Back to School Crazy

Posted by Kathy on August 8th, 2014

crayonsI’d like to start off by saying I tip my hat to all you parents out there. I’m constantly amazed at how you pull off the hardest job in the world, all with a myriad other stresses in your life. I don’t know where you get the time or energy for it.

Pat yourselves on the back. Go ahead. Do it.

Those of you with kids returning to school in the fall are probably running around right now trying to get all your ducks in a row. I’ve heard of schools sending parents a list of things their children will need before school starts, especially grade school-aged children. Very specific lists that include a backpack, notebooks, scissors, erasers, construction paper and a host of other things.

I was chatting with a friend about the list he and his wife received from their children’s school. The list is long and painfully precise. Stray from the list under penalty of death. Among the things they need to buy is a 48-count box of crayons.

Here comes the crazy….

Parents are supposed to write or affix their child’s name to all of their belongings so they always get returned to the child.

Including the crayons.

No, they aren’t supposed to write the child’s name on the box itself. They are instructed to write the name on each and every crayon.

My jaw dropped and I argued with my friend for five minutes that he must be playing a joke on me. He insisted this was true and got his wife on the phone to let me hear just how true this is and how much fun they have with this chore.

Still in disbelief, I Googled it and sure enough, it’s a thing. A dreadful, time-wasting, ridiculous thing.

I’m sorry. But when I was in grade school, I’m pretty sure I took a zippered bag full of crayons to school and if I lost them or some bratty classmate stole them, my mother probably just bought me a whole new box.

I’m pretty sure if I was a parent and got those instructions, I’d pay someone to do the task for me. Kathy ain’t got no time for labeling crayons.

So how are all you parents coping with school checklists? Did you get everything yet? Are your kids ready for back to school?

If Grammar is So Hard, What Hope Do We Have for World Peace, Really?

Posted by Kathy on July 12th, 2014

Amazon just yelled at me in an email to get off my ass and blog more. Apparently, they like it if the people who subscribe to Junk Drawer on Kindle actually get something they pay for.

Since I haven’t written in a month, I got flagged for being a slacker. Sorry Kindle people! I promise to do better and stop writing exclusively for The Facebook.

Starting with two grammar failures I found on TV graphics within 12 hours of each other.

Signs the world is going to hell in a hand basket: unnecessary apostrophes and misspellings.

First, this one had me confused because the TV was muted and I thought by the graphic it meant there was a $25k lawsuit involving champagne. Makes no sense, right? So I unmuted to discover they’re referring to a three-story, $25,000 per night NYC suite, if you’re so inclined to spend your riches that way.

Suite. With an “e.” Not suit. Got it?

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And then there’s this thing. God, I hate when people don’t get its correctly. This one bothered me more because, although the above picture came from a local news station with tighter deadlines, this one comes from an ABC program called What Would You Do? Presumably, the show is in production for weeks or even months and surely they would have plenty of time to review and edit for grammar. No?

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This concludes my one month absence from blogging.

I promise to try and write more for Junk Drawer, especially since in two weeks it’ll be 7 years old. It deserves more. You deserve more. At least the three readers I have left.

Have a splendid weekend, folks!

Maybe Poke It With a Stick?

Posted by Kathy on June 1st, 2014

lying on grassI had no intention of walking ten miles today, I really didn’t. In fact, when I went to bed last night, it was with such a creaky body I figured I would spend all of today on the couch. Instead, I woke up feeling like my whole body had been replaced with one that actually works.

When that happens, you take every advantage of it, especially since I’ve suffered from some recurring, frustrating knee pain lately. Pain that’s kept me from doing any kind of meaningful exercise. Since I had zero pain today, I set out to do one or two miles. Which turned into four, which turned into six and then eight and then a glorious ten!

Now I’m not gonna lie. It wasn’t without its pains. While I was delighted the knees felt amazing for all ten miles, I can’t say as much for my hips. I took breaks along the way, stopping back home twice to hydrate, stretch and sit a bit.

Back out on the circuit, during mile eight, I needed to stretch and relax some more. I sat under a tree for five minutes with a shit-eating grin on my face. I just couldn’t believe I was doing this. Ten miles ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at and I was feeling kind of awesome.

But the last two miles had something to say about that. Around mile 9, I had to park my butt on a curb and engage in a total body stretch, which is really something that ought to take place in the privacy of your own home. I decided to ignore how this probably looked to people driving by.

After I was done contorting myself on the curb, I decided to take a rare opportunity to lay back on some cool, luxurious grass and simply watch the clouds roll by. Suddenly, I was five years old again and enjoyed the blissful downtime, stopping to think, to daydream and just chill, all with a welcome breeze passing over me.

Lying there, with a relaxed body and mind, I shut my eyes and listened to my jams on my iPod. I got into a nice little zen state and I didn’t move a muscle. I probably could have fallen asleep there.

Until.

Until my zoned out space was abruptly interrupted by a neighbor woman calling out to me over and over “Ma’am? Ma’am? Are you OK?” I hadn’t heard her at first because of the music in my ears. But when I did, I opened my eyes to a worried-looking woman a few feet away.

“You weren’t moving. I thought maybe something was wrong,” she said. And by “wrong,” I think she meant “dead.”

So, word of advice. If you’re going to be a weekend warrior and need to park yourself in the middle of someone’s lawn, move a body part every now and then because you kind of look like a corpse otherwise.

Death tends to frighten people.

When Is a Walk Not a Walk? When It’s a Near-Death Experience

Posted by Kathy on April 27th, 2014

Note: Long read ahead. The TL;DR version is this – Went for a walk with a friend. Walk turned into a getting-lost hike in unfamiliar wilderness. Thought I would die. Didn’t die.

Now for the long version.

Yesterday I met up for lunch with my good blogging friend Valerie. We met halfway between where we each live, in Whitehouse, NJ. After lunch she suggested we go for a walk. "Sure! Let’s!" She pulled out her iPhone and asked Siri for nearby parks.

We were going to drive to one park, but passed a different place Siri mentioned that was closer and stopped there instead, Round Valley Reservoir, a crystal clear man-made lake surrounded by wooded hiking trails, the largest in New Jersey. We parked and headed to the water.

014We stopped and chatted with a fisherman for a while. We said we wanted to walk "way over there to the other side, where that dam is." He said "Don’t do it, it’ll take you at least an hour to get there." But we were thinking "We’re fit and like to walk and you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about old man! Maybe we’ll even walk around the whole lake!”

We set out for that dam. Big mistake. While there appeared to be a marked path starting at a boat launch, it quickly wasn’t. The terrain instantly became very rugged and we hadn’t worn sneakers or boots because who wears sneakers or boots when you’re only planning on lunch? I was in no-cushion Clarks and Val was practically in dress shoes. The paths were rocky, hilly, and covered in surface tree roots and stumps you had to avoid every tenth step.

There was also zero navigational signage, zero warnings about difficult terrain or the fact that you ought to be an Olympic athlete to hike the trails and you should really have a backpack full of food and water and a first aid kit. Siri failed to mention all of these things, and yes, I’m blaming her.

We saw lots of people canoeing and kayaking out on the water, and lots of walkers with and without dogs. Look, everyone’s doing it! Seemed OK, so we kept walking.

Once we traversed about a mile of the wooded area, we crossed a dam with a beach nearby. It was such a perfect weather day, breezy and sunny, so we sat down and enjoyed the peacefulness of it all for a while.

Here, we should have called it a day and turned back, but we kept walking and walking and it took forever to get to the other dam we were shooting for. It was difficult getting there because what looked close by — never was. When we finally got to the dam(n) wall, we’d already walked 3.5 miles and had no idea how much longer it would be before getting all the way around the lake.

Val turned off the iPhone app that was tracking our distance.  You know, in case the battery went dead and we needed to make an SOS call, because by now we realized how hard it was to get where we already were, how hard it would be to turn around and go back if we had to, and had no idea how much further it was to walk if we wanted to get completely around the lake.

057And we weren’t even sure we’d have access enough to stay close to the water. The reservoir is surrounded by tall metal barbed-wire fencing, so you were constantly forced to take the long way around it. At parts, we were walking on the berm of a main roadway, with me screaming at Val to get as far off the road as possible because you know some jerk is going to be texting and driving and veer off-road and kill us.

I asked her if she had a passcode on her iPhone and what it was so that in case she was hit by a car, I could at least call for help. Val rolled her eyes and dismissed me and instead kept waving happily at motorcyclists and other drivers as if we were on a leisurely stroll. We were not. I was counting the minutes to my death.

We kept walking, all the while glancing over at the wooded area from which we came. I wondered aloud how long it would take to loop completely around the lake and get back over there. "Is the lake even round? What if it’s not round? What if we haven’t walked even half of it yet?”

We joked about having to be rescued from our odyssey. This is when I regaled Val with the story of the 1972 Andes plane crash survivors who ate the flesh of people who were killed in the crash, only so they could survive long enough to maybe, possibly, God-willing, be rescued. I told her that after being stranded two months, some of the survivors were able to cross a mountain range in treacherous conditions to get help and they did it. The human spirit is awe-inspiring. We’ll be OK. Then we had an interesting discussion about what part of the human body would you eat if you had to. Like, really had to. I suggested muscle. She suggested we talk about something else.

We eventually came to a juncture where it looked sort of like the lake curved. We were mulling our options because we weren’t really sure where the road would lead. Further away from point of origin or closer?

059Just then, we ran into a woman jogger. I asked "You must live around here. How much further is it to get to the parking lot?"

She said "Which parking lot?" Uh-oh. We showed her  pictures of where we started from our cameras. She said "Oh. You’re very far away here. You can’t keep walking in the direction you’re going, you’ll never make it. You’re looking at three hours."

OMG.

She tried giving us directions to get back the way we came, but with shortcuts that meant almost nothing to us because we couldn’t remember seeing any of the landmarks she used as reference. Val’s heart sank because her fear was having to turn around and go all the way back along a way that nearly killed us so far. But that’s exactly what we did, shortcuts or not.

And then it started to rain.

And get darker.

And we both wanted to cry.

We walked silently for a bit and the only funny part of our return adventure was when at the exact same moment, we blurted out "Maybe she’ll come back….." We were both going to say "….and pick us up to take us to our cars." I mean, the jogger had to live nearby, and she had to know what we had ahead of us. With no boat, we couldn’t have gotten back to the other side of the lake without another 4 miles or so of walking. In the rain. And in pain.

But she didn’t come for us.

We kept walking. At some point we both imagined the possibility we wouldn’t make it back before dark. We would have only the light of our cameras and Val’s iPhone to see and be seen. I simply could not accept this prospect and put it out of my head.

027We got back over a dam, back along a main road, fearing becoming roadkill, and then back through the rugged wooded area that we’d already cursed once. At points we’d say "Is this correct? Did we really come this way? Check your camera." We often reviewed spots we thought we’d seen before, pictures we took. Luckily we could confirm certain things we’d seen on the way out, odd looking trees, ones with unusual markings that looked interesting for photo-taking sake, but now saved us because they were our breadcrumbs for the way back.

At one point, we walked on a path that led straight down to the water and appeared to end right there. That’s when we looked at each other and got genuinely scared for the first time during our trek.

"How much left on your phone battery?"

"17%"

"Save it."

Mercifully, we heard people through the brush, a young couple sitting face to face on a tree stump, whose romantic moment was rudely interrupted when we asked them where the parking lot was. They were very vague. Pointing and saying "Just go up that way and it’s to the left."

Do you realize that when you’re in thick woods, you can’t just point like that and say "Up there to the left." “Up there” can quickly turn into really lost and “to the left” would be nowhere near the water, the only way we’d been orienting ourselves thus far. We did not want to stray from the water.

019But the couple began walking in that direction themselves and so we followed them, not even knowing if it would lead to our parking lot. It could have been another. But we figured 1) at least stick by the people and 2) if it wasn’t our parking lot, we were fully prepared to hitch a ride with someone back to our lot. We decided who we’d ask.

It would have to be old people, super elderly, preferably women. Super elderly women are not usually ax murderers. We vowed not to end the day being killed by someone we thought was a Good Samaritan. I told her "I’ve watched a lot of I Survived on the Bio channel, and getting into a stranger’s car never ends well. “Like that one poor girl who got in a van with a creeper, was raped, had her arms chopped off and was left for dead.”

“Stop talking,” Val muttered.

We kept walking, now on a path we didn’t recognize, further from the water, getting scared and planning our next steps.

I called my husband to tell him I was on an adventure, and oh yeah, he might have to send search and rescue. I was only 50% sure this new route was going to get us out, but I told him we were fine. Ish.

More walking, more walking, more walking.

But then.

We saw cars.

As we got closer, Val pulled out her key fob and pressed the button. And her car made the most lovely "I’m over here!" honk and I said "Val, if I could actually jump for joy on these legs, I would, but I can’t. I’m in so much pain."

She was too. Our feet took a real beating. Wanna know the worst irony? I had a pair of brand new comfy sneakers IN MY CAR. Awesome.

028When we got to the parking lot, we saw a young man appearing to go for a leisurely walk in the woods. Har.

We asked "Have you been here before?" He said no and we immediately urged him NOT TO GO INTO THE WOODS. He’ll never get out. It was already 4:30 and if he had no navigational tools and was alone, that was a recipe for disaster.

I kept urging him not to go alone, "Don’t do it. I’m serious." He looked as if I was crazy, but I said "Look. We’ve been in there for 4 hours. We’re lucky to be out." He walked back to his car, grabbed some other things, while we readied to leave.

I called my husband to say he didn’t have to send a search party. After I was done and drove fast away from our body-pounding, fear-inducing, risk-taking harrowing trek, I saw that guy walking away from the woods, up near the main road and I prayed he decided to enjoy the lake from a distance. If he went into the woods anyway, despite our warnings, he’s probably still there.

Dead.

Lunatic in Aisle 9

Posted by Kathy on April 11th, 2014

shopping cartIt’s always something with me.

I went to Wegmans after work today for some grocery shopping. Grabbed one of those two-tiered shopping carts that are smaller than a regular cart, but bigger than a hand basket.

I got about 10 feet from the cart corral before realizing I had an unbelievably loud and annoying “crazy wheel” in the front. You know, the one that does whatever it wants, when it wants.

The bad seed.

Because I always think I can somehow jerk it back into a normal wheel position and make it behave, I kept using the cart – pushing harder, making zig zag turns, cursing at it – but nothing worked and now I was so far from the corral.

Too late to go back and get a normal cart. I’ll just deal with this. But how can I make this thing quieter? Honestly, I sounded like a car crash, screeching metal on metal, so loud everyone turned around to look and get out of my way.

I quickly decided that if the crazy wheel didn’t actually touch the floor, it couldn’t make any noise.

So I basically popped a wheelie with the cart and drove it down each aisle on its hind wheels.

No, this didn’t look goofy at all.

Toothpaste. Put the cart down. Pop a wheelie. Move along.

Tissues. Put the cart down. Pop a wheelie. Move along.

Coffee creamer. Put the cart down. Pop a wheelie. Move along.

No, not goofy at all.

My wheelie shopping was a success until I collected too many things that I couldn’t pop wheelies anymore.

So I went back to screeching and having a perpetual car accident all the way through the rest of the store, paid for my stuff and got the hell outta there.

My advice? Just take the damn thing back and get another one because you can’t win with a screwy wheel. Not even if you drive it on two good wheels and do all your shopping like it’s the first time you’ve ever seen a shopping cart and don’t know how to use it.