Sunday, October 31, 2004

Three Cheers for Democracy!

It's a cool concept. We're not one, though, are we? Wouldn't that mean we get to vote on everything? And we don't. We have representatives do it for us. So we're a Consitutional Something Or Other. Right? A Republic? For which something stands? I feel at the moment we are very Divisible. Polarized. Angry. Which is fine. It means we care! We may even go to the polls to send our Expressions of Political Caringness. It might be more effective than sending a card! Well I am here to say I don't think it matters who wins. (And I DO care who wins.) I have my hot button issues, naturally, and am willing to scald you with them, but I don't need to. Because even though *my* candidate is on the *right* side of these issues, I don't think much is going to be done about it. By either candidate. Now remember the last time how the country got all in a huff about Stolen Elections, Voting Irregularities, and the Ditz in Miami-Dade with the Caterpillar Ballot? Then there was all that angst over the popular vote vs the Electoral College. Well first of all, there's no point in getting upset about the Electoral College. There's a reason why they're not the Electoral University. We aren't smart enough to have changed the system if we don't like it. So we're stuck with it. No whining over this Expired Horse. Second, the election turned on very few votes. A couple hundred, in a country of several hundred million. That in itself is statistically astounding. And I feel an inordinate amount of importance attached to my vote simply because I'm a Florida resident. (And boy are we getting the political junk mail in proportion to our perceived importance! I'm gonna have to set up a whole separate recycling bin for it.) But whether you were for Bush or Gore last time, or Buchanan or Nader, I see no reason to be upset with the outcome. Because basically it was a statistical dead heat. Either guy could've won. So no matter which candidate you end up with, about half the people are gonna be happy. The same is true this time around! So that's why it doesn't matter who wins. Half the people are gonna be unhappy. And I don't care which half it is, because neither of these guys are going to have much effect on the things that matter most. Like the price of gas. Like whether the Sears Tower or Indian Point Nuclear Reactor or the Statue of Liberty or Seattle's Space Needle is gonna be next. Like whether the rest of the middle class and working class jobs are going to be outsourced. They are. I had a chance to hire a book cover designer from overseas at a much cheaper rate than the professionals from the U.S. I resisted the temptation. And NOT just because I wanted my book title to be in English. I paid him what he was worth and am happy with the job he did. Now is the latest Osama tape going to affect the election outcome? At this point, who knows? The race is already too close to call. And there are arguments both for and against each candidate relating to an Osama Declaration. Now if, as some suggest, OBL's tape was a signal to his cronies to pull off Another 9/11, only it'll be on 11/1, well, all bets are off. Then my prediction for the election? We won't have it. Ever. So my advice is: enjoy democracy while you have it. Don't eat beef from Wobbly Cows. Don't let anyone implant you with computer chips. Avoid One World Religion concepts. Because that's for the World. Not our ultimate destination, in case you haven't checked your ticket lately. Don't respond to unsolicited e-mails from your bank. Don't open any attachments. Wear your sunscreen. Don't think Russia is a weak military power. Ask yourself how China could be a Most Favored Nation for anything. If someone performs "miracles," ask whom he serves. If the answer is Humanity, you know you've got a Prince of the World on your hands. (Refer back to Ultimate Destination.) If it snows if Florida, remember ice scrapers can be imported from Buffalo. Just let me know what color you want. Don't put curled up paper in your printer. Diet Soda is like Liquid Alzheimers. Try to limit yourself to one lost memory per day. Look both ways when your light turns green. (This has saved me from death or serious injury on at least 3 occasions that I can recall.) Treat chicken as a radioactive substance until it is cooked. And whatever else happens, prior to, during, or after the election, Don't Panic. Your ticket is punched. You only need to worry about the destination. Don't get sidetracked.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Blue Nile Scores 5 Stars from Us!

Hubby and I just went out for our anniversary dinner, almost two months late. You see on our actual anniversary we were having Hurricane Frances, so all the restaurants were closed and a lot of the local landscaping was airborne. Well it was worth the wait. We had been eyeing this restaurant for some time because we knew it had an exotic menu. It isn't the sort of place you spring on unsuspecting guests who might prefer normal food. And even after personally rating it with five stars I would still say that in order to enjoy The Blue Nile you would have to either A) already know that you like Indian or Pakistani food, or B) Have an adventurous palate. But we went in there with high expectations and this restaurant exceeded them! It seemed like the kind of place that would prosper in a big city, not a sleepy burg like Lakeland. I might have to start going every week to make sure they stay in business. (Note to Hubby: Just kidding!) Now first of all we didn't have the kids with us (God bless grandparents!) so we were able to actually notice the food, and didn't have to shovel it in at an alarming rate. Everything from the appetizer to the soup to the entree was top-notch. I WANTED the dessert but didn't have enough room for it. Oh, and this place is also a wine bar, and had a nice selection. Hubby had picked one out and was going to get a glass. I thought it would be more efficient to split a bottle. The waiter brought us out a sample. We tasted. We looked at each other and said, "San Francisco!" This wine reminded us of some of the fabulous things we had tried on our honeymoon, starting in San Francisco. It was in fact a California wine. I went with the "spicier" entree. It turned out to be the perfect choice. Hubby's tilapia meal was excellent too. The thing with Indian food is the funky spices. The food is as strange as Chinese but tastes nothing like Chinese. If that makes any sense. You can't expect it to taste like anything American at all. There are certain Indian dishes I do NOT like, especially one greenish side dish that looks like relish and tastes like Mr. Kleen. I avoid ordering anything that resembles that dish. (And don't ask why I would know what Mr. Kleen tastes like.) Fortunately The Blue Nile did not seem to offer this dish, and everything I tried got the maximum number of stars. I would give it six if I had an extra star lying around. I think the local newspaper rated this restaurant something nondescript, if they rated it at all. This is the same newspaper that gives us detailed reports on the quality of the local mozzarella sticks. So I'm not sure they are qualified to rate a restaurant like the Blue Nile. But all I can say is, fabulous! Let us know if you have an Adventurous Palate when you visit!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Fall Festival Spooks Parents

My 5-year-old's school did not have an official Halloween celebration. I guess the recent literary emphasis on Kiddie Witchcraft Academies such as Hogwarts, and Pagan Religion Creep into our culture has administrators wary of celebrating the ghoulish hell-raising aspects of this holiday. But of course kids still like to party, so we have moved on to the Fall Festival Tradition! Now this requires a certain amount of imagination in Florida, as you don't have leaves turning colors, or anything remotely resembling frost. And the whole harvest concept as being connected with fall is a little odd, since Florida is CONSTANTLY harvesting things. There are at least two seasons for harvesting oranges that I know of, and strawberries are available for months on end (unlike the 10 days you get in Buffalo). No, the spooky part about this festival was being a parental volunteer assigned to watch over 16 kids, none of whom are yours, and none of whom have name tags. I was wishing for the ID Implantable Chip of the Apocalypse just to keep track of things! Kidding. I only want the chip for Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Anyway, our "wards" were identified by group tags which hung around their necks. They were assigned to various teams with names such as The Pumpkins, The Skulls, The Witches, The Vampires, the Spiders, Ghosts etc. Now all of these names are fairly spooky except possibly the Pumpkins, and my kid just so happened to be a Pumpkin! However I had nothing to do with his group. I was one of the Vampire Administrators. I felt like Anne Rice. Fortunately the kids were fairly agreeable as far as forming lines, and generally staying together in harvest-garbed clumps. Because honestly, if they all decided to take off running, there is no way we could catch them before the presidential election. It is good that they are too young to realize this. So this festival took place at 12 different outdoor stations which we had to visit in 15-minute increments. There were activities such as Racing for Apples (without smashing them), Spider Tag (you had to tag your fellow students. This involved some minor injuries.), Fall Roundup (catching fake spiders -- note to self: invite kids over to the house to catch real ones as needed), and ANOTHER tag game in which they used bells and were blindfolded. (additional minor injuries, which is almost miraculous, that they were only minor.); Hallowe'en Walk (musical chairs to the tune of Monster Mash), Candy Corn Bingo, Face Painting, Pumpkin Photo Shoot, Trail Mix (one of my Vampires succumbed to excess trail mix and had to be escorted to the Upset Stomach Area), Fishing for Applies (thankfully they use poles for this, not bobbing with runny noses), and Pumpin Patch Calculus.(er, math). It was a big hit, although I honestly don't know how I managed all three and a half hours with no bathroom or water break. I was wishing I had managed a breakfast! (the trail mix was starting to look tempting.) One girl joined our Vampire Outfit about halfway through, and since she did not have a vampire tag around her neck, we just referred to her as the Girl in the Cow Outfit. Actually it was a skirt with a holstein design. Don't ask about names. It was far too confusing for that. Every 10 minutes or so we had to do a head count, and the Girl in the Cow Outfit kept wandering off. I don't think she acquired the Group Identity the same way the other vampires did, so we had to keep finding her and rounding her up with the others. Now the 5-year-old is expecting me to make a pumpkin pie, a pumpkin bread, and maybe even pumpkin side dishes from this mini pumpkin he brought home as a prize. Hubby suggested I do this at night from the canned pumpkin when it was time for his pumpkin to "expire." I was relieved when we were able to turn over all 16 Vampires plus the Cow Girl to their classroom teachers. I could never be a grammar school teacher. I would be too busy counting the children to make sure they were all still there. Now after all this happiness and joy regarding harvesting, my kids STILL wanted to ask questions about Scary Things tonight. Like what are all these Halloween-type characters made of. Yes! It was like Earth Sciences of the Living Dead. They wanted to know if vampires were warm or cold. (I think this came up because the 5-year-old somehow knew that vampires avoid the sun.) Well I said vampires were cold, but then I emphasized that in addition to being cold, THEY ARE NOT REAL. The 3-year-old said they were like dinosaurs. I said no, dinosaurs were EXTINCT, but vampires were not real. Like ghosts. So then they wanted to know what ghosts were made of, and what temperature they existed at. So I said ghosts were made up of clouds and were cold like fog. But that fog was real and ghosts were not. So then we went on to witches, which I admitted were warm, but I claimed they were not real, even though I momentarily hesitated because of the whole wiccan and practicing witch thing. I did NOT wish to explain this, even for the sake of equal opportunity for Evil Religions. Then we went on to dragons, which the boys knew were hot, and the 3-year-old explained proudly, "They're made of GAS." It is only a matter of time before they discover how much hot air I am made up of.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Voters of Every Stripe

Party on! Who needs donkeys or elephants when you can have animals with really cool stripes? Zebras, tigers, maybe even a few skunks! Here in Polk County, Florida, we have 293,107 registered voters, of which I am one. The breakdown among the major parties is 42.7 percent registered Democrats, 38.9 percent registered Republicans and approximately 15 percent no party affiliation. But! This is not to be confused with the No Party Affiliation PARTY, which has nine registered voters. When you consider how few votes the last presidential election turned on, it really makes me feel like my vote is important. Special, even! I wouldn’t dream of not voting. Unless of course the kids were sick. Then I would register for an Absentee Hanging Chad. But the minor party affiliations, which represent 3.3 percent of the county’s voters, I think are kind of fascinating. In fact I should point out that Hubby is one of only 17 voters registered to the Family Values Party. He is considering holding his own convention right here at the house. My party of choice in New York State does not exist here in Florida, so I am one of the many “no party affiliation” voters (note: lower case). However after seeing the exciting list of small party options, I’m tempted to register as something! I have done a little research on some of these parties that I would like to share with you. Because if you watch the national news media you end up with the impression that everyone is voting for Ralph Nader. Independent Party: This is the largest bloc of minor party voters, with 7,724. It is NOT affiliated with the national Independent Party. No. They are much too independent for that! But they are considering hooking up in the near future if it will improve their clout. Or to quote Hermey the Elf/ Dentist from the Rudolph show, “Let’s be independent TOGETHER.” Party headquarters is in Loxahatchee, Florida, which I can barely spell, much less pronounce. DO NOT suggest that they change it. You know Independents. They are likely to go and make it HARDER to spell just to spite us. If they go and add a few more vowels it will sound we are choking on food. Anyway, the most important thing to know about them is that they oppose the One World Government and New World Order concepts. So they won’t be voting for the antichrist, if you were wondering. I oppose those things too, so I can consider affiliating with this party except for my inability to remember the spelling of LOXAWHATZIS. The Libertarian Party of Florida has 299 county voters. They recently held a fund-raiser that attracted 40 (FORTY!) donors, so I would have to say this is an up-and-coming party to be reckoned with. At least 40 people with money know they exist! This party opposes government interference in people’s lives. Best as I can tell, they would not allow Gay Marriage. What they would do is get rid of government’s ability to sanction any marriage at all. There would be no legal marriages of straight people, gay people, polygamous people or animals. Instead the government would just uphold any contractual arrangements that these people, groups, or vertebrates entered into with each other voluntarily. Thus immediately putting many divorce lawyers out of business. Sounds good to me! The Independence Party of Florida (not to be confused with the INDEPENDENT Party, which has a “T” in it instead of a “CE”) has 187 voters registered in Polk. This group speaks more in terms of abstractions, which seem to be oriented toward making Florida state government go away, or at least making it so quiet that you don’t notice it. They tend to speak in terms of lofty ideals (Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! No New Taxes!) instead of taking specific positions. The Green Party of Florida Inc. has 117 county voters. Does it seem slightly odd that a party known primarily for battling huge corporations in order to Save The Environment would put the word “Inc.” on the end of their party title? Thus suggesting they are some big unfeeling company littering the state with green-colored plastic wrap? Or maybe it’s just me that got that impression. One of their essential beliefs is that we are “part of nature” not separate from nature. My only problem with this is that we’re living in Florida, where one of MY chief goals is to keep Nature out of the house. So I won’t be joining the Greens! The Reform Party (89 Polk County voters) has a great plan – voting on weekends instead of Tuesdays! That way everyone can be out of town for the Big Day. The Christian Party has only 42 registered county voters (but hopefully more Christians than that reside here). I was not able to find a website for them, but I will go out on a limb here and suggest that they are probably in favor of the Ten Commandments. The Vets Party of America has 34 registered voters. I know this refers to veterans, but there was a part of my brain that briefly wondered if the Veterinarians were banding together for some kind of animal rights purpose. Anyway, here is one of their Bumper Stickers: “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in ENGLISH, thank a veteran!” America First Party of Florida checks in with 24 county voters. They are concerned with issues of national sovereignty and the economic health of our country. They are also VERY suspicious of potential ID chip implants, and would in fact like to get rid of the social security number while they’re at it. They have accused Bush and Kerry of running a “pillow fight” instead of a campaign. The Southern Party of Florida seems like a natural down here. You don’t get too much further south than Florida! I could find no further information on them, but if you’re from the south this may be the party for you. Family Values Party, of which Hubby is one of 17 members. I discovered that the president, chairman and treasurer are all the same guy. So I’m going to tell Hubby he ought to volunteer for office in this party! He could maybe be social chairman, since he wants to organize a convention. The Independent Democrats of Florida (16 county members) is a feisty group. They wish to investigate Stolen Elections. They are also linked to sites including “Hillary Now” and the “Oral Majority.” (not sure if that has something to do with smokers) The American Reform Party candidate (14 county members) will “leave no rock unturned” to balance the budget. (Will they be looking for money under there?) They would also like to normalize relations with Cuba. We could start by inviting Castro onto a Reality Show, which should really distract him from his Dictator Responsiblities. The Constitution Party of Florida (11 county members) is opposed to either Puerto Rico or Washington, D.C. becoming states. Who knew this was a hot button issue! I think we should make Cuba a state against their will so we can vote out Castro. The rest of the parties all have fewer than 10 county voters, and basically if you cannot field a full football team I don’t think you are going to wield much influence on the Political Playing Field.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

It's Ecker-demic!

I ran an errand the other day involving the Store Formerly known as Eckerd's. You're probably wondering why, considering how many times (and in what great detail) I have complained about the service in that store. You're figuring I must've had a large block of unstructured time, or perhaps that I had entered the Witness Protection Program, and no organized criminal has enough time to waste looking for people in the Eckerds. Really I was just trying to obtain an antibiotic for the three-year-old. And yes, you could make the argument that it would've been quicker to purchase the drug from Tajikistan, delivered illegally to Canada, and trasnported to Florida on the next trip south by a Toronta area snowbird. But as I entered the store, my adrenaline involuntarily kicked in. I was the only customer in the store! (I will not engage in frivolous speculation as to WHY.) But I was not alone. There were about 10 store personnel hanging around in clumps discussing their plans for the weekend. (Our regularly scheduled hurricane was canceled.) Who would've thought the Store Formerly Known as Eckerd's even had that many people on the payroll! Normally you see a dozen or so customers being attended to by one lonely underaged cashier with a Math Disability, a Coupon Reading Comprehension Problem a and Receipt-Issuing Disorder. Apparently the rest of the personnel all hang out in the back socializing and mislabeling the merchandise. The group greeted me with a cheerful "good morning." Now in actual point of fact it was after 4 p.m., so the sun had to be at least past Denver. So I did not synchronize my watch with them. But this is part of the store's problem. NO VALID CONCEPTION OF TIME. But I am not trying to be overly critical. I enjoy cheerful greetings. I don't care if people are wishing me Happy Kwanzaa in July or just muttering "Remember the Alamo" with a smile. When I arrived at the pharmacy department there were THREE pharmacy personnel available. Some combination of Pharmacist, Aspiring Pharmacist and Teenager With a Firm Grip on Aspirin. Or maybe they were just Pill Packers. They were busy filling orders. Someone had just made eye contact with me when It Happened. Two cars zipped into the drive-through lanes. One was a police car, so of course he got immediate service. The other car turned out to be a woman with a hopelessly complicated situation involving a Partial Pickup, Weird Payment Plan, and Multiple Potential Interactions. To make matters worse, she hadn't pulled up close enough to the outdoor microphone, so she was leaning halfway out of her car window (torso precariously balanced), shouting the details of her medical history at the box. Due to persistent static the pharmacist had to repeat herself several times (loudly) in order to be heard by the Woman Dangling From Her Car. I was tempted to cover my ears with all that extra Privacy Act Paperwork that was hanging around, but this conversation was so loud that I figured the Walgreens across the street could hear her and would probably have her order ready faster. By the time it was over there were several people in line behind me enjoying the intimate details of Dangling Woman's medical history. Meanwhile one of the assistant pill packers decided to wait on me, even though I figured my son's illness would have run its course by the time I was out of there. I asked for the Automobile Club discount. The pharmacist harrumphed at my card. She sighed at the card-swiping unit. She smirked at the computer display. She kept pushing buttons that caused the screen to blink with a greenish disco-strobe effect. She tsked tsked, and handed my card back. "It won't go through," she explained. "I guess we don't offer the Triple A discount anymore." I guess not! Why else would anyone shop at the Store Formerly Known as Eckerd's? And why do they not helpfully inform the pharmacy personnel of such changes so they don't each have to perform the Blinking Screen Routine? Well never mind. I paid full price. As I left with my purchase, the Pharmacy Woman wished me a "good night!" I did not point out that it was still (by some miracle) daylight out. But this does illustrate that the personnel who work there do not operate on the same space/time continuum that the rest of us do. They live in a Parallel, but Slightly Groggy Reality in which there is an endless supply of time. When you run out, they just give you more Free Time, which you can use to wait in the store contemplating the medical histories of your fellow customers. If I were a death row inmate, my last wish would be a trip to the Store Formerly Known as Eckerd's.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Shall We Do Lunch?

Wow, time flies when you're busy. Did I really just lose two weeks of my life? Yes, I did! I was working on an important project that just got "put to bed" this morning. (i.e. it's in the U.S. Mail and officially out of my hands, hoho) So my apologies for being a Bad Blogger while I was off in my Mad Writing Scientist Lab. We'll see what the contents of the Test Tube yield! After the post office my next stop was (dramatic pause)....Kindergarten Lunch! Yes, the 5-year-old was very anxious to have a parent attend his lunch, and he had accumulated enough stars on his behavior chart that it was time for me to go. I did not wear nearly enough armor. Boy, it has been a long time since I've been at a Grammar School Lunch. Let's just say it was louder than my 3-year-old at Full Throttle. I should've worn hearing protection! Picture 70 kids under the age of eight all screaming at once. In a room with no carpeting. I thought my glasses were going to shatter from the reverb alone. Each time my son would say something to me and point off in a direction I would have to shout at him "You need to keep your mouth RIGHT NEXT TO MY EAR OR I CAN'T HEAR YOU." This would be a very good time to know American Sign Language. Or at least You're In Trouble With the Lunch Lady Sign Language. I got to sit with my son and his friends. It did not escape my attention that all the girls wanted to sit with him. I had to fight for a spot! Attention all mothers of 5-year-old girls: He will NOT be dating until he's 30. So don't start calling about the prom. The girls were all chatty and even (egads) flirty. Or maybe they were just practicing for their teen years. Now one boy in particular I noticed because he was not so interested in his lunch. He spent most of the lunch period hopping up and down and making weird faces. I thought maybe something was wrong with him, but every so often he would stop to see if he was getting a reaction. (from me, I guess.) I just smiled pleasantly. Because I knew I was leaving in 20 minutes and he was not my kid. I got the full nostalgia effect of this lunch, too, because there was even one kid who threw up. This caused the Lunch Lady to scowl when she heard about it, and then she went to get some foul-smelling Crumbly Stuff to throw on the Affected Area. (I don't know why they use foul-smelling stuff to cover up the odor of foul-smelling stuff.) Plus I had to avert my eyes from the kid with the runny nose because I had no tissues and he seemed oblivious to the problem. At the end of the meal there was a prayer, which threw me off a little because I'm used to them at the beginning. A trio of kindergarteners led the room, and I noticed that they use the same cadence for "The Holy Spirit" as you would for "I pledge allegiance." After they were done the room broke into a round of applause. Not sure if that was for the kindergarteners or the Holy Spirit. There is no way the Lunch Lady gets paid enough money. I hope she has hearing protection.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Perfect Snack

I am searching for something. It is the perfect snack food for my child's lunch. There are only limited things that my kids eat, anyway, mainly involving carbohydrates or colorful things with faces. I think mainly they subsist on juice boxes and superhero vitamins. Every once in a while I will get them to ingest a carrot or a cucumber, but then they lapse back into previous habits. I have taken to sneaking the vegetables into other foods such as the spaghetti sauce. It is starting to look strangely lumpy, in spite of my attempts to puree the carrots beyond detection. Maybe I should just dump jars of baby food in there. I don't know. They do eat eggs, which I consider an accomplishment. Here's the thing, though. The 5-year-old requires not only a lunch, but also a SNACK. So even if I manage to create the perfect lunch, there is still the problem of the snack. And the snack is supposed to be healthy, so I can't just stick cookies or KitKat bars in there. (ahem. Hasn't the kindergarten intelligentsia heard that chocolate is good for your health?) Apparently not. So I have tried all kinds of things in this special snack bag. (which cannot even go INTO the lunch. It must be strictly segregated or it could be confused with his lunch snack.) I've tried the cracker family: round, oval, square, peanutbutter flavored, cheese flavored...nothing works. And these bags actually come back home looking as if the entire class did a line dance on them. They are pulverized into fine crumbs that can probably be used for baking. I have tried pretzels and potato sticks, under the rationale that these are not as bad for you as fritos or fried dough. The 5-year-old claims that the potato sticks look like dead french fries. I suppose if you look at it that way you could get a sense of Potato Rigor Mortis. I have tried the fruit family: grapes and raisins. These always come home untouched. He likes apples, but there is no way to peel and cut them and get them to not turn brown. Yes, I know Huckleberry Finn and his buddies would eat them straight off the tree, but these are children who have never gone barefoot. I am now considering trying to find a cookie that maybe LOOKS like a healthy snack. I could disguise it somehow! Maybe with food coloring! Or I could make it into a healthy looking shape such as a carrot. (The 3-year-old already has this covered. He claims cheese puffs ARE carrots.) Other rejectees: Pop Tart sticks, Sponge Bob Square Foods, breakfast bars of any kind, Cheezits, all yogurt-based products, and the remainder of the fruit family. All I know is the Holy Grail of the perfect snack food is still beyond my reach. I still... haven't found....what I'm looking for. (Cue Bono) I know what my mother will say. She will say if he doesn't eat a snack maybe he will be hungrier for a good lunch. And she is probably right. But I still worry that the teacher will think there is something WRONG with his parents that they can't come up with a healthy snack. Perhaps I can give him some kind of gummy treat and claim it is an astronaut food. We got it from NASA. It's the equivalent of liver plus spinach. It's worth a try.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Coffee Drinkers Mentally Unhinged

Just read a story about how some brilliant group of mental health professionals feels that coffee drinkers are so addicted to their cups of joe that they need to be classified as mentally ill. Well it's hard to argue with mental health professionals who obviously don't have a jolt of anything useful to wake them up. You would think with all the people out there mumbling to themselves in iambic pentameter, or assembling weapons of mass destruction using internet do-it-yourself kits, or writing rambling letters to the editor with excess punctuation, you would think with all THOSE crazies out there, they would leave us coffee drinkers alone. But no. We seem a little too happy in the morning. It's time to suggest we're a little TOO satisfied with that first cup. Maybe there's something wrong with us that they can treat with powerful drugs or group therapy. And by the way I am not down on counseling in general. It's a great place to get objective opinions on things that will only make you crazier if you try to solve them using the advice of twelve different family members. But if they're going to fool with my coffee in the morning I'm going to banish them to the decaf pot, or maybe condemn them to just drinking one of those colon cleansing products. The interesting thing about my Coffee Derangement is that it did not begin in college, where most people pick up a habit that will allow them to graduate on time. Once I did start drinking it I got to thinking I would've had better grades in college and a few extra degrees had I known what a great stimulant it was. I might even have gone on to be a very Opinionated Rocket Scientist. (Opinion: Maybe we don't need to send people into space anymore. We could just send "probes" or other exciting equipment that we can replace if it crashes.) But I knew I had a problem during this latest Hurricane (Jeanne. We've been getting so many it's hard to distinguish one from the other.) Our power was out for 12 hours. I vowed after this experience that my next Survival Appliance is going to be a butane-powered coffee maker. Just for me. Forget the steaks in the fridge! Who needs air conditioning! The phone is optional. I need my coffee or I can't help anyone hold onto the roof so it doesn't blow off. The mental health professionals have suggested that coffee drinkers become "irritable" when they don't get their fix. A sure sign of addiction! (I am also addicted to food and sleep, but I suppose that's another essay.) The only reason we become irritable is because we are grumpy. Grumpiness causes irritableness, obviously. The Coffee Issue is just a diversion as we argue about it. Besides coffee is as American as the Boston Tea Party. So I feel I am exhibiting my patriotism each day as I load up the coffee filters. Also I'm sort of territorial about it. Hubby doesn't drink much coffee, but when he tells me about having a specialty coffee with the people at work it feels like he is cheating on me. Especially when it is an exciting flavor that he has savored and is describing in great detail. Hmmmph. So I want the mental health professionals to get off this Coffee Vendetta before I blow up their house. Now out of my way. It's time for my first cup.