Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fishy, fishy...

First, I'd like to send my condolences to the Daring Young Family on the sad loss of their beta fish, Jack. We feel your pain!

This reminds me of some of my own traumatic fish experiences. (Fish and I seem to get along about as well as plants and I do. I'm not sure why, as goldfish do not have roots, which is the source of most of my plant-strife. Fresh-cut flowers, no problem; I can keep them alive for pretty much forever, but give me something with roots and that's pretty much signing its death warrant. But that's another story for another day.)

My mother is allergic to just about anything you can think of, which meant our pet options were limited. Dogs, cats, rabbits, anything with fur was out. Snakes and lizards were out, too. She was allergic to those in the same way I am -- they cause severe nervousness and shriekage. Spiders of any sort, like 5, were "right out." So we had goldfish. Mine was named Goldie. (I've always been creative that way.)

So one morning I was getting ready to go to school (second grade) and I heard a plop behind me. About a week earlier, a picture had fallen on top of the aquarium and broken the lid so that it was just open, and Goldie had jumped out and was now sitting on the carpet looking very out-of-place. (Note how I avoided the obvious pun there!) I tried to pick her up to put her back in but, being a fish, she was awfully slimy and unpleasant to the touch, which set off my allergies to sliminess. My mother heard me shriek, came running, and assumed that I'd found the fish just lying on the carpet. I was crying too hard to explain to her what had happened and so she carefully scooped up Goldie in the towel she was holding and went to flush her. I followed along, tears streaming down my face (this was the only pet I'd ever had, people!).

As soon as Goldie hit the water in the bowl she started swimming around and exploring her new home. I was overjoyed. I'm not sure if my mother quite shared the feeling, though, as now that my fish was definitely alive it meant that she needed to get it out of the toilet bowl and back in the tank where it belonged. Goldie apparently really liked it in there, though, because she kept hiding from the net when my mom went to scoop her. After several minutes of this, my tears were back in full force, we were running very late for school, my mom was getting more and more frustrated by this crazy fish's attempts (and success) in eluding her, and Goldie was still in the toilet.

Eventually my mom said that we had to leave and take me and my brother to school. I kept crying as we started to leave, and asked her to make sure not to use the upstairs bathroom, but only the downstairs one because I didn't want her to flush Goldie by accident.

I arrived at school in the depths of despair. My poor fish was going to die an ignominious death, I just knew it! (And contrary to popular opinion, no, I did not actually know the word "ignominious" as a second-grader. I didn't learn it until third or fourth at least.) I couldn't pay attention at math (not surprising; never my favorite subject) and couldn't raise any interest in spelling (surprising, actually; I quite enjoyed spelling as a second-grader), and could barely face the thought of recess. How could I be so cold-hearted as to actually go out and play when my fish was in such a fix?

Fortuitously, however, my teacher came up to me at this point and told me that I had a phone call from my mother. My heart simultaneously soared and sank: Was it good or bad news? Had my fish succumbed to fate or had my mother triumphed?

Of course my mother had triumphed. And I give her even more credit for not going the "identical-replacement" route. She tells the story now that she was in the bathroom on hands and knees with the fish net thinking, "This is ridiculous. But I love my daughter. This is extremely ridiculous. But I love my daughter..." Goldie eventually was restored to her rightful home (which was then covered with saran wrap until we could find a new lid) and lived several more months before dying of natural causes. And I was able to enjoy my recess and brag about how much my mother loves me.

(As a side note, Mom, I'd like to take this moment to apologize for anything I may have said or done since that may have made saving my fish seem less worth it. That is still a defining moment from my childhood. I love you!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What the Dickens

So Gryffinkat had gotten me thinking about this earlier, but last night I was at my parents' house for a visit and got to partake of an old family Christmas tradition.

Every year since I was probably about nine, my dad has read Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" out loud to us. This is a bit of a change from the norm in my house, since my mom is the designated story-reader in the family. So having my dad (who is a wonderful reader) perform for us makes this tradition even more special to us.

We start early in the month and usually finish with the last stave on Christmas Eve. We've started including my grandfather (who lives a block away from my parents) in the tradition and he just loves it as well. It's started to evolve into something aking to the Rocky Horror Picture show (which I have never seen, only heard about), where we all have our parts to contribute.

For example, at several points in the narrative my grandfather will start talking about what an amazing writer Dickens was. In particular, when I was there on Monday my dad read Stave Three, aka The Ghost of Christmas Present, and Dickens goes into an elaborate description of the Cratchitt's roast goose for dinner. My grandpa, right on cue, piped up, "Isn't he so descriptive? Can't you just smell the sage?"

Then we all have to chime in on the out-loud-in-chorus parts. Says Mrs. Cratchitt of the pudding "I had my doubts about the quantity of flour."

And, since our copy is, sadly, abridged, every now and then my dad has to pause and tell us "This part isn't in here, but it goes like this..." I suppose he really needs the full version, but this routine is also part of the tradition now and I think I'd miss it just as much if it wasn't there as we miss the parts that aren't included in our version.

The reason my favorite part is stave three, though, is the visit to Scrooge's nephew's Christmas dinner, and the game of Blindman's Buff with Topper and the plump sister. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Dickens. This part always gets us in giggles (okay, my brother not so much, but only because he'd be offended if I said that he giggled like the girls do).

I wish you could all join in on this family tradition and hear my dad's reading. He has a wonderfully expressive voice (I always like listening to him "perform," as it were; Sundays when he spoke in church were always my favorites) and his inflections are now permanently in my mind whenever I read A Christmas Carol. I think he should make a recording and sell it to spread the joy around. Does anyone out there have some nice recording equipment?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Relative nerdiness

I am nerdier than 61% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

So apparently I'm even nerdier than my DH, which comes as a bit of a surprise since the questions on the nerd-o-meter definitely run more toward his line of nerdiness than to mine. I mostly just know a frightening amount of useless trivia and quote old movies a lot. And am just a nerd in general. Not really so much of a techno-nerd (as you can probably tell by looking at my unadorned blog here. He has to help me with anything much fancier than this).

Ah well. Just goes to show that you should always keep your portraits of random scientifical types straight. You never know when you might need 'em.


After my DH scored as a blast-ended skrewt (he hasn't read the books so he was a bit confused as to why I found this so amusing - it kept me giggling for a good five minutes), I had to see how I scored.

You scored as Luna Lovegood. No surprises here. Of course you are most like Luna Lovegood. You believe everything you read in tabloids, freak people out with your casual acceptance of even the most bizarre, and endear others with your dreamy charm. You know how to say it like you see it.

Luna Lovegood


Mad-Eye Moody


Blast-Ended Skrewt


Minerva McGonagall


Albus Dumbledore


Argus Filch




Dudley Dursley


Harry Potter Mania
created with

You can't judge a book...

So I have to admit that I'm probably one of the things that is wrong with America today. I do, in fact, work at a big bad chain store which routinely puts shops around the corner out of business in a cruel and heartless fashion. Although what probably makes me a worse person is the fact that this doesn't bother me so much because I like the store I work at. *ducks behind a chair to avoid projectile missiles from outraged protesters*

But working at a bookstore gives me some great experiences in seeing the way people deal with books. Most people that I talk to, of course, are not the drooling, avid and voracious reader types, such as myself, who know what they want and where to find it, or else just want to sit there and bask in the glory of all those books, waiting for one to leap off the shelves in a fit of serendipity and fall into their outstretched arms.

The people I talk to tend to be a little less, shall we say, single-minded in their quest for all things written. Some of them appear to never have been in a bookstore before, and I must admit that there have been a few that I harbored doubts of their ever having been this close to a book in their lives. (Disclaimer: they are all intelligent and well-meaning people and I do not mean to criticize the way anybody does their book shopping. Whichever way you prefer is, in fact, the correct way.)

They wander up to the information desk and kind of squint into the air in a questioning manner, their gaze resting somewhere behind and above my right shoulder, before they say, "There's this book I want, but I don't know the author...." Of course, this isn't usually a problem with our handy-dandy computer system, provided of course that our system is in a good and informative mood that day and I don't have to resort to base trickery to fool it into telling me what I want to know. The problem comes if it's a weird title that they don't know how to spell, or if tricky homonyms come into play. I can't tell you how many times I have searched for The Tale of someone or other only to find out that the title is not referring to a story or anecdote but is, in fact, alluding to a portion of posterior anatomy that most humans do not possess.

What gets really good are the people who don't know the author OR the title, but have some vague idea about the plot and know that "the cover was blue," or at least that it was blue when they read it as a kindergartener back in 1958. Like the girl who wanted the book about a mouse that begins with D. (This actually turned out not to be so much of a problem, as it is the Newberry-award winning "The Tail of Despereaux" -- another of those ones! -- which I had just finished reading. But this is the exception.)

The weirdest experience I've had so far happened the other day, five minutes before I was scheduled to get off work (of course). A man came and told me, "I bought the new Betty Crocker cookbook for my wife but it's not the whole cookbook. How do I get the complete version?" Huh? Further questioning elicited the information that his mother had had the same cookbook but it was much thicker. How could he get a copy of that cookbook? I took him back to the cookbook section (where I discovered that he actually had purchased the Better Homes and Gardens book, not the Betty Crocker; he never quite seemed to grasp this...) and showed him the versions we had.

No good. "Yes, that's the one I bought my wife and it's not the complete version." Well, I could look it up in the system and see if there were any different, newer, longer versions. Would he like that? Yes, he would. So I looked it up and lo and behold, those were the only versions. (I had figured as much; if there was a "complete" one we would probably have carried it.) I even found the "classic 1953 version," which turned out to be a good 200 pages shorter than the new ones, and tried to explain to him that the thickness could be a difference in print size, the amount of pictures, the paper used or the binding. (My vote goes with the latter; apparently his mother's was in book form while the one he got for his wife was the three-ring binder kind.) No good. He didn't listen or didn't understand or didn't care.

This meant that we ended up going back to the cookbook section (which covers nearly an entire wall of our store) and he had me show him nearly every cookbook we carry so he could compare thicknesses and decide which one he wanted. Luckily, he decided before too long that he didn't require my assistance anymore so I didn't have to go through the whole wall. (And I was only 15 minutes late getting off work, rather than an hour.) When I left, he was favoring the American Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which is rather hefty.

I guess the moral of the story is that while you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (especially since it's probably not blue anymore after 47 years), judging it by the width of the spine is just fine.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Jumpin' on the bandwagon...

So I decided that I'm tired of not having the latest "it" (although I have been told that I can find it on eBay).

In Paris, everyone has a small yappy-sized dog, usually of the variety which consists solely of eyes, hair, and an extraordinarily high-pitched voice box. You see these dogs everywhere - walking down the streets with their owners, looking très chic with their little jackets and coordinating collars and leashes; frequenting the finest pâtisseries and marchés, waiting patiently on the sidewalk for their owners to bring them their preferred treats, probably something involving quiche; or, most commonly, riding on the metro in their handy-dandy carrying cases (which also match the collar and leash. But then everything in Paris matches everything else: it's all black). The carrying case is usually just a large purse with the dog tucked inside, peeking out demurely between the shoulder straps. I always wondered how you train your dog well enough to not have to worry about your other personal effects coming out unscathed.

I did not have a small yappy dog. Or a large black purse in which to carry it. Or even a matching black collar and leash (although that would have been really odd without the dog to go with it). I felt decidedly unstylish, unchic, and left out. The fact that I was an American wearing jeans, sneakers, and a comfy shirt which had turned a blueish-gray shade in the weird Parisian washing machines didn't help much in the land of tailored black slacks and pointy-toed high heels, but I still blame it mostly on my lack of popular accessory. The only thing that made me feel better was the fact that my husband did not have a small yappy dog either. (Nor, I am relieved to say, did he have a large black purse in which to carry it.)

When we returned to the States and moved into our BYU student ward, I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have to worry about my paucity of canine companionship. On our first Sunday in the ward, I settled as comfortably as possible back into the bench and looked around me in satisfaction at being at home and chic again. As I looked, though, my comfort and confidence dwindled as I realized that I still wasn't up to date: Everyone else either had or very soon would have a trendy new baby to play with and show off to the other couples. Hip mothers compared how much their children had grown and the cool tricks they were capable of. This made for interesting Relief Society conversation:

Sister #1: Little Ben started eating solid foods this week. He just loves his mashed carrots. He practically inhales them!
Other sisters: Oh, how exciting!
Sister #2: Little Jessica's been sleeping through the night since she was two weeks old.
Other sisters: Amazing! What's your secret?
Sister #3: (to me) Are you new in the ward?
Me: Yes, this is our first Sunday.
Sister #4: Really? It's little Cameron's first time at church, too.
Other sisters: Oh, how darling! He has his father's eyes and your hair color!
(All gather around to coo over the newest club member.)
Me: Yeah, we just got back from Paris....
Sister #5: Wow. How awesome would that be? I would love to go to Paris someday. But it won't be happening anytime soon -- not with little Anna on the way!
Other sisters: Oooooh!!! Congratulations!!! (The conversation immediately turns to a thorough discussion of due date, how they all felt at that point in their pregnancy, how much her life will change with her new little one, etc.)
Me: (All sense of chicness vanishing quicker than Little Ben's carrots) So... how 'bout those pastries, eh?

When we arrived in Chile, I gave up all hope of chicness with the fact that I couldn't speak a lick of Spanish, although I did learn enough to know that the same scene was being replayed quite often.

Now that I'm back in the States again, all of a sudden I notice that everyone has one of these cool blog things. In my naïveté, I used to believe that only cool people like Gryffinkat had blogs. (Kat, you are still the coolest person I know. I think that's why everyone has blogs now, in an attempt to emulate you.) Then I found, serendipitous-like, Daring Young Mom and a whole slew of other awesome blogs. I began to feel twinges of the familiar accessory-envy. I needed this new "it." This itch became unbearable when even my wonderful husband, who had been my staunch supporter in my lack of chicness until this point, sold out and got his own. What was a girl to do?

And so I present to you my very own blog. Yippee! I can feel the chicness once again flowing through my veins. Take that, snooty French poodle people! I don't even need to worry about housebreaking... er, pursebreaking. Or whatever.