Hallmark

My husband does not like Hallmark movies. Of course I don’t know many men who do, as they are the epitome of “chick flicks.” He says they’re all predictable. Well, duh! Of course they are. That’s what’s makes them so attractive to us women. We all know the guy and girl are going to find true love with each other in the end. It’s just a matter of how, and that’s what makes the story interesting—even if it is highly unbelievable and lacks realism. But some of us like fairy-tale happily-ever-after endings. And at least the movies are clean. The main characters don’t even kiss until the end. That’s how you know it’s the end of the movie in case you tuned in early and weren’t sure which Hallmark channel you wanted to watch. If the couple is kissing, the movie is over and the next movie will be on shortly.

I do have to admit, however, that there are less than a handful of plots for all the movies. Most start with a single woman who came from a small hometown. She has been working in a big city for the past dozen years and has been too busy with her highly successful career to go back home for a visit. Most of the time she also has a long-standing, non-committal boyfriend or fiancé. But something happens which requires her to make the trip home. It generally involves an illness or death in the family, a crisis with the family business, a money-grubbing developer trying to take over the family homestead, or, on occasion, a personal crisis with the heroine. She is only going to be gone for a couple of days, but circumstances intervene and she ends up staying several weeks—with one small carry-on suitcase of clothes. Her old boyfriend is still there and still single after all these years because he never got over her. Of course once home, she realizes she really misses the small town and all the people. Sparks fly between her and her ex-boyfriend, and she ends up leaving the big city fiancé and the big-bucks job and staying in Smalltown, USA. All dumped fiancés are quite understanding, by the way.

Another plot involves a guy and girl (who don’t know each other) getting lost or stuck somewhere, like an airport, and ending up together because of a mutual need. They, of course, don’t like each other at first, but are trapped together because they have no other choice. Over the course of two days they realize they are madly in love with each other. This is the typical “road trip” plot. Finally there is the real fairy-tale plot of the secret prince who falls in love with a common woman who is struggling to make ends meet at her two menial labor jobs, from which she was just fired. She, of course, does not know he is a prince because he is keeping a low profile. It is not until after she falls in love with him that he reveals his true identity.

Christmas movies are even more predictable. There is always a town tree lighting ceremony in a picturesque town square full of snow. But for some reason, even though it’s below freezing, none of the characters are cold, as they happily gather with unbuttoned coats, wearing no hats or gloves. Their breath doesn’t fog up when they speak, either. And even though Christmas is only three days away, these main characters (usually women) have all the time in the world to cut down their own trees, decorate the house like something out of a parade of homes tour, bake cookies to take to all the neighbors, save the annual Christmas play at the city hall, and have the perfect presents under the tree—not to mention falling in love and solving whatever crisis the town is experiencing. And for some reason, the male love interest never seems to have to work, so he has endless time to hang with the lady while she does all this. It makes me wonder how they’ll ever top this experience come next Christmas.

I have left out the mandatory calamity, which occurs at about the hour and a half to hour and forty minutes point of the movie. This is the event which threatens to derail the happily-ever-after. Fiancé who doesn’t realize he’s about to be dumped shows up unexpectedly, or one of the main characters reveals a long-held secret which changes everything. Maybe one character overhears or accidently sees something which gets misinterpreted. But one can always count on the fact that after the last commercial break, the problem will be resolved and there will indeed be a happily-ever-after.

You know, I’m pretty good at this. Maybe I should apply for a job as a Hallmark movie screenwriter. It couldn’t pay any less than writing blogs! Wishing you all a Merry Hallmark Christmas!

Meowy Christmas

“Why do you have mousetraps in your Christmas village?”

My friend had stopped by for a few minutes and was checking out my Christmas decorations.  On my sideboard I had put up a miniature Christmas village with fleece snow, ceramic buildings, a skating pond (which is actually a mirror), and small porcelain figurines and accessories.  The village is part of my yearly Christmas tradition.

“Because we have cats,” I responded.

She obviously didn’t get it.  She doesn’t have pets.  “Uh, I thought cats were supposed to take care of mice problems.”  She glanced around uneasily, as if swarms of furry little rodents would pop out of the woodwork at any moment and plunge her into a remake of  the seventies horror film “Willard,” in which a large colony of rats terrorize people.

“We don’t have mice,” I replied, defensively.

“Well then … wait.  The mousetraps are upside down.  You can’t catch mice if the traps are upside down.”

“I’m not trying to catch mice.  We don’t have mice,” I repeated, a little offended that she would think we were rodent infested.  “We have cats.  The cats like to jump up onto the sideboard, walk around the village, chew on the snow, bat the breakable people to the floor, and rearrange the décor to suit themselves, while shedding all over everything.  The mousetraps are a deterrent to keep them off.  If they hit a mousetrap, it will spring and scare them away without hurting them.”

She looked at me like I was crazy.

Granted, my village looks a little odd with what would seem to be giant mousetraps everywhere, in disproportion to the size of everything else.  Maybe I should think of it as the village of Hamelin before the Pied Piper showed up.  But at least it is mostly intact.  People without pets don’t understand the great lengths we pet people must go through to “pet-proof” our homes, especially around the holidays.

On an end table in the living room, there is a squirt bottle filled with water to spray kitties out of the Christmas tree.  As the song goes, there is one partridge in a pear tree, not two cats in a Christmas tree.  The fragile ornaments must always go on the upper branches, as happy tails and irresistible hanging objects are too much temptation for playful four-footed creatures. The Christmas tree holder is also a huge attraction for both the dogs and the cats to help themselves to a handy drink of water rather than walking all the way into the kitchen.

Anything set on the hearth or low coffee table is fair game for being batted across the floor or chewed up.  Decorations on shelves must be placed back towards the wall, as objects in the way of where a cat wants to lounge will most likely be shoved off.

This isn’t only during the holidays.  Our cats frequently rearrange things to suit themselves, such as pushing my husband’s mustache trimmer off the bathroom counter onto the tile floor, where it broke into a thousand pieces.  It had obviously been in someone’s way.  His F-16 model also crashed landed on the floor several years ago.  This is something we still don’t talk about. Our computer wires have been chewed and replaced so many times we’ve lost count.  All the animals can manage to open our sliding doors into the closets.  We never know what we’ll find on the floor which previously lived on the shelves; and whatever the cats knock off, the dogs chew.  At mealtime, one person has to guard the table while another finishes setting out the food.  Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit, but our animals are not well behaved.

Such is the joy of pet ownership.  I truly feel sorry for people who don’t face these daily challenges and hence, lead structured and boring lives, where everything stays in its place and there is no layer of pet hair on every surface.  These people will unlikely have a Meowy Christmas or Happy Howlidays.

 

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

I am all for equal opportunity for women.  After all, I am one.  And I personally experienced gender discrimination when applying to and attending veterinary school back in the dark ages.  Back then I was asked at my admission interview what I would do if I got married.  Women also were excluded from one of the two veterinary fraternities on campus, so that kind of narrowed down our choice.  When I graduated, I was the first woman veterinarian in the Fort Walton Beach area, and was frequently told, “I didn’t know women could be veterinarians.”  Okay, so this tells you how old I am.

Having established that I am all for women’s liberation (I am woman, hear me roar, and all that), I do have to say that there is still one area in a man’s world where I truly believe no woman should dare to venture.  What might that area be, you ask?  Killing bugs.  Killing bugs is definitely not a job for a woman.  I pride myself on being a reasonably independent, self-sufficient, not easily rattled woman, but let a flying palmetto bug come after me and I scream like a bad actress in a b-horror movie.   Not only do I scream, but I also do the “icky-icky” dance and run for cover.  If my husband is around, he will usually come running to find out if I have just cut off my finger while chopping vegetables or been hacked by an ax murderer who came through the front door he failed to lock.  Nope, something much worse.

“What?” he’ll demand, upon arriving to slay whatever dragon accosted me.

“A bug!” I’ll reply in a quivering voice, bordering on hysteria.

At this he will roll his eyes, sigh, and ask, “Where?”

I’ll point in the general vicinity of the offending insect while hovering behind him for protection.

“I don’t like bugs any better than you do,” he’ll mutter.

“Yeah, but you’re a man.  It’s your job to kill the bugs.” At least I think that’s a rule. If not, it should be.

He will usually tough it out, although if the thing comes after him, all bets may be off.  There may be a little bit of male shrieking, which is not pretty.  But generally, he will manage to dispatch the terrorizing creature to the great septic tank in the sky with a shoe or rolled up newspaper or other handy bug-killing implement.

Me, I can’t step on a bug or hit it with a shoe.  First, it requires I get closer to the creature than I am comfortable being (not that there is any distance from a bug with which I am comfortable), and second, I can’t stand the crunching sound their little chitinous exoskeletons make when squashed.  I generally can’t swat them off a wall, either, as I usually miss and just make them more angry and more determined to “get” me.  Or they crawl into an inaccessible place and bide their time until I let down my guard.

So what, you may ask, do I do when confronted by a bug when my husband is not around.  That’s easy.  I spray it.  I can stand back from a safe distance and saturate half a room with toxic chemicals in the hope of the spray getting somewhere in the generally vicinity of the bug. It’s kind of like dropping a bomb on an entire city with the goal of wiping out one enemy without actually having to go hand-to-hand combat.  What if I don’t have bug spray?  It doesn’t matter.  I spray it with something—Windex, 409, oven cleaner, Endust—whatever.  Surely something in one of those products will kill it.  Plus, while I’m spraying, I can still scream and do the “icky-icky” dance, which, as we all know, is a requirement of any bug-female confrontation.

So, all you men out there, man up and rescue us swooning females from the terrifying insect population.  Otherwise, I warn you, I have Lysol Multi-Purpose cleaner and I’m not afraid to use it!

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

I have a new amendment to propose on the next ballot. Unfortunately I didn’t think of it soon enough to get it on this year’s ballot. However, perhaps in the next several months I can stir up plenty of support to back me up. Here’s my proposal—it will be illegal to exhibit any form of Christmas prior to Thanksgiving.

There will be no Christmas displays or items in stores prior to Thanksgiving. There will be no Christmas music played before Thanksgiving. (Church choirs, school musical groups and community musical groups are exempt IF they are practicing for actual Christmas performances to be presented during the Christmas season, which shall be AFTER Thanksgiving.) There will be no Black Friday sales until after Thanksgiving. Black Friday shall not occur until the Friday after Thanksgiving. (That’s why it’s called “Friday.” Duh!) There will be no jumping the gun to make that extra buck by starting the sales on Thanksgiving Day. That’s just flat-out wrong on so many levels. There will be no Christmas ads on television before Thanksgiving. There will be no Christmas movies in the cinemas or Hallmark Christmas movies on television before Thanksgiving. People may not begin putting up outdoor Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. Christmas catalogues can be mailed out and people may be allowed to purchase Christmas gifts prior to Thanksgiving, but it must be done in an inconspicuous manner. (After all, how can a retailer police whether or not that scarf was purchased for Aunt Rose’s Christmas present or for you to wear to the football game)? There shall be no Christmas tree lots set up before Thanksgiving, even if the Christmas trees haven’t arrived yet. No one may wear Christmas clothing in public. No Christmas cookies may be baked unless they are frozen and eaten after Thanksgiving. People may start addressing their Christmas cards, but may not mail them until after Thanksgiving. There will be no attempt to trick people by cheating and calling any of these activities “holiday” when everyone knows full well we’re talking about Christmas.

Have I missed anything? If so, in case there is any doubt, the Christmas season shall NOT begin until after Thanksgiving. Period! It’s not that I don’t love Christmas. It’s actually my favorite time of year. But because it is so special, it shouldn’t be in my face all year round. That makes it less special. There should be a sense of anticipation and uniqueness that is only experienced during those few weeks in December, such as eggnog and peppermint ice cream.

Besides all the things I have mentioned, it simply isn’t fair to cheat Thanksgiving out of its own merited day. Thanksgiving should have its own recognition, along with the anticipation of food, family, friends, and a time to simply stop and reflect on all our blessings. Although other countries celebrate Thanksgiving in different ways, our American Thanksgiving is an important part of our history, culture and tradition. As such, it shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle, shoved in almost like an afterthought, and gotten out of the way just so the Christmas season can start early. Give Turkey Day its due. For that matter, give God his due. The very name “Thanksgiving” means giving thanks. Slow down and reflect on who we are thanking and why. The mad dash to December 25th can wait one more day.

So, who is with me? Shall we see about getting this proposition on the next ballot? I would seriously consider undertaking this agenda, but I fear it would be in vain. Regardless of the outcome of the voting, Broward County will demand repeated recounts until they get the answer they want. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

JUST THE FACTS

I know I’m admitting my age, but I remember being told that back in the sixties there was a popular police drama called Dragnet.  One of the characters, Sgt. Joe Friday, frequently implored female informants to provide “just the facts.”  Actually, he used the phrase, “All we want are the facts, ma’am” (and sometimes “All we know are the facts ma’am”) when questioning women in the course of police investigations. But somehow the phrase “just the facts” has been attributed to Dragnet through the years.

I understand where Sgt. Joe Friday was coming from, as I am a “just the facts” person.  I don’t need all the details; I just want the bottom line.  Unfortunately, it seems I’m surrounded by people who feel the need to ensure I miss no detail—no matter how trivial or unrelated to what I need to know—in the pursuit of simple information.

I often get clients like this.  I will be welcoming a new couple bringing in their dog for the first time for a vague “exam.”  I will ask something straightforward (in my mind, anyway) such as, “I see you didn’t put down Buddy’s age.  Do you know how old he is?”

“Well, we got him when Caroline was a freshman in high school—” starts the wife.

“No, dear, she was a sophomore.  Remember, we got him right after she flunked that algebra test and she was so upset.”

“Oh, that’s right.  Getting Buddy really cheered Caroline up.”  The wife goes on, excitedly, “We named her after that Neil Diamond song, Sweet Caroline. We just love Neil Diamond.” She laughs.  “So it was either Sweet Caroline or Cracklin’ Rosie.  Anyway, she’s a junior at the University of Florida now.  She’s majoring in elementary education.  She was majoring in finance, but she couldn’t stand her economics professor—”

“No, Lorraine, it was her statistics professor,” the husband corrects.

The wife turns to her husband.  “No, Tom, it was Dr. Zimmer. Remember? He was her economics professor.”  She pulls out her phone, swipes it a couple of times and flips it over to show me.  “This is our daughter.”

I utter, “She’s very pretty.  Anyway, about—”

“No, Dr. Zimmer was her statistics professor,” Tom interrupts.

The wife puts her hands on her hips and glares at her husband.  “Tom, I’m sure he was the economics professor.  Oh!  Here’s a picture of Caroline with her boyfriend, Kyle.  He’s the nicest young boy. He’s majoring in pre-law.  His father’s a dentist.”

“Speaking of dentists,” I interject, “Buddy’s teeth could use a cleaning.  He has a lot of—”

“Oh, no. Our last vet, Dr. Bates, said he was too old to be put under anesthesia,”  Lorraine tells me.

I quickly do the math.  Buddy must be about six years old, unless Caroline was held back.  Maybe it took a couple extra years for her to get to the level of a college junior. Come to think of it, if she flunked algebra, why was she majoring in finance?  Shaking my head, I realize we are now into ten minutes of our allotted fifteen minute appointment, my next patient is waiting, and I have not one relevant piece of information about my patient, who may be anywhere between the ages of six and perhaps nine.  Unless he was a few years old when Caroline was a sophomore in high school.

“That’s right,” says Tom, snapping me out of my reverie. “Our neighbor’s dog died under anesthesia, you know.”

Lorraine turns to me.  “They were the nicest people.  What were their names again, Tom?”

“Parker,” says Tom. “John and Norma.”

“Oh, that’s right.  I think I still have a picture of them with that dog.” She swipes through her phone.  “The dog’s name was Sparky, I believe.  Or was it Spanky?  He had the cutest little trick where he would…” Her voice trails off.  “I know that picture is here somewhere!”

I try to bring up something relevant about their visit, but they are both ignoring me as Lorraine searches for that elusive picture of John and Norma Parker and their unfortunate canine.  Is there anything that takes longer than someone searching for an elusive picture to show you on their phone that you don’t want to see in the first place?

“Excuse me a moment,” I say.  I step out of the room, grab a technician and throw her under the bus.  “Find out what Buddy is here for. But don’t ask his age.”

“I can’t,” she says, crawling out from under the bus.  “I’m in the middle of doing radiographs.”

“When you finish, go in and find out.”  I throw her back, as I head into the next appointment.

Buddy’s appointment sets me back thirty minutes and I run behind the rest of the morning.

I often commiserate to my husband about people like this and he says he understands because it drives him crazy, too.  Then the other day when we dropped my car off to have the air-conditioner fixed, he started reciting to the service writer, “We had the same problem four or five years ago.  I think maybe it was closer to five years because we were doing foster care at the time and we couldn’t be hauling around all those kids in a hot car—”

“Doug!  The man doesn’t need to know about the hot foster kids!”  The words slipped out.  I just couldn’t help myself.

My husband looked like a deer in the headlights until he realized he had been temporarily  overcome with diarrhea of the mouth.  “Oh.  I guess you’re right.”

I smiled and nodded. “Just the facts, dear.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty or Less

The other day, before work, I had to make a quick dash into the grocery store for one item. We were celebrating someone’s birthday at work, and I was expected to bring my standard fare of chips.  As usual, I was running late and in a hurry.  We type A personalities are always in a hurry, even if there’s no place to go or nothing to do, so you type B’s, please get out of our way!  Anyway, I fast walked through the store and up the chip aisle, grabbed my family-sized bag of Lay’s sour cream and onion chips, and headed for the express lane.  This is where things got ugly.  The person in front of me clearly had more than twenty items in his basket, as he slowly and methodically set each one on the counter.  I felt my blood pressure rising as I counted his items. Now I realize I blogged about grocery cart rage a few weeks ago, but let’s face it, there is just so much material, I know I can stretch this out for at least a couple more blogs—like this guy in the “20 items or less lane” who obviously had more than twenty items in his basket.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who counts the things in the basket of the person in front of them in the express line.  Invariably this happens to me when I’m in a hurry and just need to pop into the store for that one thing and then find myself stuck behind someone in the express lane who can’t count.

I did a slow burn as I waited behind this thoughtless person with my one paltry item.  I wanted to point out to the cashier, “Hey, this dude has twenty-six items in his cart.  Didn’t you verify that before checking him out in the express lane?  After all, as an employee of this fine establishment, it is up to you to make sure the rules and regulations of this fine establishment are followed.  If you let him get away with it, sooner or later, someone with twenty-seven items will try to sneak through, and the problem will only escalate from there.”

As to the clueless shopper in front of me who was wasting my valuable time by breaking the rules, I wanted to ram him with my shopping cart and mutter derogatory remarks, such as, “Didn’t they teach you to count in kindergarten?”  Or, “Dude, five cases of beer does not constitute one item, even if they are all the same brand.”  Or, “Can’t you read?  Twenty-six is not the new twenty!” But as usual, I held my tongue because I am not a confrontational person.  Plus, I didn’t have a shopping cart, as I was in the express lane with one bag of chips. My look, however, could have skewered and roasted him.  Clueless, finally realizing there was someone behind him (probably because the daggers I was shooting were jabbing him in the back), turned around to give me a sheepish grin and a shoulder shrug.

“Sorry,” he managed, rather insincerely if you ask me, as he placed his last item on top of the already bulging heap on the conveyor belt.

“You’re not sorry at all, Mr. The Rules Don’t Apply to Me!” my brain screamed at him, while my stupid mouth mumbled, “No problem.”  Seriously, did I just say that?  Now I wanted to smack myself for being such a pushover.  It’s wimpy people like me who allow inconsiderate people like him to get away with selfish behavior.  Now I was mad at both of us.  But there was nothing I could do at that point.  Unless he pulled one of the two ultimate, capital punishment deserving, check-out taboos—having something which needed to be price checked or writing a personal check which needed to be approved.  If either of those scenarios transpired, I would be forced to let loose with one of my famous Fannon sighs, which has put fear and trepidation into the hearts of many men.  Lucky for him, he didn’t.

 

 

Trick or Treat

I loved Halloween as a child. This was back in the dark ages when children dressed up in costumes usually created by their mothers, such as an old bed sheet with two eyes cut out for a ghost. There were none of these foo-foo outfits, such as kids wear today, with all kinds of expensive accessories. Also, back then, we had to collect our candy the hard way—going door to door Trick or Treating. From the age of about five on, this was without parents in tow. Of course we lived in Leave-it-to-Beaver neighborhoods, where it was perfectly safe to go door to door, even to the houses of strangers. At each house, we got one (that’s right, one) piece of candy. So in order to really rake in a haul, we had to do a lot of walking.

Halloween was the only time of year when those miniature candy bars were available. If we were really fortunate, we might get a nickel candy bar. Back then, a nickel candy bar was equivalent to the full sized $1.29 candy bars of today. The word was quickly circulated on the street where those houses were. When our weary feet could no longer carry us to just one more house, we made our way back home to survey our loot. I would dump out all my contents and organize them into piles—Milky Way bars in one pile, Snickers in another, Nestles Crunch, and so on—and count them. I don’t really know why I did this. It probably has something to do with my rather obsessive-compulsive personality. Back then we had really good Halloween candy, none of these Nerds, Starbursts, or Jolly Ranchers. Most of our goodies were chocolate, the only true candy. Of course we had lollipops, candy corn, and the ever popular Double Bubble gum, but the bulk of the loot was chocolate.

My mother was so cool. She didn’t confiscate all my hard-earned stash and ration it out to me a little at a time, eventually throwing the rest away. Nope, she let me have the whole truck load, to eat as much as I wanted whenever I wanted until my stomach was miserable. I’m sure by today’s standards, she could be hauled in for child endangerment. I also rode in the front seat of the car, never wore a seat belt, drank red Kool-Aid sweetened with sugar, played outside without adult supervision, and walked to the store by myself (to buy candy) when I was four years old. But I digress.

Anyway, things have come a long way since the good old days of the Halloweens of my childhood. Now it’s not safe to allow children the fun of Trick or Treating, so we dress them up in elaborately themed and expensive costumes and drag them to the mall, where they are inundated with handfuls of candy without having to earn it. Or Trunk or Treats, where they proceed down the line from one car to another, again, without any effort, where they are showered with candy. It takes them about ten minutes to haul in what took me three hours and blisters on my feet to accumulate back in the day. Where’s the fun in that?

Then there are the fall festivals, where, at least, there is the pretense that the little goblins have to earn their treats by playing carnival games where everyone’s a winner. Our church always has a fall festival on Halloween as a safe alternative to Trick or Treating. But here’s the thing. Where Halloween is concerned, I’ve never really grown up. On Halloween, I expect to have to earn my candy. Sure, I could just go to the store and buy ten bags of sweets, but that takes all the fun out of it. Of course, being a mature adult, I feel a little silly playing children’s carnival games. Plus, the kids in line behind me get irritated. So I have to resort to the only other method of getting Halloween candy. I make my kids do it. Then I can share (steal) their loot. But now there are bouncy houses at all these festivals, and guess what the kids all want to do? For the life of me, I don’t see why. There’s no candy involved in bouncy houses.

“Darion, get out of that bouncy house and go win me some candy!” I yell at my son.

“I don’t want to. I want to stay here.”

“No you don’t. You won’t get any candy.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want candy.”

What? Not want candy??? Where did I go wrong with this kid?

“You come out right now and give someone else a chance to jump in the bouncy house!”

“There’s nobody else waiting in line.”

Drat. There’re only so many times I can hit the candy buckets at the games before responsible adults start raising their eyebrows at me. Plus I can’t exactly go around with a trick or treat bag in hand. Sigh. I suppose at some point I have to suck it up and behave like a grown-up. Otherwise someone may hand me a nasty-tasting watermelon flavored dum-dum.