Aug 27

Dear Readers,

So as I paid another bill that had come in the mail this evening, I was fondly reminded of how a few months back I was instant messaging with a friend and mentioned that I had just come back from the store, where I had purchased stamps.

“You still use stamps?” he responded. “How quaint.”

It’s true, I still use stamps. And I divulge this information for all the world —-or my one reader—- to judge. It’s not that I am opposed to saving the earth by reducing my use of paper products —- I happen to love trees, ever since, while teaching summer school this past summer, I learned about taught students about photosynthesis and discovered informed the students that after absorbing sunlight, trees give off oxygen. Since until our species advances we need oxygen to breathe, I am a fan of reducing my use of paper products.

Yet my transition to online bill payment has been even more gradual than our species’ advances toward breathing without oxygen (I thought I saw somebody sprouting gills the other day, but it was just a typical Portland hairdo). This procrastination puzzles me, in stark contrast with my mother, who has not only been paying bills online for years, but also proficiently programming and using her GPS and expertly adding apps to her iPhone. How is it possible that my mother, who never learned to program a VCR or even turn on a CD player, skipped the technological advances of the 80s and 90s yet somehow landed in 2012 with the incredible ability to master the iPhone?

Don’t get me wrong, there are reasons I prefer mapquesting directions to using my GPS. There is sound logic supporting my decision to say I can’t find my GPS when I know perfectly well it is in the lefthand compartment of the third drawer of the table in the living room, the drawer labeled: Gadgets From the Future. For starters, it is fun to arrive at a destination, only to discover that I’ve got neither the navigational skills nor the visual-spatial memory capacity to return to my starting point. Very fun indeed. Moreover, I’ve now sampled every voice option GPS has to offer me; female American accent, male and female British accent, Southern twang, Irish riverdancer, Richard Simmons, and Klingon warrior —- and no matter who the navigator, I simply don’t care to be bossed around by a small box with an attitude about the number of wrong turns I’ve made when I’ve been given ample reminders about that upcoming turn, none of which I heard because I was listening to that one song on the radio while mentally creating my grocery list and eyeing that Ford Escort to my right who keeps crossing into my lane and wondering if I should try to make that 5:30pm Zumba class or just skip it and eat the ice cream I’ll be buying at the grocery store once I mentally complete my grocery list and WHY IS THAT LITTLE BOX YELLING AT ME AGAIN??

So as you can see, there is obviously something wrong with people who use GPS, in that they’re not thinking about enough important stuff. Yet there’s also obviously something wrong with me, in that change makes me quite nervous. Not the coin kind of change, I love finding a penny on the ground and I love that feeling I get when I’ve found four hundred and twenty-five pennies on the ground and can order my favorite iced mocha, but the kind of change that reminds you of the sheer impermanence of the world as the things in it are ever in flux. I remember refusing to add texts to my first flip phone, adamant that the phone was intended purely for talking, and that I was taking a stand that would eventually influence the entire world toward resolutely rejecting the practice of pushing buttons on a phone as if confusing the buttons with teeny tiny keys on a teenier tinier keyboard attached to the world’s smallest computer (ironic considering phones are now small computers). I remained steadfast until my very adamance became the source of my dwindling social world; nobody knew that I was changing the world by blocking texts on my phone and instead assumed I was willfully ignoring their text invites to fun events. Upon discovering that my failure to add texting capability to my phone was compromising my access to social events, I called and ordered texts the next day. And it was a favorable change, despite the fact that my big thumbs continue to hit multiple keys upon impact.

Change can be scary, but not as scary as the voice of a Klingon warrier ordering you to take the next left, and just a bit scarier than the voice of Richard Simmons cheering you on toward the following exit while you pump, pump, pump that steering wheel! And it’s okay to hesitate before making changes —- if everybody were to move at the pace of the world, nobody would slow down enough to set an individual pace. If we move at our own speed, we’ll average a just-right pace as we embrace the transience of the world in which we live. The speed of light is as fast as it gets, but I’m content to travel at less than warp speed, and choose my changes carefully.

But I will always buy stamps and I’ll always send handwritten thank-you notes as long as there are mail carriers or at least carrier pigeons —- because some things never change, and shouldn’t.

–Troi out

Apr 23

This post is dedicated to all human beings who have less common sense than I. So far, I’ve found one.

Dear Readers,

Human being #1, who for purposes of insufficient anonymity will simply be referred to as Hana, decided one fine evening to bake up some cupcakes. So she headed to the grocery store and made her way to the baking aisle. There she feasted her eyes on a multitude of premade mixes, cake mixes of the chocolate, vanilla, and confetti varieties, brownie mixes, lemon bar mixes, and cheesecake mixes. The aisle was her oyster, and as she looked up, then down, and finally all around, she found herself truly perplexed by a single question:

“Where are the cupcake mixes?”

But not one to be easily deterred by a little foible like poor product placement, Hana went on a jaunt through the store, perusing the produce aisle (as her friend Troi has been arguing all these years that cupcakes are basically a fruit, being small and sweet and easy to eat without need for utensils), the candy aisle (as her friend Troi has been sneaking cupcakes into movies for years), the cereal aisle (as her friend Troi eats cupcakes for breakfast), the health food aisle (as her friend Troi says that when you frost a cupcake with green icing, it becomes a superfood, like kale), and the bread aisle (because her friend Troi makes sandwiches by putting deli slices between two cupcakes). Yet to her dismay Hana found the entire store to be bereft of cupcake mix.

So as the story always goes, Hana returned to the baking aisle, convinced that amongst the cake mixes she would discover the cupcake mixes. After all, what are cupcakes but mini-cakes, made from the exact same batter that would make a whole cake; a batter, in fact, that is made from the exact same pre-made mix….. and as Hana contemplated this an epiphany came to her.

I should let the store manager know that they are all out of cupcake mixes!

Thankfully, the manager was out that day, baking cupcakes, and so it was a trusted friend –- not Troi –- that gently broke the news to Hana that the origin of cupcakes was cake mix, and that cupcakes were not given their own mix.

Hana digested this information just a bit slower than the average person digests a cupcake. Eventually she accepted it, and bought a cake mix. And in the aftermath of this cupcake calamity, Hana, brimming with indignance over poor packaging and double-crossing designs, phoned a friend, this time Troi, and reported that she had an idea for Troi’s next blog post.

“Pictures on packages!” she exclaimed. “That should be your next post. About how there should be a picture on the front of the cake mix box that displays not only a cake, but also cupcakes, so that people recognize the diverse uses of the premade mix! What if people are visiting from another country, and they want to make cupcakes, and they don’t know how to find it!”

Troi considered the story of the cupcake underdog struggling to make a name for himself in the grocery store when he’s been robbed of his own identity separate from his bigger, tougher cousin the cake, and envisioned the hypothetical tourist from Canada and his hypothetical Canadian family on their first trip into an American Safeway, thinking to themselves, “This trip to America would be complete if only we could make some cupcakes, but we just can’t find the mix!” and the resulting discord as the family became divided on an acceptable alternate dessert item, eventually ending in divorce and sad little Canadian children being bussed back and forth on weekends and holidays between their mother who lived in the Undersea Gardens and their father who lived at the Wax Museum (because those are the only two places Troi has been to in Canada, and she lacks imagination), and she was definitely moved toward this compelling concept.

But since the cupcake isn’t sentient and common sense crosses cultures, in the end Troi was not sufficiently moved to miss the chance to take a decidedly different take on the story, one that finally featured, but in no way mocked, the travails of a person other than Troi.

So, Readers, the next time you find yourself in a situation where you can’t find what you need, remember to think outside the box, and there the solution will be. Unless you’re Troi. She’s still looking.

–Troi out

Apr 7

Dear Readers,

As we prepare for Easter Sunday, it behooves us (because Easter Bunnies have hooves) to remember the reason for the season. There are dozens of reasons—-a dozen to be exact—-to remember what Easter is really about, and each reason is oval with a hard shell, and white until colored otherwise. Some of us may only have eight reasons to remember what Easter is about, after a certain zealousness to boil all twelve eggs at once in an undersized pot led to an eggsplosion (see Troidini & The Great Eggscape for a history of my previous eggsploits), reducing the number of reasons accompanying me to tonight’s egg coloring festivities by four.

A rare original Troi egg

The practice of coloring one’s Easter eggs dates back centuries, and spans a range of decorating techniques. Etched eggs, for example, can be traced back to Macedonia, and during the etching process the egg is dyed, a layer of wax is applied in a design, and then the egg is bleached to remove the color in all but the waxed areas. Female eggs in particular like to partake in the etching process to maintain their youthful allure, whereas the manly male eggs sometimes request to be decorated in the Ukrainian Krashanky fashion. Krashanky eggs are dyed a bright, solid color, sometimes a brilliant red to symbolize the blood of Jesus on the cross. Perhaps the most popular decorative Easter egg is the Troi egg, which can be identified by its uneven, faded scribbles, usually sketched with a crayola crayon. The Troi egg is generally cracked from having been accidentally dropped on the floor sometime mid-scribble, but has been salvaged anyway because the rest of the eggs had been prematurely cracked while undergoing their hard-boiled transformation.

Whichever decorative style is your hallmark, the coloring process culminates in the Easter egg hunt. Taking place in an arena that has been digitally manipulated to look like a forest, the eggs are pitted against each other in no less than a race for their lives. Of all twelve eggstraordinary contestants, only one can make it out of the arena alive. Rumor has it that this Easter, there will be an unprecedented change in the rules, and two remaining eggs, if from the same carton, may be victorious.

So while tomorrow you’ll be faced at every turn with baskets, bunnies, and Cadbury eggs fronting as the real deal, don’t forget who your real oval friends are, and enjoy your Easter Sunday.

–Troi out

Jan 23

Dear Readers,

Some of you may be familiar with my adopted rescue greyhound, Drifter, but you may not be familiar with his chewing habit. To my human eyes, his myriad chew toys strewn across the carpet are easily distinguishable from my belongings. I wouldn’t, for example, accidentally eat my dog’s squeaky monkey toy, mistaking it for a sandwich. To Drifter, on the other hand, anything lying on the floor or within reach of his tall body is something to be chewed. He sees no difference between squeaky monkey and silky scarf. Of late, he has enjoyed a glove, sock, several undergarments, a tube of lotion, and my favorite scarves, which are now his favorite shreds.

As a person who works with children for a living, I find myself saying to him, “Drifter, make a good choice,” which hasn’t seemed to remedy the situation, I think for several reasons. One, he doesn’t understand English, and two, a good choice from Drifter’s point of view is the nearest item within reach of his teeth.

Drifter prefers his Proverbs crunchy.

The nearest item within reach yesterday was my favorite devotional, “God’s Little Devotional Book II,” which he swiped from the end table near my bed. The exact hour of the crime has not yet been pinpointed by authorities, but possibilities include unattended times such as “When Troi was showering” and “When Troi left the house for three and a half minutes to get a coffee from the local coffee shop down the block.” While the time of said crime remains speculative, the authorities have identified the perpetrator as Drifter. Though as the only other occupant of the house I was initially considered a suspect, after interviewing me the authorities have established I had no motive to eat my own book, whereas Drifter’s previous incidents and his predilection for chewing make for an open and shut case. (It’s just a shame I can no longer open and shut my favorite devotional book.)

So I am newly invested in remodeling the interior of my home by transferring belongings of mine that are in close proximity to Drifter to higher and when necessary, hidden locations. Closets, cupboards, and drawers have become my new friends. And in case Drifter’s keen interest in God’s Little Devotional Book belies an interest in salvation, he and I will be beginning the Bible next week. Let’s just hope he only metaphorically devours God’s Word this time.

–Troi out

Dec 23

This is an actual photograph of Shelldon

So my phone rings the other day and when I answer it my friend Hana’s on the line, sounding panicked.

“Are you sitting down?” she asks me.

Of course I’m not sitting down. I never sit down. I’m too ADD to sit down.

“Yes,” I lie, crouching just a little to compensate for my subterfuge.

“I’m so sorry to have to be the one to tell you this,” she says, “but Shelldon’s dead.”

In case you’ve come across this blog not because you’re a close friend who feels obligated to read this post in case I pop quiz you on my recent writings but because you’re a genuinely willing reader of my blog, I should give you the back story on Shelldon. Shelldon was my pet hermit crab last year, intended for permanent residence in my speech therapy classroom, and named after my favorite character on The Big Bang Theory. Due to circumstances beyond my control, Shelldon was unable to remain a classroom pet and I ended up adopting him out to my friend Hana and her son. They have all been a big, happy family for the past year. Shelldon even eats with them at the dinner table, although he prefers crawling across the plate to eating on it.

So after she disclosed his death, I opened my mouth to comfort Hana in her time of need.

“How on earth did you kill him?” I exclaimed [in a comforting tone]. “Do you realize it is almost impossible for a hermit crab to perish?! I forgot to feed mine for 3 months in elementary school and he was fine!”

Her litany of rationales for his untimely expiration (the cold weather, old age, boredom, shark attack) was suddenly interrupted by exclamations of the most unexpected kind –


It is usually customary to confirm one’s death before calling loved ones to share the news. I pointed this out in my typically comforting and empathetic fashion.

“You don’t know the half of it,” she replied, “I already posted his eulogy on facebook. I guess I should delete it until we’re sure.”

So we attempted to determine whether Shelldon was dead or alive. Basically, here were two adults, one with a bachelor’s degree and one with a graduate degree, which I’m pretty sure equals a doctorate, and we were being outsmarted by a crustacean.

Our basic dilemma was Shelldon’s complete absence of movement, which according to Hana’s observations—-which were becoming increasingly unreliable considering the premature eulogy—-had lasted for days. We had to do something that would force Shelldon, if still alive, to move. Which led me to think of the one thing that would motivate Shelldon to book it.

“Hana, put him in the sink and start running the water,” I told her. “Land hermit crabs can’t swim, so his instinct to protect himself will kick in and he’ll have to come out of his shell and start trying to climb away.”

A few moments later I heard the sound of running water, followed by shrieks of joy. “You’re alive! This is wonderful!” Followed by stern discipline. “Don’t scare me like that again, do you hear me?” (He doesn’t. Hermit crabs can’t hear. He may have heard the vibrations from her shrieks.) Followed by returning to the phone to pick it up and saying, “I have to go. I have a status update to delete.”

So as you reflect upon this story and its relevance (there is none*) to your life during the Christmas season, remember to put a heat lamp on top of loved ones to ensure they are warm enough to come out of their shell this winter.

–Troi out

*Really, if you find the relevance here, you’re thinking too hard.

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