You’ll Never Guess This Weird Trick

Trend watch:  I am seeing fewer of those ads that use the phrase “weird trick.”  Like, “lose a pound a day with this weird trick!”  I guess people are sick of the old weird trick angle.  Now, the big thing is, “You won’t believe,” or “You’ll never guess,” or “this will blow your mind!”  It’s to get you to watch a video.  Like, “This cat sat on the toilet seat and you won’t believe what happened next!” or, “This poor desperate homeless man started to dance and you’ll never guess what happened next!” or, “This beat-boxing grandma started hip-hop dancing and what the cows in the nearby pasture did next will blow your mind!”

I don’t care what they did!  I don’t care about the cat, or the dancing homeless man, God forgive me — I mean, of course I care about him in the sense of, maybe I can somehow help this homeless person — or the hip-hopping cows.  If the video is that good, just say what happens.  It feels like people are resorting to lures to reel you in.  We’re at the tent circus and P.T. Barnum is advertising the Ancient and Mysterious Wonders of the World:  Lobster Boy, the Three-Legged Man, the Seven Veils Dance, Alligator Girl!

I just did a search of these words “you’ll never guess what happened next,” and got 43,600,000 hits.  Really?  Are we that jaded a society that this is what needs to happen to make us click on something?

I often do click, with a resigned sigh… Oh, good Lord, what is it, I’d better find out.  Tick, tick, tick, there go some seconds of my life, along with some brain cells.  I feel like a sucker.  Just tell me in an unmanipulative way what’s in the video.  Put it right out there.  If the cat flushes the potty, just tell me.  If the cows bob their heads, which is not exactly hip-hop dancing in my mind, but who am I to quibble, just tell me.  Or the grandma, for that matter.  Does she do the splits?  That’s pretty exciting; I’d take two minutes out of my life to see that.  If the homeless man dances and he’s the Gene Kelly or Mikhail Baryshnikov of the soup kitchen, hey, I’d watch that.  If the dog steers the car, just say, “Wow, this dog steers a car!” instead of, “You are literally unable to comprehend what this video is about to show you.” What’s next:  “You’d better be sitting down for this.” or “Somehow fashion a seatbelt for your chair, because this will blow you away!” or “Maybe take some Benadryl to knock the edge off so you can handle what you’re about to see!”  You’ll never guess what I’m about to do… it’s a weird trick I call “not clicking on this.”  You won’t believe what happens next!

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

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The Thrill and the Agony

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday, I was riding on a tide of victory.  Molly and I won a ribbon in our very first Rally Obedience trial!  This victory was particularly satisfying because in the last thing we attempted, the Canine Good Citizen test, we bombed.   In that test, if you fail one of ten things, you fail the whole test, and Molly, then a one-year-old Lab, was incapable of “meeting an unknown dog” without wanting to play.  But she had been doing so well lately.

When we first started going to puppy classes, I used to have to put on the brakes by holding onto buildings and light poles as I unwillingly raced to our downtown class and Molly, who absolutely loves going to school, wanted to get there as quickly as possible.  Really, I would reach out and grab fixed objects just to slow us down a bit.  Everybody thought she was insane.  She even pulled one of the rings off the wall of the obedience studio, to which her leash was tethered, when someone called another dog with a similar-sounding name.

But lately, I haven’t even needed the Easy Walk harness, which at one time meant we could walk down the street like a normal person and dog without having people look at us either with sympathy or contempt.  In class, she not only aced every challenge, but really seemed to like it.  She is one of those dogs who needs to work, who likes having a mission.  She gets what we’re doing in there, and it’s thrilling to see her in action.

Yesterday, we knew the sweet taste of redemption.  A bad citizen no more, Molly qualified!  You have to achieve a score of 70 out of 100, and she got an 80!  She would have gotten a 90 if she had done a “down” when I asked her to, but that’s okay.  We passed!  Even better, the five dogs who competed from our school, the Whiskers Barkery in Prescott, Az., all qualified!  We all got green ribbons!  It was the best.  We laughed and celebrated, and took pictures of our dogs and our ribbons.  Today, I don’t know what happened.  Three of us failed.  Not only failed, we got the score of “NQ,” for “not qualified.”  We didn’t even achieve an actual numerical score.

It was hot, and I guess the dogs were just fried.  Molly and I, especially, were a train wreck.  From the minute we walked into the ring, she ignored me.  No craps were given, as my son, Andy, would say.  “Molly!”  “Molly!”  I kept trying to get her attention as we moved from sign to sign, hating the noise of my own voice as I sounded like an increasingly desperate parrot.  She kept wandering off, and I hesitated to pull her back because I didn’t want to get a “TL” deduction (tight leash, which I didn’t know was a fault until yesterday, when we got marked down for it).  I couldn’t get mad at her, either, because she would just shut down even more, so I had to keep sounding perky even as we baked in the sun and this judge kept writing down all the various ways in which we sucked.  It was a nightmare.  We were the Titanic.  We were the Hindenburg.  We simultaneously sank and went down in flames.  Country and Western!  If she’d had a middle finger, she would have extended it in my direction.  If she’d had an opposable thumb, she would have thumbed her cold, wet nose at me.  At one point, she wandered off to sniff a dandelion!  She was Ferdinand the bull, smelling the flowers!

Of course, I took it personally.  “Molly doesn’t love me anymore.”  But my family was awesome, as always.  Blair sent me encouraging texts before and after the event from college.  Andy, Josh, and Mark came out to support me.  Mark got up early and went to Wal-Mart to get me Mexican Cokes, the only Cokes, as far as I’m concerned, because they come in glass bottles and are made with cane sugar.  He also got water bottles and ice for the cooler, and so we had cold drinks, which were heavenly.  Our friends in the class were great, too.  As we had won together yesterday, we failed together today, and I think I can speak for all of us that, even though we failed, we wanted our classmates to succeed.  One for all, as they say.

When we got home, I took to my bed, so down on myself.  Andy and Josh whipped up chocolate chip cookies from some dough we had in the refrigerator, and brought them to me with a glass of milk.   How could I stay in bed after that? And Molly… as soon as we got home, she was her old self, following me around everywhere, responsive as ever.   Our wonderful trainer, Kathy Morris, said that she refused to be discouraged because yesterday, we were all winners.  She believes in us and we believe in our dogs.  Our hearts will go on.  Celine Dion should sing a song about it.  By the way, Molly is one of two Mollys in the class.  There’s Molly White, a Bichon Frise, and our Molly is Molly Brown, the Chocolate Lab.  Well, who’s unsinkable?  Molly Brown! And if we mess up again, maybe the boys will make some more cookies.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

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Late for School

Josh was late for school today.  This is only the second time this year, so that’s really good for us.  Usually he gets there with as many as one to three minutes to spare.  I hate being late.  And yet, I am often late.  Something always happens.  For one thing, the act of picking up my car keys seems to activate Josh’s colon, so there’s that.  “Why didn’t you go when I asked?”  “I didn’t have to go then!”  “You make me crazy.”  “I can’t when you already are.”  “Hurry up!”  “Start the car, I’ll be right there!”  Once there were cute, happy snails right behind the car and we had to move them.

But it’s usually okay, because I have the Mom Mobile, and I know how to use it.  It’s a 2004 Toyota Sienna.  I’ve put 200,000 miles on it.  If you are ever driving before 8 am and you see a woman in a minivan with hand prints and/or dog prints on the windows and a school sticker on the bumper, and that woman looks as grim and determined as John Wayne in “True Grit,” holding the reins in his teeth and firing a rifle with the other, here’s some advice:  Get out of the way.  Every morning in America, millions of minivans and SUVs rocket toward schools.  Maybe the kid, like Josh, is putting on his socks and shoes in there.  Maybe the mom, like me, is quizzing her kid on geography or spelling, eyes never leaving the road.  When Blair and Andy were in high school, many’s the time I would sign some form that needed a parent (forging Mark’s name if it needed both), or scrawl an excuse for the tardy slip while Blair held the wheel.  My kids have all come up through the ranks as co-pilots.  “Andy, I need my sunglasses.”  Andy whips out the case, holds it at just the perfect height, while I take off my glasses and make the switch.  “Shades deployed,” he will report.  Co-pilots know that when Mommy goes to the ATM, it’s their job to get the card out, be prepared to take the receipt and cash and put them in my wallet, and zip the purse.  When we’re at the drive-through, they have the correct change ready by the time we get to the window.

So, our ride to Mile High Middle School goes something like this:  Shades deployed.  Hold on tight as we go over the major potholes in our driveway (I have an estimate from a paving company ready to sign, but first we need to fix the roof).  Go as fast as reasonably possible on our dirt road, speed up when we hit the street, have our morning prayer for the family said by the time we get to the stop sign, so I can make that big left onto Williamson Valley Road, a four-lane feeder that will get me toward town.  Speed up around the curves where the traffic cops don’t hide, slow down where they have been known to lurk.  Thread the needle between someone in the turn lane and someone in the right lane.  I’m coming up on the elementary school, which has its own crazed moms and road-clogging minivans clogging the left lane.   Left on Iron Springs, where I can usually zip through traffic like Sandra Bullock driving the bus in “Speed.”  There are a lot of oldsters in Prescott, pleasant retirees — around 8 am is middle of the morning for many — heading to the grocery store, not a care in the world, moseying along and enjoying life.  Meanwhile, I’ve escalated to Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” status, my Defcon 3, except I’m not driving through San Francisco, and instead of the zippy jazz soundtrack, I’ve either got classical music, calming smooth jazz, or if it’s really stressful, the spa channel on satellite radio going.  Also, we’re buckled up.

“Josh, check the time.”  Josh, a good co-pilot, knows this does not mean the car’s clock, which I keep 14 minutes fast as a buffer from life, but the accurate one on my phone.   Molly the Lab, taking up the whole back seat, is oblivious.  She’s biding her time waiting for the much slower drive home, when I roll down the window and she gets to stick her head out.  (Stanley, our Cocker Spaniel rescue, doesn’t really like the car and stays at home.  His choice, he’s always welcome to go, and we always ask.)

Next week, major milestone,  I am getting a new car.  Well, new to me.  It’s a 2007 Honda Pilot, with only 75,000 miles on it.  It is very clean.  It does not smell like chicken nuggets, or fries, or spilled soda.  There is no dog hair.  No empty water bottles rattling around.  No hand sanitizer or Starbucks napkins in the glove compartment (fun fact: Starbucks napkins are really soft and great for nose-blowing if there’s no Kleenex).   It has never hauled members of Blair’s varsity girl’s soccer team or Andy’s cross-country team, never had Josh’s smelly hockey bag left there in the hot sun.  That’s okay.  We’ll break it in.   It’s going to be a great Mom Mobile II.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

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Survival Mode

I just vacuumed my kitchen table.  Don’t judge me.  I was vacuuming the wooden floor, using the attachment, and I noticed some crumbs on the table.  Then I went ahead and vacuumed the countertops.  They look pretty good.  I’m tired, I’m in a hurry, I have more work to do this morning than I can possibly get done, so I’m doing what I can do.  I haven’t taken my shower yet but I’m wearing workout clothes, which I hope makes it somewhat more acceptable that I look like crap.  I’m in Survival Mode.

Survival Mode is when you just do what you have to do.  You wake up and hit the ground running.  I get up at my customary 6:30, awakened as always by Molly putting her big Lab head by my pillow.  Let out the dogs, feed the dogs, empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, give Josh a 30-minute snooze alarm, empty the dryer, load the dryer, load the washer, check on Andy, who is a freshman in college but living at home, to make sure he’s got his alarm set, exchange multiple texts with Blair, our daughter who is at college in Tucson.  7:00, start fixing Josh’s lunch for school, give him one last snooze, fix his breakfast, get Mark’s lunch ready and find a dishwasher-safe travel mug.  I hide the ones you have to hand-wash.

Josh and I were up late last night doing his homework.  He has just started middle school.  I know every grade, because I obsessively check the school’s website.  They had a video on insects in science, and Josh was supposed to take 25 notes.  He took 11, and got an F.  I just realized that he might be able to pull up the grade by fixing the paper and turning it in again.   The problem is, he didn’t remember the video anymore.

“What was on it?”  “Insects.”  I Googled and found numerous possible videos, hoping we could just watch it again, struck out totally.  So I started asking about bugs.  Were there ants?  Yes.  Can you remember anything they said about ants?  Leaf cutter ants can hurt a forest.  Okay, let’s make a sentence about that.  Moths?  No.  Butterflies?  No.  Termites?  Yes, the soldier ones have big heads.  Also, the queen lays thousands of eggs a day.  We couldn’t find out how many, but we found a sentence in a BBC story online that said the queen lays an egg every three seconds.  Somehow we figured out a daily number of eggs that this equals.  Cockroaches?  Yes, they can make your food bad.  So can weevils.  Locusts?  Yes.  Bees?  Check.

Butterflies?  You just asked me that.  I’m sorry, I’m tired.  By now we were at about 8:30, I had gone to the grocery store, taken Mark’s shirts to the cleaners, picked up Josh at school, picked up our farm share and made kohlrabi pickles, sautéed the kohlrabi leaves, candied some carrots, and then balanced all that healthiness out with sloppy Joes and Tater Tots.  Mailed the signed form required for the roof people to fix our chimney cap, which leaked in the big storm we had this week.  Wrote two stories for one of the five publications I’m simultaneously writing for.  Wasps?  No.  There was some bug that lives in the water.  Water strider?  No.  Get back on Google.  Water boatman.  Okay, what do they do?  I can’t remember.  Butterflies?  Yes.  Really?  Yes, the Monarch butterfly has a long tongue.  Thank God!

We finally got to 19 facts.  If the teacher accepts them all, that will be 76 percent, which is better than 44 percent.  Josh has A’s in everything else,  except for this one bad grade, so I hope we can get this resolved and get on with our lives.  Tonight we have choir at church at 6 and hockey across town at 7, so Mark will come and get Josh at choir at 6:30 and take him to hockey, then I will leave choir and spell Mark at hockey until it’s over at 8:30, hoping to God that Josh will already be done with his homework.  Also I signed up to bring a fruit plate to school tomorrow.  I have no fruit.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

Fresh-Ground Pepper

“Would you like fresh-ground pepper?”  Why do waiters act like they’re bestowing God’s gift upon you when they ask that question?  “Oh, yes,” I always say with what I hope is the proper amount of appreciativeness.  Gosh, if only I had one of those thingamajigs at home – oh, wait, I do!  I think got it at Wal-Mart.  Then, if they do it for more than two seconds, I feel greedy and also guilty for making the waitstaff grind pepper when I’m perfectly capable of grinding my own pepper.  Also, don’t want to take more than my fair share of the fresh-ground pepper.  It’s the days of the Silk Road and some poor camel carried this, along with cardamom, maybe some ginger and turmeric, through the Indian subcontinent to get it here to this mid-priced restaurant.  Geez.

Also:  there’s salt and pepper already on the table, in plain old shakers.  Why is there pepper?  Does this mean that the pepper in the grinder is the good stuff, and if we don’t avail ourselves of it, our only recourse is to use the crap pepper on the table?  Is anyone else ever reminded of the old skit from Saturday Night Live, where Dana Carvey is the pepper-grinding waiter?  “Grinda-the pepper!”   I wonder if this personal, table-to-table pepper-grinding service phenomenon is universal, or just an American thing?   What if — hold on, here’s a radical idea — what if they put a pepper grinder on every table?  Would there be rampant theft?  “I’m takin’ this baby home!  Hoo-wee, one of them grinders like the genuine French people have!”  Would patrons feel aggrieved, like, “I’m paying six bucks for a glass of wine AND I have to grind my own pepper?”  With great power comes great responsibility.  Maybe we can’t be trusted with it.  We are still a young country.

In honor of pepper grinders and those who wield them, I’ve made a couple haikus.  You may feel moved to write one, also.  Please send it in and I’ll post it.

 

Freshly ground pepper

Not the crap in the shaker

Classes up my food.

 

 

Fresh pepper for you?

Only the best for you, ma’am.

Like our cloth napkins.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.