Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bumper Stickers, Hospital Visits, and Happy Plates - Part Two

*** Continued from previous post!!***

Back in the day when I was still participating in the grueling world of dating, my very dear friend – we’ll call her ‘J’ – was rushed to the hospital. Being a doting friend, I headed to the hospital the minute I received the call. At some point in time, I needed to leave her room.

That was my first mistake.

I should have insisted on staying through whatever it was that prompted me to leave! But no … I was polite and ushered myself to the waiting area. It was late evening, and the waiting room was quiet and empty. Except for a hospital employee dressed in scrubs. I remember thinking that he was cute … and had nice hair. And, I have to admit I wasn’t terribly disappointed when he started chatting with me … then flirting … and eventually asked me out.

Second mistake … agreeing to the invitation.

From what I had seen and heard that evening at the hospital, I pegged him to be the rugged, four-wheel drive-driving, sporty type of guy.

So, imagine my surprise when, upon walking out to his car on our infamous first (and last) date night, I saw a large, dull-butterscotch-colored, 4-door, boat-like sedan … plastered with political bumper stickers. P-L-A-S-T-E-R-E-D!

As my eyes quickly scanned the myriad of opinions shared via the bumper stickers, everything in me wanted to turn and run! I decided to give him a chance. First impressions can be so misleading (by the way … they can also be right!).

Say it with me … mistake #3 … giving him a chance.

As we drove to the restaurant, talk radio twittering away in the background, he regaled me with all the reasons music radio was bad-bad-bad, along with all the brain-related benefits of talk radio. A topic that bored my early twenty-something self to tears.

I began creating escape plans in my head … he continued to chatter about talk radio, as I attempted to figure out the logistics of opening the car door and doing some type of maneuver that would effectively and safely fling myself from the car, allowing me to land safely on the freeway and quickly escape from being run over by the hundreds of other 60-mile-per-hour-moving cars on the road. After all, I reasoned, I’d landed safely after parachuting out of a plane … how hard could it be to apply the emergency-landing drop and roll movement I’d been taught to an escape from a moving car?!

Needless to say, I stayed in the car.

We arrived at Red Robin, ordered, and attempted to make conversation. As the food on our plates dwindled, he decided it would be a good idea to order dessert. Red Robin had one of my favorite desserts - apple crisp - so, I folded and ordered along with him.

That was when he looked at me, then my plate, then up at me again, and asked, “Aren’t you going to make your plate happy?”

“Hmmmm?” I questioned, not certain I’d heard him correctly.

“If you want dessert, you need to eat all the food on your plate. You need to make your plate a Happy Plate,” he matter-of-factly explained.

“You know … I’m getting a little bit full. I think I’ll take the rest to-go,” I replied carefully, not wanted to ruffle any last vestiges of his sanity. After all … I still needed to get home safely.

Mistake # …. well, I’ve lost count … anyway, that would be letting him drive me to the date location.

Dessert arrived, thank goodness, and I dove into my haven of apple crisp. But, once again, I quickly got full and had to stop eating before finishing. I hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t notice my very unhappy plate. Actually, it was a bowl. With deep sides. So, I thought there might be a chance that he wouldn’t see the remnants of apple crisp still sitting inside.

Of course, he did. But, this time, he went a step further. After confirming that I was not, in fact, going to be personally making my bowl happy, he took the bowl, spooned what he could of the remaining crisp, and then LICKED the bowl clean.

At that point, I remember my shoulders slumping a bit, as I looked around to see if anyone I knew was in the restaurant and watching this whole pitiful story play itself out. Then I turned to my date, and watched him blissfully finish licking the bowl. “There,” he proudly stated, “now it’s happy!”

Unlike me … who was quite the opposite of happy, and just wanted to get home.

But, no. As luck would have it, a Halloween store had opened up in the same complex as Red Robin. Not a nice home décor-type Halloween store, with stylish pumpkins and cute decorative ghosts. But, the freaky Halloween store, with gory masks and fake blood and cackling voices and grotesque creatures hanging from the walls and ceiling … and that stale, funky smell of I-don’t-know-what.

He was ecstatic over the discovery of this store. Me … not so much. Surprise, surprise. But, being a nice person and a tad concerned about his mental state, I went along with it … walking with him through the store and feigning amusement and delight over the Goth and gore.

Thankfully, the evening ended with me safely arriving back home, sharing a kind thank-you and goodbye, then quickly high-tailing it to my apartment where I promptly locked the door and ran to the window, peeking through the blinds to ensure his car had driven away.

My worst date ever. But, one that immediately became a favorite of my dearest, closest friends (including my now-hubby!) and has lived on through the years via ‘Happy Plate’ comments sprinkled here and there just when you need a laugh.

So, thank you, Happy Plate Guy – wherever you are … and, please, stay where you are – for giving me such an unusual, unique, implausible, and – in hindsight – amusing experience.

And, there you have it … the story behind my aversion to political, preachy bumper stickers and, come to think of it, similarly-themed talk radio shows. Admittedly, it’s highly probably I would have developed those dislikes on my own. How lame a story would that be though?! It’s so much more entertaining to just link it all back to Happy Plate Guy. :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bumper Stickers, Hospital Visits, and Happy Plates - Part One

You might think the title subjects could never be related. But, I will endeavor to disprove that thought over the course of the next two … maybe three … posts.

Not long ago, I was attempting to figure out when my dislike of bumper stickers started. I know … a very deep, profound, relevant subject.

Please don’t get me wrong, a window decal proudly proclaiming your alma mater, advertising your son/daughter’s baseball team number, or professing your support of the local zoo are just fine and dandy … I’ve got some of those myself!

And, I’ll admit to liking a few bumper stickers … the happy, harmless, non-political, non-preachy kinds that make me laugh, like “Wag more, bark less”. The ones I’m not so fond of tend to be political … and overtly preachy … and often not-so-nice.

Sure, I wonder why people would put sticky, paint-damaging residue across the back of an asset that no doubt cost at least a small chunk of change, but I had this nagging feeling that my dislike went much deeper.

I originally thought it was because I assumed that those who put the preachy, political bumper stickers on their cars were attempting to influence the minds of the captive audience stuck behind them at the stoplight:

Driver of Car Behind Bumper-Sticker Splattered Auto: “Oh, wow … that driver in front of me is voting for Candidate X. Hmmmm … maybe I should consider voting for that candidate as well … after all, Driver of Bumper-Sticker Splattered Auto obviously has good taste in vehicle colors.”

No, it went deeper than that.

Not long ago, I witnessed a vehicle not ‘walking its talk’ … uh, I mean, ‘not driving its bumper sticker statement.’ I was driving behind an old (emitting toxic exhaust fumes), rectangular (box-like), semi-maroon colored (oxidizing) van, trying desperately not to inhale.

While sitting at a stoplight, I was entertained by the bumper stickers plastered across the back end of the van. One, in particular, caught my eye. It was a quote by Mother Theresa, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. “

So, my first thought was that I would have used the word ‘travesty’ instead of ‘poverty’. But, that’s just me. I have to find something to correct in everything I read whether it’s needed or not … it’s kind of a sickness. Seriously, though, I couldn’t help but ponder the meaning behind those words.

As I was lost in thought (the owner of the bumper sticker’s intent, I assume), the light turned green and the van lurched forward and sped off. It was jacked way up high, looking like any sharp turn might topple the whole thing over. It looked like there were at least two kids in the back seats. And, I realized it was probably doing 45 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone.

So, I’m thinking … they put a bumper sticker on their car about sacrificing to save children because they are, presumably, making decisions that help children. And, yet, they are driving a raised, ready-to-topple van that is carrying children at a speed 15 miles an hour higher than the legal limit. Grrrr … practice what you preach via your bumper stickers, people!

But, no … that wasn’t it either. My dislike of bumper stickers went deeper … way deeper.

I kept thinking … and then it dawned on me. Happy Plate Guy … that was it! I had pinpointed the exact moment my dislike of preachy, political bumper stickers began.

Stay tuned for more in my next post! :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

I was standing in line at the post office when I heard, “And how long are you going to be?” I looked behind me to see an older man, possibly in his sixties, with an unwavering face and twinkling eyes that just screamed of dry humor and wit. I smiled and laughed, noting that I just had the one box and would make it fast.

I didn’t expect the conversation to continue. Thankfully, it did.

“My wife has me mailing these birthday cards to Ireland,” he continued gruffly. “We’re always sending things over there.”

Being a travel fanatic, I was intrigued. “Ireland, huh,” I responded, “I’ve never been there, but it’s on my list of places I want to visit.”

“Oh, we’ve been there many times … at least a couple dozen,” he said. “Both of our families are from there, and many are still living there.”

“Really?” I asked, “Is that where you met?”

“Oh no …”, he chuckled. “I was an auctioneer. Traveled all over the place. One day, I received a call from a rancher in central Oregon. I was to come pick up some items that would then be auctioned. That’s when I met her.”

“At the ranch?” I asked, amazed at such a chance meeting.

“Yep … she was the rancher’s daughter. That was thirty-some odd years ago … and things have been going downhill ever since,” he added with a sly grin.

“Well … it couldn’t be too bad if you’ve been together for thirty-some years!” I countered with a smile.

“Well, she was quite the successful businesswoman. I couldn’t give that up,” he said with the dry wit that had become the trademark of our short conversation. He then went on to explain that she had owned several thriving businesses – including a clothing shop and a salon – in the very complex we were standing in. “Back in the day, there would be a line of people waiting to get into her salon,” he added with a hint of pride.

I glanced at the service counter where, fortunately, the customers in front of me were having some sort of difficulty with their mailing progress.

“I can’t believe both of you are from Ireland, and you ended up meeting on a ranch out in the middle of central Oregon,” I added.

It was then that he told me that on one of their first trips back to Ireland as a couple, they decided to check into each of their family histories. Through their research, they discovered that their grandparents had been from the exact same small town in Ireland. His had owned a hardware store; hers had owned a grocery store. They traveled to that little town and discovered that – even to that day - his family’s original hardware store and her family’s original grocery store sat on the very same street, right next door to each other.

“Wow,” I said with all the eloquence of a rock. “That is absolutely amazing … a marriage meant to be.”

The customers at the counter retreated and it was my turn.

I mailed my package and turned, intending to smile and convey wishes for a good day with this man who had shared his wonderful story with me.

He was nowhere to be seen.

A smile spread across my face as I headed to the car. ‘A marriage made in heaven’ came to mind. Yes, definitely that … sprinkled with a little ‘Luck of the Irish’, had clearly brought these two individuals together.

My potentially-tedious trip to the post office was made special, with a beautiful and unexpected story of providence usually saved just for the kids and grandkids. It made this German-Irish girl feel a little lucky too!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Move Over, Rover!

Tell me how in the world I was supposed to pass up that sweet, furry face on the cover of "Move Over, Rover!"? I just couldn't do it! It drew me in ... I had to pick up the book and thumb through it.

Those covers ... they get me every time.

That's why I love school book fairs ... all those books just waiting to be noticed. I might have never known about this book, had I not walked by and seen that sweet mutt staring at me with those sad, chocolate brown eyes.

After quickly paging through it, I immediately knew it was a book our household would thoroughly enjoy! First of all ... it's a 2007 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award winner, given annually to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished contribution to beginning reader books. Not that all books boasting awards are good ... but, this one definitely holds up to its end of the deal.

Secondly, it's a completely different style of children's book writing than mine, so I was intrigued and wanted to analyze it a bit further!

Third, it's got immediate appeal for children in that the story is told using super-catchy repetition and rhyme. At the beginning, Rover's a little bummed that he's all alone ... no one to play with. But ... it starts to rain. Rover takes cover in his cozy, warm doghouse. Soon, however, he's joined by a plethora of friends attempting to take cover from the storm ... a cat, a raccoon, a squirrel, a blue jay, a snake, a mouse ... oh my ... it's getting tight! And ... what's .... that ... smell?! Of course, it has to be the skunk that clears out the place.

Finally, the watercolor pictures are perfectly warm and enchanting. Simply beautiful.

Author Karen Beaumont and Illustrator Jane Dyer have created a book where story and art perfectly complement one another.

If you're looking for a fun-to-read book to share with a child in the 3-7 age range ... this is a sure winner! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Crying Over Spilled Milk

This blog's normal posting is being interrupted by a moment of self-pity. That's OK, right ... every once in a while ... especially when it's done for the sake of relatability and humor?!

Recently, I was thinking how thankful I was that my family and I hadn't been overtaken, throughout the winter, by the horrid outbreaks of the creepy crud that seemed to be infesting the majority of other households. Note: I said 'thankful' ... not 'cocky' about our healthfulness.

Soon thereafter, however, my hubby came down with the aforementioned creepy crud. I remained strong ... deflecting germs, disinfecting like a maniac, and reveling in the fact that I was not going to be overtaken. My body, however, apparently interpreted my thankfulness and strong will as 'cockiness' and decided to teach me a lesson. With impressive lightening speed, my head, sinuses, throat, lungs, and stomach revolted against me. I'm still not sure what I did to warrant such a retort.

Despite no voice, a pounding headache, and the feeling that I was living in a thick fog, life went on. I felt like curling up under a big blanket and watching movies, BUT appointments needed to be kept, tasks needed to be completed, work needed to be done, kids needed to be cared for. And, thanks to the rotating schedule of dear friends, Advil and Tylenol, it has all been getting done ... somewhat effectively.

Today, after dropping the kids off at school and daycare, making it through a somewhat wimpy version of my normal workout during which even my teeth hurt, and purchasing my dear, sweet Starbucks mocha, I headed home to start working.

I sat down at my desk and grabbed one little, teeny sheet of paper out of the file organizer sitting on my desk, which succeeded in throwing the entire organizer off balance. It toppled over, onto my mocha, which promptly sent extra-hot liquid shooting in various directions across the room.

Before I could even respond to what was happening (please see 'living in a thick fog' statement above) by lifting the organizer and setting my cup upright, I had decaf, grande, single ristretto, 5-pump chocolate, non-fat, no-whip mocha dripping from my desk onto my keyboard, down my favorite workout jacket, in my lap soaking through to my undergarments, on my office chair ... and, to top it off, there was a lovely path of mocha splattered from my desk all the way to the office door.

And that, my friends, is when the tears started rolling ... the ones that you get when you don't feel good and simply can't handle one more thing (and there are no witnesses around to hold it against you! :-)).

No worries ... after stain-removal of the desk, office chair, keyboard, carpet, and clothing (yes, it did all come out, thank goodness!), I took a shower to rid myself of the residual mocha and drank the meager 4 ounces remaining in my cup ... and felt much better. And, now I can say that I have, indeed, cried over spilled milk (albeit the kind enhanced by a little bit of coffee and a lot of chocolate).