Saturday, October 24, 2009

Holidays seem to begin earlier each year. Aisles in the department stores are decorated for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas simultaneously. Stress is in the air, I feel it, and at this particular moment, my wallet is in no physical condition to live out the year without intense wheezing.

As I uploaded this picture of a pumpkin, and even though it’s October… it feels like a pre-mature, e-Jack o-lantern. You would think that after all these years, living with the Julian calendar, I would be used to the celebrations that occur at this time, EVERY YEAR, but no, they always sneak up from behind and surprise me.

For my own sanity, I will tackle one holiday at a time, thank you. Halloween. What is actually being celebrated? Well, originally it was a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. Another Irish story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of those who passed throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. The medical term for this possession is menopause. Celtic villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. Then they would dress up in ghoulish costumes, and parade around the neighborhood, being destructive, in order to frighten the spirits away.

I have unknowingly practiced this ritual for some time. I extinguish all the lights in my house to make it undesirable for the costumed midgets that knock on my door, in search of panhandled treats. It is really for their own good, and for mine. In previous years, I have purchased sweets to hand out, but ended up eating the entire stash myself before a single visitor arrived.

The Jack-o-lantern used to be fashioned from a hollowed-out turnip. That must have been an artistic challenge. It was named after a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard, and tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Then he carved a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. I have to admit, Jack has tricked me too. Yep, he’s a real trickster. Jack Daniels has tricked me onto many a barroom table and forced me to dance. He carved gigantic smiles on the observer’s faces, trapping me on the table.

Anyway, Jack was denied access to heaven because of his evil ways and the devil turned him away too, because it was long before he took anger management classes. He did give Jack a single ember to light his way in the frigid darkness. The hollowed-out turnip was the carrying case that came with it.

It was when the Irish immigrants came to America, that the pumpkin was adopted as Jack’s lantern. It’s a good thing too. Pumpkins are much more colorful when smashed on asphalt. The other name for Halloween this year is, Saturday. So, happy Saturday, whatever you celebrate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Buying the Farm

I spend a good deal of time in front of the computer. Not only at work as a production control manager, but at home as a writer. I force myself to write something every day, whether it’s a tweet or a blog or just answering e-mails. Granted, I’m not as strict as I used to be. I no longer make me sit in my chair until I write 2,000 words against my 75,000 word novel like I used to, that’s just not good for my hemorrhoids, but I do insist on writing something.

Outside of the glow of my monitors, I try to keep abreast with what is going on with my friends, go to social gatherings even if it is just to have lunch, I accept speaking engagements when offered, volunteer in a local charity organization and sing in a classic rock band.

I would have told anyone that there is absolutely nothing else that I could squeeze into a 24 hour period. Nothing. That was before FarmVille! Yes, having a profile on Twitter and Facebook is great for networking and I have successfully avoided getting involved in the Mafia wars, Vampire wars, YoVille, Rollar Coaster Kingdom, Pirates, Mobsters 2, or Bejeweled Blitz, and I was proud of that. Funny the things you’ll be proud of.

About two weeks ago, my granddaughter invited me to her favorite Facebook place… in FarmVille. Actually, she wanted me to be her neighbor. How could I possibly refuse? Anyone who could look at those sparkling brown eyes and that cute little turned up nose lightly sprinkled with freckles would have to be made of steel to say no.

So now I own a virtual farm. I plow, plant, milk the cows and collect the eggs (from my one chicken). I’m currently on level 5 so I have a fairly small farm, but no house yet, so I pretty much stand in the field all the time. It’s ingenious the way it is set up though…just like real life, everything is done with the click of the mouse. Creating your farmer is fun. You pick the color eyes and hair you want. I gave myself a tan since I spend all of my time outside. You can earn coins for harvesting and selling milk and eggs and then go to the market to buy more seeds for planting. Sometimes someone sends you a gift like a tree, a sheep or a pig. I got a violet bale of hay today. That’s nice.

Extra coins can be earned by visiting your neighbors and helping out on their farm, and I’ve done that, but I do try to stay away from Donna’s farm, even though she is a neighbor. Donna is on level 30! Do you know what that means? She is the friggin’ Walmart of FarmVille. She has a huge farm house, a tractor, a vegetable stand and even has elephants to get the work done. Enough about FarmVille envy though.

I was in a meeting at work today and I was shocked by how preoccupied I was. While I truly tried to focus on our production plan and prioritize shipments, I wondered if my crop of eggplant was ready for harvesting yet. It was at 87 percent at one this morning and I couldn’t remember if I had milked the cows before I shut down my computer. I know I forgot to collect the eggs and those rascal raccoons might come skulking around to pillage again. Crows could be destroying my sweet potatoes and I didn’t have enough money saved to fence the horse in. Man, farm life is tougher than I thought, so much to stress about. And I thought the pressures of Halloween were bad.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Of all the bizarre traits I’ve inherited from my mother, I believe the one that tops my inventory is my inability to say no to salespeople. I’d like to say it’s only the high pressure sales that I am vulnerable to but I have to admit it is probably just about anyone who speaks (not necessarily English) and carries a clipboard.
I’ve stopped taking my car to the dealership for oil changes to avoid being descended upon by the chump whisperers, AKA car salesmen. Twice now, I have taken my car in for an oil change only to drive off the lot in a new car. What’s even more humiliating is that I actually paid for the oil change the first time. What a lesson that was. The second time it happened, I absolutely refused to pay for the oil change on my trade in.

Two years ago, I went to a well-known dance studio just to brush up on my east coast swing and was held hostage in a sales room by two salesmen (overkill for me). I literally had to dance my way out. I ended up signing up for the platinum package which included learning the dances from the Italian renaissance, Baroque, Victorian Era and 19th and 20th century dances. I learned to dance the Waltz, Gallop, Polka, Schottische, Fox Trot, Horse Trot, Kangaroo Hop, Duck Waddle, Squirrel, Chicken Scratch, Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear, Castle Walk and Maxixe. I’m still waiting to hear back from Animal Planet regarding that guest appearance.
I don’t go to the mall anymore because it takes too much energy to walk past the kiosks offering jewelry, photos on mugs, sunglasses and dollar-a-minute massage. One word, one smile, one wave, pulls me in like the gravitational draw of the earth on the moon. I get trapped in a dimple of time and space, orbit a few turns and predictably land to make the purchase.
Last year, I took a workshop in assertiveness training in hopes to learn to say no to salespeople. What I didn’t realize is all I really needed to do is study the interaction between the sun and human influences. No kidding. The medical community has known for decades that positive airborne ions increase human moods and activity.
A.L. Tchijevsky, a Russian professor of Astronomy and Biological Physics, noticed that 80% of the most significant human events occurred during maximum sunspot activity. The solar connection to terrestrial events has been studied by scientists for decades but only recently has the focus been put on the effects that solar cycles have on human behavior.
Armed with this valuable knowledge, I am able to coordinate my activities with the aid of this fantastic new sensor I purchased. This sun monitoring system or, D.U.M. (Detecting Ultraviolet Meter) has a compact design, ultra low frequencies, and will monitor geomagnetic pulsations to alert me of solar flares (sunspots) which lower my resistance to sales pitches.
You might be interested to know that we are at the beginning of Solar Cycle 24, which will increase over the next four to six years. It is my responsibility to interpret this information and respond in the most logical way. I figure it won’t be safe for me to subject myself to potential sales threats until the year 2015.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Time Lapse

Last week I was invited to a time management seminar. I wasn’t able to attend but the question haunted me. Time management? Really? I began to wonder. Can time really be managed? That question kept repeating in my mind until evening when I went to bed. It took me awhile to get to sleep. The debate kept rolling over and over in my mind like a pair of pants in the dryer, with a quarter in one pocket.

I finally drifted off and found myself dreaming about it. I had been given the assignment of disassembling Big Ben and the sending parts out for cleaning. I took my job very seriously and demanded to see Sir Benjamin Hall, who ordered the original fourteen-ton bell in 1859. Of course, no one could put me in touch with him and I was incensed. I decided Big Ben was behind the times and searched out a new bell maker. Since I knew that the Swiss make incredibly accurate time pieces, I contacted Axel Acklin, whom I was told, comes from a long line of watchmakers and was now employed by Ryser Kentfield, one of the most well-known watchmakers in Switzerland. I felt the best way to get him on board was to show him a good time, so I hired Kala who told me her name means ‘time’ in Sanskrit. She said my request was untimely, but would see what she could do. In less than two shakes of a lamb’s tail, Axel was on the job.

Not only was he the best craftsman that money could buy, he had a thick-as-molasses Swiss accent that was extremely difficult to understand. I asked him to use his best English and he reached out and slapped me across the face. I expected to hear a smacking sound but instead it sounded like the bell that ends a round in a boxing match.

Suddenly, he was like a drill sergeant shouting out directives in perfect English. The strange thing is, he yodeled after each order.
“Hey you! 60 minutes! You might be famous on CBS, but around here you work for me! I want that big hand to be dismantled inside of an hour! And you! Sixty seconds! You may have waltzed for a minute with Chopin, but I expect you to fox trot around here, and for a whole lot longer! You, time over there, don’t start thinking you’re special because people believe you heal things! Yeah right, I suspect it’s the antibiotics. Think you’re a big shot do you? Just because you have an American magazine named after you? And where the hell did the day go? Probably out brooding about his bad hair. Has anyone ordered him to have a nice one? Come on you bunch of Nannos, is your hourglass half empty or half full?! It’s showtime, where is everyone? I’m going call attendance and when I do, you better say say present!”

I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. I could see that Axel was taking my job into realms that would have caused Sir Benjamin Hall to roll over in his grave. Big Ben had now been replaced with a Swiss Chalet Cuckoo clock complete with hand-carved figures of alp climbers in leiderhosen, beer maidens, farmers, cows and roosters. On the hour, a great green Cuckoo bird emerged from the gigantic doors and emitted a deafening cuckoo sound followed by a music box version of The Happy Wanderer.

I was aghast at the disrespect Axel had shown to one of England’s most cherished landmarks. He laughed like a sinister villain and confessed that he didn’t work for Ryser Kentfield at all, but was really a member of The Black Forest Society and had plans to steal all time from the world. Big Ben would now be known as Big Cuckoo!
Of course, I was mobbed by angry Englishmen and tossed onto the street hungry and timeless. I was begging for spare time and living in a cardboard Timex box. I was nearly unconscious when a light appeared in front of me and a figure emerged.

He said his name was Sir Benjamin Hall and he put a hand on my shoulder. His touch was electric. He asked me a question. “Can time really be gained, beat, killed, marked, kept, gained, lost, borrowed, multiplied, pressed, small, big, behind, out, in, taken, parted, filled, right, wrong, ahead of us, or managed?”

I tried to answer but all that came out of my mouth was the sound of a cuckoo.

He smiled warmly and asked, “You have a lifetime, but are you having the time of your life?”
That’s when I awoke and smiled. I finally had my answer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Third Eye Lasik

I have been made painfully aware of my much-too-concerned attitude about my physical body and social conformity. Just the other day, I was having lunch in a local café when I looked up and noticed a man was staring at me. The strange thing was that he was not looking at me through the two holes in his face that we know as eyes. He was actually gawking at me through his third eye! As if that wasn’t enough, I clearly heard his thoughts inside my own head. He was telling me that I was mentally unsteady, lacked focus and had a dread fear of amnesia. He screamed for me to just forget about what I can’t remember. I was so offended that I flicked a forkful of cole slaw at him, targeting his brow area. It worked. His spiritual vision was blocked. The café manager quickly escorted me out, but I managed to yell at the smarmy, third-eye peeping Tom, that he should have more respect for the chakra handicapped. I’m just glad I stopped him before his inner eye revealed my fear of being evaluated negatively in social situations.
It is common knowledge that we have physical and non-physical senses. Of course, I have a very strong fifth sense about these things, but activating my third-eye or what some call, the brow chakra, has been a very arduous task. I have tried gazing into the flame of a candle for an hour or two, calming my thoughts, watching my cat’s eyes to establish a meditative state and even staring at my face in the bathroom mirror for prolonged periods. It was hard to keep a straight face during this exercise, and giggling interfered with my inner peace. I felt superior when I noticed that my reflection blinked first and reveled in the victory until I realized that my ego was becoming much too involved and turned the session into an undesirable competition.
It was this state that brought me to Swami Kapesh Kumar. I found his ad in the personals while searching for my soul mate. Swami Kumar has perfected a surgical procedure as an alternative to activating the third eye by means of meditation. It involves the use of a ball-peen hammer. With one swift, forceful and nearly painless tap, he is able to dislodge the third eye from its lazy status and instantly create a glittering star-studded aura. The giddiness usually wears off within an hour after awakening, and is followed by an overwhelming sense of well-being. The only drawback is the red dot located just above the bridge of the nose. He says it should fade in time. I’ve seen this dot on middle-eastern women before, but I had no idea it was the result of third-eye lasik surgery.