This Week’s Oxymoron Practice

Today’s oxymoron practice: took a 45 minute walk, then came home & ate a sleeve of thin mints


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Black Pants

Finding a pair of pants that fit on the clearance rack!

him: Why do you have ten pairs of black pants
her: I don’t.
him (holding up one pair): Yes you do. I see them all lined up right here.
her: They are not all black.
him: This looks like black. 
her:  That one is my skinny off-black.
him: What?
her: And this one is my day-before-my-period very-black
him: hmmm
her (pointing to pants one by one): This one is my very-important-business-meeting tweed-black,
sexy-out-to-dinner spandexy-black, nobody-will-see-me-at-the-grocery-store cotton-black . . .
him: ok, ok, nevermind

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2012, The End. . . the sequel

Really, there was a movie out about 2012 – y’know the one with my dreamboat John Cusack, where the world ended by literally falling apart. And for awhile there, it was looking a bit like that from my perch here in the ‘burbs.

But we muddled through and we sit in the middle of the road now, looking for the next apocalypse.

The truth is, every year is a whole series of tiny explosions, isn’t it? That is what we call “life” in my world. Welcome to the year of superstition, gun fear, hyper-anti-bullying, litigation for blamelessness, and the coming of the end of the world . . . again and again.

In other words, welcome home.

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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.

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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?”

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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 myaccent 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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