Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Me Walk Pretty One Day

Oh, dear. Val is unbalanced again.

It all started in class yesterday, on that wonderful day of days, the late parent conference night. Not that the parents are late. They show up right on time, as soon as our ordered-in supper has been removed from the bag and set before us. No, it mainly started with a headache, which may or may not be related to the anticipation of being at work for 12 hours.

As soon as first bell rang, I headed for the hall to supervise young ‘uns rushing to class. On my way, I carried some assignments that needed returning to some former absentees. One young lady came in as I was headed out.

“Oh, here are some papers that I handed back while you were absent.” Of course I held them out, and expected her to grasp them and continue to her seat. But since we are working with kids, our expectations are never fully realized. She continued to her desk all right, like a homing pigeon returning to its home. And stood there. Expectantly.

Far be it from Val to dash a young girl’s expectations. I turned to foist the papers on her, had to lean a little bit, because she was rooted to that desk like youngster holding his place along a parade route with a Walmart sack waiting for candy. As I reached and leaned, something inside me snapped. Something inside my left knee, to be specific. Sad situation when reaching and leaning are equivalent to an iron man competition for Val Thevictorian.

As the day progressed, that knee practiced tricks. I could be strolling along, minding my own business, thinking I was going to put one foot in front of the other without even thinking. Knee had other ideas. Like collapsing as an overtired toddler might do in the middle of a hardware store, becoming boneless, or doing the “dead dog” as my brother-in-law the ex-mayor used to say when his kids were toddlers. So I grew cautious, and stepped gingerly.

This morning I could barely walk. The one not-so-bad knee was now the bad knee, making the former bad knee the almost-as-bad knee. You can’t limp when both legs want to debate who is weakest. So I made my way through the house like Frankenstein learning to walk. Like a sweet potato in a root experiment that escaped its plastic cup, teetering about on toothpick legs. Like Babe Ruth (less the 12 hot dogs and 8 sodas that he consumed between games of a double header) waddling toward home plate. Like Hick stumping around on ankle bones with no feet, which is how he sounds walking overhead when I’m in my dark basement lair.

The bones of my knees felt like one big mortar and pestle, grinding a light bulb to small shards. WAIT! I can’t do that. I take it back. For the love of science, knee joints are not like a mortar and pestle! That would be our friend the hip, with its ball and socket. No, my knee joints felt like two pestles grinding a light bulb to small shards. You know how chicken bones have that smooth white cartilage at the ends of the leg and thigh bones? Mine is like shredded coconut.

Of course my doctor says this has nothing to do with my blood-thinner medicine. Like I’ve been virtually unable to walk all these years, not just since I started that poison at the end of May. Since which time any little injury swells and burns and aches to beat the band.

I guess I’ll just have to stop handing back assignments.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Terrible Cuts Defies the Laws of Physics

Is it humanly possible to cut hair so that it is longer than when one began snipping? YES! But only at the Terrible Cuts frequented by Val Thevictorian.

The Pony and I stopped in Sunday morning after our weekly shopping excursion. I should have known something was amiss when I saw the diaper laying on the waiting chairs. Yes. A diaper. Not a dirty diaper. Not one of those disposables that clogs the environment. Nope. A cloth diaper. Of the kind one might toss over a shoulder for burping purposes. Burping an infant, of course. Let’s hope no adult has burps of such magnitude that a catch-all is required. I turned to The Pony. “You can sit over there by your diaper.” He was not amused.

The Pony has never been attached to a cloth diaper. That was Genius. He used a cloth diaper as his security blanket until he was about 2 years old. Yeah. Maybe I had a hand in that. After all, when the object of his affection grew dirty, I switched it out with another. Easy peasy. Genius called it his “ine.” He might possibly show up on My Strange Addiction someday, confessing that he loves the taste of bleach, because he used to chew on that “ine” mercilessly.

Discussing Genius’s toddlerhood peccadillos is not rendering my hair any shorter. But funny thing is, neither did getting my hair cut!

As luck, or Even Steven’s grand plan, or the conspiring universe would have it, I was called for the first haircut. The Pony cooled his hooves far from the abandoned diaper. I should have known I was in for a Twilight-Zone-episodesque treat when The Cutter asked if I was letting my layers grow out. I assumed she meant my hair layers, not the ever-expanding adipose layers that make Val her zaftig self. Since this was the same cutter who cut me at my last cutting, shouldn’t she have been able to discern layers where layers should have been? And not assume that I was growing them out like old-lady Cher, to one length suitable for sitting upon?

The Cutter said, “Oh, you want an inch off?” Normally, I tell them 1-2, but since telling them an inch means they hack off a mile, I nodded. You know. One last chance to move my head before the slashing started. And that’s when it got weird.

I know The Cutter cut off cuttings. Stuff fell to the floor. It could only have been my tresses. I don’t think cutters carry throw-downs like cops, just to provide evidence that they have actually cut off some hair for the payment. The Cutter pulled down on the bottom strands. Compared in the mirror to see if the coiffure or my head was lopsided. Then she asked how I comb my bangs. At least she didn’t ask IF I comb my bangs. “Do you normally comb them over to the side like this?”


Then The Cutter proceeded to slice from my bangs a hank the exact thickness of a gnat’s wing, while they were swooped over in a tasteful alignment that favors my lovely lady-mullet. Except that no cutter ever, in the history of cutting, including this cutter the last time she cut me, has ever trimmed my bangs with them combed in my normal manner. The cutters always pull some hair up on top of my head, and comb those bangs down straight, using my eyebrows, which are starting to favor those of the late Andy Rooney, as a benchmark for trimming. Apparently, there has been a policy change in the manner of cutting bangs at Terrible Cuts.

I swear, when I looked in the mirror at home, after the frou-frou blow-out comb-out had wilted on my head, I could not tell that my hair had been cut. In the shower the next morning, it actually felt LONGER than it did the day before. How can that be? In what bizarro world is hair longer after a haircut? Only in Val Thevictorian’s world, it seems.

So here I am, parading my lengthened hair for all to see at parent conferences. If I don’t have many visitors, I am going to begin working on Val’s Theory of Cut-a-tivity. There has to be a reasonable explanation. I smell a Nobel Prize simmering on the back burner.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Now With More Backstory!

Remember the days when you could pick up a free pen at the bank? Like those umbrellas George Costanza takes from canisters just inside the door of diners, libraries, and retail establishments? Ah…the salad days of pen procurement, before they were chained down like frigates anticipating a nor’easter before deployment.

Not only must we buy our pens now, but they come with their own story. Like svelte, ink-piddling Cabbage Patch Dolls. I had no idea until yesterday, when I bought adopted the newest additions to my writing family, a package deal of ebony octuplets. Little was I aware that their foster family, the PaperMates, had an agenda. And that the little squirts had a story:

The InkJoy Story

Our mission was simple: To develop a revolutionary ink system that would give you the best in effortless writing. We wanted to give you a pen that starts quickly without dragging, requires minimal pressure from your hand, and delivers crisp, clean lines every time. But most of all, we wanted to bring back the joy of writing, so it felt right to call it InkJoy. We hope that you feel the joy whenever you write with an InkJoy pen. Share your InkJoy experiences with us at to receive special offers.

Yeah. Right there on the back of the package. And it’s also in French: L’histoire de InkJoy.

I will admit that those octuplets are smooth. Not that I write with them all at once. But here’s the catch. They are…how you say…um…not wanting to send them into the throes of anorexia…a bit on the portly side. I am used to those clogging, recalcitrant WriteBrothers. Though stick-thin, they leave a bit to be desired in ink joy. Their ink is as clotty as Val’s blood last May.

One thing I’ll say for those WriteBrothers: they wear a cap well. In fact, their cap lends itself to other uses, notably being to dig into one’s ear when there’s an itch that a pinky-finger can’t reach. It’s like an extra-long, pencil-thin bill on their cap. The InkJoys, on the other hand, wear a cap like Gilligan. It’s jammed onto their penheads with no appreciable sticking-out-ness. The clip-on part of the cap is flat, and lays alongside the cap itself. No jutting out for ear-reaming. And that clip had a little flare at the end, like That Girl Marlo Thomas’s hair flip.

But getting back to the stockiness of these husky InkJoys...they are a handful. Hard to grip. Val is not a ham-fisted giant, fee-fie-foe-fumming all willy-nilly throughout the livelong day. She has normal hands. The smoky clear hard plastic is difficult to grip. It feels like three sides, but actually has six sides, with a little bevel between each of the three main surfaces. Val does not want to grip a prism while she writes. Her wrist tendons are screaming out with carpal tunnel syndrome every time she picks up one of those big boys.

I will not send back my new octuplets. So they're a bit hefty and thick, and not good for excavating ear wax. They have a story to tell, by cracky!

Yeah. I really like the way those InkJoys roll.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Val, the GIVER, is Given the Stink-Eye

Oh, how the worm has turned!

Val Thevictorian is no longer the life of the party, dancing merrily upon the faculty lunch table, a lampshade adorning her noggin, inciting all to good will and merriment. Now she is shunned, looked-at askance, persona non grata during the feedbag-strapping interlude.

Okay. So I never was the center of discussions with this group. My heyday has come and gone. I mostly chow down and clam up, not wanting to stir the pot, content to simmer silently and release my steam later. I sometimes nod in agreement. Add a pertinent fact, as long as it's something they could sip from the well of common knowledge, nothing robust that might leave a bad taste in their mouth.

It all started innocently enough. Somebody sipped coffee too quickly and coughed. Then another offered that the worst pain she ever had was when she took a drink of her piping hot coffee and sneezed some out her nose. And I saw an opening. A chance to contribute. Did I tell the story of my own high school lunch table, when I, the future valedictorian, sat across from an albino who laughed so hard at my joke that she shot a chili bean out her porcelain nostril? No. I did not tell that, because I feared that somebody might find such a tale off-putting. I did, however, use the moment to educate my dining companions on a recent bit of news from the world of science. Because I'm a giver like that.

"Hey! Did you see that story in the news yesterday? This lady went on vacation to some tropical country, and she kept having nosebleeds. She was kind of worried, but she didn't want to ruin her vacation. It wasn't a lot of blood, just a couple of drops here and there. She saw a little blob of congealed blood up in her nostril, kind of peeping out, but she did not want to dislodge it in case that would start a worse nosebleed. So she just left it alone, didn't pick at it, snorted it back in. As soon as she got back from vacation, she went to the doctor, and he pulled a 3-inch leech out of her nostril. He said she must have had it for about a month, and it kept getting bigger and bigger."

Well. You can't imagine how un-sciency and uninformed my colleagues are. The coffee snorter looked at me in pained horror. The dude who chews open-mouthed and rolls that food around on his tongue like a hot dog on a 7-Eleven Big Bite warmer closed his mouth and frowned at me. The gal who alternates meals of Ramen and Brach's Chocolate Covered Peanuts looked at me like "WTF?" And the one on my left who once squirted a tomato all over my shirt cupped her hand over her mouth like she might be refunding her lunch.

Seriously. I sit at that table and listen to their tales of their kids vomiting and how pink slime is used in fast food hamburgers and worm protein is in Taco Bell meat, and I don't have a conniption. Let the record show that only the worm-protein-cryer nodded that she, too, had read that story. It's not like I said that woman ATE the leech that the doctor pulled out of her nose. I don't know why they have to get all squeamish about nature.

I've half a mind not to share the scientific breakthrough in feces transplants. Did you hear? NOW the loose-boweled patients can take their feces transplant in a frozen capsule form. I don't know how they did it before, but this seems like it could only be an improvement.

For the strong of heart. The leech. Not the feces.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Okay, So It's 13 Days Early...

The Pony ran down the stairs to my dark basement lair this afternoon as soon as he returned from his bowling league. I could tell he was excited by the clunk of his hooves on the steps. I figured he must have bowled really well. Last week he had a 174 for one of his three games. Let the record show that Hick's bowling average has been 164 for about 20 years of league bowling.

"Hey, Mom!"

"Did you bowl a good game?"

"I did okay. Look what we found in the garage!" He flipped on the fluorescent office lights that Hick scavenged from some auction or dismantled office, and thrust his cell phone at the end of my nose.

"Wait! There's a glare. And that's WAY too close to my face."


"No! It's still too close. I have my glasses on. Back off."

(SIGH) "NOW can you see it?"

"Yeah. What IS it? I have no idea what you're showing me."

"It's in the garage!"

"So...I can't tell what it is. It looks like a toy laying on a box."

"Duh! It's on the vent. Right over where you clang your door into the two-by-four every day. IT'S A BAT!"


"Haha. We don't know how long it's been there."

"Did Dad get it down?"

"Don't know. He's still outside. He's going to run electric to his barbershop."

A couple hours later, I sent The Pony to the garage to carry in a box of canned goods that I bought at Save a Lot.

"Mom. You'll be glad to know that I did not see the bat when I was in the garage. However...I heard a scritching noise when I came out. It could have been a bug...or it could have been the bat. It just didn't sound like any bug I've heard before."

I really need one of those clear plastic rain hat thingies folded up like a paper fan and stuffed in a plastic sheath that my mom used to carry in her purse when I was a kid. I'll bet she still has a supply.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Out of the Mouth of the Elder, and Into the Mouth of Youth

Sometimes I feel the need to sit my students down, near the tennis-balled feet of my walker, adjust my shawl, add a little extra Poligrip to my upper plate, harrumph a couple of times, and tell them stories of the olden days. Just this morning I had that urge.

"Mrs. Thevictorian? What's a calm zone?"

"Uh. I don't know. You mean, like a weather kind of thing? Or a room where you go to calm down, like giving yourself a timeout?"

"Huh? How can we eat THAT?"

"EAT it?"

"Yeah. It's on the menu for lunch today. And I want to know if I'll like it."

"Oh. CALZONE! It' a Hostess fruit pie with pizza inside. Not an actual slice of pizza. Pizza flavoring. For the filling. And the crust is like pizza crust."

Thank goodness some of the young whippersnappers put it in terms she could understand.
"You'll like it. It's like a Hot Pocket with pizza sauce inside."

"Oh. I'm going to try it. Where did they ever come up with a name like CALZONE?"

"Well...I'm pretty sure it was named for the Italian food that's called a calzone."

I don't know why she looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shocking, But True!

I received a jolt Monday evening when I entered the Thevictorian palace. A shock as strong as smelling salts. But it was not salt I was smelling.

“Pony!” What’s that smell? It’s like CLEANER!”

“I know! I smelled it too!”

“I can’t imagine what that would be. Your dad went in late to work because he had a doctor’s appointment. But it doesn’t look like he cleaned the kitchen. What IS that?”

“I don’t know. But it smells clean.”

“Yeah. So unlike our house. The sink hasn’t been scrubbed. What can that be? Go check the bathrooms. Maybe he decided to pour some Lysol in the toilets.”

“I just went in mine. It wasn’t that. I’ll check yours.”

I put away my school stuff and tried to place that smell.

“Hey, Mom! It WAS your bathroom. But I can’t tell what he did. I think he cleaned the sink and the tub.”

“I KNOW WHAT IT IS! FLOOR CLEANER! He must have mopped the bathroom floor!”

“Yeah. He could have done that.”

Good thing I was revitalized by that strong clean smell, or I might have fainted dead away. My sweet baboo MOPPED THE BATHROOM FLOOR! And CLEANED THE SINK AND TUB! I’ve gotta get him more appointments. I even sent him a text thanking him for his trouble. He was working late because of the doctor’s appointment. As luck or fate would have it, I was asleep in the basement recliner when he came home, and he was asleep when I went to bed.

It was not until he had left the next morning, and I was putting the finishing touches on the raving beauty that is Val, that I noticed something different about my toothbrush. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. There it lay, as it lays every morning, on the back of the toothbrush holder. Let the record show that Val’s toothbrush, as all toothbrushes in the Thevictorian household, are too rotund to fit into the holes that hold normal-BMI toothbrushes. Also let the record show that there are three toothbrushes on our holder, even though only two of us use that bathroom. Somewhere down the line, somebody got out a new toothbrush without discarding the old. Of course it wasn’t me.

Here’s the thing. I can’t remember which color toothbrush I had been using. After all, I just had to reach for it, and it was there. No need to pay attention. So when I grabbed the one from my special place, I momentarily was discombobulated. Was my toothbrush blue? Or was it red? I KNEW it wasn't orange. I hate orange like Lou Grant hates spunk. Here was a blue/green one from my toothbrush location. Yet the bristles looked all flayed and frayed at the end. I was already in mid-brush when the thought hit me that it might be HICK’s toothbrush in my mouth. THE HORROR! Like when Lucy van Pelt realized that she had suddenly come down with a case of dog germs.

I yanked open the drawer and grabbed a new toothbrush. A tasteful two-toned gray fellow. I tossed that blue one in the wastebasket. I hope it had not been swimming in the toilet after an errant elbow from Hick. That would be a clever trick, though, with the toilet being about ten feet from the sink. What if Hick had really been in the cleanliness mode, and used it to scrub the tile? Or the base of the toilet! Icky poo!

Last night, I asked Hick if he had moved the toothbrushes. “Well, I moved them to clean the holder.”

“Did you rearrange the order?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I don’t want to be brushing my teeth with YOUR toothbrush!”

“You know I always brush mine in the shower. My toothbrush is on top of the shower door.”

“Okay. I guess it was mine. But it looked old and worn.”

“I don’t know what you do. Mine is on the shower.”

Uh huh. I know he has used my toothpaste on the sink in the last several months. I doubt the carried his toothbrush from the shower.

I need to go throw away those other two toothbrushes on the holder. Just in case.