Frequently Not Asked Questions: Seven


Is it safe for children to watch Curious George on PBS Kids online?


Curiously, if you had asked me that last week, I would have answered yes. But after a shocking conversation with my grandchild, I would have to answer with an unequivocal “not-yes” or perhaps “not-no.”


Not-yes and not-no represent the infinite number of answers that fall between no and yes. This includes not only vocal responses such as maybe, not exactly, possibly, but also gestures such as a shoulder shrug, a humph, and a side-mouthed tsk.


Why “not-yes” and not yes, or “not-no” and not no? I’m afraid I can’t answer that because Frequently Not Asked Questions addresses only one question at time. Please try to remember that as we continue.


George, the monkey on the back of the man with the yellow hat, is curious, and as you know or should know, curiosity killed the cat. What most people, don’t know is that it was saturated fat that killed the cat. Had you been privileged to be raised by my mother, you would know that cats live only to jump on the table and lick the butter. Any time the subject of cats came up in a family discussion, my mother would snort softly, shake her head, and say, “You can’t trust them. The minute you turn your back, they jump on the table and lick the butter.”


Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Courtesy of Wikimedia.

We lived in a cat-free home but never left any uncovered butter on the table or counter. In fact, we used mostly margarine, but mother was convinced that should a cat be allowed in the house, it would lick all our butter leaving vegetables with nothing to swim in. I never doubted her wisdom and when I heard the warning “Curiosity killed the cat,” I imagined a curious cat atop a table, licking butter until its arteries clogged with fat and it died.


I have nothing against George for being curious, as long as he stays off the table and away from the butter. But if what my grandchild told me is true, I fear something much, much worse from George than butter-licking.


My grandchild spent a morning with me last weekend and talked with me as I took the clothes out of the dryer. When I bent down to take the dryer lint out, I heard words that filled my heart with dread and despair. “Grandma, don’t throw the dryer lint out; we can make something with it. I saw it on Curious George.”


Protect your loved ones. Dryer lint is a gateway craft. Picture courtesy of BD2412. Creative Commons.


I read aloud every Curious George book ever written by Margret and H.A. Rey four or five thousand times when my daughters were growing up, and I know for sure that they never mentioned dryer lint crafts. If they had, I would have burned every one of their books.


Crafting with dryer lint never ends well. Once the thrill of dryer lint is gone, these crafters begin to crawl under beds looking for dust bunnies; then they begin sweeping dresser dust into paper bags to make papier-mâché. It’s not long before they begin saving belly button lint for collages. Fingernail clipping mosaics are next, followed by collected hair found in brushes spun into yarn for itchy boleros. Unless someone intervenes, they will be found stark naked in the bathroom, standing on a piece of paper to collect their own dead skin cells to use as snow dust on ornaments to give to grandparents for Christmas. I would rather my grandchild just jump on the table and lick the butter than begin dryer lint crafting.


What should you do? Again, please don’t ask any more questions. It’s annoying.


In my search on the PBS Kids website I failed to discover a link to the craft my grandchild mentioned, which proves to me and others who have searched for elephants with pedicures that the craft is hidden somewhere on the site. As you know if you have children or grandchildren, elephants paint their toenails red in order to hide in cherry trees. Over your life, I’m sure you’ve never seen one in a cherry tree. Actually, no one has yet spotted any elephants in cherry trees, which proves how well it works. Nothing could convince me more that dryer lint crafts are promoted on PBS Kids and Curious George than not being able to find any mention of it.


Remember, friends, the road to ruin is covered in lint.



Close up: Chalome



Screen: BD2412







Cold feet



While still suffering from seasonal amnesia back in September, I won two tickets to a Packer football game. Seasonal amnesia happens after you escape death-by-cold in northeast Wisconsin and convince yourself that the unseasonably warm fall weather will sneak unscathed through the months of winter, arriving just in time for spring. You convince yourself that bones can’t freeze and teeth cannot grow noticeably shorter from chattering. You should know better.


Cold is frozen into first place in my list of things I hate. I prefer sweltering to sweatering so many layers I cannot bend my arms. I do everything I can to avoid cold and would never willingly put myself in a place where frost is free to bite at will. And yet…few things please me more than free. I rarely pass the sample ladies in the supermarket, and when I shop, I look for bargains. The ultimate bargain, of course, is free.


Bewitched by the weather and the win, I told my husband I wanted to attend the game at Lambeau field. If you have ever been to Green Bay, Wisconsin and visited Lambeau, you know that for a pro football stadium it lacks nothing, unless roofs are important to you. I am rather fond of them myself, especially when the colored alcohol in the thermometer refuses to rise above 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius).


And yet…I won a pair of FREE tickets. Me, lucky me. All those other people wanted those tickets, but did they win? No! I won! Somehow I convinced myself that free is stronger than cold.


When I awoke from my enchantment, I discovered I was living in winter. I could have turned back, given the tickets away, and barricaded the door, but I convinced myself it would be an adventure – a free one.


The day before I descended into madness, my husband and I met with siblings for breakfast at a nearby café. A number of hunters, clad in camouflage and orange please-don’t-shoot-me-I’m-not-a-deer hunting clothes sat nearby. One of the sister-in-laws said, “You’d have to be crazy to go out deer hunting in this weather. The only thing crazier would be going to a Packer game.” She had no idea that’s exactly what I was preparing to do, and when I told her and the others, all of their flabbers were gasted. “I hope,” I said, “that I sit next to a large, fluffy man. That way I will have my large, slightly fluffy husband on my left and another on my right.”


The morning of the day I was prepared to die, I laid out the clothes I would probably be buried in: two pairs of long johns, three pairs of socks, a long-sleeved pullover, a wool sweater, heavy pants, a wool scarf, a knit hat, silk glove liners, wool gloves, snow boots, and a hooded down coat. In my arms I carried a Packer-green throw and a queen-sized blanket.


The sister-in-law who correctly diagnosed me as insane lives within a ten-minute walk from Lambeau stadium, so we parked at her house and walked. I felt invincible with my soft, wimpy flesh encased in sheep and geese products. I, the thin-blooded, slim-minded Texan, had tamed the mighty Wisconsin cold. That euphoria lasted the entire ten minutes it took to reach the mausoleum/stadium.


Thankfully, the stadium has an atrium with walls and a roof, a concession no doubt to the non-natives who might be lured in by free tickets. Fearful that the mustard on my brat (the wurst kind) would freeze before we found our seats, we ate our lunch inside. With my belly full of brat and my mind full of hubris, we left the atrium and entered the roofless stadium.


When we reached section 110, row 46, seats 20 and 21, I felt as if Christmas had come early. Santa Claus, or his near cousin, sat in seat 22, his own warm self overflowing into my 18 inches of space on our shared metal bench. When he saw me moving in his direction, he smiled with delight and said, “Are you sitting here?” Both of our prayers had been answered – he had asked for a small person on his left, and I had asked for a large one on my right. My husband brought a large cushion to sit on, while I brought a smaller one and the green throw to sit on. I snuggled into my now 12-inch seat, pulled the blanket over me, and waited for the games to begin.


Once I was thoroughly nested, a bunch of people appeared on the field with a gigantic American flag and I had to stand up. That meant removing the large blanket, positioning myself between two large men on either side, checking to make sure my small blanket didn’t fall down when I stood up, and avoiding bumping into the people in the row in front as I tried to maneuver and actually see over their tall, fluffy bodies. The seatmate behind me, less inhibited than I, carried a large cardboard sign, which she waggled around, hitting me on the back numerous times.


After the anthem, things began to happen. The other 79,999 people roared periodically, prizes were announced on the big screens towering over the stadium, music blared, rupturing eardrums at will, non-profits advertised, vendors vended (mostly beer), and people began excusing themselves up and down the long rows of swaddled people. My husband described it as a rock concert-church bazaar-bingo game atmosphere.


In the meantime, some football players down on the field started crashing into one another. Half of the time, I couldn’t actually see what they were doing because the excited and quickly inebriated fans in row 44 liked to stand and watch, unaware that none of the people in rows 45 to 47 could see through them. So I watched a lot of the game on the big screens.


This led me to ask myself two questions. First, why are football players smaller in real life? They looked like miniature versions of their television selves. Second, since I could see more of the game on the big screens in the stadium instead of squinting at the field, why was I sitting outside in 23-degree weather watching the game on their screens when I could be sitting in my chair at home watching the exact same thing on my TV screen?


Note how small the football players actually are! I've always heard being on TV makes you look heavier, but I didn't realize how much.

Note how small the football players actually are! I’ve always heard being on TV makes you look heavier, but I didn’t realize how much.

After spending close to three hours sitting outside watching TV, it hit me like a block of ice that I had another two or three hours to go. That’s when I got cold feet. Literally. Well, actually I got cold toes. All ten of them asked to leave, and I, being both in the minority and a believer in democracy, yielded.


We arrived home in time to watch the last quarter of the game, which went into overtime and ended in a tie.


Because it’s winter and I recognize that winter’s death threats are serious, I’m sure I will never go to another Packer game in mid-November when the temperature has sunk to the twenties. I am sure in the same way I was sure before last week that I would never go to a Packer game in winter. In the same way I was sure I would never live in Wisconsin because it’s too cold. My only fear is that I will win or be given free tickets again. So, I’ve written this post as a reminder. If I read it before football season each year, maybe I’ll get cold feet before I go.



Why all the fuss about youth in Asia?



Why road

Why are we heading in this direction?


I do a fair amount of driving. Some of it involves my car, but a lot of it involves driving people crazy. I know every back road to crazy there is and can get you there faster than you can buckle a strait jacket.


When I drive my car, NPR (National Public Radio) or WPR (Wisconsin Public Radio) often rides shotgun. They always have something interesting to say, and of course, I have interesting things to say back because, yes, I talk to the radio. Don’t you?


Many of their programs allow people to call in with comments and questions, and whenever the topic is healthcare, someone inevitably mentions youth in Asia.


What exactly are people so afraid of? Have youth in Asia done something to them? Should I be afraid? Is there some conspiracy going on that people are trying to prevent me from knowing about?


I have lived in Asia, and I had no problem with the youth there. Yes, there are a lot them, but I think there are youth everywhere. I’ve seen quite a few at the mall near my house.


Dear reader, are you equally troubled and full of questions? I assume you are if you are reading this blog. And I bet I know which question you are asking right now: Are we there yet?




No, dear friend, not yet. Crazy is just a little further down the road.




Frequently Not Asked Questions: Six


How much money do you make?




It’s illegal to make money unless you are the federal government, so I’m surprised you would ask me that.



Please note that Lincoln looks reserved.


Like me I’m sure you have bookmarked Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which grants the federal government the right to “coin” money. That meant gold and silver. Our Founding Fathers distrusted and eschewed* paper money, so they expressly prohibited states from “emitting” it.



You probably also know that Abraham Lincoln signed the first U.S. federal emission law allowing the government to print bills. In 1862, government IOUs in the form of “greenbacks” began circulating their way throughout the land until they landed in the pockets of the rich. It’s been that way ever since. The government called these bills Tender Notes, which I find rather endearing. Now, of course, the government no longer sends out Tender Notes; instead, they send out Reserve Notes. On our new colorful missives, the government promises that the Federal Reserve Banks have purchased enough U.S. Treasury securities (i.e., government debt) to cover “all debts, public and private.”



If that doesn’t make you feel secure, I don’t know what would. As a nation, we have debt coming out of the “wazoo” (French for “Congress”), and as of today, it stood (momentarily) at $16,804,904,109.526, give or take 25 cents. An endless supply of debt means an endless supply of securities, which means an endless supply of Reserve Notes promising to cover any and all other debts.



Please note: The writer of this blog reserves the right to interpret history and facts in a manner that tickles her fancy. If your fancy starts to itch when reading this post, please stop immediately and read your nearest economics book.



*Use of the word “eschew” entitles any writer or reader of this post the right to liberate one piece of chocolate per writing and/or reading.





Frequently Not Asked Questions: Four


Why do you have that perpetual bedhead look?


First, thank you for noticing and pointing it out. Heaven forbid I should go one day without being reminded. Second, why the sudden interest in my hair? The last frequently not asked question was about my still-brown hair. Third, looks are deceiving: it’s not a bedhead; it’s a cowlick.


I have a beef with the cow that licked the top of my head with her big slobbery tongue. Since that time, I have lived in a whorl of pain. I am forced to wear left-headed hairstyles, in spite of the fact that I am right-handed. This leads to a lot of mental confusion, which explains much of what you read on this blog.


Cow Snout


I suppose it’s better than a calf-lick, which happens when the smaller, less slobbery tongue of a calf licks your forehead. In that case, you are forced to face the permanent tuft of hair sticking up. Since my cowlick is on the back of my head, I am able to forget  about it until some kind reader points it out and asks me about it.


Although I wear corrective lenses for my focus-challenged eyes, I have yet to find a truly corrective hairstyle. On a website I will not name, one writer mentioned the seriousness of cowlicks. Apparently, they’ve been known to turn hostile and threaten someone’s image. Since reading that, I have grown afraid and keep anticipating turning on the TV and hearing the news anchor say, “Spencer, we’re here at the Cow Palace near San Francisco. The entire building was evacuated earlier this evening during a concert when the cowlick on the singer’s head suddenly stood up and threatened the singer’s image. Our sources tell us this that the cowlick has shown signs of belligerence for years, but no one has been able to get to the root of the problem. Earlier tonight the mayor called in the SWAT team; you can see that they’re lobbing canisters of hair gel and hairspray into the building now. Soon they’ll storm the building with curling irons. It’s been a hairy night for all of us, Spencer, but we’ll be here until the cowlick is forced down.”


Thankfully I don’t have an image to threaten, but just knowing that cowlicks threaten some people unnerves me. I guess you could say I’m a tiny bit cowed.


Now do you see what I mean about the mental confusion?




Photo: stuartncook on Flicker

After Finding a Cure for Breast Cancer, Would Someone Please Answer My Question?


It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I want to be serious and say something really profound, but in the midst of so much awareness, I keep pondering a question that I feel demands an answer: why do we call them training bras?


I mean, what can you train them to do? When you get them, they already know how to sit up and fetch (in a manner of speaking). But when they grow older, they just lie down and play dead. That’s it. No other tricks, no opposable thumbs, nothing, nada.


But since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to be supportive. Or at least say something uplifting. Get things off my chest. Make a couple of points. And yes, I know that I am pun-ishing you. I can’t help it. (And the beauty of the internet is that I can’t hear your groaning.)


Don’t neglect getting your mammogram and check-ups. Early detection gives you a greater chance of beating the cancer. You can read about some of the latest research at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. The backstory is inspiring: a promise to a dying sister starts a worldwide movement that has touched millions of lives and helped save many of them.


Now I know what I’m going to make my sister promise when I’m on my deathbed. Find out why we call them training bras.