Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

Monopolized

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Just for fun…a challenge to use all of the Monopoly pieces in a story…

It was up to the dog to do everything. He ironed his shirt. He put on his top hat and drove to town in the race car, where he sold tickets to the re-enactment, where they shot off the cannon every Saturday. This was so he could earn a few bucks for gas for the race car. He had a summer job on the cruise ship, cleaning up spills and singing karaoke to entertain the passengers.

When he wasn’t out earning his keep, he ran around the neighborhood, peeing on everyone’s property. This is how the Marvin Gardens cul-de-sac became yellow. Boardwalk and Park Place have banned him from the property.

If he doesn’t get thrown in jail, and his luck holds out, he brings home $200 for passing GO on his way home. By the time he gets home, he’s so tired, he just plops in his shoe and falls fast asleep.

Can’t Make Me

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My mother always told me I could do anything I wanted to. I remember my grandmother saying I was independent, and, according to her, when I was a wee toddler I would always say, “Self! Self!” Yes, I’m independent, and usually I can do anything I put my mind to – or at least recognize when it’s time to call someone and pay THEM to do it.

But being independent means I also know what I DON’T want to do. I often say to myself, “You can’t make me!” or, “That’s just not FAIR!” I love that John Mellencamp song that goes, “I fight authority, authority always wins.” I have a bumper sticker on my guitar case that says Question Authority. Oh, yeah! I’m always bucking the system. At least in my head.

I like to create these scenarios where I say what’s on my mind. But in reality, I usually just wimp out. When the system enrages me, I have a whole list of responses run through my brain. They all SOUND so powerful and smart, and I can envision myself saying them with such force and commitment. But what really comes out is a quiet, “Well, okay, I guess.” My can’t make me attitude DOES cause me to stand up for myself in most cases, but the more radical defenses are only in my head.

Like when my boss has taken advantage of my persistence and efficiency, piling on more and more work, and I work out all these points I will make in my come-to-Jesus chat with him. I even make a list so I won’t forget any of the points in the heat of the discussion. I imagine the conversation, accounting for every possible response on his part, and what I will say in return. I am ready! But when that conversation takes place, IF it even does take place, I might bring up just one of the items from my list, and present it in a very wimpy way, missing the point entirely. I find myself walking away feeling worse than I had before the chat.

Or when a co-worker has taken advantage of my work ethic and let me do all the work, yet takes credit for it. I work out that same sort of list, and really prepare for anything she might say. And then I chicken out and don’t even HAVE the conversation with her! I am SUCH a wimp!

Then I beat myself up again and again for not sticking up for myself. I am GREAT at making the lists and figuring out what’s wrong with a situation, and outlining what is FAIR. But I am TERRIBLE at confrontation, and ALWAYS wimp out. And I seem to always be around people who are NOT afraid of confrontation, and often find myself in that submissive mode, walking away after really going out on a limb saying, “Well, okay, I guess.”

The Dog Did It

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The Dog Did It

I’ve had the pleasure of bringing four dogs into my life. Each has been unique, and although I gave them each a home and family, they have all given me so much in return. Dogs have the ability to enjoy the moment with wild abandon. To get down and dirty when necessary. To lie spread eagle in mixed company. To lick the body parts we humans won’t even name aloud.

They can change your mood in the swipe of a tail. Make you feel it’s all going to be all right with a chin on your knee. Shake up an awkward silence in a room full of stuffy people. Abort an ugly argument by bringing you a wet toy. Get you up and going when you desperately need to move but want to stay plastered to the sofa with that “I must go for a walk” look. Dogs can look right into your heart and melt it. They can listen intently to your problems and solve them with a few blinks. And who among us has not had a serious conversation with the dog at some point?

They rely on us as much as we rely on them, giving us a sense of purpose. They are not judgmental or ashamed of us. They are filled with unconditional love, and set a wonderful example for us humans.