Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Thank You

Another kid story to entertain you while I decide what to write about next:

I don't understand why everyone talks about the "terrible twos." Both of my kids were generally pleasant, cooperative, and lots of fun at age two -- although I will admit that both of them suffered from a fair amount of angst if they tried to say something and I couldn't immediately understand their "toddler-ese." Communication issues aside, though, both of them waited until they got older to become defiant and uncooperative. (As a good friend of ours likes to say, "The older they get, the cuter they ain't.")

One day when my daughter was about four, she came in from pre-school and dropped her jacket on the dining room floor.

I said, "Hey, sweetie, please hang up your jacket in your room."

She put her hands on her hips, glared at me, and in a defiant voice said, "NO!"

I responded (also with hands on hips and an incredulous expression on my face), "Excuse me? That's not the answer I was looking for."

"Um...." she said as she thought for a second. Then she sweetly replied, "No, thank you?"


Kids. Ya' gotta love 'em.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog Club

I doubt I have any readers who haven't already seen Chuck Westbrook's blog and fantastic idea for a "blog club." But if I do, check it out and, if you're interested, join up! It sounds like fun, and will get all of us reading some great new blogs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Marital Musings

I was going to try to be the first on the block to write about gay marriage, but GreenYogurt beat me to it. She did a fine job, and here is a link to her awesome post.

Being a wordy attorney, however, I have to add just a couple of points. And then I have to belabor them ad nauseum just in case anyone is interested, and even if they're not. It's what I've been trained to do, so get used to it. (Happy reading....!)

A Republican friend of mine stated that she felt that allowing gay marriage would "devalue" the sanctity of her own marriage. I asked her for clarification, didn't get much, and have struggled to understand how this could be. And frankly, I just don't understand the relevance of someone else's marriage to determining the value or sanctity of my own marriage.

There are two aspects to marriage: the social and the legal. I assume that her comment about gay marriage "devaluing" her marriage is referring to the social aspect, since the legal status of her marriage is not in any way jeopardized by gay marriage (or any other kind of marriage, for that matter).

The legal contract part of marriage is between two people and the State. The State has taken over the right to determine the social, tax, and death benefits of marriage. These benefits include, among many others, tax benefits, the presumption that a child born during the marriage is the child of both marital parties, the right to visit your spouse in the hospital, to determine whether he/she is removed from life support or kept on life support, and to determine whether he/she is buried or cremated after death, the right to sue for wrongful death, and the right to rest secure in the knowledge that even if you fail to prepare a legal will, your spouse will inherit your property. The benefits also include the right to access the courts to divide property and debts equitably if you decide you no longer want to be together (divorce); this is not a right that is granted to folks who merely live together -- they are at the mercy of the person they are breaking up with to determine whether the division of assets is fair and who gets the equity in the house (not an enviable position).

Many of the benefits of marriage can be conferred by contract or other legal documents. A power of attorney, health care power of attorney, mental health care power of attorney and a last will and testament or properly drafted trust can do wonders to cement a loved one's position as your caretaker and recipient of all your stuff, whether you're married or not. But the right to access the courts for a divorce cannot be conferred by contract. One must be legally married in order to get a divorce. You can't get the marriage tax benefits by contract, either. The IRS frowns on attempts at that sort of thing. Here is some free legal advice for you: Don't do things that make the IRS frown.

There are legal burdens to marriage, too. In community property states, for example, you can be held financially responsible for debts your spouse incurs during the marriage.

Frankly, I don't understand why the State should care if the two people seeking the legal benefits and burdens of marriage at issue are men, women, or hermaphrodites. (And here, I have to insert a plug for a novel I enjoyed a few years ago: Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.) If they are of legal age and want to be married, the State should let them be married. It certainly would not change the legal status of anyone else's marriage. And it seems unfair to deny a substantial portion of the population the potential legal benefits of marrriage just because they are born gay.

Moving on to the social or spiritual aspect of marriage. This is an aspect that the State should not concern itself with. The State does not have the right to impose any particular religious beliefs. Under the Constitution, the State also does not have the right to force us to associate with others, nor the right to keep us from associating with others (with some limited exceptions in the criminal law area such as allowing the State to prohibit contact between felons).

Thus, even if two persons have a marriage license from the State, my church is not required to perform the marriage ceremony. So if my God (church) doesn't recognize gay marriage, that's fine; I don't have to acknowledge or sanctify someone's gay marriage in my church. I don't have to socialize with gay people, any more than I have to socialize with white people, or black people, or hispanic people if I choose not to do so. (I am not advocating rampant discrimination; merely pointing out that there is no legal requirement to spend time with people you don't like, even if your reason for not liking them is narrow minded and abhorrent). I don't have to recognize their union as being blessed by my God or Gods. I can simply view it as a government-blessed legal contract, or a marriage blessed by some other church (much like we would recognize a plural marriage in an Islamic country. We might or might not agree that such marriages should happen, and we don't have to perform them in our church, but I assume we would recognize their legal validity in their own country). If I don't want to associate with persons who are gay and married, I don't have to go to their church, hang out with them, or even think about them.

If my God / church chooses to recognize such unions, that's fine, too; I can acknowlege and sanctify that union in my church. But if the church down the road recognizes and sanctifies gay unions, who am I to tell them not to do so just because my church doesn't recognize it? There is no universal religion that everyone agrees with, and, as GreenYogurt pointed out, even those who agree with a particular religion don't always follow every rule, so why should they be allowed to tell others which particular rules of their religion everyone must follow?

And it seems to me that the spiritual status of someone else's marriage, or even my belief about whether my God thinks their marriage is valid or not, simply isn't relevant to the sanctity or validity of the marriage between me and my spouse, or (if I am religious) between me, my spouse, and God. If I am in a wonderful, spiritually fulfilling, God-exalting marriage and the neighbor down the street cheats on his wife, well, I may be sad to learn that, may be appalled at his adultery, may feel that he has devalued his own marriage, may feel repulsed by him and many other emotions -- but the feeling that my own marriage was devalued would not be one of them.

So it seems to me that, even if one disapproves of the concept of gay marriage, the fact that it happens would not "devalue" someone else's marriage.

In short, let the State set the rules for the legal consequences of marriage, and let the churches decide which marriages they will sanctify before their God, and let individuals decide for themselves which church, if any, to join, and which marriages will be accorded their full support and respect. If some people and private churches choose to exclude or shun gay married couples, that is their choice to make. But let's not allow them to make a public choice for all of us regarding whether the State can confer certain legal benefits on gay people.

Just my two cents.

Looking forward to the comments (I think).

************

Late addition: in addition to Green Yogurt's excellent post, here is another insightful blog post with a more humorous approach. My thanks to "Dave" for posting a comment to point me in the right direction for this post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Crocodile Rocks in My Head

Warning (also known as legal mumbo jumbo): Do Not Click the Play Buttons Below, unless you also want Crocodile Rocks in your head...

Then again, I have the technological savvy of a potato (or, in Dan Quayle's spelling, a "potatoe"), so it may not even be possible to click the play buttons below and have anything at all happen. We'll see.

Lately, I have this early 1970's song stuck in my head: Crocodile Rock by Elton John. Especially the line, "I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will." Not sure why it's stuck in my head. Possibly because some numb-nut hummed it in line a few days ago at the Gold Bar Espresso (best coffee shop in the world). Or possibly it's some sort of mid-life crisis. Anyway, there it is, blocking out all my attempts to come up with a more exciting topic for a blog post.

So, for those of you who might like to have the song stuck in your head, too, I've helpfully embedded the YouTube links to two different video clips with this song.

The first selection is a black and white video clip of Elton and Band playing "live" (although it may well have been lip-synched / mimed) on an Italian tv show. The first two and a half minutes is a clip of the host speaking in Italian and acting befuddled at Elton and the band's English responses and inability to speak Italian, and then bringing in someone to "translate" for him. The Italian tv crowd (or the laugh track) laughs uproariously at these antics. I found it tedious. Either I have no sense of humor, or 1970's Italian tv just wasn't funny. One of those - you decide. Or, if you want just the music, skip to about 2:38 on the video and start there. I liked this video, though, because EJ's outfit is just priceless. Particularly the platform heels and the shiny striped pants.

The second clip is a photo montage tribute to the Crocodile Hunter (subject of some future blog, possibly), set to the Crocodile Rock song. I liked it because I think the photos capture quite well both the upbeat exuberance and the melancholy nostalgia of the song.

Happy viewing. my three faithful readers!




Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wishing Well

Yesterday, my five year old came to me with a large plastic cup half-filled with water and a handful of pennies, and directed me to "throw the money in the money well" and my wish would come true. So I tossed in the coins and...

"What did you wish for, Mommy?"

"If I tell you, will my wish come true?"

"Yes!"

"Oh, that's great, because I was just wishing your room would be clean!"

. . . . .

Apparently this is an example of why the kids call me "Mommy no-fun" and my husband accuses me of being out to get them all with my "legal mumbo-jumbo."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Foolish Incident

In response to "That Blue Yak's" "writing assignment," here is my story:

When I was in college, back in the dark ages of the prior century, I had a part-time job driving the bus for the University's transportation (bus) system. There were 80-plus part-time student drivers, a few full-time drivers, and a Transportation Manager (the "Trans Man") and Assistant Manager. We drove buses on a couple of different routes through the campus and out to various fraternity and sorority houses, dorms, and apartments where mostly students lived, as well as to a shopping center with a grocery, post office, bank, and other stores so students could buy things and take the bus back to their apartment. Buses ran every 10 minutes during weekdays, and every 20 minutes evenings and weekends. Shifts were approximately 2 to 4 hours long, and could begin as early as 5:15 a.m. and end as late as 1:00 a.m. For reasons I can't completely explain, it is my all-time favorite former job.

Here are some things that partially, but not completely, explain my love for this job.

** It had very flexible hours -- I could pick up or dump shifts almost at will, as there were always other drivers looking to dump and/or pick up shifts.

** We could bring our "boom boxes" and play our cassettes or radio while we drove the bus around campus and talked to all of our friends and classmates who rode the bus. (This was obviously in the primitive times before CD's made cassettes obsolete).

** The student drivers were a large enough group to be diverse and fun, but small enough to feel like a club or perhaps a sort of blue-collar fraternity / sorority. (It was literally a "blue collar" job -- we had to wear pale blue uniform shirts to drive the bus.) There were always student drivers just "hanging out" at the transit office. We went to Friday night happy hours together. We played practical jokes on each other. We celebrated birthdays and engagements and graduations together. We bowled together weekly during the slow summer months.

** It was the highest-paid student job on campus at the time. Back when minimum wage and most student jobs paid $3.35 per hour, it paid $5.15, which at the time seemed like a lot of money.

** They hired me even though at the time I applied for the job my personal auto insurance had just been suspended because I had been in two wrecks and received two speeding tickets within the prior 12 months. I was in the process of obtaining new and more expensive insurance. The Trans Man stated he was not worried about my prior driving record because they would teach all of the new hires defensive driving, the transit system was self-insured (which meant no rate increases for hiring pathetically bad drivers), and the buses were slow anyway so speeding tickets were not a real problem. My roommate thought he just liked the way I looked.

** The passengers provided no end of hilarious insight into human nature, which we shared with each other on the "Sup's pad." (Short for "supervisor's pad," this pad of paper found on each bus was supposed to be for writing up any problems with the bus or the route, suggestions for beneficial changes, etc., but in those pre-computer days, it served mostly as a sort of aggregate bus-drivers' blog about entitled, drunken, clueless, and otherwise annoying and/or hilarious passengers).

** Did I mention the practical jokes?


One of my "regulars" was a visiting law student from the U.K. who rode the bus every day from the law school, where he was a student, to the apartments where he lived. He liked the American tradition (or perhaps it was a tradition in the U.K., too? I really don't know....) of playing practical jokes on April Fools' Day, and he came up with a great idea for an April Fools joke. All he needed was a piece of letterhead from the transit system and someone to distribute the memo he had written.... I hooked him up, so to speak, with someone who could help him out with those two items.

And on April 1, each driver found, in his / her company mailbox, a memorandum that stated the following (paraphrased to the best of my ability to remember, as I no longer have a copy of the infamous memorandum):


April 1, 19xx

Due to new Federal regulations, the [University's Bus System] is now required to test each driver to screen for the use of illegal drugs. We will implement this requirement through testing of urine samples. There will be an initial test of each driver, followed by random testing of a portion of the workforce every three months hereafter. The urine will be analyzed for the presence of specific drugs, including but not limited to alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. The test can detect the use of these substances for up to three months after the time they were last used.

The initial test will take place this week. Please provide a sample of your urine in a plastic cup with your name on it, and leave it on [Trans Man's] desk by 5 p.m. on April 1. The urine will be sent to a lab, and results will be received sometime within the next week.

If you are unable or unwilling to comply with this requirement, or if drugs are detected in your urine sample, you may be terminated for cause.

Thank you for your cooperation in complying with these new Federal requirements.

Sincerely,

Transportation Manager


APR/fls


Keep in mind (and I know this is hard to fathom for you young-uns that have been raised in an era of decreasing privacy rights and rampant drug testing as a requirement to hold almost any position) that this memo was distributed years before such drug testing actually was required for bus drivers. It was distributed back in the dark ages, when many people were actually appalled at the thought that an employer would "invade the privacy of employees" by requiring drug testing before allowing them to drive a ten ton bus around the city while carrying anywhere from 30 to 100 passengers at a time. Thus, the idea of drug testing bus drivers actually was fairly shocking and controversial, at the time.

Also, however, please note the "APR/fls" at the bottom. If you are familiar with standard office procedures, you will know that this notation represents the initials of the person who dictated or wrote the memo (in capital letters) and the secretary who typed and distributed the memo (in lower case letters). No one in the office had these initials. It was obviously shorthand for "April Fools" -- i.e., "this is a joke, stupid!"

Most people were initially surprised and/or shocked but then read through to the end and, between the April 1 date at the top and in the body of the letter, and the APR/fls at the end, they picked up on the joke and began laughing.

But several persons were completely fooled. One fellow walked in to get his mail, read the memo, and immediately freaked out and then opened his mouth and inserted his foot and even his leg all the way up to his knee: "Oh, shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! No way!!! Drug testing?!? Oh, I am so hosed! I can't believe this!! I'll get fired! Oh, shit ... I have to quit. That's it -- I'm done, I quit!!!" And with that he took off his uniform shirt and stomped out of the office.

I guess we know what he was doing on his off hours. At least we hope it was only on his off hours....

Others asked, "where do I get a plastic cup for the test?" and were met with gales of laughter until they re-read the memo and realized it was all a joke.

And one went so far as to sneak a plastic cup filled with urine onto the Trans Man's desk -- much to the surprise and chagrin of the Trans Man, who was as taken aback by the drug testing memo as the rest of the crew and was disgusted to find a cup of pee on his desk after lunch.

We never did find out whether the person whose name was on the cup was the one who actually filled the cup and left it there, or if it was a "subsidiary joke" played on that person and the Trans Man, by someone who had figured out the gag. In the tradition of Ollie North, no one was admitting to remembering anything at all that day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rattlesnake Bridge

My awesome Dad and Stepmom brought my 7 year old nephew - my (step)sister's kid - to visit us recently. My nephew had read about a "Rattlesnake Bridge" in Tucson, Arizona. He had seen photos of it in his "Highlights" magazine, and wanted to see it in person. He had told his whole class he was going to visit Arizona, and that he was hoping to see this Rattlesnake Bridge. Since it's only a few hours from where we live, I agreed to drive him (and my Dad and Stepmom, along with my two kids) to Tucson to see the world-famous Rattlesnake Bridge.

Last summer we visited the natural bridge at Tonto Creek near Payson, Arizona. It is a very cool bridge formed by water eroding the rock and dirt through the mountains in Northern Arizona. You can walk over the bridge, and then walk down a path and climb around on the huge rocks under the bridge by the creek. If you have not been there before, you should go. It is beautiful, and is a nice, but not too difficult, hike.

So, I was all excited for a nice but hopefully not too difficult hike with the kids & grandparents through the pretty mountains near Tucson, perhaps a picnic lunch near a mountain stream, some cool photo ops near the natural bridge....


We packed up some sandwiches, drinks, trail mix and other snacks. I got directions from MapQuest, and off we went. After a couple of hours, a near collision on the freeway, and a couple of missed turns while we looked for a place to park, we arrived at our destination.

Here is a photo of the head of the "Rattlesnake Bridge" in Tucson, Arizona.







You can see the snake's eye in this photo. You can also see that it is, in actuality, a pedestrian walkover bridge.

Here is a photo of the road below, from "inside" the snake's belly:





Here is a photo of the butt end of the bridge. At the very top, left side of the bridge in the photo below you can see the box that holds the sensor and speaker -- the sensor activates a recording of a rattlesnake "rattle" sound when you walk through it. Oooh, scary!








Here is a photo of the giant rattle at the end of the rattlesnake's tail, which sticks out of the ground on the "butt" end of the bridge:





I did not hear about it at the time, but there was apparently quite a bit of controversy when this bridge was built in Tucon, as there always is for any public art project. On the one hand, it is clearly much more awesome and more fun than a plain old rectangular shaped, fenced-in pedestrian bridge. (That fact alone is guaranteed to send some folks into a tizzy.) On the other hand, what exactly does it mean to walk in through the snake's mouth and walk out through its butt? Are we supposed to have been "eaten" by the snake and then excreted as snake feces? What does this say about the artist's understanding of human nature? About our place in this world? About our ultimate destiny?


The kids were not interested in pondering the bigger implications of humans as snake feces, however. All in all, this was very much like Chevy Chase's trip to the Grand Canyon, in the movie "Vacation." You drive for hours, then look at it and say, "yup, there it is," and then get back in the car....

We decided that as long as we were in Tucson, we should go see some other area attractions. So we checked out the Pima Air and Space Museum. It has an airplane that held the record for "world's smallest actual working airplane," or something like that. The plane was about 3 feet tall and maybe 3 feet long, painted yellow and black, and named the "Bumble Bee." It had room for one smallish person to fit inside it, and it claimed to actually have been flown.


The Pima Air and Space Museum also has a huge yard filled with all sorts of historical aircraft, including the actual Air Force One plane used by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Very cool. Here is a photo of the very old and now retired Air Force One:







The Pima Air and Space Museum is near the "boneyard" where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of old, no-longer-used airplanes -- both civilian and military -- are parked in the middle of the Arizona desert near Tucson. It is amazing to see so many old military airplanes just parked out there in plain view. Makes you wonder whether they are real, or are just decoys designed to fool our enemies when they look at their satellite photos of these "military" aircraft. Surely there must be satellites floating up there, photographing every little detail of these old aircraft.


We also visited "Old Tucson Studios," which has been the site for filming many movies, as well as parts of the old "Little House on the Prairie" tv show. It burned a few years ago and has been rebuilt. By the time we got there, it was about to close for the day so we didn't get to see all of it, but we did get to watch a genuine re-enactment of an old-time Western shootout and pan for a little "gold."


All in all, it was a great day. Much more exciting than those giant concrete dinosaurs we visited last summer in California.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kid Wisdom

We're on one of our vacations. The internet access at this hotel is spotty at best. It disconnects randomly and with no warning, so this will have to be short. I'll just share with you the "wisdom" from my babe's mouth... Then in a couple of days when we're home again, I'll write something longer and more interesting, I promise.

We're vacationing in a small town in the mountains, about 3-4 hours from our home.

We intended to leave our house in time to arrive by 7 p.m., so that we could check in and then have a late dinner in one of our favorite restaurants on the mountain. We left the house at 6 p.m. This was mostly my fault. I wasn't ready at 3 p.m. I was, in fact, still working until 4 p.m., still packing until 5 p.m., and still running errands until 6 p.m.

So, we left at 6. My husband was doing a fine job of not complaining about leaving so much later than we planned. But I knew, without him saying so, that he was disappointed and somewhat sad that we did not arrive in our fun mountain town in time to have dinner there, and had to settle for the golden arches on the way up the mountain.

Halfway up the mountain, it was pitch dark and we couldn't see much of anything other than the tail lights on the cars in front of us, and there weren't even many of those. My youngest, with no prompting from the dear husband asked, in his "I'm trying not to whine but this is really hard" voice, "Why is it dark and we're still driving?"

It was exactly what my husband wished he could have asked.... and probably in the same tone of voice he would have used if he had asked. We both laughed. It broke the tension that we hadn't even realized was there. Kids. Ya gotta love 'em.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Marriage-Saving Murderess

My husband and I love to travel. At least three times a year, we pack up the car and the family and head somewhere cooler, more mountainous or beachier (new word I just invented) or woodsier or, at the very least, rainier than the desert where we live. Not that we don’t love our desert – we just like to have a change of scenery, and weather, every once in a while.

We like to drive on these family vacations because that way, we have the car while we are there. Also we can stop at random side-of-the-road tourist attractions (giant concrete dinosaurs, anyone?), see the scenery along the way (look! cows!), and, most important of all, avoid the annoying security lines, potential flight delays, sardine-style seats and whiny kids involved in flying anywhere these days. Well, ok, so the whiny kids are ours and we can’t avoid them just by driving, but it does help somewhat because at least we can stop and let them see the giant concrete dinosaurs – and then threaten to leave them if they don’t stop whining (kidding, just kidding...).

Besides, if we don’t drag our kids half way across the country while they argue and fight in the back seat of the car, who will? Certainly not their aunts, uncles, or grandparents. No way - they are much too smart to volunteer for that particular form of torture. And we would absolutely hate it if our children missed out on this particularly American rite of childhood.

But, as much as we love this thrice-yearly ritual of packing up the family for a cross-country trek, my husband and I always seem to end up in a fight. No matter how well we plan our route, there will always come a time along the way when, if he is driving, he will ask, as we are driving on the freeway at 65 mph and approximately 60 feet from an exit, "Is this the exit I’m supposed to take?" Gaaah?!?! Heck if I know. "Uh...." And then we’ve missed it. And it was our exit. Or he takes the exit. And it wasn’t the right one. One of those will happen. And then he blames me and I blame him and we are fighting about which way to go next and whose fault it is that we are lost anyway, and the kids are whining in the back seat, and it is just not pretty.

We do a bit better if I drive. He is a much better navigator than I am, so he warns me well ahead of time about what road to take next. And I am better, when driving, at following general directions (you can tell me to take Route 90 in 10 miles – and I’ll do it even if not reminded) as well as the last-second instructions that happen, inevitably, at least once per trip: "ooh! Turn here!" But I can’t drive the whole way every time. And I can’t seem to get the hang of navigating in a way that my husband can follow well (take Route 90 in 10 miles . . . . Route 90 1 mile ahead . . . . Route 90, ½ mile . . . Route 90, this exit here....). I get distracted talking to the kids, or talking to my husband, or reading, or changing the radio station, or whatever... And then it happens.... The missed exit, and the fight.

But, salvation is at hand! My wonderful Dad, who has always liked my husband more than he likes me and therefore has an incentive to make sure I don’t fight with said husband, bought us an awesome device last year for Christmas. Probably you all have had one of these wonderful devices for years now, but we just got ours last Christmas, and we love it. It is a GPS that plans your route for you and then gives directions in a wonderful British accent (and with some odd British turns of phrase) but most importantly, in a way that both my husband and I can follow – "stay on the left lane..... Turn left in ½ mile . . . Turn left." And if you miss the turn, the device immediately recalculates the route and then tells you how to get back on track. "Make a U-Turn." Or "Take the next exit left." The GPS/trip planning device we got (there are lots of different brands out there) is the "TomTom." Because it has a female-sounding voice, we call her "Mrs. TomTom" and, as I said, we love her. If you do not have one, you should immediately go out and buy one. You can find a place to buy one by going to www.tomtom.com. Or, better yet, have someone else buy you one for a gift.

Mrs. TomTom is not, however, perfect. Mind you, she is pretty much guaranteed to get you where you want to go – it’s just that sometimes you may get there in a rather roundabout way. For example, if you could get there by turning left, going one block down the street, and then turning left into the driveway, she will sometimes have you turn right, go to the light and turn right again, go one block, turn right, go one block, turn right, go one block, turn right, and then turn right into the driveway. We are therefore firmly convinced that she is the product of a consortium of oil companies – she’ll get you there, but not necessarily in the quickest or most fuel-efficient way.

As a result, we have begun to use Mrs. TomTom as sort of a "backup system." We no longer have to get stressed out and/or angry if we miss a turn, because we know she’ll get us back on track and we will not be lost forever in the hot dry desert or in the worst neighborhood in the Bronx at night, eventually running out of gas and dying a horrible death. But we don’t always follow her directions exactly, either. We look at the map, take the way we think we should go, and relax and avoid yelling at each other because we know we’ll never be truly lost so long as we have Mrs. TomTom in the car with us. I highly recommend this particular marriage-saving device to anyone who has problems, as we do, giving and following directions while driving.

But, beware! If you ignore her too much, she becomes vengeful.

On the way home from the beach this past summer, we had ignored her instructions to take Route "A" because, in looking at our map, Route "B" looked like more of a straight shot to where we wanted to go. Route "B" took us over a mountain, through a mountain pass. Route "A" would have had us go around the mountain, an approximately 60 miles longer route.

For several miles, Mrs. TomTom kept telling us to turn around – "at the intersection, make a U Turn"; or "At the intersection, turn right, then, turn right again." She was trying to direct us back to the road we had abandoned. We ignored her, figuring eventually she would recalculate the route and include the road we were on.

As we were coming down the other side of the mountain, going through a series of harrowing switchbacks with blind hairpin curves and at least a 6% grade, I guess she had finally had it with us ignoring her instructions. As we rounded a hairpin curve and headed down a long steep grade with the mountain on our left and a steep cliff on our right, with at least a 200 foot drop to the ledge below and no other road in sight she stated, "Right turn ahead," and then a moment or so later, "turn right."

My husband gazed over the edge of the cliff and deadpanned, "Mrs. TomTom is trying to kill us."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dog Blood

I like to encourage my kids to ask me when they are curious about something. If I don't know the answers, I am all about looking things up on the internet and satisfying that urge to learn. I want them to feel comfortable asking me about anything at all, so they’ll get their information from me or their Dad, and not from their misinformed friends at school.

So one evening, my 5 year old, while petting our dog, asked me, "What does dog blood look like?" I said, "Well, it looks just like your blood. Why do you ask?" "I just want to know. Is it green?" "No, it’s red, just like yours." "Wouldn’t it be good if we could cut the dog open and make some blood so I can see it?"

Now at this point I am thinking, Whoa nellie! Am I raising an animal abuser? A psychotic sociopath with no empathy for others?!? A vampire? Or is this just normal 5-year-old curiosity?

I said, "Um, well, you wouldn’t want to hurt the dog, would you?" "Nooo.... I just want to see his blood! I want to know what it looks like." "Well, sweetie, we can’t cut him and look at his blood without hurting him, so no, we can’t look at his blood. You know what your blood looks like, don’t you?" "No, I don’t." "Yes you do. You’ve had a nosebleed before; remember? It’s red." "I don’t remember."

[Heavy sigh]. "Maybe I could find you a picture of some dog blood on the internet."

A brilliant idea! ... NOT.

First, how does one phrase this search on Google or ask.com (formerly AskJeeves.com), without raising red flags in case the FBI is looking for mass murderers or animal abusers by analyzing search requests?

Second, when you type in "dog blood photos" – well, for some of them you just don’t want your 5 year old standing there while you try to find one that is appropriate.

I wanted a photo that depicted blood in a realistic way (to show what it really looks like) and yet one that was not too gory or disturbing for a 5 year old. Perhaps a photo of a slightly wounded dog at a vet’s office – not a disturbing photo of a mangled pooch with blood sprayed and dripping everywhere, nor of doggy surgery (too disturbing so close to bed time), just, you know, a dog with a small, somewhat-bloody-but-not-too-gory cut that the vet would clean and suture and the dog would be fine. Apparently, this was too much to ask Mr. Jeeves and/or Google.

I definitely was NOT looking for a photo of some weird, half-naked, heavily tattooed rock group with the name "Dog Blood," or some sociopath’s artistic rendering of blood and gore entitled "Bloodhound." And yet I got those, and more . . . .

. . . There were lots of scientific photos of platelets and red blood cells made with one of those electron microscopes or something, but these didn’t show what blood looks like in real life. They looked like drawings of little fuzzy gray bowls. There were photos of a new blood substitute in a clear plastic bag like the ones they use when you give blood (the blood substitute was white! How very odd!). There was an odd photo of a clear glass syringe filled with blood. There were drawings of the circulatory system, photos of scary looking dudes covered in tattoos, lots of odd drawings and pictures of I’m-not-sure-what, and many photos and articles that seemed so completely unrelated I wondered how they even popped up in a search for "dog blood." There was even a You Tube video of how to pretend to cut yourself and make it look like you are bleeding..... But I could find no photos of a dog with a smallish bloody wound to show my kid what dog blood looks like.

I tried again, "Really, hon, this is just not working. Don’t you remember when your nose was bleeding?"

"No."

In the end, I settled for the odd photo of the clear syringe full of blood. It was such an obvious disappointment after all the time and effort and hoo-ha leading up to it. That kid will probably never ask me another question again.