xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: November 2008

November 29, 2008

You Had Me At 'Hole In My Pants'

I have a gift for doing embarrassing things. I call it a gift because it seems like something that has been bestowed upon me. No matter how hard I try, I simply can’t avoid committing acts of humiliation. I live in the land of mortification, but as much as I’d like to think otherwise, this time it was all my fault.

From day one on this cruise to Mexico with Terry I’ve tried extra hard not to do anything that might cause me to be shamefaced in any way. I daresay I’ve been vigilant. I’ve taken smaller bites at meals, so as not to choke or spit anything on anyone. I’ve been careful only to carry one thing in each hand so I don’t drop stuff. I’ve checked my teeth at least nine times each day for stray bits of food. I’ve scrutinized the bottom of my shoes each and every time I’ve left the bathroom. I’ve been walking at a slower pace to prevent unwarranted tripping.

Other than one tiny slip up, when ice cream dribbled out of the cone and onto my shirt, I’ve been doing pretty well. Wait, there was also the time when I tried to exit a lounge chair and it clamped down on my leg, but only Terry was there to see that and the bruise will vanish soon enough, so it doesn’t really count. Oh, there was also the bathrobe in the toilet mishap, but I was alone so that definitely doesn’t count. There was also that time the old lady grouched at me for walking the wrong direction on the promenade, but I’m pretty sure she was just in a mood. That definitely doesn’t count. Overall, I’d say I’m doing pretty well. I’m proud to report that I haven’t tripped once or dropped a single thing during the four days we’ve been on board. I should have known that humiliation was saving the big guns for later.

It all began with packing for the trip. I hate packing. I hate packing so much that a friend gave me a shirt with a tag that says “I hate packing.” It has a suitcase with clothes dropping into it. All the clothes are shaped like Tetris pieces. And I LOVE Tetris. I feel giddy when I’m playing Tetris and I’ve built a rectangular crevasse and that long, skinny piece floats down, saving the day. It’s nirvana. I sometimes dream in Tetris.

Anyway, back to the necessary evil of packing. I am a chronic over packer. I pack everything under the sun and then cajole a little more into the suitcase. Even my Grandma makes fun of my packing gluttony. This trip Terry urged me to pack lighter. Terry is wise. Terry is organized. His things always fit into a tidy little suitcase, without any weird bulges or zipper strain. In fact, as we were packing he said “There’s too much room in my suitcase. My things are going to shift around.” Yes, he’s that good. I was inspired.

Clad in my awesome Tetris shirt, I sifted through my suitcase and started tossing superfluous items. I tossed my jacket and a second pair of black dress shoes. I nixed a handful of t-shirts. I tossed one of five books. I placed an extra pair of pants back into the closet. I threw out my second pair of workout clothes because, seriously, who was I kidding? Yes, I even sorted through my underwear and threw out my granny panties in lieu of sexier, and therefore smaller panties.

Then I came to my two most favorite clothing items, two pairs of cropped tuxedo pants. They fit me perfectly. When I found them in Target a couple of years ago, I bought them in both black and gray and felt a touch of sadness that they weren’t available in more colors. I laid out each pair on my bed, considering which pair would make the cut. Black goes with everything. I hung the gray pair back in the closet and tucked the black ones back into my now roomy suitcase. I didn’t even have to use the extended zipper area. Job well done, McCauley, job well done.

As I’m telling you this story, I realize it didn’t actually start with the packing, but with a card game. The week before our trip was parent teacher conference week. I enjoy this week, but it makes for really long work days. One of the ways I like to unwind is to play cards. This was the case on Monday night. I’d taught and held six parent teacher conferences. I was drained. I asked Terry if he wanted to play cards. He plopped down on the living room floor. As I squatted to join him on the floor, I heard the distinct ripping of seams followed by a cool draft near my rear end. I reached down and, sure enough, I could poke three fingers right through the seat of my favorite black, cropped tuxedo pants. The thread had apparently lost all authority over the fabric. I was mildly embarrassed, but glad the pants had given out in the privacy of my home and not during class or worse yet at a parent teacher conference. I threw the pants in the hamper to be washed and then taken to the seamstress. My busy week continued and I forgot all about getting the tear repaired.

Thursday evening I did the wash and was laughing hysterically at 30 Rock as I folded the laundry. I didn’t pay any attention to the clothes in my hands. I folded my black tuxedo crops. Having erased the unfortunate seam incident completely from my mind, I tossed them in my suitcase, somehow totally missing the GIANT HOLE in the bottom. They made the final packing cut Friday afternoon. That’s right, I packed a pair of pants with a colossal hole in them.

I did not again become aware of the gaping hole in my pants until the following Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. As I took them out of the closet and laid them on the bed, I caught a glimpse of the gap in the seam. I picked them up and immediately turned three shades of crimson.

You see, in my zeal to become a more efficient packer, I’d planned on wearing some things multiple times. I’d already worn them one afternoon while reading on the deck and also the night before. The night before!?! Oh no, no, no, no! I replayed the events of the night before. I’d worn them to dinner last night. After dinner I’d raced up six flights of stairs for an ice cream cone. I zipped down seven flights of stairs and to the other end of the ship where Terry and I listened to some singers. (Yes, I know the ship has elevators.  In order to eat the ice cream, I have to climb the stairs. Plus I don’t like it when people wearing fanny packs bump up against me in the elevator. And trust me, fanny packers are a dime a dozen on this ship.) After the singers, we’d rushed to the other end of the ship to watch an Indonesian cultural show. Then back across the ship and up two flights of stairs to our room. I’d run all over the ship with a chasm in my pants.

On Thanksgiving morning, as I sat on the bed pondering my idiocy, I realized something else. My panties. Oh no, my panties! All my regular sized panties were at home tucked neatly in a drawer. I’m pretty sure the ones I was wearing that evening are scant enough that they can’t even be technically classified as underwear. As I paraded around the ship that night, chances are pink lace and a lot of skin were saying hello from the seat of my pants. Terry says he didn’t notice and nobody else said anything. I’m all about laughing at myself, but being the literal butt of the joke takes it to a whole new level. Maybe, just maybe nobody noticed. And that would be something to be truly thankful for.

As Thanksgiving evening approached, Terry and I watched the sunset together. I told him I loved him. He smiled and held my hand. Then I started laying it on thick, you know all that mushy stuff they say in movies. Barely keeping a straight face, I looked him in the eye and murmured, “You complete me.” Without missing a beat he replied, “You had me at ‘hole in my pants’.”

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2008

Good to see you again, Mexico.

A few hours from now, Terry and I will be driving to Sac to catch a flight to San Diego and hop a ship to cruise around Mexico for a week.  Some of my fondest memories from my teenage years and early adulthood are from trips to Mexico.  No, I'm not talking about those crazy high school drinking excursions you see on Dateline.  For eight or nine summers, I spent time in Mexico as a short term missionary.  Yeah, God was surprised, too.

My first time in Mexico, I was part of the construction team.  We built a small church near Tijuana.  We mixed cement with shovels, hammered up black rolls of pungent tar paper, and rolled out miles of chicken wire to stucco the walls.  This was all very cool to my fourteen year old self.  My task for the majority of the build was to measure out all of the boards to be nailed into place.  I measured and marked all day long for my saw team.  (It helped that my saw team happened to be two cute boys.)

On the last day of the build, as we were packing up, we spotted a fire on the hillside across the road.  The hillside was brown with weeds and spotted with houses made from salvaged materials.  One home was made primarily of wooden Coldwell Banker signs.  As the fire devoured the weeds, a horde of us grabbed our shovels and ran up the hill.  We dug trenches to hold the fire, threw piles of dirt to extinguish it and pounded out hot spots.  After the fire was out, we put the shovel handles between our legs, sat on the mouths of the shovels and slid all the way back down the hill.  It was a fantastic ride.

That evening we were joined by many neighbors from the hillside at a candlelight service in the newborn church.  Whenever I hear the the words "thinking globally" or "global community" or any of the other catchy phrases people throw around, I think of that candlelight services and the glowing faces in that little church near Tijuana.

The following summer I was on two teams.  The build team worked on an orphanage during the early hours.  Then in the afternoons and evenings I went out with the drama team to perform and give my testimony at church services and neighborhood gatherings.  At a training before the trip we had to audition for parts in one of the dramas.  The female part choices were a hypocrite and a glamorous girl.  I tried out for the hypocrite, but my movements weren't crisp enough.  I auditioned for the glamorous girl, but as we were "walking gracefully", I tripped and fell.  On my face.  I was embarrassed and turned a deep shade of red.  Luckily for me, there was one more part that hadn't been announced; a clown.  When I tripped, the trainers handed me the clown mask immediately.

And so it was that on a sticky afternoon in Mexico, we were rehearsing for an evening performance.  Dressed in black we held our masks in place and a handsome stranger started our music.  As the drama unfolded, each character pulled a mask down to reveal their true self.  I pulled my mask down and locked eyes with the handsome stranger.  His eyes were limpid pools of chocolate.  My body did the motions of my part, but my mind was swimming in those eyes, oh those eyes.  I was a goner.  The stranger was Terry, who's eyes still turn me to jell-o.

On my third trip to Mexico, I chose to return to both teams.  I loved it all, but when the fire died down each night and it was time to retire to our tents, I laid awake until the sun announced it was time to get up and build again.  After several nights of reaching for sleep just outside my grasp, I was desperate for rest.  That night as I prayed, I pleaded with God to let me sleep.

I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.  I laid motionless in a deep, dreamless sleep unaware of the storm that rolled in.  More accurately, the storm that rolled in and wreaked havoc. The pelting rain collapsed many tents, causing people to seek refuge in cars, the kitchen, and even in the bathrooms.  Mud slides relocated some tents entirely.  Thunder and lightning caused nearby cattle to break through a fence and tromp around in the chaos.

I awoke the next morning to a steady drip, drip, drip between my eyes.  I looked up and saw that my tent had collected a large puddle of water directly above my head.  Huh, must have rained last night, I thought.  I unzipped my sleeping bag and it released water like I was squeezing a sponge.  Must have rained A LOT last night. I glanced over to the other side of the tent.  It had collapsed.  I dressed, grabbed my toothbrush, and unzipped my tent.  I looked out and saw the scars of the storm.

I wandered up to the kitchen and Terry filled me in on the events of the night, including the part when he came to rescue me, only to find me wrapped in the gentle arms of sleep.  As the sun cut the clouds, I stood outside brushing my teeth.  People hung their belongings out to dry, repaired tents, and herded cattle back to the neighboring ranch.  Everything I owned was wet.  My tent was plastered with red mud and only partially standing.  But me, I'd never been better.  I was rested and happy.

I returned to the same campsite year after year.  In one corner of the campsite there was a cement water tower with ladder up one side.  Each evening I would slip away from the group and sit on top of the water tower.  As the wind licked my sunburned ears, I would pray, meditate, and write.  On clear nights I gazed out over sleeping Mexico and in the distance I could see a faint triangle of ocean.  It was serene.  My experiences as a missionary and this humble campsite became home to me.

In a few hours, I'll board a ship to visit some of the more polished cities of Mexico.  My days will be spent lounging on beaches and devouring piles of books.  Nights will be spent eating fancy cuisine with my favorite brown eyed boy.  I'll treasure every second of it, but at night on the deck as the wind licks my sunburned ears, I'll gaze out over the vast ocean longing for my second home.  I miss the grit.  I miss the work.  I miss the glow.  I miss the faces.  But most of all I miss the serenity of the water tower and my tiny triangle of ocean.  I'll return to it someday, but for now let me just say, it's good to see you again, Mexico.

November 20, 2008

O Christmas Candy, O Christmas Candy

Mistletoe, drive-thru nativity scenes, Christmas carols, stockings hung with care, candlelight Christmas Eve services, twinkle lights; it is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year.  But only due in part to all of those things.  The other day I was strolling the aisles of Target and hallelujah, the Christmas candy is here!

Oh, joyous red and green peanut M&M's, how I've missed you.  Your orange and black Halloween cousins leave a lot to be desired.  Really, who would eat a black M&M over a red or green one?  I can't even talk about those lame Indiana Jones peanut M&M's without marked disdain in my voice.  The colors were atrocious.  Lime green and baby poop brown with indecipherable symbols stamped on the?  Who's idea was that?

Little compares to the simple perfection of a candy dish brimming with red and green chocolatey peanut goodness.  I love Christmas peanut M&M's more than regular ones because I like to eat M&M's in even turns.  The regular ones have numerous colors to sort and then there's the whole size issue.  The Christmas ones have three colors, red, dark green, and light green.  It really cuts down on my candy organizing time which means more more candy munching time.  Merry Christmas to me.

Another Christmas candy, I'm happy to welcome back into the fold is the minty Christmas tree nougat.  They're just so pretty, all tucked into their clear wrappers.  Not to mention the plunge my face in cold water wake up call they give my kisser!  If only Santa would stuff the toe of my stocking with these little dazzlers, but no, Santa always crams an orange in the toe.  Sometimes an apple, too.  Santa must be in cahoots with my dentist.

Back to the Christmas tree nougat.  My grandma, renowned for her Jedi candy ways, always had a glass jar of these candies when my family would descend on her for Christmas.  Grandma also has two swiveling club chairs in her sitting room.  I'd cram anywhere from three to seven of those chewy nougats in my mouth at a time and then beeline for the spinning chairs.  I'd push off with one leg propelling the chair around until I thought it was surely going over.  Then I'd tuck my legs up, tilt my head back and spin, spin, spin with sticky nougat dribbling from the corners of my mouth.  Ah, childhood; blissful and disgusting.

I'd be remiss if I didn't give a nod to the mini candy cane.  While I'm not a fan of them all on their lonesome, there is nothing better than a mug of hot chocolate with a peppermint candy cane at the bottom.  On dry days I walk the three or so blocks to school.  Crisp winter air nips at my nose and steam rises off my mug.  Each slurp of the piping hot, minty beverage convinces me that it is indeed going to be a perfect day.  Until I step in an icy puddle up to my calf and soak my entire shoe, sock, and pant leg.  Crap.

Then there's The Book.  The hallowed Storybook of Lifesavers.  Let's all have a moment of revered silence...  Thank you.  The Book is a Christmas stocking must.  I love, love, love the sour Lifesavers and Lifesavers in any shade of orange.  I agree, the stories on the inside of the box are cheesy, but what do you expect from a candy wrapper?  Wait, I take that back because I love the cartoons wrapped around Bazooka gum.  And finding the Indian and the star on Tootsie Pops is awesome.  And at least Laffy Taffy offers the possibility of a chuckle.

Time to step it up, Lifesavers, and entertain me.  If you're taking requests, I'd like some trivia in the box.  For example, what is the most popular Lifesaver flavor?  It can't be butter rum or cough syrup cherry, which I happily fork over to Terry's BFF every year.  When were Lifesavers first produced?  Who's idea was it to make that yucky white flavor?  And what exactly is that yucky white flavor supposed to be?  It's certainly not something found in nature.  Are there any Lifesaver world records?  Who came up with the idea to use a piece of dental floss to open a roll of Lifesavers and how is it that I manage to pull the entire string out without getting anywhere close to breaking through the wax paper barrier?  And finally, how did Lifesavers get their name?  That kind of thing would be way more interesting than some plotless story that for whatever reason always has to include a reindeer, Santa wearing too much blush, an abominable snow yetti, a gingerbread boy, a talking Christmas tree, and the token creepy troll.

Sadly, I'm not a fan of all Christmas candy.  The candy corn for example is in it's finest state when in it's traditional yellow, orange, and white.  I like to bite the yellow part off first, then the little white shark tooth tip, and then eat the orange middle.  Better yet, I like the candy corn pumpkins.  I nibble the stem off and then bite the pumpkin in half.  I DO NOT like that weird harvest corn.  Is the brown supposed to taste like chocolate?  If so, something has gone awry.  It's chocolate 'product' like Velveeta is a cheese 'product'.  Neither of them remotely resemble their ancestor.  I have equal disappointment for the red, green, and white candy corn.  It has the added bonus of turning my tongue a sickly purplish gray so that after I eat a handful, I must head straight home to brush my tongue 9 times before I can be seen in public.  Plus these holiday wannabe's taste like my plastic mouth night guard.  Night guard flavored candy-blecchhh!

I recognize that I have blogged about candy twice in like a week.  Yes, I'm proud of the restraint I've shown.  I think about candy on average thirty seven times a day, so to only have brought it up twice is a win in my book.  So, now it's time for you to chime in with your favorite Christmas sweets.  In the meantime, I'm going to eat a handful of Christmas candy for breakfast.

November 19, 2008

Frank's Revenge

Cyclocross season is so close, I can almost taste the mud in my teeth.  This season, I'll be sporting cool new mountain bike shoes along with matching clipless pedals.  However, in honor of the beginning of cyclocross, it feels appropriate to relive the story of my first cyclocross race last December.

I think my mountain bike feels jilted.  As you know, I have a sleek road bike, The Rocket.  What I've failed to mention in previous seasons is that I have another bike.  Yes, the red headed step-child of bikes.  Frank the Tank.  Frank is a hulking 40 something pound Giant mountain bike with a tricked out Judy fork.  That's as much as I know about bike parts, so save us both from a very boring conversation and don't ask about components or wheel size or any of that other stuff.

The past two years I’ve been smitten with the Rocket and our long, smooth, beautiful road rides.  Although I'm ashamed to admit this, whilst cycling on the Rocket, Frank sat unloved, unridden, and increasingly bitter in the garage.  If you’re not a cyclist, you’re probably a bit skeptical about the fact that bikes have feelings.  If you are a cyclist, then you are no doubt aware of the perils that a scorned bike can unleash.

On a Sunday in December I registered for my first cyclocross race.  Cyclocross is an unforgiving combination of mountain biking, hauling your bike over barriers, and then riding some more as fast as you can over a marked course.  Sometimes you even have to run and push your bike.  I don't run.  Ever.  But there is a small group of unbalanced people who think this is fun.

So, Frank and I started the race full of excitement.  (Actually, Frank was full of vengeance, but I was not yet aware of his state of mind.) Let me just state for the record that riding Frank for the first time in 2 years in a cyclocross race was dumb.  Very dumb.  Frank is equipped with platform pedals, not the kind that attach to your shoes.  I’ve grown quite attached to The Rocket.  Literally.  With shoes that clip into the pedals, I pull up on my foot and the pedal comes with me.  When I push for extra power, the pedal obliges.

Not on Frank.  When I pulled up on my foot, the pedal spun around and impaled my calf.  Then I’d angrily slam my foot on the pedal causing the opposite pedal to spin forward and gnaw on my shin.  You’d think after one or two times, I’d learn and adjust.  You'd be wrong, my friend, so wrong.  Most of the time I was focusing all my energy on not crashing and so I'd forget that my shoes were not attached to the pedals and I'd try in vain to harness extra power by pulling up on the pedals.  Every single time those pedals would zip up and nail me in the exact same part of my legs.

Despite the increasing amounts of blood and pain in the general leg area, I was actually having fun.  After completing 2 laps I was scraped, bleeding and bruised, but proud to have tried something new.  (Ok, so I got lapped and most everyone did 3 laps, not a measly 2, but still.)  Strangely, when I stopped riding, I found myself eager to do it again.  In fact, I thought "I should go mountain biking today."  So I did.

About an hour or so after cyclocross, I thought Frank and I had made amends.  We’d splashed through mud puddles, cruised over rocks, and turned my legs into hamburger.  So after the race, I agreed to go on a short, "flat" 9 mile mountain bike ride with my team captains, Nick and Abby.  “There’s only one hill and the rest of it’s really flat.”  Nick assured me.  It turns out that Nick blocks out the parts of rides he doesn’t care for.  Either that or he was in on Frank’s master plan of torture.

The first half of the trail was full of steep inclines followed by way too technical descents.  Basically I dragged all 40 something pounds of Frank up and down hills for four and a half punishing miles.  I knew this was penance for the years of neglect.  That didn't stop me from making several demeaning remarks about Frank’s weight.  He had just cause to complain about my weight, too, but Frank is a gentleman and kept his comments to himself.

After all that cajoling, grunting, sweating, pushing, and pulling Frank, I was rewarded with four and a half miles of the most beautiful singletrack I’ve laid eyes on.  It was smooth with some interesting curves and just the right amount of mud puddles.  It was blissful.  I loved every second of it and I have a feeling that Frank and I are friends again.  I hope.

November 18, 2008

The Garage Incident: A Cautionary Tale

I was hunkered down under my covers, dreaming the bizarre dreams that accompany a fever.  Suddenly, I woke up and discovered my pajamas were soaked in sweat.  I peeled them off and walked to the door that leads to the garage.  Wanting to air out my clammy skin, I'd not yet put on a second pair of pajamas.  No big deal.  Terry was on a business trip and I had the house all to myself.  As I walked to the door, I was feeling pretty good about the fact that I hadn't spiraled into a tornado of body image issues.  In fact, I was feeling pretty darn good about my natural self.

I opened the door leading to the garage and took a step toward the washing machine.  Before my feet could move another inch, I froze in horror.  The garage door was up.  I was naked.  In the garage.  For all to see.  Sweet, fancy Moses, I was naked in the garage for all to see!  I turned to hit the garage door button on the wall and as I turned, I glimpsed a white car in my driveway.  It was my mom.  My mom!  I was naked in my garage for my mom to see!  I slapped the garage door button and the garage door descended on my humiliation.  Did she see me in my birthday suit?  Was my step-dad in the car?  Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away.

I threw my damp wad of pajamas into the washer and dashed into the house to put on a fresh pair.  I figured the doorbell would be ringing any second.  Thirty seconds passed.  A full minute edged by.  Maybe she was wrapping up a phone call or something.  Five minutes passed and I ventured out to the driveway.  No car.  No mom.  Oh man, she'd seen.  I'd created an Awkward Naked Moment and frightened my mom away.  Maybe she got an emergency phone call and had to leave right that second.  Yes, that must have been it.

So I scooted back into the house and waited to hear from my mom.  After all, I wasn't going to call her and explain.  No way.  Not when there was still a slim chance she hadn't seen my business.  I certainly wasn't going to bring it up.  So, I waited.  And waited.  And fell asleep.  (It was the deep, dark hour of 9pm.)

I returned to my fevered dreams and awoke to my mother's voice on the answering machine.  She was saying something about having offended me and she was sorry and she didn't know why I wouldn't come to the door.  I staggered out of bed with a hint of lucidity and played her message.  The message only served to confound me even more.  I wasn't upset.  I was naked.  Wait a second, if she thought I shut the garage door because I was mad, then she must not have seen me.  Victory: my mom thought I was a jerk, not the neighborhood exhibitionist.  Hooray!

I'm pretty ok with people thinking I'm a jerk.  I'm not one of those people who needs to be liked by everyone, mostly because I don't like everyone.  And I'll be the first to tell you that sometimes I am a jerk.  But I didn't really want my mom to think I was mad at her.

Reluctantly I picked up the phone and dialed my mom.  Now, the trick was to explain what had happened without revealing too much.  I puzzled over how to guide our conversation away from you know what.  At first I thought I was going to get away with it.  She explained that she had knocked and rung the doorbell and upon seeing our cars at our house determined that we were home.  She'd decided to wait in our driveway until we emerged like groundhogs or something.  I filled her in on the fact that I was home alone, sick and asleep in my bed.  When she rang the doorbell, the noise must have roused me from my clammy nap.  I explained that when I saw her in the driveway, I assumed she was on her way in, not waiting for me to come out.

I thought I was totally in the clear and that I'd avoided having to confess, but no, the conversation continued and finally I couldn't do it anymore.  I just don't have the skills.  I exhaled and in one big breath laid out the entire embarrassing story.  My mom laughed and offered her sympathy.

It was a near miss, people, and we should all learn from it.  Keep your garage door closed at all times and never, ever be sans apparel.  Not even in the shower.  Ok, that might be a little drastic, but I'm still shell shocked.

I'm sure my mom will be laughing about this one for a long time.  I will, too.  In the safety of my home.  Wearing layers and layers of clothing.

November 16, 2008

What's the punchline?

Two people walk into a bar.  At the bar are a dog, a baby and an Amish man.

On Saturday Terry and I met some of his co-workers at a local brewery to listen to a bluegrass band.  When we walked in we were greeted by the wagging tail of the owner's dog.  Directly in front of us was a man wearing Amish clothing and the gift of beard.  Seated at the table with the Amish guy was a woman with a baby.  It was very Sweet Home Alabama.  You know the scene where Reese Witherspoon's character sees an old friend and says "You have a baby...in a bar!"

Although I know nothing about bluegrass, I thoroughly enjoyed this band.  They had great harmonies and good stage presence.  It was a fun night, lacking only one thing: a punchline.

Candy! Candy! Candy! Candy! Candy! Candy!

I love candy. This isn't some juvenile crush like the one I had on Donnie from The New Kids on the Block.  Although, let it be known that I almost got in a fight in seventh grade at a NKOTB concert when the girl next to me had the audacity to tell me that she was going to marry Donnie.  Lucky for her, they started singing Hangin' Tough at that very moment.  Otherwise, I might have had to scratch her eyes out or at the very least dump my soda on her Donnie t-shirt.

Anyway, back to candy.  To say that I have a sweet tooth is like saying I'm tallish.  All five feet eleven inches of me loves candy.  I keep candy in my car, in my purse, in my filing cabinet at work, in the freezer, and of course the kitchen cupboard.  Today as I munched on peanut M&M's and chased them down with a few mini York peppermint patties, I started to ruminate, yes ruminate, on my favorite candies of all time.  Here are my current top six, excluding holiday candies which are, of course, a category all their own.

6) York Peppermint Patties: The mini version of these are divine straight out of the freezer.  Better yet, on top of a scoop of chocolate ice cream.  The problem with these is that Terry likes them, too, and I am Very Bad At Sharing Candy.

5) Reese's Bites: These are the far superior cousin to the peanut butter cup.  The chocolate shell is just a touch waxy.  If you bite into the chocolate, it cracks off and leaves a little round pearl of magical peanut butter perfection.  These also increase in deliciousness when frozen.

4) Gobstoppers: I eat these in two's, mostly while driving.  I blame my previous car, a Subaru Forester, for my affinity for these little sugary marbles.  In the driver's side door there is a pocket that cradles the jumbo box of Gobstoppers perfectly.  It's like the designers of the Forester made that pocket for the express purpose of keeping that box upright.  Pure genius, because let me tell you, it is tragic when a box of Gobstoppers empties itself in your car.  For six months after the spill, Gobstoppers will roll under your feet at every moderately abrupt stop.  So, making sure to keep the box upright, I pop one in each cheek and let them dissolve until they're a tad chalky.  When they reach that chalky state, they're perfect for chewing, without chipping a tooth.  Gobstoppers are also a great cycling candy.  I like to dump them in a snack size Ziploc and carry them in my jersey pocket.  Again, keeping them contained is a must.  Two seasons ago I was straddling The Rocket at a stoplight, the perfect candy intermission, when the light changed to green sooner than I'd expected.  I didn't seal the bag completely and by the end of the ride, those babies were rolling around free and easy in my sweaty jersey pocket.  All of the color had soaked into my jersey leaving little rainbow colored leopard spots.  The only other downfall to Gobstoppers is that they're a horrible movie candy.  It is impossible to discreetly eat a box of Gobstoppers in the theater.  Plus it is very embarrassing when you jump at a scary part of the movie and the box goes flying and Gobstoppers roll all the way down to the front row.

3) Sour Patch Kids: These are new to my favorite candy list.  I tried them once a few years ago, but unfortunately I tried an old batch that had been exposed to the elements too long.  The air had hardened them to an inedible state.  At the urging of a friend, who is equally addicted to candy, I tried them again last year while riding somewhere out in the middle of nowhere.  I was sweaty, tired, and running out of energy.  A handful of Sour Patch Kids perked me right up and I was hooked.  Sour Patch Kids have the added pleasure of being different colors so I can eat them until all the colors are even and then nibble them in turns.  Sour Patch Kids don't melt easily and they are in fact even better when they're just a touch warm and a little bit soft.  The downfall of The Kids is that they're indeed sour and when eaten in mass quantities, you're guaranteed to lose the top layer of taste buds.  My husband has a friend who can't turn down a dare.  Terry dared him to ingest a spoonful of the sour white crystals left at the bottom of the bag of Sour Patch Kids.  I swear he burned a hole in his esophagus, stomach lining, and intestines.  I've never seen quite a pucker, nor such exquisite pain inflicted by an innocent candy.  Way to go, Kids.

2) Mike & Ike's: Ah, yes, my boyfriends, Mike and Ike.  These are about as close to candy perfection as you can get.  They are multi-colored for eating in evens, better when warm and soft, and not too loud for the movies.  My dentist HATES that I eat these because I have terrible enamel and sticky candy is a big no-no.  Unfortunately, my affection for Mike and Ike's is not my worst offense when it comes to candy and my dentist.  In high school and my first year of college I worked for my dentist, cleaning rooms, filing, answering phones, and whatever other odd jobs needed to be done.  I worked there for three years and loved going to work every day.  It's rare to work for someone with a sense of integrity, humanity, and humor.  My dentist has all three and years later I had the opportunity to fully appreciate his sense of humor.  I ceased working at the dentist office to become a teacher.  One day, shortly after Halloween, a student brought a mountain of Halloween candy to school and I'd offered to hold it until the end of the day.  No, seriously, I wasn't going to eat it.  I'll stoop pretty low when it comes to candy.  I may eat a Gobstopper or two off the floor of my car, but in my book stealing candy from a kid is the kind of sin that would send me straight to hell.  So, I'd shoveled my student's candy in my pockets, but by the end of the day both of us had forgotten about it.  That afternoon I rushed out of my classroom to make it to my dental appointment on time.  After clipping that paper napkin thing around my neck, my dentist reclined the chair to look at my pearly whites.  As the chair shifted back, my bulging pockets began to rain candy all over the examine room floor.  It wasn't just one or two pieces.  It was deluge of candy that lasted a good seven or eight seconds.  Go ahead and count out seven seconds.  It's a lot longer than you think.  My dentist feigned outrage and we both began to laugh.  Like a druggie caught with a stash I held up my hands and insisted "It's not mine.  Really, it's not mine.  I'm just holding it for someone."  This made my dentist laugh even harder and call all of the staff into the exam room to see the evidence splayed all over the floor.  To this day, I don't think my dentist believes that it wasn't my candy, but I really can't blame him.  Now I'm careful to empty my pockets before each appointment.  I just hope he doesn't ever check my purse.

1) Peanut M&M's: I can't explain why, but Peanut M&M's are the king of all candies in my book.  Like my crush on Donnie, my affection for Peanut M&M's isn't at all rational.  They make a terrible cycling candy, melting in thirty seven seconds.  They are sure to cause dental peril when eaten frozen.  They aren't even uniform size.  That means when I'm eating them I have to factor in color and size, eating the giant ones first, then the tiny ones, leaving the regular ones in happy even piles.  Really, with a busy schedule like mine, I can't afford candy that kind of time, but still I buy and savor Peanut M&M's like it's my job.  Some things just can't be explained, like the fact that NKOTB has reunited.  This year I will be glued to the televised reunion tour while munching Peanut M&M's and Sour Patch Kids and Mike & Ike's and...

November 13, 2008

Gold, Frankincense, and Midol?

It started out as an average Friday morning.  Students filed in showing off their loose teeth and lugging their book boxes to their desks.  I stopped at each desk to check in with my kids and collect their homework.  Just then a father with special needs walked in.  In the middle of a conversation with one of my kids, the dad blurted out "Here's her folder.  Do you want her papers now?"  I held up a lone index finger, the universal sign for 'I'll be with you in a moment'.

After finishing the conversation with my student, I turned my attention to the waiting parent.  We had a quick conversation about where his daughter should put her homework folder and I turned to go about my morning business.  The father continued in a loud, unmodulated voice.  "Mrs. McCauley, I know what I'm getting you for Christmas."  I wasn't sure how to best reply, so I uttered a noncommital "Oh."  Then he delivered a surprise verbal kidney punch.  "I'm getting you the Costco jar of MIDOL!"  He smiled, so pleased with himself.  I stared, mouth agape.  I didn't feel like I'd been a horrendous biotch.  It's not like I gave him the OTHER finger or anything.

As I stood totally unsure how to escape gracefully from this conversation, his face turned the blotchy crimson of a pomegranate.  In an even louder voice he stammered "I mean the Costco jar of Tylenol.  Not the other, you know, thing."  This really didn't clear anything up for me.  I stared at him, head cocked to the side, in total disbelief that this conversation was still going on.  He continued "You know because of all the headaches you must get."  I do not have a poker face at all, so I'm sure my increasing look of incredulity was apparent.  I stood unable to extricate myself from the awkwardness and to my dismay he rattled on.  "You must get a lot of headaches.  I didn't mean the other thing.  I don't want you to think I was saying anything weird or anything."  Seriously!?!  This entire conversation was totally bizarre.  Unable to bear the possibility of any further comments, I said "Don't worry about it.  I put my foot in my mouth all the time.  Have a nice day."  I willed my legs to move me to the student sitting in the desk furthest away and to my great relief that was the end of the dialogue.

Although I only get a headache approximately once a year and I am as fortunate when it come to other unmentionable aches and pains, come this December I'll be commemorating the birth of the Christ child with the deluxe jar of Midol or Tylenol.  Who knows, maybe in the spirit of generosity and goodwill, I'll receive both.  Take that, wisemen.

November 8, 2008

The Tables are Turning

I am a pretty normal person.  I teach.  I ride my bike.  I watch tv.  I read.  I write.  And then I do it again the next day.  I love my husband and I have a wonderful group of friends.  That is my life and I like it.

Lately though, I've been finding myself at tables with these high caliber people.  For example, I was at a table with the director of The National Writing Project.  She is witty, poised, and apparently an avid ballroom dancer.  At that same table were regional directors, national speakers, and published authors.  And me.  I kept looking around in disbelief thinking how fortunate, if out of place, I was sitting at that table.

Today I found myself at a lunch with a group of women who are nothing short of amazing.  Their accomplishments include cycling the coast of California, opposing injustice in Darfur, and blazing trails for students with special needs.  These are women who should seriously consider adding superhero capes to their wardrobe.  I was listening to the conversations at the table, once again amazed that I was sitting with such a dynamic group of people.

I find myself surrounded by people who are smarter, more talented, and as a whole more compassionate than I am.  I know, I'm hoping some of it will rub off, too.  And I'm crossing my fingers that they will keep inviting me to their tables.