Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jokes, in the middle of the week

The little church in the suburbs
The little church in the suburbs suddenly stopped buying from its regular office supply dealer. So, the dealer telephoned Deacon Brown to ask why.

“I'll tell you why,” shouted Deacon Brown. “Our church ordered some pencils from you to be used in the pews for visitors to register.”

“Well,” interrupted the dealer, “didn't you receive them yet?”

“Oh, we received them all right,” replied Deacon Brown. “However, you sent us some golf pencils...each stamped with the words, ‘Play Golf Next Sunday.’”

Tree Problem
Last October a wife bought a magnolia tree from the local nursery, but after only a few weeks the leaves shriveled. It appeared to be on its last legs. She took some leaf samples and marched into the nursery to demand an explanation.

"I know exactly what's wrong with your magnolia," said the manager.

"Good," said the wife. "What's it suffering from?"

"Autumn," he replied.

Magic of the Internet
Nancy and Steph decided to introduce Nancy’s elderly mother to the magic of the Internet. Their first move was to access the popular Ask Jeeves website, and they told her it could answer any question she had.

Nancy's mother was very skeptical until Nancy said, "It's true, Mom. Think of something to ask it."

As Steph sat with fingers poised over the keyboard, Nancy's mother thought a minute, then responded, "How is Aunt Helen feeling?"

Cowboy Boots
Anyone who has ever dressed a child will love this one!

Did you hear about the Texas teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots? He asked for help & she could see why.

Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn't want to go on. Finally, when the 2nd boot was on, she had worked up a sweat.

She almost cried when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet." She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the right feet.

He then announced, "These aren't my boots."
She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, "Why didn't you say so?" like she wanted to. And, once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet.

No sooner they got the boots off and he said, "They're my brother's boots. My Mom made me wear 'em."

Now she didn't know if she should laugh or cry. But, she mustered up the grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again.

Helping him into his coat, she asked, "Now, where are your mittens?"

He said, "I stuffed 'em in the toes of my boots."

Her trial starts next month.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

How to Simplify Your Life

Here's a way to simplify your life: from the Utne Reader


The last word: I’m no decider

Overwhelmed by too many choices, writer T.M. Shine came up with a novel solution: Henceforth, all his decisions would be made by strangers. That turned out to be the best decision he’s ever made.

This social experiment had to begin with doughnuts. They have always been my downfall. Not because of the fat, floury contents or the mortality-threatening sugar count, but because I can never decide which dozen to order in the intense pressure of a crowded Dunkin’ Donuts. I start to drown in a torrent of rushed decisions and false moves, with nothing to look forward to but inevitable dissatisfaction with the choices I’ve made; the act has always been a metaphor for my life.

At some point, it occurred to me that my problem wasn’t really doughnuts.

It was making decisions.

These days, there are so many choices to labor through, from the most basic, such as paper or plastic at the grocery checkout counter, to the nearly suicide-inducing, such as the friends-and-family plan or unlimited texting. And don’t even get me started on undercoating or extended warranties.

In these tough times, the abundance of life-changing decisions—finances, health care, career moves—can be overwhelming. But don’t take it from me. Ask the guy who wrote the book The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making. That would be Scott Plous, a psychology professor at Wesleyan University. “There’s no question that we have more choices than ever before,” Plous agreed. “And decisions are generally harder and more time-consuming when there are lots of alternatives.”

Even Steve Jobs, whose technology allows us the misery of 18,000 music selections in our pockets, has to counteract so many choices by wearing the same outfit—blue jeans, black turtleneck, New Balance sneakers—every single day of his life. With every move you make, you’re bombarded with predicaments from the banal to the extraordinary, and you obviously can’t trust yourself to make the right decisions anymore—look where that’s gotten you.

I know I’m not alone in this. We’re all feeling a little needy now that the Decider is about to caravan back down to Texas. Whom can we turn to? Friends and family always have their own agendas; therapists are useless. So, who’s left?

Strangers, of course. They’re everywhere.

“Excuse me,” I said to the woman behind me one morning in the queue at Dunkin’ Donuts. “I’m currently asking strangers to make all my decisions. Would you mind picking out a dozen doughnuts for me?”
“I’ll order two, but then you’re on your own,” she said.

“Never mind.”

Everyone knows the first two doughnuts are the easy ones.

“I’ll do it, but you’ll have to tell me what you like,” a gangly woman who had overheard the previous exchange said.

“Thanks, but that kind of defeats my purpose,” I responded.

“As long as you’re paying,” a thick-armed guy shrugged at me just as it was his turn to order.

He attacked the chore with glee. His choices were a blur of glaze and frosting. He stopped only once, looked back at me and said, “Sprinkles, two sprinkles,” and they fell into the box with the majesty of a fireworks grand finale.

It was a win-win, a successful random act of indecision (RAI). And I was striking a blow for science. “Your experiment will reveal how much pleasure in a dessert comes from it simply being a dessert, rather than a dessert that you would have chosen,” Plous had observed. “In many cases, the difference in benefit between two choices is smaller than we’d guess.”

And that’s not even counting the pleasure of not having to be the one to make the tough decisions. I couldn’t wait to get home and have someone in my family make a face about the two apple crumbs—Why’d you pick the-e-e-se?—so I could reply quite proudly, “I didn’t.”

This may be the best idea I’ve ever had. For two weeks, I relinquished control over my decisions. I turned the reins over to perfect strangers.

At a Starbucks, I was perspiring heavily from a bike ride when I started to ask the woman beside me what I wanted to drink. She cut me off midway through my spiel about how I was conducting a social experiment and whatnot.

“Just have a water,” she said, snatching a bottle from the front case and thrusting it at me.

She herself ordered something that took the barista 11 moves to make, but I was suddenly a model of simplicity: a sweaty man drinking cold water.

Already, my life was beginning to emerge from the fog. Left to stew in my own brew of insecurities, I’d still be tortured over caf, decaf, or half-caf. And the encounter didn’t seem odd. Thanks to television shows such as The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm, awkwardness is now fashionable. Awkward is the new suave.

Moments later, I asked a man at the newsstand if I should become a night shaver instead of a morning shaver. I always wanted to be a night shaver—go to bed cleanly shaven and wake up with sexy stubble that would be alluring until at least noon and ...

“Absolutely not,” the gentleman said.

I’m sure he’s right.

Later in the day, when I asked a sandy-haired woman at Old Navy to pick out a shirt for me, she quickly devoted herself to the cause. “I want you to have a crisper, cleaner look,” she exclaimed.

I was still feeling crisp and clean when I stopped at the library. The mission: to give a stranger the chore of selecting a book for me to read.

“You sure? Picking out a book ... that’s kind of an intimate decision,” the chosen one said. She was sitting at a tiny table with a little boy and looking up at me as if I were one more irritation in an already long day. But once I said I was positive, she popped up as if she’d just adopted me.

“Follow me,” she said.

With the little boy in hand, she cut across the library with the supermarket stride of a mom who just realized she’d forgotten the Fruit Roll-Ups two aisles back. We were headed deep into the bowels—past the self-helps, beyond the reference books, even. Then she stopped, pivoted, dropped a 4-pound book in my hands and said,

I thanked her profusely, but I’m not sure it even registered. She just mentally checked me off her list and was on her way. The whole encounter—in fact, the entire day—was astonishing. By dusk, my new life’s course had been set by an entire team of people whose names I didn’t even know.

I’d accepted all advice without question, with one exception: While at the local cineplex, I asked the third woman in line what I should see, and she said, Nights in Rodanthe. I just couldn’t do it. I went home to watch Bones on TV.

At an ATM stop on the way home, I gave the guy waiting behind me no preface. I just asked—“Should I get up early tomorrow or sleep in?”—and he just knew.

“Sleep in.”

Good decision. I needed the sleep, because I stayed up late reading The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong. I got to Page 136 before closing my eyes on a brave new world.

If any one group of people was ever in need of a diversion it’s the group waiting for the 12:15 p.m. to Newark.

At least that’s what I thought when I arrived at the airport with an armful of decisions that needed making. In my hands were printouts of several health-care and financial options, as well as a brochure for night courses available at a nearby junior high school. With that kind of workload, I needed people both bored and contained.

My initial stratagem was to approach individuals who appeared friendly—which meant they were wearing sneakers. Well, people who wear sneakers are actually quite ornery. Oddly, it’s the Bluetooth type—and, more specifically, individuals with two laptops—who are the most gracious, endearing people on the planet and who are ideal for this type of social experiment.

“I don’t do experiments, but let me see those papers,” a two-laptop guy said, snatching the documents out of my hands.

I told him he didn’t have to do it all, that I was going to spread the work around, but he ignored me. Then, without looking up, he handed the course brochure back to me and said, “Get somebody else for this.”

I left him looking over the financial papers and found a guy four seats over who took two phone calls just during the 15 seconds it took me to explain my predicament.

“Okay, what have we got here?” he finally said as if he were used to people constantly sticking things under his nose to sign off on. When it came to making big decisions, he was on cruise control. “Does the class have to be useful?” he asked. “There’s stuff like ‘How to Start a Home Business,’ and then there’s just junk like ... like calligraphy.”

“Useless is good,” I said.

Back in the next row, just as Two-Laptops started thumbing through the health-care and financial documents, a colleague of his showed up, and I thought for sure my man was going to get sidetracked. But Two-Laptops was homed in on my task, and the next thing I knew, the associate wanted in and had his hands on the health plans. “I used to be in the insurance business,” the associate said. “They’re all scum.”

I had planned to leave the three Bluetooth types alone while they worked diligently on major decisions I didn’t want any part of, but they started bombarding me with questions before I could stray.

“Do you already have coverage?”

“Yes, but I need to switch.”

“Are you going to be adding money to your 401(k)?”

“No, I don’t plan on ever making any more money.”

“Do you like watercolors?”

“No, I mean, yes!”

“Are you the type that would seek out unconventional treatments and never give up?” Two-Laptops asked.

“No, no, I’m famous for giving up.”

But, they didn’t give up. Which is the beauty of RAI.

End result:
1. BlueCross BlueShield Limited Benefits Plan 71—hospital and surgical only.
2. Straight Vanguard money market account with annual yield of 0.09 percent.
3. One-stroke painting.

I was almost giddy.

When I told a friend about my experiment and how much I was getting accomplished, she posed an interesting question: “What if you can’t stop?”

In fact, the question was so good that I’ve decided there is no good reason to shut down this adventure after only two weeks. Random Acts of Indecision is not a social experiment. It’s a lifestyle.

As I write these words, I am sitting in a pizzeria eating pizza toppings—mushroom and sausage—chosen by the frail man I had held the door for on my way in. I am wearing a striped shirt picked out by a meticulous woman and, between sips of iced tea, glancing at Page 351 of a book that is enlightening me to the “Cho-WE Cho-WE” of the Carolina wren.

The old adage “You have no one to blame but yourself” doesn’t apply to me anymore. In 2009, when things go wrong, I will have no one to blame but each and every one of you.

From a longer story published by The Washington Post Magazine

Well, are you ready to try this method to simplify your life? We could do the bloggy version and post all of our decisions and take a count in the comments! I'm not planning to do it, but it'd make for some interesting blogging material. Let me know how it all works out for you!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day to You!

Happy Earth Day to You
Happy Earth Day to You
Happy Earth Day toooo Youuuuu
Happy Earth Day to You

It's a beautiful sunny day again today. I've taken a shower, my quota of coffee, that mix of fresh fruit and yogurt that I eat for breakfast and am off for a visit (work). All's well with the world.

How are you celebrating Earth Day this year?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A sunny day

A woman was staying at a hotel and she decided to go sunbathing on the hotel roof. When she laid down her bikini top fell off. But, she didn't care because no one would see her anyway.

After a while she heard footsteps; it was the hotel manager. She hurried and covered herself up.

The hotel manager said, "We don't mind if you sunbathe up here, but we really would appreciate it if you would keep your bikini top on!"

She answered, "No one will see me anyway."

The hotel manager replied, "I hate to break this to you. But, you've been lying on the dining room skylights."

A little boy was in a relative's wedding. As he was coming down the aisle he would take two steps, stop, and turn to the crowd (alternating between bride's side and groom's side).

While facing the crowd, he would put his hands up like claws and roar. So it went, step, step, ROAR, step, step, ROAR all the way down the aisle. As you can imagine, the crowd was near tears from laughing so hard by the time he reached the pulpit.

The little boy, however, was getting more and more distressed from all the laughing, and was also near tears by the time he reached the pulpit. When asked what he was doing, the child sniffed and said, "I was being the Ring Bear!"

Ray, was attempting to build a patio for the first time. He bought 100 cement blocks. Laying them out in a pattern, he discovered the chosen area was too small.

He stacked the blocks against the house and cleared more space. The next day Ray put the cement blocks back down, only to find that the ground was too hard to keep the patio level.

He ordered a truckload of sand to be delivered the following morning. Again he stacked the 100 blocks against the house.

Observing all this, his next-door neighbor asked, "Ray, are you going to put your patio away every night?"

Finally, the good-natured boss was compelled to call Smith into his office.

"It has not escaped my attention," he pointed out, "that every time there's a home game at the stadium, you have to take your aunt to the doctor."

"You know you're right, sir," exclaimed Smith. "I didn't realize it. You don't suppose she's faking, do you?"

A wealthy man commissioned an artist to paint a portrait of his wife. Startled by the nonrepresentational image on the final canvas, the woman's husband complained, "It isn't how she really looks."

When asked by the painter how she really looked, the man produced a photograph from his wallet.

Returning the photography the artist observed, "Small, isn't she?"

If a train station is where the train stops and a bus station is where the bus stops, what is a work station?


My early morning visit got cancelled. But now I have time to do the documentation for the three visits that I had yesterday. Oh, and one of my visit families want to go to the circus! I haven't seen the circus for years and years, since my own son was little. I got to hang out on a playground all day during a beautiful couple of days last week and got the sunburn to prove it! Also have gotten to go to the zoo and the children's museum, art gallery and other fun stuff many times. And I get paid for this! It's sometimes sad and sometimes hard but basically I love my job!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Something Lighter

Some (old) jokes:

The Classifieds

Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, you'll never go anywhere again.

Our experienced Mom will care for your child. Fenced yard, meals, and smacks included.

Dog for sale: Eats anything and is fond of children.

Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.

Stock up and save. Limit: one.

Semi-Annual after Christmas Sale

3 year old teacher needed for pre-school. Experience preferred.

Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating.

Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting off head illusion. Blue Cross and salary.

Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00

For sale: antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.

For sale. Three canaries of undermined sex.

Great Dames for sale.

Have several very old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition.

Have a great day!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Better to say nothing

Do you know that old saying, you know, the one that says if you don't have anything good to say don't say anything at all? Well, that's been sort of what life has been like lately. In real life I'm the quiet but cheery sort. In my journal and writing on this blog, it's a different story! But it is good to have a place to vent and to write what's on one's heart, even when it's not so cheery or upbeat.

And it's been busy, really really busy. Most everybody is busy, too busy nowadays and I've been no exception to that. Had another FT job in an office, while still trying to keep my beloved job working with families. It made for some long days, like 12-hour ones, and 7 days a week as there wasn't any time off. It didn't kill me but any time home and particularly any time on the computer was late nights spent writing up the reports for Job #1.

And during one quite notable week, I went on four job interviews (how I was hired for Job #2, the FT office job) AND the basement of my house got flooded again. Oh, and there was a Podiatrist appointment, two days worth of long-distance phone calls to the insurance company. Did you know that if water comes into your house from the outside that flood insurance doesn't cover it? An interesting fact I didn't realize. "Flood" insurance merely covers broken pipes, backed up storm drains and things like that. Again and again those insurance people told me that was why Katrina and the flooding in Fargo were so destructive. The insurance people kept telling me that only FEMA covers that type of incident--and only after the fact. Very interesting but I had ankle-deep water covering the carpet in the basement. That carpet was laid down in the spring of 2008 and the basement entirely re-sheetrocked, painted and trimmed. There's a bedroom, full bath and a living room down there that were wiped out in October 2007 because of a storm drain backup of 11.5 inches of water. This time it was a mere 4-5 inches but enough to cause a lot of damage, especially when I wasn't able to get it drained and dry for three days. It's a bit musty and still a mess down there. So the job offer came at a good time, right when I really needed some more money! But who doesn't need some more money?

To add to the surreal-ity of it all, the Real Estate company where I have the house listed suddenly kept calling me to show the house. Very bad timing that was! The agent finally called and chewed me out and I explained about the basement and thought he had gotten it. Nope, just yesterday he called me while I was at work with a family. He basically chewed me out again and I reminded him about the basement and asked if he really wanted to bring people through the house. Anyway, he was a nice guy about it and offered to help me find a way to do a short-sale on the house. Gotta do something about it....

Well, I could go on and on as life certainly has been "interesting" lately. Hope your life has been interesting too, but in a good way!

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