Friday, November 30, 2007

Deck the halls with years of therapy

Christmas carols on the radio are supposed to put us in a festive, joyful mood, however, driving home tonight they made me re-live one one of those painful and embarrassing childhood moments I thought I would forget by the time I reached adulthood. Guess what.

When I was in second grade our class practiced a carol to sing at a local nursing home - or as we kids so very unPC-like called it, the old folks home. I had never been in one and the image I had in my mind was something like the day room in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
The song our class prepared was the 12 Days of Christmas. I was to sing the pivotal 5th day or "Five Gold Rings". If you are familiar with the tune, this is the phrase that hits the highest notes in the whole song. I can't recall the name of the sadistic teacher who gave this line to me, but I was one the few seven year old ALTO girls in the class.
On a cold night in winter we dressed up in our best clothes and bussed over to the senior home. I hadn't been around any non-family seniors at this point in my life and I was scared to death of the white hair, wheel chairs and wrinkles that met us there. (As you can tell, the school really prepared us well). It was hard to bring Christmas cheer when you felt like peeing your panties.

The song started and as we got to my climactic solo of "Five Gold Rings" I was petrified and my voice cracked so loudly the seniors turned down their hearing aids. Worse than that, it cracked in the same place for the seven additional choruses of the song. The laughing from the audience and my class members began after "Six Geese Laying" and continued to grow through "Twelve Drummers Drumming". I was very close to being "One Second Grader Puking" when the concert mercifully ended.

I flashed back on this tonight when my radio played the classically funny Muppet version of the "12 Days of Christmas" with John Denver. I was appalled to realize that Frank Oz, a MAN singing as Miss Piggy could hit the notes I failed so miserably at. If only I had the chutzpah to add "Ba-dum-bum-bum" the way Miss Piggy did. You go girl!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bored games

I have two closets of shelves filled with board games. You have to understand, I grew up in Wisconsin and currently live in Minnesota...get it...long winters... trapped with the family. On those freezing nights when television is numbing your brain and the kids won't leave you in peace to read a book there is sweet relief in a board game. I've always thought they should be called Bored Games because you usually find yourself playing them when you are literally bored out of your mind.

I attended a college (Stevens Point) that actually closes down each year to play the world's largest trivia game. This version is not played on a board but it is a great game. Fifty-four hours of nothing but trivia delivered via radio. Teams hunker down for three solid days, order in food and have runners ready to travel anywhere in town for questions like "How many light bulbs are in the fine arts building?" One year we played from my tech teacher's home which was once an old funeral parlor. After staying up for three days we were all seeing ghosts and looking like cadavers. Boy I miss college.

Our current family faves are Apples to Apples and Imagine If, which can be played by bored people of all ages.

However, the granddaddy of them all is still Scrabble. You gotta love Scrabble. The heck with spelling tests in schools, make the kids play Scrabble. We used to play these endless rounds with all my Aunts when we were out at our summer cottage. Things often got ugly. The family almost had to ban my Aunt Joan from the game for using obscure medical terms.

Alright readers, let's hear from you. What are the games that save you from climbing to the roof with be-be gun and taking pot shots at the neighbors?

Friday, November 23, 2007

The five phases of (good) grief

Hello Thanksgiving survivors. Hope you had a good one. In some insane attempt to feign healthy behavior the boys and I took a colder-than-hell walk by Lake Como after dinner and before pie. All I can say is - only in Minnesota would it be considered a "healthy walk" when the temperatures are in the 20's. Good thing I have my hot flashes to keep me warm. Hold it, SB's don't have hot flashes, we have power surges.

I haven't posted for a while since I have been working through those five stages of grief around the likely lay-offs coming at my work on the first of the year. I decided to skip denial (I'm too practical) and bargaining (too pratical mixed with "sure, that's going to help!") and I haven't really embraced acceptance because it embraces you sooner or later whether you like it or not. Sooo, that leaves me with anger and depression.

Before I go on I really need to thank the great folks who responded to my last pity-pot blog either through posted comments or privately to my email. I appreciate your words of wisdom. (After reading the comments it also seems I need a dog). You are all gems.

Now, back to anger and depression. There is a unique phenomenon single parents deal with. We aren't really allowed to have anger and depression. You see there is no one to take care of the kids while you are dealing with your own personal issues so you stuff 'em and just keep going. Some people mistake this for bravery when it actually all it amounts to is masked terror.

The good thing about being an SB is you can still be thankful at Thanksgiving when your life is facing another goes:

I am thankful for two incredible kids who are just that, kids - they fight, they laugh, they are good more than they misbehave, they are funny, they make me want to scream, they jump on the furniture, they give me hugs, they miss the toilet, they carry out the recycling, they make pictures for their grandparents and best of all, they believe in dreams and happy endings when their mom has secretly lost that ability. They keep me hoping when I feel I don't have the energy to try.

Here's to games of Clue and Mousetrap on a Thanksgiving of quiet desperation.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Piss and moan

Warning: I needed to write this blog. I would appreciate it if you did read it, cause I just really needed to write it.

Life just took the wind out of my sails...again... and as usual, it comes just in time for the holidays. I was told last week that my office will most likely be doing layoffs that will start in January and hopefully end in April. Merry Christmas!

I have to stop right here and say this is not something I feel is personal. I love both my job and my boss. It is the result of a typical scenario for small business. Times get tough, you do what you have to survive - no blame to be had there.

No, this blog is more of an SB piss and moan session. Since I am a single mom I can't piss and moan and look to support from the hubby. I certainly can't with the kids - I need to keep them feeling as secure as possible. I also can't piss and moan to the family. My folks lost their son this year and the holidays are tough enough without my issues piled on top.

I certainly can't piss and moan to the friends; they have been rock solid in the last few years as I went through abuse, divorce, foreclosure, death, drunk drivers and a few other things I can't even talk about. No they have had enough.

What I really want to say is "enough is enough." We were barely hanging in there as it was and now this. I know it's not cancer or nuclear war. I just hate always having to compare what is going on in my life with the worst case scenario (see my blog The good the bad and the unthinkable)

I just want a breather.

I never was the type to ask for big cars, fancy vacations and insane riches. I would, however, like my boys to have a future that is not just debt. I would like to give them some hope for higher education. God, I would like to dream again.

Dreams. I have a friend who I adore tell me that she stopped dreaming a long time ago because she was so tired of being hurt and disappointed. I remember feeling sad for her at the time, but I'm starting to understand it now.

If anyone is reading this blog, tell me what you do to get through it when the rain never lets up; when you just can't breathe. I would love some advice.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wired but not fired: part four

Here's a brief recap for those who may not have read the previous blogs in this series:
  • Barb and I work the conveyor belt - we whine - we get moved.

  • Barb and I work the bending room - we whine - we get moved.

  • Barb and I work the warehouse - we whine - we get moved.
That should catch you up. So we come to our fourth day of our stellar work for the electronics manufacturer and they bring us to these tables where there are high-top stools in front of stations with weight scales and some boxes.

The job is to take the electronics parts from the boxes, weigh the correct amount and put them into little plastic bags. It's lucky that Barb and I have reached a sufficient level of high school math to be able to handle this one. Who knew?

Amazingly, we sort of take to this work. We are even more jazzed when we learn that this is one of their more skilled positions in the company. We last almost a week before we begin to get that familiar old "let's run" look in our eyes. Sensing our displeasure, the management finally does something we don't see coming. No they don't fire us - they offer us a raise!

But Barb and I aren't falling for that one. We pack up our little lunch bags and leave, never to grace the electronics industry again.

Somewhere in a small town in Wisconsin they tell of tale of two young, working girls who knew what a diva was long before the Paris Hiltons and Nicole Richies were even conceived.

Wired but not fired: part three

Having failed at the assembly line and the bending room Barb and I are sent to the big electronics warehouse across town. The main part of the building is filled with these insanely tall metal shelving units holding boxes of every kind of elctronic thingamabob imaginable.

The two of us are handed brooms, dust pans and rags. The job is to clean off all the shelves, sweep the floors and dust the lighting units above the aisles. A chimp could do it.

At first it doesn't seem so bad, at least we are moving around and getting to climb these big honking shelves. Our contact with actual electronic parts is minimal. Except for Barb getting impaled on a pencil in my back pocket as I climbed up a shelf and she climbed down one, all was serene.

By quitting time that afternoon we look like something that came out of a shaft in Coal Miner's Daughter. Our outside appearance is nothing compared to what shows up when we blow our noses. This is when we whine to the management that this job is just too filthy.

For some unfathomable reason they still don't can our butts, but tell us to come back the next day and they will find something cleaner for us to do. Like moths to a flame we come back. They bring us over to some tables against the wall that...

(Will I get black lung disease? Will Barb go all "postal" on the management? Tune in for the final blog in our series Wired but not fired: part four)

Wired but not fired: part two

When we last left our two inept employees they had just finished the first day of their new summer jobs at the electronics plant. Barb,close to a nervous breakdown and myself, bored but fearing what the folks would say if I quit after one day.

After whining to the management about not enjoying the assembly work we were moved to this little, airless room with a couple long tables. On the tables were thin blocks of wood mounted on a wood base next to a pile of diodes with long wires coming out of them.

The job was to pick up a diode, put it on top of the block of wood and bend the little wires down so they made a kind of an upside-down goal post shape. Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and - oh you get the picture.

After a few hours of this mindless repetition Barb had to grab both of my hands and wrestle the little diodes out of them before I poked the little wires into my eye sockets. It seemed like a good idea at the time. By the end of the day we whined to the management that this job was just too boring.

Instead of firing our asses they told us to come to work at their warehouse in the morning and they would have something different for us to do. You can see where this is going, can't you.

The next day Barb and I show up at the warehouse and are given...

(See my next blog Wired but not fired: part three or "whose stupider the employer or the employees?").

Friday, November 9, 2007

Wired but not fired: part one

I recall a summer job my good friend Barb and I took at small electronics manufacturer. She and I had spent our earliest forays into employment as waitresses but something possessed us to go in another direction. Perhaps it was the fact that we were still in high school and had no skills of any kind. We did however have our looks and we were breathing which seemed to be resume enough to land the jobs.

The first day of work they put us on an assembly line. The job was inserting these tiny diodes into little boards in just the right teeny holes as the conveyor belt flew past us like a bat out of hell.

I was barely managing to keep up, but Barb was sporting one inch nail extensions making it virtually impossible to pick up the parts nonetheless place them in a circuit board. At one point I think I saw her crying while riding the convey belt in an act of sheer desperation. Finally, the much older and more experienced workers (picture Rosanne Barr and Sandra Bernhard in hairnets) took pity and pulled her off while tossing her a nail clipper.

As we took our lunch bags out on the lawn that day Barb came up to me, clutched my arm, pointed to the woods behind the factory and mouthed two words, "Let's Run!" I got her through the rest of the day by having her visualize us as Lucille Ball and Viviane Vance in the sketch about the candy factory.

The next day we whined that this job was just too hard and asked to be moved to a different section. They put us in this little room with...

(See tomorrow's blog Wired but not fired: part two where Barb and I screw up and whine our way through an entire company).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mystery Topic Challenge #4

Okay, I am standing there right after the evening gown portion of the Mystery Topic Challenge and I lick my vaselined teeth. I am smiling ear to ear as I perch at my blog with my long tresses cascading around my alabaster shoulders. All eyes are on me as the panel of MTC guest judges, led by current champion Mr. President, say,

"Well, Miss SB, if you were President/Prime Minister for a day with the power to do absolutely anything, what would you do?"

I stand up straight thrusting my breasts forward and pronounce, "I would let there be world peace."

WAIT A DARN MINUTE...NO I WOULDN'T. Because if I used my omnipotent day to create world peace the fools who came back into power on the day after my presidency would totally screw it up. What would be the point?

No, if I were given any power it would be to make the world get a clue - get smarter if you will. I would want whatever change I made to last, and not for my personal glory. I would want it to last so things got better for the long haul. Here's how I'd do it:
  1. Everyone in the world would get educated instantly and then use that education to learn about the people they are voting for. Hell, if everyone actually paid attention to politics I doubt any of the current systems would stand.

  2. All those now-enlightened folks would see that the world is beautiful and fragile and needs to be taken care of. Overnight, sun and wind power would be our main sources of energy and every Hummer on Earth would be parked, gutted and the pieces recycled to make irrigation systems.

  3. All of the previously misnamed "supporters of life" would start to value all life, even after a person is born! In a flash senior citizens would be respected and given the food and medicine they need; all the kids with auto immune diseases and at-birth drug addictions would be adopted as would all foster children; homes that had been taken away in droves through foreclosures would be turned into rent-to-own dwellings that people who are not living the perfect American Dream could afford; and prevention instead of rehabilitation would be the method of choice in every country.

  4. This immense outpouring of knowledge would make it obvious that just because a person doesn't have the exact same opinion as yours or dress the same or have the same amount of money or worship the same or have the same color skin - it doesn't make them wrong and you right. Voila, world peace.

I am now so out of breath I whisper "Thank you" while giving the judges my best Queen Elizabeth hand wave and walk backstage of the blog competition. There I find my fellow blogging contestants nervously waiting to hear who has made the final cut. We turn to each other and in our sweetest southern voices drawl, "I hope you win." "I hope you win."

I wonder if I can get Miss Congeniality? A girl can hope, can't she.

Below are the links to the other Blog Ninjas who are part of the Mystery topic challenge. Enjoy!

Blog Ninjas present The Mystery Challenge #4! The topic was proposed by Mr. President of Textual Relations, the winner of MTC #3. Below you will find all the entries for this challenge. Please visit and read them all. Once you've read all the entries, please vote for your favorite. Members of the forum may vote in the poll HERE. Guests can place their vote in this thread HERE. Voting concludes on Nov. 22nd.Leaf - Read MoreScott - Read MoreBunGirl - Read MoreGrumpamoose - Read Morefrom Reason to Freedom (4 entries)Peter Namtvedt - Read MoreBob Bachus - Read MoreMichelle L. - Read MoreMJ Taylor - Read MoreJayne - Read MoreZybron - Read Morelonelygurl - Read MoreTooBIG - Read MoreAn Honest Woman - Read MoreStepford Mom - Read MoreShadyLady - Read MoreSome Go Softly - Read MoreDebaloo - Read MoreJan - Read More

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Boats and Scouts and Bookies Oh my!

Okay, I've kept her under check but the SB in me slipped out last night and of all the places for her to show son's very first Cub Scout Pack meeting.

Now I have to preface this by saying I have held off putting my boys in Scouting because of the organization's archaic views on the world today. This is not to say that boys don't gain from a good Scouting experience. I have met and worked with some great Eagle Scouts, so I see how it can be a good experience. Last night, however, was not a good experience.

My 7 year old had spent the past few weeks sanding, painting and assembling his little boat for the Rain Gutter Regatta. For anyone who is as new to this as I am here's the Regatta in a nutshell. Two rain gutters filled with water plus two boys with two boats and two straws. They race by using the straw to blow into the sail and whoever reaches the end first wins the heat. Cute huh? Simple huh? You'd thinks so.

The guy that was running the races just happened to pair all the 1st second and 3rd graders with the 4th and 5th grade boys who have been in Scouting for a while. Rain Gutter Ringers if you will.

After the 3rd race and the 3rd win for the boys in the brown shirts (4th & 5th grades) and the 3rd loss for the boys in the blue shirts (1st, 2nd and 3rd grades) one of the dad's turns to me and says "They do it like this every year." Note - he did not seem pleased.

So, the SB in me walks up to 'Joe Laptop' who is running the heats and says "It might be nice if you change the order and let the little guys race with the little guys and the big with the big. That way it would be a little more fair." He then looked at me as if I had just thrown up on his shoes and continued to call the next brown shirt, blue shirt race.

At that point I started to take bets that the tall kid in the brown shirt with the amazingly detailed boat with (and I am not lying here) rigging, flags and a mast that really lit up, would win the trophy. And he did. Second and third place also went to the older Scouts.

Not only that, but the same boy also won for 'best in show' where his small scale version of something reminiscent of the Titanic was put up against the little boys boats with fish stickers and fingerprints on their sails.

After it was over I saw 'Joe Laptop' cozying up to Titanic boy's mom and I knew one thing. I better get to Vegas and place some bets before the Pinewood Derby hits.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Recipe for fun (and injury)

  • Combine 9 cousins ranging from about 7 up to 12 years old
  • Mix with 1 large, steep hill covered with trees
  • Add 2 old car tires (one preferable a snow tire) and a wheel barrow
  • Simmer with way too much free time, imagination and stupidity...and voila!
Rollers, Runners and Stoogies

If you are anything like me, the Fall air just does something that brings out the kid in you. I'm brought back to autumn days out at our Wisconsin cottage (or lake home as the Minnesotans say) that was jointly owned by our very fertile Italian side of the family.

When you get that many people all in one place there just has to be some activity to burn off the energy that builds up. And this, my friends, is how Rollers, Runners and Stoogies was born.

Here's how you play:
  1. Two kid stand at the top of a steep, tree-lined hill armed with old tires (Rollers)

  2. Two more kids stand directly in front of those tires (Runners)

  3. Two unfortunate kids crouch behind a wheel barrow tipped on its side at the bottom of the steep, tree-lined hill (Stoogies)

The object of the game is for the Rollers to roll the old tires down the hill at the Runners with as much force as they can possibly manage. The Runners must then run their asses off in an attempt to avoid being bowled over by said tires. They are only allowed to run to the side and dodge the tires after they pass two trees at the very bottom of the hill.

Alas the Stoogies main purpose it to catch the careening tires before they make it into the swamp and lake just beyond the wheel barrow of terror.

Here's a little hint from my cousin Mark - Only chase the tires after they pass the wheel barrow. Do not, I repeat, do not peek over the top of the wheel barrow to see if they are coming. Oh yes, and don't wear your good shoes.

I never did get run over by the dreaded snow tire but the faint whisper of tread marks on the back of my thigh proves how close I came. If Nintendo game systems had come along years ago I may never have had the memories, and the scars to prove I had a fun childhood.