Author Archives: yertlebturtle

Binging the Bad Guys

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OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve been binge watching some of those series on Netflix for the last couple of years. Things I NEVER thought I would be interested in watching, and some that I REALLY had a hard time with at the beginning. I’m basically a pretty naïve, “good” person, who has done only the typical “bad” things most people try in their otherwise mundane lives. But these shows come at you with some REALLY inappropriate stuff. Downright disturbing characters and events. Horrible situations in disgusting places with evil characters making bad decision after bad decision. Even horrible things involving CHILDREN sometimes. Being a teacher makes this part extra hard to handle.

But here’s the thing. Even this white bread gal finds herself DRAWN to these incorrigible characters in their hopeless situations. I am hooked on them AND their bad decisions. I find myself not only NEEDING to see the next episode to make sure this or that character got through that drug deal, murder and making the body disappear part and is OK. I’m rooting for the bad guys to WIN! And when I’m out of the current season’s episodes, I MISS these awful people! They have become REAL to me! I WORRY about them! And I know from talking to my friends that I am not alone. Everyone is rooting for the bad guys and waiting for the next season.

How is this possible? What draws us to these characters and their shenanigans? Is it the thrill of living vicariously? Do we all have some sort of bad guy buried deep within us that just never developed? Or are we just that curious that we need to know how the other half lives? I really hope there IS no other half that is quite this awful. I think the fact that I just used the word shenanigans to describe the actions of these folks is proof that I am way to naïve to be watching these shows. But you will have to pry the remote from my cold, dead hands to stop me.

Mall Hit Man

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So I was recently at the mall (which I hardly ever go to), waiting for a friend. Since I don’t get around too easily, I looked for a place to wait. I found a great place to sit with comfy chairs that I could easily get up out of, and settled in for my short wait. There was an older man sitting a distance away in another chair, and a teenager over on the sofa in the seating area. The sun was shining in through the skylight above, and it seemed the perfect spot to be.

Beware when things seem perfect. As SOON as I sat down, the older gentleman says to me, “Pretty comfortable chairs, eh?” So I returned with, “Yes, they are.” Immediately, he got up, and came over to the chair right next to mine. And here is where we enter some sort of creepy alternate reality in which an old gal of 59 is getting HIT ON at the mall by a 79 year old man!

He tells me his age, and asks if I can believe he’s that old. He tells me he looks good for 79, right? He tells me how strong he is. He starts looking at a GNC flyer, and tells me about this product that makes you stronger. He then goes into the GNC nearby and buys the product, and comes back out. He asks me if I’ve ever used it. He told me about his former work, which made him so strong.

He starts asking questions. Now I get out my phone to start playing a game or something to send the message that I’m just waiting, really. Hint, hint. Where am I from? How old am I? He tells me I look 39! What am I doing at the mall? I tell him I’m just waiting for my friend for a short bit, and was really just looking for a place to relax while waiting. Hint, hint. He asks if I’m texting. I tell him I don’t text that much, and I’m just playing a mindless game while I wait. Hint, hint. His conversation was all over the place, and he just kept GOING like the Energizer Bunny on GNC strong man pills!

He tells me his wife is looking for black shorts. I wondered if his wife knew how swiftly he moved in for the kill while she was looking for black shorts. I wondered what she’d think if she came to pick him up while he was still pressing me for information. I wondered if he even HAD a wife. I wondered if he had somehow gotten away from the group from the assisted living apartments or something.

Thankfully, my friend showed up after about 15 minutes, and the guy starts talking to HIM! My friend, not aware of what had been going on, started chatting with him. I got up from my chair and finally had the opportunity to give my friend the eye, sending the message that we should GO. NOW. Telling my friend what happened as we went to the car made it even more bizarre. I don’t even REMEMBER the last time I was hit on, and believe me, I am in NO shape to be considered desirable, even by a 79 year old man who is super strong!

The New Normal

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about stages and changes we go through in our lives, and each arrival at a “new normal.” All of the childhood growth…walking, eating, talking, playing, learning. Then forming our little personalities along the way, developing strong opinions and learning to interact with others. Schooling, puberty, young adulthood’s independence, going out into the world. It’s all very exciting, isn’t it?

Each of the early turns in our lives seem challenging and new. We take them on eagerly, wishing for something different and fresh. We dive in wholeheartedly, expecting the best. We don’t always stop and think much about what’s happening, but rather forge ahead with all of that youthful vitality. It’s all about the fun.

And then we are faced with the challenges that make these transitions difficult sometimes. Money. Lack of work. Family issues. Unexpected events. We keep trying to jump those hurdles as they come, hopefully learning from each misstep. If we’re careful, we gather up some tools for future such things. If not, we may get lost along the way.

As we age, the transitions become different somehow. Slower. More of an impact on lifestyle. We start to age. Our bodies don’t always cooperate the way we’re used to. We must adjust to limitations. It can be depressing to give things up and know we are done with those things. We also dwell a lot more on these changes in our minds, which can be good or bad. It’s an emotional time.

We start to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in our lifetimes. Have we made a difference? Have we been happy? What do we still have ahead? Are we at peace with the world around us?

Now we focus on what we can do. It may look and feel quite different, and not seem possible to satisfy. But if we dig deep, we can find ways to make it so. New ways of doing things. New things to be interested in. Skills that sat dormant brought out, dusted off and used. New perspective. Gratitude.

So, I don’t think it has to be a bad thing to age and change. I like to think it’s yet another opportunity to embrace change, experience things differently and land safely.

Shards of My Parents

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Ed & Edith at WeddingMy parents have both been gone a long time. My mom died at the young age of 55, when I was just a shy, naïve 13 year old. That was 46 years ago. My dad lived until 67, when I was just 33. That was 26 years ago.I was very close to both of them, but more so with my mom. I miss them every day, and still learn from them, believe it or not.

You see, I have these little piles of shards of each of them. They are various memories. Shiny bits. Sparkly bits. Fuzzy bits. I’ve sifted through them and handled them so many times, they are well worn. They are in disarray. But they are there, in my heart, in my head, in my hands. I piece them together this way and that. I try to fill in missing details, long forgotten. I’m sure I make up the rest.

It’s kind of sad that it’s been so long that this is what I have, but it is truly a wonder to have the piles at all. And they are mine. I can play with them whenever I want or need to. They comfort me. Make me smile. Make me laugh. Make me cry. Influence me. Remind me of who I am, and who they were.

So, while I’d love to have a brain full of whole stories, clear pictures, complete with dialogue filled in, I’ll be very happy to hang onto my piles of shards.

Can Timmy Come Out and Play?

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I just made a batch of play dough. Green. With glitter. I’m 59. I don’t have kids. I can’t wait to play with it! For those of you worrying about my mental health, it’s not really for me. It’s for a group of kids I read to at our library. But I will not lie to you. I WILL be playing with it, right along with them.

So what is it about some of us that makes us still love to play when we are probably way too old to be considered a kid? For me, it’s not just play dough. It’s games, toys, crafts and using my imagination with abandon. I’ve always lusted after kids’ toys and games, and I’ve always encouraged creative play. Fortunately, I’ve spent most of my life working with kids, so I’ve been able to get away with lots of playing. But I’m sure there are others out there who may be closeted players.

But nothing is closeted at my house…when you come over, you will find shelves filled with games and toys in full view. I have quite the collection of antique games I’ve gotten from garage sales and thrift shops that bring back childhood memories, along with some of the new-fangled games and contraptions that kids play with. And some of my own toys and games from when I was a kid. Yes, I kept them all these years. And I dearly miss the ones that my parents gave away along the way.

And these things do not just sit on the shelves. I get tingly all over when someone comes over to play a game with me. And I find myself toying with puzzles and games on my own, whenever possible. Brain teasers, Sudoku, jigsaws, crosswords…puzzles of all kinds just thrill me and I can become quite addicted to them, given enough free time. I’ve branched out from the good old board or card games, and now also play electronically on my iPad or computer.

I really believe that play is healthy at any age. I know quite a few people who would benefit from a bit of play. Maybe some charades, a dress-up contest or a few rounds of Boggle! Because you can’t play a game and not smile or laugh at some point. And playing keeps your brain engaged. I’m sure there are studies somewhere that show that play makes you live longer, but I really don’t have time to research…I’ve got fresh play dough to squish!

The Perfect

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We’ve all searched for it, like the Holy Grail. The perfect _________. At first, I thought it was just one particular thing in which I sought perfection. But then I realized perfection was my standard for many things.

For me, it started with the perfect purse. With SO many important features, perfection in a purse is hard to come by. Is the strap long enough, but not too long? Will that shade of blue go with my coat? Are there enough compartments? Are they the right KIND of compartments? Are the compartments easy to get into? Does the purse have a flap, a snap, a magnet, or does it zip closed? Is it large enough for all of my stuff, or so large that it will be too heavy to carry when it’s full? Do I have another purse too similar to this one to justify buying it?

When you finally find the perfect purse, take it home and fill it with your stuff, you discover it is NOT perfect. That flap is annoying! There is NO handy pocket for my keys! This keep slipping off of my shoulder – it will NEVER do! My wallet doesn’t even fit in here! Aarrgghh!

So now you discover you need a new wallet that will fit into your new purse. And the same search for perfection begins. Will the credit cards all fit? Is there room for my checkbook? (Yes, I still have one!) Is it too bulky? Will everything fit? And most likely, when you fill that beautiful new wallet, you will discover it, too, is NOT perfect.

I could go on and on – coats, jeans, cars, houses – in every purchase, I seem to seek perfection. Even in choices for vacation spots, restaurants or radio stations, I want it all! But we never get it all. Perfection is NOT attainable. For those of us who are perfectionists, or with even just a hint of OCD, we will forever be in search of that Holy Grail of WHATEVER. And it always seems to end badly, too. Either we are overwhelmed by the choices and cannot make a decision at all, or we end up with a drawer full of wallets that just aren’t “the one” in a room we really shouldn’t have pained that shade of blue, in a house with a too-small kitchen.

At the End of Episode 16

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I recently read an article about a favorite TV series. It featured an interview with the actor who plays a character that died of stomach cancer in the most recent episode. When asked if he knew when his character was going to die, he said not exactly – only that it was coming soon. And then it happened, at the end of Episode 16.

This really struck a chord with me, as I was recently diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I’ve spent almost a year adjusting to the idea that I have a terminal illness, and will most likely die as a result of it. But I don’t now just when, or just how. The best terminology I’ve heard for this is “living with uncertainty.”

I’ve gone through the shock, the “woe is me” feeling, and sometimes, in a clear-headed moment, on a very sunny day, the acceptance. I went through the motions, making an advance directive and a will, putting my affairs in order, as much as they’ll ever be. I was agonizing over the unknown, and then it hit me. Everyone should do this, BEFORE Episode 16.

No one lives without uncertainty, do they? There’s always that possibility of a car accident, illness, natural disaster, or just plain old age that will take each and every one of us, at some point. They say none of us gets out of this alive. But most of us don’t want to think about the unknown – the inevitable. It’s messy. We like to think we’ll live forever, or just not think about it at all.

So, in order to get my head around this, take care of those end of life decisions and move on with my life, I decided it’s sort of a bonus to know. It narrows down the what-ifs quite a bit. It forces me to focus on doing what I want to do – on doing whatever I can to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

It also forced – no, allowed me to make some changes in my life. I had to quit working – something I thought I’d never do. It was a difficult decision – I’ve always worked, and now, I just couldn’t keep doing it. I thought it was my first loss in this disease. But now I don’t know how I ever had the time to work! I’ve shifted my time towards pursuing my interests, volunteering at my local library and elementary school, spending time with friends, traveling and enjoying my life.

Sure, I’m constantly reminded of my illness and its limitations. I can’t do as much as I used to. Sometimes I’m just too tired, and sometimes pain and other side effects of medications interfere with my activities. But most of the time I’m grateful to be living my life, because I know that Episode 16 is just lurking there, somewhere in my future, just as it does for us all.

What Can I Say?

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Words. Our language is full of them. Some are short and ordinary, creating no certain visual, like sad, great, like, and nice. Some are larger than life whose meanings are known by few, thus creating no visual at all for those left in the dark. Quockerwodger, sphallolalia, and effutiation have recently shown up in my news feed on Facebook from the folks at Grandiloquent Word of the Day. (If you’re dying to know the meanings of these crazy words, see the key at the end of the post.) They are amusing to learn, but I don’t think I’d ever use them.

The ability to choose the right words can be a gift. For some, an obsession. And for others, sadly, not a concern at all. Some of us have vast, complicated vocabularies, which can either impress others, or leave them baffled. Some of us have a solid command of the language, all the standards with some fairly advanced vocabulary sprinkled in on a regular basis. And some of us stick to just the basics, saying only what needs to be said, in the simplest way possible.

We’ve all known folks who latch onto a few key words or phrases and then use them so often they lose all meaning. And if you are around them enough, you start to do the eye roll as soon as you hear those words. And you always associate those words with that person, no matter who else might use them. And you want to scream every time you hear those words, no matter WHO says them. And one day you realize that these folks who throw these words around ad infinitum aren’t even making sense any more. Do they think these words will make them seem more knowledgable or intelligent? Or do they just love these words so much that they can’t let them go?

Finding the right words is key and we are often judged by the words we use. We use words to express our feelings, or get what we want; to persuade, praise or hurt others. But finding just the right words can become challenging in certain situations: when expressing love, grief or anger, during a job interview, giving a presentation to the board, during a political debate, or explaining to your toddler where babies come from. I’ve written before about the people who use the wrong words, or make up entirely new words. Sometimes that makes me chuckle, but sometimes it’s just downright sad. All the sudden they become flustrated, and start aksing questions that are supposably correct. Right. And sometimes you just can’t think of the word you need. Fortunately, we have words like thingamajig, doohickey and whatchamacallit for those moments.

Just remember…words, no matter which you use, cannot be unheard or unsaid.

*Quockerwodger: a politician who is controlled or bought off by corporations

*Sphallolalia: flirtatious talk that leads nowhere

*Effutiation: spoken or written words that have no meaning or make no sense

Please Hold…Just Deal With It

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I’m on hold with MNSure. One hour and counting. This is the THIRD call I’ve had to make to MNSure in the past couple of weeks. Each one has been a TWO HOUR wait on hold before even talking to anyone. And that comes complete with a Kenny G loop while on hold as a special bonus. And then, if you’re lucky enough to get through to a human, it’s sometimes it’s an hour or so talking to someone, just to complete a seemingly simple task. (For those of you not in Minnesota, MNSure is our version of healthcare.gov.)

This reminds me of a time several years ago, when I came up with the idea to hire myself out as a “dealer” of sorts. You pay me to deal with your calls, letters, emails necessary to take care of issues with insurance companies, credit card companies, medical billing departments, utility companies, etc. I’ve always thought there should be a “life handbook” issued to guide us through the various trials and tribulations associated with living in this world of ours. Everything seems so difficult to navigate, even if you have some basic knowledge about a certain system or process, are fairly intelligent, and think you can figure out what to do. Add to that the frustration and sometimes even fear that comes when it’s a personal issue that you must take care of, and you probably will face some hair pulling and tears in the process.

If you hire me to be your “dealer” you get out of all the hair pulling and tears. And I won’t suffer as much knowing it’s not MY health insurance I need to put to rights, it’s YOURS. I can deal on your behalf without the emotions that come into play when dealing with your own personal issues. Problem solved, eh?

But right now, I’m not so sure I’d last very long as a dealer. Right now I just want to make it all stop. Kenny G. Pre-recorded announcements as to how much MNSure has to offer me. And the MNSure agents who don’t seem to know how to do what they are supposed to do. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to just deal with it.

Bad Language

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With the holiday season seems to come lots of stress. Shopping, preparing food, cleaning the house, wrapping presents, spending time with family, traveling…it all sounds delightful, doesn’t it? But we all know how things can go at this time of year. Everything brings frustration, and frustration can cause bad language. Whether you use actual curse words, or the milder version of the naughty words, you’ve probably used bad language this holiday season.

Let’s start with some travel planning to be with family, or to take that winter getaway to warmer climates. Deciding where to go, how to get there, and with whom to travel can lead to lots of bad language.

“Gosh darn it, Marge! We are NOT taking your mother with us to Belize!”

“We are NOT driving to New York at Christmas! There is too much %$&*#*@% traffic, Martha!”

“Holy $&*%@!, David, look at that security line! We’ll never get on the plane!”

OK, so maybe you are staying put for the holidays. But surely you’ll have some shopping to do. Whether heading to the local mall, or shopping online, there will be issues.

“Did you see that, Lori? That &%$#* took my parking space!”

“We just went to umpteen stores, Susan, and you still haven’t found the perfect gift for Aunt Jane? Well, she’s getting the darned slippers we saw at the first store, then!”

“*&%$&$#, I have clicked SUBMIT fifteen times!!! What do you want me to do???”

SO, the shopping is done, travel plans are made, and now you must make that special dish that you always bring to the celebration. The one where you actually have to follow the recipe, or it won’t turn out quite right. The one that takes every utensil, bowl, pan and measuring cup you have. You’re up to your elbows in dough that’s just not the right consistency.

“This does NOT look like my mom’s quiche dough, Jerry! What the heck am I supposed to do with this?”

“&%$#, %$@#&, *%&$#@!!!” as you drop the pan of cake batter on the way to the oven.

While the goodies are baking, you decide to wrap some presents. What could go wrong?

“No, Scottie, Mommy said to hold your finger on the ribbon, not put a gosh darn booger on it!”

“I know I put the tape down somewhere…where the %$&*@ did it go? Did I put it in that box with Brad’s &%*$# shirt?”

But remember, the holidays are a time for rejoicing, celebrating and having some good times with family and friends. So, if you must curse to relieve that stress, let it fly and move on to the good times.

Happy &%#$@ holidaze!