Monday, September 21, 2009


I am struggling to learn a whole new language. I'm not learning to speak it, but just to understand it. I'm not listening to CDs and I'm not attending a class, and my training is happening within my own four walls. If you're not jealous, you definitely should stay that way.

This is way worse than college French, or Spanish when we lived in South America. You see, South Americans smile and engage you when you try to speak to them in their language. They are encouraging and helpful. And my French professor, ooo laa laa, was tres tres magnifique!

I'm learning Teenager, a language of short, curt, surly phrases that I can't quite hear, much less decipher. In this language I have two seconds to understand and then respond to what is being said before the speaker is gone, vamoosed into the land of written communication that doesn't require annunciation, eye contact or even waiting for a response.

I am beginning to sound much older than I am, like a granny whose hearing aids are not adjusted right. I am routinely saying, "What?" or "Say that again" or "AH dint undastan a woood you jus sed," like that chicken farmer on Napolean Dynamite. I feel old and clueless, like I am a sagging remnant of anything worthwhile or cool.

Just when I feel that my self esteem couldn't plunge any farther into the toilet, I realize that Darren can't understand anything our teenager is saying either. And that he is also saying things like "Come again?" "WHAT?" and "I CAN'T UNDERSTAND YOU!" And this is a guy whose youthfulness, energy and language skills are legend. This makes me feel slightly less pathetic but not much.

When we press for more detailed answers from our teenager, such as "I am going to go to Heather's house, and I will be home at 10 pm" AND demand that she look us in the eye, she acts as though we've asked her to give up her cell phone for life. When we ask her to repeat herself, you know, come again?, she looks at us as if we are one step away from the nursing home down the street.

The language of Teenager has only one and two-syllable words. Most of them are "yeah" "no" "later" "OK!" or "duh!" One would think that would make it more understandable, but it doesn't. It requires saying "what?" more than any other language, routinely feeling stupid and throwing oneself on the couch and swearing under one's breath when the teenager has left the room.

Once in a while my teenager's eyes will look up at me. Yes, look AT me. I remember how pretty her eyes are. She'll smile and her teeth are white and perfect and straight and I'll remember how much her braces cost and how that smile really lights up her face.

I notice her hair, how it's this beautiful spun gold color that people would pay big bucks for. She's got this lower body hip stuff going on that I never had and don't know where it came from. She's just beautiful. And I want to freeze the image and pretend that when she opens her mouth something fluent and interesting and pleasant will come out.

And that I will be able to understand it and not look like a washed-up has been, cowering into the couch with my Metamucil and crossword puzzle.

She says something in Teenager and I say, "What?" She glares at me.

"Are you going deaf?" she asks.

"Undoubtedly," I respond. "But only when you're speaking."

"What?" she asks.

"Are YOU going deaf?" I ask.

"Whatever," she says and vanishes to find someone who can communicate on her level.

Oh, my gosh, that was three syllables!!! I take a celebratory swig of Metamucil, adjust my reading glasses and start to work on 2 down. A eight letter word for improvement.

Progress! No duh! Maybe things are looking up.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Little Red Piece of a Not Minivan

Cars are a pain, and did I mention that cars are a pain? If not, I'll just go ahead and set the record straight on what I think about cars. They are a pain! They are just something you have to fork over tons of money for and they break and they cost money to fix and they need gas and an oil change, and new brakes and cleaning.

Three years ago our minivan needed a new transmission and we forked over the bucks for one. Now the transmission is acting up again. Jerry, the transmission mechanic, says he's gonna have to "rip apart the tranny" to figure out what's wrong. We told him, no, the minivan is going to sit in the driveway to think about its bad behavior until we figure out what to do with it. A transmission is supposed to last more than three years, we told Jerry. He agrees. That's why he'll throw in the free labor and just charge for parts. Wow, what a deal! Thanks Jerry.

In the meantime I finally have, however, a car that is not a pain. It is bright red and it is a Toyota and it is fun and sporty and cool and everything my minivan has NOT been for the past 10 and a half years. I drove it out of the lot on Friday night at 11:16 pm with a grin on my face as wide as the Mississippi but in debt up to my eyeballs. Oh well.

It has a CD player. It has automatic windows. It has a remote that opens the doors! It has 8 cup holders! These are new innovations I thought I'd never see in my lifetime!

Don't get me wrong. Minivans serve their purposes. Like when I had four young kids and carpools and lessons and shagging kids all over the planet, yes, I needed that minivan, and it was good to me. I was grateful for it. It went with us a lot of places. Across the country and back, to Disneyland and back a couple of times, up north to the cabin multiple times. Camping all over Southern Utah.

I drove it to the rec center so many times for swim practice, that it can get there by itself. The daughter we drove to swim practice 756,987 times is now away at college. And I've decided I will never again be in another carpool as long as I live. My kids have fewer activities now. So I just don't need that big of a car anymore. And I don't WANT a car that big anymore, but I still can't help reminiscing about the good times in the minivan.

The minivan has had a thousand wet towels on its seats over the years. It's had at least infinity crumbs from various foods ground into its carpets and seats. It's had all manner of baby fluids on the seats. It's had multiple car seats strapped into its seats. It's heard hundreds of arguments, been hit a couple of times, had the garage door shut on it, and been left running with the keys inside and the doors locked.

You could say it's been around the block a few times.

It's been through the car wash dozens of times, and it should have been there more. It's sat on its side on a snowbank in Wyoming. It's been vacuumed to death. It's been fixed to death, serviced to death and gassed up to death. Yet it's not dead. It's still hanging on, all 160,000 miles of it. Poor old girl. It's almost like I should take her out and shoot her, to put her out of her misery. I just don't have the heart to do it. There still seems to be a some life left in her.

So she's going to sit.

Since I got my new car three days ago, I have to keep pinching myself. When I wake up in the morning I say, "Oh yeah, there's a cool car in the driveway that I can drive today, and I bet it won't break down because almost new cars don't do that." That is a most pleasant way to start the day.

I feel spoiled rotten. But I also will feel safe this winter and when I get stuck in the snow I will be able to get myself out. And I will not have to worry what's going to break next, or how to juggle things so we can leave the car to be fixed.

I'm the first to admit that I need that peace of mind. I have better things to do than wonder what's going to break next.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Nothing to Fear but the Parents

I don't like to write about politics often because it puts me in a very uncomfortable minority most of the time. But since Obama is trying to indoctrinate our children with his political socialist/communist/fascist agenda, I say so what if I spout off a bit. If the president can then I can.

Life in America has reached a low point. There is fear in the air. Some parents across the US are pulling children out of school on Tuesday because President Obama is giving a live speech on the importance of education. There is fear among conservatives that he will attempt to politically indoctrinate our children with his evil values. That evil man! That in the guise of a speech on education IN THE SCHOOLS that subversive messages will weave their way into the minds and hearts of our children. Messages that will mimic those of socialist leaders.

That while America's school children, educators and parents are listening, he will somehow emit waves of leftist propaganda that will lodge itself in their permanent psyches. That they will be forever tainted by the words he speaks. That after they listen to a speech on the value of education, school children will somehow desert the values with which they've been raised and enlist to be part of the Obamacommunist regime.

Maybe America's school children will start campaigning for universal health care after the speech, or turn green and demand tighter environmental standards or lobby for gun control. And while they're at it, they might as well let the hardened criminals out of prison and open up our borders so we can all have a great big melting pot party in Texas! Yee hah!

It is amazing what President Obama will be able to accomplish in the short 10 minutes he is planning to speak about education. Not only is he evil, he is talented!

PaaaaaaaLeeeeeeese. How is it remotely possible for any of this to happen? Get a grip people. You can read the speech beforehand. You can discuss it with your children. You can pick it apart word for word and decode his hidden agenda.

Let's talk about Obama's values. This is what I have been hearing him say for months:

He wants universal health care. He wants everyone to be insured and be able to take care of themselves and their families. Why does this liken him to Fidel Castro? Health care in this country is a disaster. And it needs fixing. This is not propaganda, this is truth. That this is such a partisan fight saddens me.

He wants a clean environment. So do I. I want to drink clean water and breathe clean air. We know what happens to people when these basic rights are not met. We can protect businesses and the economy and promote a cleaner planet. Other countries have done it, and so can the US.

He wants students to get a good education like he did. He wants schools to do better at providing a top-notch education. George Bush put all kinds of government controls on states' curriculum in his No Child Left Behind program, and people did not react with the same vitriolic hatred that they're spewing at Obama.

If George Bush would have ever given a speech on education for American students, I'm sure he would have said many of the same things Obama will say on Tuesday. His father George HW Bush gave a similar speech in 1991. Study hard. Get good grades. Set goals. Go to college. Find something you love doing. Be a good, productive citizen. These are basic American values. This is NOT a partisan issue. This is not socialist rhetoric.

Parents who pull their kids out of school on Tuesday for fear of political indoctrination are teaching their children a lesson that will negatively influence them far more than anything Obama says in his speech.

First they'll learn that if they fear something may not be to their liking or correspond precisely to their comfort level, then they don't have to listen to it. That they don't even have to try.

Second, they'll learn that it isn't important to listen to others if we don't like them or agree with them. That you shouldn't give a person a chance. That you don't have to respect A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED president at all.

Great values to teach your kids, all you parents who are so into VALUES! Think about it.

Does everyone who your child associates with daily meet your high ideal? Maybe there are lots of people who should not be part of your child's life. You just never know where evil may be lurking!

They say parents are a child's most important teachers. It's too bad that in this case fear and misinformation are clouding their better judgment, leaving them with very low marks.