Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Grumpy: Maybe This Is The First Of A Series

A few things are making me Grumpy lately. My hope is that venting them here will settle me down. Then, if any of you seem a little Grumpy lately, too, you can offload your Crabbies in Comments, and we'll all Feel Better.

1. The Phrase "No Worries". This is a small thing, I know, but it annoys the hell out of me. What does it even mean? Is it really too uncool or Old Timey to say the more comforting, "Don't worry", which actually means something because it has a subject and verb? To make a statement like "No Worries" is idiotic, really. It's imprecise. It's...more like a title. "Ladies and gentlemen, help me welcome Verna Wetnoodle, author of No Worries." It is also patently untrue. Of course there are Worries! We live in a world of nuclear weapons, ISIS, insufficient gun regulation, and Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. If none of those things is a worry, then someone is overmedicated. Here is what a Proper Exchange should sound like:

Guest: Oh no! I meant to bring the white wine, and instead I brought merlot.
Host: Please don't worry. We're having chocolate for dessert. It will be perfect.

Instead, here is what some Hipster Doofuses (Hipsters Doofi?) would have us hear:

Moocher: Oh, man. We're out of beer, yo.
Guy: No worries, brah. T-Spot will hook us up.

If you're wondering who to blame for this inanity, here's an interesting article about its source.

2. Fear Of Commenting. In the decade that I've had this blog, so many people have told me that either they or others do not comment on the site because They Are Afraid To. This makes me both Sad and Grumpy because it's so silly. I am welcoming, kind, and pleasant to all of my commenters because I am so thrilled to have them! It is only when a commenter is rude that I might be rude or snide in kind. I know that the reason so many commenters are apprehensive about commenting is due to my own...persnicketiness regarding The Language. But I set all of that aside when it comes to the dialog in the Comments section. Comments are quick, personal, and informal, like notes you post on the fridge to your family. So relax! Let's chat. And my Regular Commenters are so nice!

3. People Who Talk Down To The Elderly. My mother, St. Patsy, is pretty damn sharp yet at 85, and it frosts my cupcakes when people half my age call her Sweetie or Hon. I'm talking complete strangers, like the clerk at the drugstore and the nurse at the Cleveland Clinic. Now, I know the temptation is very real:  my mother is short, cuddly-looking, and should pretty much be in the Picture Dictionary next to the word GRANDMOTHER. But how about "Ma'am" or, if you are her nurse, "Mrs. LastName"? It may seem innocent and even sweet, but that is how elderly people begin to lose their identities in society. My mother is still a Very Real Person, and she deserves to be called by her name or by a title of respect. It is a very insidious thing. Think of how you would feel if you were addressed by "Hon" or "Sweetie" in public by a stranger.

Okay! Not sure all this grumping inspired New Commenters, but I do feel better. Now it's your turn. What's been bothering you lately?


Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Pot Of Yellow Marigolds: Chapter Five Of Watching And Thinking Of Blueberries

"Oh, come on!" I grumbled aloud, "I was outside for five minutes." It was, of course, during those five minutes without my phone, however, that Rick had chosen to call me from work. I came in from refilling the bird feeder and saw the missed call and voicemail alert on my cell.

"Hey. Give me a call when you get a minute....Um...something in the paper...I want to tell you about."

When Rick says "the paper", I know he's talking about our local newspaper, to which we no longer subscribe. We gave it up in favor of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, a publication I feel isn't so negative, political, and amateurish. And honestly, I got tired of the delivery person dragging her dog right across my lawn every day, ignoring my walk and my wishes to the contrary. The Paper is available for free online, so Rick catches up with the town news that way and passes on information I'll find interesting. Usually, he tells me which of my former students has been indicted or arrested.

I sat down on the couch and called him back. "Nance," he said, "Tish's obituary was in the paper today. She died several days ago. It just says 'surrounded by family and friends' and that arrangements are private. She was ninety-three, did you know that? I wanted to tell you, to make sure you knew about it."

Instinctively, I turned to look over at her house right across the street. It has a For Sale sign in its yard now: that was one of the things to appear over the summer after the parade of workmen finally left. I'd only seen a realtor show the house a few times, and there's never been an open house there.

"Nance? Are you there?" I suddenly realized that I hadn't responded to the news that Rick had told me. Still looking at Tish's house, I spoke. "Yes. I'm sorry. Thanks for telling me. Oh, Rick, it's just sad, isn't it?" There wasn't time for anything more, and I had to let him hang up.

I stood up and went to my front door, opened it, and looked out to Tish's lonely, dead-eyed house. In a final eradication of her, the real estate company had placed a ridiculous plastic panda head about the size of a softball on the top step, clearly a key safe. Tish would have kicked that thing off, with the toe of her designer pumps, in the utmost disdain.

With tears in my eyes, I read her online obituary. It was, thankfully, lovely and fitting. It said that she married her highschool sweetheart when she married Barrington, and that she was a wonderful teacher and played golf wherever and whenever she could. When I clicked over to leave my condolences, I was the first one, and that made me sad. Two weeks later, there are still only five, but I considered the fact that many people may have chosen to or have been able to send theirs directly to her family.

I briefly considered placing a pot of yellow mums on the steps of her house as a tribute and remembrance. Tish always had two pots of yellow mums and marigolds there. But I decided that it would make me feel worse to watch them die and decay as November became more cruel and inhospitable.

Tish and Barrington always used to leave for Florida as soon as the weather got too cold for golf. Sometimes it was late October and sometimes it was early or mid-November. We would suddenly become aware that they were simply not there anymore. It became so routine that we stopped noticing after a while.

I know someday this will be true about the house across the street. That one day, after it is sold and lived in for many years by someone else, the story of Tish will not feel so poignant. That, perhaps, I might only think of it for a moment when I see, somewhere, a pot of yellow marigolds.


Thursday, November 05, 2015

Surviving Childhood, Off The Top Of My Head

Rick and I were out driving one late afternoon, and I was taking some time to enjoy the last of the Fall Foliage. Ohio is having a gorgeous Autumn this year, the finale being a particularly vivid display from the red maples, orange sweet gums, and some rich chestnut and mahogany oaks. Even the rather pedestrian yellow leaves appear more golden than usual. And before this spate of summery November temperatures, October ended with some chilly days, but the colours made it tolerable, even for me.

Anyway, as we were detoured through the neighborhoods of a little town, I was shocked to see a couple of children out playing in fifty-degree weather wearing what I thought was inadequate outerwear. "Is that girl barefoot?" I asked, my voice rising higher on each word as I stared out the car window, incredulous and horrified. "And where is her jacket? Better still, where is her mother? And neither one of those girls has on a hat or a headscarf or anything."

Rick turned to look at the two girls--ages probably seven and ten--playing on the sidewalk. One was attempting to ride a skateboard; the other was sitting on a step near the sidewalk talking to her. Both, to me, looked cold. The skateboarder had on a teeshirt and appeared barefoot; the older girl on the step at least had on long sleeves, but her face looked pink to me, and her arms were held close to her, hands dug into pockets.

"No, she's not barefoot. She has on pink slip-on shoes. They're fine. No one is cold but you, Nance. Pretty much ever." He made the right-hand turn away from the girls and we continued on our way.

There was no use arguing. He was right. Even during menopause, looking forward to Hot Flashes for their warmth (which never came), I was always cold when everyone else was warm. Even though I've put on some weight and am no longer brittle and teeny-tiny, I'm almost always cold. And trust me, no one is more annoyed by it than I am.

Beyond that, though, is the now Archaic idea of bundling up your children to go outside, or at the very least, covering their heads and ears. Let me tell you, this is one child who Never, Ever went outside in temperatures under seventy degrees Fahrenheit without a sweatshirt, jacket, or sweater, and The Headscarf. Oh My God. Patsy June was a firm believer in The Headscarf, especially when it came to me, though for the life of me, I cannot tell you why. In spite of The Headscarf (also known as The Babushka), which I was forced to wear, I had, in my childhood, approximately eleventy thousand ear infections. And this number could definitely be on the low side. And was I allowed to wear The Headscarf in The Cute Way, i.e. tied behind my head? Oh, ha ha. It is to laugh. NO! It had to be tied firmly and chokingly in the front, right in front of my throat.

"I bet you looked cute," approximately No One is saying right now. And they would be correct. Imagine a short, chubby dark-haired girl in braids with fat cheeks, thick bangs, and...wait for it!...as of fourth grade, cat-eye glasses, sporting a headscarf to boot. Here is a rough illustration for you of what I looked like for most of my childhood while playing outdoors:

And here is a Photographic Approximation of how I felt I looked as a child, playing outdoors:

(I know it's the queen, but keep the royal thing out of it.)

How on earth did I ever, ever make it to Adulthood?

I did, dear Readers; I did. And it has been an Adulthood singularly absent of headscarves.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Meanwhile, In America...

Barry Blitt via The New Yorker
...The Politics are harshing my Zen.

Normally, I would not post any irreverent image of President Lincoln, but in this case, I can make the exception with a clear conscience.  If he had already been restive in his tomb due to the likes of Bush 43, Nixon, and less famous republicans who have disgraced varying degrees of Public Office, he is surely retching and spewing at the likes of the gop's frontrunners now.  Actually, knowing President Lincoln's sensibilities and esteem for his countrymen, he is probably more likely weeping with sorrow at what has happened to the nation he worked so hard to save.

How did The Party Of Lincoln end up with a Sideshow Barker as its Candidate? It was inevitable, I guess, when they allowed a loudmouthed bigot as their spokesman early on and not only legitimized the threadbare credentials of the Alaskan Airhead, but continue to countenance her.  The republicans also like to invoke conservatism and Reagan as if they are both Sacred Talismans, conveniently forgetting things like the skyrocketing unemployment in 1981, and the fact that St. Ronald slept through not only Cabinet meetings, but even an audience with the Pope, and that conservatism is, at best, an Ideal. It can't be an absolute prescription for a diverse, multicultural nation like the United States of America.

Of course, some polls have a different frontrunner, the equally alarming anti-science, history-rewriting doctor whose flip comment regarding the recent Oregon school shooting flummoxed even his Fox News hosts.  In typical somnolent, sotto voce style,  the good doctor vowed that he would never have been so meek as to have been slaughtered by a gunman without a fight.  He would have rallied everyone by intoning, "Hey guys.  Everybody attack him.  He may shoot me, but he can't get us all."  And then...he laughed. (abt. 5:02)  But you know those republicans; they hate political correctness.

Jeb! has begun to sound like the exasperated Student Council president who is upset because of student apathy about Sixties Theme Dress-Up Day.  As he reminded us not so long ago, he has "a lot of really cool things that [he] can do other than sit around and be miserable listening to people demonize [him]", leaving everyone wondering, of course, why he doesn't simply Go Off And Do Them. One can only imagine how many phone calls Barbara Bush has endured since June that have started off with "Mo-om! It's just not Fair!"

Don't worry; I won't go on.  I can't.  It's exhausting, isn't it?  And I have to keep telling myself that Last Time, Herman Cain was enjoying his Moment In The Sun.

(I know, who?  Oh, yeah...that one guy.)

It's all so very disappointing, though.  Sigh.

Let's say you're a registered republican; who do you vote for?  Play along in Comments.

(Readers: please remember that I do not, on principle, capitalize the republican party or any of its synonyms. It's My Thing.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Prodigal Blogger Returns: Wine, A Wedding (?), Words, And Some Wee Wonderfuls

It would seem that I had been taking a sort of Inadvertent Sabbatical. I want to write, yet I feel sludgy and stumped--the worst sort of Uninspired. Perhaps my Indiscipline--bred of four years or so now of Retirement--has finally caught up with my brain and I'm a Dullard: not thinking too deeply, not reading much of substance or often, and not Energized. Jealously guarding my Zen, making the effort to Not Be So Tightly Wound, I wonder if I perhaps Went Too Far (if that's even possible).

Can I still blame everything on The Menopause? Or is it too late?


Let me rattle my head and see what's in there.

Rick and I had a jaunt up to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and were rewarded with yet another new winery. Luckily, we tasted with the winemaker himself, and after a slug of one of his gorgeous reds, I was moved to propose marriage to him, right in front of my (current) husband. Andrezj (now my secret fiance) raised his eyebrows and smiled, looked at Rick, and informed us that his son was a sommelier and head of operations at the winery (a mere technicality), and that he has been married for I forget, something like twenty-five years. Rick mentioned our thirty-four year marriage, which I waved off with my wineglass. Which Dear Andrezj then immediately poured the next wine into, which I also loved. New Philosophy: Marry first for money, second for wine, third for love. No explanation needed.

Hmm. If I left Rick and ran away with a winemaker, I would definitely miss conversations like this one, had briefly during a commercial break over the weekend.

Rick: (upon viewing a candy commercial for chocolate, possibly Lindt) I don't like that word, chocolatier.
Nance: (looking up briefly from a torrid series of games of Words With Friends) Really? What about it could you possibly object to?
Rick: It sounds like Musketeer and Mouseketeer and I just don't like it.
Nance: (rapidly finishing up her moves; hugely interested) Okay. Say you rank them in order, those three words, according to how much you like them, most to least.
Rick: (immediately) Chocolatier, Musketeer, Mouseketeer.
Nance: (despite knowing his disdain of all things Disney) Okay, now why?
Rick: Because I like chocolate, and the Musketeer can at least slice up the Mouseketeer.
Nance: Wow. And here I was thinking, 'same order, but because Three Musketeers is also a chocolate bar.'
Rick: That works too.

And, finally, a random list of

Small Things I Appreciate

1. M&M’S
2. Ice and Water in the refrigerator door
3. Recycling everything in one bin
4. Butternut Squash
5. Fleece blankets

Thank you for waiting.  I think I'm back.


Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Called "Eclectic" If Anyone Asks

Perhaps you're looking to spruce things up a bit At Home. Or, now that Autumn is here, you are feeling that Nesting Instinct--the desire to prepare your cold-weather cocoon. Lucky for you, I can assist you with that.

And it doesn't even matter if you're redoing say, your bathroom, and it might look like this one:

or if you're finally remodeling your entire kitchen, and your taste is more along the lines of, say, this:

Let's imagine, even, that you are redecorating your bedroom (or guest room) and have opted for a style more in keeping with this:

Did you pack off the last tyke to college or into a home of his/her own? Are you finally getting the living room of your dreams, one For Guests Only?

I have just the little accessory for any of those scenarios. It will slide right in seamlessly and add not only functionality, but the stylish finishing touch you will appreciate. It says so right on the package. Here, let me show you:


Hey.  You're welcome.

(All images via apartmenttherapy.com, except living room from decoholic.com; bass switchplate via Amazon, mine.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Driving Story In Which We Discuss Irony, Connotation, And Simile (And Any Other English Class Vocabulary You'd Like)

It was one of those rare times when I was zipping along on Rt. 58, driving admittedly well above the speed limit and with no one ahead of me for miles. Foolishly, I dared hope--no--believe that I was going to, as St. Patsy likes to say, Make Good Time for once on this damned road that is usually full of dawdlers, slowpokes, and Sunday Drivers.

Then I crested a hill and there it was, a boxy red car going Nowhere. I had to apply my brakes. On the highway. The speed limit is 55 on that particular stretch, and this car was travelling at a leisurely 42 mph. As is always the case with my fortunes, the double yellow line had appeared on the road as it became more hilly and winding, and I was stuck.

Irritated, I poked at the buttons of the radio and looked for some music or some interesting talk. Traffic coming the other way had begun to pick up a little, and I sighed loudly. It figured. Even when it was legal to pass this guy, opposing traffic might make it impossible.

I also found it annoying that the car was called a Nitro, according to the chrome plate on it. There was absolutely nothing about this vehicle that remotely suggested "Nitro" to me, which evokes in my mind explosions or speed or power or that one American Gladiator--remember him? Certainly not a square, stodgy car like this poky thing.


As I fumed and fussed, I noticed the offending car rocking just a little. It was then that I became aware of a huge dark mass moving around inside it. It was large enough to obscure the rear window a bit, and completely block the rearview mirror at times. "Holy crap," I said aloud. "What the hell is in there?"

Route 58 goes directly through a hamlet which is almost entirely a school zone, and trust me, this almost kills me. It also has two train crossings and a ton of construction. As I followed Red Nitro and approached this mess, I watched with growing curiosity the shape-shifter inside the car. Once we cleared the first train tracks and orange barrels, things became suddenly clearer.

The driver must have put all the windows down from a central control because as soon as we started moseying through town, an enormous dog head appeared through the rear passenger window and began barking. Loudly and a lot. At everything. Then the dog turned around, and its head appeared in another window to do the same on the other side. This went on--from all four windows in random succession--all the way through the small town, and it may well have gone on for the rest of his ride, however long it took. I will never know.

Because coming out of that village, I took advantage of the broken white line and passed Red Nitro. But before I did, I had ample time to notice a decal I had missed until we meandered through that maddening, tiny burgh. It was this one:

The story doesn't end there. A few days later, Rick and I dropped in on my brother at his lakehouse, and he was recounting an adventure he had just had while mowing his three lots with his riding mower. "It was terrible," he was telling St. Patsy. "I stopped the mower and sat there with my legs drawn up. That thing charged me with its teeth bared, barking like hell. It was the biggest German Shepherd I ever saw. And all the guy did was stand way over in his yard and keep calling to it. That dog didn't even hear him, or act like it did. I finally yelled, 'Can you just come over and get it?' And the guy comes over with the leash, gets the dog, and doesn't say a word to me. Not one."

Guess what was parked two doors down?

I think that his decal is maybe overselling it.

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