Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Utensil Fetish

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I’m not too proud to admit it. I have a writing utensil fetish. I love pens. I love pencils. I love markers. The colors, the points, the grips, the clickers, the caps, the erasers, the barrels, the smooth flow of ink, or the click of the lead advancing…it all makes me sigh. At any given moment, I have in my possession more writing utensils than the average person uses in a lifetime, I’m sure. I recently went through an old box of pens, and discovered some from as early as the 90’s. I may have a problem.

I’m not sure what it is that might have started this fetish. Maybe it’s because I grew up at the tail end of the fountain pen era, and the early beginnings of the mechanical pencil era. I can remember using my parents’ fountain pens (when allowed), and getting my own first fountain pen when I was in the 5th grade or so, and allowed to write in pen. I can also remember when the first BIC pens came out. What an invention! A pen you would use and throw away when it was empty! They cost 19 cents! WHAT??!! And I remember my first Parker Jotter ball point pen. A clicker pen that was a bit “upper crusty” in the world of a middle school student. Mine was olive green. And then, in middle school, came the Flair pens. They were my first felt tipped markers. They came in a pack of 12 colors, and they were wonderful! They came out with a “PsychoFLAIRapy” calendar, which featured the ink drawings of Peter Max, and you could color in the pages with your FLAIR pens. It was most groovy! I wish I had kept them.

From there, I moved into some serious pen, pencil and marker experimentation. Colored ball point ink came along, and then suddenly there were Mr. Sketch Markers, that were scented like fruits. Sharpies started coming out in COLORS…not just a black utility marker any more. There were highlighters, water-soluble overhead projector pens, and eventually dry-erase markers. And then, enter gel pens! You could write on black paper with them! Then came the Sharpie paint markers…oh, the vivid colors! Then Sharpie started making PENS that didn’t bleed through the paper! And retractable clicking Sharpies. Now Sharpie even makes a liquid pencil. I’m not even sure what that IS, but I want some!

When I am shopping, I always gravitate to the school/office supply section of whatever store I’m in. Sometimes I have to go to the office supply store, just to satisfy my need to fondle the merchandise. I can spend hours perusing the varieties of writing utensils. There are so MANY! And they’re all so PRETTY! I have collections of pens, pencils and markers all over the house, and at my desk at work. I have to have the “regular” pens and pencils, and then the “special” pens and markers to round out my collections. I need access to colors at all times, it seems. There are times for black ink, but almost everything needs a splash of color, as far as I’m concerned. I even enjoy going through the old pens and markers and testing each one to see if they still work before tossing them out. And I have a hard time parting with some of them, let me tell you! So, if you are wondering what to get me for my next birthday or holiday gift, please know that you are sure to please me with some colorful pens or markers!

 

Player

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When I was a kid, play meant do fun things. It really was that simple. You ran around outside with your friends, or used your imagination to invent complex situations using simple objects you had around the house. You had simple, straightforward toys, or made everyday objects into your toys. Today, play can mean many things, but rarely means just do fun things. You need expensive equipment, a fancy destination, and a master’s degree to figure out the rules.

Usually, modern-day play involves having access to, and knowing how to use a computer, smart phone, Wii, X-Box, or some other electronic device. Or it might involve a play date at which you usually travel several miles to an amusement park or water park, and pay a lot of money to brave the crowds and wait in lines in order to do fun things. At the age of 3 or 4, kids are riding around on their own 4-wheelers or snowmobiles! And even the simpler toys of today are expensive and really don’t allow for much creativity. You buy a Lego kit that makes one character, you build it, and you play with it, until you get bored with that one character.

When we were kids, we had things like jump ropes, rubber bouncy balls, jacks, marbles, tea sets, army men, Legos, cars, and dolls. Inside, we used measuring cups, pots, pans, glasses, and spoons to play in the water in the kitchen sink. We filled our tea sets with water and had a tea party with no one else in attendance. We put our dolls to sleep in a cardboard box with one of our old blankets. We built forts out of blankets and chairs, or between our beds. We played store, or restaurant. We played marbles on the rug, or raced our cars around on the floor. We played board games like Monopoly or Pachisi, or played solitaire or rummy. In the summer we would swing on the swing set, go down the slide, or ride our bikes. We played jump rope until the rope wore out from hitting the pavement. We roller skated, pogo sticked, turned cartwheels, did handstands and backbends, played tag, hide and seek, red light/green light, and Red Rover. We went outside and ran around until we couldn’t run any more. If it was hot, we’d play with the hose, or the sprinkler. In the winter we’d go sledding, have snowball fights, and build snow forts.

One of my favorite play “inventions” was making “salad” out of grass and various bits of plant life outside, and pretending to serve it. And I remember when I was very young, my mom would wrap one of her aprons around me (on me it was up high under my armpits, like a dress), and stand me on a kitchen chair so I could reach to play in the sink. My brother and I each had a collection of marbles. Mom sewed us each a drawstring bag to keep them in. We didn’t just play marbles with them. I remember we had a coffee table that had a little rim around the top edge, so you could roll your marbles around on it without them rolling off the table. We would put out a bunch of marbles, and then tip the table around to make them “skate” as we hummed The Skater’s Waltz. If I was invited to play with my brother’s Legos, it was a big deal. We would build elaborate buildings, or castles with motes. And if I was really lucky, he’d let me play with his Erector Set with him, which involved true engineering skills. We made gears that turned, and moved the machines we’d invent. There were even batteries to connect power to these inventions. But I could also play jacks for a good portion of the day, and be quite happy.

Our biggest leaps into technology were watching Looney Tunes cartoons on TV, listening to our transistor radio, playing records on our record player, and eventually, recording goofy stuff on our reel to reel tape recorder. We didn’t have child-sized 4-wheelers, or snowmobiles. We didn’t have to master the computer games, and couldn’t experience a “real” drive-by shooting, either, and that was just fine by us. We were busy coming up with the next maneuvers for the little plastic army men perched on the hill next to our house.

I have to wonder how these very different modes of “creative play” affect us as we become adults. I think my brother and I, and those of our generation turned out just fine. We went to school, got good jobs, made friends, and learned all the new technologies as they came along. We became problem-solvers, collaborators, and inventors. And today’s kids? Are they less able to be problem-solvers and team players? I don’t think so…they just might approach it using different technologies and strategies.

But when it comes to creativity, I’m not sure it’s the same. Maybe not any worse or better for one generation or the other, but definitely different. I can still brainstorm and come up with creative ideas like crazy. I’ve found some of the younger generation have trouble with this “free thinking” creativity. I remember when I was teaching, thinking it was so great to let my students have a “free choice” day in their writing journals. They thought it sucked. Some of them sat there the entire time, unable to think of anything to write about. They needed me to tell them a topic…give them a specific assignment. They couldn’t just write about anything they were thinking about.

I hope that there are still kids out there running around, just playing, with no fancy equipment, from time to time. I hope that sometimes the computer games are set aside for a good round of gin rummy with the family. I hope that the violence in the simulation games isn’t rubbing off on the kids of today. I hope that some kids still want to run through the sprinkler with their siblings rather than go to the fancy water park. 

Freaky Furries

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I’ve discovered that there are a lot of “things” that are “things” that I never knew about. You know how you hear about something, and you turn to your friend or co-worker and say, “Is that a thing?” Well…the latest “thing” I heard about is furries. Now maybe some of you already knew about this. I did not. I am still sort of in shock, and have a LOT of questions that I probably don’t even want to ask.

So, I came home from work the other day, and happened to catch a bit of Dr. Phil. I will admit that sometimes I watch Dr. Phil, just for the shock factor. I don’t care for how he handles things, and I find most of his guests fairly ridiculous, but there’s something about seeing people air their often strange personal issues on television that is intriguing. And once in a while, a gem like the one I saw the other day comes along and makes it all worthwhile. On this day, Dr. Phil was talking to a young woman who was a “furry”, which I found out is a thing.

Apparently, furries are people who are more comfortable acting as if they are an animal. They wear large animal heads, or sometimes entire animal costumes. They attend parties and conventions, joining with other furries. I don’t even want to know exactly what they do at these conventions. They even name their animal personas. This young woman referred to this furry thing as a hobby. Her mother was concerned for her safety when hanging out with other furries.

Now I’m all for people doing just about anything that makes them happy, as long as they’re not hurting anyone. But this furry thing disturbs me a bit. Maybe it’s because I don’t know much about it, or understand just why these people feel the particular need to do this particular thing. How did someone come up with this idea? How did it become a thing?

I have asked myself these same questions upon learning about other things. I remember feeling this same shock and awe when I learned that there are adults who live as babies…in diapers, with pacifiers, eating baby food, sleeping in giant cribs. Or when I learned about people who eat shards of clay flower pots. I guess there are always going to be things that I didn’t know were things. After all, I don’t lead a wild and crazy life, or live in a big city, exposed to more people and more chances of encountering more things. At least I’m sure I no longer feel weird about talking to my pets.   

Pharmacy Phail

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As consumers, we’ve all visited businesses that we feel we could improve upon, if only we were in charge. Service, merchandise, store layout, parking…there’s always something to complain about, and no business does everything perfectly. And I really hate to complain about a local business, but I feel I’ve given it long enough to see if the problems are just isolated, unrelated incidents, or if it’s a business standard.

I live in a small town, and I have the good fortune to be within walking distance of just about any business in town. Now don’t be misled…this doesn’t mean I actually WALK everywhere I need to go…oh, no, I can be quite lazy. BUT…a stop at any business should be a fairly quick trip, no matter the mode of transportation. Small towns also don’t provide huge numbers of customers, so lines and wait times are usually manageable, wherever you go.

Now, most businesses have certain procedures related to the type of business, and I’m sure time is spent to figure out the flow of the business, to best determine these procedures. A restaurant manager works out how many wait staff are needed at what times of day, how guests will be greeted, seated, and waited upon, and how the mess gets cleaned up for the next group. The grocer makes sure the shelves are stocked with what the customers want, the employees are helpful, and the cashiers can get you through the line with accuracy, efficiency, and a smile. And the baggers aren’t supposed to put your eggs or bread in the bottom of the bag. Some businesses have many tasks and services that they provide, and the larger they are, or the more services provided, the more management needs to figure out in order to make things flow smoothly.

Our local pharmacy is pretty small. They have two jobs…filling prescriptions, and selling over the counter goods at the one register. They usually have no less than four employees on duty, not counting the pharmacist. You would imagine that they have things covered, right? Not so much. Whether you call in a refill, bring in a paper prescription, or have your doctor fax or email your prescription in seems to make no difference. 9.5 times out of 10 you will arrive to pick up your prescription hours later, and it will not be ready. There just doesn’t seem to be a GO button.

This morning, I called in a refill at 9:00, when the store opened. I went in at 1:00, and the gal I spoke with looked for the prescription, which wasn’t in the bin. Then she said, “I know I talked to you Barb, but I just don’t know where we’re at with it. But I see that the label was processed, but that doesn’t mean anything.” She then meandered over to the pharmacist’s area, came back and said, “No, we don’t have it ready yet.” I asked when it might be ready, and she said, “Well, it’s hard to say, but at least a half an hour.” I came back at 3:00, and after 2 different employees tried to ask who was next, and check up on whether the other worker took care of so and so, I finally got my prescription. Not too bad…only 6 hours from calling it in to picking it up, with a little nudge 4 hours into the process. After all, they did have to verify my prescription and insurance, locate the proper drug, count out 30 pills, print a label, and put them in the bottle, and then a bag, and print the receipt. And I do realize I’m not the only customer.

When you visit your doctor, and modern technology allows him to email your prescription in instantaneously, you think, “Wow! This is slick! I’ll be able to pick up my pills on the way home!” Well, not exactly. I’ll get to the pharmacy, and ask for my prescription, and they won’t be able to find it in the bin. Then I’ll tell them my doctor emailed it in that morning. They’ll look at the computer, and say, “Oh, I see the email here. It will take us a while to get it ready.” This was the shocking discovery for me…they don’t DO anything when these emails from doctors are arriving all day. They apparently don’t check their email until you call or stop in, and ask for your prescription. They have one main task at hand…to fill prescriptions, and yet, they don’t get too aggressive about actually filling them. You have to be the catalyst in the process. And sometimes, it takes more than one nudge to get them rolling.

So, in their business process, the GO step is missing. The customer must push that button, and sometimes it’s out of order. It would be like going into that restaurant and ordering your meal, and the waitress hanging the ticket on that little merry go round thingy for the cooks to see, and the cooks just not looking at the merry go round thingy, unless you went back to the kitchen and started nagging them to please cook your food. Or at that grocery store, the truckloads of foodstuffs would be unloaded at the back of the store, but no one would put them out into the coolers and onto the shelves. If you wanted to buy groceries, you’d have to track down the stock person and nag at them to please get some for you from the crates and boxes. And maybe they would go on break instead of getting your stuff.

I still hold out hope that the manager of our pharmacy will rally the troops and come up with a process for those many employees to follow that will get my prescriptions filled in less than 6 hours, and without me bugging them to get it filled. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

 

Let Barking Dogs Lie

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My dog, Polly, is standing in the middle of the den, barking. On and on. At nothing. A couple of months ago, she started barking in various spots in the house. Up until this time, she wasn’t much of a barker, so this struck me as rather odd. It has gotten to the point where she does this little routine every day…several times every day. Sometimes it’s in the living room, sometimes the den, sometimes the dining room, and sometimes the kitchen. It only happens downstairs…once she goes up to bed at night, no more barking.

At first, I thought she had to go outside, so when she started barking, I’d let her out. But I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. She would start barking just a few minutes after coming back inside from a romp in the back yard. Then I thought she was hearing something in the basement, because sometimes she would bark looking down at one of the floor vents. But not long ago, we went into the basement, and there was nothing amiss down there…no monsters, no mice, no homeless person taking up residence…all was quiet down there. Then I thought it might have something to do with something outside the house. Perhaps a cat or dog was out there. But, no, that wasn’t it either.

I’ve tried talking to her about this. I’ve asked her what’s wrong, and asked her to show me. Nothing. She has assured me that Timmy is not in the well, but she won’t say what’s up. I’ve barked back at her. Doesn’t work. I’ve yelled, I’ve pleaded, I’ve almost cried. I’ve tried to get a toy to distract her. Nothing will stop her. It usually lasts 5 minutes or so, and then she gives up. She’s also started laying on the floor once in a while, right after these barking jags, which she’s never done before. She’s a couch and bed dog…no hard, cold floors for her. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the barking, though. And sometimes she’ll come up on the couch and lay down after a barking jag, but keep her eyes open for a while and look around, like she’s looking for something to show up. Then she’ll finally drift off into nap number nine for the day.

So, I did what all good parents do…I Googled dogs barking for no apparent reason to see if I could diagnose her problem. The overwhelming results were dogs seeing ghosts. Now, I’ll admit, I’m totally open to the idea of ghosts, spirits, etc., visiting us here on Earth. And I know animals are in tune with things we humans don’t notice. But I have to wonder, how did these people sharing stories about their spirit-seeing dogs know that their dogs were seeing spirits? Did they see them, too? Did the dogs tell them what they were seeing? Most of these people were absolutely certain that’s what was happening for their pooches. How could they be so sure?

If my Polly is seeing ghosts, I want to know who it is. Is it our Golden Retriever, Jack, that left us a little over a year ago? Is it one of the cats that has gone on to the great litter box in the sky? Or is it some human spirit that I don’t even know about? Or some past resident pet from a previous family? And what is the ghost doing to cause Polly to bark for so long? And what is the key to her stopping after 5 minutes? And do these ghosts not come upstairs? This is one of those times I really wish dogs could talk.  

He Ain’t Heavy

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All of you who have siblings have probably already figured out that your siblings are, at the same time, the humans who are most like you, and those who are most your polar opposites. I have one brother, and throughout our lives, we have ridden the sibling roller coaster, as I’m sure many of you have also experienced. There have been times where we have been very close, and times when we haven’t been speaking to each other. There have been times I’ve questioned how we could possibly have come from the same parents. We’ve survived the usual sibling rivalry, differences in personalities and choices in our lives, and our parents’ expectations affecting our relationship. Now that we are in our 50’s, we have finally settled into a pretty steady relationship.

When we were young, we were very close. We shared a room early on, and played together all the time. As we got a little older, my brother decided, as many older brothers do, that I was a “bubble-gummer”, and that he wanted nothing to do with me, or any of my bubble-gummer friends. Then, as we moved into our later high school and college years, we were again somewhat close, as he “initiated” me into his alma mater, and we exchanged our first long-distance letters. Once we were adults, we went through several more phases, mostly due to our choices in life. We didn’t always agree, and we sometimes had huge fights because of this. And then we hit this plateau, where we both finally realized that we were brother and sister, and despite our differences, we were all we had.

I should give you a little background, to help you understand our differences. My brother is very intelligent. Always has been. I remember he skipped first grade. He could read very early on, had a high IQ…the whole nine yards. Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t dumb or anything. But compared to him, I was just never going to quite measure up in that department. Without meaning to, our parents set us up for comparison. He went through everything a few years before me, and I was always trying to keep up. One example of this was they had a big, framed picture of him when he turned one, but there was none of me. First child, you know, you go all out. Maybe some of it was self-imposed, as well. And maybe that’s where he got that “bubble-gummer” idea…I couldn’t possibly be good enough to hang out with him, nor could anyone I might choose to associate with.

In our adult lives, we started to grow apart by our choices. He became a dentist. I became a teacher. Our income brackets alone separated us from the get-go. Politically, he leans right; I lean left. Socially, I like to be goofy, have fun, and do silly things from time to time; he is more conservative. I like small towns; he likes cities. He dresses up; I dress down. For most of our adult lives, we weren’t really close like some siblings…talking all the time, looking to each other for advice, approval, or just spending a lot of time together. But over the last few years, we’ve gotten much closer. And a very important couple of things happened.

The first: my brother asked me for advice. Not just once, but twice. Important advice. And he really wanted my opinion. And he appreciated my opinion. And he may have actually listened and taken some of my suggestions to heart. Yes, the less intelligent, bubble-gummer little sister finally had something to offer. Do you know how great that makes me feel?

The second: my brother read my blog. Not just one post, but many. And he liked it. And he commented on it. And he said I’m a good writer. Do you have any idea how big that is to me? I have never even tried to share anything I’ve done with him, because I’ve always figured he would have no interest, or would be critical. Well, I was dead wrong.

 So, much to my delight, my big brother has surprised me by accepting me as a valid human, who is capable, and has something to offer. I never even LIKED bubble gum!

Color Me Confused

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Is anyone else confused by the weather maps these days? I don’t know exactly what’s happening, or just when it started, but for the past year or so, I’ve become more and more baffled by the color coding on the weather maps we see on the nightly news. Either there’s some sort of competition going on to see which channel can get the most colors into the forecast maps, or the standards for these colors have gotten lost somewhere along the road to new, sparkly technology.

It used to be that weather maps used symbols to note the conditions. A smiling sun, a blowing wind face, clouds with raindrops below them, bolts of lightning…it was easy to quickly tell what was coming your way…just like the weather map in your kindergarten classroom. No codes, no colors. Then we moved into the radar weather days, and the colors seemed to stick to four basics: red for severe storms, yellow for serious storms, green for rain, and blue for snow. Then we started seeing varying shades of each of these colors, which was still fairly manageable.

But this year, I’ve seen maps with pinks, purples, grays, whites, browns, oranges…just about any color combinations you can imagine. And the worst part is there is no key, or explanation by the weather person to guide you through interpreting what you are seeing on the screen. And sometimes, they flash the map in the corner of the screen, so small, that you can’t even find where you live! Then, to make it even more confusing, one of our nearby stations decided to illuminate their call letters on their sign in various colors to indicate the weather. But instead of using the existing colors we’ve come to know, they decided to go with slightly different meanings for the colors, just to confuse us, I guess. Blue is cold, red is warm, green means rain OR snow, and white means no change. Hmmm…they even had to come up with a jingle to teach us the colors!

And it’s not just the colors that have become confusing. We now have wind chills, dew points, wind speed, drops in temps, ozone codes, humidity, barometric pressure, degree days, heat index, jet streams, la nina, el nino, and now, the polar vortex. And what’s the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny?  

Sick, AND Tired

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Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted to my blog in ages. It’s not because I didn’t want to, believe me! I’ve been sick for a whole week. For me, that is way too long to be sick. I’ve been very fortunate not to get sick very often in my life. But this time, it was a doozie. Since I haven’t spent much time being sick in my life, I don’t really handle it well. When things get ugly, and hang on, I start to freak out a bit. I waffle between thinking Oh, it will be gone in a day, I’ll be fine, and I’m sure I’m dying of unimaginable complications…if only she had gone to a doctor. Meanwhile, I can’t make a sound decision on what over the counter meds or holistic remedies to try. Mucus-induced OCD. And I become a bit irritated at how hard it is to be sick as an adult, as opposed to being sick as a kid.

When I was a kid, my mom had a rule about being sick. If you were sick enough to stay home from school, you’d better have a fever, and you probably ended up going to the doctor, who nine times out of ten gave you a big fat shot of penicillin in your butt, no questions asked. I hated shots. Still do. REALLY hated them. Screaming bloody murder hated them. So, I would avoid going to the doctor at all costs. But I also have good memories of being sick, with mom taking care of me. She would set me up on the sofa, with my blankie, where I could nap or watch tv. She would make me weak tea with lots of sugar, and cut up orange wedges for me. Back then, the main home medication was aspirin. I remember when I switched from children’s aspirin, which tasted great, to adult aspirin. Mom would dissolve an aspirin in some water in a teaspoon, and let me swallow it down that way. I actually didn’t mind the taste of adult aspirin, and quickly learned to swallow them whole as I got older. I also remember Vicks Vapo Rub, Sucrets and nose drops. The nose drops came from the doctor, with a glass dropper. Worked like a charm, but burned the back of your throat when they went down. The Sucrets tasted like crap, but seemed so special because they came in that cool tin. And if you got the take-home liquid penicillin, it was usually cherry or orange flavored, and had a weird after taste. Probably full of dyes and such, too, and not really so good for you. Being sick back then meant being taken care of, comfort, and even a little privilege.

Being sick as an adult sucks. Especially if you live alone. My friends have been great about rallying round when I’m down and out, and offering food, grocery trips, pet help, etc., which is really great. But when you’re truly sick and miserable, you can’t even make it to the door to accept this help, and sometimes you just don’t want to see anyone. When you’re your own caregiver, you quickly realize that if you want to eat, you’d better get up and cook something. You still have responsibilities…work (calling in sick, or going in if you must), garbage pick-up day, feeding the pets, and the litter box cleaning must go on! No one is going to dissolve your aspirin in a teaspoon or tuck you in on the sofa with your blankie. If there’s any pampering to be done, it will be self-administered, which just isn’t the same.

And then there’s the medication scene. Have you been in the health care aisle at the store recently? We’ve come a long way from aspirin, Vicks, and Sucrets. Now, you have your pain relief meds, cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines, decongestants, fever reducers, and endless combinations of remedies. Then you have various brands of each, as well as the “store brand”, which is usually the same stuff, for a lot less change. Then you have to consider if you have high blood pressure, or are taking certain meds that might not play nicely with these remedies. Or if you have stomach issues, heart problems, poor circulation, diabetes, or allergies. Here you are, sick as a dog, dressed in whatever you could strap on in your fever-weakened condition, not wanting to be there long enough to run into anyone you know, and you have to make this decision. Your head is already foggy with fever and lack of sleep.

So, you either buy way too many things, or not enough things. You get home, and discover that you have purchased two medications that cancel each other out, or can’t be taken together. If you’re like me, you arm yourself with everything, and go nuts choosing which to take, and when it’s time to switch to another tactic. Then you have the chemical vs. natural debate in your head. Am I killing myself with these drugs? Isn’t there a natural way to feel better? Maybe I should stop ALL meds, and see what happens. Then you get on the internet (NO!) and start self-diagnosing, and discovering all of the horrible things that could happen to you should your common cold go unchecked, or you take the wrong medication. And throughout all of this, there’s that nagging whine in your head…I don’t WANT to be sick! I want mom to take care of me! 

Shades of Ed

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Each generation, as they become young adults, dreads becoming anything like their parents. As the years pass, some see the wisdom of their parents, and strive to be just like them. Others see the mistakes made, and do their best to do the exact opposite of whatever their parents might have done. I think we all end up with a good balance of our ancestors hiding somewhere within us. This can be both good and bad.

As a kid, I remember watching as my dad got ready to eat his dinner. We’d all come to the table, ready to eat, and dive right in. Not dad. Nope. He would first take out a stack of slices of white bread. He was not quite ready to commit to putting the twist tie back on, limiting the number of slices readily available. So, he would leave the bag open, but set the stack of slices on top, somewhat delaying access to more. It was the early 60’s…white bread was big. WONDER Bread helped to build strong bodies 12 ways, you might remember.

So, with his bread stash at the ready, he would then begin to load his plate with food. Whatever it was, there was a lot of it. Dad was big on eating, and big on getting us to eat. Dad was just big! After the filling of the plate, he would enter the seasoning phase. Salt, pepper, hot sauce, steak sauce…whatever the taste du jour. Usually there was something to munch on on the side, such as green onions, or maybe fresh jalapeno peppers. Date ate them raw, and whole, just like a carrot stick! He did like to dip the onions in salt, so he would put down a napkin and make a tiny salt mound on it for dipping.

While all of this preparation was going on, my brother and I were already at least halfway through our meals. In the early years, we watched in wonder, but as we got older, we started kidding him about the process. (My family was big on sarcasm, and we became little smarty pants at an early age.) Once he finally started to eat, you could tell right away he was serious about it. He followed each bite of food with a bite of bread (a very bad habit I have spent a good portion of my life battling!) He would work up a sweat as he ate, mostly from the hot sauce, or jalapenos. We used to joke with him as to how he might consider using a slice of bread as a hankie, and wipe his brow with it.

After all those years of watching dad’s dinner rituals, you’d think I’d be a speedy eater, just to protest my parent’s habit. And there are times when I AM a speedy eater. Having been a teacher, you learn quickly how to inhale your lunch in about 10 minutes, because it’s all you have. And loving food, as I do, I tend to gulp and finish my meals fairly quickly. BUT…I have noticed that in recent years, I have started to go through my own pre-meal rituals. Yes, I find myself taking the time to arrange everything, season, cut, butter, and finally eat. My God, I have become my father! At least I don’t stack the white bread!

We All Fall Down

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Well, it finally happened. I’m actually surprised that it didn’t happen sooner. After making it through a very long, icy winter, I finally took a digger on the ice yesterday on my way out of work. I’ve been walking like an old lady, and really trying to be careful, but the fresh, fluffy snow we had on top of the ice was just too much for me. You know that slow-motion moment where you know you’re going down, and there’s no stopping it? I had about 2 seconds to say, “Oh, *&$^%^! I’m going down!”

I landed in the hurkey position I so strived for at pom-pom tryouts back in high school, wrenching both of my old lady knees, and bruising one on the landing. Fortunately, I landed on my well-padded butt in the end, and never hit a wrist, elbow or head on the ice. Could’ve been way worse. There I sat, on the ground, in a less-than-comfortable position, wondering how I was going to get up without falling back down. Luckily I was able to use a co-worker’s car door handle to pull myself up (mine was useless, as it pulls up, so there’s nothing to hold onto.)

I dropped all the mail I was carrying, which went everywhere, and got wet in the snow. Some pieces went under my car, and I had to check THREE times for any strays under there before my OCD self could just get in the car and drive off. The seat of my pants had gotten wet from sitting in the snow long enough to try and position myself so I could get up. Then lots of snow fell inside my car while I rearranged what was in my hands before feeling safe enough to lift one foot to step into the car, filling my seat with snow. So, by the time I got home, I was soaked through.

Then I had to have a period of whining and moaning to myself about how I fell, and it hurt, and I was wet, and cold, and old. Yes, it was a gem of a scene. Good thing no one saw my graceful move. (And I DID look up and around immediately after falling, and again, after getting up, to be sure no one had seen anything. Needless to say, today I walked like an even older lady than usual, trying not to have an encore performance.