Monday, June 19, 2006

Fat Flush Detox

Once again, somebody at is posting about the latest miracle diet. And I crack up and just have to post this smart-ass response because the whole thing is just so silly. Billion dollars a year silly. This is supposedly something that you drink or some combination of foods that you eat and VOILA! Your system is cleansed and detoxified.

I get this most excellent vision of fat being gathered up and sent packing - right down the toilet. Wouldnt't that be excellent? But what happens the next time you eat? Are you full of fat again?
Then there are the 'carb blockers.' I picture them in the stomach holding up a military-type hand and saying, "NO!" to carbs and sending them packing - right down the - well you know. What about the recalcitrant carbs? What if they "let loose" and get absorbed by the small intestine anyway? After all, the small intenstine has a job to do. Will IT listen to the carb-blocker?

My principal and one of my colleagues did this "sewer water" diet. They drank this sludge they created using water, red pepper, and maple syrup. There might have been other ingredients but who knows? It looked just like sewer water and tasted that way too - according to them. "It detoxifies my system," reported my princy when I asked her about it. I am thinking that this is a college-educated woman and she honestly believes that red pepper and maple syrup will "detoxify" her system? Is this some sort of secret combination that the body recognizes as akin to Ajax or Mr. Clean? Why? And how did her "system" get "toxic" in the first place?

I remember as a kid an ad for something called Rollo. Remember that? It was this sponge thing that you swallowed and it supposedly blew up in your stomach and absorbed everything - so you wouldn't be hungry anymore. Then it would flush out. But as it is leaving, doesn't it just coat the inside of the intestine with all the goodies it absorbed while hanging out in the stomach?

But seriously - it is a matter of physiology, is it not? In order to lose weight one must spend more calories than one takes in - which means eating the right foods and exercising to increase metabolism. IF any of these things actually WORKED, wouldn't it be headline news? Leading articles in the Journal of Medicine and cover stories in Time and Newsweek. Wouldn't the price of this stuff go way UP as everyone and their fat mother raced out to buy it? And then the copycat products would begin and huge arguments would brew because schools would begin implementing this stuff in the cafeteria in order to combat the childhood obesity crisis. Then there would be segments on Dateline and Oprah as the "downside" is discovered and millions of tiny, skinny, human beings begin dropping dead from the clogged arteries they STILL have because they never changed their eating habits.

But hey! They get buried in a size 6!


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Clutter! Oh... the Humanity!

SAVE me from the clutter! I can't stand the clutter! I can't stand the mess! I worked last night in the room until 7:30pm (outlasted ONLY by a die-hard second grade teacher and the custodians) trying to get the cr*P cleaned up and out.

There exists in the world a contingent of messy, messy children and I get them EVERY
single year. They are like Hansel and Gretl with with an endless amount of detritus,
from home and other places, that follows them around and is dropped WHEREever. They buy millions of pencils from the pencil machine but I find VOLUMES of tiny little pin-prick-razor-sharp little pencil stubs, everywhere! They drop crayons, markers, highlighters, and pencil-top erasers EVERYwhere and then swear to GAWD that the dropped items are not THEIRS, only to wail plaintively and accusingly that SOMEBODY STOLED THEIR __________ as soon as the dropped item is needed. They misplace their scissors, glue sticks, and green monster finger-pointers.

Papers? HA! Despite harping, nagging, cajoling, pleading, voice-raising, and threats, PAPERS litter the floor, the spaces in front of their cubbies, their 'desk-es,' their friends' 'desk-es' and everywhere else but where they are SUPPOSED to be -INSIDE their neatly-marked and clearly-defined CUBBIES!

And INSIDE the 'desk-es?' Nests for rats, mice, moles, and other rodents, complete with sleeping chambers, eating places, and livingrooms. Bombs could go off inside these labyrinths and the denizens would call it an "extreme makeover." They wail pitifully that something-very-important-that-the-teacher-just-asked-for has been STOLEN, LOST, HIjacked, and is MISSING! Clearly they are victims of grand theft here. And when faced with the said item, retrieved by the teacher's hand as she snakes through the labyrinth and disturbs the sleep of the tenants?


Are they shame-faced? NO! Are they at all embarrassed? NO! Do they think
that CLEANING up might be in order? Oh, HECK no! And jackets? Sweaters? Sweatshirts? Hats? Glove (yes, glove)? Scarves? THEY exist in a writhing, twisting, tangled and moaning mass of synthetic and natural fiber that could provide enough soft but pungent warmth for a developing nation. Hooks, so thoughtfully provided by the school? HA! Hooks are wall decor. Jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, hats, glove, and scarves are MEANT to be thrown in Jackson-Pollack HEAPS that develop aesthetic qualities and, when provoked, block the path of any well-meaning citizen attempting to enter the room.

Occasionally these items MIGRATE, of their own accord and without their owners' knowledge, to the far-reaches of the playground, cafeteria, handball courts, restrooms, and the LAST RESORT: Lost and Found. (Which is a wet and oozing pile of forgotten clothing dumped unceremoniously on the sidewalk outside the cafeteria.)

BACKpacks? Those items I would like to BAN from public schools forever? Those rolling, swaying, thumping PITS of garbage that have every school notice, every spelling paper, math homework, reading buddy bags, and all matter of kitchen-sinkdom entering and leaving my classroom each day? The rolling ones that need to be re-classified as weapons? The walking commercials for any and all of the hottest and latest action figure and Saturday morning cartoon characters? The ones graffitied and marked up by older siblings with signs that probably translate "death to teachers" and "life sux" and "I wish I could be suicide bomber and not die a horrible and painful death?" The ones holding snacks foraged from the pantry 12 days ago, joining forces with a quarter inch of juice left over from breakfast and a cheese stick that was opened, half-eaten, and forgotten? The rodents living in the desk-es gaze LONGINGLY from the livingroom section, KNOWING there is a smashed cookie in that backpack but to attempt retrieval across the coats and glove is to risk losing life and/or limb because the children LOVE animals.

And if I am misguided enough to give them a bag of something like, oh say... PEANUTS so we can do some AIMS peanut math and science activities? Sigh. Ever see the floor of a bar room? Or a restaurant that uses peanut shells as day-core so they don't have to clean up real good? Yes! We will be walking over peanut shell remnants for a VERY long time. They blend well with the home-made PEANUT BUTTER that was carefully placed on CRACKERS during a 'fraction' activity. How in the world PEANUT BUTTER made it from the CRACKER on the desk-es to the floor is a divine mystery and has something to do with the rodents living in the desk-es, I am sure.

Yes, these children are MINE. I get them EVERY year and am convinced of a conspiracy. A meeting that takes place without my knowledge, behind closed doors, during the late spring of every school year. Any child who resembles Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip is placed in my room, where he/she can take apart puzzles and put pieces in the bookshelves, behind the cubbies, under beanbags, and under the RUG they so thoughtfully stash other things under on a daily basis. Any child deemed NOT MESSY ENOUGH is placed in another classroom.

I need a maid. I need a very large and powerful central vacuum. I need industrial
strength carpet cleaner. I need velcro. Lots and lots of velcro.

Monday, June 12, 2006

3 Down, 3 Across

I have to think of this as a cosmic bad joke that will show up as a clue in the L.A. Times crossword puzzle next year. What will the clue be?

1. Double loss
2. A two-fer
3. In happens in threes, but minus one
4. Trusty Terrier and Daddy-O

or should it be... Daddy-0 and Trusty Terrier?

Who would think in one's wildest dreams that I would call to make arrangements for a cremation and then bury my dog - within a week of each other? 5 days?

Or maybe I should use the word Duke in the clue because according to one of the speakers at Dad's memorial, it was a song they sang together, do-wop style, Duke of Earl. I wonder why he never told me. But the clue "Duke and Max" would lead me to think I'd lost Duke also. Duke the dog, not the Duke of Earl.

I need better clues.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cherry Pits

For over a week I've had a craving for cherries. To say that I LOVE cherries is expressing it mildly. Since I was a child and my mother would never BUY cherries I have craved them. My gramma felt as I did she had them periodically - we would share them and she would tell me about how when she was a little girl she would loop the double-stemmed cherries over her ears - like earrings. This I've done a few times as homage to her - the grandmother who would buy me cherries.

One of life's pleasures is reading a book and eating cherries. The best way to do this is horizontal on the couch. If I had a hammack it would be better. I usually put the little bowl for pits and stems on the floor, right next to me, pitching the pits and stems into it while reading and eating.

One day a few summers ago I am pursuing this - a most wonderful past time - when I hear a distinct crunching out of the corner of my ear. This is not an unfamiliar sound because the dogs chaw away on their rawhide bones regularly and create this sound. The grinding and scraping of dog teeth against rawhide is a normal sound. If I had to put a percentage on the amount of attention I was paying I would guess about 11%. I could hear the sound but was not really processing it. Which reminds me, when I reflect on this, that this must be how it is for people with auditory processing disorders - they HEAR what we yammer at them but they don't process it. It's like a dog's teeth scraping on a rawhide bone.

At some point I look over and down at the bowl to determine how much space is left for pits and stems - and discover that it is empty. Where did I put them, I think to myself but then realize in an instant that Duke, my littlest dachshund, has been happily crunching away on every single stem and pit I put in the bowl. Ever since then, I have to be vigilent but that little dog is tenacious. When I fling cherry pits into the compost pile Duke is out of the house like a shot and digging for treasure.

All week the guys selling cherries have been on the street corners. These are the same guys who sell strawberries, flowers, and various statuary. They are ubiquitous. I often wonder if they are related and this is a family business.

"Those cherries sure look good," I say to my commuting partners. They look horrified. Apparently buying fruit from a roadside vendor who keeps extra stock in the trunk of an '81 Oldsmobile just not the same as swiping your card at Albertsons.

Driving to Quartz Hill today took me past another roadside vendor, holding up bags of cherries with a rather pleading look to him. I rationalize that I will buy a bag on my way home - but dang if it doesn't look to me like the same bag when I drive past him again. So I go to Albertsons.

At the market I have to search for the cherries, much like our ancestors had to forage for food. The price is higher than a gallon of gas and I have to rationalize this purchase as worthy because I've had a long and hard week.

The cherries are certainly delicious. But I have to hide them from Duke.

Stick Snakes and Short Hikes

Thursays are long - gratifying, but long. After working all day, having meetings in the afternoon, and then teaching at the university - I wake up on Friday drained. Not to say I don't LOVE Fridays - I do - but through a fog of slight exhaustion.

Ceci and I planned to hike Devil's Punchbowl after work on Friday and we were both disconcerted to discover that the Kindergarten Roundup was scheduled for Friday from 3pm-5pm - in the Kindergarten rooms. No escape for the weary! I kept busy the whole time and Ceci and I ended up at the punchbowl around 5:45pm.

"We'll do a short walk," Ceci said as I contemplated blowing the whole thing off. "We'll stop for frequent breaks. Up the hill and down. Easy." It's good to have a hiking buddy - she convinced me.

Ceci has two wonderful dogs - Buddy who loves our walks and Summer who is a young dog trapped in an old dog's body. She is "fluffy" to put it gently and suffers from bad hips. I had convinced Ceci to bring Summer along for the walk - I couldn't bear to look at that pleading face when Buddy was being leashed up.

As we plodded off UP the hill, which is a 30 minute climb on a good day, it became apparent that Summer was less than enthusiastic. Ceci plays a game with Summer called "Smack the Dog." Another version is called "Kick the Dog." It is very cute. The game I played with Summer UP the hill is called "Drag the Dog."

When we reached the top, after numerous stops for Summer and her recalcitrant hips and fluffy dog ways, Ceci suggested going to the creek - about 15 minutes further. This truly is a nice part of the hike so I agreed. Summer perked up and both dogs enjoyed the creek.

Now, in MY mind, it is time to turn around. It has been a long day but a lovely hike and now it is time to go home.

"Let's go a little bit further," Ceci asks, and I agree since it is a lovely evening and we are engaged in thoughtful conversation. Summer is game and we set off. After 10 minutes Summer wants to play "Drag the Dog" again and I suggest to Ceci that we turn around - after all, this activity is new for Summer and we are going to have to go all the way back - an hour at least. AND, I reason - it will be getting dark.

My friend Ceci is nothing if not a tad ...... stubborn. "Oh, no.. it will be fine," she says. "Summer is doing great!"

"We should turn around though...." I begin, but Ceci is so hopeful and I keep going. And going. And going. Just call us the Energizer Bunnies. There are birds singing and lizards flitting about. And we ran into a hiker, a fellow teacher from a neighboring district who talked our ears off for 10 minutes about everything - he even unpacked his backpack to show up all the stuff he had for protection when I made the mistake of warning him about SNAKES.

Then we head back. By now it is starting to get dark. I tell Ceci that I do not, I DO NOT want to run into any SNAKES on the way back. This is the time for them, I tell her, and a close encounter will just ruin my evening.

We make it back to the creek and it is dusk. I tell Ceci we have to GO NOW and she begins Dog Negotiations with Summer, who would be perfectly happy at this point to spend the night next to the creek.

As we walk it gets darker and I tell Ceci my innermost fears. Using the language of my teenager-hood I tell her I am FREAKING OUT. Every stick looks like a Mojave Green and I am fully realizing that we are almost 45 minutes from the parking lot and another 30 minutes away from any kind of civilization. Being bit by a Mojave Green at this point would mean certain and instant DEATH. I am not ready for that.

It gets darker and Ceci is engaged in a vibrantly pleading game of Drag the Dog, coupled with periodic Dog Negotiations. We have to stop every 3.5 minutes.

"I am freaking out," I tell Ceci. But I pointedly DO NOT bring up the fact that I wanted to turn around 30 minutes ago. I don't like stopping because now I am no longer a moving target. I am a standing still target. Any snake with an attitude and purpose can end my Freaking Out RIGHT NOW.

One of the more beautiful parts of the trail is above the creek. But I will tell you that it is NOT beautiful in PITCH BLACK DARKNESS. (Okay, pitch black duskness.) I stop short because I swear to god, people, right there on the side of the trail is a young snake. Ceci and the dogs practically run into me.

"What?" asks Ceci. "What do you see?"

"I don't know." I am peering through the darkness at the snake. I can't tell if it is a friendly gopher snake or CERTAIN IGNOBLE DEATH.

"Is it a Mojave Green?" she whispers excitedly. The dogs pick up on her tone and rush (well, Buddy rushed, Summer lumbered.....) toward it. I hadn't heard Ceci screech up to that point but her beloved dogs sniffing instant and certain death sure provokes a verbal response.

We stand there, leaning over and peering ahead, the dogs safely behind us.

Ceci pitches a rock towards it and nothing happens. The first time, anyway. The 2nd rock provokes it to move and we both go flailing backwards with me uttering the worst profanity I can think of - a word I never ever say just comes flying out of my mouth.

"Maybe we can just walk on by it..." suggests my friend. I look at Summer who is as wide as the trail and make some kind of snorting sound. The trail is STRAIGHT up on the left side and straight OHMIGOD down on the right side. And - the snake may have family and friends.

We discuss options.
"I need a stick," I say. "I dont' want to hurt it I just want it OUT OF THE WAY."

I locate a stick. We discuss whether or not that stick is a snake and then I pick it up. Ceci gets brave and takes the stick and then proceeds to poke at the snake. Nothing happens. Finally, she gets really brave and sends the snake down the side of the mountain - there is a definite thudSMACK sound as it lands.

"That was not a snake," Ceci declares.

"You mean to tell me," I sputter, "That we hae been standing here freaking out for the past 10 minutes over a GODDAM stick? A GODDAM stick?"

But this little respite was good for Summer and we continue. This time I am tromping along. Noise and vibrations will dissuade snakes. "Don't go there! Some entity is tromping along. We might get smooshed," think SNAKES. We stop every 2 minutes for Dog Negotiations and further episodes of Drag the Dog.

I will cut this short by asking you to imagine trying to get down a PITCH BLACK hill with a recalcitrant dog and every stick in the universe perched menacingly on the trail. We stopped every minute and a half.

"I'm sorry," Ceci says.

"I am being a good friend," I reply. "I am pointedly NOT saying 'I told you so' with every freaking out breath I take."

"You may not remember me telling you this," I say as I step over numerous stick snakes on the trail - but I have a childhood phobia. Of snakes...."

"Oh, that was pretty evident back there..." replies Ceci.

"I may LOOK fine with MY snake and snakes I know are coming," I continue. But unknown snakes bringing certain death in the dark, miles away from life-saving help, FREAK ME OUT."

"We are just paranoid," Ceci observes. "In the old days, people just WALKED around at night - all the time."

"And they DIED!" I reply but under my breath.

"I can't hear you," Ceci says and we have to stop for more Dog Negotiations.

They DIED because they stepped on snakes and they fell into holes and they got infections from loose nails and other road detritus. Life expectancy was like 40 years old. I'd be dead by now if I lived back then.

"We're spoiled," says Ceci. "We're soft."

I just worked a 55 hour work week and I am SOFT? I just hiked for 3 hours at high altitude after a 10 hour day and I am SOFT?

Okay, I didn't plow a field or deliver a baby and go back to washing clothes on rocks. I didn't go to a barn-raising on Saturday. (And bring a covered dish.)

"I can't hear you," Ceci calls as she stops for more Dog Negotiations. A promise of treats gets Summer moving again.

When we hit the parking lot I am convinced we are going to have to pick up the dog and put her in the back seat. Surely she is exhausted and unable to move. But Summer leaps into the Sentra with a spring in her step.

"She's been holding out on us," I say accusingly, ready to play Smack the Dog with serious intentions.

"No, she hitched up when she landed," assures Ceci.

We drive away in pitch blackness. It is 9:15pm and not a soul on the road until I hit Littlerock. The road is covered with stick snakes.