Lost In Translation

I know very little Spanish.  Several years ago, I learned a couple of essential terms for survival while on a trip to Mexico–tres queso(three cheese) quickly followed by bano, (bathroom).  For my husband, the second term was absolutely essential.  Poor thing.  But, that’s another post.  Fast forward to a recent trip we took to Talequah, Oklahoma.  In spite of my language deficiencies, Mexican food is one of my favorites.  I may not speak it, but I can eat it with the best of ’em.  Before leaving, I searched the internet for the best Mexican food in town by reading local restaurant reviews.  A restaurant simply named Jose’s, which had a 100% approval rating, was the clear winner.  Armed with this crucial information, we set out on our trip.

After visiting a couple of tourist attractions, we decided to eat lunch.  My husband entered the address into the GPS, and, mouths watering, we headed to Jose’s.  Now, while the reviews gave Jose’s glowing reports about the food, it never mentioned that Jose’s was virtually impossible to locate.  Traveling back and forth over the same road at least five times, we had to stop for gas.  It was then we finally spotted a tiny sign on a non-descript strip center, not even close to the main road we were on.  We’d finally found it.  And, there were a couple of cars out front, so we ventured forth, hunger and hopes high.

After entering, it was apparent this was going to be a bit of a different dining experience.  On one side of the restaurant was a little Mexican store, including a meat counter with a prominently displayed jar of pickled pigs feet.  Beside the grocery were tables, and a counter with a blackboard that featured their specialty items for the day.  No prices were listed.  While surveying the chalkboard, we noticed a couple of ladies working on food preparation in the kitchen.  They noticed us standing there, but continued to work.  Finally, one of the ladies, rather hesitantly, approached, and in broken English, asked if she could help us.   Though she tried, she did not understand our questions, nor did we understand her answers.  Thankfully, a younger woman came over to the counter, and taking the pad from the other lady,  asked if she could help us.  The first woman retreated back into her kitchen, obviously preferring her comfort zone.  Successfully placing our order, we found seats at a nearby table.

When the meal finally arrived, and we tasted it, it was easy to see why Jose’s had garnered such praise.  I’ve eaten lots of Mexican food during my fifty-plus years on this planet.  More than my share.  In fact, I ate it everyday while pregnant with my son.  I figured he’d either love it, or hate it, once welcomed into the outside world.  Fortunately, he loves it, maybe even more than I do.  To me, one of the true tests for any Mexican restaurant is the quality of their guacamole.  And, Jose’s guacamole,  freshly prepared and including the rare-seen addition of roasted corn, did not disappoint.  Absolutely the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted.   My whole family agreed, this was great food!

After finishing a delicious lunch, I wanted to personally thank the ladies responsible for making this delectable feast.  Seeing the cooks sitting at a nearby table, taking a lunch break themselves,  my son and I went over to express our gratitude for such a lovely meal.  Since their understanding of English was rather limited, I decided to thank them in their native tongue.  Slowly approaching the ladies’ table, and catching their gaze, I opened my mouth, intending to say, “Muchos Gracias”.  That was my intention.  However, to our mutual horror, out came the words, “Mucho Gasso”!  What?  Did that just come out of my mouth.  Now, those ladies may not have understood much English, but these particular words they clearly understood.  It was written all over the mortified looks on their faces.  Quickly, like a knight in shining armor, my son stepped forward, announcing in perfectly enunciated Spanish, “Muy Delicioso”.  Whew.  The ladies looks quickly changed from horror to relief.  Surely, if I  can raise such a nice young fellow,  I can’t be all bad.  Disaster averted, we quickly paid the bill, leaving Jose’s.

Next time we go, I think I’ll practice my Spanish before opening my mouth.  Better yet,  maybe I’ll let my son do all the talking.



SEALED FOR YOUR PROTECTION: The Shrink-wrap Conspiracy

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The other day my mom told me she’d called a company about a spin-brush toothbrush she’d recently purchased because there was no way to extract the toothbrush from its package without causing major injury to her person.   Mom has arthritis in her hands, so opening jars and other lids can present a challenge.  Still, she has developed methods for dealing with this.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons she married my father–his strong grip.  One of many reasons, but at this point in her life, having a husband with a strong grip is definitely a plus.  Still, she has figured out all sorts of ways to overcome the limited flexibility in her fingers.  When encountering a difficult package, mom whips out her trusty scissors or rubber grip, and can usually negotiate the product out of its plastic overwrap–called shrink-wrap.  However, no matter what method she employed(short of diffusing fireworks), this toothbrush wouldn’t budge.  Using a finger bloodied in the heat of the extraction battle, mom wisely called the company.  The cheerful voice on the other end of the line asked, “How can I help you?”  “Well, I’m having trouble getting my new toothbrush out of its package without needing a blood transfusion.”  “I’m sorry for your trouble, we’ve had lots of problems with that particular brush.  Let me send you a coupon for another toothbrush that’s easier to open.”  Within a few days the company did indeed send mom the coupons.  Sure enough, the new toothbrush was much easier to retrieve.  And, thankfully, no blood was shed during the process.

I’ve had my own encounters with shrink-wrap and other plastic coverings, most notably DVD covers.  How do you take those things off without damaging the contents, or your fingers?  I’m still trying to work out the mechanics of this maneuver.  By the way, it should be noted that whenever something is shrink-wrapped, the label usually reads, “Sealed For Your Protection.”  Based on my and others’ experiences, this surely means you’d be better off never purchasing/opening the product in the first place–unless you’ve made a sizable contribution to your personal blood bank account, and have an experienced paramedic standing by.   Perhaps, “Enter At Your Own Risk”, is more accurate.

Too Dumb For A Smart Phone?

images[5]I finally figured out that the empty squares I received along with texts were pictures my friends had attempted to send from their latest smart phone. Unfortunately, they had sent them to my beloved, but antiquated, flip-phone. Begrudgingly, I decided it was time to enter the twenty-first century, and acquire one of these devices for my own. My main concern, am I smart enough for a smart phone? Historically, me and technology don’t mix. In fact, I had my flip-phone for several years before I figured out that I could send text with it. It’s a known fact that my brother, Rich, got 90% of the tech-savvy in our family, and the rest of us, maybe 10%(and that’s being generous). Sad, but true. Note to young women, marry a tech-savvy/auto mechanic/plumber who can cook–you’ll thank me later. Even if he looks like a Duck Dynasty reject, the first time he fixes your computer, car or toilet you’ll see him in a whole new way–and, in the right light(say the dim light of a computer), he might even look kinda sexy.   Sadly, I did not marry such a fellow, and am left to figure out these things myself.  Boo hoo!

The following “true” account  perfectly illustrates my technophobia.  I was thrilled to procure a position as a paralegal at a prestigious law firm after graduating from college.  Once they showed me to my office, and introduced me to my co-workers, it was time to learn the firm’s phone system.  Graduating Summa Cum Laude, learning a phone system would be a piece of cake.  As instructed, I called the receptionist, who would assist me in setting up my voice mail–something I’d never used before in any previous employment.  I breezed through the first set of instructions, no problem.  Next, the receptionist instructed me to “Pound seven”.   Thinking it a bit odd, but determined to follow her instructions to the letter, I firmly touched the seven key with my index finger, with as much force as I could without breaking my fingernail.  Not getting the result I was supposed to get, I asked the very patient receptionist to repeat her instruction one more time.  So, again she said, “Pound seven”.   With as much force as I could muster, I began poking the seven key, causing me to cramp in my finger.  “Any luck?”  “No–I’m pounding the seven key as hard as I can, and it doesn’t seem to be working.”   First, awkward silence, then, hysterical laughter could be heard on the other end of the line.  Realizing my ignorance, the receptionist, quite sweetly, remarked that “pound” referred to the number(#) sign on the phone’s keypad.  Index finger still throbbing, and pride a bit injured, I finally managed to successfully set up my voice mail.  To her credit, the receptionist never mentioned this incident to anyone–and I decided not to file a Worker’s Comp claim for the finger I injured while setting up my phone.

So, you can understand my aversion to Smart Phones.  Even the name is intimidating.  Bravely, I finally took the plunge, and ordered a Smart Phone, an android smart phone, to be exact.  Sounds like technology from another planet.  As far as I’m concerned, it might as well be.  It took me an entire week to work up the courage to actually open the box once the phone shipped, because I knew that once it was opened and activated, there was no going back.  I decided to learn how my new phone worked on a weekend, so I’d have time to watch some of the “how-to” videos online.  I managed to enter my contacts from my old phone, and could silence the phone.  What else did I need to learn?  So, as usual, I took my son to school, and told him to give me a call when he was ready to be picked up.  Which he did–except for one problem, I kept trying to answer the phone, by touching the green phone icon, but was never connected to my son.  Three more calls, and loads of frustration later, I realized that I didn’t know how to answer my new phone.  Totally embarrassed, I finally headed over to where my son was supposed to be.  Thankfully, aware that I might be having problems using my new toy, he’d wisely come out of the building to meet me.  When I told him what had happened, I asked him to help me  figure this thing out.  Looking at my phone, Zach said, “Mom, I think you need to swipe it.”  Simple as that.  At last I could answer my phone.  So much for Summa Cum Laude.

Not exactly a Smart Phone guru, one thing’s for sure, you won’t find me texting while driving.  Hey, maybe I’m smart enough for a Smart Phone, after all.

Put Your Best Foot Forward…If You Have One

English: Fireworks over Copenhagen the night b...
English: Fireworks over Copenhagen the night before New Year’s Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not again–my son, Zach, seems to have a knack for hurting himself during the holidays.  Four years ago, during a New Year’s Eve Party, right at midnight, he jumped for joy in celebration.  Let’s just say fireworks weren’t the only ones popping that night.  I guess his left knee wanted to get in on the “popping” action, too.  A doctor’s visit, and MRI a week later confirmed that Zach had torn his ACL, and would need reconstructive surgery on his knee.  My son really likes to start the New Year with a bang!

So, this year, Zach was having a blast at a Christmas party.  While kicking up a storm dancing the Cotton-Eyed Joe, Zach yet again heard that distinctive and all-too familiar “pop”, only this time it was coming from his right knee.  I figured he wanted a matched set.  As soon as he limped through the front door into the house, Zach announced, “I’ve got good news and bad news.  The good news is I had a great time, and won a Marshmallow Toss contest.  The bad news is I think I tore my other ACL.”  Within a couple of days we were off to see the same orthopedic surgeon who’d done surgery on his left knee.  As soon as Dr. Boone saw the X-rays and felt the knee, he said, “Damn, Zach, you tore the other one.”  After a moment, he continued with his usual dry tone, “So, what else do you do at TU (long pause) besides bad dancing.”  And, with that, everyone in the exam room, from nurses to interns, was laughing hysterically, including Zach.  And, that’s one of the many reasons I’m so proud of my son.  He never complains about his lot, and, unlike most people, Zach’s able to laugh at his own foibles.  That, to me, is a real sign of maturity.

So, tomorrow, bright and early,  we’ll be heading to the hospital for Zach’s second knee reconstruction.  Please pray for us, and pray for me, especially, that I’ll learn to deal with life’s ups-and-downs with the same positive attitude as my son.  Zach, never stop jumping  and dancing for joy–just try to be a little more careful next time!  Love, MOM

Oops, I Ate it Again…

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...
English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I ate my way through another Thanksgiving meal–make that two Thanksgiving meals.  Not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy each and every bite.  But, now I’m stuffed, even more than the turkeys I ate for Thanksgiving.  Of course, there were the usual suspects, turkey(both were smoked), dressing/stuffing(a more appropriate term for this particular side), mashed potatoes, gravy and, of course, cranberry sauce.  Then, there were a couple of variations on a green bean theme.  First, we had my mom’s famous green bean casserole.  This recipe’s been around for years, but nobody makes it quite like my mom. This is my son’s personal favorite.  The second variation was more traditional green beans, made even more delectable with crispy bacon and red peppers dancing amid the buttery tender green spears my sister-in-law made.   A relatively new side dish making a dual appearance this year was corn casserole.  My corn casserole evolved from a combination of recipes I found in an old church cookbook.  Everybody knows that church ladies would give even an Iron Chef a run for the money when it comes to good eats.  You just can’t beat church lady food.  So, I took my favorite parts from different corn casserole recipes, and came up with a real winner.  It’s Chipotle Shoepeg Corn Casserole.  Here’s how I did it…

Chipotle Shoepeg Corn Casserole

-3 11 oz. cans shoepeg corn with chipotles,drained

-small can chopped green chilies

-1 8 oz pkg cream cheese

-1 stick unsalted butter

-1/4 cup heavy cream

-pinch California garlic salt(kind that has bits of parsley in it)

-sprinkle of black pepper

-1 cup Velveeta Shreds, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray casserole dish with butter-flavored cooking spray.  Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, using only 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.  Warm just until cream cheese is melted.  Pour corn mixture into casserole dish, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of Velveeta.   Place in oven, and cook for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool for several minutes before eating.  Enjoy!

Everyone loved my casserole.  During our second Thanksgiving dinner, my sister-in-law fixed her own version of this luscious casserole, using regular whole kernel corn, and shredded cheddar cheese.  It was equally delectable.  Any corn lover will go corn-crazy for this casserole.

In our home, Thanksgiving is a real family affair, with everyone pitching in to do his part–from perfect and spicy deviled eggs, my brother Steve’s special contribution, something I never could quite master–my peeled eggs look hideous, more like a science project gone bad,  to carving the turkey so everyone gets just the right piece, which my  brother Rich does so well.  The monumental task is not so monumental, after all.  And, the end result is a table full of simply delicious and comforting food.

I am truly thankful for the bountiful spread we’re so blessed with on our Thanksgiving table.  But, I’m even more thankful for the loved ones sitting around the Thanksgiving table.  And, that the Thanksgiving feast comes only once a year, which gives me just enough time to take off some of this weight before next Thanksgiving rolls around .

Walmart Woes–Part Two

This is a selfmade image from the english wiki...
This is a selfmade image from the english wikipedia. The photographer has uploaded it as GFDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Per the clerk’s suggestion, I showed up at 9 a.m. Monday morning to get links taken out of my watch.  Several minutes later, I spied a nearby clerk, and asked if someone would be available in the next millennia.  The clerk called a manager over.  Admitting they were short-staffed and  he didn’t know how to take the links off, but that he would at least try.  He feverishly looked through a drawer for a tool to accomplish this.    Unable to locate such a tool, he apologized and said that someone would be in shortly who could help me.  Needing to do more shopping, I went on my way, and would circle back to  jewelry department later.

Next thing on my list, two small decorative lamps for my bedroom dresser, which is where I apply my makeup.   I need one lamp on each side,  otherwise I end up looking like the villain “Two-Face” in Batman.  Not exactly the look I’m going for.  I found two nice lamp bases.  Now, all I needed were two red shades to go on top.  After rearranging the entire lighting display shelf, I located the perfect red shade.  Only one.  I still needed another.  So, I found another clerk working in the vicinity.  He scanned the tag on the shade, and said there was one in the warehouse.  I was elated.  My joy was short-lived when, right before the clerks’ eyes, the red shade that appeared on his scanner located in the warehouse, was no longer there,  nabbed by another clerk right under our noses.  Really?!  The clerk offered to look around in order  to locate the errant shade somewhere in this massive store.  “Good luck”, I mumbled.  The clerk finally reappeared with a “Sorry, I couldn’t find it”.  Surprise, surprise.  So, I asked if he could check other nearby Walmart stores to see if they might have the matching red shade.  He advised me to check with customer service, and they could check on that for me.  Two lamp stands, one red shade, watch band dangling from my wrist, I made one last glance over to the jewelry counter, hoping to glimpse any sign of intelligent life.   Not detecting any, I asked another clerk, of course unaffiliated with the jewelry department, if someone would be in that department any time soon.  Politely she wasn’t sure, but would be happy to get a manager for me.  Initially thinking this would be a thirty minute trip, silly girl that I am, I decided I could wait a little longer, deciding that three hours is my absolute limit for resolving these issues.  After all, my time is worth something, right?  A few minutes, yet another manager appears, stating he would make a call and get a clerk there to help me.

Still no competent jewelry clerk in sight, I decided to make the best use of my time, and go to the customer service desk to check on the status of the red shade at other Walmarts.   Fortunately, there were only a couple of people ahead of me in the customer service line till I heard the word, “Next”.  I was pleasantly surprised to see someone I recognized as one of the many managers at this Walmart.  Finally, I would get some actual assistance locating the shade.  I showed her the shade, and asked if she could check inventories of nearby Walmarts since this store only had one.   She quickly made a call, and, with a smile said, “You need to go to the hardware department, and they can check on this for you.”  Isn’t that where I just came from, and didn’t they tell me to go to customer service and they could help me?  Coming up on the three hour mark of my epic shopping experience, I made one last glance at the jewelry department.  Oh rapture and joy, there appeared to actually be a clerk working the counter.  Thinking I’d hit the jackpot, I strode over to the counter.  Unfortunately, a couple of other customers, closer to the department, and also anxious for the mysterious jewelry clerk to emerge, beat me in a foot race to the counter.  I finally garnered the attention of the prodigal jewelry clerk, and, demonstrating the dangling watch band,  explained that I needed some links taken out.  She studied my watch, and said, “four links should do”.   Again, she rummaged through the nearby drawers, looking for the elusive link-removal tool.  Finally, she located it, and Wa-la, the job was accomplished.  Yea!!  And,  it only took two hours and 45 minutes to do it.  Famished, and feeling weak from the unexpected prolonged experience, I decided to go home and eat, figuring I needed nourishment  before tackling the hardware department about the location of a red shade.

To their credit, every clerk and manager I encountered was polite and courteous.  Plus,  I managed to remain calm through this entire ordeal.  No small feat.  Later, I realized this experience presented me with a unique opportunity to exercise my patience, an unexpected benefit.  So, in a funny way, I guess Walmart is helping me to grow  and mature as a person.  So, thank you Walmart.  Now, if only I could find the other red shade, and all will be well.

Walmart Woes–Part One

English: Inside the Walmart (still branded as ...
English: Inside the Walmart (still branded as Wal-Mart) at West Plains, Missouri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Walmart.  Love the convenience and bargains–price matching is awesome.  Hate the hassles and long lines.   Here’s why…

After a couple of years, my $10 Walmart watch finally gave out.  Figuring I’d gotten my money’s worth, I made a trip to a nearby store, hoping to find another bargain watch as a replacement.  For a Saturday, the store was surprisingly quiet.  Since I frequented Walmart nearly as often as my own home–I know the floorplan like the back of my hand.  Surveying the choices, I found a watch to my liking, and quickly made my way to the jewelry counter where two women were standing behind the cash register.  One woman appeared to be wrapping up her shift, while chatting with another clerk.  Neither of them even noticed my husband and me standing within a foot of them.  In fact, it seemed they were actively ignoring us,  particularly aggravating, since, as a quality assurance facilitator,  I trained and coached customer service reps at a large call center.  We called it “acknowledging the customer”, especially important when the customer is standing right in front of you.  The one lady finished her shift, left and, after a few minutes of awkward silence, the other clerk, looking like the proverbial “deer in the headlight” finally said, “Can I help you?”  Shopping is not one of my husband’s favorite activities, especially when it does not involve food products, so I was feeling more than a little hurried.  Plus, patience is not one of my finer qualities, and  God often presents me with these types of  situations to exercise it.  So, I took a couple of deep breaths, in order to respond calmly. In front of the obviously inexperienced clerk,  I set the watch I’d chosen down on the counter. Withholding any comment about being previously neglected, I paid for the watch.  Then, I asked if she could take it out of the plastic packaging for me, so I could try it on.  Again, the “deer look”, then she finally figured out how to release the watch from the container.  For the first time I would see the watch out of the package.  Since my hands are slightly arthritic, I needed an expandable band.  On closer inspection, I determined the band was not.

So, unfortunately, it was back to the drawing board to look for a watch with an expandable band.  Now, I needed a refund of my previous purchase, so I could put the new watch on my credit card.   Except the clerk, with that familiar headlight look,  and multiple tries later, finally called for a manager to come over and help her with my transaction.  The manager was able to complete the process, successfully putting the money back onto my credit card so I could purchase the new expandable band watch.

After trying on the watch,  all I needed were a couple of links taken out of the band, since my wrists are one of the few smallish parts on my person, along with my feet.  Surprise, the  clerk  politely informed me that she was incapable of helping me with this, and that I would need to come back during the week, between 9-4, and there would be someone in the jewelry department qualified to help me.   So, watch dangling freely around my wrist, dignity and sanity intact, my husband and I calmly made our way out of the store.  Like the Terminator, “I’ll be back”, ready to take on the next installment in the Walmart saga.