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Ovation: A Giant Teddy Bear’s Joy Ride.

99When my oldest niece was born, I had the honor of being present at the hospital.  I was between jobs and fortunate enough to able to help out with odds and ends surrounding the new arrival.  By the time the little miracle finally showed up, her mother’s hospital room had filled with gifts from loved ones and well wishers from across the country.

As anyone who has ever met a newborn baby will tell you, they do not travel lightly.  With car seats, diaper bags and all of the paraphernalia that an infant and a new mother require in their first days together, my exhausted brother-in-law had his hands and his car completely full.  I helped them with their haul in a second car, a convertible, by carrying an enormous peace lily that was sent to the hospital room by a well-wisher.

With the convertible top down, I rode with that peace lily like it was a perfectly normal thing to do.

I made a similar trip through my own neighborhood, early on October, when I purchased an oversized plastic pumpkin

Someone in Alberta, Canada, didn’t find anything out of the ordinary when they drove away from a Costco earlier this week with an enormous teddy bear strapped into the passenger seat of their convertible.

A Reddit user spotted a man at a Costco trying to fit the huge toy animal into his Corvette.  A Costco employee even tried to help as shoppers gathered to watch.  Pictures were posted online with an appropriate caption … “Totally obvious impulse buy? Yep.”

After first trying to put the bear in the car head first, it was ultimately determined that it was best to jam the bear into the passenger seat, sitting upright, and the customer was able to drive away with his new bear.

Nobody knows where the bear was going, but it sure would be a cool story if it ended up being a gift for his niece.  He sure did attract a lot more attention than I did with that peace lily!

Have you ever carried anything unusual in a convertible?

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Diatribe: Can We All, Please, Agree That A Missed Call Is Not The Same As A Voice Mail Message?

Voice MailI’ve been told that, when I talk, I sometimes don’t have a “filter”.  I’ll ramble on and say things that I might not necessarily say if I would stop and give the topic more thought.  Things that I’m thinking become confused with things that I’m actually saying and, sadly, it’s caused me to put my foot in my mouth on more than once occasion.  I’ve learned to write things down whenever possible to give myself an opportunity to think about what I’m going to say before I actually say it.

Needless to say, I do not possess the ability to spontaneously improvise a voice mail message.  If I make a phone call and it “goes to voice mail” I start to feel a sort of panic.  I begin to talk very fast and I hurriedly ramble in order to end the horror as quickly as possible.  Sometimes, I actually hang up without leaving a message.  If this happens, I do not expect a return call.  Here, along with a few other telephone peeves, is why …

“You saw that you missed a call from me!  Why didn’t you call me back?”

I didn’t call you back because you didn’t ask me to call you back.  If you want me to call you back, please leave a voice mail message and ask me to do so.  It’s helpful if you provide information that will allow me to prepare for the return call.  For example:

“Hi, it’s Margaret.  I’m calling to ask if you still have Grandma Lucy’s recipe for her famous sponge marble hot sauce cake.  I need to bring something to the bake sale at the library on Saturday morning and I remember folks used to love that smelly cake.”

Or

“Help!  It’s Timmy and I’ve fallen down the old well off Highway 14 just north of Missy Martin’s Dance School!  My battery is almost dead and you might be the last person that I’m able to call.  I’ve hurt my leg and it’s bleeding a lot!  Please send help right away!”

It’s also unfair to assume that everyone who misses a call knows who the caller was.  Some cell phone carriers will only display names and numbers that are included in the list of contacts stored on the device.  Other numbers may be “blocked” or “unknown”.

“I see that I missed a call from you and that you’ve left me a voice mail … what did your voice mail say?”

I took the time to leave you a voice mail message and you don’t afford me the courtesy of listening to what I had to say?!  Is this the digital-age-equivalent of receiving a letter in your mailbox and calling the sender to ask them to read it to you?  Perhaps you’d prefer that I not call you again?  Please let me know and I’ll make a note.

“Hey, it’s me.  Callmebackrightawayatmphbitrhaigheldf!”

Thanks, “me”, for leaving me a voice mail message.  I appreciate the fact that you care enough about speaking to me to let me know that your call was intentional.  I do get my share of “butt calls”.  I’m afraid, however, that I didn’t recognize your voice so I don’t know who you are.  And the number that you left was a garbled mess because you said it so fast.  I sure do hope you’ll call back again so I can explain why I haven’t returned your call as requested.

I hate voice mail just as much as the next person but it’s a fact of life that we all have to learn to live with.  There are times when I, certainly, don’t have the patience to leave a message.  For instance, when I call someone whose voice mail greeting feels like the opening monologue of a three-act play …

“Hello!  You’ve reached Beverly Bootyshankle in the Accounting Department of Herpstein, Herpstein, Howlermonkey and Jones.  Today is Thursday, August 21, 2014 and I’ll be in the office from 8:30 until 11:30, attending a luncheon from 12:15 until 2:00 after which I’ll be free until a conference call that is scheduled to begin at 4:30.  My hair is up today and I’m wearing big earrings so, if I don’t answer after the first ring, it’s probably because I’ve taken a moment to remove my jewelry.  Your call is important to me so, at the sound of the tone, please leave a detailed message that includes your name, the time of your call, the reason for your call, a number at which you would like your call returned and any other information that you would like for me to have.  Thanks for calling Herpstein, Herpstein, Howlermonkey and Jones.  Have a great day!

I would hate Beverly Bootyshankle.  I wouldn’t leave her a message.  In fact, if I had called her I probably would have hung up before I knew she was going to a luncheon … certainly before I learned she was wearing big earrings.  Her greeting is far too long.  I wouldn’t expect her to call me back!

I bet Beverly sees a lot of missed calls and not very much voice mail.  Maybe she’s on to something.

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Ovation: Lillian Weber Sews Little Dresses For Africa.

Lillian WeberI can’t sew to save my life.  Being an arts-and-crafts sort of person, I’ve learned to piece together different projects over the years using a needle and thread and even, to a small extent, a simple sewing machine but I will never possess the qualifications to compete on Project Runway.

I learned simple, basic sewing skills from my mother, a wonderfully creative woman who often found herself with more adventures in her day than hours in which to complete them.  When we needed a button sewn back onto a shirt, she would lovingly replace it using whatever thread remained in her favorite needle from the last time she had mended something.  Yes, there were times when white buttons were sewn back on to blue shirts with red thread but it was better than not having a button and she did it with so much love and good humor that we really didn’t care.

I’m confident that neither I nor my mother could make a dress from scratch like Lillian Weber.

Throughout the last few years, Lillian has made more than 840 dresses for a Christian nonprofit organization called Little Dresses for Africa that distributes clothes to some of the world’s most vulnerable children in orphanages, churches and schools in Africa.  She hopes to cross the 1,000 dress mark before long.

Lillian Weber is ninety-nine years old and reportedly starts work on a new dress every single morning and, after a break in the middle of the day, finishes the dress in the afternoon.  Even though she makes the dresses quickly, she tries to make each one different and special.

“It is just what I like to do.” – Lillian Weber.

untitledWeber has been sewing dressing for Little Dresses for Africa since 2011 when she and a group of other seniors decided to work together to support the organization.  One lady in the group had seen a documentary about the charity, which has collected more than 2.5 million dresses and distributed them to forty-seven countries in Africa and other countries, and thought it would be a great way to help the children so far away from their hometown in Iowa.

Although Weber will celebrate her 100th birthday next May, she has no intention of slowing down saying she will not quit sewing if she gets to that thousandth dress.  She’ll keep on sewing.

If she sews those dresses with half as much love as my mother sewed on our little buttons, I think those little girls will feel extra special wearing their new dresses.

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Diatribe: A Tennis Ball Dangling On A Clothes Line Will Not Stop A Chrysler Cordoba And Old Men Shouldn’t Wear Flip-Flops When They Drive.

Car in PoolIn the late 1970s, my folks drove a black Chrysler Cordoba.  The car was enormous.  It was one of Chrysler’s first upscale luxury sedans and had all the “bells and whistles” of the day.  Thinking back, I remember the doors to be about four feet long and extremely heavy.  It was the first car I remember the family driving that had electric windows!  I remember that our garage had two doors, it was parked on the left and had to be situated perfectly so its doors could open without hitting the post that is found in the center of so many older attached garages and that the garage door would close properly as well.  Knowing exactly how far to pull the big car in to the garage was a challenge.

My father, always the clever inventor, created a device by which a tennis ball hung from the ceiling of the garage at the end of a long piece of clothes line at just the right elevation so as to be seen when it was bumped by the front bumper as the driver pulled the car into the garage.  Once you touched the tennis ball, you knew you had pulled in far enough for the garage door to safely close without hitting the back end of the car.  (Everyone does this now … surely as a result of his genius.)

Tennis BallOne day, while pulling the car into the garage, my mother didn’t stop when she was supposed to and ran into the wall in front of her.  My parents didn’t speak much of the incident, as I imagine a few cross words were exchanged, but I remember there were some gas pedal/brake pedal confusion that day.  The big car left quite an impression in the wall.

But she didn’t plow right on through like an 85-year-old Altadena, California man did last Saturday.  He crashed his car through a rear garage door and into a backyard swimming pool where it quickly ended up fully submerged.  No injuries resulted as no one was in the pool at the time and the driver was able to escape the white sedan unharmed.

Clearly, he didn’t have a tennis ball at the end of a length of clothes line suspended from the ceiling of his garage.

He told authorities that the flip-flops he was wearing got caught in the pedals and caused him to lose control of the car.

If I remember correctly, the wall in that old garage was eventually repaired in order for the house to be sold but not before the story of my mother trying to smash through it became a family legend.

What can we learn from these adventures?  1) A tennis ball dangling on a clothes line will not stop a Chrysler Cordoba and 2) old men shouldn’t wear flip flops when they drive.

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Ovation: Scott Brand’s #TossTheTube For Good Campaign.

TossTheTubeIt’s probably safe to say that every child of the seventies either had or knew someone who had a Habitrail.  The Habitrail was a series of see-through plastic tubes and cages designed for housing small pets, like hamsters or mice.  It was a modular system with many accessories and that could be connected by any number of differently-shaped “tunnels” that were intended to replicate the animals’ natural habitat.  The Habitrail was advertised as easy to clean and fun for all because you could see through its walls to watch the antics of your little animal friends.

A Habitrail Starter Kit could be had for a nominal price.  Sometimes, they even came with a free hamster.  But in order to expand your animal’s living conditions, and consequently one’s own enjoyment, kids had to nag their parents for costly “accessories” like the Revolving Sky Restaurant, a cool race car or the old-fashioned hamster wheel.  The tubes alone to connect the different cages usually cost more than the animals living there.

So we improvised.

HabitrailMy neighbor, Linda Sue, and I would desperately watch for a cardboard paper towel or toilet tissue tube to be tossed into the trash.  We would scavenge as many tubes as possible and hoard them until we could create our own tube maze using our blunt-ended safety scissors and whatever adhesive tape we could find around the house.  We spent hours and hours shoving hamsters into those tubes and trying to make them go from one tunnel to the next before we’d eventually grow tired or play time would come to an end.

They still make Habitrails today.  Of course they’re more modern and look much different.  Some kids, however, might not enjoy the fun of connecting cardboard tubes for their pets to play in thanks to Scott Brands’ #TossTheTube For Good campaign.

They claim that, each year, billions of toilet paper tubes end up in landfills and the unnecessary tube accounts for millions of pounds of waste every year.  They’re offering a coupon to consumers who pledge to remove this unnecessary waste from their homes and our landfills once and for all.  I think this is a great idea … even if it means fewer kids will be making memories with pet rodents!

My memorize of hamster and cardboard tube play time aren’t all good ones.  I remember at least one occasion when my furry little friend chewed its way through a tube to never be seen again.  I really wished I had a Habitrail that day.

Will you pay a few cents more for tubeless toilet tissue?

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Diatribe: Sizzling Bacon Prices.

baconI’ve always been a big eater and my motto when dining out is I’ve only met one menu from which I could not order (Calypso Café … a story for another time), but there are a few foods I simply must avoid because they “repeat” on me.  One bit of watermelon at lunchtime, for example, will be burped up and re-enjoyed time and again throughout the rest of the day.  I also avoid cucumbers and licorice but the food that I find the most difficult to avoid has always been bacon.

As a non-bacon-eater, it seems that they put it on everythingEven hermits eat bacon.  It’s usually easy enough to pick off of sandwiches but when it’s served in “bits” as a garnish on soups or salads there’s no way to avoid it.  And sometimes its flavor is really very strong.  In recent years, its popularity has soared and, consequently, so has its price.

Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The average price of a pound of bacon has steadily increased over the last 30 years. [Credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]

The price of the sliced American breakfast staple hit a new all-time high last June at $6.11 per pound.  The rising price is said to be the result of two major factors.

  1. The first is a virus that targets piglets yet does not affect humans or make pork products unsafe to eat but has, nonetheless, been a huge issue for the pork industry.
  2. The second factor leading to higher bacon prices is the cost of feed.  The price of grain continues to rise due to ongoing nationwide drought conditions and those costs are passed on to consumers.

Maybe my days of requesting “no bacon” on every salad or bowl of soup will eventually be a thing of the past.  Then I’ll be able to order lunch and know that I won’t be tasting it until bedtime.

Do foods “repeat” on you?

Are you a bacon-eater?

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Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

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