Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Say Tomato You Say Paradicsom

          I am jealous of people who speak multiple languages.  This means you, if my blog map is accurate, and I have readers in dozens of other countries.
          Sometimes I’ll notice someone’s background info on Facebook, and it will say they also speak Spanish, French, Dutch, and Portuguese.  Or they speak half a dozen African languages.  Or they speak Mandarin, Taiwanese, Arabic, and Farsi. Whaaat? 
          I am also mad at the U.S. school system, which thinks you can wait until junior high or high school to start teaching foreign languages.  We should start in pre-school.  That’s how others become truly fluent—they grow up learning languages when your brain is still young enough to grab hold of it.
          So here I sit, with Cave Man Spanish in my repertoire, and also Pig Latin, at which I am highly adept, again because I learned it before age ten. However, it does not come in as handy as I had hoped.  And, I might add, would not impress anyone on Facebook.
One time I was planning a trip to Germany and a friend of mine who had served a two-year LDS mission there helped me master one line.  I figured I’d be shopping, and I would look very cool and cosmopolitan if I could say, “How much is this?” in German.  All the way over on the plane I practiced my line until it rolled quickly and confidently from my lips.
I went into a store.  I saw a darling sweater.  I grabbed the sleeve, and said to a clerk, “Wieviel ist das?”
And she answered me.  In German.  I stood there like the dope I was, completely unable to fathom what she said.  Then I had to admit that I didn’t really speak German, I was just trying out my one lame line.  Aauugh.
It was also frustrating to be on Finnair Airlines one time, trying to convince the flight attendant, who kept speaking to me in Finnish, that I was actually an American and couldn’t understand her.  She kept rolling her eyes and finally walked away, as if I’d been joking.  Hey, I may look Scandinavian, but the most I can do is order a… okay, actually I can’t think of anything I can order there in any of those languages.  I can say “mustard” in Ukrainian, but how far will that get me?
Our daughter, Nicole, went on a mission to Norway, and speaks incredible Norwegian (according to the Norwegians we have run into).  When she first left I thought I’d surprise her by learning it online while she was gone.  I didn’t expect to be fluent, but I thought I could master a line or two.  Wrongo.  I took one look at those instructional videos filled with unfamiliar sounds and complicated wording, and turned the computer off.
Sometimes I’m tempted to laugh at package instructions from other countries, which are clearly written by someone who does not speak English very well.  Then I remember I would have no chance whatsoever translating these same instructions from English into their language. 
And I get irritated when someone says “tortilla soup” but pronounces the Ls, which should be Ys, as in tor-tee-ya soup.  Not tore-till-uh soup. But then I remember that I grew up talking about un-thawing something from the freezer, when it was simply thaw. Not un-thaw.
So there we are.  I’m jealous, mad, frustrated, irritated, and embarrassed, all at once.  Hey—I may not know multiple languages, but I can juggle multiple emotions.  That’s gotta count for something.

Check out my YouTube Mom videos.  They’re in English, but feel free to translate these handy life hacks for all your friends.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lights! Camera! Action!

          Last Friday a real-life chase scene tore through the streets of Hollywood, and most folks just took selfies.
          Here’s what happened.  Two guys in a blue Mustang led police on a wild chase, doing donuts and pumping their fists in the air.  It started with the report of a burglary, but ended with sudden fans hugging and high-fiving the suspects as they arrived in their own neighborhood. TV news helicopters followed the action until sheriffs finally arrived and arrested the two men.
          This is the problem with living in L.A.  Years ago when I lived there, I recall driving down a street not far from Universal Studios, and seeing two policemen with guns drawn, crouching behind the open door of a cop car, with other police cars nearby.  A crowd was standing around, apparently doing nothing exactly as crowds look on a movie set, so I – and everybody in my car—assumed it was a movie shoot.  Or a television episode. 
          We all muttered about the pain-in-the-neck these events are, trying to maneuver through streets crowded with props, catering trucks, lighting cables and the like.  And we turned around to go another way.
          About an hour later I learned this was an actual standoff between police and someone holding a hostage in a house.  Good gravy!  I was literally living in a movie set of sorts, and like these folks in Hollywood who cheer as suspects provide drama and entertainment, we forget that real crime also happens, not just scripted crime.
          Just one more reason to leave La La Land, along with my reason several years ago. I knew it was time to go when I was driving on the Ventura Freeway and heard my two young boys in the back seat, arguing about whether a passing limo was a stretch or not.
          Sometimes it’s just better to shout, “Cut” and change to a new scene.

But I did host a daily TV talk show there for four years, and much of that plays out in my comedy novel, Sisters in the Mix, which you can find here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Now You See It

          Have your eyes gone on strike, yet?  If you are 40 years old or more, chances are you cannot hold books far enough away to see the printing. You could even be struggling to read this blog.
          But I have the solution and it’s a beauty.  First, however, let’s give you an eye test.  I have devised a dozen ways you can know you need reading glasses:  
1.       Your food is blurry. So are the menus.
2.      You call a rest home by mistake when looking on your phone for restaurants.
3.       You sing “waitress for Christ” instead of “witness for Christ” at church.
4.      You don’t know your nail polish is chipped until someone mentions it.
5.       You can’t see your husband’s face unless he stands across the room.
6.      You can cut your toenails, or see what you’re doing, but not both.
7.       You have to ask clerks what the price tags say.
8.      You dial more wrong numbers than right ones.
9.      You look in the mirror, and even without makeup, you look great!
10.     You ask the PTA to stop printing things on colored paper.
11.     You stop looking for the calorie count on food packaging.
12.     You have to sit so far back from the computer screen that you can’t reach the keyboard.
          But guess what—there’s another option to having glasses.  My eye doctor told me to try monovision.  This does not mean surgery; it means one eye has a contact lens for distance (since I’m nearsighted), and the other has one for close-up.  The brain simply figures out which eye to use!
          I was skeptical.  How could your brain know which eye to use?  But I was so tired of hunting all over the house for yet another pair of lost reading glasses that I agreed to try it.
          And voile!  It’s as if my eyes are 20 years old again!  Instantly I was able to see close up, then glance across a room and see that in focus as well! I donated all my reading glasses to charity, and am considering becoming an astronaut. They need perfect vision, right?  Sign me up! 

          And you are welcome for this fabulous tip.  You may thank me by visiting my website and purchasing a book or two.  Or watch a YouTube Mom video with your new, perfect vision!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In the Shrill of the Night

          Last week I was awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a shrill, piercing, nonstop whistle.  Imagine a smoke alarm, except it isn’t beeping; it’s just continuing.
          St. Bob could sleep even if a marching band came tromping right into the bedroom. 
However, he cannot sleep if his wife keeps nudging him and shouting his name.  “What’s that noise?” I ask. “Do you think the house is on fire?” It doesn’t smell smoky, but neither do deadly gas fumes, which I am also imagining.
          I might add that this is the worst time to be awakened because it’s just close enough to your real wake-up time that you can’t get back to sleep again. But Bob is a saint, remember, so he gets up and goes downstairs to investigate.
          He is gone for a very long time.  Now I am imagining robbers gagging him and tying him to a chair.  Finally I get up as well.

          Bob has dragged the ladder in from the garage and has dismantled two of the smoke alarms by the time I arrive.  But then he gets an idea. He checks the family room where we have beeper pads on our sofas, to keep Mickey (often the culprit in these stories) from jumping onto the cushions.
          Turns out we forgot to put Mickey in her crate for the night, which she actually loves, and she had jumped up onto the sofa, set off the beeper pad, and then jumped down.
          Except that she also knocked a blanket off the sofa, and that was now resting heavily atop the pad, making it beep incessantly until Bob pulled off the blanket and saved all our hearing.  Mickey, by the way, was hiding in the back yard, and only timidly approached once the siren had stopped.
          We glanced back at the ladder and the two dismantled smoke alarms. We glanced at the beeper pad. We glanced at Mickey. We glanced at the clock.  Oh, well.  Anyone for sausage and pancakes?

Next time you’re up in the middle of the night,  grab a good book to read.  Might I suggest one of mine?  You can find them all right here, along with my YouTube Mom videos. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Found My Tribe!

          I found my tribe!  I am in the Cinnabon Tribe.  Seriously, here’s the deal.
          Some back story: When I was young, I lived next door to an East Indian woman named Svarna who braided my hair, dressed me in saris, put a red Bindi dot on my forehead, fed me naan, and had a home full of wind chimes and exotic spices.  It was heavenly and I was sure I was East Indian.
          Here is a photo of me with Svarna, for whom I’ve actually been searching, and my school classmate, Kathy Salunkhe.
          Fast forward to our last Enrichment Night at church, a monthly gathering of women where—this time—we had a get-to-know you activity, since we have so many new members.  I’ve been friends with one of them, Brenda, for a couple of years.  She is from a reservation in Montana, but I never actually knew her tribe.
          She stood up to show photos and tell about herself, and I thought I’d finally ask what tribe she is from.
          “Cinnabon,” she said.
          “Are you kidding me?” I shouted.  “Cinnabon?!? I want to belong to that tribe!”  My mind was whirling with ideas about how to finagle this. Also, do you get free Cinnabons if you are a card carrying honorary member?

          Well, it turned out Brenda had said, “Assiniboine.” But she speaks softly, so what am supposed to do except jump to wild conclusions? Anyone—and I’m telling you, anyone—would think she said Cinnebon. At least if you have desserts on your mind 24/7, which I do.
          I could hardly get to sleep that night. What if there are all kinds of tribes we’ve never heard of, wonderful secret tribes like the Coconut Cream Pie Tribe, or the Cheesecake Tribe, or the Cookie Dough Tribe? 
          St. Bob thinks no tribe will allow me within five miles of their land because they know I’ll come in and eat all their food.
          I ignored him. “What if there’s a Lemon Bar Tribe? Or a Baby Lava Cake Tribe?”  
          I finally got so worked up I had to go downstairs and have an ice cream sandwich.  Being an honorary Native American is going to involve some careful planning.

While I plan, you can visit my website, watch my videos, and order my books.  And, okay, enjoy some desserts as you shop.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Barking Up the Right Tree

          Next time you evaluate your circle of friends, be sure you have an arborist in there.  I cannot tell you how handy it has been to know Ruth and Clare Williams, sisters, tree experts, and generous people willing to answer my every planty question.
          Here is the latest photo I sent to Ruth:
          Alarming, no?  I took one look at this strange phenomenon and just knew my Chinese Elm had contracted Strikin’ Lichen or some deadly disease. Was it because of all the rain we’ve been having? I pictured the cost of removing it, the cost of replacing it, and the possibility that every tree in my yard would catch Orange Whatever, which I would happily name except, wouldn’t you know, nothing rhymes with orange.
          Ruth got right back to me. “Orange spots are good!  Normal for that species. It’s called exfoliating bark. It’s a prized feature to add winter interest to a landscape.”
          It took me no time whatsoever to extrapolate this to humans, and to decide that splotchy skin should become a THING.  Don’t cover it up anymore, just tell everyone you are adding winter interest to the landscape.  We can become Exfoliating Fools, and beautify the world indefinitely!
          Check out these other a-peeling trees, leading the world in winter beauty:
          Ruth also says this is the tree’s way of Spring Cleaning.  Well, humans don’t have to copy everything a tree does.

          Besides, you’re busy watching my YouTube Mom videos, right?  And buying my books?  Find them all right here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Definitely the Wrong Font

          Most people enjoy the zillions of font options out there, customizing their emails and websites with everything from

                                           Old English
                               to  Showcard Gothic

          On the other hand, many of us sigh when we constantly have to switch from Microsoft’s Calibri to Arial, every time we open Word.
          But if you have a business, can I recommend you choose a basic, simple font?  If you try to get too cute, here’s what can happen. I recently called for tech assistance, when an online order wouldn’t go through. As if we don’t have enough tech trouble.  Get this:

          Tech assistant: Your username is not going through.
          Me: But I’m typing in jonihilton. (then I spell it for her).
          Tech assistant: That’s not what I have.  What I have is J O N I L hyphen L I L T O N.
          Now I’m trying to imagine how on earth I entered such a ridiculous username.  Was it that my finger hit an adjacent button? Nope—L is nowhere near H.  Plus a hyphen? Who sticks a hyphen into their name?
          Me: I can promise you I would not have chosen that username.
          AND THEN I PICURE IT.  Joni l-lilton. This woman is looking at a screen where the H has separations between each stroke, like this Stencil font:


          And suddenly the H has become l hypen l.  
          What happens to B in a font like this—does it turn into the number 13?  
Does St. Bob become Agent 13 0 13? 


          And does K become l and then a < symbol?  N would be l slash l.  There’s no end to the confusion.
          So, choose a simple font where each letter has sensible connections.  And hire employees who know that l-lilton would be a ridiculous last name.

          Luckily, you won’t need tech support to visit my website here.  Scroll through my hundreds of YouTube Mom videos, and buy a book or two!