Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Five ways to alienate friends and relatives in an election year...or anytime, for that matter

1. Bring up the most controversial subject you can think of. Make it one that affects you personally. Do this preferably at a dinner where there is much wine and beer being served.

2. Become highly offended by a selected word that someone else used as part of the discussion. Choose one that has a big listing in the thesaurus.

3. Make derogatory remarks about jews, blacks, hispanics, asians, or white people or chose a religion to bash (lean toward the categories you don't fall into yourself).

4. Only allow others to say the first three or four words of each sentence before cutting them off.  Assuming what they are going to say with the rest of their thought just saves time.

5. If you perceive that anyone might be disagreeing with you, accuse them of being drunk and/or crazy.

Extra tips to help you along:
- Remember, yelling makes people understand better.
- Having the very last word makes you right.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Birthday Dinner Choices

The boy says, “Golden Corral for my birthday dinner.”

I say, “How about Olive Garden?”

“Golden Corral”

“Taco Bar?”

“Golden Corral”
*sigh* - "Do we have to go there?”
“Oh . . .Why didn't you say that in the first place?”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How to say my name. . . the long version


See the accent above that 'e' up there? That is called a French "accent grave.”

My mother put that accent on my name during a fit of post-postpartum delirium. It's supposed to make the “e” on the end of my name sound like “eh” as in the word “bed.” This is not to be confused with an “accent aigu,” which makes the “e” sound like “ayyy” as in something Fonzie used to say on Happy Days, or for those of you not of a certain age, like the sound in “day” and “say.”

That's right. That little speck, that many people mistake for a piece of lint or some stray eyebrow hair, changes the pronunciation of my name from the two syllable "Gah-Reen" to the three syllable "Ga-ree-neh." And nobody in the USA has ever heard of it. Oh, and don't forget to roll the “r.”

People who see my name in print, then meet me later are in the worst name-pronunciation scenario because the accent is almost never printed on anything that officially refers to me. It's not in my high school year book. It's not on any of my by-lines. It's not even on my passport. I finally figured out how to change it on my facebook account. Generally, Americans do not have the slightest idea what an accent grave is anyway, but at least if it was there, they'd ask the question.

As it is, pretty much everyone mispronounces my name.

I always feel like a snobby snob when I try to correct them. They get embarrassed and confused and I feel like a jerk for making them feel bad. Then, I feel the need to fill the stunned silence with my dissertation on French accent marks. Their eyes glaze over and it just spirals down from there. It's like when you call a guy in the office “Chuck” and he looks down his nose at you and says in a James Bond accent, “No, it is Charles.”

The reason mom did this horrible thing to me is because my parents wanted to give me a traditional Armenian name. Makes sense – retain your heritage, proudly uphold the honor of your lost country, yadda yadda yadda. The problem? The Armenian language has its very own alphabet.
"eh" . . .?

Those 4th Century Armenians were a wily bunch and managed to create their own script up there in the isolated mountains. They were pretty impressed with themselves over it, too. The church even Sainted the guy who developed it, Saint Mesrop Mashtots. (I know, I know 'mash tots??' - those poor little tots! Make fun all you want, but this was a good 200 years before the English got it together in the alphabet department. So, think on that for a minute.) The whole alphabet is phonetic. The final sound of my name in actual Armenian script looks like the symbol at the right -->

All by itself, it means the word “is” or “to be” in Armenian. People wear this symbol as golden charms, stencil it onto t-shirts, and etch it into the sides of stone walls. It's very esoteric.

So fast forward about a millennium, to my mother sitting in her hospital bed after I was born. She's watching the television, doing the recuperation portion of child-bearing, when a hospital records administrator gives her my birth certificate to fill out. My parents decided what my name would be before I was born, of course. They were the plan-ahead sort. If I was a boy, Garen. If I was a girl, the feminine version of that, Garine. She stared at the name as it was written on the page in English. Other Armenians in the west already had established this spelling. She wondered how she was going to get American English speakers to say the all important “eh” on the end of my name.

OK, so are you with me so far? This is where it gets a little twisted.

It just so happened that at the moment my mother was filling out this birth certificate, the TV was blaring an afternoon matinee of the 1940 W.C. Fields movie called The Bank Dick. For those of you under the age of 85, W.C. Fields was one of the best comedic actors of his time. Most often, he played drunken ne'er-do-wells who hated kids and carried a cane. In this particular movie, his character frequented the Black Pussy Cat Café and was named Egbert Sousé. (Remember that accent? 'Ayyy!') Throughout the film, the joke is about this accent because his name isn't souse, which of course, means a drunkard, it's Sous- ayyyy, something refined and French sounding.

The recurring gag line is, “You see? It's Sousé, with an accent grave!”

My mother, who knew french, thought, “Yes, Mr. Fields, that is it! An accent grave!” She wasn't even looking at the TV screen at this point.

But here is the kicker. If you are astute, and I know you are, you may have noticed that Mr. Fields and his gag line were actually wrong! (refer to paragraph two up at the top) The accent on Sousé is NOT an accent grave, it's an accent aigu. So, I got my accent grave from the fact that my mother knew how wrong they were in a Hollywood comedy movie about a drunk guy at the Black Pussy Cat.

What's more, my mother absolutely loved to tell this story.

Sure if you know me at all, you'll see how the gist of this story is truly a grand metaphor for my general life force – a little cynical, a little silly, and, too often, a little bit off.

Meanwhile, my name is Garinè. . . and only French people can read it right. Too bad, I'm not French.
*  *  *
I know you are just dying to actually hear it said out loud, now that I've gone through this whole crazy explanation! Click here for that:
How to say Garinè

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Post Vacation Depression Delayed Due to Havoc at Home

The excitement of travel usually ends with a big dip in adrenaline once you get back home. So much happens in such a short period of time that we feel as if a lot more time actually passed.

“What?” we think, “It has only been two weeks?”

After all, the normalcy of walking into your office and seeing the lady who has worked as the boss' admin sitting at the same desk, day after day suddenly seems weird. So much changed inside of you! You saw new places. You experienced new people. You learned exciting histories. How could this woman possibly still be date stamping incoming mail?

It's just depressing. But it's also totally normal. 

In that two weeks, you also worry that since so much is happening to you, there are all kinds of horrible things that might happen to your home in your absence. It might be broken into, burnt to the ground, caved in, or otherwise messed up. Usually, it never is. It is just like the lady at the office

But, this time, my arrival home from vacation was a little different.

We came home a few days ago from two weeks away -- a week after a huge storm appeared in the midwest and uprooted trees, blew roofs off of houses, and knocked out the electricity in four states. Our house was NOT in the same order that we had left it. But we were lucky. There was no bashed in roof or anything, just the aftermath of the insipid electrical flatline. 

This equaled six days of hot, enclosed rooms where wood floors, brown rice and ivy plants seemed to converge.  Then, when the electricity was restored to our neighborhood, our air conditioner did not come back on. We came back three days after that, giving it all time flourish into a full-fledged jungle.

The interior of our home during that time became a tropical biology experiment. New style bugs emerged from the pantry and you don't even want to know about the inside of the refrigerator. At least it was an excuse to do a total clean out where I inspected each item, thinking, “I should have thrown this out six months ago anyway!”

So, I admit, this is a high class problem: “Help me!! It's so hot in here! There is a mosquito in the living room! I cannot power up my iPod! I'm in hell!” 

Meanwhile, I just came from a locale where most people live in huts with dirt floors and grass roofs and no air conditioning – ever.

After a few days of opening and shutting windows, cleaning, cleaning out, and vacuuming, we are back to the old normal. 
This actually turned out to be a good readjustment back into the real world after a vacation. The post-vacation depression is probably coming as the excitement wears off. But I'm ready for it. It's normal.

Friday, June 22, 2012

When the going gets tough, the tough break out the old world methods.

 So, in the suburban family life files, living on one income with the kids, house, and dog, we've finally entered into large appliance maintenance hell. This is when you have to pay hundreds of dollars on fixing old appliances and cars because you cannot afford to buy new ones, but you can't exactly afford to fix the old thing either.

Today's crisis involved the clothes dryer.

After ten years and living through four household moves, the heating thing-a-ma-jig and the motor finally gave out. So, spousal arguments ensued between the idea of spending money to fix the damn thing or to buy the cheapest new dryer out there and hope it's not a lemon. The former option would at least give us a few more years of use until I found more paying work and could afford an upgrade to a better dryer. The latter option might have us buying another one in a few years anyway. The math of fixing vs buying gave me a headache, but the bottom line was, either way most of it was going on the credit card.

So, I called the repair guy. Unfortunately, I've already developed a fine working relationship with the repair guy over the washer and the oven. His name is Jose.

Jose arrived and took the thing apart. As it was laid out on the floor of the hallway that I refer to as my laundry room, Jose showed me the motor and the drum, which were both in obvious decay.

On his way into the garage to find the gas line, Jose noted that we had a “pony bike.” This is a child sized, but very real motorcycle. It looked like a miniature Kawasaki. This was not the subtle and cute European motorbikes that go about ten miles an hour. This was an actual, mini road chopper. It was a bad idea when they made these things. I mean, really -- little kids on real motorcycles, speeding along at 50 mph? And it was an even worse idea when my husband found and bought this one at a garage sale for $40. 

The boy can learn to ride it to school!” he said, referring to our 7 year old son.

I don't think so,” I said.

It languished in the back of our garage for two years, until Jose spied it.

Ah, you have a pony bike!” he informed me, excitedly.

Yes, we've only used it once.” I said.

They don't make those anymore.”

I gave him a sideways look. He was enthused.

Do you want it?” I asked him.


Yeah, are you interested in making a trade?”

He stared at me for a minute. This concept was foreign to him.

Let me interject here that I live on a somewhat affluent street in a somewhat affluent neighborhood in the most affluent county in my state. People don't generally bicker with gardeners and repairmen over a couple hundred dollars.

I drive an old grey mini-van and have no flowering shrubs in my yard. I wear solid color shirts and capri pants a lot. I appear to most as a rather uninspired middle class, conservative mom. These people don't know me very well.

The back story is longer than I'd prefer to go into here, but I will say that I don't have a job at the moment and am trying to write a novel. . . and that I am the descendent of Armenian merchants and traders. I grew up seeing some of the best hagglers in the world in action, namely, my mother and grandmothers. Over the years, my negotiating abilities might have waned a bit, but when the chips are down, we revert to our ancestry. 
Yeah,” I said. “I'll trade you your labor costs for the bike.”

I knew Jose was a one-man shop. He didn't know what to make of this offer. He was still staring at me, doing the math in his head. Brand new, those pony bikes cost around $700. He charged about $60 per hour labor and would be here more than two hours doing the work.

You order the parts direct?” he asked.

Done.” I said and held out my hand for him to shake – the old world way. 

Now, the dryer works, my credit is good, and the bike is out of my garage.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Last Day of School Rain

My son looked out the window just now and said, "I'm so depressed!"

He has a good reason.

It is the last day of school. A half day. First day of summer. . . . and it's raining.

The big plan was to get everyone out to the playground near us that is made entirely of old tires. It's a pretty cool place. The girl scout troop and other friends were all coming and now?

Guess, what? They are coming to MY HOUSE instead.

and now, the boy says, "What a rip off!"

 . . . out of the mouths' of babes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

And this is why you should not take Garine camping

Nobody in their right mind would ask me to go camping with them.  . . And this is why many of my best friends, my husband and various scouting groups have done just that. I would not love you if you were not a little bit nuts.

This particular camping weekend was instigated my those pesky Cub Scouts that are always tying knots, waving around pocket knives, and pushing caramel popcorn at you, i.e. my son. 

In keeping with the Isassi activity theme of "rain-will-follow-you-everywhere," there was a tornado watch and warning on the eve of our trip. This cleaned out the campsite of any debris and other various camping wimps. 

We arrived in the morning to a sparkling campsite and blue skies.  We also arrived very late for the mandatory cub guided hike had left already - bad camper moment #One. 

My husband, the allknowing camper who never allows us to forget that he used to "wilderness camp" in the scrub mountains of northern Mexico with nothing but a bottle of Vodka, one match, and a pocket knife, headed up our family hike - not via the wide and luxurious path taken by the scouts, but "Orange Trail"  - marked as such for avid hikers.  This path included scaling large boulders and tripping over smaller ones.  My kids, as mountain goats are called sometimes, had no problem with this. I, on the other hand, had somewhat of a problem with this. I wound up as the baby sister left behind, serially calling out, "Hey, guys! Wait for me!" as they disappeared around a bend.

Eventually, we arrived at a beautiful waterfall called Cunningham Falls. The sign said that people should not attempt to climb the rocks around the falls. As you can see from the photo here, nobody heeded that warning.  

My daughters flung off their shoes the second we arrived, saying they wanted to use their toes as God intended -- to hang on to the side of rocks for dear life. I said, "Don't come crying to me when you cut your feet and lie bleeding to death in the killer babbling brook!"

They, in their bare feet, waded across the creek. Me, in my sneakers and socks, tried to pick and hop my way across. I made it . . . sort of.

That is actually me standing in the middle of the above photo. You are not close enough to see that I am holding a sopping wet pair of sneakers and soggy, white socks. The only sneakers and socks I had brought with me on the camping trip. Bad camper moment #Two. 

The air was warm. The sky was sunny. The water was cool. 

After some splashing and climbing and sunning and dipping, we headed back to the legal side of the creek. The kids found their dry shoes, slipping them on easily before returning to the forest. I rolled on my wet socks and shoes and made squish noises all the way back to the campsite. 

Once back, we started up a fire for dinner. I had one of my scathingly brilliant ideas! I put my socks on the fire ring to dry. They were far from the actual fire. They would be dry in a flash and I would have warmth for my feet when night fell and it got cold out. This turned out to be bad camper moment #'s Three through Ten:

My socks caught on fire!
I pulled them off the ring, beating them on the ground, since I could not stomp on them in my bare feet. My family watched with their mouths hanging open. Then, they laughed at me. 

I had to call to another scout mom to beg for socks to rescue my chilly tootsies. Good thing we have cell phones for these emergencies. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

 We Are The Model Bully

There is a big media blitz on bullying going on. There's a movie coming out. Lady GaGa started a foundation. Radio and TV are filled with horror stories as the commentators act surprised and appalled. 

The number one tip for parents to keep in mind when raising their kids is that kids will do what you do, not what you say. Unfortunately, the messages our actions send, as parents and as a whole society, are too often the exact opposite of our lip service. 

Why do we expect kids to be all loving and kind to each other when everything they see in society is not? Bart Simpson spends all his time bullying his own father, and we find it funny. Every movie and TV show geared for teens is about how to be conniving, tough, or overly competitive. Batting around insults, usually directed at one unfortunate character is the norm. Or, even worse, we revel in the bad behavior of whichever reality TV star of the day has done something violent or otherwise mean. The fact that there is even a show called “Bad Girls Club” on cable is enough to reveal that we, as a collective, do not promote the concept of getting along.

The current political campaigns are another grand demonstration of how to bully. Each side spends a lot of time and energy directing verbal arrows at the other, designed to encourage public hate. This includes digging up embarrassing history about the candidates to spreading lies that slam the opposition's dignity. These are vicious and continuous verbal assaults on one individual, backed by some kind of gang (here the political party or Super PAC). I'm sorry, but that is the definition of bullying. And in this case, the one who is the best at calculated bullying, often wins. Few of us in the real world could withstand it.

As a country, we lord the threat of violence over other counties. Basically saying, do what we say or we'll pound you. Then we wait for countries, like Iraq, after school and screw them up.

Then there is the realities that don't get broadcast so much until it blows up. Let's start with the mortgage debacle of the 2000's. To get what they wanted, people in the banking industry lured in unsuspecting people who should never have qualified for a home loan and gave it to them. First acting all nice and friendly, then turning on them and ruining their lives. Is that not bullying?

In the office, I've often seen people – well dressed and educated adults – engage in career backstabbing, rumor mongering and office politics in order to put others down and get ahead in business. This especially comes screaming out when the prospect of layoffs is on the table or you are competing for clients. 

So why are we so surprised and when we find out that kids are bullying each other? We act like we were never in school ourselves and that we don't promote and witness bullying on a global scale.

I think it's great that people are finally talking about it and actually saying out loud that it needs to change, but I have a hard time seeing how that is going to happen if WE don't change our own actions. And, I don't really see that happening anytime soon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Helicopter Moms Anonymous update: Don't let this be you!

I've explained in my writings that I am a recovering Helicopter Mom. (see my up original confessions and the formation of HMA here.)

As part of my 12 steps to recovery, I need to share the stories of Heli Moms gone overboard and I believe I've heard the coming of the apocalypse for the newest generation. Yesterday,  On All Things Considered air one such horror show: Helicopter Parents Hover In The Workplace.

The most horrible horror of this story is that the "expert" concludes that workplaces should embrace the meddling parents!

So, now, Mom is not only responsible for raising the kid, feeding the kid, doing all the kid's homework, covering up for the kid, and the company will refuse to hire HER because she is over 50 and has not had a paying career for 20 years, (note, that I say 'paying' job, because God knows she's been working) but now, she has to do her kid's job herslef!

Bad NPR! Go to your room! This is enabling, like inviting an alcoholic to a bar and shoving a martini in her hand.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Me and the Dog (repost)

Ok, now I get it.
Why all those single, 40-something guys have dogs. You are a god to your dog. You are Mick Jagger in 1965. You are a revelation whenever you walk into a room. It's sick. . . and I love it!

My family campaigned for a bout 5 years for us to get a dog. I had the attitude handed down to me by my mother, who said, "Having a dog is like having a 2 yr old child who never learns anything. " That's right. You have to feed them, wash them and clean their poop for their whole lives.

Then, after 20 years, my independent, super cool cat, Strat, passed away. (Yes, her name was Strat, after my guitar - a black and white Fender Stratocaster). It was awful. I cried a lot. My husband, who railed against the cat for our entire marriage of 15 years, cried a lot. The cat had come with me in the marriage deal. Months went by and I saw how alone I was in the house when the kids were at school and my husband at work. I'd sit at my computer and do my work for my clients or the bills and suddenly realize - oh my God....I'm a-l-l A-L-O-N-E in this house. There is no other living being here but me!

It freaked me out.

So, finally, I agreed to get a dog. I listed the conditions to my family: 1. I would not have to ever pick up poop. They, collectively, would be doing that. 2. We would get a "rescue dog." 3. We would get an ADULT dog - no puppies or adolescents with their baby needs. 4. Said dog would be between 30 and 40 pounds in size. No yappers and no large bear types.

Once I made the decision, it only took a few weeks for me to hone in on the right dog. She was a "child" of a divorce. A shepherd mutt with a heart of gold. Already house trained and almost 4 years old. She had good manners and was smart and basically well trained.

She came home with us a on a wednesday evening, riding the back of the van with three excited children who all called her name over and over for her to look at them. The excitement wore off soon enough, after the daily walks, feeding, and pooper-scooping. But the real doom for the kids was the growing admiration the dog was nurturing toward me.

I was home all day. I am the obvious person who brings the food. I was alpha dog!!! I had dreaded the concept. I couldn't get my kids to pick up their underwear off the floor of their bedroom, how was I going to get a inarticulate beast to mind me??? I started watching Animal Planet and National Geographic shows - "the Dog Whisperer" and "It's me or the dog" so that I would get it right and be in charge,

Well, it worked
Too well.

Now,after a couple months together and the dog adores me. She sleeps plastered up against my side of the bed and does not move until I get up in the morning. She sits right outside the bathroom door, when I need to leave her stranded in the hall for three minutes. She follows me from room to room in the house. She lies next to the front door when I leave and acts like it's the second coming when I return - even when the rest of the family is still home with her. She sits when I say "sit." She moves 6 feet away from me when I say, "out." No wonder people love having a dog. You are their god.

But, I'm a cat person and this is the reason why -- sometimes, I'd like to be alone. Having a cat was more like having a roommate. If you were there, great. If you were not there, great.

Now, I feel guilty when I have to go to the grocery store or the gym and leave her behind. She does that head cocked to one side confusion look and then the stereotypical sad puppy eyes. It kills me every time!

But, y'know what? I'm getting to love my dog. She's a keeper. And maybe the I'll get used feeling the burden of adoration. After all, things could be worse than being a rock star in your own house.