Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gracious Living Skills 101

I know, another post about manners? But seriously, I sometimes think that a considerable part of the reason that we, as a society, seem to be headed for a wild tumble off the ultimate cliff, is the decline of general good manners.

The loss of manners leads to loss of courtesy which leads directly to loss of respect. They’re like dominoes—they just fall, one after the other. Can we really afford to let this happen? It’s like when Lily Tomlin asked way back in the ‘70s, “Should we be giving up the ozone layer for Pam?” (The cooking spray, not Pamela Anderson.) I want to know, Should we really be giving up civilization for slam?

Anyhoo, this is why I’m so excited to present a pre-packaged course, written by my neighbor Betty Vaughan. It’s called Gracious Living Skills 101 (The Care and Feeding of Adult Children). There are no class fees, no books, no entry requirements like shots or prerequisites or long essays. The goal is to enable your adult children to come home, either for a visit or to live, while preserving everyone’s sanity. With the holidays coming up, you might find this veeeeeerrry useful. What follows is a somewhat abbreviated version of Betty’s course. Betty is not only very wise, she is very funny, and very much a product of the south. You will love her style!

Gracious Living Skills 101
AKA The Care and Feeding of Adult Children

The following FREE Seminar is offered to give our college age children a better understanding of what is expected from them this summer.

-We are old, and at least from your point of view, we have become more disgusting and set in our routines since you left the house for college.
-You, at least from our point of view, are not used to having any discernable rules or regulations governing your life.
-Please continue to treat us like we are your parents and not your roommates.
-The words “sir” and “ma’am” should still be somewhere in your vocabulary when addressing us.

-Cinderella, if you are going to be out after midnight, and I have not been informed of this IN WRITING, call me! A Note Board will be installed near the mail drop-off to more easily facilitate early, and I would like to stress the word EARLY, notification. You may also use the Note Board to post work schedules.
-The volume on late night music, TV, and sibling harassment must be low enough that it DOES NOT wake me up. Please use your critical thinking skills to determine if it is “late night.” If it is 3:00 PM and I am asleep, you may assume that it is indeed “late night” and QUIET HOURS have begun.

Sibling Harassment
-Please assume that it will escalate into something that is roughly the sound of a 747 trying to land in my living room.
-Remember, if you annoy your little brother and he wakes me up, I reserve the right to annoy you.

Note Board
-Please post your work schedule for me.
-If I have been given your work schedule, I should be able to determine if you are expected for church, dinner or Sunday lunch.
-If you are going to be traveling, it would be greatly appreciated if your schedule would include the part of the state, country, or world in which you are located on any particular day.

-We all agree that life is easier with electricity, gas, water, telephone, Internet, and cable service. In order to have those things, the bills must be paid.
-If you get the mail out of the mailbox, you are expected to put it in the basket on the blue trunk in the living area of the house.
-Remove only the stuff with your name on it.

-Think Green! My Green Money is a terrible thing to waste.
-Turn off the lights! Because some parts of my knee are not where they used to be, I find the lights left on in the basement to be especially annoying.
-If you are the last person to leave the house, please run through the house and turn off any lights, TVs, radios, etc. Please assume that anyone willing to break into our house can bring his own flashlight or find the light switch on his own.

Meal Time
-You are expected to eat dinner with us every evening, posted schedules permitting.
-You are also expected to eat Sunday lunch with us, posted schedules permitting. (See Note Board notice above)
-While partaking of the meal in our presence, you are expected to participate in witty, light-hearted, and appropriate conversation. (See Language section below)

-Your dad and I both attended college. We do understand that the rules of polite conversation can be a little more relaxed while you are dining with your friends. This is not the case at my home. Keep it clean.

Car Maintenance
-Your dad has graciously provided routine car maintenance in the past. If you would like this service to continue, you need to let him know in advance about things that are coming up, oil changes, etc. You also need to pay proper homage to him for agreeing to care for the car that you have come to think of as your vehicle.
-Remember: Jiffy Lube actually charges money for this service.
-You will be buying your own gasoline this summer. If dad somehow forgets this policy and gives you a free fill up, you WILL thank him profusely. If mom forgets this policy, she has lost the plot. Please get her immediate medical attention.

-No whining allowed.
-Be ready ON TIME OR have “work” on your schedule on the Note Board.
-If your “work” is of a fictitious nature, make certain that you are not still at home when we return from church.
-If we eat out after church and you are not at church with us, you have lost your FREE lunch.
-No! We will not pick something up for you.

Mouse Traps
-Think prevention! Please do not leave food out, especially in the basement.
-I think mice are gross, too. Dad can usually be talked into disposing of their little dead bodies. If Dad is not at home, I will grudgingly try to remove the dead varmints, depending on my mood and my blood alcohol content.

I am thrilled you are home; however, I am STILL NOT your maid.
We will all be working this summer and we will all have chores.
Minimum expectations noted below: (Please note, the word minimum means that I may assign other chores if the need arises.)

-You need to plan on being responsible for preparing, cooking and cleaning up one evening meal per week.
-PLAN AHEAD - If you give me enough notice and the meal is not too pricey, I will buy the ingredients. Otherwise, you need to plan to buy them on your own.
-If the meal that you choose is located at any fast food, carry out, or delivery place, you are responsible for ensuring that everyone’s needs are met with YOUR own money.
-Meals must appeal to a wide range of tastes and needs. (I still remember when you only ate chicken nuggets and hot dogs.)
-Hot dogs do not a meal make.

-If you wash my clothes, fold them NEATLY, and put them in my basket, I will return the favor for clothes gradually brought to the laundry room.
-If you put six weeks of clothes in the laundry room all at once, you need to plan on doing your own laundry, AND in less than a day.
-Clothes need to be put away in your room and your laundry basket needs to be returned to the laundry room. ASAP
-The lost sock container in the laundry room is for socks that have actually LOST a mate, hence the name. It is not for an entire load of socks that you do not want to take the time to match.
-If your clothes need special care, you are the perfect person for the job. Do not place them in the laundry room or I will treat them like they are mine.
-A Dry Cleaning business is located at the bottom of the hill. If YOU pay them a small fee, they will be delighted to care for any special needs items that you have. I, on the other hand, will not do it for any amount of money.
-If you notice that we are running low on Tide or Downy, write it on the shopping list.

-Clean at least once a week - I will assign days if you feel you need the structure.
-Vacuum floor weekly - If you break the vacuum, you will fix it. Otherwise, I will pick out a new vacuum and YOU will purchase it for me.
-Take out the trash
-Change the sheets on your bed at least every other week.

-Clean up after yourself!
This includes, but is not limited to:
-Wiping down the table and countertops,
-Putting dishes in the dishwasher, NOT IN, OR NEAR THE SINK, and
-Putting away the CLEAN dishes, if applicable, (This means actually bending over, removing the dishes from the dishwasher, and putting them on the proper shelf/drawer.)
-Actually placing trash in the garbage can.
-If you use the last of something, write it on the list.

Bathroom Assignments:
Firstborn: Downstairs Bathroom
Dreaded Middle Child: Blue Bathroom
Youngest: Green Bathroom
Mom: Master Bathroom
-Clean at least once a week – Again, I will happily assign days if you feel you need the structure.
This includes but is not limited to:
-Replacing the toilet paper ON the actual roller, (If you are assigned a bathroom, this is your job in that particular bathroom. Since everyone in the house uses TP, I really don’t care who used the last of the TP, so don’t waste my time by telling me. Seminars on how to change a roll of TP, which I have given in the past without charging a fee, are now only available for a small fee of $125.00 CASH ONLY - PAID IN ADVANCE.)
-Cleaning the inside and the outside of the toilet,
-Cleaning the shower,
-Cleaning the floor,
-Cleaning the sink,
-Cleaning the mirror,
-Emptying the trash,
-Dusting things that need dusting, and
-Vacuuming the floor - Again, if you break the vacuum, you will fix it. Otherwise, I will pick out a new vacuum and YOU will purchase it for me.

Living Areas
-Leave them in better shape than you find them.
-If you do not like to pick up after men and children, please do not date.

Care and feeding of Your Brother
-He may be mine, but guess what, so is the house you are living in. Everyone living at home helps out.
-Once a month, each child over the age of 16 will keep/feed/transport/entertain said brother so your dad and I can have an actual date with each other.
-You are not invited to go on those dates. We will be flirting with each other. We are out of practice with flirting and much more direct with each other these days. We are also slightly hard of hearing, therefore; frequently, we will flirt loud enough for the people at the next table to hear. I am 100% certain that you would be too embarrassed and nauseated to hold your meal down, so please don’t ask if you can tag along.
-Brother will continue take out the trash and feed the dog. He will also continue to clean his bedroom with help. In addition, he will also begin cleaning the Green Bathroom without help.

The above rules are only the tip of the iceberg. Please do not, through any words or actions on your part, force me to amend the existing rules or make new rules.

I really do love you all,

Isn’t that just the most inclusive, incisive and witty course you’ve ever taken? Now take out a number 2 pencil, we’re going to have a short quiz. No we’re not. But if this doesn’t help you when the college kids come home for Thanksgiving, your problem runs deeper than I thought… Maybe Betty will take you on for some private counseling!
Oh—and if YOU are the adult child going home for a visit—these are excellent rules to remember!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Totally Awkward Tuesday

In tribute to the delightful, but sadly missing-in-action Tova Darling, here is my Totally Awkward Tuesday...

I have a history of back problems. Fortunately, if I’m careful about how I move and the things I lift, I can go for years at a time without it flaring up, but every once in a while, it’s one false move and I’m paralyzed with pain.

And one false move can be anything from how I brush my teeth to moving a piece of furniture. Of course when your back goes out, people always ask you how it happened, and it would be oh-so-satisfying to say “Skydiving.” But as you know, I do value the truth, and besides who would believe me?

When that disk bulges I have often been sent to physical therapy for relief. It has always worked wonders for me, and anything that keeps me away from surgery sounds good to me.

So a few years ago, my back goes out. Let’s just say I was neither brushing my teeth nor skydiving at the time. Leave it at that, okay? The doctor sends me to physical therapy three mornings a week; I get the earliest appointment at 7:30 a.m. so I can go directly to work after the session. Yes, I get in a little late, but I work through lunch or stay late to make up for it.

I shower at home, and dress in sweats and sneakers so that the therapist can apply the heat to my back, and put me through my delicate paces without wrinkling my work clothes. I leave home taking a garment bag with my suit, business-type blouse, panty-hose, jewelry and grown-up shoes. When I get to work, I lock my office door and change my clothes—voila! Transformed from borderline-cripple to middle manager.

This works great for the first week and a half. Then. One. Day. I go to work, and my staff is already busy doing their thing, except that there is a mini-crisis at the front desk. I put my garment bag and purse in my office, and come back to the front to problem-solve, and effectively (if I do say so myself) put out the brush fire.

Feeling pretty good about the day, I go to my office, lock the door and change. Sweats off, pantyhose on, blouse on, skirt—hey, where’s my skirt??? It should be on this hanger with my suit jacket. It’s not. Oh—my staff! There are a couple of jokers out there, and I’ll just bet that while I was distracted at the front desk, one of them came back and kidnapped my skirt just for sport!

I put the sweatpants back on, unlock my door, and call the primary suspect back to my office. She denies everything, but she does snicker and giggle at the idea. I reluctantly go to the desks of a couple of other possible perpetrators, dressed like a professional from the waist up, and like a cat burglar from the waist down. Everyone proclaims their innocence. I’m screwed. I have a whole day of meetings and work in front of me, and no choice but to wear my hybrid pro-cat outfit.

I think about hanging a sign on my door that says “No skirt, no service.” But I know it would be futile. Life must go on, even if you’re not appropriately dressed for it. I do get two meetings changed from another person’s office to mine, just so I don’t have to parade in front of more people than necessary. But I take a lot of ribbing about it for a long time.

Yep, when I get home that night, I find the skirt in the closet on a separate hanger. I never do figure out why I hadn’t hung the skirt and jacket together, but I also never leave home again without checking the hanger twice.

And that, dear readers, is my Totally Awkward Tuesday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bunco! --and thanks to Stephanie

First, may I offer my (dare I say?) heartfelt thanks to Stephanie at Steph in the City for bestowing the “Heartfelt” award on me. I am humbled, and delighted to be the recipient of this lovely honor!

What is bunco? Well, my brand of bunco is a game, played just for fun (well, maybe some prizes or money changes hands—I really couldn’t say for sure, according to my lawyers, Nolo, Contendere and Machiavelli. But it’s not a swindle or a scheme that deceives people into parting with their money, as defined in the dictionary. Or is it? (Index finger thoughtfully tapping chin.)

Bunco. One bell, three tables, nine dice, twelve women. (Okay, sometimes we are as few as eight women at two tables, but you get the idea. Or maybe you don’t. Stay with me.

Four women sit at a table. They are two sets of partners, not unlike bridge. If there are only three women at this table, two are partners and the third plays with a ‘ghost’, because unlike bridge, there are no dummies in bunco. (Ouch!) And although you think this is all just a brain dump, I can prove (sort of) that I did a bit of actual research for this post: In 1924 Hoyle’s Standard Games published rules for bunco! Hah—and they say journalism is dead…

There are three dice on each table. At the ‘head’ table there is a bell to designate the start of the game. Sounds simple, yes? Yes. Round one, you are playing for ones. (Subsequent rounds are also played for the target number—round two, roll a two, etc.) You roll the three dice, and for each die that comes up a one, you get a point for your team. (If you didn’t roll any ones, the turn passes clockwise.) You keep rolling as long as you get at least one point. Play proceeds around the table and continues till one team at the head table gets 21 points. When that happens, they ring the bell, and play stops at all tables.

Fine points: three of a kind, any number is called a mini-bunco, and is worth five points. Three of a kind of the target number for the round is a bunco, and is worth 21 points. So obviously if someone rolls a bunco at the head table, the round ends. Meanwhile, teams at other (less worthy) tables can end up with fifty or sixty points sometimes, waiting for the head table to reach 21. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. On the other hand, sometimes a round ends so quickly one table may end with a 4-3 score.

Details: You play four sets of six rounds. After each round the two women who lost move to the next table. The two who won stay, but one must change seats so that the two who won will not be partners in the next round. This goes on all evening till the 24 rounds have been played, or until a certain player (nothing personal, Jane) is too drunk to sit in her chair. Meanwhile, snacking is mandatory, and an impressive and yummy dessert is served when the games are over.

One more sign that actual research was conducted: Some groups play a variation of bunco called Wipeout. In that game, you never play a round for ones, only twos through sixes. Then rolling three ones is called a wipeout, and the team who rolls one loses their points for that round, and starts over at zero. Sounds like fun!

Scoring: Points are not accumulated beyond the round, so you just keep track of wins and losses, and of course the number of times you BUNCO! Prizes and or cash may or may not be awarded (we might each pay $5 to participate) to the player with the most buncos, the most wins, the second-most wins, and the least wins. Sore losers are not tolerated, and gloating is to be expected. In fact, in our group it has been raised to an art form. (You know who you are.)

Comments will be withheld on a certain player’s sister who visited from California, a total bunco newbie and scored an unheard-of, unprecedented and record-shattering FIVE buncos one night. She won the [imaginary] jackpot, not that we’re bitter!

My daughter has asked, “What is the deal with bunco?” Loosely translated this means, “Are you embarrassing yourself in front of people who know me?” The answer is, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. No, wait, that’s something else. This answer is, it’s not the game, it’s the stupidity.

Which just means that it’s THE PEOPLE you like to hang out with, and laugh with and have fun with. The older we get, the more important it is to have fun with people who don’t mind if you act a little stupid once in a while. Or even a lot stupid, because FUN is so very vital to our well-being and mental health.

I look forward to the second Monday of the month to get together with this awesome group of friends and have a fun time catching up on everyone’s jobs, families, ailments, pets, car troubles, travels, etc. We recommend books, tv shows, movies, and restaurants to each other. It’s a total gabfest, and the game is just a vehicle for the mixing and schmoozing. We range from a young mom with a 3-year old, to the retired grandmothers of tweens. We are women, and we know how to have fun!

So here’s my shout-out to the women who make bunco the party that life is meant to be: Kitty, Donna, Liz, Karen C., Karen P., Sandy, Nancy, Melissa, Boni, Carol, and our permanent substitute Joan. Y’all are the best. Let’s all hum Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, okay? ‘Cause you do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

The truth is very important. “The truth shall set you free,” comes to mind as a widely-quoted aphorism about truth. But that’s from the New Testament, and we don’t all ascribe to the New Testament, so let’s go to a more universal source: Hollywood. Ah, the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”. Say it with me, “You can’t handle the truth!”

But there are more wonderful truisms about truth that we don’t hear all that often. Here are a few of my favorites:

“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” --Abraham Lincoln

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” –Gloria Steinem

“Truth is our element.” --Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Like all dreamers I confuse disenchantment with truth.” --Jean-Paul Sartre

“Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this except that it ain’t so.” --Mark Twain

"I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell." --Harry S. Truman

Okay, you get it—I value truth. But who among us doesn’t say that they do? We all say we do, but we each walk a different path. For some of us, truth is concrete, inflexible and rigid. For others, everything is subject to molding, forming and shaping. Sometimes to make it more beautiful, sometimes to make it less painful, and sometimes to save our sorry hides.

I’m pretty sure I only lie when the purpose is to spare someone’s feelings. The answer to “Do you like my hair?” should never be “Yes, it reminds me of that psychotic character on The Muppet Show.” Never. So I manage to say something complimentary, and omit the raggy, sticky-outy, neon-orange colored references.

My life’s partner, however, the love of my life, the Center of the Universe, the one I married, and pledged all my love and allegiance to, has a slightly different view of the truth. He sees it as just one more arrow in the quiver, and uses it to his best advantage. (Oops—all over America women’s jaws are dropping and eyes are rolling as they utter one laconic “Duuuuh.”)

Don’t get me wrong—when it comes to business and industry, commercial and economic exchanges this guy is Mr. Clean. He would surely rather do himself great bodily injury than lie, mislead or misrepresent in any form or fashion. This I would literally stake my life on, as would anyone who knows him well.

But when it comes to domestic matters his moral requirements shift slightly. And by ‘slightly’ I mean like an avalanche is a slight drift of snow.

His weak spots fall into three categories:

1) Food. Did I finish the cookies? Um, I’m pretty sure there were plenty left when I last looked. Okay, this is only officially ‘true’ if you were blindfolded when you consumed the other half of the box.

2) Messes. Did I spill the salt? Knock over the detergent? Leave a teabag in the sink? Man, that looks like Rob’s work to me. Right, Rob who hasn’t lived here since 2003, and wouldn’t drink tea with a gun held to his head.

3) Lascivious intent. Whaaaat? No, I wasn’t trying – I didn’t mean—I had no intention at all – I was only-- Uh-huh. Save it for someone who believes you.

“So, Hub,” I advise, “Never try to tell the big lie—you can’t pull it off.”

“I wasn’t lying,” he insists. “Maybe I was a little metaphorically aggressive.” Oh no… Abe Lincoln is rolling over in Harry Truman's grave.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lost Weekend

OMG, wake me when I’m sober, I mean when it’s over!

I just survived (on VERY little alcohol, I might add) what turned out to be almost 72 hours with almost the same number of my husband’s fraternity brothers plus spouses. Forty years after leaving college (a nationally-renowned engineering school in the Missouri University system) these aging baby boomers gathered here to reminisce, reunite, and remember what they experienced at Rolla, Missouri in the 1960s and ‘70s.

We began with a happy hour that turned into dinner and beyond on Thursday night with one couple who came in from two states away (Indiana) for the occasion, and another couple who recently moved back to St. Louis after 41 years in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The men kept telling each other how little they had changed, and the women tried to keep straight faces. I love these women!

One of the couples had gotten married when they were in college, so everyone but Mrs. Indiana and I had lots of memories of the campus, the fraternity house, and the escapades that went on in that den of iniquity. It was a terrific evening that was filled with great stories of days gone by. My own husband’s abs hurt the next day from laughing so hard over dinner.

On Friday we met the same couples and a handful of additional brothers who were arriving from New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Kansas City and more. We gathered in the hotel bar at about 3 p.m., moved into a restaurant for dinner, and hung out till nearly midnight. The crowd grew as more and more of the old fraternity members showed up to relive old times. Everyone found it hard to say goodnight.

The Saturday bash was the main event. One of the alums had rented the clubhouse of his subdivision for the day, so the party started at about 2 in the afternoon. Hours were spent poring over the old house scrapbooks, exclaiming over how young everyone was FORTY-SOME years ago! Most of us had to admit to putting on weight, although there were some notable exceptions. (Go, Kenny and Chuck!) The party was punctuated by a slide show that provided a nice walk down memory lane.

People were kind to each other, but there were numerous observations of the ubiquitous receding hairlines, disappearing hairlines, and expanded waistlines. The clothes we wore, the neckties, --scary stuff!

Party Weekend—the recurring theme that the ‘boys’ wanted to dwell on. The one weekend per quarter when they brought dates to campus from St. Louis, or Columbia, or wherever they could find them for a bash at the fraternity house. There were virtually no females on their campus, so the girls were highly prized upon arrival! Of course Purple Passion, Spolioli, kegs of beer, and Colt 45 played a large part in their festivities. Has anything changed?

Raucous laughter reigned throughout the evening, and although some occasionally found themselves arguing over politics and the state of the world, it was all done with respect and consideration for the other guy’s viewpoint. And it was all done to the backdrop of a soundtrack put together by my hubby—great Motown sounds, Simon and Garfunkel, and the hits just keep on comin’.

By the evening’s end (close to midnight) a chorus of men, once young, stood arm in arm and sang their old, nearly-forgotten fraternity songs. (Lyric sheets had been provided to help failing memories!) I had become fast friends with the Indiana wife with whom we shared dinner on Thursday night. (Yo, Phyllis!) We planned to meet for breakfast Sunday before they (and most of the others) had to hit the road.

Eight of us met next morning for yet another meal, and there was never a break in the conversation. Lots of catching up to be done before we all said goodbye. And there was one more final goodbye to be said.

One of the chapter’s founding members had suffered a massive heart attack a week before the reunion. Just before that, however, he submitted his “personal info update” to the scribe who put together a spiral-bound book of short bios, most with photos. Dave’s was the first page of the book, and he was clearly looking forward to being a part of this weekend’s activities. Sadly, he passed away Friday afternoon, and his presence was sorely missed. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when our host tried valiantly to read Dave’s obituary. To the eternal credit of these guys, those who could turned out in that Sunday sunshine to pay tribute to their lost brother at a poignant and touching graveside service.

It was a good reminder to love each other well, make every day count, and not wait 40 years for the next reunion.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things I Want Thursday

Because Sass over at The Life of Sass had a great idea for today, I’m participating in “Things I Want Thursday”. Here goes…

1. I want people to stop fighting. The people in government, the people in the media, the people in my life. Stop. It feels good to stop fighting. Nuh-nuh-nuh—none of that, “But they—“. Just stop.

2. I want people to stop preaching tolerance and start preaching respect. Tolerance connotes some teeth-clenching and some resistance. Let’s all acknowledge that everyone is just as entitled to a spot on the earth as everyone else. No more we vs. they—life is not a bridge tournament, though it would be a lot more civilized if it were.

3. I want an end to the name-calling. If people are going to bandy about terms like socialist, fascist, communist and the like, they ought to at least know what the words mean, and from some of the rhetoric I’ve read, it’s apparent that they don’t know. It's like in "The Princess Bride" when Vizzini keeps using the word 'inconceivable', and finally Inigo points out, "I think you do not know what that word means."

4. I want to remember to live in the moment. I’m always thinking of the other things I should be doing, instead of ‘being present’ where I am. I have read a lot about this, and I’m trying to do better. It’s a widespread problem, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about myself. I’m working on it.

5. I want fall weather! We seem to have jumped right into winter, with really cold temperatures and two tons of rain. Autumn is my favorite season, and unless things do a major 180 here soon, we’re going to have missed it entirely.

6. I want to learn to manage on four hours of sleep a night. I know I have said this before, but I’m not getting enough done. Come on, people, there are books to be read, blogs to be read and commented on, and fabric just crying out to be quilted. Plus I need to get back to exercising.

7. I want to take better care of myself. Yeah, I eat properly, but I need to (see #6) exercise. I know it, but am currently on hiatus with no good excuse…
8. I want to see my grandchildren more. With one in Boston and one in Sacramento this is hard. But it’s so awesome to have the little people around!

9. I want my kids to have a better life than I had. I certainly was fortunate enough to do better than my parents did, but this economy is making it tough for young couples to get ahead… I worry about their future, not just in terms of the economy, but also in terms of climate change and political stability.

10. I want a lot more than I thought I did when I started this!

11. I want a world where brains trump beauty, where manners trump crude, where sense trumps yelling. Oh, and of course where funny trumps young.

Is this too much to ask? What do you want?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grateful, But Not Dead

Well, my much-admired buddy from down under, Matthew at Abode One Three has seen fit to grace me with the “Honest Scrap” award! I’m totally blushing, and wondering if this is how President Obama felt when he heard from the Nobel Committee.

Which reminds me, shouldn’t the guy who invented the door knocker have been the one to win the No-bell Peace Prize? I’m just saying…

Anyway, a thousand thanks to you, Matthew, whose writing consistently blows me away. I (and your legion of followers) can only hope you are working on some tome of fiction or memoir for us to glom onto in the near future.

In accordance with the rules of the award, I am now required to tell you ten things you don’t know about me.

1. If I had been born a boy, I would have been named Samuel David, for my mom’s brother who died at age 14 of meningitis. He was her only sibling, five years older than she, and his death forever changed their mother and father. There are no photos of my grandmother smiling after he died. (She died long before I was born, so I have only these scraps of evidence.)

2. If I had been born a girl, --oh, wait, never mind. So I got the middle name ‘Sue’ as a proxy for the Samuel. My gender was only the first of innumerable disappointments I provided for my parents. Oh well… Bygones, I suppose.

3. The only pet we ever had growing up was a parakeet named Bingo. He was one of those beautiful blue guys, who sang like a, well—a bird, but to my mother’s never-ending chagrin, he didn’t speak a word. She even played a record on the hi-fi (remember—I am old!) meant to teach parakeets to speak, but Bingo did not enroll in that class. I think it really bugged her because her aunt’s parakeet said so many phrases. “Morning, Bessie!” when she uncovered his cage in the morning.

4. I’m a big Scrabble fan, and love to play with my kids when they are around. My husband won’t play with me, isn’t a big fan of games at all, but we discovered Scrabble Slam, a card (per)version of the game that we played last week in Sacramento, and he had a ball, too! Hooray—a breakthrough!

5. Speaking of games, I play bunco once a month with a terrific group of friends. My daughter asks me about the game, and I explain that it’s not the game, it’s the people. This is a corollary to “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Anyway, it’s an absurdly simple game played with dice (not gambling, though) and it’s a wonderful chance to gather with people who you otherwise might not get time to see. We laugh and joke and carry on, and there are snacks involved. (Where women gather…) And we finish the night off with dessert! I promised the gang last night that I’m going to blog about bunco soon, so stay tuned!

6. I live on a cul-de-sac we like to call Divorce Court. Four out of the five families here are in second marriages, or at least into serious relationships that followed a divorce. We let the other couple (the ones who’ve been married since time began) stay as tokens, though, just because we are an equal opportunity cul-de-sac.

7. I am apparently a squirrel magnet. I’ve had squirrels in my attic in my previous house, ditto in this house. They may look cute, clambering up a tree, but believe me these guys can do serious damage. We’re talking big bucks to get them removed from the premises, and more bucks to repair the holes they chew in the siding, soffit, etc. Why do they love me so? Actually, “Squirrels in My Attic” sounds like a good name for my autobiography…

8. I’m an inveterate seamstress (I only use that word because ‘sewer’ as in ‘one who sews’ looks like the word ‘sewer’, as in ‘waste disposal’. I love all things fabric, and once upon a time I used to make most of my own clothes. In fact, I just returned from a trip to one of my favorite fabric stores (Raspberry Patch Quilt Shop—hi, Donna and Lyna!) where I picked up a few pieces to add to my stash. You know what they say, she who dies with the most fabric wins. I need more time to sew and quilt… If only I could learn to function on four hours of sleep a night…

9. The specter of Alzheimer’s looms large, and so to ward it off, I not only do crossword puzzles, Sudoku and kakuro puzzles, I have taken to memorizing more epic poetry as time goes on. Some of you may recall from an earlier post my recounting of memorizing “The Cremation of Sam McGhee”. Well, after that I took on “Dangerous Dan McGrew”, “The Day is Done” and “The Raven”. I live in hope that these mental exercises will protect me from the disease that destroyed my mom in her 60s, and eventually killed her.

10. I DO in fact know the meaning of TMI, so I’m done. Now to post this before THIS day is done!

I pass the award on to the following worthy recipients: (This is so difficult because there are so many wonderful blogs out there-- and some of them already have this award, but hey, here goes anyway...) Thanks to all of you for the witty, poignant, insightful, heartwarming or wacky (as the case may be) reading!

Kathy at The Junk Drawer
Debbie at Suburb Sanity
Lora at Fever
GG and SG at Gay Guy – Straight Guy
Beth at So the Fish Said
Whispering Writer at Airing My Dirty Laundry—one sock at a time

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Odds and Ends

What's on my mind...

If God were using e-mail, would your inbox show a message waiting from “G. Almighty”? If s/he had a telephone, would the caller ID read “Almighty, God”?

Is it okay to mock the guy who posts on Facebook calling someone a “bafoon”? How about the Ultimate Irony Award for that one?

Is it all right to mock the guest on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” who, in playing the Listener Limerick Challenge, needed to come up with the name of a bird to rhyme with ‘craven’ and ‘graven’, and stumbled, finally coming up with ‘pigeon’? I mean, you don’t have to have memorized umpteen stanzas of the Poe poem, but seriously? -- pigeon???

Is it acceptable to mock myself for having so much difficulty controlling my desire to mock others for their petty (but sometimes unbelievable) mistakes?

Memo to self: When ironing your favorite white cotton blouse, and listening to the above-mentioned “Wait, Wait”, do not, repeat DO NOT drink coffee. When the contestant offered “Pigeon?” I sprayed coffee out of my mouth like something out of a ‘50s comedy sketch. White blouse—rushed to the sink to flood in cold water. Do not do this again.

This week’s “Bull Durham Award” for the most clichés in a single sentence goes to Jim Docheff, the Colorado farmer interviewed this morning on NPR’s Weekend Edition. He’s a fourth-generation dairy man, who was hit hard by the recession and had to declare bankruptcy last spring. Now don’t get me wrong—I have nothing but admiration for the work that all farmers do. It’s unbelievably hard work, and not terribly rewarding financially. This guy in particular sounded like a terrific human being, with solid values and a good head on his shoulders. Still, if I ever pull this kind of linguistic bunk, I expect to be called out on it, so here goes.

The host of the program, Liane Hansen was wrapping up the interview and said something like, It sounds like you’re out of the woods now. Jim’s response was (verbatim) “Well, you’re never out of the woods, but we’re almost to the top of the hill, and just a few more months we’ll be over the hump.” Ta-da! A trifecta! (I’m calling it the Bull Durham Award, because the baseball players in that movie said ‘you just gotta get your clichés down.’ They did several riffs on that theme throughout the movie, and it has stuck with me.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Joys of Air Travel

It happened again yesterday. I was flying home from my weeklong visit with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. (Yes, there will be photos.) I had the airplane adventure so common these days. Security? No problem. The TSA kept things flowing well. It’s on the plane where things got icky.

I board a plane for Las Vegas, my stopover point en route home from Sacramento. I settle into my seat, and before I know it a very tall man is sitting down next to me. He is filling his seat and then some. No, this isn’t a case of overweight spillover, this is just a very tall guy usurping the armrest, and even putting one foot into the floor space in front of my seat. It was a real Larry Craig moment, without the sexual innuendo.

I wanted to say something, like, “Excuse me, but that’s for my stuff and for my feet.” But since my feet don’t even reach the floor, and my bags had plenty of room, it wouldn’t have had much basis. If anything, this guy was doing well to fit where he was. On a technicality I could have had him evicted, I guess, but it wouldn’t have been very generous of me. But the armrest thing has always annoyed me. There’s the presumption that you should just scrunch over into the far half of your seat and leave the armrest and its surrounding real estate to the alpha male. Who, quite honestly, is sometimes a female.

To make matters worse, this guy obviously had a head cold, and I did not want to end up with his disease (or any other.) So here I was on an hour and a half flight next to this long-limbed, spread-out, nose-blowing passenger, who seemed to have little regard for boundaries and the unwritten rules of ‘personal space’. Suck it up and deal, as they say…

We deplane in Vegas, and all I care about is the ability to stand erect and walk. I’m not sure whose body type those airplane seats are designed for, but it sure isn’t mine. I’m kind of walking like Cro-Magnon man for the first 30 feet or so. But standing feels great. Walking feels better still. And of course, there’s the much-anticipated rest room!

An hour later I’m on the flight home, and guess who sits down right next to me again? Yep—and it’s exactly the same story all over again. Armrest? Check. Foot placement? Check. Sneezing? Check and double check!

Finally, I gathered up my courage, put on my seatbelt and tapped him on the arm.
“Honey,” I said. “If you weren’t my husband this would really tick me off.”

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Yes, I'm officially out-of-town for the next five days, so I'm not posting (unless I get really lucky with computer access) nor am I able to visit other blogs for a while. I will miss you all, but be back as soon as I can!

I'm on a real hardship tour in beautiful northern California, visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and 2 1/2 year old grandson! I bet you feel really sorry for me!

I'll post photos when I get home... Yesterday we visited a lovely secluded winery! Awesome!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Sunshine Vitamin

I go to a very smart dentist. This is good for a lot of reasons. One, I can trust her to know how to take care of my teeth, gums and mouth. Two, when she’s chatting (and I’m silenced because her hands are inside my mouth) I learn interesting things.

A year ago when she started my check-up (as she always does) by asking me about any changes in my health since my previous visit, I told her that my last bone density scan showed that I had lost some density in my hips. (Sadly, this does not translate to smaller hips.) I was troubled by this, and surprised because I take my calcium supplements so faithfully. We got to talking about bone density and the prevalence of osteoporosis. Okay, she was talking, I was gagging on her vinyl gloves, but that’s not important right now. What is important is what she told me about vitamin D.

“Everything bad that can happen to you is going to turn out to be caused by a lack of vitamin D,” she said. “Everything.”

And so, as it happens so often with people who have very big brains, she was right.
This week I got an e-mail from a very well-respected medical website saying that colon cancer survival is linked to vitamin D levels. Yikes—that’s pretty important stuff. It actually said that patients who had higher levels of vitamin D when diagnosed with colon cancer were 50% more likely to survive than people with lower levels. This was from a nine-year study of more than a thousand colon cancer patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In other words, serious science.

Then I read in the AARP magazine this month (yeah, remember? --I’m old!) that as many as 75% of us may not be getting enough vitamin D. They note that a Harvard study of 18,000 men who’ve been tracked since 1993 showed that heart attack rates correlate directly to low vitamin D rates. Again: science!

And these two items reminded me that when Dr. Debbie made her bold prediction a year ago, I started saving little articles about vitamin D, and its miraculous role in our individual and collective health. What follows is a little roll call of what I’ve learned about vitamin D.

Low vitamin D levels correlate to:
problems with thinking and remembering
heart disease
high blood pressure
increased death rate (how could it be more than one apiece?)
poor bone density
poor muscle strength
tooth loss
hip fractures
problems with thinking and remembering (gotcha!)
increased rates of colon cancer in men
increased rates of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women
increased rates of prostate cancer, especially in African-American men

Got your attention?

Vitamin D also seems to protect us against infections, while it actually decreases
reactions that lead to some autoimmune diseases. Holy smokes, what about athlete’s foot and hangnails?

The reason they’re making such a big deal about this recently, is that because dermatologists convinced us to protect ourselves from the dangers of skin cancers by using SPF, we no longer get the benefit of “the sunshine vitamin” when we’re outdoors. Now we need to take vitamin D3 supplements to get the protection this vitamin offers. The amazingly surprising good news in all of this is that vitamin D is so very inexpensive.

Of course, I’m not licensed to practice over the internet, and HIPAA regulations prevent me from disclosing where your nearest pharmacy is, but you just might want to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels at your next visit. What could it hurt? The AARP article (and others) says that some doctors are recommending 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week.

And if your dentist isn’t as smart or involved as Dr. Debbie, don’t worry. You’ve got the blogosphere to see you through.

I’m so happy with Dr. Debbie’s insights, I’m going to get her what most dentists want: a little plaque.