Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Family that Is Confused Together Stays Confused

All happy families are alike, but unhappy families are miserable in their unique ways.  Tolstoy taught us that, although  I've never really agreed with him.  It seems to me that happy families invent their happiness in their own ways by determining how they'll either accept adversity or turn it to their advantage.  I think that unhappy families are more predictable, as they slide into ugly archetypes and hapless living patterns based on inability to cope.  Still, who am I to dispute Tolstoy?  A man who could find the time to write War and Peace  definitely had time to think about family dynamics.

I wonder what he'd have said about crazy families?  (Disclaimer:  I am not discussing mental illness here.  I am talking about everyday bonehead thinking.)  Are all rational families alike in their steadiness?  Are all nutty families constantly loony tunes, or are some only nuts at times, depending on their stress levels?  I believe some families are permanent fruit cakes, and never a day passes that they don't have at least one member whose antics are freakish.  My family's craziness is not like a fruit cake.  It's more like fudge--smooth, but with the occasional crunchy nut.  My husband has christened these occasional crunches as "Powers Moments."

I can't get a family consensus as to what a Powers Moment is, but we know when we're having one.  My husband says it's a moment when everybody needs to "shut up and start over."  My #2 son is more descriptive:  A Powers Moment is an unwholesome moment when we have our heads in an unusual part of our anatomy.  A definition I devised is not totally accurate but might suffice to  get us all on the same page:  A Powers Moment is a brief period of collective indecision wherein a small annoyance blossoms into a major disagreement or obstacle, under which circumstance we all become stupid.  I am not happy with that description, but I can give examples.

A Powers Moment often begins with something we all agree on, such as that we are hungry.  That being established, we pile into the car.  The driver, usually my husband, takes a left, which is my cue to ask, "Do you know where you're going?" 

His answer is invariably vague, something along the line of "Oh, I don't know, I thought maybe"

Chorus from the back seat:  "Chinese."  "Mexican."

The passenger side, usually occupied by yours truly, stays quiet, because I like Mexican and Chinese equally well.  I perceive, however, that the driver isn't happy about either option, and I don't want to cast a deciding vote in favor of a plan the driver is sure to oppose.  The next few minutes go roughly this way:

"Mexican gives me heartburn."
"Yeah, that's why we need to get Chinese."
"OK, but not the little Chinese place."
"I'm not driving an extra five miles just to get Chinese I don't like that much in the first place."

In the meantime, we have passed the little Chinese place, two Mexican places, the big Chinese place, and we are headed for the county line.  I am still silent because I know that the last chance to stop will be in the parking lot of a wonderful restaurant specializing in steaks.

"Wow, good thinking, Dad!"

I'm thinking I hope some one grabbed a credit card on the way out.

Food is not the only subject that triggers a Powers Moment.  Travel also seems to cause us to put our brains on hold.  Last June, my husband and I, accompanied by our then-19-year-old, decided to see the USA in our Chevrolet.  Specifically, we elected to drive from Central Alabama to Great Lakes, Illinois to attend our older son's U.S. Navy Pass-in-Review (boot camp graduation).  The three of us agreed to travel light so we could bring a few boxes and suitcases full of civvies to our son who could have normal belongings on hand in his "A" school.

My 19-year-old is a good boy, but he's hard on tires.  In the month preceding our trip, he had had at least two flats, and his doughnut was in such bad shape that he had removed it from the trunk altogether.  This same teenager popped the trunk on the morning of our departure and began loading our boxes and bags.  I admit he did a pretty good job--the parcels were wedged into the trunk in a space-saving jigsaw pattern with the big items  belonging to our Sailor going in first, followed by suitcases belonging to us travellers, and finished off with our smaller satchels and light bags of things we might want to grab in case of a pit stop.

It was time to go, and Mr. Powers was the driver, of course, with our #2 son assuming the position of Navigator.  I opted for the space and privacy of the back seat, a pillow and my iPod.

Gentleman, start your engine.  The dogs are accounted for, the front door locked, the thermostat up.

"Did you put the spare back into the trunk, son?"
"What?  Oh.  No way.  That thing is totally worn out."
"We're not driving to Chicago without a spare, son.  Did you plan to walk to the next exit if we get stranded on I-65?"
"Let's just go.  There's too much stuff in the trunk to unpack it."

Tell me this isn't happening.  I am snuggled into the back seat with pillow, iPod, snacks, water, and a spare tire.  I used it for a foot rest all the way to Chicago.

It was this same road trip that spawned the Powers Moment Supreme, our defining moment as Happy Family that Occasionally Goes Slap Plum Crazy.

It wasn't our fault.  It was after midnight, and my husband, fortified by a Starbuck's off I-65 somewhere in Indiana plus some White Castles in Gary and a Chevy Cobalt that was getting pretty good mileage, decided to press on and get across Chicago all in one trip.  (The original plan, to spend the night in Louisville, got ditched somewhere outside Bowling Green.)

We are not used to toll roads or toll booths that are eight-across and poorly lit.  Just west of the Illinois state line, we approached what looked like the starting gate for a horse race.  The Navigator spoke up, "Dad, I think you just pick one."

My husband nosed the Chevy into one of the narrow spaces between toll booths.  There was the gate in the DOWN position; there was the price of entry to the toll road for each vehicle; there was the toll booth with no human inside, and there was the slot for the money.  Except where was the slot for the money?

"It's $1.50.  I have $1.50.  Hon, where does the money go?"

I glanced out the window at the booth.  I didn't see a slot for money, either.  "I have no idea."  I did see two bright headlights behind us, however.

"Dad.  It's right there.  Just put the money in, and the gate will go up."
"Where?  I don't see where the money goes.  Do I just leave it on the curb?"
"(mumble, mumble) DAD!  Right there!  Just put the money where it says exact change!"
"I don't see that.  Do you see that?  Well, here.  You put the money in.  There's some one behind us."

I thought the solution would involve Seth leaning across his dad and putting his head and arms out the window to deposit the change.  Instead, Seth took the money, opened the passenger side door, walked in front of the car and put the money into the not-so-clearly-marked coin slot.  The gate rose.  Seth sprinted back around the front of the car to his side and got in before the gate closed again.

It was probably my imagination, but I could swear I heard gales of laughter from the car behind us. Never have I been so conscious of having an Alabama tag.

Powers Moments such as these occur, I would say, two to three times a week at our house.  Sometimes we get quite vexed with one another; other times we take it in stride and make the best of our temporary lapses in judgment.  I do not think we are alone in this.  So for any families who have driven in circles for two hours looking for a place to eat, who have unpacked a meticulously packed car due to some oversight, or who have rearranged the same room five times to accommodate for electrical outlets, you are not in the fruit cake category.   You're just having your version of a Powers Moment.  Welcome to the family.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

OUT! or The Coffee Blog

Part 1

I am in line at a conference with 10 or 12 other yawning ladies.  We are all paying anywhere from $2 to $5 for the privilege of pouring our own coffee into paper cups.  We have our choice of sugar or any of 3 kinds of artificial sweetener.  We are supposed to have a choice between 2% fat milk or half & half.  The carafe labelled half & half is empty.  There is no choice after all!  I inform the cashier that she is out of half & half.  I decide as I pour my own milk that I am glad I chose the $2 size cup.

Part 2

It's late in the day.  Wearily, I shut my computer down and get ready to lock my office.  A voice comes over our PA:  Attention, faculty and staff!  Tomorrow would be a fabulous time for you to bring a pound of coffee.  We are out.

The local grocery store has its own store-brand 13-ounce package of coffee on sale, buy one, get one free.  Even though they are asking too much for their not-quite-one-pound brick-shaped package, I find the idea of getting 26 oz. for the price of 13 irresistible.  I tell myself that I will take the extra short-pound to work with me so I don't have to contribute to the coffee fund.  My co-workers will be so happy that we don't have to skip brewing our pot of coffee even one morning!

Anyway, the store is out of my favorite brand.

Part 3

My husband enters the kitchen at 6:30 in the morning wearing a T-shirt, plaid shorts, and cowboy boots.  He is on auto-pilot at this hour as the boots steer him in the direction of the percolator.  I stand between him and the counter to mask the fact that the percolator light is OFF.  My mouth is open in semi-surprise; there is a hint of panic in my eyes.

"What?"  he asks when he notes my expression.  He reaches past me to open the dishwasher for a clean coffee mug.

"Um," I reply.  The caution in my tone stops him as if we were playing freeze-tag.  Mr. Powers is paralyzed, mid-reach.

"What?" he asks again.  Who turned up the volume?

"I think we're out . . . " I say, as if I didn't know for sure.  Of course I know for sure.  It's my job to set up the percolator every night before I go to bed.  That way all I have to do is plug it in when I get up.  The miracle of 1930's technology does the rest, and Mr. Powers and I go to work slightly more alert than our non-caffeinated peers.

"What do you mean 'out'?" he asks me.  I'll have to think about this for a second.  Out  has lots of meanings.  My intention was to disclose, ever so carefully, that we had no coffee in the house.  But my mate's question may have given me an out around the dangerous truth.

We are no longer closet coffee-drinkers.  We are out of coffee.  The world can at last know who we are.  It's the end of the line for "Don't ask, don't tell," and we'll proudly place those coffee mugs on our desks for everyone to see. . . .

Or maybe out can be where we'll drink our coffee this fine autumn morning.  We'll go out on the deck and watch the blue jays eat their breakfast . . . but we'll have to go out somewhere else first, like the grocery store.

"We don't have coffee?"  The incredulity in his tone is deafening.

"Um." (Oh, rats!  I already said that!)  "I didn't notice until I came in to set up the coffee pot last night.  I thought we had almost a pound of that store brand in there, but--"

"You didn't go get any?"  More incredulity.

"It was kind of late.  The store was closed by that time, and I didn't feel like going out . . . . "  (Bright idea!)  "I'm having some hot tea.  Can I fix you a--"

I am talking to my husband's plaid-covered tailgate as the cowboy boots steer him back down the hall.  I sip my hot tea and hope we're not out of BC powders, too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Inevitable Football Blog

Gotcha.  As Howard Cosell famously said, "I never played the game."  We won't deal with whose team is best, whose defensive coordinator has got to go, or who deserves the Heisman Trophy.  There will be no X's or O's drawn here.  However, an affiliation check is expected of anyone writing about Football.  So--I have a degree from Auburn.  My mama went to Auburn.  I'm for Auburn.  Can we get on with this?

What I really want to do is gripe about the confusion of a visible football program with a  quality education.  When my son was a high school junior looking toward college and the possibility of playing post-secondary football, he received letters from schools like Wofford and Elon.  These institutions, time-tested and respectable I'm sure, had not exactly been household words up 'til then.  We had conversed about or visited the University of North Alabama ("I could walk on there!"), Auburn, Troy ("I'm not big enough to play there!"), and Jacksonville State ("I wonder why they didn't recruit Jim Bob?").  I don't recall my son ever asking me the average GPA of any of these schools' freshman classes.

I noticed the extent of the confusion when I was still a high school counselor.  I would interview seniors at length every September to make sure their post-high school planning was on track. A typical interview went like this:

ME:  Have you decided what you'll do after graduation?
SENIOR:  Going to Alabama.
ME:  Excellent.  What majors have you thought of?
SENIOR:  Ima play football.
ME:  Really?  Are you playing football now?
SENIOR:  Nope.  Got to get my grades up.
ME:  Oh, right.  Do you have any idea what it takes to get into the University of Alabama?
SENIOR (hopefully):  Good grades?

More recently, I encountered this from a senior swaddled in red and white:
SENIOR:  Roll Tide!
ME:  War Eagle.  So you're a Bama fan.  Which of your family members attended Alabama?
SENIOR:  None that I know of.
ME:  So you're from Tuscaloosa.
SENIOR:  Nope.  North Carolina.
ME:  So shouldn't you be wearing a Tarheels shirt?
SENIOR:  Who're they?

Argh!   Not only does football seem to guide educational choices, it appears to control the map as well.

In an effort to awaken an awareness of what an array of colleges there are in and outside the State of Alabama, and to remind kids that colleges are not NFL farm teams, I brought my gaggle of junior- and senior high school students two sets of survey results.  One was the U.S. News & World Report listing of the top 50 public universities in the United States.  I wanted my young scholars to know that even though the majority of Alabamians don't get college degrees, those who do can boast of a better than average, if grueling, 4 years at our two largest schools.

"Coming in at #31," I announced, "is the University of Alabama."

"That's bad," grumbled a sophomore Alabama fan.

"No, no, that's quite good,"  I admonished.  "Do you know how many public universities there are in the United States?"

"About a hundred?"

"Thousands!  and only 30 of them are rated higher than Alabama!"

Pleased smile from the sophomore.

I went on.  ":Auburn University is #38 . . . "

"HA HA!  We beat you!"  This comment was apparently directed toward anyone in the classroom who had ever in his lifetime put A and U together in alphabetical order.  I was thinking, Good!  Academic competition for once.

I continued, "Alabama has been in the top 50 for about 11 years, Auburn for 19 years."  Silence reigned as puzzled football heads tried to figure out what that all meant.  When I announced happily that Troy University was #26 on the list of regional universities, the mood shifted again as some one asked, "What's for lunch?"

Undaunted, I changed my tactics and brought a new list to the group another morning.  I hoped to kindle their curiosity about how colleges work by bringing in the list of the Top 5 Party Schools in the United States.  According to Princeton Review,  Ohio University is the top campus for students wanting to major in Fun.  My group returned blank stares in place of comments on that information.  Staring right back, I continued, telling them that OU's freshmen scored in the 21-26 range on ACT's and averaged a 3.28 GPA out of high school.  Respectable!  More blank stares.  Not one to give up, I went on, "But they were only number 60 on the U.S. News & World Report list.  Alabama and Auburn are both ahead of them."  Not even a raised eyebrow?  OK, desperate times call for desperate measures:  "They play Kent State this Saturday if you're interested.  They're in the Mid-America Conference."

"I knew it!"  The Bammer sophomore again.  Everyone else was in the hallway opening their lockers.

Don't get me wrong.  I love football, and I share some of the same delusions as my fellow SEC junkies:
     1.  The Auburn-Alabama rivalry is the best rivalry in the Universe.
     2.  The SEC is by far the most challenging, expert, dynamic, talent-laden conference in the country, and all others are pretenders.
     3.  Either Dreamland or Momma Goldberg's  is a synonym for lunch.
     4.  We don't care how loud Neyland Stadium is.  Our stadium is louder.
     5.  The Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers are tied for the title of "Team with the Most Annoying Fans."

That said, I do wish that for at least nine months out of the year, we could somehow be reminded that education is primary, not a sideline.  (Get it?  Sideline?)  If you have a veterinarian you like, you can probably thank Auburn.  Aw, barn, you say?  Farming feeds the world, buddy.  Unfortunate enough to need an attorney?  I bet there's a degree from the University of Alabama on her ego wall.  Ditto for your doctor.  And the number of great educators produced by Troy University is higher than this ex-English teacher cares to count.  (Readers from the other 49 states, insert the names of your own universities.)

I have a solution in mind inspired, believe it or not, by a car owned by an unknown Alabama fan.  The automobile in question was decorated--no, embellished--NO, FESTOONED--with Alabamorabilia.  There were curlicued capital letter A's on every window, houndstooth-checked sayings spattered on every fender, a faded bumper-sitcker proclaiming the University of Alabama to be National Champions (in football) (parentheses mine).  There is nothing unusual in this bazaar of a sticker display.  We go get our Auburn stuff right after we get our new tags.  What caught my eye was a small, red square in the midst of it all--the bumper-sticker equivalent of a Post-It.  Centered on the square was a capital S.  Underneath the S it said The Coach.  It was direct, understated, almost tasteful.

Imagine a society so hellbent on educating its citizens that cars bore magnetic stickies in school colors reading:  A  The Chairman of the English Dept. (purple and gold); Z Professor Emeritus of African History  (orange and blue); or J Dean of the College of Education (green and silver).  Maybe The Coach could teach a few sections of Lifetime Fitness!

Or maybe we could, for the sake of the population still uncommitted as far as their education goes, add another slogan to the list that includes WDE, RTR, WPS, and Geaux Tigers.

How about GAE?  Get An Education?  No cowbells?  No whistles?  No high fives?

<sigh>  War Eagle.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Surrealism in Slapout

The weirdest thing just happened to me--so weird, in fact, that it already seems like fiction.  This is the sort of encounter that happens in quirky short stories or novels with misfit protagonists.  Be prepared not to believe this, but please understand, I do not make stuff up.  I know two priests and one Board of Education maintenance supervisor who will vouch for me.

It was an ordinary Saturday afternoon.  We had barbecue and barbecue sauce at the house, but no buns; plenty of ice, but nothing to pour over it.  As anyone with a Slapout, Alabama address will attest, one goes in these situations to the local grocery down by the flashing yellow light.  So there I was, making a quick-in, quick-out trip that was as unplanned and spontaneous as a kid's jump into a fresh mud puddle.  The store was a little busy that day, meaning I was second in line at the check-out.  I noticed the couple ahead of me.

It was a man and a woman, so I assume they made a couple, but they could have been brother and sister.  The lady looked like a tall, thin mouse with pale brown hair and no chin.  She was skinny and murmuring as she counted out some one-dollar bills.  I am no beauty myself, and I am not criticizing.  I'm only setting the stage.

Her male partner stooped over their grocery buggy, mumbling complaints, it sounded like.  He had a gruff voice, and the lady paid him no mind.  He straightened up, and I saw that he was wearing a wife-beater (also called an A-shirt if you're not from around here), and he was missing a front tooth.  It isn't nice to gape at gaps, so I turned away.

That was when I heard him say what I was so sure he couldn't have said, "Narcissistic."  Because no one wearing a wife-beater or anyone else ever says narcissistic in the grocery line, I immediately thought to myself, I misunderstood.  It sounded like he said "narcissistic," but a man in an A-shirt doesn't say that, especially not while his buddy pays for bread and milk.  It was probably "Carl's a sissy," "Cars is cinches," or "Gnaw the stitches."

Anyway, they left; I paid; I grabbed my bags, and I was leaving, too.  Here's where it gets really weird.  I passed Mr. A-shirt as I headed for the door.  He had decided to do the right thing and bring his buggy back indoors.  As we passed each other, he looked me right in the eye and said, "Narcissistic."

I am a mental health counselor.  I'm not bragging; Troy University and the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling say I'm a counselor, so I am.  As a counselor, I can assure you that there is no positive context in which one might use the word narcissistic.  Furthermore, used in conversation, the word is reserved for materialistic heiresses, corrupt politicians, and ex-husbands.  In professional settings, narcissistic precedes personality disorder.  Friends and neighbors, personality disorders don't budge.  They simply are, and we mental health professionals just try to work around them or help our clients get better in spite of them.

Which brings me back to my chance encounter at the store in Slapout.  What did I do, how did I look, what unconscious gesture on my part coaxed that specific term from the man's memory?  I wasn't in a hurry or being impatient.  I did not frown at Ms. Mouse as she counted her bills.  I didn't even stare at the A-shirt or glance down to see if the wearer had remembered his shoes.  I put my buns and Coke on the counter and waited.

I was wearing a plaid shirt and some olive-green cotton slacks.  I had on a little make-up, and my hair was combed.  After all, I had had to work that morning.  There was no reason for me to think my appearance turned any heads at all.  Still, we all remember the mythology behind the word narcissistic:   Poor Narcissus, gazing witlessly into a pool of water, saw his own reflection and fell in love with it.  Curious as to how I might see myself under these bizarre new circumstances, I stared into the mirror when I got home.

I saw nothing to flaunt.  I have no athletic Nordic beauty, no warm Mediterranean appeal; I am as boringly Anglo as you can get.  My hair is too thin, my ears too big, my complexion too muddy.  Okay, my bangs are a good length right now.  For appearance, I give myself a C, and that won't earn me a personality disorder.

Of course, looks are not what personality disorders are made of.  Personality consists of character and the way we interact with the world around us.  This would be harder to look into than a mirror.  Haven't I had moments of pure selfishness?  How about the time I persuaded my husband to put our house on the market when I knew he didn't really want to move?  or the time I convinced my high-schooler to stay on the wrestling team because I might like to be the parent of a State Champion?  Worst of all, what about my insistence on holding yard sales on weekends when my family wanted to go to Arkansas?  Very, very self-centered decisions, all of them, and ones I sincerely apologize for.  Did my accuser somehow learn about those?

No.  Not possible, and although the idea of such hi-falootin name-calling in Slapout is absurd, there is a nightmarish quality to the whole encounter.  The grocery store run is supposed to put lunch on the table, not trigger a cascade of introspection and self-doubt.

So I will do what most anyone would.  I'll say I really did misunderstand; I'll say the guy was drunk; I'll say he mistook me for his ornery ex-girlfriend.  I won't say he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness lest I find that I am a viper.

No, I'll just write it down the way it happened, shake my head, and mutter, "Weird."  If you read this, you may agree, but if you find it interesting, don't tell me so.  I may like the compliment so much that I'll write another column.  That would be quite narcissistic of me.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Is It September Yet?

Aaaah!  August in Alabama!  We residents of this great state enjoy endless days of blue skies, cricket song in the evening, lush plant life, mosquitoes, drought, and hundred- degree afternoons.  We sweat in line with our panting animals at the rabies clinic, shop for a back-to-school outfit in flip-flop weather, drink a gallon of sweet tea daily, and kid each other that there's a hint of fall in the air at 3:56 a.m.  We trudge through these dog days of summer by pulling up scraggly tomato plants, mowing with all manner of stupid hats on our heads, and buying football magazines at a time when no one would seriously contemplate sitting in a stadium.  We cannot change the ennui of summertime that has worn out its welcome.  What the month of August needs is a holiday.

Other months are saved from themselves by having this small but important perk.  For example, January would be a stretch of rainy skies and dark mornings without the faux celebration of Super Sunday.  Likewise February, except that we can clip coupons and talk ourselves into braving the Presidents' Day sales as we nibble confectioners' sugar hearts that say TXT ME.  March is home to St. Patrick's Day, which gives us permission to break our Lenten solemnity with green beer, and June boasts Flag Day, a dress-rehearsal for July 4th.

August?  It's the desert of the desk-calendar, the white board still erased clean from the last day of school.  August lacks a holiday, however contrived it may be.  (Contrived holidays do work--How many of us have enjoyed an unearned splurge because it was Bosses' Day?)  I submit the following for your approval:

How about another patriotic holiday?  I suggest Long Island Day.  On August 27, 1776, the American colonists fought the British in the Battle of Long Island.  We would not become too New York Centric with this holiday because, in fact, the British won the battle.  It would be a sportsmanlike gesture on our part to remember their fallen and ours and to let them know that they fought the good fight, they were honorable, and we forgive them.  We won the war, after all.  It would be a day for visiting beaches, riding ferryboats, and drinking Long Island tea.  We'd take the day off, most of us, but retailers would swoon with happiness, decorating their stores with American flags and Union Jacks and offering 17.76% off all school supplies.

Church attendance is pretty low in August, what with guilty Catholics staying awake all night and blameless Baptists sleeping in.  So how about a religious holiday?  It would not carry the clout of Easter or Christmas, nor would it be as time-consuming as Hanukkah or as demanding as Ramadan.
It might simply nudge us out of our too-warm beds and into a summery outfit purchased just for St. Batholomew's Day!  August 24th is the saint's own feast day.  St. Bartholomew met a bad end, even for a martyr.  It's said that the Armenians flayed him alive and crucified him.  St. Bart is the patron saint of tanners, which isn't funny.  But August finds many of us still working on our tans, and there is a Caribbean island named for St. Bart, so maybe we could honor his labor for Christendom by stretching out on "some beach, somewhere."  Wearing a swimsuit on St. Bart's Day would become similar to wearing green on that other saint's day.

Finally, if religion and patriotism succumb to heat and drought the way tomatoes do, I propose an invented holiday.  Just as Secretaries' Day, Bosses' Day and Grandparents' Day were the brain children of greedy florists, greeting card publishers, and restaurateurs, an August holiday can be created by hardware dealers, bait-shop employees, and teachers needing a little more summer before Labor Day.  I propose Bug Day, an educational celebration of all that crawls.  On August 16 of every year, young and young-at-heart, will capture each and every creepy-crawly in sight.  It can be caged or boxed, pampered or petted, but never, ever squashed.  Repellents and insecticides will be banned on this day as will fly swatters, roach motels, and bug lights.  Children will attend parties decked out as their favorite critter, and they'll swat at spider-shaped pinatas filled with--you guessed it--gummi worms.  Adults will attend Bug Out parties and sip cocktails called Mosquito Mist, Long Island Tea-tse, and of course, Grasshopper.  Women's magazines would get in on the fun with recipes for adorable cakes and cupcakes that look like bees.  For the romantic couple and the friend-who-has-everything, the upscale department store will feature bejewelled dragonflies with smooth emerald wings and tiny ruby eyes.  They'll cost a fortune, but hey--Bug Day only comes once a year.  For those of us on a shoestring budget because no one has any money at the end of summer, there will be cards.  I'm liking Bug Day more and more!  Bug Day sales, Bug Day barbecues, Bug Day vacation packages, Bug Day education materials for Kindergartners!  Let us begin our celebration today.  I shall claim the distinction having written and sent the world's first Bug Day card to all of you:
                                       Bug Day Greetings Across the Miles
     You're my friend though far away
     And thoughts of you bug me today.
     Your chirping voice, your mantis smile,
     Your stinging wit, your waspish style,
     And most of all, your ham & eggs.
     I'd crawl to breakfast if I had six legs.

Happy Bug Day!  Happy St. Bart's Day!  Happy Long Island Day!  Stay cool.