Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Falling for France

          Have you ever known someone to fall through a hole in a boat on their honeymoon and knock themselves cold?  Meet St. Bob.
          We had gone on an amazing trip to France, which included a 3-day barge tour through the canals of Burgundy.  Sounds dreamy, right?  Here's a glimpse of this luxurious way to see French countryside.  

          The brochure touted three Bs—barging, ballooning, and bicycling.  What they forgot was the fourth B: Bob. 
          And he wanted it all on video.  From going through the locks (no comments about my ‘80s yellow leg warmers) to filming the barge interior, to an abbey and beautiful gardens, Bob had to photograph it all.

          At midday we gathered for another sumptuous meal and Bob decided to wander into the kitchen to videotape all the foods we couldn’t pronounce, along with their preparation.
          The rest of us were happily chatting in the dining area, and suddenly heard a loud crash.  “Guess the chef dropped the chicken!” one guest joked.  After a while Bob rejoined us, and we continued on our way.  By evening we were visiting an old forge in Montbard, and Bob was finally so sore he could hardly walk.  He asked me to sit on a stone bench with him where he confessed that he had been walking backwards as he filmed, and had FALLEN THROUGH THE OPEN HATCH TO THE BOILER ROOM, broken a wooden step with his shoulder, sustained whiplash, and knocked himself out.  The camera lens had also hit the edge of the hole and stopped working just as he fell.
          When he opened his eyes, he could see a square of light above him, with the nervous staff peeking down at him.  He swore them all to secrecy so as not to spoil the trip for everyone by having to go to an emergency room.
          Well, naturally, I slapped his arm and began beating on him.  “You could have punctured a lung!  You could have broken your back!  You probably have a concussion!  You should have gotten x-rays!”  This did nothing to help his injuries, including broken ribs.  And, now we know the other B the brochure should have warned about: Bride.

Yes, it is true.  I will never run out of true stories and material for this blog.  Never.  Tell your friends to subscribe so they don’t miss any of the excitement.  And check out my website!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Just How Super Are You?

          For years we’ve all seen movies about super heroes with extraordinary powers—they can fly, turn invisible, see through walls, you-name-it. And we’ve all wished we could have superhuman strength or some unusual ability from time to time.
          Well, a few years ago, after watching a movie about a high school for the kids of such comic book characters, my son dashed into the kitchen (where I am frequently located) and said, “Mom, you’re a super!”
          I am still waiting, mind you, for the phrase, “Mom, you’re super!” without the “a” in there, but I’ll take what I can get.
          He was referring to my tasting abilities.  Yes, folks, I am a super taster.  Granted, this ability does not come with a movie contract, comic book rights, or ANY MONEY WHATSOEVER, nor has it yet benefited the world at large, but at least I have one talent my children have noticed.
          (It’s not even very rare—about a third of all women are supertasters, and about 15 per cent of all men have this same condition.)
          What it means, if you’re a supertaster, is that you have more taste buds than average—a lot more.  Thus you taste things more strongly, especially bitterness in foods.  I’ve also found I cannot abide carbonation, which feels prickly on my tongue, and I’m extremely sensitive to heat, sitting there waiting for my soup to cool while everyone else is gobbling it up.  Ultra spicy foods bring me to my knees, and sour candies are out of the question.  Even most fresh fruit makes me pucker up as if I’ve bitten into a lemon. I’ve never been able to eat a peach in my life (though I love peach pie). Basically this “superpower” has turned me into a big baby.
          There are a few advantages, however.  I can taste something and tell you almost exactly what’s in it.  You want to know what that strange hint of a spice is?  I can probably tell you.  And long before the rest of the family would notice, I can tell the milk is beginning to sour.  I’m also able to enjoy the nuances of subtle foods and sauces that others miss, causing them to reach for the salt shaker to add flavoring (something I also almost never do).  It’s as if I have microscopic vision, except that it’s in my tongue.
          If you suspect that you are also a superhero like me, click here to find out if you qualify for this elite club.  And then write and tell me if you figure out how we can take over the world. 

          Even if you’re not a supertaster, you can have the good taste to order my books here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Batter Up? I Don't Think So

          People ask me how I manage to write all the books and plays I write.  Plus this blog, the YouTube Mom videos, my weekly Meridian column, and a new musical.  And I always say, “I avoid sports.”
          And it’s true, but it’s not the whole story.  Yes, I refrain from many athletic activities I see others enjoying, but it’s not just so I can write.  It’s because I’m terrible at them.
          And there we have it: I am not good at sports.  But it’s not for lack of trying; it’s because I have hypermobility and because I lack good hand-to-eye coordination.  P.E. teachers everywhere: Stop making students with zero aptitude for ball games continually get hit in the eye by said balls.  Let them swim or ride a bike or something.  Sheesh!
          We all drive by playgrounds of kids out on the asphalt, playing dodge ball or basketball or volleyball or some other ball.  And if you watch long enough, you will see a little Joni out there who cannot catch, kick, or otherwise connect with this orb until it smacks her—or him—in the face. 
          Well, it took 40 years and a wise ophthalmologist to identify the problem.  I’ve been very nearsighted since childhood, but I had no idea it tied into poor hand-to-eye coordination. 
So there I was, in the doctor’s office and he said, “Put on these sunglasses.”  They were black, with zillions of tiny holes in them.  “Now look at this card,” he said.  On the card were little drawings of common objects-- a tree, a house, a dog, and so on.

“Which ones look as if they’re floating in the air?” he asked.
“All of them,” I said.
“And that’s your problem.”  He told me that a professional baseball pitcher would be able to look through those sunglasses at the card and see every item flat on the card.  But, if you have terrible hand-to-eye coordination, they appear to be floating, like a 3D movie effect.
“And P.E. teachers don’t use this why?” I asked.
He shrugged. “They should.  Then they’d know which kids won’t be able to play ball.”
Duh.  Do ya think?  Imagine the years of anguish kids like me could be spared—and the other skills they could acquire if only someone would point them towards activities in which they might actually succeed.
Meanwhile, I looked up ways to improve hand-to-eye coordination and found all kinds of recommendations for things I already enjoy: coloring, crafts, jigsaw puzzles, playing with clay.  Imagine how much worse my hand-to-eye coordination would be if I weren’t already doing “therapy”!  
Well, at least it’s better than hoof-and-mouth disease.

Tell your buddies to subscribe to Joniopolis—maybe they’re just as klutzy and now they’ll know why! (And if you want to see my books, etc. just click here.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Breaking the Rules

          We dislike rule breakers, don’t we?  People who skid through stop signs, people who use dreadful grammar on purpose.  They make us frown, at the very least.
But guess what I’ve discovered?  We’re all rule breakers.  You just have to go back a bit to see that dozens of words we love and use, were frowned upon just a few years ago.  And we’re slinging them around like Jackson Pollock, creating a masterpiece.
Ever gotten a great deal on something?  Well, DEAL was considered a coarse, crude way to describe an agreement, back in the 1890s.  I, for one, am glad we have relaxed our standards.  Imagine my husband, Bob, who hosted the national TV show, Let’s Make a Deal, after Monty Hall, having to say, “Let’s Make a Mutually Acceptable Transaction!”  It just doesn’t fall from the lips the same way, does it?
There are hundreds of words forbidden by yesteryear’s standard of refined diction, but we hear them all the time today.
Hasten was preferred to HURRY, Child was preferred to KID, Angry was better than MAD, and sensible people said, “an Abundance” instead of “LOTS.
In 1894 Oliver Bell Bunce wrote, “Don’t say DONATE when you mean give. The use of the pretentious word for every instance of giving has become… nauseating.  If one can not give his church or town library a little money without calling it donating, in the name of good English, let him keep his gift until he has learned better.”  That’s the spirit, Oliver.
ANYHOW was considered “exceedingly vulgar” and “unpardonable” back then, as was using AGGRAVATE (which means to make more serious) when you merely mean irritate.
And, as recently as 1965, DONE was skewered as a poor substitute for finished or completed.  Waiters, take note!
Answering “FINE” to “How are you?” is careless indeed; the correct response is “Well.”  Even the word, FUN, was considered a slovenly adjective.  Yet what would we do without it?
I recall teachers explaining that UNIQUE is already a superlative, thus something cannot be “more” unique or “very” unique.  And that LOAN is not a verb, but a noun; you lend, but cannot loan.   Furthermore, lists should never turn numbers into adverbs (firstly, SECONDLY, etc.)  We should simply say first, then second.
But English is a dynamic, swirling ocean of words, changing through usage all the time.  Unless we can adapt, I fear we will forever be mad and aggravated.  I mean angry and irritated.  One of those.

If you love language and grammar, you simply must meet Kate, the central character in my comedy novel, Sisters in the Mix, available in kindle or hard copy here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NOT Our New Motto

          I have admitted to many a flaw in this blog (not all of them—I’m not crazy), and one of them is my, shall we say, tendency to drive a tad fast.  You can read about my racing the family mini-van here.
          I try to slow down when I have passengers, but apparently I am still scaring the daylights out of them because
1.   My closest friends refuse to drive with me.
2.   I gave these same friends crash helmets, as a joke, and they thought I was serious.
3.   People stare at me when I say a place is 20 minutes away and they all think it’s 30.
4.   When Nicole and a junior high friend were in the back seat a few years ago, the friend said, “Doesn’t this scare you?” and Nicole said, “Nah, I’m used to it.”
5.   This same daughter has told me I drive like Cruella DeVil.
I tried to find an outlet for my problem.  Let me rephrase that.  I tried to find a venue for my talents, but it turns out ambulance drivers have to be trained medical people as well.  Why they have to multi-task like that is beyond me. 
The other day St. Bob and I went out to lunch.  I pulled brilliantly into a parking spot (hey, if you don’t like screeching, don’t buy screechy tires) and Bob said, “I should drive so we stay alive.  Hey, that rhymes.  That’s our new motto.”
“That is not our new motto,” I said.
“Yes it is.  I should drive so we stay alive.”
“Repeating it does not make it our new motto.”
“Rhyming does.”  He was grinning, now.
“I should drive so we get there on time.  It doesn’t matter if this doesn’t rhyme.  There.”
We both ordered coconut cream pie, and believe me: We got it at least ten minutes sooner than we would have, had I not been driving.

Even my Youtube Mom videos are time efficient, folks—most of them run less than a minute.  Check ‘em out here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

          Today, September 12th, is my birthday.   I share this illustrious day with such notables as Jennifer Hudson, Paul Walker, Ruben Studdard,  and Yao Ming, although every one of them had the nerve to pick a more recent year than mine.
          On the other hand, there are people with my same birthday who are waaay older than me, including Barry White, H.L. Mencken, Jesse Owens, George Jones, Maurice Chevalier, and Lorenzo de’ Medici— of whom I am gratefully younger.  Especially Medici.
          I don’t know if you like your own birthday, but I always regretted that mine fell so close to the beginning of school, making it hard to compile a birthday party list. 
It also meant I was youngest in my class for my entire educational career, and gave me the impression that I would always be the youngest person in the room.  This has become a hilarious miscalculation in recent years.
And, since school had started, it wasn’t really a summer birthday.  On the other hand, it was too early to be an autumn one.  Do you wear a sweater or not?  Shorts or long pants?  Order an ice cream cone or hot chocolate?
     Despite any misgivings, I think we all harbor a secret love of our birth day, no matter which one it is.  It’s the day we get presents, blow out candles, and celebrate with loved ones.  Sure, we age, but it beats the alternative.  And, just in case you’re now scrambling for a last-minute gift for me, the birthstone for September is the sapphire.  Just saying.

Or, you could order one of my books—what a fun gift that would be.  Visit my website here, then click on “books” and shop to your heart’s content!

My Blue Day

I know you’ve felt blue before—who hasn’t?  But have you ever been blue (members of Blue Man Group excluded)?
          I recently had two brushes with blueness on one day—what are the odds of that?  The first was at a baby shower where there was good news and bad news.  The good news is that they served killer delicious food, including a blueberry cobbler-ish dessert.  The bad news is that a 2-year-old grabbed a forkful of it and smeared it across my pale yellow pant leg.
          The mother of this child was not the least bit alarmed, so I was left to go into the kitchen for a wet rag and try to minimize the damage.  Luckily I am the Youtube Mom and I know how to remove stains, even purplish blue ones.  But still, these were lined, dry-clean-only silk pants, so I had to work carefully and then still get them dry-cleaned.
          The second attack of the blues was that evening, when I slipped on a pair of navy blue wedge sandals and wore them to yet another party.  I know, it sounds like all I do is flit from one social wingding to another, but these were truly the only “events” I went to all month.
          And when I came home and slipped off the sandals, the dark blue inner soles had completely stained my feet NAVY BLUE.  I kid you not.  Like a Sharpie.  It would not rinse off.  It would not come off with soap.  It would not come off with a wash cloth.  I felt like a Dr. Seuss character. Not with a fox, not in a box.  Not on a boat, not with a goat.
Finally I had to use heavy duty cleaner and a Scotch Brite sponge like you’d use on a scorched sauce pan, sitting on the edge of a tub like a naughty child who colored on her feet with markers, and now had to pay the consequences.  
And you should have seen how much blue tint was swirling down the bathtub drain.  Not even Picasso, in his blue period, saw this much blue.
  I wondered what grape stompers do, when their feet are stained from stomping on grapes to make wine.  Since I am LDS, I have precious little information about this career, or its cleanup options.  And I can’t go and Google it, because then I would get blue footprints all the through the house on my white carpet.
          Finally my pants were at the dry cleaners’ and those sandals were resting in the bottom of a trash can.  I think I’m going to wear blue jeans and tennis shoes for awhile.

          Yes, indeedy,  you can learn about  stain removal and so much more—seemingly every life skill you missed—by subscribing to my Youtube Mom videos here.  You can even request videos asking for solutions to common problems, including what to do when you’re feeling blue.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Ultimate Power Fiend

          We all know control freaks, don’t we?  And you are thinking of one right now, aren’t you?  Maybe it’s a friend, a relative, a boss—someone you think is the ultimate bossy pants who wants to command the world and all its inhabitants.
          But I’ve just learned of someone worse.  I went to visit a friend who owns three cats that are named after famous soccer players.  Her sons are talented athletes and named the cats Pele, Beckham, and Rooney.
          Unfortunately, Rooney got sick and had to go to the veterinarian.  But his problems don’t end there.  His veterinarian is a woman who’s an avid soccer fanatic.  And she doesn’t like the soccer player, Rooney.  She said she wasn’t sure she could perform an adequate surgery on a cat with this name, so she changed it!  She wrote a completely different name on his chart, and will only refer to the cat by this new name (some soccer player my friend has never heard of).
Imagine!  First of all, a vet admitting she would give inferior care to a cat with an unappealing name-- but then to actually change the medical records to reflect a new name of her own choosing.  Holy Stolen Identity, right? 
And what if the owner can’t remember this obscure player’s name, and needs to check the cat’s medical history?  First of all, why would anyone in their right mind go back to that vet?  Imagine a doctor saying, “You can’t name your child Noah—I had an uncle Noah who was a complete rascal.  I’m going to call him Cyborg.”  Would you ever step foot in that office again?
I wonder if “I Did it My Way” or “Do What I Say” were playing when she brought the cat in.  I can only imagine what would happen if I brought Mickey to that vet, and she didn’t like Mickey Mouse.  She’d probably change the name to Goofy. On the other hand, given the disposition of my Chihuahua, that might be exactly the right name.

Coping with others is not always easy.  But my Youtube Mom videos even address ways to get along.  Check ‘em out here, and subscribe!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Talk About Your Famous Relatives

          Quick—name the fastest growing hobby in the world.  If you said, “Genealogy,” you’d be right.  There is something deliciously addictive in putting together the puzzle of our ancestry.  
         And now, with so many free online search sites, you can unearth both hooligans and heroes, filling your family tree with the most colorful characters you can imagine. 
Helen Keller once said, "There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his." Coolest of all is that everyone can claim Adam and Eve as common ancestors, which makes us all related in the biggest, most dysfunctional, hilarious, and often loving family. 
I wrote about the rival revolutionary war generals I found in my family and in St. Bob's here.  Even more interesting is that my tree contains a madam, for whom neighbors actually burned an effigy, in 19th Century England.  I can only imagine her contributions to the community.
But you’ll never believe what happened this week.  I was poking around on Family Tree, looking for Bob's connections to Norse kings, to show Nicole that she actually has heritage from Norway, where she just spent 18 months on a mission.  I was pretty sure I could remember a Beldeg, an Odin, and a Borg or somebody, King of the Norse. 
Only this time I took a new turn on Bob’s tree, and ended up with King Louis IV of France, a Roman emperor, Constantine the Great, and Julius Caesar.  I kept clicking on new branches and found Saxons and Goths, and eventually people with nicknames such as “the Bald,” and “the Fat.”  Soon I saw the king of Troy in 1500 BC, then Solomon and David.
And I then I realized what was happening.  This line was headed straight for Abraham, Noah and Methusaleh.  That could only mean one thing—I had traced my husband’s line all the way back to Adam!  Sure enough, just a few clicks later I saw, “Adam, the First Man and Eve, the First Woman, 4000 BC.”  Holy history chart! 
The incredible thing is that we could all do this, if we had complete records.  But it’s possible I’m the only person who has gone back to both Adam and Madam.  And somehow, in light of my latest book, I think it’s appropriate that these two discoveries rhyme.

Check out my LDS Nursery Rhymes book here—and give them as gifts to all your Mormon friends.  If you don’t have any, make some—they’ll probably help you with your family tree and get you all the way back to Adam!