Saturday, September 23, 2006

Guest Blogger: Kim Strickland

Kim Strickland is a pilot for a major airline, a novelist, and a mother of twin boys. Her novel "Wish Club" is about a women's book group that reads a novel about witchcraft and tries one of the spells for fun, only to have the spell actually work. Nuttiness and mayhem ensue. ("Wish Club" is coming in 2007 from Three Rivers Press, a division of Crown Publishing Group.)

Kim is the yin (City Mom) to my yang (Suburban Man). In our dueling columns we've discovered that the only real difference between us is our area codes. Oh, and I think she's a chick, too. And a mom. Check out some of her other great columns if you get a chance: (City Mom)

"Time Sinks"

By Kim Strickland

I was up to my elbows in thorns and roses and madder than a hornet to boot. I was stuck in a time-sink project.

The trellises holding my rosebushes had fallen down—thanks to a thunderstorm the night before. We had company coming over in three hours. Our icemaker was busted and we needed ice. And the inside of my house looked like the after-effect of George Bush’s foreign policy. The last thing I needed was a time-sink, but there I was, wrestling with a rosebush, watching precious time slip.

My friend Deb was the first person I ever heard use the term “time-sink project.” I immediately latched on to it. I don’t know if she made it up or heard it somewhere else, but it was a term that didn’t need explaining. Time-sink projects filled my days.

A broken car. Or a pipe that bursts. Perfect examples of time-sinks. By definition, the worst part about a time-sink is when you’re finished, you’re not ahead, but merely back where you started.

Time-sinks are frustrating, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that they began to enrage, rather than just frustrate me. I remember going out to the garage to change a car seat that had been peed in. I wasn’t mad at the son who’d done it—these things happen to newly potty-trained boys. (Well, okay, maybe I was a little mad.) But I was furious at the Chrysler Corporation and their stupid tether-strap latch that I couldn’t get loose. I was mad at Graco, the company that made the car seat, for making their tether strap hook so incompatible with Chrysler’s latch. I was mad that this project was taking longer than it should have—longer than I’d anticipated—and that something that should have been so simple had become so difficult and that I’d been completely stymied before I could even complete the first step: remove car seat from car.

I cried over that car seat. I sat in the back of the Jeep swearing and crying over a piece of furniture and I remember thinking, “It’s finally happened. I’ve lost the rest of my mind.”

I was at that point with my roses: distraught that the trellises refused to stay up despite my repeated efforts and that one of the main canes had splintered beyond repair. I was repeatedly getting scratched with thorns and was starting to look like I’d been in a reality-TV show catfight. A thorn had broken-off in my thumb, the sharp end embedded in it like a splinter and I couldn’t pull it out. As I swore and ranted in the backyard I wanted to blame anyone or anything else. I was acting so crazy it’s since made me wonder if it were more than a coincidence that, two days later, the for-sale sign went up in my next-door neighbor’s front yard.

My husband, on the way to the store for ice, stopped to help. His calmness, his analytic approach and his understanding at my frustration was the marital equivalent of pulling the thorn from the lion’s paw.

I wish I could be that calm in the face of a time-sink. Perhaps it's because he doesn’t have to deal with as many of them as I do. He spends his days in the business world—used to results. Or maybe he’s just used to being in a world where everything is a time sink.

Regardless, we’re all busy. We want our projects to produce results.

I suppose I could have left the rose bushes sagging, taken care of them the day after the party. But that splintered cane—it broke my heart. I took it, cut the end clean, dipped it in rooting compound and stuck it in the ground, tying the branches up along the fence. It looked beautiful that night and although I ended up cutting back most of it, the cane is still green in the ground. Perhaps it will survive. A positive time-sink result.

At the party that night, a friend said to me, “Your roses are so beautiful, I could weep.”

I smiled, said, “Thank you,” and told him sometimes, they made me weep, too.

If you'd like to read any previous guest bloggers, including Kim's three previous posts, click here:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Half Empty: Middle Age Nursery Rhymes

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

"Middle Age Nursery Rhymes"

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

As parents of young children, we have to read the original versions of the following nursery rhymes all the time. They were no longer speaking to our generation, so we've updated them. Feel free to contribute some of your own.

Humpty Dumpty put up dry wall,
Humpty Dumpty tried to install,
All the kings ransom soon left his house,
And Humpty was left with a told-you-so spouse

Middle Aged Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
His stomach went numb, so he ate some Tums
And ruined his diverticuli

Old Billy Joel,
Ran into a poll,
And registered 1.3,
He called up his guy,
For his third DUI,
And Old Billy Joel copped a plea

Jack was nimble, Jack was quick
Jack bent over and slipped a disk

All around the young girl’s desk,
The old boss chases Tammy,
And just when she gets into his range,
Pop! Goes his hammy.

Little Miss Muffet (pronounced Muf-fey)
sat at a Buffet,
Eating too many trays,
when along came her mother,
Who looked down upon her
And frightened Miss Muffet away

The itsy bitsy bladder,
Had an unblocked route,
But up came the prostate,
And soon it trickled out,
Back in his bed,
He fell asleep and then,
The itsy bitsy bladder,
Felt so full again.

One, two, it must be the flu,
Three, four, your body is sore,
Five, six, your stomach kicks,
Seven, eight, something you ate?
Nine, ten, pregnant again.

If you'd like to read any previous "Half Empty" columns, click here:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Suburban Man: An interview with the 53rd President of the United States

By Rick Kaempfer

He’s still refining his political positions, but you have to give four year old Sean Harrison Kaempfer credit—he’s not merely the creation of a worn out Washington political consultant. No sir, on his fourth birthday (Today!), Mr. Kaempfer has some definite positions on the issues facing American society. His opinions may change slightly between now and the day he is sworn in as the 53rd President of the United States of America, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Ed’s note: The actual questions in his native language (“Four year old”) are in italics .

R: Mr. Kaempfer, what would you do if you were elected President?
(What would you do if you were the king of the world?)

SEAN: “I would make really big gigantic parks and turn all of the people into big gigantic yo-yos. And I would make it rain all the time. And I would drain rocks and swing from curtains.”

R: What is your national defense strategy?
(When is it OK to fight?)

SEAN: “If somebody wants to battle, it’s OK. If they take your toys, you have to say give it back please, and if they don’t give it back you have to chase them until they give it back, and then you smash them and battle. Then you make them hearts and say you’re sorry.”

R: What is your position on welfare?
(Should we help the poor children who don’t have any toys?)

SEAN: “Kids should go to the bank and get the money to buy toys. Or they could come to our garage sale. We have toys.”

R: Where do you come down on the issue of executive authority?
(Other than grown-ups, who is the boss?)

SEAN: “God is the boss. He is in heaven playing with cool computers that you don’t even have to touch anything. It happens by itself. He puts everyone else in the recycle bin.”

R: What is the solution to our education problems?
(How long do you think kids should stay in school?)

SEAN: “Kids should stay in school like five minutes.”

R: What do you think is the biggest problem with our health care system?
(What do you think about hospitals?)

SEAN: “Hospitals are boring because they always want to fix stuff instead of watching a DVD or playing in the rain or in the forest.”

R: Thank you, sir. I hope you run a clean campaign.
(Time for a bath now)

SEAN: “I’m not dirty!”

There it is, in the record books. The first official interview of our 53rd president. I’m sure he’ll later claim his quotes were taken out of context, so I have kept the tape recording of this interview to validate it.

As for his political leanings, I thought I had him figured out, but his first and last answers threw me off a little bit. I had him pegged as a conservative/libertarian, but he apparently has a little green streak in him too.

Sean Harrison Kaempfer cannot be pigeonholed into one ideology, but will never leave any doubts about where he stands, because he will not hesitate to express his views over and over and over again. His campaign motto is: “You may not like me, but I’m never, ever, going to stop talking. Ever.”

He has my vote in 2044.

And if I still live in Chicago, I’ll be able to vote for him twice.


If you want to read any previous Suburban Man columns, click here: