Where imagination goes to die

I consider myself an imaginative person; give me a situation and I guarantee you, I can make the most of it.

Say you’re fated to hours driving down a featureless Interstate. How do you escape crushing boredom? Keep on the lookout for owls and crumbling remains of farmhouses or abandoned tuberculosis asylums. Zombified in the dentist’s waiting room? Just sit and imagine the lives of mystery and intrigue of your fellow patients.

There are, however, a few places where scope for imagination is virtually nil. Imagination deserts, if you will — places and situations where no matter how hard you put your little creative brain to the task, there is Absolutely No Stimulation Possible.

The creative juices dry completely up, and one is rendered hopelessly bereft of any entertaining anything to pass the excruciating minutes until the sunshine and stimulation come out from behind the clouds and illuminate the mindscape once more.

Exhibit 1 — The Hardware Store (Alternate title: The Bolt of Death)

I am blessed with a handy husband. He can build things, he can improve things, and he can fix things. What kinds of things? All kinds. Many, many things are fixed, constructed, destructed and otherwise assembled and disassembled in my home.

All these projects require numerous, I mean NUMEROUS, small and precisely calibrated pieces and parts to complete. And many trips to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Sometimes I go along. What does that lead to? Imagination death.

There is nothing to live for in the bolt aisle. Nothing. In vain, I cast my eyes about for some object with a connection to the real world. Something that I can work with. Some recognizable feature of the human landscape that I can relate to. There is nothing.

Instead I behold a sea of small pieces of metal in boxes with incomprehensible numbers affixed. I feel entire body systems shutting down from the lack of input. Hungrily, I look toward the bathroom fixtures, yearning for a healthier landscape where I can dream about brushing my teeth and drawing a luxurious bath in my opulent spa tub.

Exhibit 2 — The word problem to nowhere

This is an idea that I have decried for years: the senseless cruelty and unbelievably death-inducing misdirection of the mathematics word problem.

A train leaves the station at 3:15. Immediately you have my interest. Who is on it? Where is it going? Are we talking present-day Amtrak here, or is this something juicier, like a day trip to London from Downton Abbey for a quickie gynecological exam? And if not, are there suitcases involved?

Now I’m thinking about steamer trunks versus regular suitcases, and why has train travel all but disappeared, except I think California is supposed to be investigating light rail, and even pouring some money into it, but I don’t follow California politics much and … Oh. Wait. What’s this? A MATH PROBLEM?

Mother of God, what a crushing disappointment. Here I am, all interested in this little world that’s been created at the end of the chapter and I’m supposed to come up with an equation to find out when trains are going to get there based on all sorts of ridiculous variables?

Wait. There’s more:

Ella swims four times a week at her club’s pool. She swims the same number of laps on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 15 laps on Saturday. She swims a total of 51 laps each week. How many laps does she swim on Monday?

Ella. What a pretty name — why, it’s almost Ellen when you think about it. I like to swim but laps are a total drag, what with the flip turns, hello? Water in my nose! And what about when you start panting and get out of breath — in the water, no less. That’s a health hazard, not exercise.

It gets worse:

Laura is making a patio in her backyard using paving stones. She buys 44 paving stones and a flower pot worth $7 for a total of $73. How much did each paving stone cost?

Well, what color are they? Do they match the trim on her house? What kind of landscaping are we talking about here — just flowers, or are we planning an arbor of some kind? And ONE flower pot? Come on, Laura! There’s no way you’re going to have your plantings done before the first of May at this rate. And we haven’t even begun to talk about furniture.

Speaking of home improvement:

Tom, Dick, and Harry arrive early one morning at the job site and get ready to paint a huge, old, Victorian mansion. Tom, working by himself, could paint the whole house in 14 days. It would take Dick 10 days to do the job by himself. And Harry could do the job in 8 days. How long does it take for the three men to do the job working together?

This is just cruel. Huge old Victorian mansion? How huge? When was it constructed? That matters, you know, whether we’re talking about the early Victorian or late Victorian period. Do you know how much paint you’d have to buy to coat one of these suckers? A ton, that’s how much, and it costs literally thousands of dollars — and then you have to paint them again in just a couple years! Which leads to abominations like people putting aluminum siding on 100-year-old houses. SIDING.

Finally, we have this depressing piece of news:

Sarah and John leave Perryville traveling in opposite directions on a straight road. Sarah drives 12 miles per hour faster than John. After 2 hours, they are 176 miles apart. Find Sarah and John’s speeds.

There are no straight roads around Perryville. You are deep in the Boyle County countryside around Perryville, which is the site of the largest battle of the Civil War fought in the Commonwealth. It happened, as Dave Barry likes to say, on the same day all historical events occur, October 8. Listen, Sarah, why are you driving so damn fast — and what are you doing going in the opposite direction as John? Are you all going to the Battlefield or not? Don’t you care about history? John, you’re missing out on an opportunity here.

Thankfully, trips to Lowe’s are rare, dear though they be to my better half, and mercifully, I have very little call to solve mathematics word problems — though that may be changing soon. I’ve got a son soon passing from second grade to third and as he journeys on through the academic ladder, Some day he’ll probably put down roots squarely in the land of calculus or some other incomprehensible country.

Thank God I’ve got a blog is all I’ve got to say, where I can think about train trips and Victorian mansions that are populated by people, not distressing demands for mathematical computations.

And there are no trips to Perryville to plan.

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Doggone it!

I love animals. The puppies, the kitties. The horses. As a kid, I went to camp every year, and rode away in to the sunset aboard many a noble steed, on paths now overgrown with Northern Kentucky development, but when I was a wee lass, were the woods and wilds of Camp Marydale.

I had a paper route in the seventh grade, and in addition to packing my papers into the route bag, I also filled my pockets with Milk Bones, ready to feed the hordes of strays and their most-likely owned brethern who followed me around. That year, I determined I would grow up, go to college and become a veterinarian, and bolstered by reading every installment of the James Heriott All Creatures Great and Small books, knew I was meant to be the savior of all animal-kind.

Then I ran up against college calculus and, unsurprisingly, kept taking classes in English and political science and wound up the writer type personage you see before you today.

But I never gave up loving the puppies, the kitties. The Internet explosion of Teh Cute shows me that I’m not alone, but frankly I think things have gone a little too far.

Story time. The other day, someone dropped by NouveauSoileau, made a few comments and made me smile, so I checked out her blog. I was amused by the name,  I Don’t Get It, and it bears the helpful tag line “Things That Don’t Make Sense.”

How many, many things could fall into that category.

So as I was trudging through the Wal-mart Sunday, laying in the weekly supplies of all the healthy, nutritious foodstuffs I provide on a daily basis to my teeming horde, I beheld a sight which made me think of her.

“I don’t get it,” I thought to myself.

Seriously, WTF
WTF

“Here is a thing that Does. Not. Make. Sense.”

This is dog food. Food for dogs, and cats apparently, that is FRESH. It also, as you can see, is SELECT. It obviously is CHOICE and meant for the pwecious widdle pups and dwarling witty kitties which now make up pets in America and frankly, I am OMG about it.

I have been a tad OMG over pet ownership for a little while; a couple years ago I was irritated by ad in Southern Living I think it was, featuring big doe-eyed doggies begging MOM to do, or not do, something. “Mom, buy me this dog food,” or “Mom, please get me this flea collar.” I would look these furry faces straight in the eye and say, “I gave birth to human beings, not animals, pal — don’t you even DARE call me ‘mom!'”

My growling didn’t have much effect on a print ad, but it made me feel better.

Now I’m confronted by pet-food manufacturers who have installed refrigerators in the dog-food aisle containing some sort of fresh meat and, apparently, people are buying it.

They’re also the type of people, I’d say, who are buying these.

Dog dresses, 2013

Dog dresses. With bows and flowers. For dogs.

Of course I’ve seen the little sweaters and even T-shirts you can shove onto your schnauzer; everyone has, for years. But this, this is just too much.

Dogs aren’t people, people. They’re animals. Yes, they’re wonderful companions, yes they bring a lot of joy to a lot of people. Yes, I am for the kind and humane treatment of animals. But I have to say I am not for the ridiculous expenditures Americans with more money than sense are obviously making at Wal-mart and other places to feed and dress their dogs better than many, many humans are fed and clothed both here and around the world.

Sure, spend your money on stupid stuff, we’ve all got our vices *cough*shoes*cough. But I’m still going to point, laugh, and drag out my internet acronyms and WTF and OMG my way down the aisle with a side dose of I Don’t Get It. It’s one of those things, the blogosphere has taught us, that Just Don’t Make Sense.

If you like it, put a ring through it

In December, my daughter turned 18. In October, I’ll turn 50. Oh, how old I feel.

Aging sucks but, as they say, it beats the alternative, so I’m attempting to embrace it with good grace. Part of that good grace is accepting the reality of my first statement, which is I am actually the mother of an adult-age human being. And being such, she announced that in honor of her birthday, she’d like to do “something 18.”

Uh-oh, I thought, steeling myself for a discussion about tattoos. But no, she had her sights set on piercing her nose. So what ensued thereafter was a long amusing conversation wherein I questioned her desire to be tagged like an animal, and indicated that my approval would only be forthcoming if she’d consent to have the procedure completed by a qualified veterinarian.

Unsurprisingly, she wasn’t particularly amused.

But after torturing her a bit, we agreed that the piercing would be accepted, but only after I’d extracted the promise that she wouldn’t nag, cajole, beg, or plead that I agree to a tattoo and the subject was taboo until such time that she’d both earned a college degree and was self-supporting.

And lo, it was decreed that a piercing of the nostril shall occur.

We hied ourselves to Bleed Blue Tattoo and Piercing, a dubious choice based upon the name alone. Seriously, can’t people in Lexington name a business without inserting indecorous body parts, functions and fluids? Apparently not. But to explain a bit for those without the benefit of living where I do, “bleed blue” refers to the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the local religion which inspires in its fans a stigmata of fresh blue blood.

In our company with the piercee, Claire, was her beau fantastique, Graham, and sightseer brother, Christopher.

Here we are, ensconced in Chez Bleed Blue, awaiting the piercing by one Zak, a multi-tattooed and pierced personage who, truly, was a delight to meet. I asked him about his facial piercings, which he referred to as “surface” piercings, which I misunderstood as “circus” piercings. Ha, ha! But no matter, turns out Zak actually IS a member of a circus, and serves as ringmaster for a small local troupe.

And so we proceeded with the procedure. These photos, by the way, were ably snapped by the aforementioned Graham on his iPhone, and don’t represent the breadth of his photographic ability. Boy’s good; look at his website and you’ll see.

Zak sterilizes the area:

Zak crams a long, dangerous looking needle up into her nose:

And finally, Zak tags the young heifer … ahem, excuse me, places the nose decor into the nostril of the 18-year-old young lady:

As you can see, it’s a painful and horrifying experience, especially for the mother/witness.

Aw! Poor pierced pup!

Honestly, the whole thing didn’t alarm me very much; I myself possess several piercings, though all are confined to the ears. I just have five, and they’re in the usual places: the lobes and one perched at the top of my left ear. Years of allergies and the accompanying dripping and sneezing have rendered me totally without interest in poking holes and jewelry into my own tender nose.

But as you can see, a puncture wound seems to have made this gal happy.

May she forever be moooooved by the experience.

That’s the way I like it

I’ve been thinking of going vegetarian again. It’s been nearly nine years since I fell off the veggie wagon, which I rode happily for about a decade previously.

Barcode me baby
Food Inc.

I wasn’t a PETA pusher. I wasn’t a Food Inc. convert. I wasn’t even especially doing it for any sort of diet benefits. Initially, I just got sick of the taste of meat, and the idea of going without struck me as something interesting to do, something that required some discipline, and something that might be good for me.

On the whole, it was. I liked being vegetarian for all these reasons, and I liked that I felt more energetic. I had no trouble with my weight. But, as I say, this was nearly 20 years ago and when you’re 30, or at least when  *I* was 30, keeping weight off wasn’t any problem at all. Now, eh. I weigh a lot more than I’m comfortable with, and, remembering how good I felt when I wasn’t consuming animals, I’m thinking I might do it again.

But things are different now. Tras, while a good sport in general, isn’t a bit interested in giving up meat. He’ll eat some meatless meals, and no matter what I do he’ll support me … but he just isn’t interested in giving up his PETA status — People Eating Tasty Animals. And hey, I do admit, even in my veggie years, I found it hard to resist pepperoni, of all things. Trassie, who’s 8, is a grazer and eats probably 60 percent of what I cook. He’s more malleable but he’s still in that “I hate X” phase, where X  represents anything the recalcitrant child has never tasted before.

So there’s that. In the previous vegetarian years, my older two, Claire and Christopher, were in the macaroni and chicken nugget years; that’s about all they’d consume.

They did eat a lot of bean burritos, too, but what they were eating was easy to whip up, and I could make my stuff separate, any way I wanted to. Their dad covered his own food.

Now, I like to cook and experiment. I do enjoy making some meats; cooking a whole turkey for 20 at Thanksgiving, for instance, was interesting. I once made roasted goat thanks to the generosity of a Muslim neighbor, who knew I’d like it when she found out I’d cooked and eaten lamb in the past.

In a valiant effort to create something the whole family might enjoy, I dreamed up a vegetarian enchilada casserole, which bears only a passing resemblance to a genuinely Mexican dish. But it turned out great. Both Tras the husband and Tras the son liked it, as did Christopher the Beginning to Eat a Whole Lot More Variety Now That He’s 15. It hasn’t yet been tested on Claire, who these days dines most often in the company of Mssr. Le Boyfriend.

So here, my friends, is the recipe. Give it a try and see if you like it as much as we did. It sort of looks long and involved, but truly it’s not. Bon apetite!

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

8-9 small corn tortillas
1 can red beans, drained & rinsed
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 container large curd cottage cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
3 tsp onion salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground sea salt
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh spinach
1 small can sliced black olives
Shredded cheddar
Red pepper flakes
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Sliced green onions
Plain yogurt or sour cream
Queso blanco or feta

In medium mixing bowl, stir together tomatoes, beans, cottage cheese, cheeses, eggs, and spices, reserving 1 tsp onion salt.  Set aside.

Coat bottom and sides of oblong glass baking dish (8×10) with oil or cooking spray

Wrap tortillas in damp paper towels; microwave for 30 to 45 seconds until soft. Lay 4 tortillas in the bottom, overlapping as necessary.

Spoon half the bean mixture over tortillas. Layer half the sliced zucchinis over mixture, top with spinach.

Place next layer of tortillas over spinach and press into place. Layer remaining zucchini and the rest of the bean mixture.

Top with some shredded cheddar, olives, queso blanco (or feta), red pepper flakes and onion salt.

Cover with foil and bake in 375-degree oven for 1 hour, removing foil after 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice into squares.

Serve topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and fresh tomatoes and green onions.

6-8 servings