Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twas The Month Before Christmas

The path of least resistance is never paved with things we ought to do.

Decorations abound. It’s still November, so the music has yet to cloy. Last-minute panic is but a distant memory of years past. At this point holidays sparkle like fun on the calendar’s horizon.

“Ought to” is even duller than usual.

Excuses and rationalizations will soon be as abundant as tinsel and brightly colored plastic. Auntie herself sat down to write this rather than be useful, but there were plenty of other excuses. I mean rationalizations. I mean reasons.

By this time next week, I’ll be able to substitute baking for blogging if I want to, and blogging is an avoidance technique already.

I’m starting to see why New Year’s resolutions are so popular. When January finally rolls around, postponed duties will be metaphorically piled higher than the very real discarded trees on the curb.

But even if your fridge already oozes eggnog, there are important things that Must Be Done. ASAP even. And I’m not talking about putting up twinkle lights. That can wait.

It’s time to walk the little dog.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Open Books

Did you know something like 85% of people think they’re good at reading people? You’re good at reading people. I do okay, I know people who are better.

The problem is we might be wrong.

True story: Once upon a time while I was at summer camp, I thought a cute boy was waving at me. I smiled and waved back. He and his friends (including the one standing three feet to my left) all had a good laugh. I got my first pair of glasses when I went home.

That wasn’t the first time I misread someone, nor was it the worst. I still trust my instincts though, just like you do.

Call it whatever you want. Empathy, vibes, gut feelings – it all amounts to a sense of knowing what the other person is thinking. We pooh-pooh ESP, but we believe we know how someone is reacting to us. We make no sense sometimes.

If we get angry when we’re wrong, we get angrier when someone reads us wrong. See previous example.

Public humiliation aside, my real bugaboo is when people don’t think I mean what I say.

I avoid subtext, it’s too much work and your Auntie is lazy. Most of you know that. Every once in a while, someone – even someone who knows me well -- will be surprised that I meant what I said literally.

@rmangaha was here today. We ate leftovers and he laid hands on my sick computer and healed it, praise his techie heart.

But while he sat at my desk, he was surprised by how well he could hear my Loud Neighbors’ conversation. He’s seen the tweets and read the posts, but he was still surprised that every word was as audible as if they were in the room with us.

He’s known me since he was a teenager. Granted that wasn’t all that long ago by my reckoning, but he should have read me better.

Pop quiz: You, who only know me through this blog, test your skills. Do you think I said “I told you so” to the person who single-handedly saved me from having to get a whole new computer?

Well, do you?

Ha. I only implied it. So you were 85% right.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Digestion Digression

It was the best of times, full stop.

Like those old biorhythm charts, everything came together on a high note. The dogs got along, the food worked and my dears, I have to tell you that the cranberries brought by my brother-in-law-extraordinaire transcended anything you ever thought a cranberry could achieve. And he made bread from scratch, something I’ve never even attempted. It was all glorious and comfortable and perfect.

Okay, the lemony couscous wasn’t nearly lemony enough and the Brussels sprouts with avocado and pecans could have used more avocado. So what? The wild mushroom barley with macadamias was fabulous, if I do say so myself. The creamed kale with gruyere was fine. The gougeres were adequate. Both kinds of sweet potatoes got compliments, as did both of the pies though only one of the pies deserved them. Robert's home-made ice cream was terrific and the caramel sauce I made was a hit.

You’ll be happy to know that Stanley the turkey did not give his life in vain. In death he was appreciated, just not by me.

Ask and ye shall see pix.

The weirdness happened after I took Melva home. I drove past a dark, closed mall and saw a line half a block long of people waiting to shop at midnight. Alone in my car, my brain replete with good company and conversation and my belly full of food, I almost couldn’t process the sight of all those antsy people thumbing their phones.

If I wasn’t so content I’d envy their determination, but nah. I’m good.

I hope you are too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving (2012)

You can have Christmas. Thanksgiving is mine.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love Santa Claus, but that’s a year-round thing. The spirit of joy and generosity shouldn’t be restricted to one day a year even if that restriction does explain a lot of what’s wrong with our society.

My Thanksgiving starts around August. That’s when I begin to talk about what I’m going to make. The menu shifts and changes for months. Pie or cake? Gougeres or bread? And the eternal vegetarian question, da da dummmm…

Will there be turkey?

Don’t even think about tofurkey. We’re talking about Thanksgiving. It’s dead bird with a cornucopia of delicious plant food or just the delicious plant food. There are no imitation edibles in my kitchen. Begone, thou foul fake fowl! Ahem. Moving on.

By Halloween, I’ve narrowed it down. As soon as the calendar page turns to November, the lists start to sprout. Menus, chores, about the only thing I don’t list are guests. You’re all welcome, but it’s a first response thing due to the tiny-ness of our home.

The table is now full, sorry.

I spent the morning doing one of my very favorite things of all, the breakdown and shopping charts. Okay, I did the breakdown chart a week ago, but I copied it out today.

Nobody ever credits the up-side of neurosis, but I burst into spontaneous smiles and happy little mini-dances just thinking about all this. Yes, your dour old cynical Auntie really does. Like I said, I love Thanksgiving.

It’s backlash, of course. Years of tortured stress, anxiety and concomitantly induced ailments from gatherings filled with relatives now either dead or estranged built up a lot of karma on the plus side of the nonexistent metaphysical ledger.

Our table is filled with people I love who say nice things and bring a great dog with them. And my stuffing doesn’t come out of a box. Yay!

To end your suspense, yes, there will be turkey. I’ve already named him Stanley. I’ll bring him home on Tuesday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Making A Hormone Think

A couple of juiced-up muscle boys were talking in the gym today.

By the way, here’s a DIY superhero tip: Gray hair makes you invisible. These guys were almost right next to me and they didn’t see me at all.

Anyhow, Beefcake and Juicer-boy were complaining about hot flashes. Seriously. They sounded just like me, only less bitchy.

I glanced over and, yeah, Juicer-boy had roid zits.

Gratuitous Public Service Announcement: Juice is for smoothies. Muscles won’t make you more attractive if you have Mauna Loas sprouting all over your face and back. Stick to whey powder and BCAAs.

Moving on. Long time readers have heard me go on about how bodybuilders gossip like the little old ladies in my mother’s building, or whine like teenaged girls in 70s sitcoms. They do, they really do.

Newbies, welcome. All you need to know is that I’ve been around bodybuilders since the late 80s, except for a 5 year gap which we won’t discuss. Also the last month, ditto. The point is that I know my way around a hardcore gym and its denizens.

So I’m back in the gym now, and there’s a fresh batch of new blood. Apparently they have strangely familiar-sounding hormone issues, although this is the first time I’ve ever heard one complain about hot flashes.

Of course it makes sense if you think about it. Androgens and menopause have a poetic symmetry, if not a biochemical one. Heh. I can just see the looks on their faces if I tried to explain that their physicality has anything in common with mine.

What made me laugh is an out-loud thing and I don’t know how well it’ll read, but here goes:

How do you make a hormone? Don’t let her work in on the bench.

You can lead a hormone to culture, but you can’t teach it to read a newspaper.

Hormone? I was only doing 15 lb kickbacks.

Hahaha! It’s menopause humor and weightlifting humor! Two obscure humors that still aren’t funny in one – well, not to anyone else. It cracks Auntie up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day O Mayo

You’ve heard me talk about how much I like to feed people. That said, in food as in life, it sucks when something doesn’t come out right.

I’m either a decent cook or I’ve been lucky. It doesn’t happen often. The Moroccan stuffed-zucchini-in-yoghurt-sauce was salvageable. Melva said it was fine. She’s my mother, so take that the way I took it, with a pinch of Hawaiian pink salt.

But then there was the Ranch Dressing. Cue ominous sound effect.

My friend is a phenomenal cook. It was her recipe. When it didn’t come out quite right, I knew the error was mine. I dumped it out and tried again. I minced chives. I measured ingredients with more care than a pharmacist. I couldn’t lose that mayonnaise-y aftertaste.

I stood there glaring at the jar of mayonnaise. (Trust me, you get loopy when you’re alone in the kitchen.) Then I saw it.

“Best by Feb 02 2011”

Insert the cuss words of your choice here. Mine were fairly obvious and unimaginative.

I got suspicious. I went to that shelf in the fridge. You know the one, with the jars of stuff you used maybe twice after you got it.

Cue montage.

Besides the expired mayonnaise, I just threw out: ketchup, yellow mustard, low sodium soy sauce, tamari, a fossilized tube of anchovy paste, three jars of curry paste (two Indian, one Thai), three jars of salad dressing (two more were fine), that yellow Peruvian sauce that’s so delicious in the restaurant and so bad in a jar from the supermarket and a spray bottle of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” that expired in 2007.

The moral of this story is – nah, I got nothing. There is no moral. I just wanted to vent.

Cue credits.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Boo Humbug, Redux

Well, here we are. Almost two weeks into November, and our next door neighbor just took down his elaborate Halloween decorations. No, I’m not bitching about that.

He replaced them with Christmas ones. Already.

I’m bitching about that.

Granted, he’s in his 30s and doesn’t remember a time when the forces of Good prevailed and no one put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.

Hell, I’m a lot older and I barely remember it.

But I promise you that there was a time, once upon a time, a Golden Age – or at least an Un-Gilded Age -- when people would put up paper leaves in red and orange, and cornucopia(s? or is it already plural?) and ugly fake turkeys in the weeks between jack o’lanterns and twinkle lights.

Ok, it wasn’t pretty. But you know what?

That green tinsel they’re hanging won’t look so great in another couple of months, and I’ll be lucky if he takes it down before Valentine’s Day.

Author's Note: If you noticed the title change, and you're a doll if you did, it's because I realized that there was a post called Boo Humbug back in November of 2011. Who knew? Not me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Joy Toy

When did being unhappy become fashionable?

I shouldn’t phrase it like that because it becomes too easy to answer. We look at magazine archives for when smiling faces became gaunt and scowly, write down the date and you go away. Don’t go away.

Let me try again, when did it become uncool to be happy?

We act like a smile is a target, or a sign of unintelligence. We don’t advertise a good mood because someone might take advantage of it or kill it.

Think about it, if you happen to be smiling at something in public, and a stranger catches your eye, what do you do? I bet you don’t keep smiling. That wouldn’t be cool, and you’re a cool dude.

Don’t tell me about all the bad things in the world. Yes, there is tragedy and catastrophe. There’s also triumph and exhilaration. There’s stuff you need and don’t have. There’s stuff you want now, and may have someday. Hopefully you’ll still want it when you get it.

But there’s your life right now, and it’s what you’ve got. Somewhere in there, there’s at least a speck of joy.

You’ve heard of joy.

No, not that decaying bottle of perfume in your grandma’s bathroom. Joy is when you feel good without having been medicated to do so. Joy is happy. Joy is fun.

Aha! Gotcha. You like fun. Let’s start there.

Fun is good. (Baby steps.) Fun makes you happy. Therefore, it’s good to be happy.

See? That wasn’t so hard. Don’t go away yet.

It’s okay to smile. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to feel good just because you feel good.

When you were a kid, you had a favorite toy. Whatever it was, you probably have something right now that makes you as happy as that toy made you back then. When you figure out what it is, go ahead and smile about it.

No one’s looking.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Twitter Veritas

I’m a huge fan of online chat.

“But Auntie,” you say, quite reasonably. “You’re cynical. You hardly ever believe what people say, and you know for sure everyone lies online.”

Ahem. Not everyone. Some of us just choose our words very, very carefully.

Be that as it may, I treat live conversations with liberal (albeit metaphoric) pinches of salt, and I enjoy my online buddies… whoever they really are.

How people say what they say is just as important. That’s not my cliché so let’s stipulate it and move on.

More interestingly, a similar effect happens online.

You might not be the a/s/l you advertise. That’s none of my business, nor do I care.

I do care if you get my obscure 70s TV reference, or have the good manners to claim to hate a film I loathed. Have you read a book I love? Cite it and earn my eternal devotion.

Manners, in fact, show up as clearly online as they do on the street. Appropriately timed responses show interest. Nice ones bring smiles. If someone favorites my tweet, that can be anything from a pat on the back to a hug. It’s all good. (Sorry, Sis, but it is.)

I don’t care if you chuckle, snort or lol, as long as you liked my joke.

When you’re chatting with someone online, your personality is right there on their screen, plain as day. You can hide behind an abstruse avatar or a false i.d., but you can’t hide your character.

If you’re whiny or self-obsessed, that will show. If you’re pleasant and kind, that will show too. A sense of humor shines like a beacon in the vast beigeness of Internet blather just as much as it does in the gridlocked monotony of the real world.

But the real reason why I love Internet chatting so much is that, lipstick be damned, you can’t see me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

(Auntie) Scary Science

Superstition in its most basic form is really all about cause and effect, which makes it scientific-esque.

If I make a u-turn to avoid crossing the path of a black cat, then I am preventing an undesirable sequence of consequences. The same goes for scattering spilled salt over my shoulder, walking around ladders, all those boringly obvious behaviors.

Avoiding the cause to prevent the effect is science-y. Yes, indeed.

Oh, you’re still not convinced. Fine. Let me channel 10th grade. It’s all about proving a hypothesis. Knocking on wood may not avert the Evil Eye, but if I think it does, then I’ll adapt accordingly and not make stupid choices. At the very least, I might make less stupid choices.

Obviating a self-fulfilling prophecy is an improvement based on logic and deduction. Ergo, knocking on wood is scientific-ish, Q.E.D.

The ways to make good things happen are less reliable. My lucky socks are only usually effective. The ratio goes up if I invoke the “could have been worse” clause, but it’s still not 100%.

That said, what do you think I wear when I know I’m about to enter the jaws of a potentially dicey situation? And I ain’t talking Vegas here, folks.

Let me tell you this, if you’re meeting with a lawyer, lucky socks are the way to go. I’ve proven this scientifically. You can trust your Auntie Scary on this one, totes for sure.