Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Never Eat in the Dark - A Cautionary Tale

It’s almost Halloween. I’ve recently seen recipes for Dead Flies on Rye, Monster Brain Dip, Eyeball Soup, Gorilla Sweat, Bloody Fingers and Body Part Punch. I even saw one for Varicose Veins on a Leaf. Most years I’m okay with these things. I mean, we know what they really are, right? They’re just regular food items that we eat every day. But this year, I’m staying away from these kinds of treats. I had a horrifying Halloween treat type of experience in my basement about a week ago. (Insert shudder here.)

I had been planning to watch a girl movie one evening on our big screen TV in the family room. I've lived with all guys for several years now and I don’t often get to watch what I want to watch. But this was going to be my night. Then our son, Kurt, turned up at the house with a girl. They had plans to watch a movie. A specific movie. They weren’t interested in watching my movie. Kurt graciously suggested that he and his date watch their movie in the basement.

He wanted to take her down to the basement?


I couldn’t let him take her down there. If she went down there, she might never come back up. And then her roommates and family members would surely ask questions.  It’s definitely a family-members-only area of the house. It’s a guy kind of place. Joel lives down there. It has a faint smell of boy. There is almost always an assortment of dirty socks and dirty dishes on the floor.I sometimes refer to it as The Pit of Despair. But there was no reason I couldn’t take my movie down there and let Kurt and this young woman watch their movie on the good TV.

I decided to take a little snack down with me. Everybody else eats down there. I might even leave my dishes when I was done and make Joel clean them up later. He’d never know they weren’t his. I got a cereal bowl out of the kitchen cupboard. I poured in some Cheerios, some raisins, and some salted mixed nuts. My own healthy trail mix, right? It was that or ice cream and I'd been trying to make smart food choices.

I descended into the basement with my DVD. I got the movie going, wrapped myself up in a blanket and settled down on the futon. It was surprisingly comfortable. I ate my snack as I watched the movie. The sweetness of the raisins and the saltiness of the nuts – I love a sweet and salty combination. About fifteen minutes into the movie I scooped up the last little bit into my hand and put it in my mouth. I began to chew. I did not get the pleasant sweet and salty sensation I was expecting. Instead, my mouth was flooded with a terrible, horrible taste. I’ve never tasted anything this bad in my life. And that includes olives. I should have spit it out, whatever it was, into the cereal bowl. You would think I would have spit it out. I didn’t though. I kept chewing. I really can’t explain why. I think I thought that if I kept chewing I would have to get to that sweet-and-salty taste. After all, I knew I was eating Cheerios, raisins, and mixed nuts, right? I had filled the bowl myself. I kept chewing. It was horrible. And then…I swallowed. I have no idea what I ate. I was in the basement. I was in The Pit of Despair. Who knows what might have crawled into that bowl while I was watching my movie. In the dark. I had turned all the lights off. I’ll never eat in the dark again. And so much for my attempt at healthy eating; I had to eat a bowl of ice cream after all to try to get the nasty taste out of my mouth.

Four days till Halloween. If I’m offered anything called Worm Burgers or Stuffed Roaches,  Black Widow Spider Snack or Bug Guts, I’ll be politely declining.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Ear at a Time

I can only hear things with one ear at a time.

I’ve been trying to explain this to my family for years. It has mainly to do with talking on the phone. Actually, with listening on the phone. I’ve never been a big telephone talker. I only call people if I need to tell them something. I tell them and then hang up. If I feel like chatting with someone, I’d rather do it in person. Probably because I talk with my hands. Okay – with my whole body. (I remember being with a group of friends once and one of them saying “Hey, I know! Let’s tie Melinda up and see if she can tell us a story!”) When I’m on the phone with someone, I guess I don’t feel like I can wholly express myself. So I mostly listen.

When I’m holding a phone up to my left ear (I’m left-eared when it comes to phones), and somebody starts yakking into my right ear, I can’t make out what either party is saying. Maybe I’m aurally challenged. Maybe I’m just a little slow. None of the people I live with seem to have this problem. My kids can have loud music playing in one ear and carry on a conversation with the person in the other ear with no problem. If the phone is for my husband and he’s watching a game on TV, he doesn’t even turn it down. Of course I suspect he wants whomever called him to realize he’s in the middle of a game and hang up, but he seems to hear it all just fine.

Maybe because I’m usually listening on the phone, my kids think I’m just holding it there, pretending. Because invariably, when I’m on the phone, my children will start talking to me. I immediately start waving my free hand around as if I’m swatting away a swarm of gnats. I give the kill gesture, the blade of my hand passing against my throat. I make the shush sign. I glare as hard as I can. None of these deter them. They keep talking at me. I have no idea what they’re saying and I have no idea what the person in my left ear is saying. I hurriedly walk to another area of the house, begging the pardon of the person in my left ear. My children follow me. They’re still talking.

Today I was on the phone when Joel got home from school.

“I’M HOME!” he hollered at me in a deep theatrical voice, even though he was only ten feet away from me and could see that the phone was up to my left ear. He gets this from his father. Kent always hollers a greeting of some kind in his loudest voice (and almost always in a foreign language – see January 2010 post “The Foreign Language House”) when he gets home from work.

Kill gesture. Swatting at gnats. Glare. I managed them all at once.

“Oh, Gee. Nice way to greet your son after a long day at school,” Joel chided me.  His feelings were hurt.

I think he thought I was just holding the phone up to my ear, pretending again.

After I hung up, I once again tried to explain how I can only hear things with one ear at a time.

“Joel, I just spent twenty minutes E-NUN-CI-AT-ING to a computer, trying to reach a live person who could answer my prescription benefits question. I finally got a living human being on the line just as you burst through the door, all big and loud. What did you want me to do?”

He looked up at me from the chair at the computer desk.

“I wanted you to hang up and give me a hug.”


He held out his open arms.

I gave him a hug.

(Big sigh)

Maybe I could add another motion to my repertoire. Gnat swatting. Kill gesture. Shush sign.

And a hug.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Review - Baking Cakes in Kigali

I just read a wonderful book called Baking Cakes in Kigali. It was written by Gaile Parkin, published in 2009. Ms. Parkin was born in Zambia and has lived and worked in many different African countries. She has written textbooks and children’s books but this is her first novel for adults.

Baking Cakes in Kigali is set in present-day Rwanda. The main character is Angel Tungaraza, a native of Tanzania, who has moved to Kigali with her husband, Pius, and their five grandchildren. Angel runs her own business, baking and decorating cakes for all occasions. She is a “professional somebody” who puts a lot of thought and love into each cake she bakes. As she meets with potential customers, she always serves tea because the choosing of a cake is very important business and mustn’t be rushed. Angel has a way of inspiring confidences. She is a keeper of secrets. Through her encounters with others, we learn about some of the horrible things that haunt this African nation, including genocide and AIDS. Angel is able to help many of her friends with their problems, and by doing so, she is finally able to face up to her own family’s disturbing history.

How can a book be so charmingly written, yet deal with such devastating topics? I think it's a great way to learn a little about another culture. It reminded me a lot of The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series. If Precious and Angel ever met, I’m sure they would become very good friends.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What Was He Thinking???

One day when my son, Kurt, was about three and a half years old, I took him to a salon in the mall to get his hair cut. One of the girls took him across the room, seated him on a booster, fastened a drape around his neck and began to cut his hair. I sat in the waiting area with six-year-old Carolyn and Baby Jeff. Kurt was quite a gregarious little guy (this was before I scarred him for life - see July 2010 post "Scarred For Life") and although I couldn't hear what he was telling her above the noise of the hair dryers and the voices of the other patrons and stylists, I could see that he was chatting away to this young woman as she clipped. Then there was one of those natural lulls in the conversations around the room that occur every so often (and everyone thinks about Abraham Lincoln), and just then, Kurt turned around in his little booster seat and yelled across the room to me,

"Hey, Mom! Remember the time you cut my ear off?"

Really, I can't remember what my reaction was. Besides the surprise, of course. But I can remember every head in the salon turning to look at me. I have no idea what posessed him to make this claim. I have never cut off any of my children's ears. Or any other body parts. I did cut his hair once or twice when he was really little, but I swear I never even nicked him! Who knows what he was filling this girl's head with up to that point. I wonder if she's still telling this story? And who knows what else!