Archive for November, 2010

Meet the World Domination Team!


World Domination Team

My friend Cathy and I are planning to take over the world.

We’ve been talking about it for a few years now, and like all big projects, this one has its obstacles. Mostly that we’re both pretty busy and she’s in Pennsylvania while I’m in Minnesota, but if I had saved all our Email messages, we’d be halfway finished by now.

But “halfway” is not how we plan to carry out our the World Domination scheme.

We have solid plans for making YOUR life better. Yes, you, Mr and Mrs (and Ms) Average Citizen. Things like bringing back manners at the office, at home and on the road, and returning common sense where so much of it has gone missing. You know: Restoring order to a chaotic world.

That might even be our motto, though that’s still in the planning stages, too. “We Bring Good Things To Life” was already taken, so we’re putting our heads together to come up with something really snappy, relevant, and also cute like us.

One problem is that Cathy and I sort of look alike, so you might have trouble telling us apart, but if you just say “World Domination Team,” we’ll know who you mean. And we’ll issue lots of photos in our World Domination newsletters, too. With arrows!

These are the thing you’ll have to change starting with the introductory first week. World Domination Kickoff, you might call it. (Well, you WILL call it that, considering who’s in charge.)

• People with children will NOT own rotweillers.

• Eventually, no rotweillers anywhere, ever, although the “Good Dog Carl” books are encouraged and Carl will become a black lab.

• RSVP is a fancy way of saying “Let us know if you’re attending or not.” If you get an invitation with RSVP on it, let the sender know if you are attending or not. Geez.

• If you are married or in a committed relationship, don’t sleep with other people.

• Say goodbye to “Two and a Half Men.” We’re takin’ out the trash.

• Ditto for those stupid disclaimer messages read at the end of car and banking commercials on the radio.

• The Christmas season will begin the day AFTER Thanksgiving; not 3 weeks before. This means no carolers, fat Santas, Christmas cards or colorful light bulbs will appear in stores before Thanksgiving. No poinsettias will be allowed in stores until after Thanksgiving, so that they are not half dead by December 5.

• Driving means both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. You will not apply mascara, eat breakfast, talk on your cell phone or read a novel while driving. Driving is its own reward, and includes goodies like not maiming others on the road because you can’t get up 10 minutes earlier or don’t have the sense to pull off the road to call home to find out which size detergent you should buy.

• There will only be one size of detergent.

• Be patient with old people. With any luck, and assuming you don’t tick us off too badly, you’ll be old some day, too.

We’ve even found a theme song we can use, with a few minor alterations. If you are over 50, you may remember this one:

“Meet Cathy, who’s lived most everywhere,

From Zanzibar to Barclay Square.

But Patty’s only seen the sight.

A girl can see from Brooklyn Heights —

What a crazy pair!

But they’re cousins,

Identical cousins all the way.

One pair of matching bookends,

Different as night and day.

Where Cathy adores a minuet,

The Ballet Russes, and crepe suzette,

Our Patty loves to rock and roll,

A hot dog makes her lose control —

What a wild duet!

Still, they’re cousins,

Identical cousins and you’ll find,

They laugh alike, they walk alike,

At times they even talk alike —

You can lose your mind,

When cousins are two of a kind.”

There are legalities involved in using this song, of course, but we plans to change that, too. Yet problems persist. It’s true that neither of us has seen either Zanzibar or Brooklyn Heights (yet) and we don’t think we are identical cousins (or someone’s dad would have a LOT of explaining to do) but the rest kinda fits. Except for the “matching bookends different as night and day,” which makes no sense at all, but as I said, the World Domination theme song is still in the works.

Well, of course there’s more. We realize it’s a lot to remember.

But don’t worry … you’ll get the handbook.

Life and Death. And One Recipe.


On Saturday I was going to meet one of my sisters and a niece for lunch near the mall. I had time to spare, so went to shop at Savers when I ran into Camila, a Scrabble friend and former coworker. We stopped playing Scrabble when Camila was pregnant with her son, and I’d always planned to go to her house with a present for the infant. Ha! The infant is now 18 months old and walking, so I guess a little blue onesie isn’t going to make up for my failure as a friend.

Not only is the baby 18 months old and toddling around the place, but Camila is pregnant again, and will deliver around the end of December. (If it’s a boy, I can still use that onesie!) So not just one but two new kids are here in my circle of friends.

And then, while having lunch with sister and niece, a phone call came with the news that one of their oldest and dearest family friends had died suddenly that afternoon. It was devastating news to them, and shocking to me even though I’d only met the guy once or twice. Shocking that you can be enjoying a lovely late fall afternoon, shopping and running errands and having lunch, when a few short miles away someone is swept away by death; more someones are plunged into deep grief.

Life’s revolving door. People come; people leave. And you just never know who’s going to show up or leave next. It’s part of what keeps life interesting, but part of what scares, shocks and saddens us at times, too.

Joe’s death left a hole in his family and his circle of friends. From reading the newspaper, I see that it left a hole in his work community, too; a place where he was also loved and respected.

Death is often like a stone being dropped into a pool. The ripples spread out and touch many shores.

At my age, I’ve lost many relatives and friends, but have also seen new people come into the family circle, too. How each day changes us!

One of my friends who died was Virginia, who lived in California. She had been a school teacher but retired early due to health problems, and over the years her health deteriorated so much that she wrote of looking forward to death. She had developed cancer in many parts of her body, and lacking funds or insurance or family members to fall back on, Virginia found ways to pay for treatments when she could, or declined treatment when things got too bad. At the end, after having her lungs drained and skin removed from her chest, she wrote “I give up! I’ve had enough. This will be my last letter.”

And so it was.

Before she became very ill, Virginia loved nature. She went into the desert and collected bones and feathers and interesting rocks, and she once built an earth oven in her yard where she baked bread and pizza. For a while she joined a nudist camp because she said it felt so good to be outdoors and naked.

This is a recipe Virginia sent me from nudist camp when she was in fine fettle. It’s similar to a recipe I’ve used for years for Thanksgiving dinners, but since I tried this one, it’s become my favorite. It’s simply called “Corn Casserole,” but I like to think of it as “Virginia’s Nudie Side Dish.”

1-15 oz can creamed corn

1-15 oz can drained kernel corn

1 stick melted butter or margarine (Margarine! Feh!)

1/2 pint sour cream

2 eggs

1 small box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Stir all ingredients together, pour into a buttered pan or baking dish, and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

If you’re so inclined, you can add 1/2 cup or red or green pepper (or both) and/or 1/2 cup chopped onions.

Virginia would approve.

Where Doe$ the Money Go?


As I was dozing off last night, I heard Dave Ramsey giving someone detailed instructions on how to create a budget. (For those who aren’t familiar, Dave Ramsey is the current financial guru of the airwaves, and hails from Texas, I think, so has one of those southern drawls that is at once charming and irritating.)

Write down your monthly take home pay, he advised, and then write down this much for the house payment, this much for utilities, this much for food, and so on. “Give every dollar a name,” he instructs.

I would name my dollars “Going” and “Gone.”

I started to think again about how I should create a budget (a real one on real paper ) and actually stick to it, and though this is a marvelous idea that might save me money, I did what I always do when I think about mathematical equations or budgeting, or when I hear those gentle southern twangs: I dozed off.

On the way to work this morning I wondered how Dave ended that conversation, or if the caller laughed or hung up. I started thinking about my own money (again) and how to save a little more of it these days. For someone who makes a decent salary and is nearing retirement age, I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be, financially speaking, at this point in life. I’m not even dancing on the edge of where I wanted to be. In fact, I’m not even in the same zip code.

I pay my bills on time. I cherish my high credit score, though that would make Ramsey angry. (“You don’t NEED a credit score if you pay cash for everything!” Apparently some of his radio wisdom sunk into my brain.) But where does my “discretionary” money go? I took a trip through my bank statement.


Well, certainly not clothes … Fashion means nothing to me and I don’t like shopping for new stuff. Not shoes: I have lots of them, but they aren’t cute or “darling” or fancy. Not my car, which is about to celebrate its Sweet 16th, and not vacations since I haven’t flown anywhere in several years. So where does the money go? I’ve discovered my 3 black holes of budgeting. You probably have your own. These are mine:

#1. Books. I can’t resist them. I buy them at yard sales, thrift shops, and online at amazon. I buy them at library book sales and book stores, and if there is a pile of books for sale anywhere, I am there. If anyone were to ask me my favorite store on earth (and nobody ever does, thanks a lot) I’d say “Half Price Books at Maplewood Mall!”

#2: Other people’s junk. Again, irresistible. Yard sales, thrift shops, consignment stores, garage sales, auctions, antique shops, Salvation Army …. I’m so there. About 85% of the things in my home once belonged to someone else. I like old things; I like things with a history, and I like speculating about the former life of books, dishes, pots and pans, furniture, and all things used.

#3: Food. Obviously, I love to eat. I love to cook. I love grocery shopping. (If I had a job shopping for groceries for other people, I’d love it.) But I tend to be impulsive in grocery stores, and if you looked at my check register (and please do not) you’d think I was supporting an entire family on what I spend on food.

But hey. Isn’t this what we’re working for each day, those of us that toil in the workforce? What’s the point of working hard and getting a check if you can’t spend some of it on the things that make you happy?

On the other hand, retirement would make me happy, too, most days.

Certainly I could “budget” for those things (pardon me while I laugh) and certainly I can spend less on groceries and still have fun.

But those are my money pitfalls, and I already know what Dave Ramsey would say, so I don’t want to hear it from anyone else. But let’s dish: What do you squander YOUR extra dollars on?

Your secret is safe with me.