Tuesday, February 24, 2009

IT COULD BE WORSE

I was lamenting the falling stock market the other day when my son pointed out that it could be worse...the Dow Jones could be at zero. Technically he's right but I found that to be cold comfort. There is a lot of this talk going on as we try to make the best of our unpleasant economic situation: could be worse I could be homeless, jobless, penniless. To be sure it can almost always be worse but does that mean we don't get to point out that things are pretty bad?

I'm sort of talking to myself here because I'm quite guilty of employing the "it could be worse" technique to deflect negativism. I do frequently with my Dutch friend Laurent. He is a bit of a pessimist. No, he’s more than a bit of a pessimist he’s a glass-half-empty-Eeyore who is given to sending me emails that say, “Today I calculated the odds that I could ever be happy and it appears they are extremely low." He cracks me up. Anyway, I often answer these emails with the classic, “It could be worse," and I point out that at least his life is better than some unfortunate person I've just heard about on NPR. To which he counters, “How on earth does knowing that a twelve-year-old boy in Africa was conscripted into a civil war make me feel better? Only a sick mind would feel better knowing that.”

Well, he does have a point. We can carry this “It could be worse” argument a bit too far. But I use it regularly as it is a Zimmerman-family defense mechanism. My father is the king of it. He likes to “put things in perspective.” When I spoke to him on 9/11 he said, “It could be worse. It could have been an hour later and the towers would have been full. And to put it in perspective, more people die in traffic accidents each year than died today.”

Yes, but. You know the saying, “If you can keep your head about you when all others are losing theirs, you may not be fully grasping the gravity of the situation.”

No, you should be able to say things are going badly for you without someone pointing out it could be worse. Of course it could be worse but if you carried this to the extreme, there would be only one person in the whole world at any given moment to whom you could NOT say "it could be worse" and really, I don't even want to think about the circumstances that person could be in.

So I’m going to try to stop saying, “It could be worse.” Go ahead, tell me your troubles in these times of trouble. I’m not going to tell you that at least it isn't like the depression when people had to eat dust or at least you aren't a child working in the African diamond mines because while that is true it is not very helpful. And if things are going really,really badly for you I will have you email Laurent. It might just cheer him up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

HOW DID YOU END UP WITH ALL THOSE ANIMALS?

Some people who know me well have wondered how on earth I, a person who is not so crazy about dogs and fur and mess have ended up with a dog and two rabbits. Well, of course everyone knows how kids can talk you into these things but I want you to see, first hand, the kind of pressure I am subjected to from my kids (mostly Lilly who is 10) about animals. Below is the latest in her attempts to get me to acquire yet another pet. She presented this paper to me last night (strategically timed as I was having my nightly glass of wine). I have edited it just a bit for length but kept her misspellings because I like them. Here it is. I hope she considers a career in law:

Dear Mom,
Remember when we had the guinea pigs? Remember how sweet they were, and how cute? Well I don’t know about you but ever since the day Snuggles past on, I have been missing that. Molly is cute, but she isn’t chubby and she is too big to pick up. And the rabbits are sweethearts but with guinea pigs they are chubby and lie around. Please at least consider the following: I feel I am very responsible. I brush the rabbits daily, I give them fresh veggies, I try my best to clean there cage every four days and if not every week, and I play with them. Well I would do the same for a guinea pig. Also remember when Layne asked if I could baby-sit Stevie for a week? All ‘dog people’ agree that two dogs are far more to handle then one. Its not doubling the work, its tripling it! And even though Stevie is an old dog she was still work. I didn’t bother her when she wanted to be alone like a little kid would. I brushed her, I fed her, I walked her a few times but not that often because she is old, and I stayed up the night she got sick.

Also whenever I get home from school I get straight to my homework. And when I realized that I was dropping in math I told you that I will get better and FIX IT! Like the dude in the SNL skit. Also even though I’m not ‘gifted’ IM STILL A BETTER READER THEN ALL THE NOSE PICKING BABIES!!!!! Sorry… but I am. Off the topic of nose picking babies in my reading class (uh, have you seen whose in it? Just kidding don’t you think Wonderbunny needs a friend? I know Suzy didn’t really work out, but a guinea pig would be great for both rabbits! Now that Wonderbunny has arthritis he is stuck in his cage more often. But if we got a guinea pig that got along with Wonderbunny he would have a friend. Also I’m guessing he will like a guinea pig considering how he liked Oreo and Snuggles. And if we got a guinea pig that liked rabbits I bet they would be great friends. Also his friend would remind him of Snuggles (in a good way) and he wouldn’t miss me as much when I’m gone. You know how I feel about shelter animals and animals without homes. Remember all those sad commercials they show for shelters? Well guinea pigs, birds, rabbits, and reptiles aren’t as popular as dogs and cats are, so they aren’t shown in the sad shelter commercials. But hundreds of small animals are neglected and abused every day. Hudson: A small guinea pig crammed in a hamster cage with five other baby guinea pigs. When animal control came, he was the only survivor. 23 other guinea pigs were taken from the home. The person was breeding guinea pigs for money. Hudson barely survived, and it took three and a half years to get used to humans again. Gracie: A large white rabbit that was abandon on a lawn. Grace had bight marks on her face and back, and could hardly walk. When animal services found her a new home, it took nearly four years until she trusted humans again. Suzy Q: I don’t know her exact story but I know she gets distressed when forced to go in a cage and she hates being in the dark and loves light Denver: you get it…. He was an abused guinea pig. Wouldn’t it be great to rescue a guinea pig from a shelter? It could be like any of the animals above and it would go to a great home. style

For a while I have thought about what I want to do with all my money. And I have made my decision. I was thinking about getting an outside hutch for the rabbits. But what would that do? I would get something to spoil animals when I could use the money to give an animal the gift of a lifetime. A home. I will pay for the guinea pig. I will also pay for a cage for it too. If I don’t have enough money for all that I will pay you back. I promise.

I will do a lot for another guinea pig. And if you don’t believe me I will show you. I sweep my room once a day, and with a guinea pig I will do it twice a day. I will brush my guinea pig once a day because I do the same with the guinea pigs. I will chop of fresh veggies for my guinea pig every day like I do for the rabbits. Please believe me. I wont grab and chase the guinea pig like I did when I was little. Because I trained the rabbits to be so friendly with humans, I can do the same with a guinea pig. There is a shelter in Chicago that we could go to and they have lots of guinea pigs. I can show you the website if you like. I think adding a guinea pig to our family is a good idea, and I hope you do too.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PUT DOWN THE SPATULA

Grace made this ginger bread house. From scratch.
The gingerbread too.




Fred Astaire was a good dancer. Michael Phelps is a good swimmer. And Grace, (13) is a good baker. She likes to bake when she's stressed or when she's bored. When you are 13 you are almost always stressed or bored. There is not much in between. That is why you will find homemade (I'm talking from scratch) cakes, cookies, or cupcakes in our house at all times.

She is very good at this. Apparently the baking gene skips two generations because although my Grandma Zimmerman and Jeff's Grandma Gebert were expert bakers, our own mothers are just adequate (sorry moms, no offense intended). I am not even adequate. I am an inadequate baker, in fact. But Grace seems to have gotten the family gift that lay buried for so many years.

Once she starts there is no stopping her. She decides to bake; she goes to the internet and finds a recipe (with a picture, it has to have a picture); she begins to bake; and a few hours later, (in addition to a pile of incredibly dirty dishes in the sink), we have yet another delectable masterpiece. She is never deterred by little things like lack of ingredients. If she finds we are out of vanilla extract (a frequent occurrence) she will get on her bike and go to the corner store and get vanilla extract (or powdered sugar or whatever it is we are missing).

This is a delightful and charming hobby of course. But it is not delightful and charming to watch us all balloon up like a backwards version of "Biggest Loser".

So we had to put our foot down. No baking for a few months, Grace!

This is driving her crazy. She has tried to take her mind off her hobby. She even went so far as to sew a purse but that did not satisfy her need to bake.

Grace: Please let me bake.

Me: NO! You have a problem. You need to find something unconstructive to do like normal teenagers. Go spend time with your virtual friends on Facebook or something.

Grace: Just one little lemon meringue pie?

Me: Okay, but you'll have to take it to the neighbor's house again.

Last Saturday, Jeff and I went out to dinner. When we got home the kitchen was suspiciously clean. Usually, when we come home after a night out the counters are littered with dishes and pizza boxes. But not last Saturday. I snooped around and my worst fears were confirmed. She had tried to hide the evidence by cleaning up for a change but she had overlooked an egg beater I found in the sink.

"WHO HAS BEEN BAKING?!" I roared, holding the evidence high.

Grace looked sheepish, "Me. Just a little."

I opened the refrigerator and there it was! It was worse than I expected. Chocolate mousse pie.

"Hey, there was no pie crust in the freezer," I said accusingly.

She had to admit extent of her crime. "Yes, I know. I made a homemade pie crust too."

My God what am I going to do with this delinquent?

She promised she'd try harder and she has done pretty well. She went four whole days but last night as she paced the kitchen, eyeing the pantry shelf where we keep her baking ingredients I finally gave in.

"Okay, fine. Make something for Valentine's Day but you'd better take most of it to the neighbors."

Which is why I just had two chocolate cupcakes (made from scratch including the frosting) for my lunch.

I suppose an intervention is in order. I'm just not sure if it should be for me or for Grace.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

MUST I BLOG TO GET YOUR ATTENTION?

So last week after I posted my incredibly witty account of my latest Comcastic battle, loyal reader KC suggested I send it on to the president of Comcast. Which I did. And lo and behold two hours later I got a call from Mark Casem of Comcast.

Turns out it is Mark's job to try to appease blabber-mouth bloggers like myself who are complaining about the company online. In fact, he had already come across the blog (thanks to a Google notification system) and was reading it when his boss IM'd the link to him.

I asked him if this was his job, to make bloggers happy, and he assured me that along with his other duties that was indeed his job. (Turns out most of the major companies now have this position...wonder what it's called? Blogger Damage Mitigation Officer?)

Now I don't know about you, but I think Mark's job might be about the worst job you could have (except, maybe, for Barack Obama's) and I say, bravo sir for keeping your chin up while you carry on. I asked him if he thought my blog was maybe, just a tiny bit funny. He chuckled and then quickly said very seriously, "But it wasn't funny that you were so inconvenienced."

He apologized profusely for the problem I had, asked a few brief questions about the error code I received and told me he'd have M. Gardner from our local office take it from there. I had a call from Miss Gardener (a serious-as-a-heartattack lady from the "Executive Services" department) who did indeed take care of my problem. The error code apparently meant I had no credit on my account which makes no sense as they have my credit card on file which my bill is automatically charged to. Miss Gardener really didn't know why that error code was coming up but she took care of it. She also issued me a credit in my next bill.

Which means, the very first profit of any kind that I'm showing for this blog is a credit from Comcast which is surely some sort of O'Henry-esque irony.

I asked Mark if he could tell me what my non-blogging friends (that's YOU) should do if they have a Comcastic issue. He said they should feel free to email his department at

we_can_help@cable.comcast.com


So next time you're stuck in Comcast purgatory, remember that email address and let me know how that goes for you.

If they can't help you could always get a blog of your own.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

YOU DID NOT JUST WISH ME A COMCASTIC DAY

I wonder if this movie is any good. I'll never know.
This past weekend seemed to be fraught with technical difficulties. It took me hours to upload my YouTube video, then the washing machine broke (which I fixed by googling "Whirlpool frontloader won't drain" God I love the internet), then the microwave (which I fixed by Googling "microwave moaning like an unpaid whore" (punchline to a bad joke)), then my Comcast On Demand wouldn't work.


There we were, popcorn on our laps on a frigid Saturday night scrolling through our movie choices all ready for a fun, fun night! I was extolling the virtues of On Demand (we've only had it about six months so it's still a novelty) and how much better it was to order a movie from the couch than going to the video store, trying to please everyone (Mom won't watch violent movies, Dad won't watch subtitled movies, child one won't watch kid movies, child two won't watch anything, and child three won't watch anything that isn't about a dog). So I was scrolling along and finally found the perfect movie. I pressed "BUY"

And got an error code. It said, "You can't get this, nyah nyah nyah. Call Comcast and tell them you have this error code".


I know, I know, you're thinking "What the hell, she went back to Comcast?" Yes, I'm afraid I did. Though this is as pathetic as an ex-wife of Drew Peterson remarrying him, I did. It's just that AT&T was no better. They refused to bury a cable for six months and then Comcast was all like, "No, really, I've changed and I have a great rate" and the next thing I knew I was giving them another chance.


Foolishly, I thought the phone number on the screen was some sort of direct line to the On Demand Error Code Override Department so you can imagine my disappointment when I called and got the standard "Oprima dos por espanol. Are you calling about your cable, internet, PC, I-pod, cell phone, digital phone, car engine or furnace?" menu. I pressed a few buttons, still hopeful, but alas I was not to see Swing Vote. Maybe that error code meant "No, really, you do NOT want to rent a Kevin Costner movie." But I'll never know.


On Sunday I logged into my online account to make sure I had paid the last cable bill. I had. So I logged into their live online help service. After a ridiculous amount of time someone named "Mary" came on line to help me. I suspect "Mary" is a pseudonym because her taxonomy and lexicography (I don't even know if those are words) were suspiciously similar to Apu in "The Simpsons" " Many times you have been having this problem?" for example.


After several questions she told me she would transfer me to sales. "NOOOO" I screamed in caps, "I don't need to buy the service, I HAVE the service but it stopped working." She assured me that sales would also take care of technical problems. She transferred me to "Cindy" her cousin in the next cubicle.

I knew I was doomed when Cindy wished upon me a "Comcastic morning" WTF? Who would ever wish that on anyone except maybe as a curse just before throwing a shoe at your head? Despite the fact that I had signed into this whole mess through my Comcast account and answered Mary's numerous security questions ("How many stitches were in your first episiotomy") I had to repeat the process with Cindy. But between questions she would just go away for minutes at a time. At one point I asked "Did you go for coffee" and got a curt "I am accessing your account." My ass, my account had been accessed for about 25 minutes by now. I suppose they have those poor people trying to help several customers at a time. Wow. That's efficient to have to re-learn the problem every time the screen pops back up.

After some time she typed "So, if I am understanding, you wish to purchase the On Demand service."

AAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHH

I know, you knew it was coming and so should I have.

I logged off in defeat.

Which is why you will see me at Family Video this Saturday trying to find a movie in English with an adult theme, no violence, and a dog.