Friday, January 30, 2015

Do You Get My Vibe?

           Let’s see if you can guess my favorite musical instrument.  I’ll wait a minute while you think.  Okay, time’s up. 

You’ll never get it: It’s the vibraphone.
          This is not the same thing as a xylophone.  For one thing, xylo means wood, and vibraphone bars are made out of aluminum.  Both are hit with mallets, but the vibraphone has an electric motor that creates a vibrato you can’t get with a xylophone.  It’s cool, ethereal, and jazzy.  I am not particularly any of these things, but I love to listen to music that is.
 A couple of months ago St. Bob surprised me with tickets to see the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet and I was absolutely giddy.  The best thing is that he’s such an incredible musician.  The baby boy of the famous Marsalis clan (you’ve probably heard of Wynton, Branford and others), he’s 37, but he looks about 25.
          Okay the really best thing was that they performed in the smallest venue of the Harris Center in Folsom—Stage 3--, which meant it was incredibly intimate.  We were sitting about 20 feet from the musicians.  At one point they even took audience questions.  My hand shot up.  “How old are you guys?” I asked, “And whatever the answer is, that’s impossible.”  
          They played with the sophistication of guys in New Orleans who are in their 60s, yet here were young kids—KIDS!—knocking it out like guys twice their age.  Jason (I like to think we could be on a first name basis, so I’ll call him Jason) was so unassuming and modest, so unlike the superstar he really is.  And funny.  The honestly best thing is that his latest album is called “In a World of Mallets.”
          The next best thing is that they all wore shirts and ties.  Thank you for respecting your craft, your instruments, and your audience.  Bravo on that alone.
          The almost best thing is that I wanted to have them over for dinner.  And, with a husband from Louisiana, I know all the yummy things they probably long for when on tour. But I didn’t ask.  Besides, they were only in town for one day.  And I don’t want their memory of Sacramento to be of some stalker-woman-freako-fan inviting them to her house.
          The evening was awesome.  Here’s a review of their act from the New York Times: "His playing is eccentric within graceful boundaries, concerned with polyrhythm as science, history and gamesmanship, full of technique used to non-slick ends…Discipline and strategy are written deeply into the band.”  I have no earthly idea what any of that means, but we don’t have to understand the chemistry of a great dessert to enjoy it, do we?
          And Bob is now firmly back in Saint status.  And truly, that’s the very best thing.

And here’s another best: Best deal on the internet—my hilarious books!  Check ‘em out here.  While you're there on my website, check out my Youtube Mom videos.  And if you are Jason Marsalis, come over for dinner.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cookies of Fortune

          Three billion.  That’s how many fortune cookies are made every year, to satisfy our craving for a surprise in a secret compartment.
I don’t know anyone who can resist snapping open that crisp little cookie to see what the slip of paper says. In recent years I’ve noticed these have become “advice” cookies more than fortune cookies, and I’m always disappointed when it says to hold my tongue (ha!) or to get more exercise (double ha!) when what I really want to hear is that I’m going on a fabulous vacation.
Though I have visited the tiny Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in an inauspicious alley in San Francisco, this is not where they originated.  People argue over how these cookies actually came to be, but they all agree it was not the Chinese, but the Japanese who came up with the idea.  Apparently these confections don’t even exist in China.
I tried to make some once, containing my own personalized fortunes.  But you have to fold them while they’re still hot, which means you can only bake two or three at a time without a machine.  Always think twice when a recipe says, “Working quickly.”  I finally threw the fortunes in the trash, along with the cooled and broken remnants of my great idea.
I finally just served purchased cookies that I dipped in white chocolate and then crushed peppermints.  They were immediately better-- but then what isn't improved, if you dip it in white chocolate?
Even without a chocolate coating, we love to get our cookie at the end of a Chinese meal.  We know some poor lackey is making up the messages in the back room, yet we cannot resist reading it and wondering if it will come true.  Maybe that’s what I like about fortune cookies- - they let us be a kid again for a couple of minutes.  And that’s worth more than all the tea in China.

A good book is in your future!  Order one here and find lifelong happiness. J

Friday, January 23, 2015

That's What Dreams Are Made Of

In my last post I told you that my back went out and I went to see Dr. Mountford, a chiropractor.  Since then I have been in many times, and we are chatting it up so much that I am worried my x-rays will come out with a blurry mouth because I cannot seem to hold it still.
          But there’s something I haven’t told him.  Oh, yes, I told him I’ve had whiplash seven times.  But I haven’t told him about the last time.  I did, however, put it in my book, Funeral Potatoes--The Novel .  Readers probably thought I was making it up, but those of you who know me know this is unnecessary, as my life is dialed to the Lucy Ricardo setting permanently.
          Here is the absolute truth of what happened: One night I had a horrible dream that I was hit by another car going full speed.  It was so scary that I sat straight up in bed, woke up, realized it was just a dream, and then lay back down and went back to sleep. 
But in sitting up so fast, I must have pulled my neck and back muscles out.  So the next morning I could barely move, and found myself at the chiropractor’s office, wincing in pain.  The receptionist asked me to fill out a form, which included a description of my injury. Well what could I say?  I wrote, “I dreamed I was in a car accident.”  The next thing I knew the doctor himself came into the waiting room and said, “No one has ever written that on one of my forms.”  Welcome to Joniopolis. This is where crazy things not only can happen, they will.  Time and again.  And if this makes my insurance rates go up, you can bet you’ll hear about that here.

Buy my books and you’ll see why I say that every minute of the day is a win-win: Either things go well, or it’s material.  Usually it’s material.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Backing Out

            I thought about calling this blog “Out Back” but didn’t want you to think I'd won a trip to Australia. 
Nope, and even if I had won such a trip, I’d be unable to go because my back went out last week.  I keep waiting up for it to return, but it’s a rebellious thing.
            I know what caused it—all the decorating and undecorating for Christmas, finally catching up with me.  And now it’s time to pay those eleven pipers piping.
            So I’ve been icing it with frozen peas (bags of them, not one pea at a time, thank you) and wearing a Velcro strap for my Sacroiliac.  Sacroiliac, by the way, is a fun word to say, but not a fun thing to have out of whack.

            Nevertheless these are the times that make us grateful for friends, and I must give thanks to Kathy Ray for driving me to her wonderful chiropractor, Evan Mountford.  And to Renae McDonald for delivering a fresh, steaming loaf of homemade bread that we slathered with butter and honey and virtually drank on the spot. 
And to Jen Zumba who gave me Lidocaine patches and to Tina Martin, who delivered them.  And to Suzanne Aedo who attended my 8 a.m. church leadership meeting for me.  Belonging to an LDS ward literally means you have a cluster of sisters who actually care and who jump into action.
            Last, I must thank St. Bob for helping me wrangle myself into pantyhose for church, for helping me stand every time I sit down, and for making chicken pot pie when I couldn’t move enough to cook.  Okay, he bought frozen ones and baked them, but still. 
            He also drove me to my last doctor appointment and when I happily reported that I put my own socks on that morning, he said, “Until now she’s been wearing mine.”  Did I mention that when you have an injured back, laughing is one of the most painful things you can do?

Do not lift objects that are too heavy.  In fact, the exact weight you should be lifting is just under a pound. What a coincidence—that’s the weight of one of my books!  Get these back-saving lifesavers here!

Friday, January 16, 2015

I Was a Burglar Prodigy

          I’m not Catholic, but if I were (and we’ve all imagined ourselves in those confessionals we see in the movies) I would have to confess to stealing something when I was three.
          Wait—Mormons get baptized when we’re eight—the age of accountability—so anything I did at age three is forgiven.  Whew!  But if I had to repent of theft, this would be the shameful event I would share.
          My parents had decided to buy a swing set for my sister and me—she was eight, I was three.  No, I did not steal a swing set. 
But on the way to the swing sets in a giant department store, we passed the candy counter.  And, lo and behold, the glass case was broken, and chocolates were just sitting there, five inches from my head as I walked by.
 I reached out what was probably a chubby little fist, and grabbed some.  I also realized immediately that this was wrong, and kept my hand clamped shut so no one would know of my dastardly deed.  Of course the one thing I’ve ever stolen had to be chocolate—aaugh!  Some things never change. 
Well, not surprisingly, by the time we got to the swing sets the chocolate had melted and was oozing out my fingers.  “What’s in your hand?” I was asked.  Yikes.  I kept it closed.  Finally it was pried open and my dishonesty was revealed.
          My parents were appalled.  Even I was appalled, and I didn’t even know what appalled meant.  I was severely reprimanded and my hand was cleaned off.  But even worse, my consequence was not getting a swing set.  This meant my sister didn’t get one, either.  In fact, I never  got a swing set.
          This is how I avoided what was surely going to become a life of not-very-organized crime.  I learned never to take what didn’t belong to me, and that our actions often affect others. Too bad it didn’t teach me to give up chocolate.  Oh, well.  Two out of three ain’t bad.
If all this chocolate talk has made you hungry, check out my humorous chick lit novel, Sisters in the Mix, which you can find here.  It’s about a crazy lady with a cooking show, and wait ‘til you see what she does with chocolate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Here Comes the Sun. I Mean Rain.

          For years I’ve had mixed emotions about sun roofs in cars.  On the one hand, you can let in some sunshine.  On the other hand, you’re not really getting the effect of a convertible and you’re just courting skin cancer.  So, despite having one, I really never open it. 
          Until now.  At the worst possible moment.
          You may remember my blog post here, about the torrential rain we can get in Sacramento.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it rivals the buckets and sheets and cats and dogs you hear about everywhere else.
          And it was just such a day, recently, when I was driving home, the wiper blades smacking back and forth, flinging the rain aside with the fury of a machete-weilding warrior.
          Remember, now, this is a new car and I haven’t learned all the buttons and gizmos, yet.  But I do know the garage door opener button is on the roof of the car, so I press it when I’m about three houses away, so the door will go up and I can go zipping into a dry garage.
          Except the door does not go up.  Instead, the sun roof hums open, allowing drops the size of almonds to pelt my head like a cartoon of a chipmunk firing nuts from his cheeks, machine gun-style.  Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam.  And the entire interior of the car is getting drenched along with me, like a surprise ice bucket challenge.

          Well, of course I scream.  But it’s raining like a monsoon so there’s no one around to hear me.  Wildly I press every button on the roof, but none of them will close the sunroof or open the garage door.  My hair and face are being pummeled, my clothes are wringing wet.  I am now in the driveway, screaming and soaked, with my sunroof wide open and the garage door clamped shut. 
          My purse and some papers on the front seat are saturated and I have no idea how I’ll ever dry the carpet or upholstery.  I keep pressing buttons and finally the garage door opens.  Incredibly SLOWLY.  The second I know the roof will clear, I zoom in, the antennae flipping like a rubber band.
          St. Bob, having heard the door go up, comes out into the garage to greet me and sees a dripping wet version of his wife, furiously stabbing at the roof to try to close the sunroof.  It will not.  I throw open the door and leap from my unheated hot tub, red-faced, humiliated, and totally sopping.  My hair is plastered to my face in rivulets and I am panting.
          Bob's lips curl into a smile. Calmly he reaches into the car, presses a button, and the sun roof hums closed. 
          “That was NOT working a minute ago,” I growl as I stomp into the house.  And like all good husbands, he knows better than to argue.

Next time you’re caught in a downpour, have one of my books handy to read.  You can find them here, and curl up with them by a toasty fire, wrapped in a nice, dry blanket.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Do I Hear Five Hundred?

          People who hold world records are fairly rare, wouldn’t you agree?  I mean, how many friends of yours are the absolute world’s fastest or best or most amazing at something?  Like “highest grossing movie ever” or “richest person in the world” there just aren’t many of them. They’re superlatives.
          A superlative is usually an adjective that tells you this person or object is the utmost something can be, greater than any other description. 
          But it can also be something negative, such as “the world’s most dangerous highway” or “most evil dictator.”   And these extreme edges of achievement (or infamy) fascinate us, hence the popularity of the Guinness Book of World Records,
which can tell us who has the longest fingernails in the world, and who holds the dubious title of most melons bashed in with one’s head.
          But I am telling you today about a distinction I hold that is beyond any ever attained by another human being.  I am, without a doubt, the world’s worst auctioneer.  Okay, perhaps newborn infants or people in comas could be worse.  Perhaps.  But of able adults I am, by far, the world’s worst at this.
          Some time ago a celebrity friend of mine was asked to run the auction at a big fundraising event for an excellent cause.  (I hesitate to tell you the charity because I mangled the event so badly, but trust me—it involved innocent children who deserved better than my ghastly efforts.)  Well, she couldn’t make it and asked me to fill in.  I do lots of public speaking, so we both thought it could work.
          We were both very, very wrong.  We forgot the fact that I am terrible at remembering numbers if I don’t write them down, due to ADD.  I don’t even know what we paid for our house, for example.  St. Bob has told me umpteen times (See? Can’t even remember how many times) but it doesn’t stick.  So, after telling a few jokes, I got down to business, showed the first item and took the first bid.
          And this is where the springs in my brain went boingy, boingy and I promptly forgot the bid.  “Wait—what was the bid?” I asked, into the mike.  Someone yelled it out.  A hundred dollars.  I asked for one-fifty.  Someone bid one-fifty.  “Good!  One-fifty,” I said.  “Can I hear—wait—what was the bid?”
          Oh, good heavens!  This went on for days.  Okay, it wasn’t days, it was about an hour.  But it was a dreadful, agonizing hour that felt like days.  I kept looking into the faces of the audience and wanting to hold each one and apologize.  They were having to prompt me through the entire thing!  And there was no getting out of it because I had a pile of stuff to sell!
           And now, in the brain cells where I should have been processing bids, instead I was worrying.  First worry: These people probably thought I was drunk (an assumption made even worse if they knew I was LDS and don’t drink—so now I’m wondering if they think I’m just flagrantly disobeying my religion’s rules).  Second worry: Some of them might think I’m having a stroke and will call paramedics and then I’ll probably have to pay those guys.  Third worry: These people will never support this wonderful charity again and they won’t get anyone to attend next year.  Fourth worry: My friend will never speak to me after this train wreck of an auction in her name.  Fifth worry: I will bump into some of these people in the future and they will whisper and point.
          Finally the torture was over and I left in a flurry of apologies to the people running the event.  Needless to say, I have never volunteered to auction anything, anywhere, ever again.  Although I’d definitely support a fundraiser for ADD research.  Just as long as someone else runs the auction.

Lucky for you my books have a set price—a LOW, set price.  Check ‘em out here and enjoy reading!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Boy is Back!

             Cue the trumpets.  

             Our eldest son has moved home.  Okay, granted, he does not want to do this.  Granted, he described this as “extremely temporary” while he looks for a job as a geologist, fresh out of UC Davis with his degree.  Granted, when I begged him to move home several months ago, all you could hear were crickets.
            But I’m so excited I’m giddy.  Just think of all the Scrabble games, jokes, stories, outings, discussions about the universe, and reasons to make more pies. 
Yesterday a friend of his came over and we cooked, played games, watched TV, and visited all day.  I am in my comfort zone, square and center.  (And it doesn’t hurt that he can offer me computer help on demand.  I mean on request.)
            Truth be told, I wish all my kids could do this.  I have no problem refilling my nest and only wish I could turn back the clock and raise them all over again.  Of course, none of them want to be parented anymore, but that actually works for me, because all I really want to do is play with them, anyway. 
            On holidays I get a little glimpse of the fun this would be, with Christmas music blaring and everyone bustling in the kitchen.  Some of the kids are designing the gingerbread house, 

our daughter is rolling out the Norwegian Lefse she learned to make on her mission, fudge is being stirred, Bratseli cookies are steaming in their waffle iron, 
the red velvet cake is made, 
games are underway, and the dog is running around in a Santa suit.
Organized chaos with everyone laughing—that’s heaven, right?
            “Grown children don’t want to hang out with their parents,” I was warned by a friend.  “He’s going to be gone more than he’s going to be there.”  Yes, I realize there’s a more realistic side to this twinkling coin of mine.  And that is exactly why parents have the washing machines, beds, refrigerators and WiFi that gives the kids an excuse to come over.  And did I mention pie?
Have you subscribed to my YouTube Mom channel here, yet?  Among other life skills on there, I can show you how to make absolutely killer pies.  Check it out!      

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My New Year's Resolution

          Last week I reminded you that I don’t like New Years’ Resolutions—they’re too big and sweeping, and they leave us all feeling like failures by mid-January.  But (drum roll, please) today I have decided to go completely back on my word and set a TOTAL LIFETIME GOAL.  Yessir, I am going to do something and do it FOREVER.  I invite you to join me.
I’m going to look for stuff I have in common, with uncommon people.  I’ve done it a good bit, but not consistently.  And the world is too filled with hasty assumptions, judgments, and a growing “us versus them” mentality, so this is my one-person effort to throw back one starfish and erase the walls that divide us.  Even mix metaphors, if I have to.
Here’s what prompted my turnaround:  We’ve all done it.  We’ve met someone totally different than us, and assumed there’s no way we can become friends.  Maybe you’re a young hipster and you see a middle-aged, heavy woman on the bus.  “Nope,” you think, “she’s not in my circle.”  But maybe you both read music and both like Yo-Yo Ma. 
Maybe she loves the same dinosaurs or planets or animals that you do.  Maybe you both have a neighbor with a barking dog, and you wish you knew how to solve the problem. Maybe she makes your favorite pie!  The sky’s the limit on how much you could have in common with this stranger.
And that’s just it—we can take any person on this planet, and find more in common with them than not, if we just try.  It’s too easy to size someone up and dismiss them based on their appearance, their politics, or their religion. 

Last week I was in a shopping mall and saw a young guy in line behind me holding a sleepy little pit bull puppy. (First irony of the New Year-- he's wearing an "Us versus Them" shirt.)  I doubt I resemble many of his close friends, and he doesn’t resemble many of mine.  But my daughter asked if she could take a picture of the puppy and soon we were all cooing over this tiny creature.  “I love the little freckles on his nose,” I said, thinking that was my favorite thing.  And then the guy said, “That’s my favorite part.”  And there we were, grinning at each other with a shared favorite thing—those adorable little speckles.
One time I was at a farmer’s market wanting to buy some gorgeous pastries, but they all contained walnuts—the one thing I’m allergic to.  I sighed and an old man said, “You allergic to walnuts?”  I nodded.  “Me too,” he said. And soon we were sharing recipes and talking about our children.
Remember the movie, Heaven Can Wait, where Warren Beatty's butler relays a conversation about how disappointed they both are when the marshmallows in their hot chocolate are all gone?  It doesn’t matter if you’re the zillionaire or the stable boy, we all want more marshmallows.
So my new approach is consciously to seek common ground, even with people who dismiss me at a glance, or who may not think we can connect.  We’re all human beings, we will always have more in common than not, and I plan to find it whenever I can.

Hey—maybe you can share some of the cool stuff you’ll learn when you visit my YouTube Mom channel here—it’s loaded with short videos that teach hundreds of life skills, tricks, and tips—check ‘em out!