Monthly Archives: January 2014

Birthday Perspective

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Today is my birthday. I’ve recently been reflecting on how we handle the annual coming of the birthday. As we grow older, our perspective on aging changes, and with it, our level of excitement, anticipation, celebration, and even depression surrounding that big day.

 

In our very earliest years, it’s all about letting us put our fists to the beautiful cake, and then snapping photos as we smash it all over ourselves. Aren’t we cute, making such a mess of a perfectly good cake and birthday outfit? Then at around age 4, we move into the period when it’s all about who has the best and most elaborate birthday party…clowns, magicians, horseback riding, water park parties, trips to the Mall of America, or maybe group reservations on the next space shuttle to Mars! When we are around 8 or 9, we start to mark the half birthdays, the golden birthdays, and the initiation into the double digits. We absolutely can’t wait for our birthdays to arrive! Then we start on the pre-teen and teen years, when we start reaching some very important milestones…turning 13, and becoming teenagers, driving at 16, voting at 18, and finally, drinking at 21. We are still wishing away the years, so we can arrive at that next big thing.

 

Now we find ourselves dumped out into adulthood. We quickly discover that age is working against us. I’m getting too old to have a family. I’ll never find Mr. Right and get married…I’ll be a spinster. I’m still living with my parents. I’ll be 40 when my kid is in kindergarten. I’m starting to get out of shape. My kids are wearing me out. What do I have to show for my life? Where has the time gone? We start to feel old, and become very conscious of each physical and mental change. We want things to slow down. Time is getting away from us, and we want to hang onto our youth.

 

At this point, some people start grasping at straws, and will do anything to stay young. Face lifts, tummy tucks, gym memberships, personal trainers, diet pills, liposuction, wrinkle creams, botox, implants…we either want to put more in or take some out, depending on the body part. We also start to become aware of our limitations, and make changes accordingly. Moving to a single story home to avoid stair climbing with clicking knees, hiring a young person to mow the lawn, finally breaking down and getting those glasses, or giving up sunbathing in a bikini. And finally, we reach the point where we start to come to terms with the inevitable…we make out our wills, start checking our retirement fund balances, and talk to our families about advanced directives.

 

OK…this is getting depressing! But the interesting thing that happened to me this past couple of years is that my birthday perspective was changed. I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. At 54, I thought all of those things in the last couple of paragraphs were going to get condensed, or never addressed. I have been very fortunate, and have come through this with flying colors. But some interesting things have changed for me. I wake up every day, and say to Polly, my doggie, “We woke up! We have a day!” I don’t worry about gray hair, sagging skin, or stiff joints. I take each one as a reminder that I am still alive. Now I gladly celebrate my birthdays, and hope to keep reaching the next one each year. Maybe I’ll even start celebrating my half birthdays, or start to plan the best or most elaborate party for next year!  Image

Slippery Senior

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This morning my boss (who is much younger than me, and in much better shape) asked me if I’d hold the door for him as he was bringing in a large box of stuff from his car. I stood at the door, and watched as he looked out at the slick, icy parking area. Apparently, he saw in front of him a snowboarding hill or skating rink, because he let out a little “whoop”, and went into an intentional, graceful slide, ending up right at the trunk of his car. I, on the other hand, saw only a pending trip to the ER.

 

I am NOT graceful, and in the last couple of years, my balance has gotten way worse. I am also not at all athletic, or in even mediocre shape when it comes to physical fitness. I’m ok with that. Really. But I also am very afraid to fall on the ice. When I strike out across the parking area, I assume my “winter walking” stance. I hunch my shoulders (because they tense up at the thought of falling), and shuffle my feet in tiny, awkward steps, to minimize my time on one foot. I am careful not to get going too fast, because we all know what can happen if you try to stop suddenly on a slick surface. I’ve even found myself shuffling in such an overly “careful” way that I almost cause my own fall. It’s like as soon as there is a little ice, I suddenly age 30 years, and walk like an 80 year old woman (no offense to the seniors, as I will be one sooner than I’d like!)

 

Aside from the worry that I will break something and end up in the hospital, there’s also the humiliation factor. I know you’ve all done this at some point. As soon as you fall, you look around to see who saw you take a digger on the ice, right? I do this before I even assess my possible injuries. And when I see someone else fall, unless they look badly hurt and in need of assistance, I look away, to afford the person the opportunity to do the look-around and get up before they think I saw anything.

 

I’ve also realized that in the last few years, I’ve let go of my love for making snow angels or going sledding. It’s just too hard to get down on the ground, and almost impossible to get back up. Oh, to be young again, and look forward to heading out onto that slick icy patch, take a running start, and do the perfect standing slide, with no fear, no embarrassing plop or ambulance ride included.  

The Wal-Mart Heart Attack

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They say you don’t really know what will run through your mind, or what you will do in a really scary, emergency-type situation. They are correct. I recently had such a situation, right in the middle of the Wal-Mart, wedged between baby goods and pet supplies.

I had a late physical therapy appointment in town, so decided to make an afternoon of the trip, and eat lunch at one of my favorite places, the Chinese buffet, do some shopping, and head to my appointment. I gorged myself at the buffet, and headed to the Wal-Mart for some household supplies. (I know, lots of people say not to shop there because of the way they treat their employees…sometimes I don’t, but this time I did.) I used the rest room, got a cart, and headed off to find the pet food. I was just about there, when suddenly, my head started swimming. I was lightheaded to the point of almost passing out…you know, when your vision is blurring around the edges, and you need to sit down before you fall down.

Realizing I had no desire to collapse onto the floor in the middle of the Wal-Mart, I found a nearby bench, and planted myself. My mind immediately rushed to the worst possible scenario…I was having a heart attack in the Wal-Mart. I would die right there on the bench, and they’d cart me out, notify my kin, and everyone would say, “If only she hadn’t gone to the Wal-Mart, she might still be with us.” My mind was racing over the symptoms of a heart attack, which I had read about often. My heart was pounding, and I was lightheaded, but I didn’t have any pain, or shortness of breath, or tight feeling. I did have a serious case of indigestion from the massive quantities of Chinese food, and it was hard to distinguish between that and what could be my heart fluttering away, squeezing out its last few beats.

I got my cell phone out of my pocket, and was ready to dial 911. This is when the grand debate and long list of strange thoughts started going on in my head. First, I thought I should call 911 to save my life. Then I thought, no, it can’t be a heart attack, and it would be so embarrassing being carted out of the Wal-Mart on a gurney. Then I thought I’d call my friend, but I realized he would only scold me for even being IN the Wal-Mart, let alone gorging myself on unhealthy Chinese food. I went back and forth, thinking about my options…which would be the least embarrassing, and which would save my life. Was it totally ridiculous to call 911 if it WASN’T a heart attack?

I decided to get up and see if I could shake it off. I stood up and realized I wasn’t going anywhere just yet. I sat back down, and the great debate started all over again in my head, phone still in hand. I started to look up heart attack symptoms on my handy smart phone, and tried to talk myself out of each one. I finally got to the point where I could get up and walk a bit, but I only made it to the next bench, in the shoe department. I was heading towards the front of the store, so that maybe I could get to the door to go outside for fresh air, or at least be able to be hauled away from OUTSIDE the Wal-Mart, if I ended up calling 911. At this point, a friend called me. I told her what was going on, and she suggested maybe it was some sort of allergic reaction to the food. That made me feel a little better, but I kept thinking, she has no idea how dizzy I am! Didn’t she even THINK of a heart attack?? I was ready to call 911, and she was talking Benadryl.

Her diagnosis of a simple food reaction made me think it was no big deal, and try to forge ahead. I got up, and started walking, hanging onto my cart for dear life. I felt much better after walking a bit, and went ahead and got what I needed, and got out of there. I was still a bit freaked out about the whole thing, and debated driving myself to the hospital, or at least the clinic to get checked out. But I felt fine by this time, so I decided to just head to my physical therapy appointment. My PT, upon hearing the story, was shocked, and asked if I had heart trouble. This sent me into a whole new panic mode! SHOULD I have called 911? What should I do now?? It seemed ridiculous to go to the hospital now, so long after the incident.

I still felt ok, so I decided to just go home. But the next day, I did call my nurse practitioner, and went in to get checked out. Turns out I did NOT have a heart attack. I had an attack of indigestion, coupled with a reaction to MSG or sodium in the food I’d consumed. I was going to live! On a serious note, it made me realize that you really could be snuffed out in seconds, even in the middle of the Wal-Mart. I also realized that if it had been a friend who I was with having these symptoms, I’d have called 911 in a heartbeat (no pun intended) for THEM, but not for myself! I guess it was the Universe telling me not to go so crazy at the Chinese buffet, and not to shop at the Wal-Mart!

Could I Be An Apple Snob?

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I was a PC user up until about 4 years ago. I had spent many an hour trying to troubleshoot and fix problems with my PC’s over the years. Despite the viruses, worms, and blue screen of death, I was a PC person. For years I had thought it ridiculous to spend a huge amount of money on an Apple product, just to have a sleek aluminum case, and a rich looking operating system. In fact, I admit to looking at Apple’s website, and found it sort of snooty. But, I had used a Mac at work several years ago, and liked it. So when it was time for a new computer, despite my prejudice against the Mac world, I decided to consider switching to an Apple product. I started researching, and I agonized over the decision, but eventually went with a MacBook Pro. It took me a bit of adjusting, but very soon I was thrilled with the ease of using my new Mac. It was sleek, speedy, responsive, and trouble-free. I’ve had it for 4 years now, and still love it. I can’t resist a new gadget, so I also got a shiny iPad about two years ago. Then, last year, when my cell phone contract was ready to expire, I decided to make it a trifecta, since I could then sync all of my devices. So, I switched from an Android to an iPhone, and it suddenly hit me…I could be an Apple Snob.

 

At my former job, I had used a PC laptop up until a couple of years ago, when I was lucky enough to be one of the few at our office who got a MacBook. It was great to have the same computer at work that I was familiar with at home. I recently switched jobs, though, and with the new job, came a new computer. The good news was that I got to pick out a brand new laptop; the bad news is that it had to be a PC. I was skeptical from the get-go, but I didn’t have much choice. I did try to go into it with an open mind, and was at first wowed by the slick look, and the newness of it. This laptop came loaded with Windows 8, which, if you haven’t seen it, is totally different than previous versions of Windows. It’s like a cross between Windows and a smartphone, as far as looks go. But for me, returning to the PC world, as well as adjusting to the new Windows was a little too much. I spent the first week or more swiping and clicking, accidentally pulling up screens I wasn’t familiar with, and not knowing how to get rid of them to get back to what I was working on. The keyboard was awkward, and not what I was used to. And navigating Windows 8 was like reading Chinese to me. The trackpad was unresponsive…I longed to caress my perfectly smooth MacBook trackpad. Yep, I am definitely an Apple Snob.

 

I’ve been using this new computer for about a month now, and I’ve gotten used to most of the features of Windows 8, as well as adjusting to the foreign keyboard and trackpad. When I say I’ve gotten used to it, I don’t mean to say that I LIKE it in any way, shape or form. I’ve already caved and started using an old-fashioned mouse, due to the issues with the trackpad. I’m usually pretty quick navigating pages, and typing, but on this computer, not so much. I’m constantly cursing under my breath at this beast, and spend lots of time deleting typos, and correcting mis-clicks. I come home every night, and get on my Mac, and much like slipping into a warm bath, my brain says, “Ahhhhhh,” as I slip back into familiarity and responsiveness. Yep, most definitely an Apple Snob.  

Decisions, Decisions

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Being the mother of multiple cats, I frequently find myself in the cat food aisle at the store. I’m not new to cat parenting. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. But it still amazes me when I find myself standing, gazing at the vast array of neatly stacked cans of feline foodstuffs. And over the years, the choices have multiplied tenfold.

 

First, you have the brand distinction…9 Lives, Friskies, Fancy Feast, Whiskas, Science Diet, Iams, as well as all the store brands. Then, within each brand, there are endless varieties…bits, shreds, filets, tenders, pate’, tasty treasures…and tens of flavor choices. Some flavor names are straightforward, such as Tuna, Beef, Liver, Chicken, or Turkey. Others make it sound sort of fast-foot kitschy, like Sea Captain’s Choice, Super Supper, Mariner’s Catch, and Country Style Dinner. Then you have your combos, like Ocean Whitefish & Tuna, Turkey & Giblets, Liver & Chicken, or Chicken & Tuna. And then you get into the specialty foods, like those for indoor cats, senior cats, or kittens.

 

There is no lack of variety or choice. The thing that often strikes me as funny is how we humans stand in the aisle and make the decision as to which cat food to buy. I’ve even had conversations with other people, doing the same thing, and we muse at how ridiculous it is to be so choosy. Even though I’ve done this hundreds of times, I STILL stand there and look, and look, and then debate which kinds to purchase. Do we base our decisions on our own taste preferences? I doubt many cat owners have actually TASTED any of these flavors of cat food, yet we spend just as much, if not more time, choosing cat foods as we do choosing our own groceries.

 

Do we pretend to know our cats’ preferences? Because last I checked, my cats change their little kitty minds on a daily basis. As soon as I discover that they seem to vacuum up a certain flavor of cat food, and stock up on it, sure enough, they stick up their noses at it the next time I serve it. And it absolutely drives me crazy when they leave food sitting in their cute little bowls to dry up and get hard, which I then have to scrape out of the bowl. When they do this, I hold off on giving them more canned food, yet they gather at the bowls, and sit there staring at me. It’s as if they are saying, “Hey! What about us? Aren’t you going to feed us? We’re wasting away to nothing here!”  

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Smarties Don’t Snort Smarties

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A friend just forwarded me a link to a story about middle school kids snorting Smarties, the lovely little candies that come in a roll wrapped in cellophane. Yes, it seems that they are mimicking adults snorting cocaine, and think they might get some sort of high from crushing up these candies and snorting a sweet line. Apparently, there are even YouTube videos of these kids snorting Smartie lines. This is disturbing on so many levels.

 

But there’s more…apparently, once these kids have been snorting the crushed candies, the bits of sugary sweetness get stuck in their nasal passages, and then attract flies, which lay eggs, which sprout into maggots, which live in the nasal passages, causing all sorts of problems. Parents are being alerted to pay attention to any tickling sensation in the nose, foul smell coming from the nose, or nasty mucous coming from the nose or eyes. Yeah, maggots don’t usually come along without a lot of baggage.

 

Maggots are not the only risk involved here. The shards of candy can cut the nasal passages, causing scarring. The candies can also cause coughing, wheezing, or other respiratory issues, as well as infections. Of course, there’s the risk that your kid is the one who happens to be allergic to some ingredient in the Smarties. And, by the way, in case you were wondering, there IS no high to be had from snorting Smarties.

 

Then, I have to wonder, what will this new fad cause for sensible folks like me, who only purchase the Smarties for their intended purpose? Will they start keeping the Smarties behind the counter, with the meth-making decongestants? Will we be carded in order to purchase Smarties? Will salespersons have a red button to push when someone purchases mass quantities of Smarties at Halloween? I hate to think that I will be inconvenienced or penalized because of the ridiculous behavior of these pre-teens. I love my Smarties, but, gee, I thought you were supposed to EAT them! Doh!

How Low Can You Go?

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I have lived in central Minnesota for almost 13 years, and I grew up in northern Illinois. I am used to cold winters, lots of snow, and wind chills dipping way below zero. I also lived in southern Maryland for 15 years, and know what a hot and humid climate is like. After experiencing both, I’ve decided I’d rather be cold than hot. Sounds like I’m all tough and prepared for winter when it hits, eh? Well, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Cold is relative.

 

When winter swings into Minnesota, somewhere around October, and that first cold day hits, I feel totally unprepared, and get what I call the Big Cold Chill as soon as I step outside. It takes me a few days to get used to the idea of bundling up, and that onset of shivers. Then I work into the cold, adjust my outerwear (and underwear), and learn to live with the brutally cold temperatures.

 

So, during our last cold snap, affectionately referred to as the Polar Vortex by the national newscasters, I built up my usual tolerance for the cold. There were even days during that period of time when I found myself saying it wasn’t that cold, and it was -15! I appreciated the sunny days, even when the temps were still unbelievably cold. I was getting into the winter groove.

 

And then, it was over, and we had a real heat wave for about a week or so. Temps soared to the 20’s! I got lazy about the gloves and hat, and was able to bump the thermostat down a bit in the house. Some folks in Minnesota even break out the shorts and sandals during such heat waves. (I am not one of those types!) And during this heat wave, I would feel cold at 10 degrees. A week before this, 10 would have felt very warm, but now, it was causing that Big Cold Chill.

 

Now, we are faced with Polar Vortex II: The Sequel, and I am dreading the inevitable. I had gotten so tough by the end of the last run of below zero days, but now I feel like I’m starting all over again. I’ve lost all of that tough skin, and have already had a wave of the Big Cold Chill this evening. I’m also regretting not spending more time outside this past weekend, when we were having that heat wave, because tomorrow is going to hit hard.  

Mirror, Mirror

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We’ve all met people in our lives who drive us crazy for various reasons. It might be that annoying neighbor who always stops by to have a lengthy chat when you are trying to relax on your front porch. Or it could be that you know someone who complains all the time, all the while doing the very things he complains about. And maybe you work with a narcissist who is one day self-absorbed, rude, and controlling, and the next, acting as if she is your best friend. Then there are the whiners, the liars, the fakes, and the manipulators.

 

When I encounter any of these types of people, I start to wonder…do they have any idea how they are behaving? In the privacy of their own minds, do they admit to themselves that they lie, offend, control, gossip, or pester? Right after they say something awful about someone, do they gasp internally and regret their words? Are they repeating silently, I’m NOT going to lie, I’m NOT going to lie, realizing that they fail at this on a daily basis? Do they sit and do nothing all day at work, and feel terrible when they go home for letting everyone else in the office do all the work? Sometimes, I want to shake them and say, “Don’t you see what you’re doing???”

 

Based on the fact that these people do not change their behavior over time, I have to assume that they don’t realize that they are the way they are, or that they have no will power. I WANT this to be true, because the alternative is that the behaviors are intentional, and sometimes just downright mean-spirited. I don’t want to believe that there people out there who are just plain mean.

 

I seem to spend a lot of time noticing how people interact with each other, and wondering what motivates them to behave the way they do. So, my next level of concern is this: what about me? Do I exhibit any of these annoying or rude behaviors, and am not aware of how I’m behaving? Am I included in someone else’s list of who annoys them? What is it that makes a person become aware of their own behaviors, and how can we see things in others so easily, but not in ourselves?

 

I’m glad that the annoying people make up a very small percentage of the people I encounter on a daily basis. I’m also hopeful that my good friends will let me know if I’m falling into one of these categories of annoying.  

Diversity and Dating

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So, I was watching TV one night, and a commercial came on that caught my attention. It was for the Farmers Only dating site. I thought surely this must be a Saturday Night Live spoof. I tuned in more carefully, and discovered that it seemed to be a real dating site…for farmers! I’d seen ads for sites like E-Harmony, Match.com, and even ChristianMingle.com, but this Farmers Only thing just threw me for a loop. But I guess it makes sense…often times farmers are so busy tending the crops and livestock that they certainly don’t have time to hang out at the bars, cruising for dating material.

 

Then I started wondering if there were other dating sites with similarly specific criteria, so I did some research. Let me just say that I am glad I am not out there in the dating pool these days. I was shocked at the number of sites, let alone some of the strange groups that these sites are aimed at. Who would have thought that there needed to be a Mullet Passions dating site? Or Vampersonals, where you might bite off more than you can chew? Or maybe Gluten Free Singles, where you would never get caught in that awkward Lady and the Tramp moment where you are sharing a string of spaghetti? Then you have your Purrsonals, for the cat lover in all of us. And in the out there and even weirder category, we find Clown Dating, and Diaper Dating (for those adults who like wearing diapers – yes, it really exists!)

 

There are groups for the sports-minded, such as Equestrian Cupid, and Dating Sporty Singles. I wonder if Cupid fires the arrows from the saddle. And for those whose looks are less than perfect, Ugly Schmucks. Or for only the beautiful people, Darwin Dating. I wonder who sets the standards for these two? Or what happens if you deem yourself a candidate for the Darwin Dating site, when you really should have considered the Ugly Schmucks first. And of course, there are Gay Romeo, Biker Kiss, and Amish Dating. And there’s even a group for those who shouldn’t even BE dating, the Married Dating Site. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

 

Needless to say, I was wowed by the seemingly endless list of dating sites with such odd and specific themes. Then I started thinking how in my lifetime, we have moved from a very segregated society, to a much more integrated one. We have embraced diversity, for the most part, and it seems anything goes when it comes to couples. But then you have to wonder why we need all these dating sites that are aimed at drawing like spirits together, and encouraging a weird sort of segregation. I’m thinking of protesting this phenomenon and starting the “I’ll Go Out With Anyone” dating site, or maybe “Are You My Polar Opposite?”   

Polly

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Polly

This is my little Polly dog. Polly Wolly Doodle. Sweet Polly Purebred. Polly Pocket. We went to the vet today because she has some loose teeth. Next week she has to have a cleaning, and will lose a few teeth. She’s the sweetest little thing, and has always had the most crooked front teeth. I know it’s best to take care of tooth problems before they cause pain and infection, but I will miss her crooked little smile. Of course, she will still have a cute little smile…just different. And her breath will improve, I’m sure! I wanted you to meet her, as I’m sure she will be the subject of many of my future posts. Good night, sweet Polly!