Tag Archives: humor

My Christmas Wish List

With Christmas just around the corner, my husband and my kids are wringing their hands wondering what to get mom.  I’ve put together a list to help them along:

  1.  World Peace.  Miss America asks for it every year.  Why can’t I?  In fact, let the record show that I have always been in favor of world peace.   This year, I am urging my family to “Think Globally, Act Locally” and stop bickering, in particular my two youngest.  Little steps can make a difference, especially when it comes to preserving your mother’s peace of mind.
  2. Healthy, Safe and Kind Children.  This really is my number one gift request, but I am trying to present myself as altruistic, ergo the world peace appeal.  Like all mothers, I worry constantly about my children.  This year, we experienced some minor injuries, a broken wrist for Meg (basketball) and a separated shoulder for Kerry (football).  Both kids watched their playoffs and championships from the sidelines and handled their disappointments much better than their parents did.  We must be doing something right to raise such nice children.  At the end of the day, I just want them home in bed in one piece.
  3. Jobs for my Children when they graduate.  I guess I want a little more than their health and safety.  College graduation is at least four years away for Kerry, eight years for Meg.  Given the state of the economy, we might as well put in our request now.
  4. A Full-Time Cook.  OK, now I’m showing my true lazy self.  I once worked for a woman who had household staff including one guy who did all her grocery shopping and presented her with home-cooked meals every evening.  This is my fantasy.
  5. More Sunshine.  I live in the foggiest place on earth.  I am totally against global warming, except in my neighborhood.
  6. Gentle Menopause.  The lead-up to this next life passage has left me sleepless and confused.  Enough already.
  7. A New Mini-Backpack.  Years ago, I bought a powder blue, quilted mini-backpack from Target that I have used to death.  I take it to all sporting events, on bike rides, the occasional bus excursion, and anywhere I don’t want to carry a purse, but need to have a few necessities with me.  It now looks stained and gross, but I can’t bear to part with it because I have never found another backpack like it.
  8. A Warm Bed and a Roof Overhead.  I have this, but I never take it for granted.  So many people live on the street in San Francisco.  Here’s an incredibly shameful 2011 statistic:  nearly 2,220 public school students in San Francisco are homeless, enough to fill five or six elementary schools or an entire high school.
  9. More Material for my Blog.  I started posting in July and have truly enjoyed myself.  Sometimes I run out of things to write about, but more often, I just can’t bring myself to post what’s truly on my mind for fear of alienating my family and friends.  Ironically, my daughter thinks I have no filter, but I think she has no appreciation for my quiet tact.

Thank you to everyone for reading my blog and sticking with me.  I plan to keep blogging in 2012.  I hope Santa is good to you and your family this Christmas.  I wish you peace and health and safety and kindness in the coming year.  Love to all.


You Deserve a Break Today

I read recently that McDonald’s is reintroducing its McRib sandwich for a limited time.  Memories immediately flooded me, not necessarily of the boneless pork sandwich drenched in barbecue sauce, but of the six years I spent right out of college toiling for Bay Area McDonald’s franchisees publicizing their products and corporate good works.

I had graduated from UC Berkeley in June of 1981 full of hope and no job prospects.  Armed with my superior education, (a Bachelor of Arts degree in history), I felt certain that the business world would vie for my services.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The United States was consumed by a severe recession that had begun just a month after I graduated and continued unabated until the end of 1982.  I didn’t understand the meaning of a recession, only that I couldn’t get a job.

At Christmas, my sister Cathy visited me and my parents (with whom I had resumed living) from the Midwest where she resided.  We went for a run during which I practically hyperventilated about my sorry lot in life.  She asked me what I wanted to do and I replied “public relations,” because it had sounded glamorous and appealing when I was researching my career options.

Cathy advised me to hand-carry my resume to PR firms around town and offer to do entry level work.  I swallowed my pride and within a week I had a job.  Within a month I had moved out of my parents’ house.

I worked as a secretary for a public relations agency known as Lowry & Partners.  The firm had several high-profile accounts including the Bay Area McDonald’s franchisees.  Within three months, one of the account executives had moved on and her job became mine.  I had finally made it.

I remember my first assignment.  I booked Ronald McDonald, the corporate clown mascot, at a birthday party where he had been requested, and finalized all the details in writing, crossing my “t’s” and dotting my “i’s.”

Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald

Then I received a wake-up call from the clown, which shattered me.   As I recall, Ronald McDonald scolded me for my failure to book him in a high profile appearance, thereby rendering him “cheap.”   I had mistakenly arranged for Ronald to appear at birthday party off site from a McDonald’s restaurant, which was against all rules.  Birthday parties, unless they celebrated famous people, had to take place at McDonald’s.

First, I felt stunned that Ronald McDonald could act so mean.  Then I cried as I realized the error of my ways and the futility of my life.  After I hung up the phone, the jaded and more experienced PR pros with whom I worked howled with laughter.  Watching me get chewed out by a clown and take it seriously pretty much made their day.  My bosses’ response served to ease my pain, but I scrupulously paid attention to the McDonald’s account rules (and there were thousands of them) from that point forward.

Within a year, one of the partners at Lowry & Partners left to start her own public relations agency and tried to take me and the McDonald’s account (not necessarily in that order) with her.

I was only 22-years-old, but I had come to know the McDonald’s account inside out.  It had its own special culture filled with acronyms and idiosyncrasies.  I had demonstrated a fondness for minutiae and an ability to get along with a wide variety of people and personalities, which made me the ideal candidate for the job at hand.  Ronald and I had also resolved our initial misunderstanding and I had earned his respect with my dedication and sensitivity to his myriad needs.

I remained with the partners who hired me and helped them retain McDonald’s.  I worked there for six more years and have a lifetime of stories and experiences that still make me laugh.  I never quite developed “ketchup in my veins,” which was the expression the McDonald’s corporate honchos used to assess one’s loyalty to the Golden Arches.

I faked it for an awfully long time though and feel grateful for everything I learned at the oversized feet of the clown.


Work in Progress

I came across a story yesterday on the Internet about a young, obese woman who is the focus of a new MTV reality series, Chelsea Settles.  Naturally, I was drawn to the story because I wanted to know if Chelsea had lost any weight.  The pretty-faced Chelsea admitted to weighing 324 lbs. and hoped that a move to Los Angeles from her small, oppressive town in Pennsylvania would be the lightning rod for her weight loss plans and a new start in life.

Chelsea Settles

Chelsea Settles

The article did not directly report whether she realized her goals.  You have to tune in to MTV to find out and it’s unlikely that I will, but I was struck by one of the questions that the reporter asked Chelsea.   The reporter wanted to know if Chelsea was still a “work in progress” or was she finished after six episodes.

I am more than twice Chelsea’s age and I doubt I have ever faced the challenges that this young woman has, but let me lay it on the line right now:  I am still a “work in progress.”  I wonder when you ever stop being a “work in progress.”

I am always looking to lose a few extra pounds, say the right thing, improve my vocabulary, learn a new language, dress appropriately, be the “perfect” mother, you know, stuff like that.

Invariably, I fall short, become overwhelmed and decide to take a nap.  There’s nothing like a little sleep to refresh me and sharpen my outlook.  Still, I continue to set goals and try to chip away at them.   This blog remains one of them and I must admit, some days it feels like I set myself up to fail, particularly when my computer screen remains blank after an hour of steady staring.

Do you think Steve Jobs felt he had accomplished everything he wanted to when he died at 56 last week?  Unlikely.  Apparently, Jobs authorized his soon-to-be released biography because, as he told author Walter Isaacson, “I wanted my kids to know me.”  Jobs concluded his final interview with Isaacson by saying, “I wasn’t always there for them (his kids), and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

Personally, I really benefited from Jobs’ commitment to the iPhone and all the technological breakthroughs that he spearheaded.  But I wouldn’t have wanted to be his child.  If you have to read a book about your parent to know him, then I think you were cheated out of some quality time.

On the other hand, I have always been there for my kids.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I could have helped Steve Jobs invent the iPhone if I wasn’t carpooling or making grilled cheese sandwiches.   Since I’m still a “work in progress,” there’s hope yet.


Obsessive Compulsive iPhone Disorder

Steve JobsBill Gates.  Mark Zuckerberg.  Who among these three men has infiltrated my life the most?   Over the last six months, I might have given the edge to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

I came to Facebook late and felt apprehensive about joining the party.  I went out and bought “Facebook for Dummies” and read it cover to cover before I made my first friend.  About one hour and 10 friends later, I was hooked.   I love viewing my FB friends’ photos and getting updates on their lives.

I also feel passionate about current events and history and have discovered that I can lock in Facebook feeds from all my favorite news organizations and blogs.  I have never been so thoroughly informed and such a pain in the ass.  I suffer from a compulsive “need to know.”

For example, today my hairdresser told me that Julia Childs attended Branson High School in Ross, CA.  I had read Julia Child’s biography, “My Life in France,” and while it mentioned her Pasadena roots, I didn’t recall her memory of Branson.  Right in the middle of my hair color application, I grabbed my iPhone and googled Child’s life and learned that yes, Julia Childs had boarded at Branson, which I also discovered had been the alma mater of Olympic skier Jonny Moseley.   Phew!

Enjoying my iPhone

This brings me to my iPhone and Steve Jobs.  I feel badly about Steve Jobs.  He just announced that he can no longer fulfill his duties as CEO of Apple due to his protracted battle with cancer and in effect, has turned the tech world and the rest of us who loiter in the Apple store at the Mall, upside down.  Apple stock fell 5.1 percent yesterday after Jobs’ resignation.   My new iPhone 4 looked less shiny today.

Technology has permeated every corner of my life and I blame Steve Jobs for this.  I’ve owned iMacs and iPods and now the iPad, but nothing has consumed me quite like my iPhone.  It has everything:  a phone, of course, and all of my contacts, daily calendar, messaging, music, podcasts, games that my daughter plays, directions, camera, calorie counter, Facebook, videos, the Internet.  About the only thing you can’t do with an iPhone is have sex, but no doubt someone will prove me wrong on that account too.

Steve Jobs is both genius and devil, an extraordinary inventor who dreams of things we never knew we needed so badly.  But Jobs’ visions come with a downside.  While it appears to facilitate social interaction, the iPhone often does just the opposite.

Many pundits have expounded on this topic, but I don’t need to read their columns to know this.  My children told me the other night during the Giants’ baseball game when the team was losing and I started playing with my iPhone.  My daughter, whose texting bill would horrify the most patient parent, admonished ME for checking out from one of the Giants’ many false starts.  Is there an iGiant application to get the team hitting again?  With Steve Jobs gone, we’ll never know.


Cold War Warrior

My father came of age during World War II and raised his family during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 50s.  Usually, our family conversation focused on the fortunes of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers, but depending on the events of the day, anti-Communist dogma occasionally crept into the dinnertime dialogue.

In 1970, my parents planned a trip to Europe.  My mother had become enamored of traveling while her interest in child-rearing waned.  As the last of six children, I ironically benefitted from this mid-life change as she reconciled her interests and obligations by bringing me on her and my father’s European vacation.

Nancy Hayden passport

Nancy Hayden passport

My mother planned the itinerary, which included stopovers in Dublin, London, Berlin (west and east), Rome and Paris.  As soon as my mother announced our plans, my father became hysterical.  He talked endlessly about the dangers of visiting Berlin and repeatedly questioned my mother, “Are you sure, Pat?”   She was sure.

My mother had arranged for us to journey to the other side of the Berlin Wall and seemed thrilled to be doing so.  Fifty years ago this month, Communist authorities erected the Berlin Wall to prevent freedom-seeking Eastern Europeans from crossing into the capitalist zone of West Berlin.  Prior to the wall’s construction, more than 2.5 million “easterners” had left their homeland for greener pastures, also known as money.  The Communists built the Berlin Wall to halt the national brain drain.  Apparently, no one could leave anymore, but we could still visit.

The first part of our European odyssey went off without a hitch.  We toured Dublin, southern Ireland and London.   The dollar had risen to unprecedented levels and my parents lived it up.  Then the appointed day arrived when we were to leave London and fly from Heathrow to Berlin’s historic Tempelhof aiport, site of the 1948 Berlin airlift.  Western allies famously flew food and supplies into Tempelhof over an 11-month period to save West Berliners from starving while the Soviets attempted to cut off all supply routes and ultimately failed.

As we waited to board the plane in London, my father asked my mother again if she felt certain she wanted to travel to Berlin.  She remained resolute as he resigned himself to joining her.

Our plane featured one aisle with two seats on either side.  I sat with my mother while my father became acquainted with a young German woman.  To calm his nerves, I believe my father had a few cocktails, which had the desired effect.  His seatmate also gave him a short history lesson on the Cold War’s memorable moments recalling when President Kennedy had visited Berlin in June of 1963 and proclaimed “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) as a show of solidarity with the Berlin residents who were trapped behind the wall.

“Ich bin ein Berliner” became my father’s mantra for the rest of our journey.

We spent our first day in West Berlin viewing the sites and eating dinner in the heart of the city at Zlata Praha, where no one spoke English and the food offered little appeal to a 10-year-old and her suspicious father.  My mother loved it.

The next day, we rose early for our bus trip into East Berlin.  We joined other curious Americans and talked excitedly about our impending adventure with them.  We entered Checkpoint Charlie, the well-known intersection for western/eastern crossings and were organized into different groups to have our passports reviewed.  As I wrote in my trip diary, my parents were placed in Group D while I was separated from them and placed in Group C.  Even my mother appeared frightened.

Curt, Patsy and Nancy at the Berlin Wall, April 1970

Curt, Patsy and Nancy at the Berlin Wall, April 1970

Fortunately, my parents had befriended another American couple who agreed to watch over me while the authorities inspected my documents.   I noted in my diary that the female guard who approved my visit to the Eastern bloc did not shave her legs.  I found this “revolting” and considered it another mark of disgrace against the Communists.

Our visit to East Berlin proved anti-climactic.  I recall seeing a lot of bombed-out buildings from World War II, which the tour director assured us were about to be redeveloped.  My father appeared jubilant at the site of the destruction, rationalizing that the Communists would probably not be attacking us anytime soon, given the state of their infrastructure.

We returned to Checkpoint Charlie where the East Berlin guards boarded our bus to search for escapees.  I remember this as being terribly exciting and wondered what would happen if someone had hitched a ride.  The guards also rolled mirrors under the vehicle as an extra precaution.

Soon after, we were ensconced safely in our room at the Berlin Hilton, ordering room service and dining on a poor rendition of an American hamburger.  The next day we escaped to Rome where the women didn’t shave their legs either, but since they served pasta and pizza, I overlooked their transgression.


Falling off the Wagon

Officially, I began my no-sugar pledge on July 11 but announced it to the world, or 30 or so of my friends, with my new blog on July 14 (authenticated by WordPress.com blog stats).  I had so much fun along the way primarily because I wrote about it.

I enjoy writing, but rarely take the opportunity to write about my experiences.  I read a book about writing that encouraged me to find and write about a corner of the world that I knew intimately so I chose sugar.  I am no expert on the subject; I just ate a lot of sugar and knew that if I continued to do so, I wouldn’t be able to tie my shoes one day.

I have delighted in the ride.  I wrote about things that dominate my brain – chocolate, fashion, eating when I’m upset, my mother.  And then, I privately welcomed the end because I only committed to 30 days.

I jumped off the wagon Saturday evening with a trip to the yogurt store near my home for a chocolate frozen yogurt.  I really missed the chewy texture of chocolate chips so I topped off my dessert with about a cup of chips.

Once you begin your descent into sugarland, you slide fast.

Late Sunday afternoon, I returned from a movie with my husband, hungry and prepared to make dinner.  In my absence, my daughter had baked a plate of the most delectable chocolate chip cookies, which she thoughtfully displayed on the kitchen island for my inspection.   I didn’t want to disappoint her so I ate two cookies for hors d’oeuvres and two for dessert.

Lindsay Lohan mug shot

Lindsay Lohan

Have I learned nothing?

I have had treats in my house over the last month, but avoided them because I felt accountable on some level.  Once the deadline lifted, I wasted no time in returning to my old ways.  I have become the Lindsay Lohan of sugar addicts.

I did not plan to write this ending.   I wanted to tell you what a great experience the past 30 days has been and talk ad nauseam about how much I benefited from it.  But no one likes self-righteousness, least of all me, so I guess I feel better that it ends this way.  Or is it just the beginning?

I hope so.  I don’t know how long I can continue to mine the subject of sugar and diet for blog postings although at times, the possibilities seem endless.  I do know I want to continue to write about life experiences:  past, present and future.

I invite you to read along and tell me how you feel.  Did I miss the mark?  Do you have a suggestion or comment?  I thank you for your support thus far and look forward to hearing from you.


The Blog Days of Summer

I have been vacationing for the last week and have not been inspired to write.  I have been inspired to eat, read and sit on a beach chair contemplating the loveliness of Lake Tahoe, which never ceases to dazzle me.

Lake Tahoe moonlight

I remain faithful to my “no sugar” pledge unless you count the mounds of whipped cream I load onto my nightly dessert of strawberries.  New discovery – the cream sure makes the berries go down easier.

Today, I’m taking the easy way out and merely listing a few important lessons I’ve learned over the last several weeks on my “no sugar” journey.

1)      No matter what changes I make to my diet, every day I am one day older.  I welcomed this in my teens, not so much in my 50s, but it does beat the alternative.

2)      Within a couple of weeks of eliminating sugar, I slipped into my “medium-fat” jeans and right out of my “fat-fat” jeans.

3)      If I ever stand a chance of fitting into my ‘skinny” jeans again, I will have to do something more drastic than eliminate sugar.

4)      My taste buds feel sharper.   I believe the huge volume of sugar I ate every day dulled them.

5)      My supportive husband has voluntarily taken a break from sugar too and loses weight at three times the rate I do.  I still love him anyway.

6)      Two weeks into my “no sugar” pledge, it seemed achievable.

7)      Two weeks and one day into my “no sugar” pledge, it seemed impossible.  This is definitely a day to day, hour by hour, minute by minute struggle.

8)      My lower back pain has gone away for the moment, but I don’t know if this has anything to do with my eliminating sugar.   I hope not.

9)      I can proudly wear my orange San Francisco Giants t-shirt again.  I’m pretty sure that’s why they beat the Pirates last night.

10)   Writing a blog is much cheaper than therapy, Jenny Craig and/or Weight Watchers.


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