not a drop. She would ask at breakfast for the culprit to come forth and as expected silence. She decided to take matters into her own hands. She conducted her research and found that the pitcher was always full to the brim right before she went to bed and empty in the morning. It had to be one of the sons.

She waited for each of her sons to come home that night. My middle Uncle came home around 2 am after being out with his friends drinking. He would stumble into the kitchen, grab the water pitcher, prop himself up on the refrigerator door, drain the contents and place/toss it back in and shut the door. He'd then stagger into his bedroom and fall asleep. Satisfied with her research, Granny formulated her plan and went off to bed. After refilling the pitcher of course.

The following night Granny set and her trap and waited for her son to get home. Sure enough, he came in went straight to the kitchen and reached for the cold water to quench his drunken thirst. Halfway through the pitcher he realized that he was drinking salted water. With a mouthful of water he turned toward the giggling. There was Granny sitting in the dark kitchen watching her prey.

The pitcher was full from that moment on.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Childhood Events that Shape Personality

Kids can be very mean to each other. Downright ugly at times. I listen to the trials and tribulations that my 9 year old niece goes through with her peers. I have found that the degree of meanness hasn’t changed much it just appears in different forms or with different vocabulary. Let’s face it, kids today are way smarter than the ones of my generation. She asked me if I had any real altercations at her age. I figured while I had it all fresh in my memory I would share it here as well.

My parents raised us to be non-confrontational. The general rule was try to ignore it and they will stop and pick on someone else. If all else fails defend yourself. I was either 9 or 10 had a decent circle of friends from the apartment complex we were living in. We all hung out with each other, rode the bus to and from school together. One day while riding the bus home one of my “friends” decided she was bored and started to pull single strands of hair from my braided pigtails. She was seated behind me on the bus with another girl as her support. The first couple of times, although it was painful, I ignored it. She then began pulling 2 or more strands at a time and it was not only painful but also degrading as the remainder of the bus behind me was now in on the game. Still trying to adhere to the rules set forth by my folks, I decided to get off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way. To my dismay so did Gabby and her friend. I started walking briskly towards our development and Gabby decided to further taunt me by poking me in the rear with part of a long tree branch.

That was my breaking point. On her second pass, I whipped around and grabbed the tree branch and pulled it toward me. It happened so fast that she did not let go of the branch and we ended up nose to nose. I am not sure who was more shocked by this. She dropped her end of the branch and swiftly turned on her heel and began walking away quickly. My instinct was to grab her pony tail and yank with all my might. The force knocked her to the ground. When I let go of her hair I had a hefty handful of her locks. She was stunned, sitting on the ground motionless. Her friend took off running. I calmly shook her hair off my hands and returned to my path towards home. No emotions, no words spoken. I got home, received my regular greeting from my Mom and then I broke down. I don’t think I have ever cried that hard up to that moment.

It is of note that Gabby decided to not pick on me ever again. We remained friends until her family moved away 2 years later. In fact I guess when she got home and told her Mom what had happened, they both came over to apologize. No apology was expected of me but of course I did as well.

To this day, I am not one to fly off the handle. My breaking point remains very high. Once it is broken, watch out.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Avogadro’s Number

My freshman year in college my older sister decided to make a career change. She had already obtained an undergrad degree and needed to go back and receive some Chemistry and Biology credits to fulfill the requirements for her new venture. She and I ended up in 2 classes together. For me it was a source of much comfort and lots of laughs. As a side note, it is of interest to know that my folks decided to have a child once every eight years. (Another post for another day)

Our Chemistry professor was too intelligent to teach general chemistry. I am not sure why he was assigned that task. Seriously, it was the universal opinion of most of the 400 students. To make matters worse my sister was not into the math side of chemistry. She excelled in the Biology classes; she is an intelligent woman. Some people just can't wrap their brain around math. In her case, specifically Avogadro's number. It is and might remain the bane of her existence.

I cannot count the number of hours we spent going over the use and significance of that number. We had innumerable tutoring sessions with our TA (teaching assistant). Basically, if the pressure was off then she had no trouble working the formula into an equation. However, throw her into quiz or exam mode and she lost all confidence.

I will never forget the first exam we had in the lecture hall. 400 plus students strategically seated to avoid the chance of cheating. The exam was 15 pages in length. Anyone else remember having a 15-page general chemistry exam? Everyone is furiously trying to complete the test. The only sounds heard in the lecture hall were the turning of the exam pages and the quiet shuffling of the Proctor's feet. Well until my sister gets to the ever-present Avogadro's number section. Every 10 seconds or so you would hear a deep, heavy sigh. At one point I thought she might be hyperventilating. I was doing my best to concentrate but the sighing was getting deeper and louder. She worked herself into frenzy. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as she tried to take a quick break by wiping her glasses. Then I heard an “OH NO!” Poor thing, there she was frustrated to the max and she now had one of the lenses of her glasses in her hand. In her frantic pace she knocked the lens right out of the frame. She was panicking. One of the Proctors rushed over to see what the problem was, luckily it was our TA. Each time my sister would try to put the lens back in the frame it would pop right out. I was afraid she was going to break the frame entirely. The TA asked if she could help and my sister pleaded with her to let me fix the spectacles. Since Chemistry class, I had become an expert in fixing them. I did pop the lens back into place and told her to stop fooling with her glasses.

I know that my sister had to repeat that class once maybe more, it has been a long time since then. Thankfully she eventually received enough credits to get into her graduate program. In the past 20 years, I have watched my sister attain most of the goals she set out for herself and maybe a few she didn't have mapped out. I am very impressed by her in so many ways. She is highly regarded in her profession. She should be, she has worked damn hard for it. She is the Mom of a fantastic 9-year-old girl. Well, truth be told if it weren't for the set of my genes my niece inherited she would have turned out differently. HA! None the less, my sister is a great Mom. She is probably one of the mentally strongest people I know. There have been many family crises she has been at the helm for, a couple due to my stupidity. I don't think she will ever be able to stay at another southern Day's Inn ever. (Sorry gang, don't think I will ever post about that one - never say never...) I am awed at the evolution of our relationship. I don't know what I'd do without it. I hope I don't have to find out.

I want to take this time to wish my sister a very happy 50th birthday!! Your furry nephew wants you to know that he doesn't sense that “old person” smell yet -I am sure you were worried about it. My wish for you is to never ever encounter another speed bump named Avo-freakin-gadro.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

So Very Difficult

We are having the perfect Indian summer. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to sit at work, look out at the gorgeous weather and not come up with a good excuse to leave.

I just came back from my boss’ office, it seems she is trying real hard not to come down with the vapors. Bummer, there goes my excuse.

At least I have windows. How is it in your corner of the world?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Pickles that Wiggle

This is the latest of football season Visa commercials. A husband and wife team at the local eatery while watching their favorite football team play. The couple tells us that they order a steak and cheese each week. They found that during one game when they wiggled their pickles their team either scored some points or made a good play. So now it is their good luck charm.

I can say that it might be the dumbest of all commercials. Surely the good people at Visa have more talented advertising marketers than that. Maybe not.

Maybe I am miffed that my team did very poorly... At least we won our season opener. Welcome back Joe!!!

Stupid Question

I visited the principal's office often during my elementary school education. Looking back, I have decided that I was most likely bored which lead to me talking too much or otherwise misbehaving. I wasn't hyper, in fact that is not a word that would be used to describe me at any stage of my life. My assessment is that I wasn't intellectually stimulated enough. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

In the third grade, we had just spent the better part of an hour learning all about Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims, the Indians and the fact that it's an American Holiday. We were discussing the lesson afterward when one of my classmates decided to ask me what my family and I ate at Thanksgiving. Being of ethnic heritage and keeping in mind that we had JUST finished learning the reason behind Thanksgiving, I was bothered by the question. So I told Tommie that we ate people.

Instant trip to the Principal's office, do not pass go. My Father was summoned and we had a little meeting. The Principal asked me to relate the story and I did. Both my Father and the Principal could barely hold in their laughter when I got to the punch line. I admitted to being a smart-ass but I also wanted to know why Tommie wasn't being punished for obviously not paying attention in class.

When Dad and I left the Principal’s office, I was happy to see Tommie and his Mom waiting their turn.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Too Close for Comfort

I used to live in Kentucky as a kid and we lived through 2 tornados then. However, for some reason the one that just passed 1/2 a mile from my house was just too close for comfort.

I did check, I am not in Kansas.

Have a safe weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Aint Worth a Flyin Flip

That pretty much describes the day I had.

I am off to drink heavily....


Monday, September 13, 2004

C'est la Vie

As you may have gathered, I was a bit of a troublemaker while in school. Nothing major really but I did spend some time standing in the corner in elementary school, wearing my chewing gum on my nose in the 7th grade; you all got in trouble like that too, right?

My high school French teacher was a trip without luggage. Quite an energetic man with a passion for the French language. Too bad none of his students shared that passion. What we did share was having much fun usually at his expense. We were reading Les Miserables and each time the story mentioned a city; Monsieur would bounce over to the map and give us a brief history of that town. It made him happy and we all tried to be interested.

I walked into French class and was asked by my peers to make sure that I asked Monsieur to point out the first city we came across while reading that day. Seemed harmless enough so I agreed. Sure enough we got to a city and I asked him to show us the location on the map. He was elated that I asked before he volunteered to do. So much in fact that he began giving me a brief synopsis of the town while he pulled down the map. He was facing me the whole time, his back to the map. Once the map was visible, I realized my fate. You see it was the general consensus that Monsieur was gay. Nothing wrong with that but we were teens ready and willing to pick on anyone. My peers had taped a Playgirl centerfold onto the map. When Monsieur turned to face the map he was mortified. He snapped the map back up and then for a split second brought the map down again. He turned to me and ordered me to the Principal’s office.

I honestly was not at fault that time. Try explaining that to the Principal. C’est la Vie.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Whine Fest and Mornings, Mix with Caution

I would like to share a story I am not proud of at all. Not even sure why really. Maybe because the scenario popped into my head following a particularly trying day at wok. Funny how memories get triggered.

Back to rural NC where I am running 5 medical practices. Each clinic had a different preference as to when we would conduct our staff meetings. This particular group enjoyed breakfast whining, I mean meetings. With leadership comes many responsibilities. You know like making sure that they have frosted freakin cinnamon buns and poppy seed bagels and let’s not forget the hazelnut creamer for their caffeine fix. Yes, we had a few Yankee transplants. So where do I find myself at 6:00 am? You guessed it, the local grocery store.

I knew I was headed for a particularly trying meeting, my mood was not great. Did I mention that I had yet to get my caffeine fix that morning? Sad, but true. There I am at the local chain on a mission. Thankfully, the only other patron in the store is a very pleasant elderly man who is having more fun than one person is entitled to in a grocery store. Happy to be alive at 6:00 am, you know the type. I am in the baked good section, my cart strategically parked so that I can grab what I need, toss it over my shoulder and be on my way. On my second blind pass at the bagels, instead of grabbing a package I capture a wrist. I turn to see Mr. Happy smiling and telling me that he believes I have his bagels.

I snapped it really was not pretty. I don’t even have a justifiable excuse. I was wrong. I admit it. I let go of the package of bagels we were sharing and threw 4 more packages in his cart. He was stunned, gone was the smile. I may have even bumped his cart out of my way in my haste to get out of there and onto my meeting.

Fast forward to our staff meeting. Twelve of us intent on solving the clinic’s problems in between juice, buns, bagels and caffeine. We were right in the middle of critical negotiations regarding what height the Sharps container should be on the wall when there was a loud pounding on the clinic’s door. We opened the door to find a woman exclaiming that her husband was having a heart attack. I panicked. Could it be Mr. Happy? I could not get out to see the patient quick enough. Mercifully, it was not Mr. Happy. I have never been so relieved in all my life.

We were able to stabilize the patient till EMS got there to transport him to the hospital. We were able to agree on the height of the Sharps container. We further established that we would use a red post-it flag for any item needing signatures in charts. We managed to squeak out of our budget a subscription to People magazine for our patients. The cost? No more hazel nut creamer.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Hey Batter, Batter

My parents have been happily married for 50 almost 51 years. Part of the secret to their success is their ability to bicker and forget. This is the way they get along. It is rare that they hold grudges towards each other. They are both equally intelligent; watching their mental sparring matches can be both amusing and frustrating. It really depends on the topic of discourse.

One evening, back when I was a teen, we had finished dinner and were going about our normal evening routine. True to form Mom and Dad were debating something, I wish I could remember the subject matter. In any case, my Mom was seated in her chair in the family room and Dad was pacing back and forth in front of her. My Father made his point and to extra drama he play acted kicking dirt onto home plate and walked calmly away. I was also in the family room reading.

When he was out of ear shot my Mother told me that she thought my Father had finally lost it. I, also true to form, was giggling. Mom, not being the baseball fan, asked me what that demonstration was? I explained to her what Dad was acting out as well what the reciprocal action should be. She gave no reaction and continued watching TV.

Dad returned an hour or so later. Mom cleverly brought the subject matter back to discussion. Dad fell for it and repeated his performance complete with dirt kicking. Mom then sprang to her feet, whipped out her imaginary mini broom, swept off home plate and sat back down.

That Christmas I bought them the Abbott and Costello “Whose on First?” video....

Friday, September 03, 2004

Bus Left

When I lived in rural NC, I worked for a newly formed medical corporation. I was responsible for running 5 medical facilities. I had a combined staff of 60 with 32 providers. Because of the way the corporation swooped in there were some growing pains. As an outsider, I did my best to keep everyone comfortable with all the ensuing changes. As we all know, nobody likes change.

For the most part, when taking on a new responsibility, I like to sit back and see how it runs and do some minor tweaking here and there as warranted. There are certain nuances you just don’t want to muck around with – “if it aint broke don't fix it.”

I run into one of the Docs one morning and he is fuming. It seems his nurse is not showing up on time and he is tired of it. Seems rather basic, I did notice that she strolled in at her leisure but he did not appear to mind. Obviously assuming gets me into trouble each time.

Here then is the exchange between the nurse and myself:

WH: "It seems we have a problem with you arriving to work on time. What seems to be the trouble?"

LPN: "Well you wouldn't understand, you don't have children."

WH: "Try me."

LPN: "Well, you see my child is bus left."

WH: "Excuse me?"

LPN: "Bus left. I am late because I need to drive him to school."

WH: "Bus Left? So let me understand, your child is at the bus stop each morning on time and the bus passes him by?"

LPN: "No he isn't, therefore he is bus left."

WH: "In that case your child would be missing the bus. Bus left implies that he is standing there and the bus leaves him behind."

LPN: "Here we call it bus left. I told you, you wouldn't understand."

WH: "Let me try to put this in terms that you and I will both understand, shall we? Starting tomorrow, you need to get here on time. Otherwise you will be JOB LEFT. Are we clear?"

LPN: "Yes Ma’am."

I love a happy ending!!