Tupperware Party Hearty Without Me

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Sprinting to Life’s End-zone with the Defensive Tackles of Home Shopping in hot pursuit.

I have a confession to make. I don’t want you to think less of me, but what kind of relationship can we have if it is built on a foundation of lies? The time has come to tell the truth.

I have never been to a Pampered Chef party.

I haven’t sniggered at naughty lingerie or sex toys from the comfort of a friend’s living room.   I haven’t bought Shaklee vitamins, purses, candles, jewelry, soup mixes, makeup, laundry soap, home interior or scrap-booking supplies across someone’s kitchen table. I have lived in American society my whole life, not on a deserted island, and have managed to avoid the arm-twisting-sales-pitch-masquerading-as-hospitality that is known as the home selling party.

Except once.

I waitressed at Big Boy the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college and was flattered when the head waitress invited me to a party at her place.   I’d been to lots of college parties – drunken affairs where the main goal was to avoid getting soaked by spilled beer – but this was different.  It was a grownup party.   She was vague on details, just that she was having some friends over for the evening.

Her place was a single as opposed to a double-wide, so the 10 of us were crammed into the tiny living room.   I hadn’t noticed all the stacked cardboard boxes until a lady so perky she must have been hopped-up on crack starting telling us all about the contents.  By then it was too late; there was no escape.

BigBoyTupperware

May we serve you a heapin’ helpin’ of burpin’ goodness?

I had been lured to a Tupperware party.

This was the most boring 45 minutes of my life (besides a time-share sales pitch I once endured in Branson.)   Worse than Microeconomics.   I was 18, I lived in a dorm, and I was flat-broke.  What did I need with a deviled egg container, even if it did come complete with a convenient carrying handle and the signature burping cover?   An item that cost more than an Intermediate Accounting textbook?   I drank her iced tea, ate her cookies and left as soon as humanly possible without buying a single thing.   That memory makes me squirm with shame.   In my defense, I was so green I had not yet learned the Unwritten Yet Unbreakable Code of Home Selling Parties:

You must buy something.

I’ve managed to avoid such affairs ever since.   I’m a running back in the football game of life, zigging and zagging, breaking tackles right and left as I sprint down the field toward the goal.

It’s not that I don’t want to deal with friends; I make it a point to support local businesses and charities.   I’ve bought plenty of stuff when people I know are selling.   My bristles go up, however, when someone who has never before invited me to her home suddenly can’t live without me.   Is it coincidence that the only time she’s ever wanted me over is for an event where I HAVE to whip out my checkbook or risk looking like a total, cheapo schlub?  If we’re such good buddies, why doesn’t she invite me to her house when she doesn’t have a 12-Piece Pantry Hostess Gift hanging in the balance?

Of course none of this applies to YOU, dear readers.   If you’re thinking of inviting me to your next home sales party, you know there’s nothing I’d like more than to come. Unfortunately, I just checked my calendar and it turns out I’m already busy that day.

Dang.

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My Dad Has No Rhythm, Yet He Remains The Master Of The Dance

This post was my Father’s Day gift to my Dad several years ago.  It had the honor of being Freshly Pressed and remains one of my (and my readers) favorites.

My Dad is the one in the snappy, plaid jacket. I’m the blonde butterball in the back.

My Dad sired 9 children. He then topped that accomplishment by staying around, with our Mom, to raise every one of us. For that reason alone, he deserves to be Father of The Year.

Not convinced? Here are a few things you should know about him.

My Dad…

can clear a room quicker than you can say National Geographic. Not because of poor hygiene or a less-than-winning personality, but because of his TV viewing habits.

All us kids would be piled into our tiny sunroom watching The Monkees or Get Smart on TV. Dad would come in, squat next to the set and start flipping the dial. (This was in the dark days before remotes.) He would come upon a fascinating National Geographic special on plate tectonics and there he would stay. We all groaned, rolled our eyes, exclaimed “Da-a-ad!” and left the room. If we were old enough to do so, we flounced out.

As he squatted next to the set, chewing his nails and staring raptly at the educational program du jour, we would hear his voice faintly, fading as we scattered through our big, old house “Hey, don’t you want to watch this? This is really interesting!”

should have joined the Navy. He bought his first boat when we were young kids. This started a life-long love affair second only to the one he shares with my Mom. I loved the family trips, especially to Mackinac Island each summer.

Each new boat was bigger than the last, and all the early ones were wood. When I think of how much of my life was spent in the boat shed, stripping varnish off metal trim and sticking Coopernal-ed toothpicks into screw holes, all I can say is… Dad, I forgive you.

is one of the smartest people I know. Too smart. He was always ready to help with math homework, but his explanation would sail right over your head. After just a few minutes, your eyes would glaze over. We’d say, “Thanks, Dad, I get it now.” and he would walk away, mission accomplished. He never suspected we would call a friend for help as soon as he left the room.

He taught celestial navigation for The Power Squadron for years, a skill I greatly admire even though the topic makes me glaze over worse than math.

has no rhythm that I’ve noticed, but is the Master of the Dance. He is best known for The Mosquito Ballet.

On sultry summer nights when we were very little, the windows and the balcony door in our bedroom would be opened to catch any stray breezes. Somehow the mosquitoes always got in to plague us. Dad to the rescue. Wearing a sappy expression and brandishing a fly swatter, he would leap and pirouette about the room, chasing the pesky bugs. We stood in our cribs and beds, flushed and sweating in diapers and t-shirts, shrieking with laughter, the sound floating out into the hot, still nights.

is a Yankee Doodle Dandy. Not because of his patriotism, though he is a proud and loyal American, but because of his zeal for the 4th of July.

My Dad loves fireworks with the pure joy of a child.

As my brothers got older they bought fireworks, most from the lawless land of Indiana, to set off in the driveway. Dad half-heartedly endorsed Mom’s edict to stop because those things “were just too dangerous”, but you could tell only the strictest discipline kept him from elbowing the boys aside to light the fuses himself.

To this day, almost every 4th of July, Dad and some of the family take the boat down the river to watch the fireworks over the water. That’s the only way to see them.

tells a shaggy dog story with the best of them. There’s a real art to telling the long, involved joke known as the shaggy dog. Dad has great delivery, no doubt. The problem is remembering the whole story. Early on, he developed a system. He wrote down his best material and kept the notes tucked in the front pocket of his shirt.

Our parents used to host cocktail and dinner parties pretty often when we were kids. Dad would duck into a corner, surreptitiously refer to his notes, and then sally forth to slay the crowd with his latest gems.

All his shirts still have pockets, and they still bulge with papers. I know for a fact most of those papers are jokes, now sent by friends via that new, joke-passing technology, email.

is a devout man. He spent years in the seminary before deciding the priesthood was not for him. But his faith and devotion to God have been constants in his life; something he and Mom passed on to their children.

When we were kids, we said family prayers almost every night, kneeling in the living room. As I entered my teens, I must admit that I didn’t have quite the appreciation for this ritual that I have now, in retrospect.

Sometimes, in the middle of our devotions, one of my brothers would let one fly: pass gas, fart, release the Silent-But-Deadly hounds of hell. Of course we all started giggling, then looked guiltily to our parents. They tried to maintain the mood, but more often than not, Dad would lose it.  He’d start laughing.  It was that highly contagious laughter that you couldn’t resist. We all joined in, laughing until we were leaning on the couch, crying. When it was obvious this train was not going to get back on the holy track, he’d waive us weakly out of the room.

Prayers called on account of laughter. I think God understood.

At 87, Dad’s ballet jumps aren’t what they once were.   His health isn’t good, but his mind is sharp and he can still deliver a shaggy dog story with the best of them.  He and Mom are still together in their own home, and he still loves and supports God, his family and his country.   For these reasons and more, I’m sure you’ll agree that the Father of the Year Award should go to – my Dad.

What’s that you say? My Dad sounds great, but you’d like to nominate someone else – maybe your dad? Fair enough.

If you’re blessed to still be able to do so, join me in telling each of our nominees for Father of the Year:

Thanks Dad.

I love you.

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What To Do When Mother Nature Crashes the Wedding

Wedding season is upon us.   Once again, the fine folks at Peg-Co are standing by to help with your wedding day emergencies.

weddingnosepinCongratulations – you’re getting married!

One of the most crucial decisions you’ll make is where to have the wedding.   If you’re like many brides, you’ve tuned out advice from clueless old fogies (i.e. your parents) and listened to your Inner Disney Princess.  She says:

It’s MY special day; I’ll do exactly what I want.

That’s why you’ve decided on an outdoor wedding.

You can see it now: birds will soar lazily through a blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds, their chirping blending sweetly with your music.  A soft, gentle breeze will perfume the 75-degree air with the scent of flowers and freshly mown grass.

Pfffft.

That was LAST weekend.  Time to deal with today’s reality.  The clever bride makes sure she’s ready for anything, with a little help from Peg-Co.  Our Wedded (Ignorance Is) Bliss line of wedding favors combines sentiment with practicality so you can handle whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

We’ve got you covered for:

  • Stench: How ironic for a hipster like you to have her ceremony at a real farm!  But what’s a city girl to do when inconsiderate farmers have chosen today to fertilize?   Nosepins to the rescue. You’ll end up smelling like a rose with our customized clothespins to protect guests’ scents sense.
  • Noise: It turns out the Tri-state Harley Club’s “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Mufflers” competition is being held across the street.  Guests won’t be able to hear a word of the ceremony, let alone your $100/hour harpist.  Our Hear No Evil MP3 players with attached earphones save the day.  They’re just like the ones you rent for self-guided museum tours.   Instead of hearing the difference between Cubism and Pointillism, guests will enjoy a full wedding ceremony with your names prerecorded.  Please specify: Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Jewish, or New Age services.
  • Cold: Toast The Bride gloves and scarf sets embroidered with your names will bring this special day to mind long after the feeling returns to guests’ extremities.
  • Hot: Nothing puts a damper on a party like half the guests dropping from heat stroke.  When you’ve got 98 Degrees on the thermometer as well as the turntable, you’ll be glad you ordered Ice, Ice, Baby terry cloth ice-pack covers.  Just fill with ice and have guests sling them across the back of their necks.  Your names custom embroidered on the cover reminds guests who to thank for having a hot time in the old town tonight.
  • Rain: Personalized Pair-a-sols umbrellas are big enough to protect two lovebirds even if it’s raining cats and dogs.
  • More Rain: It’s been raining for 10 days straight, but you’re not worried; you’ve booked the Wedding Ark  Our rowboat is painted white and draped with tulle to provide a charming way to ferry guests across the Lake of Love (formerly the parking lot) to your ceremony site. (Please specify if you wish to hire Captain Noah to man the oars.)

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  • After the Rain:  It finally stopped raining, but you’re still bailing out from last week’s deluge.  When the lawn at your venue has turned to swamp, guests will be thankful for These Boots Were Made For Weddin’ galoshes.  See-through, plastic boots personalized with your names slip right over guests’ expensive Manolo Blahniks.  Not only does this protect their shoes, it makes sure their 6” stilettos don’t turn guests into human lawn Jarts. (Be sure to pick up some Leg Savers to keep folding chairs from being similarly planted in the saturated ground.)
  • Plague: The weather is clear and warm, the ground is firm and dry, the air is sweet smelling and blessedly quiet.  Congratulations – your wedding day looks just like you dreamed!

I said it LOOKS great.weddingoff

But after all the recent rain and heat, setting foot on the grass is sure to raise swarms of mosquitoes big enough to carry the bride off like the winged monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.  You’ll be glad you ordered (Don’t) Bite Me personalized bottles of Deep Woods Off.  These are specially formulated to protect guests from Lyme Disease and Dengue Fever with the light scent of orange blossom.

Matchbook covers and personalized napkins are all very well for a “normal” wedding, but when you move it outside you need Peg-Co’s Wedded (Ignorance Is) Bliss line of products.

With Peg-Co on your side, when Mother Nature asks, “Can you take it?” you’ll respond, “Dish it out!”

*10% discount for combination orders.  After all, every one of these contingencies is equally likely to happen.  Please allow at least 6 months for personalization and to give your parents time to line up a second mortgage.  Peg-Co ( a division of Peg-O-Leg Industries) is not responsible for normal wedding hazards including, but not limited to, ruined shoes, malaria, or a drunken bride telling her new mother-in-law what she REALLY thinks of her.

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Love Takes A Dive

http://wp.me/p3Mqvr-Ca

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Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

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When Exclamation Is Not The Point

Graphic (pre-embelishment) courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

Graphic (pre-embelishment) courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

Communicating nowadays is like tiptoeing through a minefield.

Words have been the chief medium of communication since shortly after our ancestors crawled out of the primordial ooze.   We’ve witnessed a revolution in the last decade in how those words are delivered, and email, text, and social media have changed the way humans interact.

These new forms are:

  • Instantaneous: Our phones and computers are constantly beeping for attention. We are expected to reply to messages immediately, so taking time to carefully craft a response is a luxury. In addition to editing our own words, we have to watch out for auto correct.  This feature can change the message without our even noticing before our flying fingers press “send.”
  • Informal: You would never start a formal business letter without the salutation, “Dear So-and-So.” Now you wouldn’t begin an email with the word “Dear” unless you were writing to your great aunt. This change has evolved organically to the point where the traditional greeting sounds strange, even in a business email.
  • Impossible…to tell subtext or voice: We’ve lost the verbal and visual clues we once got over the phone or in face-to-face meetings, and many of the old rules for written communication have gone out the window.

The last point is especially troubling, and an entirely new sub-language has arisen to compensate.  It is composed of exclamation points, smiley faces, winking faces, JKs, LOLs and the like.   Using these sub-textual symbols can help to add voice, but the downside is that they have become so common some people can’t deliver a line without one.  Twenty-somethings who have grown up with the new media are both its masters and the worst offenders when it comes to symbol overload.

Witness the exclamation point.

The ex-point used to be merely one of many arrows in our punctuation mark quiver, valued no more and no less than its brethren. It was reserved for situations marked by excitement or enthusiasm – things that were worthy of being, well, exclaimed about. Now it is just a tall period.

One ex-point means nothing.  Like an addict who needs more and more of a drug to get the same high, it now takes 2 to signify even mild enthusiasm, and you’d better be laying down at least 3 of them if you want to convey real excitement.   Where will it end?

I refuse to give in to ex-point tyranny.  I use them consciously and only when excitement is warranted.   By not following the herd on this issue, however, my comments may look dull, sullen, or even angry.  I might think I am taking the grammatical high ground, but without sub-textual symbols to add voice I stand a very real chance of being misunderstood. That’s exactly what happened recently.

One of my young relatives is an ex-point junkie. Her every post is so loaded with them, as well as LOLs and smiley faces, that if Facebook charged per special character she would be flat broke. She recently posted that she had finished watching an entire 8 seasons of a TV show back to back, and was looking for something new to do.   I commented, “Sweetie, if you’re watching 8 hours of reruns at a sitting, it’s time to get a hobby.” I thought she knew me well enough to know I was kidding.   Apparently not.  Her reply was, “I have lots of hobbies.  I just like to watch TV to unwind.”

Note the total absence of LOLs and exclamation points in her reply. By using plain, old periods instead of the ex-points that have become the norm for her every comment, she was sending me a message and I heard it loud and clear; she was not amused.   In hindsight, I should have said: “Sweetie, LOL, if you’re watching 8 hours (insert goofy face) of old reruns LOL at a sitting :) it’s time to get a hobby !!! JK LOL winky winky LMAO ;)

Since it was too late to retract my comment, I moved swiftly to recover lost ground by replying, “Me too, ha ha!!! I watch way too much, even though I know I shouldn’t. LOL!! :) ” Things between us are OK, but it was a close call.

Now that most business communication is conducted via email, these sub-textual symbols have crept in there, as well.  The rules have relaxed in this area, but they have not changed as much as some might think.   Excessive ex-points and LOLs do not belong in business emails.  The writer who misuses them does so at the risk of not being taken seriously and, like it or not, this is especially true for young women.

Young people need to remember that an LOL or smiley face is neither required nor recommended for every situation. By the same  token, I need to lighten up and stop hoarding ex-points like they were gold.  I also need to stop saying “young people” because it makes me sound like Methuselah.

If we all use sub-textual symbols thoughtfully, we can meet somewhere on the middle ground and communicate without our words blowing up in our faces.

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Doing The Pantry Can-Can

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I spent most of Saturday cleaning the kitchen pantry. Take a moment to let that statement sink in. Now you may commence with the “atta-Pegs,” because I deserve every one.

This strange urge to clean may have something to do with spring, but the immediate prompt was that I couldn’t find the confectioners’ sugar. I found mouse droppings instead. A few don’t faze me – mice are a fact of life out in the country. When you have so many droppings it looks like somebody spilled a box of Uncle Ben’s Brown & Wild Rice Medley, however, it’s time to act.

Our pantry is a 2-foot wide, 6-foot tall closet with pull-out shelves, and cleaning it was a monumental job. I took everything out.   All horizontal surfaces in my kitchen were buried in boxes, bottles, jars and cans.   I then scrubbed the pantry shelves and walls and took stock while it dried.

I learned some things about myself.

I seem to have Single Food Hoarder Syndrome. I first learned of this disorder years ago when we moved into a house that had belonged to my husband’s great aunts.  We unearthed 13 bags of marshmallows while cleaning the kitchen. Most were so fossilized they “thunked” when dropped on the floor.

I can imagine their shopping trips.

“Are you sure we have marshmallows? We can’t have our cocoa without marshmallows.” Aunt Margie asks, worriedly.

“Didn’t we buy some on our last trip, dear?” Aunt Gertrude asks, sweetly.

“Better safe than sorry.” Aunt Ellen says, firmly. Another bag of Jet-Puffed goodness goes into the cart.

Now I’m doing the same thing with:

  • baking cocoa – 3 tins
  • peanut butter – 5 jars
  • vinegar – 6 bottles
  • couscous – 8 boxes

My worst problem is with Jell-O gelatin and pudding mixes. I could build a playhouse with all the little, cardboard bricks I had stashed away.  If I could sell them back to the Jell-O Company, I’d raise enough money to cover Bill Cosby’s defense fund.

I inspected every container and tossed anything that bulged more than 1 centimeter, had mouse chew marks that went through the packaging or was more than 3 years past the x-date – less than that and it’s probably fine.

If you think this approach is gross, you’re probably younger than I am. Attitudes on expired food seem to be directly related to age. My 20-something kids would automatically dump a carton of milk that expired today.   Those who have been around the dairy case a few times, however, know that it’s all about the sniff test.

My 80-something parents take “it’s probably fine” to the extreme. Last time I was at their house I noticed that some stuff in their cupboard was produced the same year I was. I was super sneaky about tossing the worst offenders, but my Dad still caught me in the act.

“Hey, don’t throw that out; it’s fine.” Dad said about a can so misshapen it looked like a modern art sculpture.

“Dad, for goodness sake, this was packaged during the Khrushchev era!” I protested as we engaged in an unbecoming tug-of-war for it.

“Exactly!” He exclaimed triumphantly as he wrenched the can out of my hands. “Something designed to withstand the A- bomb is made to last.”  Back on the shelf it went.

I’m currently planning tonight’s dinner menu. We’re having salad with oil-and-vinegar dressing, couscous, and chocolate/peanut butter cookies with milk. Oh, and Jell-O. We’ll be having Jell-O at every meal for the foreseeable future.

 

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