Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thanksgiving Part Three: The Weapons

Several tin cans and old license plates were sacrificed for target practice (I don't really know what a carbine rifle is, but my brother apparently owns one). There's a chicken out there somewhere with purple wings (even though we told the kids NOT to point the paintball gun at animals). But who knew that a spoon could be considered a weapon?

It started as a friendly game of cards -- you know the one where there is one less spoon than players and when you get four of a kind you grab for a spoon -- and WHACK, we heard someone get hit. Most adults would just say "ouch" but teenagers strike back. Jack only got a spoon to the head but Hannah got a fist to the nose.

Yep, that's right, my kids got into a fistfight at Thanksgiving.

"I'm gonna get a black eye," Hannah wailed. "I can't go to work like that!"

"Why?" somebody asked.

"Because they hired me because I'm cute and that sells popcorn."

I'm just grateful that the guns were out of reach.

Thanksgiving Part Two: The Cousins

Not everyone was there, of course, because time and travel obstacles got in our way. My oldest brother Kenny proposed this gathering back in the spring, before my middle brother Larry died.

We are a colorful tribe, white, black, brown and tatooed. There were five kids in my generation, eight kids in the next, and now there are eight more. Some of us have been married to one person the whole time, some of us have never married and some of us can't get married (not legally anyway). So the question of who is related to who gets complicated sometimes. I made a chart last summer when many of us were together for Larry's funeral. It was color coded by generation and included spouses and partners, sperm donors and step children, and helped us explain the concept of cousins to the younger ones. It was much too elaborate to try to reproduce here, but I'll try to make a color coded list of the generations:

Kenny > Jennifer (Catelin and Cody) and Jeff
Sherry > Lisa (Justin and Michaela) and Debbie (Emily and Tasheona)
Larry > Tracy (Zachary and Malaysia)
Dianna > Hannah and Jack
Chuck > Natasha

Thanksgiving Part One: The Food

My brother and sister in law really know how to put on a feast -- thanks guys! Here's a list of the food, some of which I never got a chance to sample:

  • A turkey (the size of a small country)
  • Two hams, a Honeybaked and a country ham my sister brought from Virginia
  • Our traditional family fruit salad (the "big kids" helped make it with me)
  • Cornbread stuffing
  • Casseroles: green bean, broccoli and sweet potato
  • Noodles (from Aunt Lou's recipe)
  • Mashed potatoes (my nephew from California wowed us with these -- garlic and goat cheese)
  • More pies than I could count. I saw pumpkin, peach and pecan
  • A birthday cake and ice cream

And that was just for Thanksgiving dinner! We also had eggs and bacon (and more ham) and biscuits and fried apple pies and pumpkin bread ... and can I have more coffee with that?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Shiksa pearls, explained

Eek! has inherited a mink coat (ok, "blonde mink strolling coat") which so outranks the already-dead old furs owned by all of her friends. What to do? I thought we should have a "ladies lunch" to celebrate. Nobody without an old fur coat allowed.

"Wear the shiksa pearls," she says, so now I've got to explain about those.

It was Yom Kippur and babycakes and I went to Temple. Well, I'm NOT Jewish but we had free tickets (yes, tickets were required for the event) and I was thrilled to be able to add this Jewish high holy day to my this-might-make-a-good-screenplay list.

"Dress up," she told me. "People get decked out for the holidays."

I selected a silk dress and a tasteful strand of pearls. There must have been over 400 women there and I slowly noticed that NOT A SINGLE JEWISH WOMAN was wearing pearls. They were wearing jewelry all right. Along with their perfect hair and nails they wore fabulous artist-made gold and silver necklaces and pins, but not a single pearl was in sight.

This, however, was not my only faux pas for the evening. While the authentic jews were greeting each other by saying "good yontiv" I was merrily wishing everyone a "good yentl" which is NOT the same at all.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Obligatory photos of the children

Yeah, it had to happen. Somebody might want to see them.

Not you, I know, for whom seeing pictures of other people's children is incredibly boring (yawn). But those other people, the relatives and the ones who live far, far away, they beg and plead and whine for just tiny pictures, please, so "we can see how much they've grown."

Smiling Jack

Lovely Hannah

Serious Jack

Big smile Hannah

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Over the river and through the woods

When I first learned the "Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go" song I thought it was written just for me. My grandmother ACTUALLY lived over that river and through those woods.

So it's almost Thanksgiving and for the first time in many, many years I will be travelling (over the river and through the woods) back to that house for the weekend. My oldest brother lives there now. He was born in that house.

I can smell the sweet potato casserole already. Yum.

Monday, November 15, 2004


GREENSBURG, La. Nov 15, 2004 — Beavers found a bag of bills stolen from a casino, tore it open and wove the money into the sticks and brush of their dam on a creek near Baton Rouge.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I'm not paranoid, they're out to get me

Here's a conspiracy theory for you.

If you're a child, you can get a flu shot. If you parent small children, you can probably get a flu shot. If you're over 65 you can get a flu shot.

But - and here's the thing - if you're aged 50 to 65 you probably CANNOT get a flu shot.

This means that the baby-boomers had better watch out. If they succeed in infecting us with the flu and we all get sick and die, Social Security is saved and a lot of really good jobs open up.

There you have it: Motive and opportunity.

Watch my back, will you?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Black pants, white shirt

Remember band? Or orchestra, or chorus, or whatever performance group you belonged to in school?

Remember how you always had to have a uniform or a special t-shirt, or the dreaded "black pants and white shirt" ensemble? And remember how it had to be clean (and ironed) and ready for a performance you forgot to tell your mom about that was HAPPENING TOMORROW NIGHT!

Yeah, we all did it. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Jack pulled this crap on me less than 24 hours ago.

So, we went shopping. Shopping with Jack is not much fun. He's picky. He has expensive tastes. And he has the attention span of a fruit fly.

"Jack, stop looking at the wallets, the dress pants are over here." (Reply: "Dockers! God Mom, those are so not cool.")

"Jack, this white shirt is $15 cheaper, will it do?" (Reply: "No, that fabric is terrible, just feel it.")

"Jack, come out of the dressing room so I can see if the pants fit." (Reply: "Mom! They fit. Would you please get out of the dressing room!")

After hours of this wrangling, we finally made our purchases and got home in time to fall asleep from exhaustion.

So, should I be surprised that at about 6:45 a.m. this morning, Jack looks at me and says, "Mom, when are you going to iron this shirt? I can't wear it like that!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Life changes after children

My friend Carrie, who is at home with her newborn son, has given up knitting -- and sleeping, apparently -- for the short term while she adjusts to motherhood.

I hear that the wee one is feeding on demand and demanding to be walked. Parents develop amnesia, thank god, and forget that they had different lives ... before.

  • every piece of clothing you own smells like sour milk
  • movies about people with babies were boring
  • you used to GO OUT at 10 p.m., not COME HOME at that time

I remember telling a friend about how cool it was that the babysitter (a 15-year-old) loved coming to our house so she could listen to our old (vinyl) records.

"You let her touch your stereo?!" he sputtered.

"Oh right," I answered. "She can touch the BABY, just not the frigging STEREO."

People without kids just don't get it.

Monday, November 8, 2004

On becoming a crone ...

In my circle of women, growing old is honored and celebrated. We've reclaimed the word "crone" to mean wise, older woman and hold rituals known as "Cronings," for women over 50.

I asked women to bring inspirational quotations to share at my croning. Oh what a bounty of wisdom arrived! I am blessed to have poets and writers among my friends who wrote for me ... and singers and musicians who played for me ... and artists and craftswomen who stitched and beaded for me.

The gifts were many, and I can only share them a little at a time.

"Life should not be a journey to the grave
with the intention of arriving safely
in an attractive and well-preserved body ...
but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand,
strawberries in the other,
body thoroughly used up,
totally worn out
and screaming Woo-Hoo - what a ride!"
- author unknown

"Let men save the world? I don't think so!"
- spoken by Helen, from the new animated movie, The Incredibles

The moon is always female
but the sun is female only in lands
where females are let into the sun
to run and climb.
- Marge Piercy, from The Moon is Always Female

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Happy Birthday to me

Today is anniversary of the day I was born.

According to family legend I was early. Mom and Dad were BOTH transported to the hospital by ambulance that day, Dad because he was having chest pains (oh no, not another heart attack) and Mom because, well, she was giving birth to me.

The three older sibs were at home with Grandma, waiting. This is why they hate me. The pregnancy had been difficult and Mom had already been in the hospital for months. My grandfather wouldn't speak to her. His comment was, "The doctor told you not to get pregnant again. I'll have nothing to do with this child."

She was home for a weekend (on furlough I guess?) when she woke up Sunday morning bleeding ... this was no "my water broke" episode, she was hemorrhaging bad.

An emergency c-section was all they had time to do. The incision was huge and Mom lost her own navel as a result. Later they added a steel plate in her abdomen to help hold her guts in. She had trouble with metal detectors for the rest of her life.

She took it all in stride and even devised a cruel sort of game to play with the grandchildren that went like this: "Your mommy has a belly button, your daddy has a belly button, your cousin Doofus has a bellybutton, Grandma has a ... oh my God! What the hell happened to Grandma's belly button!"

Anyway, happy birthday to me. I miss you Mom.

Friday, November 5, 2004

The truth about provisional ballots

I now know the truth about provisional ballots. Most of them will NOT count.

We issued only one provisional ballot on election day. Sure, we could have handed them out left and right but if we had done that it might have done more harm than good.

See, most voters don't really know where to go to vote. In our state, if you move and you change the address on your driver's license (which most people don't do until it expires) your registration automatically changes. It's called the Motor-Voter law.

The problem is, most people think their current address dictates their precinct, regardless of what it says on their driver's license. Well, it does, but only if you've changed your registration. If you haven't, you're still registered at your old precinct and you can (and should) go there to vote until you've changed the records.

If you were a voter who was convinced that you were 1) registered and 2) registered in the precinct where you were standing at the time and 3) that fact was verified by a call to the Board of Elections and 4) your name wasn't in the official book, THEN AND ONLY THEN would your provisional ballot ever count. However, I think our state does a pretty good job of keeping track of who's registered and where so I'm pretty damn sure that your name is in a book SOMEWHERE and that's where you need to go to vote. And don't argue with me.

Our provisional ballot went into a special orange pouch to be sent back to the Board of Elections. I presume the pouch would be opened, the voter's status would be verified AGAIN, and the vote would be recorded.

Unless of course, the margin by which the winner is ahead is greater than the total number of provisional ballots ... then I'll bet they don't bother to count them at all.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

The turnout was huge on election day

The turnout on election day was big. Really, really big.

I worked at precinct G141 where just over 600 voters were registered. By 10:30 a.m. we had already distributed 280 ballots. By 10:30 IN THE MORNING! If you counted both G141 and G150 we had about 1,500 registered voters.

Voting was steady all day long. Voters kept coming, and coming, and coming. The one (very odd) thing though, no one was in line at 6 p.m. when the polls closed. At the end of the day our AccuVote machine said it had counted 999 ballots. We had planned to do a special dance at 1,000, so we danced anyway.

Voters lined up

Yes, there were people in line to vote at 6 a.m. but since there are just over 1,500 registered voters in precincts G141 and G150 we never experienced the long lines reported in the news media.

We had 8 voting booths where voters go to color in the ovals on the paper ballot but one AccuVote machine.

A voter must sign the roll of voters to receive a ballot. The roll of voters is simply a computer printout of everyone registered to vote in that precinct. It lists the voter's name, social security number, address, birthday, and party affiliation. Our roll was split into two books. I took the list marked "A through L" and another worker, George, had "M through Z."

Voters must show indentification before they are allowed to vote. The I.D. can be a driver's license, other photo I.D. or even a credit card. Or if the voter is a personal acquaintance of the poll worker that counts too. The worker finds the name and marks the type of I.D. in the book, then the voter signs. It's pretty cool because the place where the voter signs is upside down so I didn't even have to move the book. As I gave the voter a ballot, I marked the stub number of the ballot in the book and added my initials.

The stub on the ballot is torn off BEFORE the ballot goes into the AccuVote machine. The stub is placed into a separate locked compartment in the black box under the AV.

My day as a poll worker

I showed up at the Baptist church fellowship hall at 5:15 a.m. as instructed. The polls in my state open at 6 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. It was going to be a long day.

In all there were 8 poll workers assigned to this location, housing 2 precincts. Two of us had never been poll workers before but the others were long-time veterans. The "old-timers" instructed us newbies how to start setting up the voting booths while the others took on other tasks like posting the "vote here" signs and getting the AccuVote machine hooked up.

The machine itself is the size of a small fax machine -- voters slide in paper ballots to be scanned and recorded. But it sits on top of a large box. The ballots go through the machine and fall into the locked compartment below. At the beginning of the day a "zero tape" is run and everyone working at that polling place signs it, certifying that the count started at, well, nothing.

(more later)

Monday, November 1, 2004

Why we hired a personal chef

I know, I know -- it sounds so hoity-toity but we hired a personal chef. She starts a week from today.

Robin is covering for her boss who is on maternity leave meaning that she comes home late and tired. One of my staff is also on maternity leave (what's up with that?) meaning that I come home late, tired and bitchy. Who wants to cook? We're tired of cold cereal.

Here's how it works. You sit down with the chef and talk about what you will eat and what you won't eat. She works up some sample menus for your approval. She shops, she cooks 20 servings (5 menus). Some are fresh, some are refrigerated and some go in the freezer. When you run out of food, you call her and she does it again.

It's more expensive than cooking but much less expensive than eating out (unless we were eating McDonalds or cheap chinese takeout). We actually did this once before, about six or seven years ago and it was fine for a while.

This time we ordered low-fat foods so one of the benefits might be that we'll drop some weight. We'll see.

Leading indicators point to a Kerry win

First, the Red Sox won the World Series. Then yesterday the Washington Redskins lost their last home game of the season. Today, the astrologers all say the planets are unfavorable to W.

Who needs pollsters?

Trick or treat, smell my feet ...

I've been buying Halloween candy since August at the rate of a bag a week. For three years in a row I've had to raid Jack and Hannah's candy stash to satisfy the trick-or-treaters.

Two days ago I panicked and bought the biggest bag of cheap-ass candy I could find. I started the night with that bag, thinking that if I had leftovers I'd prefer Milky Way bars instead of lollipops.

The strategy worked. We have a little bit left over, but it's the good stuff.

We live one street away from the biggest trick-or-treat street in town. Almost all the houses on that street install elaborate (and gory) decorations. They get so many visitors on Halloween night I'm surprised that the police don't allow them to block the street from traffic. It's like Mardi Gras. This year was the first year they didn't allow on-street parking there, so, everyone parked on OUR street.

Great costumes, beautiful weather, fun night.

Jack wore his Kerry t-shirt. When asked, "What are you?" he replied, "A Kerry supporter." One group of 10 year-olds told us we got lots of "cool points" for our Kerry signs.