For Someone Who’s Supposed to Be So Smart… Ways in Which I’m Stupid

My father has a way with words. Now, he’d be the first to tell you that with my mother around, he doesn’t get much chance to talk. “She talks enough for the both of us,” I heard more than once. And yes, Mom could at times serve as the prototype for Chatty Cathy.

Dad didn’t talk at length, the way she did. So when he spoke, his pronouncements carried more weight. Sometimes we almost jumped when he spoke because it was unexpected, another country heard from.

And of course, he was DAD. I grew up at the time when “Wait ‘til your father gets home” had serious meaning, and you’d really, really rather suffer Mom’s discipline than Dad’s. (Although her line, “I’m so disappointed in you,” did carry a stinging power. I want to know how to sink that same emotional hook deep into the guts of my two daughters so I can tug on it when I need to.)

Some of Dad’s memorable pronouncements fall into the category of folksy sayings, like “Whatever smokes your drawers.”
Another line of his—possibly reserved for me personally among his six children: “For someone who’s supposed to be so smart, you don’t have much horse sense.”
This pronouncement was not without merit, I have to admit.

One summer I had the use of Middle Older Brother’s Datsun pick-up while he traveled for work. Somehow the whole idea of adding oil to the engine had never been made clear to me. The engine seized up once and for all on I-90 as I merrily zoomed eastward to go hang out at Lake Coeur d’Alene.

A passing semi-truck driver gave me a lift (this was in pre-cell-phone days, of course) and I called my parents for rescue. The engine was toast. This was the kind of episode that might induce the unfavorable comparison to four-legged hay burners.

I’m a little better at routine vehicle fluids now (although Sweet Husband takes care of it for me, I do know it’s supposed to happen and I had my car serviced regularly before he was on the scene). There are still some ways in which I lack horse sense though:
  • Leaving valuables in plain sight on the front seat. I believe most people are honest, and so far no one has broken into the car to take anything. Someday I will be wrong about this.
  • Being quite sure that even when the fuel indicator is on the red line, I have enough fuel to get to the next available gas station. So far, this has been true. Good thing I mostly commute by bike or bus.
  • Doing “one more thing” before leaving for something: Work, a meeting, a date, a doctor’s appointment for one of the girls. I know-know-KNOW that when I squeeze in one more e-mail response or chore I make us all late. I know that. But surely there’s time for just one more thing?
  • Believing against all evidence of the past that the regular consumption of giant snickerdoodles (only ones baked perfectly so they’re still bendy in the middle, of course) has no effect on my weight.
  • Thinking that since there’s plenty of time before the project is due, I don’t need to start now. (Love the adrenaline arising from artificially induced deadline pressure through procrastination--and there are always a lot of things on the list that do have to happen before the deadline for this item.)
  • Failing to write down things that family members tell me about appointments and tasks, despite the fact that I do this faithfully at work and for all volunteer efforts. I have notebooks stretching back over 5 years, a simple system of stick-ums to flag items for follow-up, and a fairly systematic use of Outlook calendar and tasks to move things along. Family items, not so much, & thus I forget plans and projects that involve my loved ones.
Looking at this list, I notice a continued carelessness toward vehicles (possibly scarred by that little Datsun episode). Definitely a disregard for the passage of time as measured by standard devices, which after all are made by humans and have little to do with the actual workings of the universe. Perhaps a certain childlike belief in magical thinking.

It’s not that I lack horse sense, Dad—it’s that I believe in fairies. I do believe, I do believe, I do I do I do.

Random Games with Words: What Do You Expect from a Linguistics Major?

I've been saving up various blog bits, all of them some kind of word play. The original idea was to expand each category into its own post. Then I thought, "Hey! Why bother? Maybe this is as good as it gets."

What Kind of Bird Was that Again?

As an illustration of just how word-geeky I am, witness this: The night I met the man who would become my first husband, I charmed him with this little zinger: "A blackbird is a black bird, but not all black birds are blackbirds."

He had me repeat it, and I lectured about the role of emphasis in changing the meanings of words and phrases. The fact this did actually charm him is possibly an illustration of how geeky he is, too....

The Whole Kit & Caboodle

How much IS that, anyway? Transcript of a discussion with Eldest Daughter:

“How much is a caboodle?” she asks. She is on the phone with a friend and consulting me over her shoulder. I ponder briefly.

“Is the kit included?” I ask. “The whole kit and caboodle would be more than just the caboodle.”

“Just the caboodle,” she answers.

“Ten or fewer, then, I think.”

She nods and repeats my answer into the phone, then turns to me again. “I thought it was 14, but maybe that’s with the kit. What about with the kit included? The kit could be around 4, so the whole kit and caboodle would be 14.”

I respond, “Sounds about right to me. A kit would be pretty small. Four is good.”

There. That's settled.

Words We Should Get to Use More Often

Wouldn’t life be great if you had more occasions to use some of these?

  • Exuberant
  • Joyful
  • Melodious
  • Sunshine

Fun with Phrases: Think About These

We all know oxymorons such as jumbo shrimp, pretty ugly, clearly misunderstood.

For years I’ve kept a list of terms that aren’t quite oxymorons. I don’t know what to call these—accidental funnies? I’d welcome additions to the list from inventive minds.

  • Cement truck: Gets TERRIBLE mileage.
  • Wood stove: The ultimate in planned obsolescence.
  • School library: Well, which is it?

Misheard Song Lyrics

This particular item was inspired by a post on For a Different Kind of Girl, a blog that reliably makes me snort beverages through my nose.

In the category of misheard lyrics, for the longest time I thought Journey (want to buy Greatest Hits & sing along?), for some incredibly odd reason I couldn't fathom, was singing, "You come to me with broken arms."

That image of two arms in plaster casts reaching out lovingly just didn't make much sense, but oh well, who's supposed to understand rock song lyrics anyway?

And In Closing....

The coolest gift I ever received from a boss was the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary--the version that's all in one huge book you could use to break someone's toe.

Granted, it was given to me by a creepy and possibly psychotic boss who bragged about smuggling a pistol through airport security (this was in the early 80s), and who hated lawyers with a passion that made him send strange letters with derogatory terms about them ("shyster!") written all over the envelopes, making the address all but indecipherable and the letter therefore undeliverable. It was still a great gift.

My fondness for words and dictionaries would be because--as my college boyfriend was fond of saying about my chosen major--I was a cunning linguist.

Thank You for the Belly Laughs, Marie Osmond

You’ll have to forgive us. We’ve never watched QVC before as a family, with all the exponential reinforcement of scorn and hilarity that implies, and none of us have any desire to live in Collector Doll Land. There are, of course, fan sites devoted to Marie Osmond and her dolls. These people will hate us.

Picture this, if you will (although we’ll certainly understand if you’d rather not):

Dolls—a parade of dolls—each one more frightening than the last, with names possibly created by choosing one item each from lists of first names, floral references, colors, and cutesy actions.

Names like Suzie Rose Bouquet, Arabella Catching Butterflies, Summer Sunset. Adora My Sweetheart Belle. Candy Corn Too Sweets Tot. Butterfly Kissy Tiny Tot. Pardon me while I step out to my dentist’s office for treatment of dental caries.

“Get a load of those NAMES!” shouts The Boy, who is 11 years old and thus primed to mock frilly fou-fou dolls.

The first doll appears on the screen. An odd sensation creeps (a word you’ll see a lot on this page) over you, akin to that experienced when you see Chucky previews.

“What’s WONG with them?” asks 8-year-old Littlest (who hasn’t quite gotten her Rs nailed down).

We begin to figure out the creep factor when they go to a tight close-up on the creepy eyes and mouths held in strange positions, some of them suggestive of pornography (pouting lips, mouth half open in eager expectation).

The eyes don’t quite match. While this is true of humans, it just looks wrong on a doll, which we all expect to be symmetrical. The spokes of color in the irises are wrong somehow—too stark? Too something. “Creepy!” we all shout in unison.

Butterfly Kissy is like Raggedy Ann with antennae and clown make-up. It’s sculpted to have a little dot by the eye that matches the one Marie has in real life. She demonstrates that it says Kissy on Kissy’s butt, which is supposed to make us feel even better about having Butterfly Kissy in our lives. Littlest asks, “Is it a cat-uh-piw-oh?” because of the antennae.

The babies are all chubby—more of America’s obesity problem on parade. The parade of dolls continues: first a full-body shot that just lets you catch a glimpse of the off-kilter facial oddity and the astoundingly poufy clothing and accessories to accompany the cutesy name, then a close-up that lets us criticize in far greater detail. Each name and outfit inspires whoops of derisive laughter. Then it gets worse.

She has little Ewok-like babies in fur suits to make them look like wolves or something. They’re so overfed they have creases next to the mouth, and eyes that almost fill the socket like those of an animal, dark and sinister with no white of the eye showing.

Marie fondles the fur, with a tight close-up on her artificial fingernails. The hands lift the hat off to reveal that the baby is bald, with lines drawn on its head to suggest hair.

“Buddha Baby!” my by now screaming, writhing, shrieking, giggling family dubs this one. (Some of us are actual Buddhists; this is not a religious comment.)

It has paws on its little footies. These fat babies are not infants at all; they are elderly men from the Mongol steppes, but with animal features รก la The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Marie plays with the baby some more, flapping its arms to show that they’re jointed. This is apparently a big selling point in Creepy Doll Collector Land.

Additional creep factor: She can’t stop playing with the doll, stroking and rearranging the whole time she’s on camera. She suggests buying the Tiny Tots and posing them in the arms of the larger models, writing messages on the bodies of the dolls as if they’re journals so that you can pass down the wisdom you chose to capture on a doll, sending messages to your own future about how deserving you are of love and caring.

If you’re getting all this solely from a porcelain doll, this is very, very sad, and would sober us for a moment, were it not for the creepy animal dolls on screen.

Marie discusses the incredible quality of the porcelain she uses, the eyelashes, and the hair—but these are the Buddha babies we believe have the hair drawn on their heads, and they’re made of vinyl so the porcelain reference doesn’t apply to the doll she’s currently fondling, which goes for $75.

She demonstrates the way she signs the dolls on the backs of their neck, so each doll has its own little Marie Osmond tat. We hear nothing of the discussion Marie has with the show host as we howl and denigrate.

While the nation admired the plucky Marie dancing her fanny off in “Dancing with the Stars,” and of course there’s all that weight loss thanks to whatever product she endorses in full-page ads in the Sunday supplement and the beautiful perfect Osmond teeth, that doesn’t mean we have to love her expensive creepy dolls.

Family Labels: Fifth Chinese Daughter, Uninteresting Middle Daughter, Favorite Second Daughter

Any of you out there a middle kid? I’m a middle in a couple of ways. Six kids in my family: Three boys, then three girls. I’m the middle of the three girls, #5 in the entire sequence.

When I was around 13 or so, I read a book with the line “uninteresting middle daughter.” The character in the book felt that the oldest got attention by virtue of being, well, the oldest (and therefore the only one to get the undivided attention of their parents, at least for a while).

The youngest was the little, sweet, cute, cuddly one.

That left only the role of “uninteresting middle daughter.” I told my dad that I was the uninteresting middle daughter; he chuckled, and from then on would occasionally use it to poke fun at me. (That was just one of many Dad-isms, alongside such keepers as, “So, are you bubbling over with effervescent joy?” and "Whatever smokes your drawers!")

As a voracious reader—the kind who vowed one summer to read every book in the library, beginning with the authors whose last names start with A—I’m sure I’ve read literally thousands of books over the years. For some reason, one that stuck in memory is Fifth Chinese Daughter (here it is on Amazon), an autobiography by Jade Snow Wong.

Wong was the child of Chinese immigrant parents, growing up in San Francisco and undergoing a cultural transition to a more independent—American—way of living as a woman. The kids were all referred to in by their place in the family, hence the book title. What a pragmatic system, with a sense of security: always knowing your place in the family.

Fast forward to today. I have two daughters, a stepson and stepdaughter. In writing this blog I thought I should use labels rather than names. Some are easy: Eldest Daughter. The Boy. Littlest Girl. So what to do with #2 Girl?

She’s the middle if you number only the daughters. Not the least bit uninteresting, I hasten to add.

She’s smart, funny, really good at connecting with people, described by her teachers as the one who mixes well with every clique and a natural leader. When she was in about fifth grade (she’ll correct me on this if I got it wrong) she said she wanted to be president, and asked what she should do to start preparing. I believe she can do it, too.

She has justifiably taken exception to "Second Daughter," as a label that gives no indication of her well-deserved specialness.

So what do I call her here? I asked on Twitter and got the suggestion of Favorite Second Daughter, which I rather like. However, I've used that approach as a copout over the year, telling the girls at various times that they were my favorite 8-year-old, favorite 10-year-old, favorite whatever-year-old (since I truly don't have a favorite kid).

Another route I could take would be to label them by characteristics, but I’ve always loathed the idea that in a family, one kid would be “the smart one” while another was “the pretty one” or “the talented one.” (I have to admit that there are labels in my family of origin that may influence my feelings in this case, even though I think at least one of my labels is relatively positive).

Our kids are ALL smart, good-looking, and talented, so that would get very confusing in any case.

If I label by talents, what about the ones they share? Both #1 and #2 sing beautifully, and if I call #1 The Singer that implies she's the only singer (although she’s in choir and #2 isn’t).

#2 is in drama and has acted in several parts, so she could be The Actress--Drama Queen on bad days, not there are ever any of those. (Actually, she's pretty undramatic given that she's 14.)

The Boy could be The Engineer, as he loves taking things apart and putting things together (not necessarily always the same things, mind you).

Littlest Girl would have to be The Movie Sponge, as she will watch movies all day every day if we let her, and happily watches the same movie three times in a row if we don't scream when we hear the soundtrack starting over.

Back to #2. Any labeling ideas? What did your family do, and are your feelings toward the system love, hate, or indifference? Did you do things differently with your kids?

Tweeting, Twittering, Friending, Following: My Connection Policies & Practices

If you’re here, it’s because you followed a link from one of my profile pages (or for some strange reason you actually read my personal blog—I needed a place to park this). I will keep revising this as I think of new points and as policies change.

I’m on several social networks and use slightly different policies for deciding who I connect with in each. This will explain why I did or didn’t accept your request, follow you back, friend you, or whatever verb you’re expecting, and what kind of content you’re likely to see from me in that space.

Twitter: If you follow me, I look at your profile. Reasons I won’t follow you back include seeing any or all of the following, which are just my preferences (so it's not you, it's me):

  • No bio.
  • No tweets.
  • Tweets that reflect only a desire to sell me something that doesn’t interest me.
  • Most of your tweets tell me what you're doing moment to moment, including when you get up in the morning, what you had for breakfast/lunch/dinner, and when you went to bed. A few of these, sure--I do a few myself. Blow-by-blow daily itineraries--not so much.
  • You don't appear to share much in the way of information or resources. If I had my way, the Twitter prompt would read, "What are you sharing?" I'm more apt to follow someone when a certain percentage of tweets contains something interesting-looking: a blog, a news item, a site that does something cool, fun, or useful.
  • Page after page of @ messages without general tweets to all. I appreciate a mix of @ conversations and general "y'all come!" comments and questions--goes along with the sharing mentality I appreciate. If all your tweets are interactions with individuals, I don't feel as welcome, somehow.
  • No @ messages at all. So you're not in any direct conversations at all; you're broadcasting.
  • No interests in common from my perspective. You may be interested in some topic(s) that I tweet about, while the reverse may not be true. I’m not looking to build a huge following, and if you unfollow me it’s no big deal—you’re just changing the channel.

If you choose to follow me, I really appreciate it if you send me an @ message to tell me why, or what interests you in my tweetstream. I do that for people I follow to establish an initial connection.

Why I’m on Twitter: For me, the point of Twitter is learning and conversing. I typically follow people with interest or expertise in the same things I tweet about: social media, communications, PR, higher education, bike commuting, active transportation, public policy, government, urban planning, health care, environment, the nonprofit sector, and my geographic region of Spokane/Inland Northwest.

Twitter accounts I manage: @Bike2WrkSpokane, @WSUSpokane, @FriendsofFalls.

Facebook: This is the most “closed” of my social network spaces. If you send me a friend request, I will only accept it if I know you personally. Even if we have common interests, or have a connection through a project I’m involved with such as Bike to Work Spokane, that doesn’t mean I’ll friend you.

My status updates there are fairly personal: what I’m up to, what the family’s doing, my latest blog post, with a little work stuff mixed in. I also manage the WSU Spokane page, and hope you’ll be a fan if it interests you.

LinkedIn: I will accept an invitation to connect if we have had enough interaction that I feel I know you professionally or personally. This could be direct personal contact, or through the medium of discussions on Twitter or via email that have given me some understanding of who you are.

LaunchPadINW: I’m actually still figuring this one out. I am somewhat reluctant to “friend” someone I haven’t met who actually lives in my town. For now, I’m using my Facebook policy, so I have to know you in the real world before I’ll accept your invitation on LaunchPad.

The rest of the world, outside social networks: My email is widely available, so if you want to establish a connection get in touch with me at work.

Better yet, jump into a cause that we both care about--I'm always recruiting for volunteers!

I’m always happy to build new relationships in the actual real world where we have faces, voices—you know, all three dimensions, or better yet four (being acquainted over time) :D.

Useful Super Hero Traits: I Am Sleeper Girl

“The Incredibles” is one of our family favorites, watched enough times that we’ve memorized some of the dialogue. We probably all dream of having superhero powers at one point or another. Flying, super strength, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, invisibility, laser vision—wouldn’t those be fun?

In the movie, of course, the super heroes have to go underground, where their super powers mostly lie untapped.

It’s handy when Elastigirl can use her stretchy arms to try to keep her kids from fighting under the dining room table, but other than that, their powers don’t do that much good in day to day life.

Given the two-plus feet of snow on the ground at our house last week, laser vision would actually be great, as we could vaporize the snow and clear the driveway, but the neighbors would notice. (Or maybe not, now that the temperatures have warmed up and everything’s melting.)

I’m working on a list of powers that we’d really use in a normal day, without being detected by the muggles.

I, for example, am Sleeper Girl. I fall asleep easily—within about 60 seconds if I’m not kept awake by some means, as Sweetheart can attest.

My job requires some very early-morning calls during snow season, and I can get up and work for half an hour to an hour, go back to bed and go straight to sleep to make up for the lost ZZZZs.

Not poor Sweetheart, who might be dubbed Wakeful Man if that had any super value. While Sleeper Girl really hates to be Sleep-Deprived Girl, I’m always able to make up for lost sack time, whereas once he’s awake, he has to give in and get up because his brain is working overtime. He lies awake for a while, staring at the ceiling and designing sails or computer programs or something in his head, then gets up. This is not super useful.

A power I’d like to have: Mold Blaster. I’d be able to eliminate the mold on the last few slices of bread in the drawer, or the half-empty carton of sour cream in the back of the fridge, to save myself from making a trip to the store in mid-meal prep.

This could also come in handy cleaning the bathroom—not that it’s ever dirty enough to be moldy, I hasten to add…. Not really. Not with my fondness for bleach where it counts.

Al Dente Woman: She can always judge the doneness of whatever’s being cooked, without burning her fingers juggling a hot piece of pasta. This power applies to all foods, so she can do perfect over-easy eggs, pie crust that isn’t burned around the edge, muffins that aren’t still too wet in the middle, and of course—most important—snickerdoodles cooked to that moment of perfection where they’re still slightly bendy in the middle.

Laundry Liberator: With one piercing glance, restores clothing to clean, pressed, nice-smelling state (includes chemical-free dry cleaning service and closet organizing).

I’m sure there are more. I’m just stuck in a domestic mode because I didn’t spend my days off last week cleaning the house thoroughly the way I sort of halfway kinda maybe thought I might, and the mood isn’t going to strike any time soon. I need these Supers to show up, and soon.
Addendum Feb. 22, 2009: Added my superhero image, created at Found Hero Factory thanks to Berry Blog.

ADD on the Interwebz: Where my blog posts come from


  • Sweetest Husband in the World
  • Easily Distracted Wife-Mom
  • Eldest Daughter
  • Second Daughter

Note: Entire scene must be played out at high speed. Actress cast for Easily Distracted must be able to type at 110 WPM.

Scene: Dining room table. Sweetest Husband is seated at the table, laptop open, cup of coffee on a coaster. Eldest Daughter and Second Daughter lounge on a red sofa against a nearby wall, texting rapidly and giggling occasionally or saying something to each other, sotto voce.

EDWM strides into the room. She pulls her laptop out of a large duffel bag and sets it on the table, then pulls two USB flash drives out of a smaller purse hidden in the large one. SHW watches as she plugs the laptop in, notices the flash drives.

SHW: Have you backed up your drives yet?

EDWM (sheepishly, spoken in the tone of someone who received one particular flash drive in her Christmas stocking two weeks ago, one who has been asked this question before and who really, really meant to get to the task before this):

I knew you were going to ask, and I was just about to!

SHW: Ri-i-i-ght…

EDWM: Seriously, that’s the first thing I’m doing. I won’t even open the Twitter tab.

She begins working at the computer.

EDWM (to no one in particular): I need to back up the old flash drive and My Documents. I’d better do some clean-up first.

At back of stage, large screen shows projection of the tasks she is performing on the computer.

1. Select My Computer.

2. Select old flash drive, check properties. It’s nearly full.

3. Open flash drive. There are 11 folders on the screen, and another dozen or so individual files.

4. Open first folder on list: Accounting.

5. Open subfolder KidAccounting.

6. Open each of the 3 spreadsheets there. Scroll down, lingering a while in two with similar time frames in the file names to see if they’re actually the same document renamed back in 2006 for some long forgotten reason. Decide they need to be kept, close each.

7. Back up a level to Accounting.

8. Open subfolder QuickenData.

9. Change view from Thumbnail to List. Spend time figuring out Quicken’s strange way of naming backup files. Delete all but the most recent, realizing just in time that there are several different file extensions and you should probably keep all with the same dates in the name, just in case.

10. Back up a level to Accounting.

11. Open subfolder Taxes.

12. All files in this folder have a date in the filename that is more recent than 7 years ago, so don’t delete any.

13. Back up a level to Accounting.

14. Open file named for house address. On screen is a calculation of the ownership shares of two unmarried individuals buying a house together, showing the expenses of the purchase and an estimated household budget. Delete this, because these two individuals are now married, community property law applies, and SHW is the love of EDW’s life (third time IS the charm).

15. Open a file named Account Summaries because you can’t remember what’s in there. It’s a list of financial accounts—surprise!—last updated over 18 months ago. Close file, but don’t delete—you never know when you might actually update it.

16. Back up another level to the flash drive directory.

17. Open next file in alphabetical list: Blog.

18. Long list of obscure and cryptic file names appears on screen.

19. Scroll somewhat aimlessly up and down. Create a subfolder named Posted.

20. Move several files quickly into this folder. Open a few more to be reminded which ones they were; move some into the folder, leave some in the main folder.

21. Two have similar names: Everyday Heroes, and Useful Super Hero Traits. Open each one to see what it’s about.

22. Close Everyday Heroes, move it into the Posted subfolder.

23. Realize that it has been a few days since you put up a blog post, and Useful Super Hero Traits is just about good to go.

24. Go to Internet browser tab at bottom of screen and click to maximize.

25. The browser has several tabs already open: Gmail, Facebook, Google Reader, Twitter, Twurl, Hotmail, ESD101.

26. Open a new tab, begin typing in blog URL, select Google’s autocomplete suggestion. It shows the account is already signed in.

27. Click on New Post at upper right.

Eldest Daughter and Second Daughter are talking, loudly enough for EDW to hear:

ED: Is school closed again tomorrow?

SD (looking down at cell phone screen): Karl says so. He goes to Rogers and that’s District 81.

ED: They wouldn’t close just one school in the district.

Screen projection:

28. Open another tab in the browser.

29. Type

30. Click on red-letter bold-type Snow Closures at top of lefthand nav bar.

31. Scroll down on resulting page to reach a text box.

32. Scroll down inside the textbox, reach the bottom, start back up again reading slowly because these alerts are posted as they come in, and the most recent is on the bottom. Shake head sadly at the poor user interface design this reflects.

33. Spot School District 81, stop scrolling.

EDW reads aloud: Spokane Public Schools will be closed on Thursday January 8, 2009 due to dangerous residential road conditions and rapidly melting snow.

ED and SD (more or less simultaneously): Yay! No school!

EDW: Oh! I already had ESD open. I just automatically started typing.

Screen projection:

34. Closes righthand tab, revealing that the next tab to the left is the same page.

SHW, to EDW (taking advantage of the opening): You know my incomplete? I talked to my prof and he said the paper has to be 10 pages long. I’m supposed to collect real customer data and analyze that. That’s where I ran into the problem because I can’t get a list of the dealers to survey.

EDW: I asked a question about this on Twitter today. I got those responses I already sent you but I didn’t ask the question the right way, so I sent another tweet. Let me see what they said.

Screen projection:

35. Click on Twitter tab.

36. Go to DMs. Scroll down, pause on one.

EDW (reading aloud): Can you tell me which product or products he is interested in manufacturing? That may help me help you.

EDW (turns from screen to face SHW): Is it okay to tell him what you’re making? This is in a DM so nobody else will see it.

SHW: Sure, I don’t see why not. Accessories for the Hobie Mirage Adventure Island.

EDW (repeating, stumbling slightly): The Adventure Mirage Island?

SHW (patiently): The Hobie Mirage Adventure Island.

Screen projection:

37. Click on DM reply button next to the message she read aloud.

ESDW says (typing simultaneously): That's what's so cool about Twitter! I don't know this guy--I think it's a guy. I just put out a question and I got answers.

Screen projection:

38. Type: We need to know how many Hobie dealers there are & how many Adventure Mirage Islands they sell ea yr (for 1 product); making an accessory.

39. Hit Enter. DM appears on screen.

EDW: Adventure Mirage Islands, right?

SHW (enunciating clearly and slowly): Mirage. Adventure. Island. M-A-I.

EDW: I got it wrong!

Screen projection:

40. Click on DM reply next to the same message.

41. Type: I got the name wrong! Hobie Mirage Adventure Island (MAI) is the product for which we need annual sales figures & dealer #s/contact info

Voiceover narration of EDW’s thoughts: Hey, this would make a great blog post! I'm supposed to be backing up my files.

Screen projection continues:

42. Maximize Word tab at bottom of screen.

43. In Word, click on New Document shortcut at top of screen. That annoying screen that requires you to acknowledge that yes, when you say New Document, you mean Blank Document--not a Calendar or anything else involving a Wizard or other magical creature--appears.

44. Click on Blank Document. Remember that it requires a double click. Sigh impatiently. Click twice. Firmly.

45. Begin typing: ADD.

46. Hit Ctrl-S.

47. When file name entry box appears, type ADD on the interwebz and click Save.

48. Back in new document, begin typing: Characters: Sweetest Husband in the World....

Grown-ups Versus the Little Kids: A Great Day in the Snow

The snow just keeps coming. We’re tired of shoveling. I should say Sweetheart is tired of shoveling. He’s doing most of it and the baby snowblower we borrowed—actually a leaf blower that converts—isn’t much good because it shoots snow almost straight ahead. He keeps moving the same snow a couple of feet, then again.

The plows have come through a couple of times. It warmed up and then cooled back down so the snow settled into huge, heavy chunks.

Every day there is more snow to move and it’s getting to the point where we can’t lift the snow to the top of the berms along the sidewalk. It just comes sliding back down because the piles are so high and steep.

We made the best of it last week with a fierce snow battle: Grown-Ups vs. The Little Kids.

The Boy (age 11) dug enthusiastically into the huge pile we created by shoveling the (heavy, wet) snow plow's leavings into the corner of the yard.

While we shoveled the sidewalks and driveway we heard muffled but excited progress reports: "I'm two feet in!" "This is at least three feet deep!"

Sweetheart had been talking about his childhood snow forts, made by packing snow into a container and unmolding it to make snow bricks. We told The Boy we'd make a fort for the adults and we could have a battle. The Boy thought that was great. Little did he know…

Our recycling bin proved to be a great snow brick mold. Our strategic position was even better: a solid wall between two trees, facing directly toward the entrance to The Boy's cave. Naturally he started tunneling in on the side toward the yard, not toward the sidewalk, so we had him.

While we packed and stacked bricks he dug away, making his hole deeper. At some point Littlest Girl (age 8), watching our wall rise higher and higher, had an "Aha!" moment.

I heard her say, in a stage whisper that reached across the yard, "Boy!” (insert slight trouble with her Rs here) “They can thwow snowballs wight into your cave!" The Boy dug faster.

Misunderstanding The Boy's directive—"Cover me!" by which he meant “put sleds up to protect my backside”—Littlest Girl started throwing snowballs before our walls were above waist high.

No problem. Sweetheart could fling an entire shovelful of snow all the way to the fort. I don't have much of an aim, the glory days of playing catcher in sixth-grade softball being long past, but I can scoop and fling pretty fast.

The Boy frantically positioned plastic toboggans for some cover, but there were breaches to be exploited. Did we ever exploit.

Littlest Girl giggled and threw snowballs, occasionally to very good effect since we were still working on the walls. But really, neither of them had a chance of “winning” (whatever that looks like in a snowball fight when no one is going to rub anyone else’s face in the snow).

Toward the end, The Boy barricaded himself in the cave and Littlest Girl came over to our side, the little turncoat.

Basically, two adults in their 40s threw snow at a couple of kids ages 8 and 11 until we all got tired and went in for hot chocolate. What a great day.

Overdoing: The Seven-Course Meal Approach to Life

As my family and friends will attest, I have a serious tendency to overload—a craving, in a way.

My excuse is that I’m at my best when I have lots of things asking for my time. I finish projects faster when a deadline looms than when I have plenty of time. I’ll get all the notes from all the meetings cranked out to the attendees with the associated task lists, if I have lots of meetings to chronicle. When I chaired the Bike to Work Spokane effort last year, I sent and received over 3,500 emails in the course of 6 months to stay in touch with volunteers, promote the activities, and communicate with the participants. I cook better on all burners.

That goes for cooking, too. If I’m making a meal I often make everything from scratch, not just one or two featured dishes. If you come to my house for hors d’oeuvres, the odds are pretty good that I’ve cut up all the veggies on the veggie tray and made the dip myself, rather than letting Mr. Rosauers and his talented deli crew do the work.

When I volunteer, I do the same. I don’t just join a group; I end up on the board. I don’t just join the board; I end up chairing it, or heading a subcommittee, or running the publicity efforts. Mind you, this whole cycle starts because when people ask me to join a board, I say yes.

None of this is said to boast. I started writing this New Year’s Eve, and finished New Year’s Day, to remind myself of these tendencies so I can work on curbing them.

In the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, author Mireille Giuliano speculates that people in the U.S. overeat because our food often isn’t all that good-tasting. We’ll plow through a whole Hershey’s bar, when a one-ounce square of really fine chocolate would satisfy us more. We supersize our portions. We fill our plates three times at all-you-can-eat buffets.

As recent research showed, overweight people actually cue themselves differently in these settings. They sit facing the food lines. They grab a plate and start filling it before they even look at all the choices. They go back for refills before the stomach has had a chance to tell the brain "Enough!"

Thinner people will cruise the buffet line first, often without a plate; make more selective choices; and are more apt to sit facing away from the food.

I have enough on my plate. This is my year to sit facing away from the selections and enjoy what I’ve already selected. It’s good; there's plenty; and I’ll feel satisfied when I finish it.