Friday, May 30, 2014

The Forbidden City

            I realize that California has a new law allowing any kid into any restroom, but when I was a young girl the boys’ bathroom was The Forbidden City.  The thought of going in there was as scary as leaping into a mine shaft.
            Maybe scarier, because in a mine shaft you could at least get rescued.  But in the boys’ room, you could be traumatized for life and then get into major trouble for trespassing into a taboo zone.  You might even have to visit the Principal (!) and we all know what that meant: Having it forever on your Permanent Record.  When someone said, “I dare you to go in the boys’ bathroom,” no one ever did it.  It was like saying, “I dare you to poke your own eyes out.”
            Little did I know just how bizarre life really is behind that door bearing a stick figure in pants. 
           Even though I do not have clearance for it, I have recently learned TOP SECRET intricacies of this male domain, which I shall now share with you.  And I learned this from a girlfriend, whose husband told her the heretofore secret Man Information.  I did not, and will never, step foot into a Men’s Room, no matter how legal it becomes.
            So here’s the low-down.  Inside a men’s room are white porcelain urinals that line the wall.  It’s not like there are 10 or 20 to choose from, often there are three. 
          Now here’s how men think.  If a man goes in and another guy is at Urinal #1, he will go to Urinal #3, leaving the center Urinal #2 empty.   But if the other guy is at Urinal #2, he will go into a stall, rather than stand right next to the guy.
            Ladies, can you believe this?  First of all, it’s odd to us that men will use urinals in the first place—so not private!—but, if you’re going to participate in this space alien custom, then why do they care which one they use?

            When we women go into a restroom, we are looking for an empty stall.  Any stall.  We don’t care if it’s right next to some other woman in a stall; we’re just glad we found one that’s not occupied. Proximity to another woman is not even on our radar.  As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, we probably should choose one next to somebody else, in case ours is out of toilet paper and we need to ask our neighbor to pass some to us under the divider.  Hey, we’ve all been there.
            Margaret Mead, or some other anthropologist, should have written a book about the strange culture living in a parallel universe, right next to the Ladies’ Room. And now, apparently, they are going to use whatever restroom they wish.  I just hope they put the seat up.  Sigh.

Not that you should be on the hunt for reading material in those stalls, but I do happen to have several books you can purchase on Kindle and in hard copies at Create Space.  Just in case you get tired of reading the graffiti.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Little Aptitude Attitude

How did you choose your career?  You went into something that interested you, right?  Some field where you showed some talent.  I’m betting you did not get your marching orders from the aptitude tests we took in junior high.
          Remember those?  They would ask, “Would you rather repair a dishwasher or eat a Twinkie?”  

Who has a hard time answering this question?  Or “Would you rather read a book or fire someone?”  Seriously?  How about, “Would you rather take this test, or read a book while eating a Twinkie?”
          Pages of this claptrap later, they tabulated our responses and told the math kids to go into math and the verbal kids to go into law.  Like we couldn’t have figured this out on our own.
          But I have a theory that there are lobbyists for unusual careers who finagled their jobs into the recommended lists as well.  Several of my classmates were advised to work on oil rigs, in mines, sweeping up in a bakery, and driving people to the airport. 
How about gluing ads to billboards?  Or working the appointment desk at the passport office?  These are all legit means of employment, it’s just hard for me to imagine a test that identifies the perfect candidate for them.
          However, the one I found most appalling was the one my son, Cassidy, came home with.  “It says I should be a clown,” he reported.
          You don’t say.  Now, granted this boy is highly entertaining, but couldn’t  the test makers have steered him into something that’s still in show biz, but a little more likely to support a family?  Clown?  Really?  It’s not that it’s illegal, and I’m not criticizing clowns per se, but I wrote here about the likelihood of actually surviving in this field.
          What would they advise a kid who’s good with money—to become a bank robber or a loan shark?  If a teenager enjoys target practice would you recommend “hit man”?  And if they show artistic talent, would you suggest “graffiti artist”?  How about a person who understands anatomy and business—should “drug dealer” be on their list of potential careers?  I can only imagine the delighted reactions of the parents of computer wiz kids who bring home “hacker” as a choice to consider.

          It’s enough to make me want to repair a dishwasher.
Although I have plenty to say about how to load one, line one, clean one, and so on.  Just check out my channel where I'm the YouTube Mom, dispensing short videos that teach life skills you never knew you were missing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Swooning in Loomis

          I love irises.  They’re my favorite flower, despite not having the heady fragrance of lilacs, which I also love, or plumeria, which I also love. 
          There are hundreds of varieties, in every show-stopping color imaginable.  Like delicious confections, they conjure images of sherbet and pastries, calorie-free the way they must be in heaven.

          Is it any wonder that Iris means “rainbow” in Greek? Old fashioned and sassy at the same time, irises know how to put on a show.  Whether clustered like clouds at sunset, or standing in their bright ruffled ball gowns, you cannot overlook them.

Thus, when I learned of a local iris garden, I had to drag St. Bob along to see it.
          We live in a friendly little suburb of Sacramento, sandwiched between Granite Bay, Roseville, Lincoln, and Loomis.  And Loomis is where the Horton Iris Garden is.  

Driving into Loomis is like going back in time—its quaint main street boasts a saddle and feed store, an old fruit processing plant that’s been made into an art gallery, and farmer’s markets such as The Blue Goose.
          Loomis has acres and acres of horse property, some of which we passed on our way to the Horton Iris Garden. You know how I love horses, so the minute we saw some I told Bob we should never travel without carrots.
          Bob thought that was a ridiculous suggestion, and immediately pointed out some cows and said we should never travel without steak knives.  Now who’s being ridiculous?
          Unfortunately, the irises bloomed a bit early this year, so we missed the heart-stopping peak performance. Still it was fun to see the late bearded bloomers, and to look up the various names hybridizers give these luscious blooms. Who can resist names like Loop the Loop, Crackling Caldera, Blowing Kisses, Dracula’s Kiss, High Octane, Last Hurrah, Bewilderbeast, or Capital City Jazz?  They sound like race horses!  

Still others made me hungry: Gingersnap, Pink Frosting, Nigerian Raspberry, Peaches and Dreams, Blueberry Parfait, and Mango Passion.
          Well, it doesn’t take much of a reach to go from hundreds of deliciously named irises to dozens of deliciously named shakes and malts at another Loomis establishment: Taylor’s, a burger and ice cream joint with more than 160 flavors.  
          Here’s just a portion of their shakes and malts menu.  Not that we went in and got butterscotch malts:
          And now I’m picturing irises named Cookies and Cream, Red Velvet, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Blackberry Cobbler, Cherry Lime Freeze, and Death By Chocolate. Hybridizers, take note.
          Have you subscribed to my Youtube channel, yet?  What are you waiting for?  I’m the YouTube mom with more short life skill videos than Taylor’s has shakes!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'm Joni and I'll be Your Waitress

          Tomorrow is National Waitress Day.
I don’t know if waiters have their own day, but I’ll tell you this: I could never be a waitress and the world is better for it.
          Here is how your meal would go if I were your waitress:
          You: Oh, Miss, will my steak be arriving soon?
          Me: What steak?
          You: The steak I ordered.
          Me: Who took your order?
          You: You did.
          Me: ME? That’s impossible!  Are you sure?
          You: (eye rolling, possibly) Yes, I’m sure.
          Me: What else did you order?
          You: That’s it.  Just a steak and a baked potato.
          Me: What? No vegetable?
          You: (sighing, possibly) No.
          Me: Well that’s hardly a healthy meal.  Did you order a salad, at least?
          You: No.
          Me: I’m bringing you a salad.  And a side of broccoli.
          You: But I didn’t order—
          Me: It’s on me, I just can’t have you eating dinner without something green.
          And green, of course, is the color I would never see in a tip. 
          So for all the waitresses who can remember their customers’ orders, resist revising those same orders, and cheerfully deliver plate upon plate of food to picky diners, I salute you.  This is your day.  Go out and celebrate.  After eating your veggies, of course.
As your YouTube mom, I must insist you have a balanced diet, even if it’s an ice cream cone in one hand and a cookie in the other.  Check out my channel here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Truth or Dare

          I swear all this is true.  Exactly one week ago I came out of the drugstore and noticed a huge dent on the driver’s side of my red car.  I dashed up to survey the damage and touched the bashed-in fender, to see if any white paint would come off.
A friendly woman came out of the drugstore just then and said, “Oh my gosh—did that just happen to you?”
Heartsick, I could only nod.  
“That’s so awful,” the woman said.  “Come here and look.   You can really see how dented it is from here.”
I stepped back up onto the sidewalk and saw what she was talking about.  Not only was the fender crunched, but the door as well. 
“Somebody must have backed into you and then taken off. That’s going to cost a fortune,” she commiserated.
I shook my head, disgusted.
“And a Lexus, too!” she said, sympathetic at the damage to so fine a car.
Except that I don’t own a Lexus.  I drive a Nissan Altima.  I swallowed and stole a glance at the license plate.  Oops.  This was not my car.  Mind you, it is the exact same color and shape as my car, and parked just 3 spots away.  
Will someone please tell me why identical burgundy cars all think they have to park right by my car wherever I go and keep me constantly confused?  It happens all week, and I am constantly trying to get into the wrong car. Here are just a few examples of this phenomenon:
I bit my lip.  No way could I tell this kind woman that I am an idiot.  What—and let her think she had wasted all that compassion on a moron? 
She was in a chatty mood and told me that her husband wants her to get a car instead of a mini-van, but the mini-van is so dinged up that she worries a car would be, too.
“Oh, I know,” I managed to say. But my heart was pounding.  What if the real owner came out and got in the car while I’m standing there pretending to own it?
I came up with the brilliant scheme to say I forgot something in the store, and dashed inside.  Even now, what if someone else got in and started to drive off?  My new best friend would undoubtedly run into the store and tell me that now someone is STEALING my car!
I had NO CHOICE but to buy a Dove Chocolate candy bar.  Then I peeked out the windows to see if the woman had left.  Slowly I slinked over to my real car and got inside.  But what if I drove off and pulled up to a stop light next to her?  She’d glance over and say, “Wait a minute—what are you doing in that car?”
Deception whirling around me I tore into my chocolate bar and waited until she was a safe distance away. Here is the evidence:
But Rocklin is not a huge city; what if I see her again?  She’ll ask how much the damage estimate was.  She’ll ask to see the newly repaired car.  And I’ll have NO CHOICE but to tell her I decided to downsize.  And then I’ll buy a Dove mini.
Epilogue: For Mother’s Day we got to Skype with our daughter who’s been a missionary in Norway for 16 months. I thought I’d share this story and told her that when I came out of the store I noticed a huge dent in the car and she said, “May I guess the ending?”
“No, you may not,” I said.  I told her the entire episode, and then said, “Was that the ending you guessed?”

You can prevent this from happening ever again, if you’ll buy enough of my books so I can afford a real Lexus. I’m just placing the responsibility where it belongs.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ever Taken This Test?

          Have you ever had your personality analyzed?  I don’t mean online, using a 10-question test to see what Disney character you are, or what kind of cookie you’d be, if you were a cookie.
          I’m talking about the MMPI—the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.  Yep, folks, I have taken this test.  Twice.  Psychologists give it to patients to help with diagnosis and treatment, and personnel offices give it to applicants to help them learn who’d make a great employee.
          My dad, being a psychologist, gave it to me when I was ten.  When professionals hear this they burst into laughter—nobody gives this test to a 10-year-old; a child wouldn’t even understand some of the questions. But Dad did it anyway, and I think I came out on the safe side of psychotic, so no harm done.
          The next time I took it was as a favor to a psychologist friend just starting out.  And the results were disappointing.  My friend thought it was wonderful that I fell into some rare category of ideal employees.  “You rated as high as possible in dependability,” he said.  “You’re hard-working, loyal, honest and reliable.”
          Okay, pardon me for not leaping with joy over this, but aren’t these the exact same traits we associate with German Shepherds?  
          Why couldn’t “hottie” have been one of the categories?   Seriously, who wants to be told their most glowing asset is dependability?  Whatever.  If you have a job to do I suppose I’m your “go-to man,” but it doesn’t exactly make you shout, “Woo-hoo!” and fist bump your friends.
          Actually, this whole notion of taking tests to see what you’re like has always baffled me.  Don’t you already know what you’re like?  Don’t you know whether you’re a cheerful soul, a drama queen, or a control freak?  Why would you need a complete stranger to help you figure this out?  When I was told I was dependable it wasn’t much of a surprise.  I guess I had just been hoping there would be a hidden quality I hadn’t seen, yet.  We all want to be a bit mysterious and alluring, after all.
          So I guess this means that if I took the Disney character test I would be “Old Reliable” in Lady and the Tramp.
And as far as what kind of cookie I’d be, I suppose I’d be a rock-hard bran cookie that you can always count on, at least to be consistent.  But, in reality, I’d much rather be a clever princess and a French macaron with raspberry filling. 
You don't need a test to tell you my books are a bargain; you can see that for yourself just by clicking on them, right here on the home page.  And if you purchase them, you too can be known as reliable and loyal-- high praise, indeed.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Showered with Wisdom

          We all know that next month is June, the most popular month for weddings, right?  And that makes May the most popular month for bridal showers. Whether you are giving one or attending one-- or even if you are a man just reading this blog-- I am offering you, completely free of charge, a wonderful goodie to give the bride-to-be. It’s my Top 20 list for any woman planning a successful marriage:
1.      After your husband expresses concern about whether a tall crystal vase might get knocked over on the family coffee table, do not respond with a sentence that begins, “Only a moron…”
2.      Do not ask what he is thinking.  His is not thinking anything and your asking just points this out.
3.      Do not scoff at the importance of watching the play-offs to the play-offs to the division championships to the Super Duper Final Series Winners.
4.      Do not suggest, at any point, even if you are approaching the Canadian border, that he stop and ask for directions.  Take along some knitting and make a sweater.
5.      Do not ask him to tell his funny stories when invited to dinner at someone else’s home, or to make his funny ducky sounds.
6.      Do not volunteer him to help the neighbors with household repairs he has claimed to have done but which you have not personally witnessed being done.
7.      Do no throw away his gigantic, 64 oz. Big Gulp cups that he is saving because he gets a discount when he goes in for a refill.
8.      Never say, “But we already have a set of tools.”
9.      Never say, “Notice anything different about me?”
10.    Never ask, “Does this make me look fat?”
11.    Do not make soy burgers.
12.    Do not refer to his shirts as “tops.”
13.    Do not tell the story about him that his mother told you, about the time he wet the bed at camp.
14.    Do not surprise him by signing up for a different phone service, insurance company, internet provider, or bank, even if the ad sounded irresistible.
15.    If he’s out with a friend somewhere, do not tell callers “He’s with his boyfriend,” even though this person is male and is a friend.
16.    Do not invite him to babysit your sister’s kids with you for the weekend, so he can see what it’s like to be a parent.
17.    Do not point out the remaining nuts and bolts of a kit he has just finished assembling.
18.    Do not try to change him.  It won’t work, it will tick him off, and it will remind him of his mother, not exactly the makings of a romantic mood.
19.    Do not say, “Oh, look, you missed one,” when he is holding a leaf blower and has been cleaning up the yard for thirty minutes.
20.    Do not compare his work to the handyman’s.  Just let it go and be glad he agreed to hire a handyman.
Brilliant stuff like this is in all my books, folks.  This list appeared in “Funeral Potatoes – The Novel.”  And, some of it, possibly, in my actual life.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Eating Humble Pie for Mother's Day

          Motherhood may be wonderful, heart-warming and all the other fuzzy adjectives we hear this time of year, but it can also be downright humbling.  There’s nothing like a kid or two (or four, in my case), to remind you that just around the corner from a pink card telling you how great you are, is a pink note from the teacher asking for a conference.  Heaven forbid we should actually believe the sentiments in a Mother’s Day card.
         There’s no one quite like you reminds me of the time I had transferred Cassidy to another school, then mistakenly called his old school and asked to get a message to him.
          “Uh, Cassidy doesn’t go here anymore,” the secretary said.  Now, she has to keep track of, what—500 kids?  And I have to keep track of four?  Yet I cannot remember that I HAVE PUT MY CHILD IN ANOTHER SCHOOL?  I’ll bet they still laugh over that one in their faculty meetings.
          Tears of joy reminds me of the time, in church, when Nicole whispered to me, “Why are you crying?” and I had to turn and whisper back, “Those aren’t tears.  That’s sweat.”  Peri-menopause does not go well with pantyhose and a hot chapel.
          I know I haven’t thanked you enough reminds me of the time Brandon asked me to come outside, only to discover an irate airport driver whose van was just hit with a water balloon launched by my very own son.  Oh—and the driver was from Lebanon and thought it was a car bomb.
          You’ve always been there for me reminds me of the time the Vice Principal called me in to explain the school’s tardy policies, and that even if a child has graduated early, and is just coming back for auto shop to work on his Mustang, he cannot accumulate 100 (yes, one hundred) tardies.  This resulted in a rewrite of the school’s handbook.
          Your tender love reminds me of the time Nicole made the Santa discovery, then extrapolated to the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, and cried the entire day.  Nothing I could say would console her.  To comfort her that night as I lay beside her in her bed, I glanced around the darkened room and saw a box of magic tricks on her shelf.  “Honey, it’s like magic,” I finally said.  “When you watch a magician, even though you know there’s a trick to everything, it’s still fun to see how he does it.”  Nicole looked up at me and said, “You mean there’s no magic, either?”
          All the things you’ve taught me reminds me how few have actually sunk in.  Safety, for example.  The same year Richie had to see a plastic surgeon for picking up a Piccolo Pete firecracker, Brandon created a mushroom cloud bomb in the cul de sac, which rattled all the neighbors’ windows.  This is not how I taught them to celebrate the Fourth of July.  And you’re not supposed to drive into the Bishop’s car, either.
          To My Beautiful Mother reminds me of the time I was leaning over my bathroom counter, in my underwear, putting makeup on.  Nicole was standing behind me, watching for a few minutes, then asked, “Mom, do they make a butt bra?”
          What would I do without you?  This has it’s own answer, doesn’t it?  The minute I drive off to the airport for a long overdue vacation, I can almost hear the paper shredder making confetti, and the phone dialing for pizza delivery.  Strains of “Tequila” echo down the block, and before I get 500 feet away, it’s Party Time.
          No, there really isn’t a card that captures motherhood accurately.  Maybe if one said, “Well, we’ve survived each other this far,” but I don’t expect to see that one rolling off the lines anytime soon at Hallmark.  So I open the cards and smile at the poems, embrace the humility of knowing they’re aren’t exactly true, and know that it won’t be long until one reads, “Now that you live in a padded cell…”
And speaking of moms, I am, after all, your YOUTUBE MOM.  Check out my channel here and subscribe!  Soon you'll be sending me a card, I just know it.