Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's Bleatings (Christmas 2007)

You may choose to think of this yearly dispatch from the Greene clan to be the holiday equivalent of an annual proctology exam. For some, you may look to this event as a necessary evil and take solace in the fact it’ll all be over in a few moments. Others may find it completely unnecessary and wonder what type of paperwork snafu got them on the list. It’s possible that there may even be a small minority who actually enjoys it, and all I can say is that there are support groups and therapy out there to help. Regardless of the category that may apply to you, I am willing to bet that you all share one happy thought about this: at least we have another year before the next one. With that said, happy reading!

It’s not been a good year for the Greenes, honestly. Sure, our house hasn’t burned to the ground, nor have I been fired from my job – keep your fingers crossed – but those of you who haven’t kept in contact with us through the year may be shocked to learn that Erin has gone completely insane. It’s an insanity stemming from bringing the newest member of our family, Lola, into our home. No, I’m not talking about postpartum depression (you’ve seriously lost contact with us if you thought Erin was pregnant); I’m talking about the fact not only did Erin relent and bring a dog into our home but she is barking mad (pun intended) over this dog. Lola is a Chihuahua/Terrier mix, and Erin has been seen nuzzling, kissing, and hugging this dog repeatedly. Fear not, it’s nothing shocking enough to make YouTube, but it’s completely wrong to all of us who have listened to Erin’s oft-stated dislike for dogs for so many years. I believe this vehemence is best summed up by a pre-Lola quote from Erin: “They lick their butts, then they lick your face.” Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Erin the Flip-Flopper. Be careful, she may run for President next year – she now has all the necessary qualifications.

Sam is now in second grade, and he’s becoming quite the writer. Recently, he was asked to write about the Pilgrims and the ordeal they faced crossing the Atlantic. Rather than taking the usual approach by describing the fetid, cramped living conditions or the long hours of ennui and facing harsh elements, he summed up their plight by writing that the Pilgrims were “always hurling” over the sides of the ship. Not putting too fine a point on it, he simply described the journey as “dreadful”. From the mouths of babes . . .

For those of you who have been doing their research, Jack turned ten this year and started the fifth grade. Jack excels in science and math at school, and this wouldn’t be troubling except for the fact he’s keen on putting this newfound knowledge to use at home. I fear the day I’ll come home from a trip and find Jack standing on the roof and holding the neighbor’s cat with a piece of buttered toast tied to its back. I’ll have to ask, but he’ll of course say, “Dad, come on. I’m trying to see which phenomenon is true: ‘cats always land on their feet’ or ‘toast always lands buttered side down.’” Whether it’s fatigue from being on the road or looking a perfectly reasoned scientific experiment in the face, I’m afraid I might just shrug my shoulders, wish him good luck, and go inside the house. Frankly, I just don’t want to void my roof’s warranty. I’ll keep you posted.

As for myself, I’m still trying to create a force field around the house that will allow our family and friends to pass freely but keep out kids selling magazine subscriptions, religious zealots, and people leaving flyers on our porch. I’m trying to do this by using the available cell phone towers in the area and triangulating their signals around the house. However, I can’t quite get the frequency right because I’m constantly finding the Verizon guy standing on my porch with his host of thousands surrounding him. I’m sure it would be pretty easy to hide a couple of magazine sales people and missionaries in that kind of crowd.

May this Yuletide yammering find you warm and happy – hopefully without the help of medication. Drop us a line when you get a chance.

P.S. Erin wants to go on record that she’s not altogether pleased with the proctology analogy at the opening of the letter. Just so you know.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Giving 'Til it Hurts

I went down to the local church house and donated blood this morning. Evidently, there’s a great deal more peer pressure involved with donating blood than I had ever imagined. One would think that spur-of-the-moment cow tipping or Britney Spears impersonating would carry with it a stronger pull to be a part of the group – a pull with enough power for you to abandon your senses and do something you normally wouldn’t do sober or free of any prescribed medications. (Obviously, the sobriety or state of being drug-free might impede your ability to do a really good Britney impersonation.)

Before giving blood, one of the technicians takes you to a temporary cubicle away from prying eyes to ask you 348 health questions in 30 seconds to which you are supposed to answer “no” on each one. The “privacy” of this set up is what causes me to think there’s such a strong element of peer pressure. Sure, the questions they ask are mostly personal, but if you truly answer “yes” to any one of the majority, you have bigger fish to fry than taking the time out of your day to make it down to donate blood. “Have you had in the last six months or do you currently have bodily fluids that defy description with a standard pallet of primary and secondary colors freely flowing from any natural or recently created orifices?” (They read those suckers so fast – I think that was one of the questions.)

One would think that they could hand you a laminated card when you first check in that had all of these questions, and at the bottom of the questionnaire there would be a note saying: “If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the previous questions, you may not donate blood today – you have more important things to worry about.” Instead, they bring you back to the cubicle and grill you. Some of the technicians give you the evil eye if they think you’re lying. With all of this privacy, you’re waiting for the tech to lean across the little table, look you in the eye, and say, “Look. I understand you got caught up in the moment when everyone was signing up for the blood drive – you wanted to impress everyone with ‘Hey, look at me. I’m as selfless as any of you.’ But let’s be honest. You’re not eligible to donate, so I’m going to let you sit here for a couple more minutes and gather your wits about you. When you get up to leave, if anyone catches your eye and questions you, just tell them you have iron-poor blood. Do you understand? And don’t let me catch you back here again. Peer pressure’s tough, I’ll grant you. But the business end of my size eleven shoe up your keister is tougher.”

Peer pressure or not, I do find a great deal of personal satisfaction with donating blood. Sure, it’s nice to think about the people I’m helping, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what I really enjoy about the whole experience is watching how nervous people get with the whole ordeal. I feel beholden to feed that fear.

The son of a friend of ours walked up to me and said he accompanied his dad so he could understand the whole process. Noting a look of trepidation on his face I said, “Not a bad plan, Chet. But I’m surprised it’s so quiet here today. Usually you hear a lot of screaming and moaning. They must be using some pretty strong drugs today. Better make sure they don’t slip you something – you could end up with a needle in your arm, too.”

As the boy screamed and ran to find his dad, I noticed a lot of people were looking at me. I just told them, “Poor kid just found out he has iron-poor blood.”