Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Tidbits

Sitting here, less than 24 hours 'til Christmas, not wrapping presents, because I can't find the tape and I refuse to even look for the scissors, because I know that somehow I'll just stumble across them somehow in the next few hours, I realize that everyone seems to have that holiday spirit (or lack thereof) stuck right there on the front part of their minds. I figured I'd ramble a bit about those seasonal traditions that I just can't seem to wrap my brain around, whether they be good ones, bad ones, or indifferent. There are a few holiday musts for some people that I personally don't understand. It's not that they're bad or wrong, it's simply that I don't get them,

1. Please Recycle. My whole life no one sent me a Christmas card. (Sure, my name got tagged onto the cards my parents were sent until well into college, but those don't count.) All that changed when my friends started getting married. All of a sudden, I'd made the list. It felt incredibly strange to me to think that some newlywed couple sat down a few weeks before the holidays and had a conversation about who was card worthy. It's even stranger to me that those people, the same people that I had not received a card from years past, now came to the decision that they should pay 32 cents to mail me a small piece of cardboard. What an unusual way to say Merry Christmas. "Have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of our Lord, here's a chimp with a Santa hat."

2. And Here in My Wallet is A Picture of... uh, Some Kid. Even stranger to me is opening a Christmas cards and finding a photograph inside. This odd development began around the time that my friends started having kids. Sure the kid is cute, and I'll even hang him or her on my fridge for a few weeks. (Here at the PlainOleHousehold, we actually have an entire side of the fridge dedicated to pictures of children that we've never actually seen in person). I totally get it for the first few years, babies are great and you want to show them off to the world, but there's got to be a stopping point. For example, my cousin. She's quite a bit older than me. We were never close. We never even lived in the same state. I believe that I've been in the same room as her less than two dozen times in my entire life, but yesterday I received a warm holiday greeting complete with a creepy picture of her two sons, aged seventeen and twenty-two, sitting in an awkward pose with a very odd looking sweaters on. Wallet size no less. Am I actually supposed to put this picture in my wallet? I know, it's the holidays, so it's the thought that counts and all that, but this is a very strange thought.

3. Oh Look Honey, There's Strangers Singing on Our Porch. Sorry, I don't get it. I'm not a big fan of Christmas music to begin with, and I really have a difficult time comprehending why most people's musical tastes change drastically in the month of December. (My sister wouldn't be caught dead listening to Bing Crosby the rest of the year, but the day after Thanksgiving he achieves some sort of god status.) Okay, if you like to sing, then I can understand the fun you might be having, but aside from the nursing homes or the kid's hospitals, I'm not certain that I've ever met anyone who truly enjoys being caroled. Get off the warm couch, open the door to the wind and cold, stand there inappropriately dressed for the weather, and smile a big fake plastic smile, all the while praying that these weirdos stop after one song. I can not imagine a more uncomfortable feeling.

4. It's the Thought That Counts A shout out to those of you in blog-land that preach the true meaning of the season. I start Christmas shopping the day after Christmas. In fact, I'm in a constant state of Christmas shopping. I search year round for the perfect gift for the people on my list. Granted it's a short list, only seven people, but I do put a lot of thought into it. I get a lot of pleasure out of watching other people open my gifts, I really do. That's my favorite part of Christmas. No, I don't spend a boatload of cash, but I do think I do a great job of finding just the right gifts. The student loan officer and the mortgage company appreciate my thriftiness, but I also think that my friends and family see the thought and care I put into things. Sometimes I wish they'd return the favor. Most of my family, and other people I talk to, seem to believe not in quality, or even quantity, but in fair market value and net worth. I overheard a few parents in the store today, trying to find a way to even out the dollar value of the children's gifts. My own mother told me the other day that she only has to but one more gift for me, because she spent more on my sister. I don't care what I get, or how much or it, just think of me. This year I will probably receive a fleece sweater that I won't wear, a fifteenth pair of pajama bottoms to put on the pile, a book that I've already read, a box of candy from my brother (who has known me for a long time and should know that I can't eat sugar), and a check from grandma. Yeah, yeah, yeah, ho, ho ho, it's the thought that counts, but sometimes there is no thought and that's the problem.

5. Secret Santa Needs to Check His List Twice Okay,I actually like the idea of secret Santas in a small office or in a large family where you can't possibly get everyone a gift, but it's gotten out of hand. It's now as if every workplace in North America feels the need to have a secret Santa gift exchange. No,we don't. I work in a school. There are forty-five teachers, ten-twelve support staff people, a handful of administrators, a staff of custodians, and I have no idea how many cafeteria workers. We had a secret Santa thing this year. Not wanting to be accused of being a Scrooge, I reluctantly signed up to participate. I drew Mrs. Hill. Who? Yeah, that's what I said, who? I had no idea who Mrs. Hill was. I didn't know what she taught. I didn't know if she taught. Heck, I didn't even know her first name. I asked three trusted friends, but none of them knew Mrs. Hill either. I would have asked more people, but what if I accidentally asked Mrs. Hill who Mrs. Hill was? What in the world was I supposed to buy this woman? I went with standard womanly things, like candles and soaps, but who knows if she'll like it? My wife's a woman and she'd throw junk like that away. Whoever drew my name must have at least known who I was (in addition to teaching, I coach the school baseball team), because I got a really nice coffee mug with a baseball team logo printed on it. It was heavy,so I figured that it was pretty expensive, but I gave it to a friend the next day, because I don't drink coffee and the logo stamped on there was the arch-rival of my favorite team.

Well, those are my Christmas pet peeves, I'm going to go toss my Christmas cards into the mailbox, maybe on the way back I'll stop at my neighbor's house and sing him a verse or two of Silent Night. Coming soon, the things I like about Christmas that most of you probably hate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Goodbye Laffy Taffy, Hello Taro?

Throughout time, people, not any specific people mind you, but people in general, have had to deal with some pretty difficult things. You have all those instances of religious persecution, civil rights movements, wars, famine, a time or two when some poor sap was asked to lift something really really heavy and carry it up a hill or a really steep staircase. There were folks that had to fight lions in them wacky ole gladiator arenas, fellas who had to dig themselves out of avalanches, and I once knew a guy who stood in line for a KFC buffet behind a really really really fat guy.

Sure, a lot of these things don't really compare with one another, but they all have one thing in common: they are probably the most difficult thing that particular person ever had to deal with.
Me, I've never done mortal battle with any of the big cats, I've never lugged a piano up a muddy slope, and I've never ever ever never been down-wind of Louie Anderson, however, I am dealing with something especially difficult right now, something I've mentioned in passing before, but something that just seems to have grown and grown and grown and taken over my life, kinda like a two-headed tumor monster that sucks the life out of you and calls you mean names at the same time. What am I talking about? The diet.

No, not South Beach, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Cabbage Soup, Zone, Lady Zone, Chocolate, Atkins, Metabolism, Amputation, Scarsdale, One Good Meal, Chicken Soup, The Danger Zone, Grapefruit, Fruit Loop, The Highway Through the Danger Zone, Scottsdale, Carbondale, Chippendale, Chip and Dale, Juicy Fruit, Fruit Juice, or the Arthur Treachers Fish and Chips Diet... I'm on the doctor crossed off everything on my list of good food spreadsheet, slapped me on the wrist and shouted, Soup Nazi style, "No Food For You" diet.

For those of you who haven't heard, my new diet eliminates about eighty percent of what I used to eat, and I used to think I was eating healthy. For example, my usual pre-diet lunch consisted of: a mixed green salad with spinach and some other unpronounceable leaves that Bambi's pal Thumper would probably turn his nose up at, carrots, chopped almonds, dried cranberries, and a nice fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. On the side, a bottled water, an apple, and one of them fancy-mix-it-all-up-like-you're-doin'-the-Cha-cha yogurts with the hunks o' fruit and the bits o' granola.

Post doctor visit... well, I'm still allowed the leaves, the granola bits, and the water. Gone are the presumably healthy foods like carrots, apples, yogurt with fruity hunks, the cranberries, and that lovely raspberry dressing. Why? I'm sugar free now.

The good doctor informed me that my triglycerides, which was also the middle name of the lounge singing creature at Jabba the Hutt's crib in the third Star Wars movie****, were a wee bit high.

**** source - Internet

According to the doc, anything above 150 is high, above 400 is riding that highway through the danger zone Kenny Loggins style, and above 850, well, you might as well do that one foot in the grave thing.(Subsequent Internet research has led me to believe that the doctor was right and also he was wrong. Also, he may be the prince of Siam, can be seen going to the bathroom on something called a pee-cam - but only by Gold Members - and may have invented the banana seat). My triglycerides were up near 1200. So, special diet for Mike.

Apparently (also according to the web), triglycerides are not only Lauren Bacall's maiden name and the capital of Indonesia, but they're some sort of fatty fatness in your blood that makes you (in due time)a pretty good candidate for heart disease, stroke, damage to all the muckety guts, and perhaps even the Oklahoma State Senate*.

*source - the Internet

Triglycerides come from sugar. Sugar, it seems, comes from not only sugar, but things that have sugar in them, like non-sugar-free gum,candy, cakes, two for a dollar McDonald's apple pies, cookies,brownies, Fudgecicles, ice cream, Mountain Dew, ginger snaps, caramel, chocolate, Laffy Taffy, and (who'd a thunk it) Pixie Stix.

But plain ole sugar sugar isn't the only culprit here, it turns out that starchy things like corn, carrots, potatoes, pasta, bread, Cap'n Crunch, pizza crust, my dad's collared shirts, and rice somehow get magically turned into sugars by our bodies. I was hoping that perhaps I could train my body to magically turn the starches into something different, maybe Vitamin D or hundred dollar bills or super models,but the doctor seems to think that's unlikely. The Internet is non-committal, although it does believe that romping in the sunshine while waving hundred dollar bills at super models may lower triglycerides.***

*** source - Internet

Also off the menu are fruits and fruit related things like jellies and juices. Which is both good and bad, because I love fruit juice, but I finally get to tell Richard Simmons to go the hell away.

That list of food I eat on a regular basis that I gave to the doc,it's not much of a list anymore. Really, it's more of a scribbly mess with the words meat and vegetables still sitting there in the middle of a vortexy whirlwind of red pen cross-outs. Now, my dinners consist of things like steak with a side of pork chops or chicken with a side of pork chops or even pork chops with a side of pork chops, and my lunch today is a sandwich made on a multi-grain bread with the consistency and taste of a roofing shingle, sugar free peanut butter,and a pseudo strawberry preserves that is the color that can only come from something radio-active and more than just resembles tar. On the side, I have a little baggie full of root vegetable chips, yes, root vegetable chips. I didn't know what they were either, but they made the weird dude at the Trader Joe's kinda giddy. They're made from things like parsnips, beets, yams, and something called taro that may just end those water-on-Mars debates, cuz that stuff had to grow somewhere and it sure as heck wasn't Earth (the Internet seems to believe that taro is a slutty Hollywood starlet, a province in ancient Greece, and that "taro has leaves that are 1 to 2 meters long with along, erect petiole.**"

**source - Internet (probably one of the icky sites)

I found the chips when the incredibly overzealous Trader Joe's stock clerk ran around the store trying to find stuff I could eat. It was very nice of him to go through the effort, and it was above and beyond when he started opening all the bags and offering me tastes of vegetable puffs, soy and flax seed tortillas, whole grain pancakes,poofy soy crisps, and tofu bratwursts. Now at least I have some variety in my life. Next time I have a steak with a side of pork chops, I can throw some of the orange veggie poofs and a couple of the taro chips (with real beet juice) on the top for color, at least that's what the Internet told me to do.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Seven Things about PlainOleMike

This past weekend, Bee over at Bee's Musings tagged me with this seven things about yourself meme. I thought long and hard about it and came up with these interesting tid-bits about myself to share.

1. I am deathly afraid of elevators. I'm not as bad as I used to be, but I still get very nervous when the doors close and the car starts moving. Sometimes I feel sick to my stomach, but I used to get dizzy. This made life very difficult in college when I was assigned a room on the 14th floor of the dorm building. It all stems from a childhood incident in which I was stuck on an elevator all by myself.

2. I'm an English teacher, but I failed English class my senior year in high school. It was stupid - I could have passed, but I was a stubborn idiot who chose the wrong battles to fight - I didn't like the book we had to read in class, so I didn't.

3. I hate Christmas music. It drives me nuts. I can't understand how people can listen to it non-stop for an entire month before Christmas. What I really don't get is how people, who all have their own musical tastes, suddenly drop their love of rock or country or hip-hop or whatever it is you listen to, to listen to nothing but bad music that if the lyrics were about anything but Santa and baby Jesus and boys with drums they'd hate. While I'm ba-humbugging, I don't like It's a Wonderful Life either.

4. I also hate ham. I love all other pig related meats, but ham is nasty. I can not stand the taste of it. However, oddly enough, if I have leftover ham, and I fry it up in a skillet in the morning with some eggs and toast - I love it - which is doubly weird, because in any other situation I hate eggs too.

5. I have a pair of pants that I wear to work at least once a week without a button. The button fell off the first time I bought the pants, so I put it in that weird little pocket to sew it back on later. That was two years ago. The button is still in the pocket, and I still wear the pants often - I just make sure to wear them with a shirt that stays untucked. I'm either a huge slob or incredibly lazy, maybe both.

6. I have some sort of intolerance to sugar. I don't know why, but my body doesn't process excessive sugars the right way and I get terrible migraines. I have to be very careful about the amount of sugar I eat, but not just ice cream, candy, and cake - all other sugars like fruit, juice, potatoes, pasta, breads... It makes for interesting menu planning. People don't understand it, so I usually just tell them I have diabetes (because my condition is in the diabetes family), because at least they've heard of and "get" diabetes.

7. Birds are inexplicably drawn to my car. My wife, my dad, and my friends thought I was nuts when I told them this, but they've since witnessed the phenomenon. I will drive down the road and the birds that swoop around and get out of the way of everyone else... they fly right into my car. I don't try to do it, but I have hit five flying birds in the last year (three in the grill, one square on the headlight, and one on the windshield). I don't understand it, and I wish it would stop, but for some reason all suicidal birds see me as an aviary Kevorkian or something.