Our Diabolical Dishwasher

We’re all afraid of our new dishwasher. It looks innocent enough with its shiny chrome exterior and spacious interior, even though no one but Richard can load it for utmost efficiency.

It’s the imperceptibly, weak, microscopic green dot on the top of the door that sends us all into a panic. There you are, being a good citizen of the household, reaching to open the dishwasher to deposit into the cutlery basket the spoon you used for a nano-second to stir your coffee when you hear that familiar click; the one that signals the dishwasher is full of sparkling clean dishes.

Richard refers to this phenomenon as ”winning the lottery.” If you open a dishwasher full of clean dishes, you win the prize of putting said clean dishes away. You get hypothetical bonus points for then loading the dirty dishes sitting in the sink into the machine.

But you didn’t go to the dishwasher to empty the entire thing. You came to put your used spoon in it. You didn’t see the green light.

That light. It’s barely a light. It’s barely a dot. It’s barely anything. You can’t see it because it’s cleverly concealed by the countertop that juts out just over it. I wonder if they’re working together, having fun at our expense. If you bend over while turning your head sideways you can almost see it, but none of us remembers to do that.

The worst part about that sliver of green “light” is that once you open the dishwasher the light fades away. It has a failsafe so you can’t open the dishwasher, realize the dishes are clean, and then silently close it leaving the clean dishes inside for the next person to put away. No, once this dishwasher has been opened, there’s no turning back.

We all get the exact same surprised expression on our faces when any of us innocently opens the dishwasher only to realize too late that it has set us up, once again. It lets out a little clicking noise and then sends wafts of lemon-fresh steam into the kitchen. I’ve tried to close the door as soon as I’ve opened it hoping the light would stay on for the next poor sap that came to wash a spoon, but the dishwasher doesn’t allow that. When did appliances begin to wield such power?

The dishwasher has become the moral compass in our house. If you open it and it contains clean dishes, you must put the clean dishes away. The only way I know to bypass that rule is if I’m on my way out of the house and don’t have time to put the clean dishes away. At times like those I leave a note taped to the counter that reads “dishwasher clean”!

I foolishly hope that someone will see my note and empty the dishwasher, but instead, it acts as a signal to my family that I won the lottery so I should be the one to put away the dishes. They reward me even further by leaving piles of dirty dishes in the sink that will need to be loaded into the dishwasher after I empty it.

So, as you can imagine, none of us likes to put anything into the dishwasher anymore for fear we’ll unwittingly “win the lottery”. I try to bend over and look sideways for the menacing green light when I remember, but more often than not I am the recipient of the worst lottery prize ever.

Oh, how I long for my old dishwasher that hocked a loogie of Cascade onto the dishes and then didn’t have enough energy to rinse it off. That dishwasher had a lever that could be manually locked while it scrubbed your coffee spoon. The beautiful thing about that lever was that you could unlock it — pretend you didn’t — and then lock it again. No one ever had to know you won the lottery but refused to claim your prize.

I’m hoping this new dishwasher doesn’t last long. We all resent the authority it has over us. The next time we shop for a dishwasher the only requirement will be that it has a lever that locks and unlocks yet leaves no tell-tale sign, such as the sound of coffee spoons clinking together that grows louder – louder – louder, I say! Louder every moment until I just can’t take it anymore and feel compelled to confess that Yes! I won the lottery!

The Family Picnic

Since ‘tis the season when families get together for barbeques, I thought I’d share a story that first appeared in Chicago Parent in August, 1992, Indy’s Child in July 1995, and online on msnbc.com.

Ah, the annual family picnic. It’s the one day each year when every relative you never knew you had climbs out of his or her time capsule to play Catch with you.

It’s one of those occasions that sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun until you realize, as The Day of The Picnic draws nearer and nearer, just how much you have no idea who these people really are who have come to play Catch with you.

It’s funny, but after all of these years, I still don’t know, let’s say, about…99% of the people who come to our family picnic. For all I know, by some strange quirk in zoning laws, all the people who attend our picnic every year might really belong to a whole other family who always ends up having its picnic on the same day, at the same time and place as ours.

I know I should know these people. Perhaps I just don’t pay enough attention year after year when my mother drags Richard and me over to yet another woman with a bee-hive hairdo, sky-blue eye shadow, and neon orange lipstick and says, “Leslie, you remember Aunt Tootie, don’t you? She used to babysit for you when you were about this tall”, gesturing to her knee.

Aunt Tootie replies, “My! Look how you’ve grown”!

“I’m 34, now, Aunt Tootie”, I think to myself. “People change”.

Aunt Tootie continues, “Do you remember me? I sure remember you! You used to love running around the house naked”.

Richard’s eyebrows crest as he says, “Oh, really? Well, come on, Aunt Tootie. How about you and I go for a little walk so we can discuss this further”?

Now, I know a lot of you are thinking, “Then don’t go. Stay home. Say NO to bugs”!

And that’s a very good idea, unless, of course, it’s YOUR mother who organizes the family picnic. Then, you have to go. And you have to like it. And you have to say, “Yes! Let’s do this again next year”!

I know I should consider myself lucky. I know a lot of people who actually have to travel by car with three screaming, Gummy Bear-throwing children for days just to play Catch with people they don’t know.

But when I stop to think about it, because we both come from such large, extended families, Richard and I spend a lot of time attending functions for and with people we don’t know.

Our good friend Tom once invited us to a very swanky party that we had to miss because one of Richard’s third-cousins-twice-removed had invited us to his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Tom asked Richard exactly how he was related to this boy and after Richard had finished plodding through his family tree, Tom said, “Gee! In most normal families, you wouldn’t even know that person”.

Which brings me back to our family picnic. Unlike Richard’s family picnic, comprised of a whole other family I don’t know, ours has no organized games that supply fun for the entire family. We have games for the kids, but his family plays games such as the ever popular egg toss, and the even more popular “Mummy Mommy” game during which all the darling children in the family race to see who can be the first to wrap their parents up in toilet paper.

Though my family’s picnic lacks the oodles of fun those games provide, we have our own brand of picnic fun known as “The Chase Sisters Hall of Fame”. This game requires a keen eye and a shameless soul, which is why only my sister Beth and I can play it. In this game we award mental trophies to our relatives in such categories as “Best Fake Smile” and “Most Colorful Bermuda Shorts”.

And so, The Day of The Picnic has finally arrived, and as we prepare to leave for the big event I have a feeling that this year will be different. I am actually looking forward to it.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I have matured. Maybe it’s because I finally realize how lucky I am to be blessed with so many people who care enough about me that they come to play Catch with me each year. After all, I have many friends who have no family in the area, and always tell us how lucky we are to share such closeness with our families.

Or, maybe it’s that I saw Richard pack Family-sized bottles of Tylenol and Advil into our picnic basket. I have a feeling this year’s picnic will be lots of fun.

Note: Mom: it’s just a story I really do love our family picnic. It’s Beth who hates it.

The Pen is Mightier

photo (4)Richard and Lucas are going on a road-trip tomorrow to southern Illinois to register Lucas for college in the fall. I mentioned to Richard yesterday that the weather is supposed to be  pretty bad Friday. I know we can’t really know what the weather will be, but the forecast for our area as well as where they’re heading looks bleak.

I knew he would mock me, but it is my right as a Jewish wife and mother to warn the flock of impending doom. I suggested they leave today and stay overnight so they wouldn’t have to worry about getting to orientation on time tomorrow.

Sure enough he looked at me with a smirk and said, “We’ll check with our penises on Friday and get back to you.”

Ok. That was a little harsher than I was expecting, but funnier, too.

I took another stab at being, well, me, and mentioned to Richard that with the impending bad weather coming, we should probably lower the umbrella outside. Another smirk.

I looked outside a few hours ago and took this photo. Jewish wife and mother 1; penises 0.

Enjoy this clip from SNL:


The Ritz of Shvitz: Part I

I never thought I’d want to be a member of a high-end fitness club. I felt perfectly comfortable exercising at the local recreation center. But Richard decided he wanted to start working out and, due to his desire for all things boiled and sanitized, would only join what I had judged by its cover to be The Ritz of all health clubs.

We went to meet with the club’s Concierge a few weeks ago. We were given the grand tour of the amenities which ended with a waft through the dimly-lit health spa. The smell of eucalyptus, mint, and lavender married with a hint of Madagascar cinnamon made me feel like a cartoon character whose feet drag along the ground while she’s lured by a visible wisp of smoke in the shape of a finger, beckoning her to follow it. I was impressed. I didn’t want to be.

Due to various variables, we received a sizable discount and, because my membership to the recreation center had recently expired, I decided to humor Richard and The Concierge by agreeing to join. I was happy Richard had found a club he felt was clean enough for him to sweat in, but I was sure I was going to hate it.

Richard set up a fitness evaluation for the very next day at 6:00 AM, as well as several sessions with a trainer, which was included with our membership. I was (and still am) recovering from a tennis-induced hammy injury and told The Concierge I would set up my evaluation when I was cleared to do so by my physical therapist. I really didn’t want to like this place, but I didn’t feel intimidated or overly unfit after the tour.

Until The Concierge guided us to The Shop where a slightly plump, perspiring, middle-aged woman wearing a sports bra and yoga pants gave us complimentary t-shirts. She then told us that we were entitled to 20% off everything in the store except Kiehl’s body potions, and lululemon clothing. I didn’t hear the last part so I asked her to repeat what she said. “I said the 20% off doesn’t apply to our selection of lululemon clothing, but you won’t be able to wear it anyway.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, thinking she might perhaps take that moment to explain what she really meant by her comment. Instead, she made it worse.

“You won’t fit in it. It won’t look good on you.”

Richard began to escort me out of The Shop by my wenus (It’s a real word. See? http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wenus). He could see that the eucalyptus, mint, lavender married with a hint of Madagascar cinnamon induced coma was wearing off and and wanted to spare me –- no, he wanted to spare himself — the inevitable tears (mine) that usually follow a nosedive of a situation such as this one — but my chin didn’t even quiver once.

Before any of us could say another word, he thanked her and yanked me out the door.

I got into the car and began grumbling about the “moist, ugly whale who said I was fat”. “She never said you were fat”, Richard sighed, “besides, you just lost 20 pounds!”

“She doesn’t know that,” I snapped.

“I knew you were going to take it wrong,” he said.

“Wrong? What did she say that was right?”

“She was referring to ‘the girls’ because you had just told her that you wanted the large complimentary t-shirt instead of the medium one she first gave you because you said ‘the girls’ wouldn’t fit in a t-shirt that small. She was saying your boobs won’t fit into lululemon clothing.”

I knew that. I did. But, I wanted to hear the lavishly nice things people who work at health clubs always say to new recruits even when they don’t mean them; not the equivalent of “you’re fat”.

I could tell that I was raining on Richard’s enthusiasm parade about joining The Ritz, so I decided to shut my big, fat mouth.

When we got home I went outside and sat in the backyard with the dogs. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew Richard was probably right. That smelly woman was most likely referring to ”the girls”. I tried to move past it but couldn’t. So I called her.

“Hi, this is Leslie. I just left The Shop and was wondering what you meant when you said I wouldn’t fit into lululemon clothing.”

“Well”, she began, “first of all, I only carry up to a size 8.”

Oh. No. She. Didn’t!

My chin began to quiver uncontrollably, as if holding back tears earlier only made the dam that much more ready to burst. I managed a quick “good-bye” and hung up the phone.

And even though I really and truly wanted to, I still couldn’t let it go. So I e mailed The Concierge and told her about the exchanges I’d had with Shamu at The Shop.

The Concierge e mailed me back immediately saying that the person in The Shop is very outgoing and says lots of stuff that she doesn’t realize is hurtful, and she was so sorry, and I’m a beautiful woman with a beautiful body, and she felt self-conscious when she first joined the gym a year ago before she became The Concierge and how intimidating it was…

The Concierge was a size zero, if even. She had beautiful, honey-toned skin, long, luxurious brunette hair and was dressed in clothes that, even though they looked like they had been painted on, looked pretty darn good on her. The pumps she was wearing sealed her impersonation of “Health Spa Barbie”, if there is one. I doubt she’s ever had a moment of self-consciousness. Perhaps I should give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she has worked so hard that in the past year she has successfully come down from a size two.

The Korengolds Take Weston Because the Kardashians Already Took Miami: Part I

Recently our friends Tom and Susana came into town from Key Biscayne, Florida for Tom’s brother’s wedding. We met them and our mutual friends Steve and Juliet for breakfast. Susana walked into the restaurant wearing the most beautiful, natural-looking hair extensions I had ever seen.

Ever since seeing Beyoncé flip her extended locks back and forth during the Super Bowl half-time show I knew I wanted three things: Those boots, that outfit (and the body it fit so beautifully), and hair extensions.

I’ve thought about getting hair extensions for years because my hair grows horizontally, and vertically (but only north). I have been referred to as “Wild Boomba”, “Medusa”, “Kramer”, and “mushroom-head”. The “mushroom-head” remark came from a fun guy. Lame joke, I know. But that fun guy is my husband, Richard.

I had done a little research in town at several salons asking about how hair extensions were attached. Glue? Tape? An industrial-strength staple gun?

But the main reason I’ve never seriously investigated getting hair extensions is because the idea of having another person’s hair attached to my own has always creeped me out. I’ve been told it is cut from the heads of living Indian women who sell their perfect, beautiful, virgin hair. “Virgin” hair has never been color-treated, or permed; whether or not these women are actual virgins isn’t any of my business. I just wanted to know they were alive when they sold their hair.

Susana’s extensions were removable. They attached to her head with little comb thingies that snapped underneath layers of her own hair giving her the option of wearing a few, all, or none of them. That seemed like the healthiest method I had heard about so far, and it would give me the freedom to be a mushroom-head or a Beyoncé.

As it just so happened, we were heading to the Miami area with the kids in a few weeks because Richard had been invited to speak about The Holocaust at Edison State College in Fort Myers where my BFF Kelly Greene Lavis is a Professor of Humanities.Richard is on the Board of Directors at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and an amazing docent.

We were going to stay with Kelly, Scott and their son, Dylan, for a few days, then visit Tom and Susana in their new house on Key Biscayne , and then have Passover with Richard’s parents in Weston. We decided to stay on Pompano Beach and drive back and forth to see them because we wanted to be on the water.

So after breakfast Susana, who knows how to get things done, called her stylist Joseantonio right there outside the restaurant and asked him if he could arrange to get extensions for me.

She spoke with him in Spanish, of which I know very little, and the conversation was over in give-or-take two seconds because that’s how quickly they spoke to one another. If I hadn’t actually seen her make the call I would never have believed the call even took place. But, in those few seconds, he told her a lot of information because before I knew it she told me she had to cut off some of my hair from the underneath layer on the back of my scalp that she would give to him upon her return home so he could match it to my texture and color.

Susana just happened to have a small pair of scissors in her purse. She instructed Juliet to hold up the top layer of hair on the back of my head while she snipped off a piece. Did I say “a piece”? It looked more like a chunk. A large chunk.  I was shocked when I saw the length, because I didn’t realize my hair had grown out in the back as much as it had. And, I thought I was going to be left with a bald spot the size of a small SUV.

Truthfully, I couldn’t even feel where the hair had been cut. And, I couldn’t see it mostly because Susana might have had a scissors, but she didn’t have a Mary Poppins-sized bag from which she could produce a large enough mirror so I could inspect my head. Juliet, who has a dog, pulled out an unused poop bag from her pocket and we deposited my locks inside.

The plan was that Joseantonio had told Susana that he would bring the hair extensions and install them at our hotel in Pompano Beach. I felt like a Kardashian at the moment; and not in a bad way. This was living the good life. I deserved this. I was worth it.

Slight problem though; a few days later I received a text from Susana who was back in Key Biscayne, packing like a madwoman to move into a house from their condo in a few days. The text read, “Yolanda (her housekeeper) threw away the bag with your hair. Sorry! Get another sample and I will give you Joseantonio’s address so you can send it to him. You are going to look amazing!”

Amazing? I was already freaked out about the chunk of hair the size of a Subaru Forrester she had cut off my head to give to him and now I had to cut off another chunk? Was it really worth it?

Yes! It was really worth it! You know why it was really worth it? Because if I didn’t go through with it I’d end up with two bald spots that would need to be covered up by hair extensions! And, because I had made up my mind that I was going to be “Sasha Fierce” (one of Beyoncé’s alter-egos) on this vacation. “No” was not going to be in my vocabulary. I was going to do everything and try everything. I still wouldn’t try raw fish, though.

I called Juliet to ask her to trim off more hair because she witnessed where Susana had cut off the original swath, and because she’s no fraidy cat like I am. I knew she’d have no problem just hacking it off, giving me another unused poop bag, and handing it to me to send to Joseantonio. But, she wasn’t home and I didn’t want to ask another friend to do it because I wanted to surprise everyone (meaning my mother) with my new look when I got home.

So, I did it. I washed my hair and let it dry into its usual Jew-fro and then sectioned the back of my hair with clippies, leaving just the approximate sweet-spot of hair exposed, took a pair of scissors, closed my eyes (not the best idea) and snipped off another crop circle of hair the size of The Great Divide. I put it in a more-respectable-than-a-poop-bag Ziploc, purchased a small, bubble-wrap-lined envelope, and went to the Post Office to send it to Joseantonio.

Margaret’s Adventures in Blogging ; Part I

My friend, Margaret, recently sent me the following e-mail:

Dear Leslie,

For years, I’ve been writing articles for a blog. The problem is I never set up the site. I always laugh so hard when I read your stuff, especially when I read about Richard. The articles I’ve written are sitting on my desktop. I’m all blogged up with no place to go. What’s a girl to do? O Techno-goddess can you help me find my footing in the Blogosphere? Here’s what I need to know:

1. Where do I start?

2. How much does it cost?

3. How do I find readers?

4. How can I make my blog look cool?

Sign me, A Budding Blogger

Here is my reply:

Yes, Margaret, there is a Santa Claus. No, wait. Sorry. Wrong story.

I am flattered you’ve asked me to help you start your blog. It is a wonderful, personally rewarding way to express yourself. I say “personally” rewarding because so far I have not been able to figure out a way to earn any money whatsoever by blogging.

But, back to your questions:

1. Where do I start?   Congratulations! You have already begun! You have content, you little over-achiever, you! That’s much more than I had when I set up my blog. I started with a few ideas for the name and eventually settled on Tales of Wild Boomba, which is what my much older brother and much, much older sister called me when I was a baby because of my wayward dark, curly hair and resemblance to an ape.

When it came time to think of content, I’d stare at my computer and hope an idea would float through my frizz and into my brain. My first post is about the reason I decided to call my blog Tales of Wild Boomba. I chose the Google-hosted blogspot.com because it seemed easy enough for me to navigate.

But, like an adolescent boy, Google went through a big mess of changes that at times were more challenging than an adolescent girl. So, I moved my blog to wordpress.com after I noticed more and more of the blogs I read were hosted by Word Press. I am much happier on Word Press, but I lost some of my reader(s) because I couldn’t figure out how to tell them/her I had moved my host site. Eventually my mother found the new site, so everything worked out well.

2. How much does it cost?   Both Google and Word Press offer free blogging capabilities. There are premium themes that cost a certain amount per year to maintain, but I didn’t see the point in paying for an upgrade when I didn’t know what I wanted or needed to upgrade. You e-mailed that you are thinking of paying someone to host your blog. Not a bad move, my friend. You will probably end up with fewer headaches than I.

3. How do I find readers?    Oh, if only I knew the answer to that question. When I started blogging I’d e-mail the link to my blog to my family and friends in hopes they would be able to open it, make comments about how funny they thought I was, and that eventually someone I knew would become a book publisher who would offer me a book deal with a huge advance. Well, that never happened. I have been blogging for my own enjoyment for the past five years.

I’ve also linked my blogs to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter via widgets, but the best way to get readers is to read and comment on as many other blogs as possible. This might involve some occasional stalking, but if you really want readers you’re probably going to have to invest in a decent pair of night-vision goggles.

4. How can I make my blog look cool?   The nice thing about the blog-hosting sites I’ve seen is that they have scads and scads of themes from which to choose. Since you’ve already purchased a domain name, you will probably have access to even scads more than I do because I haven’t paid a hosting site, which would probably make my life easier. I tend to try to endure as many self-inflicted mistakes as possible. It’s not very enjoyable, and as soon as I figure out whom to pay to make my blog look spectacular with a fabu theme that makes formatting a breeze, I’ll just keep puttering along.

A few months ago I spent three weeks trying to understand what I was doing by watching all of the “how to” videos about blogging I could find. I ended up making my blog a little.. prettier. And then today I changed the theme yet again. I actually had this blog post ready to publish at 10:00 A.M. CST, but I began investigating another theme, hoping to replace the one I have now. I thought the fish theme was cute at first, but lately it’s been making me sea-sick, so I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll just get a fresh start by publishing Margaret’s post using a new theme.”  I’m still swimming with the fishes, as you can see.

My computer guru, Matt, will think it’s hilarious that you referred to me as an O techno-goddess. I call Matt almost every week to get me out of some O Techno-screw-up I have managed to get myself into. I think I am pretty much paying his rent by now. I might have even bought him a condo for all I know; and this is without making one red (or any other colored) cent yet, mind you.

For example, I recently linked (lunk?) a second blog called “She Said to No one in Particular” to “Tales of Wild Boomba” by employing a menu widget that allows toggling between the two blogs. “She said to no one in particular” is what I say out loud after everything I say to my family because no one seems to hear or listen to me in this house. The widget works, in theory. I just don’t know how to promote the second blog because I’ve already linked Tales of Wild Boomba to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The thought of having to figure out how to link another blog to social media makes me feel very unsocial.

I know from experience that setting up a blog, at least for me, is not something that can be explained in one post. Heck, I’ve been messing around with different themes and fonts for the past 5 years. So, with your permission, I’ve decided to turn “Margaret’s Adventures in Blogging” into an ongoing series with an unknown number of posts so that we can help each other be the best darned bloggers we can be. I will also end each of our blogging exchanges with a “MAB” : Margaret’s Adventures in Blogging Word of the Day.

I know you can do this. You have the creativity, brains, ability, and a much better command of the English language than I. I hope I have answered your questions and not frightened you away from wanting to become a blogger.  But, I think I’ve frightened myself.

The MAB of the day is widget(s). A widget  is a very funny word that means something about something you put on your blog that you end up screwing up because unless you know what you’re doing, you don’t know what you’re doing.