Saturday, February 23, 2013

Is it Okay to Pee in the Sea?

A lively debate was sparked in our staffroom at lunch the other day about whether it was okay to pee in the sea (or other places like the shower or bath tub).  While we didn't create a frequency table or bar graph, my overall take of the situation was:

  • Peeing in the ocean is okay by most of us; pooping in the ocean is not.
  • Peeing in the shower is frowned upon, but not taboo.
  • Peeing in the tub is gross unless you're two years old and you get hosed down afterward with bleach and scalding water.
  • Dictators seem to like to drink their own pee.

I digress; back to the topic of peeing in the ocean: we are a family with young children who live in Asia within close proximity to world-class beaches that are within our teachers' salary budgets.  The beach vacation is usually our go-to holiday of choice: no Disney crowds, no ticks in the forests, no road trips with kids whining, "Are we there yet?"  We are content with a humble little hut on the sea full of ants and the occasional cockroach, mostly fresh seafood with the only occasional bout of food poisoning, slow service, sun-screened, teary eyes, permanently tangled hair from the lack of hot water and the conditioner we forgot at home, and a never-ending procession of cuts from coral and shells.

When my kids are frolicking in the sea and say, "Mommy, I need to go to the bathroom," my first question is always, "Number one or number two?"

If the answer is "number one," there is no way I am going to heave my lobster-tinged body out of its torporous state from under the sun umbrella to accompany my children across scalding sand, dangerously pebbled walkways and then onto a slippery bathroom floor where they could slip and fall and crack their cute little heads open.  Furthermore, they will no-doubt be walking sans shoes attracting lord-knows-what kind of bacteria that will weasel their ways into the soles of their feet giving them parasites for years to come, only to then slip and slide on a nasty toilet seat and still end up with a wet sticky bum that will go straight back into the sea.

After various misadventures in filthy facilities by the seaside, my response has become, "Why are you telling me?  You know what to do!"

My husband, of course, vigorously disagrees with my peeing-in-the-ocean philosophy, and will trudge a half mile up the beach to accompany one of my daughters to a porta-potty or some other hell-on-earth lavatory only to return to have the other gal let him know that she too is "busting."

Tom-foolery is what I call this indulgence of his.  He has always spoiled our daughters more than me, the militaristic mama.   In his defense, he does like to exercise and he's not one for lying in the sun so maybe it's just his way of taking a break from the mundane long days on the ocean that are my version of paradise and his version of intense, cancer-causing boredom.  Who knows...

All I know is give me my book (okay, my Kindle in its waterproof prophylactic cover), my umbrella and my umbrella cocktail, and I will stay planted on the beach chair come hell or high water.  (Actually, high water will prompt my evacuation.)

According to my iffy Internet research, peeing in the ocean is fine because it's already so polluted that what's a little bit more bodily fluid going to do?  There are some Internet gurus, however, who would argue with the safety of peeing in the ocean, citing that sharks are attracted by more than just the bodily fluid of blood.  This "fact" actually gives cause for further investigation, though I'm pretty sure I don't believe it.

Since I am a believer in the sea-pee, especially for children, I found a site with tips on how to urinate without attracting attention to yourself.  I will pass them on to you and give credit where credit is due:

  • Urine is sterile, but be considerate of those in your presence, and navigate away from them. No one wants to swim in your pee.
  • Make it quick and non-chalant. That way, no one will guess or even consider that you could be urinating.
  • Do not remove swim-trunks, shorts or bikini-bottoms, as that is indecent exposure. You can urinate with them on because the ocean water will naturally wash away any leftover urine.
  • This is best, and most quickly done on a very full bladder.
  • Standing in water that is lower than crotch deep could reveal your actions, and offend bystanders.
  • This option can be utilized by men, women and children of all ages.
As for peeing in a pool, I have no comment as of yet.  I'll have to do my research.  (Chlorine is a pretty good disinfectant, though, isn't it?)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ice is Nice

My new start every day?  To start doing stuff the doctor orders, even if I don't like it.  I kind of like to do things my own way until I realize they're not working.  Then I go to those people who like to think they know it all: the doctors.

I tend to have selective hearing, especially when it comes to treatment that leaves me cold.  Literally.  I am a big hater of anything cold.  Cold weather.  Cold compresses. The common cold.   Heck, I don't even like cold water.  I'll take mine hot with lemon any day.

As I've been making my slow trudge toward recovery after a traumatic and invasive back surgery, I've been pampering my back in every way imaginable: propping her up with corsets, applying balms and anti-scarring creams to her marred surface, giving her massages, letting her lie on heating pads, stretching her out on balance infinitum.  She's been getting more attention than a new girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

Even so, the recovery has been slow and my pain has been significant.

Yet somehow, until the other day, I somehow didn't hear the recommendation that ice might actually do me some good.  Ice is for eaves, I say; ice is for grape Fanta on hot, humid days; ice is for cream.  Ice is NOT for my highly sensitive skin that cries out for hot baths and down duvets and sun-drenched beaches.

Though apparently ice is good for cubes and for what ails you when it comes to an aching back.  When my physio reminded me of the miraculous properties of H2O that changes form when frozen, I sniffed at her.  No, really, I said. I preferred heat.  No, really, she retorted.  Ice is better.  I think not, I responded.  Fine then, she said.

And it wasn't until yesterday, in a fit of exquisite pain, that I gave in and went to the freezer in search of ice.  A freezer, of course, is where one might expect to find ice, and maybe even an ice pack. Not in our house.  I did, however, find about 16 bags of frozen corn that my daughter has every night for her bedtime snack.  Yes, while I feast on the popped version, she imbibes in the frozen kind.  I popped (not literally) a half-eaten bag into a Ziploc and nestled it into the small of my back.

And what do you think happened?  Relief!  Relief in a way that heat hadn't provided.  Relief in a way that as the corn melted, so did my pain.  Relief that gave me some hope that with enough frozen corn and Ibuprofen I may just be able to make my way back to work on Monday.

Now so long as my students don't mind a bag of frozen corn duct-taped to my body, I think I may be in fighting form!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ah, Men: A Tribute

Ah, men.  Gotta love 'em.  (Or not)  But I sure love mine.

If you're tempted to complain because you didn't get flowers (or they came from the supermarket instead of the florist shop or a field of wildflowers), how about making a list of all you have not to complain about?  Here's mine.  

 How Do I Love Thee?  
(Let me count 19 ways even though there are dozens more, I'm sure.)

I love the way you see the big picture when I focus on the minutiae.

I love the way you are willing to drive all over hell's half acre to satisfy my food cravings (even though I've never been pregnant) or get me dongles (since I know nothing about technology and didn't even know I needed one) or icepacks (since the frozen corn melts too fast).

I love the attention you flourish on our children.

I love how seriously you take your duty to provide for your family.

I love that you're willing to drive a family van instead of a fancy sports car (and that you happily even take public transportation unlike your diva wife).

I love that I'm attractive to you in any shape or form and I think that includes my sweat pant pajamas.  (If not, don't tell me.)

I love that you saw me through my surgery and recovery, helping me change my bandages every day and putting on those damn support stockings,  and that you never once complained about or expressed disgust or disdain.  (I would have.)

I love that you keep my secrets.

I love that you're just as happy, if not happier, going out for a burger and fries as you are going out to a fancy dancy restaurant.  (That way I can save it for my gals' night outs!)

I love that you have never, not once, in all these years, commented on my weight and that you seem to like me in any way, shape or form.

I love that you know how to play with the children and not just babysit.

I love that you will happily open a few cans from the cupboard and call it dinner and that you won't complain if I do the same.

I love that you'd rather stay at home and hang out with your family than go out on the town.

I love it that you consider me your best friend.

I love that you're happy to give me my Leah-time.

I love that I'm free to be myself around you, and I don't feel judged when I read my celebrity magazines or have to wash ice cream down the sink to keep from eating the whole tub.

I love that you let me enjoy the limelight and write about you in my blog, even though you like to fly under the radar.

I love that wherever we are in the world, with you, I am home.

I love that you still love me, (and put up with me) after all these years, even if neither of us can remember exactly how many years it has been.

Happy Valentine's Day to my all-time favorite guy!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Another Chance for New Year Resolutions!

Happy Year of the Snake!  Since I am a snake myself, I think I will take my inspiration from these reptiles and set some resolutions for myself.

Shed My Skin

Snakes shed their skins many times over a lifetime, in effect, completely reinventing themselves.  I think this is the year I try some new things. I'm not talking about pole dancing or converting to Catholicism or changing professions: just letting myself try some new gigs.  Like writing.

I'm also thinking about trying microdermabrasion to give myself a more youthful appearance.  That's roughly the same as shedding your skin.

Eat Food Bigger Than My Head

Snakes have very small heads.  In fact, they kind of look like they don't have heads at all, just long slithery bodies.  They do, however, have skulls and cavernous, fangy mouths.  Snakes are capable of devouring animals much larger than their heads in a single bite.  I like the idea of eating food items bigger than my head: burritos, calzones, giant servings of spaghetti...

Camouflage a Little More Effectively

Snakes can fit in with their surroundings so well that their prey never see them coming.  I don't really have anyone I wish to prey on, but I do think I could camouflage myself a little better.  I'm pretty much an open book: to know me is to love me (or not).  It would be a good idea to shut up once in a while and not tell the whole world all my secrets.  I'm going to go a little more undercover with my private life (other than in this blog)!

Be More Cold-Blooded in My Vacation Choices

"If a snake is in a cool place, its body temperature will quickly cool down and the snake will naturally seek a warmer place. If a snake can't escape a cold place it will lose consciousness. This is a state called torpor."

I am not a fan of torpor, but I am a fan of warm places.  I am going to plan my vacations around the fact that I am a cold-blooded reptile.  I would like Bali to be in the cards for Easter break.

Long and Lean, Baby

This is the year to do my Pilates and strengthening exercises and really elongate my muscles.  I'd like to be a little curvier than your average garden snake, but who has ever seen an overweight snake?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Finding Inner Peace While Practicing Productivity

For a lot of people I know, including my inspirational and beautiful mother and sister, baking and gardening seem to be effective conduits to inner peace while practicing productivity at the same time.  For those of us who are multi-taskers, developing mindfulness in the midst of productivity is ideal.  Sitting for hours with legs crossed and cramped whilst emptying out mind doesn’t necessarily work for us type A "doers" nor for those of us who can’t actually sit on the floor without intense discomfort.

Lately I’ve been thinking a fair bit about what activities bring me inner peace.  I wish it were sleeping as it is for so many people since it’s a necessary evil anyway.  Becoming enlightened and refreshed during sleep is really the perfect scenario, but given the insane threads of my dream life, sleep is something I would forgo had I the option. Upon awakening, I need to find some immediate inner peace remedies (like coffee) since I am a radiating ball of stress and nerves, rather than a well-rested, centered Eckhart Tolle devotee (all of which I aspire to be).

I also wish baking and gardening were part of my go-to repertoire for practicing peace, but they both bring me pain, namely in my back.  They also emphasize how truly non-domestic I am.  I used to envision myself as a Jane Granola type of gal: you know, the flower child who bustles around the house in her Indian flowy dresses always pregnant and flushed with a baby in one hand and a sprig of herbs in the other, with the smell of freshly baked bread aroma saturating the background. 

The only problems are: pregnancy has never been on my bucket-list, and while I love the smell of freshly baked bread, I take no pleasure in making it; also, most plants wither at my glance.  As for granola, I despise it.

At big family reunions, everyone would always be assigned a dish to bring ranging from my mother’s famous Napoleon torte to potato salad to zwieback and farmer sausage.  Everyone would arrive with their Tupperware containers overflowing with savory or sugary goodness, and I would come bearing the napkins or the paper plates.  (And this was way-back-when during the time when I actually did some cooking!)   I was pegged early on for my non-affinity in household affairs.  For those of you Mennonite readers, you know that this is tantamount to heresy.

Yes, I do tend to get stressed when I step into a zone where there are multiple ingredients or tools that are required to concoct a finished product: this includes papier mache, composting or even blow drying my hair with a brush and styling product.  It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that I don’t really want to.  It is operational overload.  I won’t analyze why this is because it’s been 47 some years of not developing these traits so I don’t plan to try to change them now.  The best course of action would be to get rid of some of my guilt about my non-doing of them.

So how does a person like me find inner peace in day-to-day tasks?  During my medical leave of absence from work, I’ve happily confirmed that writing is my inner peace work; that I am one of those lucky people who can be a writer.  (Whether I can make a living at it remains to be seen.)  What I mean by this is that I have the stamina, the dedication and the inner peace that comes with losing myself in a piece of writing, whether it be letting the first draft pour out of me, revising and playing with what’s already been written, or copy editing for mistakes.  All of those things rise me up to a level of inner peace and present-moment presence that few other things do.

One of the reasons I write this blog (aside from ego) is because it gives me joy to tap out little exaggerated vignettes on my odd little life, and pretty little sentences that might cause you to chuckle or ponder or say, “I could do that, too.”

The process of writing for me is a peaceful, happifying process.  It is one of the few times where I don’t let my monkey mind mess with my mindful mind; I just let it all flood out and deal with the repercussions later during the editing sessions.  Even then, I can easily laugh off the grandiosities and the mistakes and the non-sequiturs; I can press delete and come away with a published little piece for posterity. 

I like to have something to show for my inner peace development.  For us type A folks, an empty mind is not quite enough.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Making Stuff with the Kids

With all the hi-tech electronic gadgets and the all-consuming iPad, I am gratified that our children are still excited about making the modern-day version of the tin can telephone.  They could be playing on our iPhone and texting back and forth, but instead they are downstairs with their daddy stringing some communication devices together with thread and paper cups.  I love it!  And how do you like this bouquet of construction paper flowers we made yesterday?

My hubby is the crafty parent in the family.  Yesterday he and our eldest daughter made paper chain Chinese New Year decorations; then he and the two kids made "love guns" with Lego, the only kind this mommy will have in the house.  I'm sure they are real guns when I am out of hearing distance, but I get sprayed with bullets of love whenever I enter the room!

Charlotte also made a wand using a pencil, construction paper and a glue stick.  This gave our daughters hours of enchantment.  They were also inspired by recent forays in the movie and book worlds to craft their own "light savers" and Nimbus 2000 broomsticks out of Christmas gift wrap tubes.  It's fun to watch Star Wars and Harry Potter merge into their version of fantasy play.  (Light sabers trump broomsticks.)

At brunch on Sunday, Don taught the girls how to make cartoon figures on the paper tablecloth with chunky crayons, and we followed it up with  a rousing game of Xs and Os. We haven't given in to arming our daughters with iPhones on our dinner outings just yet.  So long as there are tablecloths and crayons, we'll be okay.  Last year, Charlotte made herself an XBox out of a tissue box and happily carried it out with her to restaurants so she could feel like part of the in-crowd.  She wasn't disturbed in the least that hers didn't take batteries.  She's outgrown her XBox, but the girls occasionally bring their knitting needles along when we go out so they can work on their never-ending scarf projects.

No doubt, they will be clamoring to playing "Dragon Vale" on the iPad sometime in the next few hours, but so long as we keep that down to 15 minutes segments we're hoping our kids can continue to embrace their imaginary play with their taped-together weapons and Sharpie microphones and tin can phones.

We're not perfect parents and they're not perfect kids; the apps and the computer will always have their attraction (for all of us), but it's gratifying to see kids having fun without having to resort to electronic entertainment every minute of every day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gal-Friendly Options for Superbowl Sunday

My guy is an old-movie, film-noir type of fellow so the Superbowl doesn't evoke any emotions or provoke any special plans on our part.  Usually we youtube the commercials afterward, and we sometimes accompany our viewing pleasure with a festive party platter that honors the Green Bay Packers, whether they're in the Superbowl or not.  (Because if you're from Wisconsin, you have to honor the Green Bay Packers whether you like football or not; I also think it's against the law not to like cheese curds, brats (as in bratwurst) or beer.)

Helmets off to those of you gals who are fans of the sport, but some of us just don't run with the pack, so to speak.

So...if you're a lady and not beholden to making and serving dips and buffalo wings for your man and his brethern, it's the perfect time to hightail yourself and perhaps some of your lady friends to some other venue to enjoy your own version of entertainment.

1.  How about heading to an upscale restaurant to enjoy some champagne and the haute cuisine that you would so love to have even though your dh wants a chimichanga and deep fried ice cream?  You'll have no trouble getting reservations like you would on Valentine's Day and you'll save your hubby the confusion of all the cutlery.

2. Go to the movies.  No worries that you'll be seen by anyone you know so you can go watch whatever guilty pleasure you please.  And I'm not talking about Zero Dark Thirty.

3. Take at least half of all that artery-clogging, trans-fat-infused food you've creamed, crushed and mixed with Lipton's Onion Soup mix and consign yourself to your own TV in another part of the house.  Why not catch up on one of your favorite series on Netflix?  Drop Dead Diva anyone?

4. Go to a coffee shop with a good book.  It'll be you and a bunch of other intellectuals (or at least non-sporty types).  You may even meet someone you like, the kind of guy you won't have to spend every Sunday watching football with.

5. Get outside and do some exercise instead of watching other people get it on TV.  Cross country skiing, jogging, frisbee, tai chi, jazzercising...whatever makes you happy.

6. Do some butt-patting of your own if your someone-else isn't a SB fan either.  A Sunday afternoon snuggle can be even more fun than Sunday afternoon football.

7. Have a spa day with a friend.  You'll come back refreshed, beautiful, and there will be no hangover that you'll have to go back to work with on Monday.  (Don't expect your husband to notice your transformation, though; and there will probably be dishes waiting.)

8.  Go to an art gallery or museum minus the usual weekend crowds.  Imagine you and a bunch of million dollar art work in a gallery alone.  Line your pockets with Skittles or M & Ms to make the experience even more enjoyable.

9. High tea at a five star hotel, anyone?  You know you would love to dive into the chocolate fountain and drown in it to the lilt of an orchestra playing classical music in the background.

10. Buy yourself some celeb magazines that you usually save for your visits to the hair salon and get caught up on the gossip and gowns.  Orange processed food goes well with this pastime and it doesn't matter if the pages get greasy.  (Heck, take it all in the tub and it won't matter anyway.)

If all else fails, join in and enjoy the ads and the halftime show (and the food, of course).  You can practice your meditation skills during the actual play time.  Whether you watch or not, calories don't count on Superbowl Sunday.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

10 Lessons Learned From Downton Abbey Season Three

Don't dress for dinner if you're staying at home.  Your pajamas will do just fine.

Don't let crimp your hair like Edith.  You'll just look like you have waffle fries plastered to your head.  It's even worse than Princess Leia's cinnamon roll hairdo.

Don't ask your mother-in-law to lend you money.  Even if she is Shirley Maclaine.  Better to go to the bank.

Don't trust women who have a ringlet around each ear.  They're out to get you.

Don't wear an apron; you'll just look dowdy.  (Unless you're a man and you wear one with the boobies: then you'll just look like an ass.)

Don't get framed for murder.  If you do, check your mattress regularly and make friends with the right guards.  (The ones with big teeth and long faces.)

Don't set your table with more than a fork, spoon and a knife.  It's too confusing.  You can even get rid of the knife.  That's what thumbs are for.

Don't have home delivery.  Of a baby, that is.

Don't have your husband sleep in the drawing room since you don't have one; just show him to the sofa bed when he snores too much.

Don't hire prostitutes as household help.  Better yet, don't hire them at all.