Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Christmas Letter - Better Late than Never

January 2, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m sorry this here letter is so late. Things have been a little tight and I thought I’d wait till stamps went on sale the day after Christmas just like those boxes of cards I used to send, but that didn’t work out so good. Our government might be in the business of handing out money to every foreign country begging for a billion or so, but when it comes to helping one of our own to keep in contact with loved ones, like Marvin, Sr. said, Uncle Same don’t give a damn.

Truth be told, I couldn’t have gotten the cards out before Christmas. The doc changed my medication to one of those generic ones and I got such a case of dry mouth that I couldn’t have licked all those envelopes anyway. I did manage to smooth out the plaster in the bathroom that’d been driving me crazy. But that’s enough for now about me and my problems.

Our little grandson Everett had a 2010 to remember. He’s made a name for himself at Mutton Grove Elementary. Everett’s moved up to one of those classes for kids with special abilities. It wasn’t but two weeks after school started that his teacher suggested it. Seems that little Everett knows a little about what the firemen called subtaneous combustion. And that kid’s only in the second grade. Marvin, Sr. and I are thinking he’s got a bright future ahead of him. Just maybe he’ll be the one to come up with something to make life better. Marvin, Sr. is hoping it’s a shot to prevent foot fungus. We’ll just have to wait and see.

I’m sorry to say this year hasn’t been as kind to his sister Mary Lula. All those state budget cuts have put an end to her college days. And after she’d worked her way up to head fryer, too. Anyone who’s met our Mary Lula knows that girl’s always been a giver. Always thinking about the other guy. So it won’t come as any surprise that our granddaughter is going into the medical field. Mary Lula is training to be a massage therapist at the Feel-Good Parlor downtown. Lots of hands on experience she says. She’s working to build up her own customer list. Some of them must be in pretty bad shape and get sick real easy. Lucky for her, she’s got a great boss who pays for the medications she needs to fight off any germs those poor souls she tends to might spread.

For those of you who might have heard that nasty rumor going around after Marvin, Jr.’s picture was in the paper in that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell protest this fall, I want to say it was all a BIG misunderstanding. We didn’t get cards from a number of you and I think this is probably the reason.

Let me start of by saying, Marvin, Jr. has been home for a year now and he’s getting used to civilian life again. It hasn’t been easy, but with the Lord’s help, lots of love, and a good parole officer anything is possible.

If you heard that Marvin, Jr. disappeared the night before the protest, that would be factual. We couldn’t find him anywhere. Our first thought was aliens got him, but then Jerry Springer did that show about crazy things people do when they have post automatic stress syndrome and we were nearly out of our minds with worry. Then we saw him on the 6 o’clock news. We were relieved for a minute, but when we saw those perverts he was with, I’ll have you know I was sick to my stomach and my heart nearly broke in two. Marvin was furious and wrote Jr. right out of the will.

But what you may not have heard was that Marvin, Jr. was a victim of the media. Like so many other upstanding citizens. Marvin, Sr. says, that damned first amendment should have some limits set. Anyway, seems there was a convenience store hold up and just because Marvin, Jr. had that one little incident before, and a gun was involved, they took him in. A case of profiling if ever there was one. The storeowner didn’t pick Marvin, Jr. out of the lineup, so they let him go. Eventually. But first they asked him a slew of questions about his past. Kept him there all night. On his way home, Marvin saw those Don’t Ask Don’t Tell buttons. With all he’d been through, he thought it was a good idea and joined in. That should have been the end of the story, but did the media report that Marvin, Jr. was suckered in? No, they did not. We asked them to come interview Marvin, Jr. and let him tell his side of the story. He is a convicted felon not a homosexual. No word from them thus far. We’ve forced to spread the word ourselves.

Also, any reports that we’re moving are false too. There’s no way we’d leave our double wide with only ten more years to go until it’s all ours.

On to some good news. Albert’s made us grandparents again. Twins! A boy and a girl. I’ll send pictures when the impetigo clears up. There were some tense moments though. Albert’s girlfriend Joleen, was also dating a football player and a bartender. Marvin, Sr. told Albert to demand a paternity test. Our Albert is a stubborn one. He saw what a nervous wreck his brother was last year going through the same thing. So Albert told Joleen to get herself a maternity test. We didn’t want to get too cozy with the babies until we got the results. And guess what? They’re both hers! Christmas is going to so much fun those two little ones crawling around. The boy has a hankering for tinsel. Changing his diaper is a Christmas delight. Marvin, Sr. snapped a photo or two of the output. I’ll send that along too.

Karen Sue and her new husband Irving are getting along just fine. Karen Sue is working at K-Mart and loves making the blue light sales announcements. I’ll tell you, the girl’s found her calling. Can that girl sell! One day I came home with a dozen tubes of denture cream and my teeth are real. Irving is working at their Church. He met Pastor Hobart at one of those 12-step programs and those two hit it off right away. Karen Sue told us there’s no truth to the story making the rounds that money’s missing from the collection plate. Those new leather boots of Irving’s were a gift from a member of the congregation.

Marvin is worried about processed foods. Big company food companies raise so many of the chickens and cows in horrible conditions. They give them drugs and antibiotics too. Marvin said his granddaddy took lots of penicillin when he got back from the war and that man was the closest thing to crazy he ever knew. Marvin, Sr. is pretty sure we’re going to have ourselves a big food shortage once folks realize all this, so he’s building a squirrel preserve on our back two acres. I think preserve is a strange name given he plans to eat the critters. But Marvin says I make strawberry preserves and we eat those, so I guess he’s got a point. Bet you all can’t wait to see what we bring to the next covered dish.

An update on my mother. She did not have a stroke as we feared. She was at Senior Citizens playing Bingo and her speech got all slurry, her eyes crossed, she said she thought she was in Never Never Land. They rushed her to the hospital and we met the ambulance there. Who would have thought that nice old gentleman playing the four cards next to her would slip her a date rape drug?

That’s all the news from the Marvin Slangby family.

Happy New Year!
Elvira Slangby

P.S. We missed you all at the New Year’s Day reunion. We drove all the way to Earl Bob’s place, but I guess we had the wrong time, being that everyone was gone when we got there. I’m making up the 2011 calendar, so far I’ve got all of Marvin’s proctologist appointments penciled in. Let me know as soon as the next date is set. I’ll mark the date with a big X.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Pound (or so) of Flesh

I have gained some weight over the past few years.

“Menopause does that,” my family doctor states as a fact. My gynecologist agrees. As do my jeans.

I find the link between menopause and weight gain hard to believe. Given the hot flashes I experienced, how a fat cell could survive such heat is beyond me. As proof, just put a half-pound of bacon in a skillet, set the burner on high, and forget about it for say thirty-five minutes or so as you munch on a Hershey bar and read the paper. I guarantee you there won’t be a bit of fat left in that pan. The assistant fire chief will back me up on this one.

Members of my team of physicians both insist that my reasoning is flawed. While I disagree with them, I can’t deny that something has indeed gone awry. While the weight listed on my driver’s license and the number the digital scale flashes have never been exactly the same, the gap is expanding, and I need to reverse the trend. My health care providers say that exercise is the way to go.

I’m weighing (pun intended) my options. I could exercise at home. We have a stationary bike and treadmill in the basement. Surely dusting them off would burn up a calorie or two. I’ve never been a fan of either device. I have a rather short attention span and find them both boring. No matter how fast I pedal or how fast I walk, I’m always in the same place, doing the same thing. It reminds me a lot of my stay-at-home mom days with three kids under the age of four.

I could join a fitness club. But the very name suggests one is fit, and I don’t think at this point I qualify. Nor do I want to work out with a bunch of skinny people smugly lifting weights and running miles and miles on treadmills. I'm sure they do this without breaking a sweat, while I have recently switched to a clinical strength antiperspirant to keep me dry on trips up and down our stairs at home. If I can find an unfitness club, I might consider it. But as far as I can tell, no such establishment exists.

I considered those combination dance-exercise sessions like Cheryl Burke of Dancing With The Stars advertises. Those women wear tiny leotards and have so much fun, all the while smiling to beat the band. One two cha-cha-cha! But again, those gals are thin as string beans and have feet that naturally move in patterns consistent with dance steps. I, on the other hand, have left my string bean days behind and am headed into the era of the squash. My feet tread as gracefully as Gerald Ford’s once did. In addition, I’m not sure what effect the new health care reform bill has on my current accidental death or dismemberment supplemental insurance policy. Until I read the 2000+ pages, I’m not taking any chances.

My third option, and one I am considering, is joining the Y. A friend of mine exercises there and loves it. She and a group of women exercise in the pool. Water Wake Up at 8:00 a.m. Cardio Splash starts at 9:45. Power-Up class meets at 11:00. At noon they head out for lunch.

It sounds great. Almost too good to be true. The Y is just minutes away from my home. The women tend to be on the mature side of forty, or fifty. And if I exercise in the water, my sweat glands won’t cause me embarrassment.

I had filled out my application and was reaching for my credit card when it hit me. Water equals bathing suit. A bathing suit! I’ll have to put on a bathing suit!

This is a problem. A serious problem. There is no way I can join an exercise group to shape up and lose weight until I am a little firmer and about twenty pounds lighter. How in the world am I going to do that without exposing myself to the scrutiny of those who have already walked the walk whether on treadmill or pavement?

I’m determined to find something I can do in the privacy of my own home. Behind closed doors. And behind closed shades.

This is why I’m taking the plunge into technological exercise. What choice do I have?

I’m going to get a Wii. And just as soon as I can lay my hands on one, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Airport Health Care

In a few short months, CVG, our local airport will be performing full-body scans. Some decry this invasion of privates or privacy, however you choose to view it. They claim TSA personnel will use the equipment to check passengers for more than contraband, in which case, the stimulus money used to purchase the scanning machine will stimulate things other than the economy. All of this may be true up to a point, but in these hard economic times, we have to look and think outside of the box. Tightened security is inevitable, but we may as well make the best of it. This may be a blessing disguised as voyeurism.

Think about it. The cost of health care is skyrocketing. Everyone is delegating, but no one is accepting the blame. Our representatives in D.C. cannot agree on government’s role to keep us hale and hardy while making physician’s waiting rooms with copies of 1997 National Geographic accessible and affordable for all Americans.

Keep in mind that CT scans on average cost $1,397.00. An MRI of the brain runs $3,227.00. I found this information online, so it must be true.

Now consider this. A person can jet to Las Vegas, spend a couple of days in a nice hotel, gamble or sightsee to her heart’s content for $351.20. A mere fraction of the cost of either test.

Given this data, I think I’ve hit on a way to cut soaring health care costs.

Let’s send sick people to Vegas.

For argument’s sake, suppose the government were to blend the issues of airport security and health care. What if airport personnel could accept a physician’s order with our boarding pass? For example, a person with a backache would get a note from the doctor instructing the TSA to focus on the lower lumbar area. Or in the case of migraines, zoom in on those clogged sinuses. For smaller body parts, such as arms and fingers, the patient/passenger would hop on the conveyor belt and ride along with their carryon items. The report goes to the doctor; the patient goes to Las Vegas; the cost of health care goes down. A win, win, win outcome.

As the threat level increases to yellow-orange or orange-yellow, and body searches become more invasive, they could include prostate screening for the gentlemen and pap smears for the ladies. Yet more savings!

In order to make some money, the struggling airlines could offer some optional testing as well. Passengers aren’t allowed to carry liquids aboard planes, so why not extend that to internal liquids as well. Passengers could relieve those bladders into plastic cups before boarding the plane and purchase one of those color-changing test strips like they do potato chips and cookies. The plane would be lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient and the traveler at ease, knowing she won’t be bothered with a painful UTI while out of town. In time, pregnancy tests could be added.

It’s a golden opportunity to allow our government to dabble in health care without overhauling the system until we’re sure they can handle the job. If the TSA proves itself, other government agencies can follow suit. Next up? The IRS. They’ve become so adept at taking a pound of flesh, taking our blood should be a piece of cake.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Living the Winter Olympics

I’m generally a big fan of the Olympics, but this year I just can’t get into it.

I could blame it on the way the athletes dress. One look at those overgrown snow suits and I have flashbacks of the days of getting three little ones bundled up to play in the snow. Forty-five minutes of searching for boots, wrapping scarves, guiding fingers into gloves and not forty-five seconds out the door, one of them had to pee.

More than likely, it’s the weather. The weather here in Ohio—not in Vancouver. We’d kill for sunshine and temps in the 40’s. After ten days of snowfall totaling more than we normally get in a year, our yard looks like an organ donor center for snowmen. It’s not easy to get excited about games played in the snow. On purpose, no less.

We have a steep driveway. A very steep driveway. That said, it’s difficult to view bobsledding as a sport when we’re forced to do it each day. And here in the Midwest, we’re neither trained nor equipped for such events. The first time my husband made it into the garage after only three attempts, I waved the flag and hummed the Star Spangled Banner. He’ll deny it, of course, but I swear his lip quivered as he brushed away the hint of a tear.

In years past, when our average February temperatures were 10+ degrees above freezing, I loved to watch the figure skating. But this year, when we’re lucky to see the thermometer rise above single digits, ice in any form is not the least bit entertaining. It reminds me too much of my trip out for milk and bread before the last storm. I must say though, I am rather proud of the triple axel I nailed in the grocery parking lot.

I’d heard a lot about curling. I considered giving it a try, but curling sounds so much like hurling and we’ve had enough of that with that nasty virus our grandkids passed on. Anyway, from what I’ve heard about the sport, I imagine one of the highlights would be the face of a mother holding her temper as she watches her son using a broom—something he’d never touch while living under her roof.

Now the snow is finally beginning to melt. We’re seeing patches of grass and dirt, making it look a bit more like Vancouver here in Ohio. I may give the games another shot. I swear though, if another storm heads our way, I’ll put my Olympic viewing on hold until the summer games when those young guys in Speedos make the scene.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow News is NOT Good News

It’s been snowing forever. Well, maybe not forever, but for a long, long, long, long time. Long enough for me to imagine how Noah felt as he listened to the forecast a week or so into his ark voyage. Just how many cubits long would a toboggan have to be to get my family, friends, and me to the Caribbean?

I’ve tried my best to keep a positive attitude. Really I have. The first day, as the flakes tumbled from the sky, I forced myself to drink hot chocolate and smile as I acknowledged them as unique and heavenly creations. I got so into it I had to suppress the urge to name them.

The second day, I raised my mug and toasted the white blanket covering the lawn, the drive, and the street, giving thanks for the earth’s thermal insulator. Irish hot chocolate’s really not bad, but the marshmallows don’t hold up very well.

By the third day, I had an attitude, but it was far from positive. Unable to find his email address and too cheap to send a telegram, I wrote a letter to Punxsutawney Phil expressing, in no uncertain terms, my displeasure with his announcement of six more weeks of winter. I might have been a bit harsh with the furry fellow, but given the fact that Phil is a rodent who lives in a hole, telling him to stick his prediction where the sun doesn’t shine can be interpreted any number of ways.

As time passed I tried my best to cope. I decided to ignore the stuff and hope it went away. Sort of like the Congress and the Social Security shortfall. To that end, after finding the newspaper, which involved hours of digging, I clipped any references to snow, ice, and cold from its pages. By the time I was finished, it would fit in the palm, or on the palm of Sarah Palin’s hand.

One day I was so depressed by the local forecast that I read the one for Key West instead. 75 degrees and sunny! Ah, that was more like it. I turned up the heat, pulled out my flipflops, sprinkled kitty litter on the treadmill, hung a lightbulb from the celing, and walked my own private beach. I turned on some Jimmy Buffet music and was feeling much better until I heard a strange buzzing sound. I attributed it to the margeritas until I spotted the electric meter spinning out of control. My cheeseburger in paradise was fried.

I’m not normally a violent person, but yesterday I’d had it. I strapped tennis rackets to my feet in order to maneuver through the piles of snow. Armed with my hairdryer, I sauntered into the front yard and took aim at those freaking white flakes dive-bombing our once peaceful community. Our mail person gave me a thumbs up as I screamed Go ahead. Make my day! I didn’t get them all, but I took out quite a few. And it felt so good.

Today I’m removing every sign of winter from our home hoping Father Nature will take the hint. So far I’ve hurled a snow globe in the path of a plow. I’ve torched the first hundred pages of Dr. Zhivago. I’ve devoured four of the six boxes of Sno-Caps I’d hidden in the guest closet. Yet the meteorologist has the nerve to say more snow is headed our way. Eskimos have a zillion or so names for snow. Now I know why. Until it stops, I’ll be adding a few of my own.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Ugly Truth About Organization

There are so many things to dislike about January. The wind chill factor that rears its ugly head this time of year. The nagging feeling that my credit card company has taken note of my Christmas expenditures and taken out a life insurance policy on me. The metamorphosis my jeans undergo during the holidays causing them to be a full size smaller than they were in mid November.

As bad as those things are, even worse is the organizational frenzy the first month of the year brings with it. I stopped at Target the other day and had no more stepped inside the door when I came face to face with a mountain of plastic storage bins. There they stood in every size, color, and shape imaginable and in quantities large enough to hold each version of the health care reform bill as well as every attachment and revision.

Perhaps I take the not so subliminal message of these bins too seriously, but when I see heaps of them I hear them taunting me, calling me a slob, and ordering me to get my, for lack of a less offensive word, stuff together. Not only do they want me to get it together, but also package it, label it, and stack it appropriately. How many more plastic trees and bushes must die before we put this neat freak syndrome to rest?

January magazines are no better. A number of years ago, I spent hours in the kitchen alphabetizing my spices and arranging them on a plastic tiered doodad that looked like a staircase for Barbie. By the time I checked the expiration dates and tossed the little no-longer-good tins into the trash, the only things left on my shelf were packets of airline salt and pepper. Replacing those seasonings would cost a fortune, so I gave the staircase to my granddaughter and rely solely on paprika these days. By the way, is there a special bay leaf expert who predicts its life expectancy?

It’s not that I don’t recognize the value of being organized, but I don’t buy into the bin-it theory. If for instance, the IRS calls, I understand the importance of retrieving those old tax forms while garnishment of wages is still a mere threat. I suggest that is precisely why shoeboxes are made in dimensions such as to slide under beds.

While professional organizers insist we store anything with our social security number, mother’s maiden name, or hundreds of pin numbers in a safe deposit box or other secured container to fend off identity theft, I have a much simpler and cost-effective solution. The week before I renew my driver’s license, I refrain from washing my hair. The day of the photo shoot, I skip makeup. Just before the DMV clerk says SMILE I sniff an onion and suck a lemon. Believe me, one look at this picture and no one would want to be me.

There are those who would have you believe that a person can’t function unless every hanger in the closet points in the same direction. They’ll tell you that true peace of mind can’t be attained if all shoes are not in close proximity to their mates. In my opinion, they are misinformed.

In reality, being too neat can be hazardous to your health. I get more aerobic exercise each day running from floor to floor searching for things I’ve misplaced than I would in a week at the gym. I bend and stretch as I peer under tables, search under the couch and check the refrigerator top for a stray glove (which I dare say I would not need if it weren’t January). And this workout comes without a monthly membership fee. Years from now, I predict the obesity epidemic in our country will be blamed in part to the overuse of storage bins.

I’ve also found that too much organization stifles creativity. If my possessions were in perfect order, I’d miss countless opportunities to use my imagination. Just last week, I imagined being a skillet and created a scenario to determine where an object like that might hide. Be warned. Exposing young children to large doses of orderliness can lead to a dependency on video games and a tendency to be couch potatoes. To further complicate matters, overzealous organizers have been know to purchase storage bins designed to contain these games for their children making their offspring more susceptible to the compulsion.

This obsession with orderliness affects our GNP. (My accounting background surfaces yet again.) Other than the storage bin producers, the economy suffers when we organize our stuff. I have no charts to explain the economic impact. Besides, I find those pie ones are a distraction and serve only to make me hungry, so I’ll do my best with a simple example.

Suppose you loose your scissors. If they’re packed away in a plastic bin and noted on your organizational spreadsheet, you retrieve and use the pair you have. The end. If, on the other hand, you have no idea where they might be and you really want to cut the size label from the new jacket you’re wearing to a luncheon where you might get warm and feel the need to remove said jacket and hang it on your chair where everyone might notice the tag, you stop at the drugstore on the way to the luncheon to buy a new pair. While you’re there, you realize you need bathroom tissue. The bathroom tissue reminds you that you’re out of bowl cleaner. The bowl cleaner brings to mind the taco salad you ate the night before. Memories of the taco salad prompt you to buy an antacid. At the register you decide you can’t wait to find out whether Brad and Angelina are going to adopt a baby from Mars, so you add that tabloid to your cart. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point.

Like so many things in our society, organization is not harmful when used in moderation and with adult supervision. In large quantities, however, it can be hazardous to your health, impair ingenuity, and contribute significantly to the economic woes of our great nation.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Solving the Resolving Issue

Here is it January 5th and as of yet I haven’t made a single New Year’s resolution. I suppose I can cross that procrastination one from my list. Maybe next year.

In 2009 I resolved not to resolve anything. Not only did I resolve not to resolve, I resolved not to feel guilty about not resolving. A couple of days into the year, it dawned on me that by resolving not to resolve, I had actually resolved. That realization made me feel twice as guilty.

This year I’ve rethought my resolution quandary. I considered the tried and true resolutions—eat less, exercise more, and follow the every move of Kate and Jon and however many kids they have. After careful consideration, I’ve decided against any of these. The first two require lots of self-control, which I’ve resolved to find numerous times but manages to elude me. The Jon/Kate option is just way too complicated. If I were so inclined to involve myself, my resolution would be to determine why these people are newsworthy and just why I should care.

It’s not that I don’t have any bad habits or that I’m unaware of the ones that I do have. But I’ve had little success and much frustration attempting to overcome them, so I’m now looking at them in a new light. My hope is that in the not-too-near future, they become not bad habits, but eccentricities. Years from now, my grandchildren will tell their children fond stories about their grandmother who sometimes sprinkled M&M’s atop her breakfast cereal and until they were able to read, convinced them they were berries. They’ll recount the many adventures they had with Grandma as she drove them to preschool and story time before she got a GPS. They’ll chuckle at how each time she buckled them in, they asked, Grandma, are we going to get lost again today? They’ll reminisce about the things they learned with Grandma; such as, never promise macaroni and cheese to a child before checking the pantry. Cheez Whiz over rice just doesn’t cut it.

Now that I’ve taken this time to think about this in depth, I’ve made a decision. My resolution this year is simply to not add any more bad habits—or perhaps quirks is a kinder word choice given I’m still among the living—to my repertoire. Prevention is key and procrastination can wait.