March 25, 2009

Spring Break Movies

Posted in Parenting tagged , , at 1:58 pm by Andrew

The in-laws are in-house, visiting for the kids’ spring break. Great visit, good food, etc., so far, and this morning they absconded with the kids for an overnight visit with more family in Breckenridge.

To ease the 180-minute drive into the mountains, I went to the library yesterday to pick-up some movies. I’ve written before about the pure beauty of in-car DVDs, and I wanted to share this gift with my in-laws (and not share the gift of my children’s cooped-up car behavior).

So I’m in the library, middle of spring break week…and the DVD shelves are nearly stripped clean. The children’s section was picked down to the Barney Handyman series (“Barney Learns Drywall,” “Barney Rents a Pressure Washer”) and some “book series” discs offering nothing more than still-shots of book illustrations with voice-overs (like the film strips we watched in elementary school in the mid 70s).

Based on this field research, I’m guessing the leading family spring break activities are as follows:

  1. Ski Trip
  2. Beach Trip
  3. Visit Family
  4. For God’s sake, get some movies to keep these kids quiet for a week.

Fortunately, I fought through the tumbleweeds in the video section and made my way to the cart holding DVDs to be re-shelved. There I managed to walk away with “James and the Giant Peach” and “The Rescuers Down Under.”

I wonder what these movie-renting parents will do if we adopt the increasingly popular 4-day school week?

March 24, 2009

Daughters and the Law of Averages

Posted in Parenting tagged , , at 2:37 pm by Andrew

Statistic: The only people who have at least a 50% chance of living out their lives at home — as opposed to a care facility — are those with three or more daughters or daughters-in-law.

What does that mean? Far more than I can begin to discuss, but here are some thoughts:

Fewer and fewer people die at home, so if that’s your hope, you better turn the hope into a solid plan and, more importantly, find enough people to carry-out your plan.

While traditional, I find it interesting, if not odd, that care-giving remains largely the realm of females — daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, female nurses, etc.

What’s so great about home? If your health and assistance network allow you to continue to live at home…great. But people are increasingly accepting the idea that staying home for the sake of staying home is not a logical pursuit. Senior citizens may well find far superior care at an assisted living facility, rather than relying on untrained family members. Plus, such a move often frees an overburdened family member to resume the role of companion and listener, rather than untrained laborer.

Good news is, people are more aware of end-of-life issues…more interested in discussing them…and more realistic of the uncertainty involved. Because as the elderly already know — getting old isn’t for wimps.

March 17, 2009

Cliche: More than one way to skin a cat (!,?)

Posted in Just Darn Clever tagged at 11:31 am by Andrew

I think it’s fascinating how often this cliche is used…given that it has absolutely no relevance in today’s society. But that’s what defines a cliche – a phrase used for no good reason.

The obvious question…why on earth would anyone ever be in a position to skin a cat?! And if you found yourself in such bizarre circumstances, would you really feel the need to debate methods? “I see your point about the British style, Jim, but I’m thinking the Tropical method is the way to go on this one.”

Strangely, it’s not really known where the phrase originated. Some think it stems from an old description of how boys climb trees (pulling their legs up through their arms, ala a gymnast). Others believe it grew from the early American fur trade, but again…when was there ever a market for cat pelts? Did pioneers trade some short-hairs to Cortes in exchange for the City of Gold? Did Jefferson close the deal on the Louisiana Purchase with some fine calicos?

So, despite the complete absurdity of the phrase, you can probably get away with dropping it now and then. But don’t be surprised if the next time you invoke the image of shearing felines, the only response is…”What on Earth are you talking about?”

March 4, 2009

Cliche: Icing on the Cake

Posted in Just Darn Clever tagged , at 1:55 pm by Andrew

Time to debut a new feature here at DwyerTime called…Cliche, Baby!

Maybe it’s the English major in me, but I’ve always been intrigued by how many people use cliches without any knowledge of what they mean or their origin. So, on occasion, I will tackle a cliche and explain how it came into use, how it’s mis-used, and perhaps a penance for those caught misusing. Enough talk; let’s tackle the first cliche.

“That’s the icing on the cake.”

People routinely use this phrase in reference to an unexpected or additional good fortune. “Going to Disney World, and then winning breakfast with Mickey, well, that was the icing on the cake.”

Wrong. Constant misuse of the phrase has morphed it’s meaning, and in fact has reversed its meaning. When this phrase was born in the 1940s, it was used to indicate frustration…or to use another cliche…the final straw. People would say “that’s the icing on the cake” to show their disgust toward a string of misfortune. The point was that icing on a cake, rather than frosting, was cause for dismay.

Here’s how it came about: The wife of a wealthy movie mogul was throwing her daughter a sweet 16 party in 1942. It was a lavish, catered event with a lengthy guest list. But for various reasons, the mother was disgusted with the party and spent most of the day criticizing the caterer, yelling at the musicians and firing the  magician/clown/etc.

Then came the big moment to present the birthday girl with her extravagant cake. Everyone gathered around for the crowning achievement (another good cliche). But when the caterer wheeled in the cake, the mother lost her mind. Rather than a multi-layered cake with beautifully colored frosting, the caterer simply drizzled icing over the cake. The mother bellowed, “You put ICING on the cake? Nobody puts icing on cake!” She stormed out, everyone fell silent and the poor birthday girl left the room crying.

Afterward, the phrase became an inside joke among the wealthy who attended the party. Whenever something went wrong, they would say to each other, “That’s the icing on the cake.” Eventually it entered the lexicon and spread. If your dry cleaning was lost, you broke a nail or your tire went flat, you would say with great exasperation, “That’s the icing on the cake.”

When did the meaning shift from expressing disgust to expressing joy? I don’t know. But it is odd to consider: Most all cakes have frosting, not icing…and people greatly prefer frosting over icing…yet it’s become the norm to offer up praise as “the icing on the cake.”

Go figure.