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    A Full Degree Below Normal: My Encounter with Superwoman

    Thursday, August 11, 2011, 9:40 AM [General]

    My former college roommate is coming east from California today for a 10-day visit. The first stop on her itinerary – an overnight with me! I haven’t seen her for years and I’m so excited I just can’t wait.

    But I’m a traveler and I know that air travel is rife with schedule changes and delays. So I suggested to Katy that she send her flight information so I can track the flight, which she did.

    I almost fell over when I saw it. She leaves California at 11 AM and, taking into account the three-hour time difference, arrives in DC at 7PM Eastern Time. That’s a seriously long flight.

    And goodness know who she’ll be sitting next to, or in front of … .

    I find that on long flights, I’m generally seated very close to a baby who, inevitably, howls through part, if not all of the flight. Y’know what I mean? But maybe Katy will get lucky and have an experience like I did, which will make her forget all about crying babies; old, smelly ladies; etc.

    I can’t believe I forgot to share this with my readers. On the trip to Florida from DC a few weeks ago, I had a one-of-a-kind encounter. I’ll never forget it.

    After boarding the Boeing 717, I put my carry-on item – a backpack – into the overhead compartment above my seat. For the record, Boeing 717 planes have three seats on side of the aisle and two on the other. Accordingly, the overhead compartment is deeper on one side.  I was seated on the plane’s “three-seat” side.

    At some point, the flight attendant asked me if she could move my bag to the two-seat side to make room for larger pieces.  

    Not a problem, I said, thinking it wouldn’t be.

    Epic fail.

    So she took my bag and moved it to the smaller side. Then, she took another bag and shoved it on top of mine. In a moment of surprise and distress, I said, “I agreed to let you move my bag, but not to manhandle it.”

    She replied with something along the lines of, “I’m not doing anything to your bag.”

    Me: “How can you say that? How do you know what’s in my pack? Maybe there’s something fragile in there that you just broke handling it so roughly. Did you think about that?”

    Her comeback: “C’mon. I didn’t break anything in your bag.”  

    Sweet! The only way she possibly could have known that she didn’t break anything in my bag – every compartment of which was fully zipped – would be if she had x-ray vision.  

    You know what that means? It means I met Superwoman! She does live! Awesome!



    0 (0 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Creepy Shower Scene, Take Two …

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 9:09 AM [General]

    Can someone please cue the creepy music that comes right before the shower scene in “Psycho”? This morning, I pulled back the shower curtain to find my shampoo bottle lying on the floor of the tub, cap missing, bleeding blue goo into an already huge puddle of the muck all over the bottom of the tub.  

    To say I was shocked is putting it mildly. I let out a bloodcurdling shriek. Gary later commented that he'd heard my yell three rooms away with the radio on.

    I feel I've now come full circle in the “shower scream” series.

    When Gary and I were not yet married, he would occasionally stay at my apartment in Maryland on weekends. At that time, I lived in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom place, so two people could attend to their “personal needs” at the same time.

    Some random Monday morning following one of Gary's overnight stays, I was caught up in my thoughts as I prepared for work and momentarily forgot that he was in the house.

    When I came out of the master bathroom into my bedroom, there he was sitting on the bed, smiling. I took one look at him and let loose a hair-raising screech.  

    The scream was followed by a long session of laughter, when I realized what I'd done and to whom I'd done it.

    I promised Gary that when we got married I'd never forget who he was and I'd never scream upon seeing him again.

    There's been plenty of screaming since we got married, but all caused by “individuals” with at least four legs.


    0 (0 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Back to (Old) School Shopping

    Saturday, August 6, 2011, 10:16 PM [General]

    With students in Virginia slated to return to class in about a month, everything is about “Back to School.” And to help parents outfit their progeny in the latest fashions, Virginia is hosting its annual back-to-school sales tax holiday. The tax-free weekend ends tomorrow. Exempted from Virginia's 5% sales tax are school supplies priced at $20 or less and clothing items priced at $100 or less.  

    Keep in mind, of course, that you need not be going back to school to take advantage of the opportunity to shop tax free. That describes me. I have no kids going back to school – I have no kids – and neither I nor Gary is resuming an in-class education in the foreseeable future.

    But I still plan to shop.

    Specifically, what I need is a new bathing suit – and fast. The adorable polka-dotted one-piece I bought for our honeymoon six years ago is all but threadbare in places where I can’t afford to have it be so. My other, equally festive maillot is also experiencing “technical difficulties.” And in less than two weeks I’m vacationing at the beach with my parents. Not the place where I want to “make a statement,” if you know what I mean… .

    So it’s off to the mall for me tomorrow to find a suitable, tax-free replacement.

    I have to admit, I wasn’t sure a bathing suit was going to be tax exempt, because it’s not exactly “back-to-school” clothing. It’s not even really clothing, but that’s a discussion for another time and the hour is getting late… .

    So I checked the Virginia Department of Taxation’s official list of exempt items. Sure enough, bathing suits were on it. As were leg warmers; girdles; wedding apparel, including veils; athletic supporters; fur coats, lingerie, clerical vestments and rubber pants, among other items. 


    I’m getting quite a kick out of envisioning some youngster returning for another year of education four weeks from now in her new uniform:    A corset and steel-toed shoes under a choir robe. 

    Now that’s what I call “Kickin’ it old school.”



    0 (0 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Life in Candyland

    Thursday, August 4, 2011, 8:55 PM [General]

    The other day was my friend Kirsten’s birthday. It was a milestone birthday so, as a gift from her children, she asked for (and got) … candy!

    A woman after my own heart … . 

    My husband and I love candy – chocolate, gummies, jelly beans, licorice, taffy – you name it. We’ve even picked up lollipops with mini scorpions in them, at a candy convention we attend from time to time.

    When it comes down to it, we’re just big kids. If you can lick it, blow bubbles with it, melt it in your mouth, crunch it, etc. and it’s loaded with all kinds of things that are “bad for you” we want it in our house and in our stomachs.

    So, is it any wonder that my heart skipped a beat when I heard the traffic report the other day?  


    There’s a town in Loudon County in Northern Virginia called Bluemont, which is located at the base of a stream valley called Snicker’s Gap. The valley derives its name from Edward Snickers, who, in the late 1700s, owned it and the surrounding land and operated a ferry across the Shenandoah River. The village was once known as Snicker’s Gap, but when it was incorporated in 1826, it was renamed Snickersville

    (Pause to dream and drool here… .)

    Okay, back to reality… .

    Because of its proximity to the Blue Ridge mountain range, in 1900, the town was renamed Bluemont. But the surrounding roads retain the town’s old name.

    So the traffic reporter commented that there was some sort of backup on the Snickersville Turnpike.      I almost ran my car off the road imagining the scenery along the Snickersville Pike.

    A chocolate waterfall à la Willie Wonka; gingerbread houses à la Hansel and Gretel; chocolate frogs hopping about à la Harry Potter… .

    You can call the town Bluemont. I’m sticking with the old name. It’ll make it more authentic when I move there to fulfill my dream of living life in Candyland!


    3.7 (2 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Tweezers, Stat!

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011, 2:48 PM [General]

    Question: Do adults not get splinters? Hmmmm.

    In doing yard work or something recently, I got a splinter in my thumb. It’s not very big, nor is it terribly deep so I thought I could get it out on my own the old fashioned way. No luck. After trying unsuccessfully a few times to remove it, I decided I didn’t want to risk infection, so I let it be.   

    Then I went on vacation. I wasn’t about to spend my vacation in a doctor’s office/hospital emergency room, though ... . 

    At this point, the skin has grown back over the splinter. It’s not infected, but I can still feel it and it needs to be removed. So says, well, everyone I’ve spoken to.

    So yesterday I went to the doctor. I figured he’d be able to remove it in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

    You probably know how this is going to go without my telling, but I will, all the same … .

    I came in and explained what I needed and one front desk clerk said to the other, “Can you find out if we remove splinters here?”

    What?! This is a doctor’s office and you don’t remove splinters?

    It turned out that they can remove it, but not for several days. Why? According to the doctor who saw me, looking all “official” in her white lab coat, the area around the splinter is inflamed and it will have to be cut out with a scalpel.

    The thing is, they don’t have the correct “tool” with which to remove it and they have to order the scalpel from a supplier. Goodness knows how long it will take to arrive … .  

    For quicker service, the doctor suggested I try an urgent care office. One of the front desk clerks kindly called the local facility for me.

    It didn’t instill much confidence in me when after saying that she was calling to refer a patient who needed a splinter removed there was a long pause and she said, “Do you know what a splinter is?”

    In the end, it appears that to avoid a huge bill, I’ll be best off sitting tight and having the splinter removed – eventually – at the doctor’s office. 

    Before I left the office to resume the waiting process, the sympathetic front desk clerk said to me, “You see, we don’t deal with children here. If you went to a family medicine practice, you could probably have it removed right away.” 

    I see, because adults never get splinters.

    Are you kidding?   

    I have two words for that staff … . Tweezers, stat! 


    2.8 (2 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Famous Last Words

    Sunday, July 31, 2011, 8:07 PM [General]

    I can’t believe it. The “Be the Next Beliefnet Blogger” contest ends today. I’ve blogged every day for 31 days straight. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. But the “they” in “they say” say it just takes 21 days to develop a habit … .

    I’ve had great fun telling stories and (hopefully!) entertaining you, my readers, in the process.

    And now, some famous last words … .

    – Yesterday I was bemoaning the fact that we had to leave Florida following such a wonderful vacation. “If only I could have one more day here,” I thought, as we waited in the airport for the plane. As life would have it, there was a problem on the plane and we ended up having to stay one more night in Florida. More pool time, a chance to discover West Palm Beach a little… . 

    God really does listen sometimes.

    – As wonderful as the vacation was, however, I missed my garden rather a lot while we were gone. What’s more, I was concerned that the combination of severe heat and lack of rain would kill everything. To my delight that was not the case. After dropping off our suitcases and getting squared away at home today, we headed out to the garden where I was greeted by peppers, tomatoes and cantaloupes.  

    So, whaddya think of my melons? 

    – Finally, one serious note. To the contest sponsors, judges, my readers and those who encouraged me to participate: Thank you. The opportunity to share tales (all true) styled to make you smile has been a thrill. Occasionally it was a challenge, too. But, ultimately, I was inspired and being part of this venture has made me a better observer, thinker and writer. I have an even greater appreciation for life around me now and I have, indeed, developed the blogging habit.

    No doubt about it. With God, all things are possible.


    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Home Again, Home Ugh-ain

    Saturday, July 30, 2011, 6:50 AM [General]

    The Florida vacation is just about over. In a matter of hours we'll head back to West Palm Beach and the airport to hop on a plane for home.

    We're going north – about 1,000 miles or so – so you'd think we'd be headed toward cooler climes. Think again.

    This entire week in South Florida temperatures have been in the high 80's and low 90's. Meanwhile, in DC, the mercury has been hovering in the mid-to-high 90's and low 100's.   

    With temperatures that high, the heat indexes have ranged from 105 to 120 degrees. It's warmer in the DC area than it is in Aruba, for goodness sake. Incredible.

    Interestingly, a lot of folks we've met on vacation here come from other parts of Florida. When we've told them we're from DC, they don't seem altogether sure what to say. No doubt they're a little edgy about bringing up politics. They don't know that we're used to it.

    So we've had to break the ice, so to speak, by adding, “We came down here to cool off.”   

    I love my house and I love the area in which we live and yet, at this moment, all I can think is, “Home again, home ugh-ain.”


    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Steinberg's Vacation Leftover Eating Contest

    Friday, July 29, 2011, 9:54 PM [General]

    It's about 10 PM on Friday and I'm panicking. Why? Because, as usual, I bought way too much food for this vacation, which is imminently ending.

    It didn't look like that much when I bought it. Really, it didn't.

    Of course, I'm used to shopping – and cooking – for a small army, even though there are only two of us in the house. I'm sure it goes back to my childhood, watching my Mom make at least twice the amount of, well, everything that we were going to eat.

    Furthermore, I don't think I necessarily fully took into account the meals we would, undoubtedly, eat out. Even so, there were only three of them. So where did this bounty come from? I swear each time I close the refrigerator door, the food gets together and multiplies.


    With about 14 hours to go before we check out, there's still uneaten cheese, lettuce, pickles, bread, fruit, a ½ liter of tonic water … the list goes on.

    And I've already eaten a sandwich, salad, fruit, chips … the list goes on. And did I mention that we've also set aside a number of unopened items that we'll be taking home?

    Gary and I are huge fans of the competitions sponsored by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), with which we became familiar from regularly watching the world-famous July 4th “Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.” 

    I'm ready to participate in the next IFOCE event. On second thought, I think I'm ready to host it. Step right up! Step right up! Submit applications here for “Steinberg's Vacation Leftover Eating Contest.”




    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Strangers with Arroz con Pollo

    Thursday, July 28, 2011, 8:48 PM [General]

    Several years ago, Gary and I spent a holiday weekend in Ocean City, MD. Unfortunately, I have dark memories of that trip. One night – quite late – someone knocked on our door and, when we didn't open it, that same someone tried to break it down. Fortunately, the door held.

    What I remember most about that short vacation was my panicked 911 call, filing a police report and moving to another hotel the next day after demanding our money back given the circumstances.

    Even now, years later, it upsets me to think about that time.

    What's more, it's made me wary of opening the door to someone who's knocking – at home or on vacation – if the person doesn't identify himself/herself.

    So it should come as no surprise, that I freaked out a bit when, at 10PM last night, there was a knock on our hotel room door followed by silence when Gary asked, “Who is it?”

    Oy vey. Here we go again,” I thought to myself.

    I don't usually like to be proven wrong, but I couldn't have been more thrilled this time.

    A day or two earlier, I was chatting with a woman in the pool. She introduced herself as Nancy and said she was in town with her family to celebrate her birthday. In accordance with her “Cubano” heritage, her birthday supper would feature a Cuban version of the classic Spanish dish arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) homemade by her 80-year-old mother.   

    When I heard that, I jokingly said, “Ooh! Can I come, too?”

    Yesterday – her birthday – Gary and I saw Nancy's husband, Ernie. He had little time to chat, he said, as he had to get ready for the birthday dinner, complete with cake. That time, I commented, “Yum-o! Save some for me, eh?”

    Gary tells me I need to be careful what I say to who... .

    It seems that Nancy and Ernie took me seriously. When noone reacted to Gary's question, “Who is it?” he asked a second time. “It's Nancy,” the knocker replied.

    Mind you, we'd met these folks approximately 24 hours earlier so it's fair to say that we hadn't enjoyed a long relationship with them and we weren't altogether sure why they'd come by. Wow, were we surprised.

    When Gary opened the door there was Nancy – with Ernie – both with hands extended, holding plates covered with tin foil.

    We brought you the arroz con pollo and cake you asked for!” they happily declared. 

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    The moral of the story: Be careful when dealing with them, but always take arroz con pollo and birthday cake from strangers.

    2.8 (1 Ratings)

    A Full Degree Below Normal: Man Meets Manatee

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 9:37 PM [General]

    Now I know what makes grown men cry.

     The sight of a 1,200-pound behemoth within inches of your face while you are quietly minding your own business in the ocean will do it every time. No, it wasn't a shark or an alligator. But it might just as well have been. The fact that it was a gentle giant didn't placate me at all this morning when I came all but nose to nose with an adult manatee while snorkeling in the Atlantic.

    About three minutes earlier, a man standing some 200 feet away from me had yelled, “Manatee!” But I thought to myself that he must have been mistaken. I mean manatees don't hang out at beaches. Epic fail there, I'm afraid.

    So I continued snorkeling and all of a sudden there was this ginormous black hulking mass bearing down on me.  Now I'm a city kid – born and raised in New York – and I currently live in the Washington, DC area. Let's just say that I'm not accustomed to being within arm's length of swimming black hulking masses.

    All kinds of thoughts – none very happy – ran through my mind as I clumsily attempted to get away from it, shrieking at the top of my lungs all the while: “Oh my God, it's going to bite me/maul me/kill and eat me....”

    When I successfully got out of its path and it turned around and lazily proceeded back from whence it had come, I realized that all around me young children were laughing.

    Fine, mock my terror and anguish if you must... . All I could think was how relieved I was. “Holy cow,” I thought, “I am so lucky to have escaped that terror of the deep!” Holy sea cow, that is. 


    0 (0 Ratings)

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