You’re Dead Meat

There was a strange notation in our appointment schedule the other day.  Granted, we get some strange notations every day, but this one was particularly interesting.  It simply said, “Dog rolled in something very dead.”

Hhhmmm.  Very dead.  As opposed to what?  Only slightly dead?  Dead is one of those conditions I typically regard as a black or white matter. Either something is dead or it is not.  Does very dead make it more dead?  It’s kind of like being a little pregnant.  I could only surmise that “very dead” was somehow an indicator of the degree of odor associated with the act of the dog rolling in the offensive material.

This got me thinking, which is always a scary undertaking.  (Did I really just write “undertaking” in a blog on death?)  Clearly my mind should not be allowed to wander loose by itself.

For example, where did the phrase, “dead as a door nail” come from?  How dead are door nails, anyway?  Is being as dead as a door nail worse than just being merely dead?   Well, it turns out “dead as a door nail” means unequivocally deceased—which all this time I thought was the simple definition of “dead.”  I never knew there were varying degrees of being dead.  The expression goes back to poems in the 1300’s, and was also used by William Shakespeare and in Charles Dickens’  A Christmas Carol in 1843. It is thought that the phrase “dead as a door nail” comes from the manner of securing door nails that were hammered into a door by clenching them. Clenching is the practice of bending over the protruding end of the nail and hammering it into the wood. When a nail has been clenched, it has been dead nailed, and is not easily resurrected to use again.  Wasn’t that was a fascinating bit of trivia?

It’s incredible how many idioms there are for the word “dead”.  Dead ringer, dead tired, dead center, dead end, dead giveaway, dead serious, knock ‘em dead, dead weight, dead of night, stop dead in your tracks, play dead, and beat a dead horse are just a few that come to mind.  But I’ve never heard the expression, “very dead.”

There is, of course, the question of why dogs choose to roll in dead, smelly things.  Many believe it’s instinctual behavior, hearkening back to the days when dogs’ wild ancestors would mask their scent to help them sneak up on their prey. One would think, however, with their keen sense of smell, rolling in foul smelling substances would be as offensive to dogs as it is to their owners.  This just goes to show that what is perceived as repulsive by one individual can be perceived as a fragrant aroma to another.  Kind of like those people who apparently bathe in their body sprays which give everyone around them a headache.

Knowing how unpleasant it is to have your dog roll in dead things, particularly when they want to climb all over you and lick your face afterwards, if my dogs are ever dead set to do it again, I’m going to kill them dead!  (Was that last sentence a bit of overkill?)




I Have the Voice of an Angel

In the fertile ground of my imagination, I have the beautiful singing voice of a glorious meadow lark, whose sweet melody is pure rhapsody to the weary soul.  In the harsh light of reality, however, my singing voice sounds more like the raucous cawing of an old crow.  I open my mouth expecting to hear Julie Andrews and Edith Bunker comes out. This is inherently unfair.   I have a great passion for music and just enough musical talent to be frustrated.

My father was a professional musician.  He played piano and organ on live radio and television back in the day, and accompanied some well-known singers, such as Bing Crosby, Doris Day, and Rosemary Clooney.  He could do some pretty amazing things, such as sight transpose, and he could play songs in one key in the right hand and a different key in the left—at the same time.  This of course sounded gosh awful, but it was always a hit at birthday parties.  I did manage to inherit a tidbit of his musical ability, for which I am grateful, as playing the piano and organ are usually a relaxing outlet for me.  And although I grew up with his sometimes harsh criticism of my less than perfect technique (his idea of a compliment was along the lines of, “That didn’t sound too impossible”), I am still happy that I have a small degree of musical ability.  And I have come to terms with the fact that my natural talent will never equal his.  This is okay.  He couldn’t neuter a cat.

The one thing I have never come to terms with, however, is the fact that God didn’t give me a beautiful singing voice.  I know we are supposed to be content with the gifts God gives us and not want someone else’s gifts.  But singing is the one gift I truly covet.  I can listen to someone whose voice moves me to tears and ask, “Why couldn’t I have that voice?”  Why can’t I be the person who raises my hand when the choir director asks for volunteers to sing the solo parts of a piece of music instead of hiding behind my choir book saying, “Ain’t no way?”  I suppose, in actuality, I could volunteer to sing a solo, but not if I don’t want to be un-invited to join the church choir.  And our church choir takes anybody.  No talent necessary.

People tell me, “But you can play the piano!”  Yes, I know, and I don’t want minimalize that gift, but why can’t I do both?  There are other people who are musically talented in both singing and playing an instrument.  Why not me?  There’s probably nobody who would appreciate the ability to have magnificent melody flowing from my mouth as much as I would.  Perhaps the Good Lord knew it would be too much for my pride to handle.  But it sure is frustrating to have an ear for music—I have perfect pitch for crying out loud—and to have the singing voice of a bullfrog with Strep throat.

As if that isn’t bad enough, my husband had to go and make things worse.

“I wish I could sing like an angel,” I lamented to him.

“Angels don’t sing.  They chant,” he replied.  “Nowhere in the Bible does it say angels sing.”

“What?  Are you sure?” He had to be wrong.  “What about the angels in the Christmas carol?  You know, Hark the Herald Angels Sing?

“That’s in a song.  It’s not in the Bible.”

Well.  If that didn’t deflate my balloon!  What a letdown!   “Then where did the expression ‘sing like an angel’ come from?” I challenged.

“I don’t know. But angels don’t sing.  They chant.”

I brightened up.  “Well then, I have the voice of a chanting angel!”


They’re Out To Get Me

Am I the only one who feels victimized by inanimate objects?  Or is there anyone else out there brave enough to admit it?  I swear, “things” are out to get me.  At the very top of the list is anything having to do with technology.  Computers hate me.  There is a vast conspiracy among computers everywhere against me and they are all interconnected somehow in cyberspace. They will stubbornly and repeatedly refuse to do whatever task I’m trying to accomplish,  but when I ask for human help, the person who comes to my assistance does the exact same thing I have been doing over and over, and this time it works!  Not only does the human think I’m incompetent, but I just know the computer is secretly laughing at me somewhere in its hard drive.  It is probably also sending messages to computers everywhere, “Ha ha!  I got her again!”

Smart phones, too.  For years I was the only person on the planet without a smart phone.  That was because I was too dumb to own one.  Then my beloved basic phone disappeared from my car and I was forced to buy a new phone.  Is there anything more painful?  Or humiliating?  I stood there like a deer (or a dinosaur) in the headlights while a twelve year salesperson at the phone store regaled me with a barrage of foreign words as she switched from this screen to that screen with the speed of light showing me functions I will never find again.  Even if I do accidentally manage to stumble across these screens again I won’t know what to do with them or how to get them off my phone so I can actually make a call. When she asked if there were any questions, I was too embarrassed to ask how to answer a call.  My smart phone has deep secrets which it will not divulge to me.  Sometimes it lets me know I have a text message.  Other times it doesn’t.  Or a voicemail.  So unless I am constantly checking, which I don’t do as I have a life, thank you very much, I often end up missing messages—which is why God gave us the standard answering machine affixed to my dinosaur house phone.  Of course I can’t understand half the messages on it because they are garbled, but at least I know they are there because the blasted machine beeps at me until I attend to it.

Even the old standard copier machines have it in for me.  Except now, the old standard copier machines have been replaced by machines that not only copy, but pull paper from multiple trays, collate, fax, do your taxes, and make coffee.  I can’t simply take something to the copy machine and have it make a copy. Now there are 23 different buttons to push and if I mess up even one, I will accidentally fax something confidential to half the known world.  Unlike some people (who shall remain nameless) who are guilty of transmitting classified national security information, I will be arrested and thrown into a dank, dark prison cell where I will never again see the light of day for divulging Mrs. Brown’s dog, Scruffy, has mange, thus violating HIPPA.  So it is with trepidation that I approach these scary-looking apparatuses.  Even if by some miracle I get the machine to make copies, it will inevitably spit out 100 copies when I only wanted ten, while I frantically try to figure out how to make it stop, or it will rebel with a massive paper jam deep in the unreachable inner bowels of the machine.

Cameras, forget it.  I long for the old days of the simple Kodak point and shoot cameras.  There are way too many gadgets on our camera, and unless everything is set precisely where it was the last time I took pictures, God only knows what I will capture. I have taken more accidental movies than I can count.  This is because I thought I recorded the segment I wanted, only to find that instead of turning the recorder off I turned it on and now have a lovely video of my feet walking somewhere accompanied by pointless chatter.  Don’t even suggest I chuck the camera for my smart phone.  I think I’ve made myself fairly clear on that!

I wrote a whole blog on how public restroom dryers refuse to blow air for me.  And just when I had about mastered the VCR, it became obsolete.  Televisions were somewhat straight forward until they came out with Roku.  Even my fairly tech-savvy husband can’t manage to program all the channels on Roku that we get on our basic old TV.  I have to get my teenage son to work the DVD player for me.  If I’m alone in the house, I can’t watch a DVD because I guarantee it won’t play.

Pretty much everyone who knows me understands this conspiracy inanimate objects have against me and are usually willing to come to my aid to do all the wretched tasks these machines refuse to do for me.  But somehow I just can’t seem to convince my husband the washer, dryer, and stove are also in on the plot.

Sweet Home Alabama

There’s a lot to be said for taking a vacation without a surly teenager along.  So when we cheerfully packed our thirteen year old son, Darion, off on a youth retreat to Ridgecrest in North Carolina on July 4th, Doug and I decided to treat ourselves to a few days of “doing what we want to do” without having to listen to the complaining.  Let me just say that Darion is very good at being thirteen.  And God bless our youth leader who braved a ten hour drive both ways with a van full of teenagers!  We don’t pay her enough.  As we cheerfully waved off the group departing from the church parking lot, we cried, “We’re free!”  Of course we said this silently to ourselves because there were actually people present who were going to miss their kids.  Go figure.

Within a couple minutes of seeing the tail lights of the van move out of sight, we hopped into the truck and set out to see some things we had always wanted to see as we hustled through Alabama on our way to somewhere else.  It seems we have spent twenty-eight years on our way to somewhere else and never had the time to stop and see anything along the journey.  And without Darion, we could see each and every waterfall and hike each and every trail we wanted, exploring nature in the way it was meant to be enjoyed.  We could actually hear the sweet songs of the birds and the chirping of the cicadas without the endless barrage of “Nature is stupid!  I hate hiking! How far do we have to go?  I’m tired.” Loud melodramatic teen-aged angst sigh.  “How many more stupid waterfalls do we have to see?  I just want to go back to the hotel and watch TV.”  For some reason, Darion fails to understand that if we wanted to watch TV we wouldn’t pay $100.00 bucks a night in a strange city to do so.  In fact, we wouldn’t even have to leave Valparaiso.  Somehow, his endless tirade of dissatisfaction tends to spoil the ambiance of communing with God’s creation.

We also got to eat at establishments other than our son’s usual culinary preferences of “drive through” with a large order of fries, without sulking and the announcement of, “Fine!  Then I’m not eating!”  I suppose his not eating is somehow meant to punish us, but I’ve never understood why.  Truly, if he kept his word, we’d save money.  Unfortunately, he always capitulates, as pretty much every restaurant carries chicken tenders and fries.  But oh, for a few days, we relished the sweet taste of our selfish pleasures.

Not only were we able to enjoy nature, we were also able to visit historical areas, such as the First White House of the Confederacy and Old Town, Alabama, which would no doubt have been deemed “boring”.  I was able to cross one more item off my bucket list—touring Helen Keller’s home and seeing the outdoor drama, “The Miracle Worker,” performed on the grounds.  The play alone was phenomenal and completely worth the trip.

We also got to see the only Coon Dog cemetery in the country.  (At least I think it’s the only one.)  Don’t laugh at me.  Some people like to go antiquing or to art museums on vacation.  I enjoy quirky things like the Coon Dog cemetery.  And although the visit was done more as a lark, we were surprised to see several other visitors there.  So apparently I’m not the only oddball out there.  My husband, being the good sport that he is, indulged me in this fifteen minute fantasy.  It was either that or two days shopping at the outlet center in Foley.  He chose wisely. I was a little disappointed to find out that the movie, “Sweet Home Alabama,” was mostly filmed in Georgia and the Coon Dog cemetery in the movie was not the actual one, but rather a movie set based on the real thing.

Now for some reason, our teenager, who is embarrassed to tears when we breathe the air in his vicinity, felt the need to call us at least a half dozen times a day—like when he awoke at 6 am, when he ate every meal, when he was on a break, or before he went to bed at 11 pm.  He was always quite concerned about where we were and what we were doing.  And he doesn’t even have his own phone, which necessitated the humiliation of having to borrow one from his friend to call his—gasp—parents!  (Yes, we are cruel and abusive parents who have ruined his existence by denying him his personal cell phone rite of passage.)  As tempted as we were to say we were in the midst of shipping all our worldly goods to Bali with no forwarding address, we resisted the urge and assured him we would be home before he returned.  (After all, Bali isn’t that big.  He could probably find us there.)

Sure enough, we were back to greet the youth when they arrived home the following Tuesday night and our son is back to his usual uncooperative and churlish self.  We are wondering how much we would have to bribe the youth leader to take a longer trip next year.




The Suspense is Killing Me

Why is it in a suspense novel or movie, the protagonist always does something extremely stupid to put himself or herself in a life-threatening situation?  Of course we all know the lead character will be rescued or something otherwise miraculous will occur at the last possible minute, because lead characters, after all, don’t die (or even become critically injured).  Never mind that the other bit players all met their demise; nothing untoward will happen to the main character.   This is supposed to enhance the suspense and drama, I suppose, but I can’t get over the fact that nobody in his right mind would ever do what these people do.  So why do writers think these are realistic plots?

I’m talking, for example, about the person who seems to think blackmailing a killer is a good idea.  It never seems to occur to this person that the murderer has already killed somebody and killing him, too, wouldn’t be that big a deal at this point.  But in his mind, there’s no way the killer would think to come after him.  The killer will happily and forever dole out massive quantities of money in order for the witness to keep his mouth shut.  Yeah, and pigs fly.  So why is this such a common thread in mystery and suspense plots?

Then there are the people who believe confronting the killer in order to make him turn himself in is the best way to go, because, after all, one doesn’t want to rat this person out to the police and possibly have him get upset with you.  No, you schedule a meeting with the killer—often in a secluded setting— tell him everything you know, assure him you’ve told nobody else what you saw, and end with, “I know you will do the right thing, but if you don’t turn yourself in, I’ll have to.”  Well.  That should put the fear of Hades into him.  By the way, how long do you wait before turning him in?  Do you hire a body guard in the meantime?  No, because there is no way the killer would ever harm you!

Okay, so these less than brilliant characters have effectively and naively managed to eliminate themselves from the rest of the story, as well as the gene pool.  Now comes the protagonist, who up until the end has managed to display a modicum of common sense and stay alive.  But for some reason, towards the end of the story, he (she) feels the need to check out something in a deserted location on her own, without telling anybody where she’s going, without taking a weapon, and usually in the middle of the night.  Oh, and by now she has run her mouth enough that the killer knows she’s on to him, so he just has to waylay her.  It is guaranteed she will walk into a trap.  There will be no cell phone service or her emergency contact number will go to voicemail.

Once she’s trapped, the killer doesn’t just shoot her and be done with it, like he did his last five victims.  No, now for some reason, he decides to spill his guts.  He confesses, for a full twenty minutes,  everything he did and why he did it under the interrogation of the trapped lead character, who, by the way, should really be trying to think of a way out, rather than concerning herself with the motivation of the killer.  Then, when time has run out, the killer orders the lead character to go somewhere else so he can kill her there, as if where they are standing isn’t good enough.  That’s when the rescuers, going off nothing more than a “bad feeling,” manage to track down and find the trapped protagonist who is out in the middle of nowhere, just before she is marched away to be executed.  Or, if the writers want to really spice up the action, the lead character will suddenly notice something like a box of fireworks right next to her and using the cigarette lighter she just happens to have with her (even though she doesn’t smoke) manages to light up the box, effectively enabling her to escape.  Then when she has made it safely away from the killer, the rescuers miraculously appear.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the same plot over and over again?  Surely people are not really that stupid, or that lucky.   Perhaps I should change my genre of writing and delve into suspense.  But I’m afraid my characters would not be very interesting.  They would either do the smart thing, run to the police and let them handle things from the start, or end up like me—hiding under the covers with the blankets pulled over their heads.  There is only so much one can do with this scene.

Chocolate: It Isn’t Just for Breakfast Anymore

There was a recent Pickles cartoon in which the husband says to the wife, “You know what, Opal?  You are a chocoholic.”

She answers, “That’s not true. I could live without chocolate.  I could get along just fine without chocolate.  Everybody around me would suffer, but I’d be fine!”

For some reason my husband found that cartoon hilarious.  I have to say, he knows me all too well.  Early in our courtship I told him not to waste money on flowers.  One can’t eat flowers.  Chocolate, however . . .

I have always felt there was just something a little wrong with people who claim not to like chocolate.  Either they’re lying or aliens from another planet.  In 1753, Linnaeus designated the tree Theobroma cacao, which translates to “cacao, food of the gods.” Well, if chocolate is the food of the gods, who am I to argue with its supremacy in the world of us mortals?

Besides, chocolate has health benefits (which, of course, I always knew, but recent studies have confirmed).  100-grams of milk chocolate is an excellent source (over 19% of the Daily Value, DV) of riboflavinvitamin B12 and the dietary mineralsmanganesephosphorus and zinc. Chocolate is a good source (10–19% DV) of calciummagnesium and iron.

In addition, here are proven health benefits of dark chocolate from Healthline:

Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.  A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDI for iron, 58% of the RDI for magnesium, 89% of the RDI for copper, 98% of the RDI for manganese. It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

  1. It is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.
  2. The bioactive compounds in cocoa may improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
  3. Raises HDL (good cholesterol) and protects LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidation.
  4. Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk among those who consume the most chocolate.
  5. Studies show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it from sun damage.
  6. Cocoa or dark chocolate may improve brain function by increasing blood flow. It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine.

So, now that I’ve pointed out how important chocolate is to our health, welfare, and being, people would be crazy not to indulge.  I mean seriously, it’s a lot more enjoyable than Romaine lettuce and we are unlikely to get Listeriosis from eating chocolate.  In case you are still skeptical, here are 21 proverbs pertaining to the food of the gods:

  1. Chocolate doesn’t ask silly questions. Chocolate understands.
  2. When life gives you lemons, throw it back and ask for chocolate.
  3. When life gives you chocolate, eat it all and tell no one.
  4. Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a tree. That makes it a plant.  Chocolate is a salad.
  5. Chocolate is great. It gives you energy which can be used to go buy more chocolate.
  6. I make chocolate disappear. What’s your superpower?
  7. Chocolate is the Answer. Who cares what the Question is?
  8. Chocolate is nature’s way of making up for Mondays.
  9. I’m a woman of many moods and they all require chocolate.
  10. For some there’s therapy. For the rest of us, there’s chocolate.
  11. Chocolate is my new health food. I eat it because I feel like I might die if I don’t.
  12. Life is short. Eat chocolate.
  13. Give me the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.
  14. Forget love. I’d rather fall in chocolate.
  15. Stop trying to make everybody happy. You’re not chocolate.
  16. Save the planet. It’s the only one with chocolate.
  17. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, unless it’s chocolate.
  18. A chocolate a day keeps the bad moods away.
  19. There is no “we” in chocolate.
  20. You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate. And that’s kind of the same thing.
  21. And my favorite: I could give up chocolate, but I’m not a quitter.

Baby on Board

I was looking for something on the internet and got side-tracked, as I often do, into looking at something else which caught my eye.  It was a site for funny bumper stickers, one of which read, “Adults on Board.  We Want to Live, Too.”  This caused me to chuckle, as I have often wondered just what the point was of those “Baby on Board” decals.

The Baby on board signs are believed to date back to the 1980’s when they were first put on sale by the Safety 1st Corporation. Although it is said they can alert emergency services to the presence of a child, their original purpose was to encourage other motorists to drive carefully in the presence of a car carrying a child.  However, one survey claims that the Baby on Board stickers have caused one in twenty accidents.  I’m not sure what that statistic was based on, but some sites have indicated that depending on where the decals are placed, they can potentially obscure the driver’s view.  In fact according to a poll of 2000 drivers, 46% viewed these decals as a hazard.

I have to admit when I see one of those decals, I don’t automatically think, “Oh, goodness, I need to stop driving like an idiot and exhibiting road rage because there’s a baby in the car ahead of me.”  Perhaps, though, I need to stop tail gating as I just closed the gap with the car in front of me in order to read the “Baby on Board” decal. Of course, hopefully, I’m driving carefully, anyway, and the fact that there is a baby in the car ahead of me doesn’t improve my driving.  I suppose I could go so far to say that perhaps knowing there is a baby in the car ahead of me might actually make me more nervous and more likely to have an accident—kind of like in school zones where my eyes are so focused on my speedometer to be sure I’m not going 21 miles per hour instead of 20 that I miss seeing the pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Then I got to thinking.  Maybe the benefit of the “Baby on Board” stickers isn’t for the vehicle sporting them,  but for all the other vehicles around them.  “Baby on Board” could mean a potentially sleep-deprived driver or a distracted driver who is fumbling with one hand on the backseat floor board for the dropped pacifier.   Or it could mean there is a shrieking infant who is rendering the driver a literal nervous wreck.  From this perspective, “Baby on Board” decals could be a warning that it may be safer to steer as far away from these vehicles as possible.

Now the pet owning public has taken this one step further with “Dog on Board” decals.  So now I’m even more confused.  Does that mean if I run into the back of the vehicle in front of me, the dog on board will jump out and eat my face off?  Or does it mean I need to be wary because the dog hanging way out the driver’s window may fall out into the road and cause an accident?  Not that the driver with the co-driving dog in his lap would be distracted, if say, the dog suddenly jumped up in front of him to bark at the dog riding in the back of the pick-up truck in front of him.  But I suppose the decals have the same intent as the “Baby on Board” decals, in that people around them should drive more carefully knowing there is a dog in the vehicle.  (To heck with the people, there is a dog in that car!)

Perhaps someone needs to come up with a decal saying, “Frazzled parent with four screaming kids in the car.  If you know what’s good for you back off!”   Or “Pet parent with three yapping dogs that are driving me crazy!”  As for me, I’m ordering the sticker I found on Amazon.  “No Baby on Board.  Feel Free to Crash into Me.”