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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Final Top Ten List: Ten Television Shows I Miss

I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I feel as if I watch far less television than I used to. Not only fewer hours of television, but far fewer shows. I'm sure some of it is due to no longer subscribing to cable, but I think some of it is also due to what's being offered as well as my own changing taste. A great many shows I liked are gone, or they degenerated into a big mess, or they simply wandered off into the vagaries and obscurity of The Capricious Television Schedule, which I can't, for the life of me figure out anymore.

For my last List Of Ten Things to celebrate my tenth anniversary of writing here at the Dept. here's my

Ten Television Shows I Miss, For Whatever Reason

1. House
2. Mad Men
3. thirtysomething
4. Downton Abbey
5. The West Wing
6. NYPD Blue
7. Two And A Half Men
8. St. Elsewhere
9. ER
10. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

It's a certainty that there are scads of others, but let's deal with these before I concur with your choices in Comments.

1. I miss seeing Hugh Laurie. In any incarnation, and every single day. House got terrible there at the end, but again, worth it to see Hugh Laurie. Where in the hell is he? Won't someone put him in something that I can go and see? Immediately?

2. Netflix is on my Smack List since they did that stupid thing of breaking up the final season of Mad Men into two 6-episode segments and forcing its subscribers to wait for it. SO DON'T MENTION ANY SPOILERS; I AM WAITING. And then, when it is over, I will miss it even more terribly.

3. This show was on such a long time ago, but I still remember thirtysomething and its characters vividly. It was talky and real to me, even though some critics said it was all "yuppie whining."  I didn't feel that way at all.  It naturally declined in its final seasons, but it was still terrific. Hey! Is it on Netflix?

4. I know Downton Abbey isn't over yet, but this year is its final season, and I am already In Mourning. It's the best highbrow soap opera around, and so sumptuous to look at.

5. Rick and I watched The West Wing in its entirety the moment Jared shared his Netflix with us. It was wonderful. So smart and so much talent on that show. Surprisingly, it does not seem dated at all, and you can do worse than to look at Jimmy Smits and Rob Lowe, not to mention the lovely women in the cast.

6. Speaking of Jimmy Smits, he was in NYPD Blue also, but I always enjoyed the character of Andy Sipowicz, played by Dennis Franz, the most. He was so endearing and so human. The dialog in that show was tremendous and tough. I still use the phrase "get out in front of it" all the time to mean "admit something at the outset."

7. When the comedy Two and a Half Men first aired, I loved it. It was funny, fresh, and original. After the second season, it became tawdry and awful and relied solely on sexual innuendo and then outright sex for its comedy. I'm no prude, but I need something more intelligent. So sad, an opportunity and cast wasted.

8. St. Elswhere was another very human drama with comedic moments and a hugely talented cast which included, if you recall, Howie Mandel, among the others like Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, and Christina Pickles. (He was really very good.)   Another one to look for on The Netflix!

9. ER was stocked with breakout stars like George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, William H Macy, and Goran Visnjic, oh, too many to name. I cried so many times while watching this show. And laughed. And got angry. It was just that good.

10. The absurd and hilarious soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was one of the funniest things I ever saw in my life. I was only 17 when it first aired, and I can remember my father laughing and laughing while he watched it.  Mary Kay Place was incredible in that cast.

Which shows do you miss and why?  Let's reminisce in Comments.

Thanks for celebrating Ten Years of My Blog with me.  I hope we'll celebrate Ten More.  And I hope you'll continue chatting away on this and other posts in the series.


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Exposing The Big Lie: Updating Ten Random Nance Facts


Without any further ado, here are the Ten Random Nance Facts again, with the explanations following, exposing The Big Lie.

Ten Random Nance Facts

1. I don't wear my wedding or engagement ring.
2. I have only mowed the lawn once.
3. I once referred to Mike Tyson as a rapist right in front of him.
4. I was almost kicked out of Monticello at the age of 43.
5. I am allergic to rum.
6. I sprained my wrist opening a multi-pack of Cracker Jacks.
7. I always signal my turns, even when backing out of my driveway.
8. I was called "an excellent writer" by Conan O'Brien on his TV show.
9. I have never seen a Star Wars movie.
10. I have never tried marijuana.

Let's see how you did.

1. True. Because my skin is so highly acidic as well as allergic to the nickel in yellow gold, I had to get white gold rings. The rhodium wears off rather quickly, so it's just easier not to wear them at all. I don't wear any jewelry anymore.

2. True. Mowing is Rick's department, but I did it one time in order to say that I did it. I was not excited.

3. True. We were coming out of a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game, and Mike Tyson had attended. He was drawing a crowd outside on the steps of the arena, which irritated me. As my family and I passed by, I loudly stated, while looking straight at him, "I have no idea why anyone would make such a fuss over a convicted rapist."

4. True. Turns out that, back then, asking about and making reference to Sally Hemings was not entirely appreciated. It was suggested to me that I might enjoy cider by the fireplace outside at one of the outbuildings.

5. True. I have drunk it both knowingly and unknowingly, and each time it has caused me to break out in hives, flush, and itch, and it makes my face swell up. It's the only booze to do so. (Thank goodness.)

6. True. Pathetically, this happened when I was about twelve, and I had to actually go to the emergency room. Can you imagine the embarrassment. Of everyone?

7. True. I like to feel that I am overcompensating for all of the jerks who never, ever use theirs.

8. True. In the heyday of my other blog, The Brian Williams Tie Report Archives, which enjoyed a lot of fame and international press, Brian Williams was interviewed by Conan O'Brien and he brought up my blog. He actually read several entries aloud and asked Williams about it. In the course of discussion, O'Brien said, among other nice things, that I was an excellent writer.

9. False. I've seen the first one. Wasn't Harrison Ford so adorable back then?

10. True. I was never even tempted, to be honest. Back in highschool, I was downright terrified, mainly because my dad's best friend was the Chief of Police in our city. And I simply had no desire. Still don't. Not a judgement, just a personal preference.

So there you are. Surprised?

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Favourite Summertime Dishes

meggin.com
Even though I love to cook, I don't do a whole lot of it in the Summertime. Yes, it's often too hot to heat up the kitchen, but Summertime is for easy living and lighter cooking. I also like to take advantage of seasonal foods when I can and my own herb garden as much as possible.

Here, then, are

Ten Favourite Summer Dishes At the Dept. of Nance

1. Strawberry Pie with Cream Cheese
2. Beer Can Chicken with Garlic and Herbs
3. Cold Tuna Pasta with Peas, Lemon, and Fresh Dill
4. Grilled Louisiana Shrimp Skewers
5. Grilled Flatbread Pizzas
6. BLTs on Toast
7. Corn on the Cob
8. Corn and Tomato Salad
9. Vegetable and Pesto Pasta
10. French Potato Salad with Tarragon

Every single one of these foods screams out Summer to me and my family.

1. June is Strawberry Time in NEO, and while I refuse to pick my own (too worky), I'm happy to pay for lovely farm berries at a stand. I make my own pie, my own glaze (not that fake blood stuff), and on the bottom crust, I smear lightly sweetened cream cheese. It makes a heavenly contrast and keeps the pie from getting soggy. So good.

2. Even though it has a decidedly Hillbilly Connotation, a whole fryer cooked this way is incredibly moist and flavourful. I stuff the half-full beer can with fresh herbs and five or six whole garlic cloves. Make sure to plug up the hole from the neck with an onion or potato and enjoy terrific chicken.

3. Such a nice meal on a hot day. I use small shell pasta, white albacore tuna, real mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest, a whole bag of frozen peas (don't cook them, just drain the pasta over them), and a ton of fresh, fragrant dill. You can go lightly with the mayo. There is plenty of flavour from the rest of the ingredients. Dash a little Old Bay in there. I do.

4. I love this marinade recipe I found and tweaked--whether it's "Louisiana" or not--and shrimp is so quick. It's got Red Hot, lemon, oregano, Old Bay...and it only needs an hour and a half to marinade and moments to grill.

5. This is our Saturday night supper almost every Summer. Grilled flatbreads topped with my basil pesto, diced fresh tomatoes marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and fresh mozzarella. Period. I'd get more fancy, but why mess with what works and what Rick loves?

6. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. I cannot get enough of them in Summer. When they peak, we eat BLTs. We'd eat them every day if we could, but that's not healthy. I insist on toast; Rick prefers not. We both agree that there has to be Miracle Whip. No lettuce on hand? Not a dealbreaker.

7. There have been many, many times that Rick and I have made corn on the cob our meal. And then gone out later for ice cream. Hey, we are grownups now and we can do that if we want. There will only be Real Butter on the corn at the Dept. Ever. I always get a dozen. We never eat it all at once, but I use the leftovers for...

8. Corn and Tomato Salad is also an entire meal for us sometimes and a favourite leftover for both the boys if they happen to drop in. Fresh, rough-diced tomatoes and cut-off leftover sweet corn with a red wine vinaigrette. Period. Salt and pepper to taste. So Good.

9. Vegetable Pasta with Pesto is another use for leftover corn on the cob. And every other farmstand vegetable you cannot resist. I just made it for a big family dinner. You can saute or grill small zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, green beans--anything. Boil up your pasta (I used spaghetti). Toss the vegetables in the pasta, add fresh grated asiago or parmesan, and mix in basil pesto and a glug of good olive oil. At the last minute, add fresh halved cherry tomatoes and kalamata or ripe olives and leftover corn off the cob, and toss.

10. Tiny new red potatoes are wonderful for a potato salad. I boil them, then make a dressing with red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and garlic with my hand blender. I chop up some fresh tarragon and add it. The only other thing I add is sliced scallions. (Salt and pepper are a given for everything.)

Don't those all sound Summery? What do you always make when Summertime rolls around?


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Random Nance Facts--Spot The Lie

You and I have been together for quite some time now, some of us ten whole years. In many cases I have shared a great deal of my life, yet I remain a stranger to you. I'm sure some of you feel as if you know me quite well, and probably you do. Well enough, anyway. Today, I'm going to toss out some bits of trivia about myself, and hidden amongst the ten is One Falsehood. See if you can spot it.

Ten Random Nance Facts

1. I don't wear my wedding or engagement ring.
2. I have only mowed the lawn once.
3. I once referred to Mike Tyson as a rapist right in front of him.
4. I was almost kicked out of Monticello at the age of 43.
5. I am allergic to rum.
6. I sprained my wrist opening a multi-pack of Cracker Jacks.
7. I always signal my turns, even when backing out of my driveway.
8. I was called "an excellent writer" by Conan O'Brien on his TV show.
9. I have never seen a Star Wars movie.
10. I have never tried marijuana.

Alrighty! You have your mission. Find the One False Fact up there, and let me know in Comments. I'm interested to know why you think it's The One, too.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Things I'm Not Doing Anymore

Life is short, and let's face it: mine is probably more than half over. I'm not going to waste any more of the time I have left on things I don't like if I can possibly help it. 

Here, then, is my abridged list of

Ten Things I'm Not Doing Anymore If I Can Help It




1. Attend Kid Parties
2. Send Cards
3. Drink Bad Wine
4. Attend Baby or Bridal Showers
5. Clothes Shop for Myself at Macy's
6. Get a Haircut
7. Eat at Mediocre Restaurants
8. Be Uncomfortable in My Own Home
9. Use Any Electric Hairstyling Tool
10. The Dreadmill

1. Kid parties are loud and chaotic affairs which are, by definition, full of children. This is a stage of my life that I am thrilled to be done with and have zero interest in revisiting. And allow me to say that the amount of Actual Parenting that takes place in general Anywhere by the current generation of "Parents" is approximately a teensy weensy bit. If any. I think you understand my position here.

2. I hate all cards. I don't get the point. They are ridiculously expensive, and once you get them and look at them, then what do you do? I do not save cards. It's a terrific waste of money. Send me an e-card. Send me a text message. For a death, I write a lovely letter in which I share a remembrance of the departed and offer comfort and a specific service if I can. And do not get me started on Christmas Cards, which have become ridiculous in many cases.(My next-door neighbor used to mail a card to me. Why?)

3. As you all know, I am a collector, appreciator, and enthusiastic drinker of wine. I don't really think I am a Wine Snob. But I'm not going to drink any more crappy wine just because It Is Wine and people know that is what I drink. "I'll get you a glass of wine," someone says at an event. And I am sitting there with a glass of awful chablis or red something, gamely choking it down. Never again.

4. All gift showers are tedious, trying events at which the women are marking time until they can safely leave without hurting anyone's feelings. Now they are huge, catered events in some cases, held at halls and arenas with ice sculptures and dancers. No, we don't want to play little games or win candles and pot holders and picture frames. We just want our cookies and a chance to leave. I will just be sending a gift to the house.

5. I used to shop at Macy's in my hometown all the time. Then, seemingly, it was taken over by aliens from the planet Sad-N-Dowdy. Last year, I walked in, and after a half hour of wandering all over the female clothing departments, I finally found a salesperson. I said to her, "What happened to this store? Where would I find clothes that are...I don't know...not this?" I'll spare you the rest, but suffice it to say that she could not help me and I have not been back.

6. Last year at this time, I got a short, choppy pixie, which after a week or so, I regretted steadily until about last week, when I finally liked my hair again. Then I went to get A TRIM. But the stylist did not do that, and she gave me A HAIRCUT instead. From now on, I am cutting my own bangs, and that is the only haircut I am getting for the rest of my life.

7. There is a lot of bad food served at restaurants, and it's depressing. I'd rather eat out a lot less often and pay more for a truly excellent meal. Most restaurants in our area are putting out food that is nowhere near as good as what I can make in my own kitchen, and with fresher ingredients. I'll save up and go to a pricier place, or get good Chinese takeout.

8. In the winter I don't mind wearing a sweater or snuggling up in a blanket if I'm on the couch in my jammies in the evening. In the summer I don't mind having the ceiling fan on. But I am not going to be shivering or sweating in my own home in the winter or summer, either. This is Civilization, and we work(ed) hard to have money to be able to have heat and airconditioning. Especially heat. I am not going to suffer in my own home.

9. From highschool through more than half of my teaching career, I was a slave to either hot rollers or a curling iron. I even had a curling iron with the metal hot roller bristle thingies! It's like my hair was my hobby or a Lifestyle Choice. Now, if it can't be accomplished with a blowdryer and a round brush at the most, tough.

10. I'm over it. Period. Dr. B., my neurologist, was horrified that I was even using a treadmill to begin with. And I hate it with a passion. (Hence my name for it, dreadmill.) It's no wonder that it used to be a prison device for hard labour punishment. I'd rather bundle up in the winter and risk a fall on icy sidewalks. I'm not kidding.

I can't wait to hear what you all are ready to cut loose and say "Never Again" to.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Hateful English Language Errors


Here's the thing: I might be retired, but I will always be a Defender Of The Language. It causes me actual physical pain--emotional pain as well--when I have to witness errors in The Language. The errors may be spoken or written; it really doesn't matter. They make me wince, and some are so terribly egregious that it's a Good Thing that I am generally opposed to personal firearm ownership. Succinctly, Everyone should be glad that I am not Packing Heat, or stupid people would be stacked up like cordwood.

I'm not talking about a typo here or there in Comments, or the general lapse now and again in subject-verb agreement in a particularly thorny complex sentence involving multiple interruptive phrases. I make those errors, too. I'm talking about easy things. Things everyone should have mastered way back in elementary school or junior high school at the latest. Sadly, however, as we all have seen time and time again, this is not the case.

Here are my

Top Ten Hateful English Language Errors

1. Loose instead of Lose
2. Apostrophe S to make plural nouns
3. Lead instead of Led
4. Women instead of Woman (and vice versa)
5. Saying SH for the S in words like Start, Stop, Straight
6. Saying Southmore for Sophomore
7. Omitting Apostrophes in Contractions
8. Not Using the Oxford Comma
9. Its/It's
10. I Could Care Less

This list has changed quite a bit since I stopped having to read and grade student writing.

Briefly, then:

1. This will never stop--never, ever--hurting my feelings. I honestly feel that knowing this one pair of words and its correct usage can determine someone's potential for serious intelligence. I honestly do. I wonder if I can be friends with anyone who cannot use/spell them correctly.

2. This. Another dealbreaker. I have seen signs like this before: Apple's and Pears $1.59 lb. How do they decide that Apples is the one that gets the apostrophe, but Pears does not? What is the logic?

3. At least this one is understandable, given that there is already a word, the metal, that is spelled and pronounced LEAD. I get it.

4. I am constantly astounded by the fact that these two words have become not only interchangeable, but identically pronounced. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHO IS DESTROYING MY LANGUAGE AND WHY?

5. Shtart. Shtop. Shtraight. Exshtreme. Shtrict. Why are some people pronouncing these words this way when they are not spelled this way?  This phenomenon started at about the same time as the Vocal Fry and Uptalking. It is with great regret that I must name First Lady Michelle Obama a major  offender in this.

6. I don't hear it often, but when I do...daggers.

7. I blame lazy text messagers for this one, primarily.

8. Always use the last comma before the conjunction for items in a series. Always. How bothersome is it, really? Just do it.

9. Pretty much, I've come to the conclusion that being able to choose the correct its/it's is genetically predetermined. It cannot be taught. You either have it, or you don't.

10. This idiom will needle me until the day I die. Probably at my deathbed, some nurse or bystander will walk by and remark to another stranger something about the weather or the upcoming elections or the latest gossip, and the last thing I hear before I Cross Over will be, "I could care less." And at that point I will be too weak or sick or dead to say, "NO, YOU IDIOT. IT IS 'I COULDN'T CARE LESS. BECAUSE IF YOU COULD CARE LESS, THEN WHY DON'T YOU GO AHEAD AND DO SO? IT IMPLIES THAT YOU DO, IN FACT, CARE SOMEWHAT." How ironic, right?

So, tell me in Comments which Language Lapses irk you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Ways To Turn Around A Bad Day


Sometimes, as my niece says, you "wake up on the wrong side of the day." If you don't manage it Right Then, you're in for a shitful, crabass, lousy twenty-four hours of feeling out of sorts. Other people might even have to Suffer. That's not Nice, and it sure isn't Fair. So Jared and I are here to help you with these

Top Ten Ways To Turn Around A Bad Day

(Jared)
1. Call your mother
2. Read something extremely nerdy about something you like
3. Make future plans with a good friend
4. Have a piece of pizza
5. Tell a friend you love him/her, and mean it
(Nance)
6. Clean or organize something
7. Bake something
8. Go for a drive
9. Go shopping
10. Wallow a little

And now Jared explains:

1. I’ve said it before: I don’t care how old I get, what’s going on in my life, or whatever, sometimes, I just need to call my mother. Sometimes, we will talk about what’s actually going on. Sometimes, I’ll just say “Mom, talk about something smart so that I know that people with brains still exist,” and she does just that. And it's perfect. She will say something, offer a bit of advice that we both know I won’t heed, and it STILL makes me feel better. She’s the smartest person I know, and it restores my faith in people immediately, frequently, and hugely.

2. I love NBA Basketball more than almost anything in the world. It is beautiful. It is fluid. And it is everything that all aspects of life should really be. I try to find the most intensely analytic and in-depth stuff about it that I can and read the hell out of it. Always makes me feel better. It's an addiction.

3. If I’m at work having a real bullshit Tuesday or something, I immediately send a message to my best friend in the office inviting her to get a drink on Friday. She almost always says, “Absolutely. I think we deserve it.” We do, goddammit. It gives me something to look forward to. It isn’t about the booze. It's just about having something to do with someone worth spending time with. No matter what happens during that single bad day, there’s a good chance it won’t jeopardize Friend Time at the end of the week.

4. This is easy. If you don’t get it, I can’t help you. Doesn’t even need to be good pizza. Just has to be pizza. If pizza doesn’t make your day better, just go to bed and stay there because you cannot be helped on that particular day. Pizza is great and awesome and not stupid or bad.

5. I’m very close to the people whom I bother to be friends with. Otherwise, why the hell have them, right? Sometimes, it's nice to call my friend Baker Cakes, or Matt or someone and just chat for a bit and hit them with an “Alright, dude. I gotta run. Talk soon; love you.” And they reciprocate. And it is nice. It helps to remind you that you have people in your life who you CHOSE to include and who you not only can feel that way about, but who also feel that way about you. No obligation there. Genuinely, two friends that love each other. Very solid.

And now me:

6. There's a bit of The Martyr in me, so if I'm miserable, I sometimes like to Go All In and really feel miserable. My theory is, I might as well reap a benefit, too, from all of this Misery. So I'll vacuum, scrub a floor, clean out a few cupboards, or tackle a major thing, like the hulking desk in the home office.

7. I don't bake often, so this has another side benefit, especially for Rick. Baking also requires more careful attention than cooking; I really have to measure carefully and use a mise-en-place. Pretty soon, I'm focused on that and not my irritation.

8. Many times, my bad mood is a result of needing a Change Of Scenery. If I am back home, I get in my little car and zip off to Wherever, sometimes just heading out to a road I wish to explore or out to pick up a Little Doodad I think I need. If I am at the lake, I take the boat out for a leisurely cruise.

9. I detest the phrase "Retail Therapy." It sounds terribly cliche and sexist. Sometimes, however, I do go out shopping to get out of a bad day. But it's not for shoes, a purse, or clothes. I usually go to some Off-Price Bargain Outlet store and look for housewares or decaf coffee or chew toys for Zydrunas, who destroys them in fifteen minutes.

10. It is terribly important, however, to acknowledge and honor your feelings. You are having a bad day! You can't rebuke yourself and shame your emotions. One of my longstanding mantras is "Wallow a little and bitch a lot." By all means, then, first recognize that you are having that bad day. Or, as Stuart Smalley, alter ego of Minnesota Senator Al Franken used to say, "Face It, Trace It, Erase It."

Now, besides reading the Dept. of Nance (!), how do you fix your Bad Day?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Lies My Parents Told Me

Growing up, my mother and father told me all kinds of things. On balance, most of them were Very Good Things, and I listened to a great deal of them. But like most parents, they also told me a lot of things that were simply Not True. Sometimes they were Nice Things, sometimes they were Comforting Things, and sometimes they were Folksy Things that were passed down for eleventy generations or merely things that became part of their DNA once my eldest sister Patti was born and the Parent Gene was flipped to the On position.

Here then are the

Top Ten Lies My Parents Told Me

1. You're Prettier Than All Of Those Contestants
2. Just Ignore Him/Her And He/She Will Leave You Alone
3. If You Don't Bother The Bees, They Won't Bother You
4. You Don't Need Makeup/Only Whores And Streetwalkers Wear Makeup
5. Piercing Your Ears Is A Tragedy
6. It's School, Not A Fashion Show
7. The Best Thing For A Headache Is Putting Your Hands In Warm Dishwater
8. 8th Grade Is Too Early To Be Shaving Your Legs
9. You Think Too Much
10. We're Not Having Any Pets In This House

I know. Bless their hearts.

1. Both Mom and Dad said this every single time we watched any beauty pageant throughout our lives, and they said it to all three of us girls. We all rolled our eyes because it was Patently Absurd. Some of those women were gorgeous and had perfect bodies. We, ranging in age from Patti--seven years my senior, to Susan, five years my junior, could not possibly imagine how any of this could be remotely true.

2. Absolute bullshit, and almost every day in my family it was proven False by my brother, who terrorized me daily with taunts about my weight. I could never suitably retaliate because he was invincible physically and emotionally. We're very close now, but growing up was hell.

3. Someone needed to tell the bees. I suffered an unprovoked attack--twice--while minding my own business. I didn't even disturb a nest or flight pattern. Ouch.

4. I was in my sophomore year when my mother found my mascara and face powder. She immediately tattled to my father, who gave me a terrible lecture, including the above quotes. Ironically, in later years, every time I would show up at Mom and Dad's without any makeup, my Dad would ask, "Are you feeling alright? You look pale and a little wan." Sigh.

5. In the seventies, everyone was wearing cute earrings. Except me. I waited until I was eighteen and went to the jeweler to get mine done so that I could do it without parental permission. When Dad found out, he was devastated. Somehow, though, I managed to survive it. So did he.

6. As everyone in the universe knows, School IS a Fashion Show. It shouldn't be, but it is. Even as a teacher, it was still, for me, a Daily Walk On The Runway.

7. Oh, St. Patsy, you really thought you were the clever one with this. We all knew what you were up to.

8. No! No, it wasn't! Not when you are mostly Eastern European and your legs looked like gorilla legs and you had to dress for gym. I ended up surreptitiously shaving them while home alone after school one day and took off about a foot of skin on my shinbone because I pushed too hard on the razor. That's another story.

9. St. Patsy still tells me that I Think Too Much. I am not one to brood, but I do analyze. But not overmuch, usually. How is Thinking a Bad Thing?

10. Oh, this one was the biggest lie of all, perpetuated by my mother. For a complete list of the TEN pets "not allowed" in our house and the full explanation, click here and read the post over at Stuff On Our List.

Your turn. What Little White Lies did Mom and Dad tell You?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Some Simple Things Which Make Me Happy

by Sally Dean

Sometimes, when dear Lester Holt is keeping me informed from The Nightly Newsdesk, I get a little overwhelmed. "Stop, Lester. Please stop already," I beg him from my chair. The world is a complex and Profoundly Irritating place. It would seem that not everyone has adopted my New Year's Resolutions of Choose To Be Gracious and Choose To Be Grateful. Or my personal mantra of Make Kindness Your Default.

It is times like these that I must Reach Within for my Personal Joy. Here are

10 Random And Simple Things Which Make Me Happy

1. Getting That Bug
2. Putting On My Jammies
3. Time With Zydrunas
4. Going For A Ride
5. Surprising Someone
6. Catching A Fish
7. A Really Good Tomato
8. Date TV On Netflix
9. Fleece Blankets
10. Yahoo! Comments

Oh, I know. You thought some of these would be so much more Zen and Meaningful. Or perhaps that they would be more Intellectual and Artsy, like The Complete Works Of Shakespeare and Champagne and my fake Vermeer and stuff like that. Those make me happy, but not in the Same Way. And not Simply. Let me explain.

1. Isn't it a great feeling when you finally find that mosquito that kept buzzing in your ear? Or you shoo that huge fly out the back door? Or you smack that hideous spider before it finds a hiding spot? That little burst of happy triumph...love that.

2. Sometimes, I need to Give Up On The Day. Getting out of my outfit and into my jammies is The Best Feeling Ever. It says, "Okay! We're all done here. You've put in Your Day. Nothing more is required of you. You are Off Duty." Instant Happiness.

3. Zydrunas, my sons' dog, is a big, exuberant Boxer/Bull mix. He smiles all the time. He is a Dog Full Of Joy. He is always thrilled to see me, period. So what if I am covered with bruises for weeks later? Totally worth it.

4. I will go for a ride, and it doesn't matter what the conveyance. I love car rides, boat rides, bike rides, you name it. Zydrunas and I both love long pontoon boat rides at the lake. Pack me up and take me on a ride; there is no need for a destination. I like to be driven around to look at stuff.

5. I hate surprises myself, but I love surprising other people, whether it be by my unexpected presence, a Just Because gift, or a terrific piece of news. My mother is spectacularly fun to surprise. Her entire face lights up and she keeps repeating, "Oh REA-lly?" until you cannot stop laughing long enough to assure her, yes REA-lly.

6. For the most part, fishing is a great way to Do Nothing, but look like you are actually Doing Something, especially if you just use a bobber. It is possible to go hours, even DAYS without catching a fish, but when I do, it's still a thrill. It makes me very happy to feel that little tug, the pull, and if it's a bass and it jumps above the water, even better.

7. If you dislike tomatoes, this means nothing to you. If you like/love tomatoes, then no explanation is necessary.

8. How I love The Netflix, and how I love Jared, who pays for it and lets Rick and me use it. We look forward to setting aside nights for binge watching House of Cards and Mad Men and other series. When a show has run its course, we are legitimately sad. But before then, so happy!

9. Even in summer, I have nights when I need to cuddle up under a blanket for comfort. It might be because air conditioning is chilling me, or I've eaten ice cream, or there has been a cool front, or I've had a migraine. And in cooler/colder seasons, they are a necessity. Yes, they grab and retain cat hair like Velcro, but nothing comforts me like fleece blankets.

10. Man, I don't even bother reading the "articles" over at Yahoo! anymore. I skip straight to the Comments and start there because that is The Best Place On The Interwebs to laugh your head off. Oh, sure, there are a few serious, relatively cogent comments, but the majority are 9's and 10's on the Unintentional Comedy Scale, and then there are the people who are either trying to be funny or are trying to provoke controversy and outrage. The other day, one commenter merely replied "Shut Up." to an article about Donald Trump's candidacy. Wouldn't that make YOU happy?

How about a quick list of Your Little Happies? It's always fun to stop and acknowledge a few Simple Joys.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Summer Is Overrated (With A Guest Poster)

Today's Top Ten List will be a Double-Teamed effort. Jared will be assisting me, just like he has in past List Posts here at the Dept. and just like he did back in the Olde Days of our co-authored blog Stuff On Our List. That's another wonderful part of my Ten Years Of Blogging.

Jared's entries will be items 1 through 5, and I'll round out the remainder of The List.  He can have the intro, too.

Summer is fine. It is not great, AMAZING, or perfect. It is just…fine. There are great things about it, sure. The Lake, no snow, and the sun is out longer. So that’s good. But there are plenty of things people love about summer that I just don’t get. Let’s take a look at

10 Things About Summer That Are Overrated

1. Patios
2. Heat
3. Camping
4. Baseball
5. Fireworks
6. Cookouts
7. The Beach
8. Sandals
9. Hamburgers & Hotdogs
10. Pasta Salad

Jared:
1. I like to sit outdoors from time to time with a glass of wine and a Lady Friend and chat and be impressed with ourselves and our conversation. But where I live, just west of Cleveland, there is an enormous patio culture. I do NOT want to eat out there, I do NOT want to sit there and get sweaty during a slightly (read: incredibly) hungover brunch. Sounds miserable. Dinner on a patio? Pass. Why am I going to eat a meal outdoors during the time of day with the least breeze? Absurd. Last summer, a friend called me and said “Let’s find somewhere we can eat, have some beers, and watch the game on a patio.” This is a thing he really thought I would do. I am not friends with this person any longer. MY favorite patio for a beer is the bar that I go to called Patio. There is literally NO PATIO. No patio is the perfect patio for me.

2. “Yeah. But it’s a dry heat.” This is a thing that people will say. It usually follows something like, “It's going to be 95 degrees out there today”, and is supposed to make me feel better about it being so goddam hot. Know where else is a dry heat? My oven. I’m not hanging out in there, either. Hot is hot. I don’t care how dry it is. Too. Damn. Hot. If it was 58 degrees with a light breeze every day for the rest of my life, I would be jacked.

3. It is literally all of the worst things about the last two items combined. Only, as a special treat, you get to sleep in a giant Sweat Bag. On the ground. Preposterous. Also, there’s a fire. It is sweltering out, and one of the actual solutions to make things better is a fire.

4. I went to a baseball game with one of my very best friends. I remember 0 of it. None. I do remember at one point, I stood in line for 18 minutes for a hot dog. I remember that. It sucked. I also know that when I came back with our franks, I had literally missed NO ACTUAL BASEBALL! None. They threw to first twice, intentionally walked a guy, then changed pitchers. Actual times in 18 minutes a ball was thrown in an area where it could be hit: NONE TIMES. NOT ONE.

5. For starters, this is an outdoor activity, at night, in the hottest part of the year. No breeze, buggy, traffic nightmare, crowded. Oh, but hey, you guys! You DO get to sit on the ground on a hot blanket. Seems like the solution for most summer stuff is to simply add the hottest, most uncomfortable thing you can find to the equation. Camping? Fire! Dinner? An open grill flame! Fireworks? Blanket! Even the homeless think it's absurd to use a blanket outdoors for any reason during the summer.

Nance:
6. Longtime Readers, you all know my aversion to eating outdoors where hot food cannot stay hot, cold food cannot stay cold, and I am locked in a battle with bugs for my food and with the wind for my napkin, my tableware, and my hair to stay out of my mouth and eyes. Why? Why set Civilization back so decidedly? And the Picnic Table is the worst device ever. So ungraceful. Everything about a Cookout/Barbecue is catastrophically terrible.

7. The beach always sounds so relaxing and toasty warm, what with the waves and the sand and the sun. Which is, ironically, also precisely why the beach sucks. Sand gets everywhere and you will take it home with you and it will proceed to follow you wherever you go for the rest of your life. Inside and out. The waves, if they are in the ocean, will blast the sand at you and give you raw spots on your skin that will irritate you for days. Lakes are better, unless it is Erie, and let me tell you--there are bacteria warnings posted on the beaches more often than not. And at the beach, there is not a lot of shade to escape to, which means sunblock, and that means the sand will stick to you and do we really need to review that?

8. Feet--adult feet--are disgusting. Yes, that means yours, too. Most people's feet should not be on display. Yet Summer gives everyone the Go Ahead with eleventy billion styles of sandals, and many of them sadly awful, some of them made with seatbelt material, and most of them merely flipflops. Ugh. I feel sick.

9./10. If it were not Summertime, how many of you would settle for grey, dry, overgrilled hamburgers and sweaty hotdogs as your entree? And, in some cases, wait for them? In a line? And do you truly enjoy yet another pile of cold rotini soaking in Italian dressing? I'm over it. All of it.

Aside from these things, Summer is still terrific, as every single Teacher knows. But that's the Easy List, isn't it? How has Summer disappointed you? What would you add or take away from our List?

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Today's Top Ten List: Thankful For Retirement

Today's post is not meant to Gloat--far from it. I am still Basking In The Glow from my retirement four years ago. Do I feel Guilty, having retired at age 52? Absolutely not. I spent thirty years in a tough public school system, one of Ohio's Big Urbans, teaching kids that, in many cases, no one else wanted to teach. Later in my career, when I was able to teach Honors and Creative Writing, the latter a course I designed and wrote curriculum for myself, I still worked hard and taught students all across the spectrum since our school did not have any requirements for entering the Honors Program.

I had kids arrested in my class, a kid with a gun in my class, my share of convicted murderers, rapists, B & E specialists, felons, and all manner of criminals. At least two of my favourite kids now reside in state prisons. My heart has been broken so many times reading the local court report.

Having said all of that, here--in no particular order--is today's List Of Ten, my

10 Reasons That I'm Grateful For Retirement

1. Easing Into My Day
2. Using The Bathroom Whenever I Want/Need To
3. Every Day Feels Like A Weekend
4. No One Is My Boss
5. No Bell Every 50 Minutes
6. Christmas Preparations Are Less Scroogeful
7. 99% Of My Stress Is Gone
8. Grocery Shopping Is No Longer A Nightmare
9. I Am Kinder, Gentler, And More Patient
10. I Have More Time With My Mother

You can skip this part if you don't want to listen to me explain these.

1. Rather than catapult from bed and into my Mrs. D. outfit and persona, I can wander into the kitchen, make coffee, read the paper, sit in my comfy chair, and do this for pretty much the entire day if I want to, getting dressed and beautified only in time for Rick to come home at five. And yes, that has happened a few times and no, he does not care one bit. In fact, he encourages it.

2. While I was teaching, my poor bladder had to get used to my teaching schedule. If I had no break until the final period of the day, well, tough. And yes, that was often my schedule. Now, my bladder is in charge. But it's nice to fall back on that incredible discipline.

3. Oh, is it Saturday already? Who knew? Because Tuesday and Thursday were...pretty much the same as this. I wish every single one of you could know this feeling. I truly do.

4. After 30 years of parents, voters, administrators, and yes, students being my Boss, it is heady stuff indeed to have NO ONE bossing me around. And no one had better even try. I talk back to television ads who instruct me, "Ask your doctor about Viagra" by saying, "Hey! I most certainly will NOT. YOU are NOT the boss of me!" Ask St. Patsy if even she can boss me around. Ha ha. It is to laugh.

5. After parceling out my life in 50 minute increments, each one signaled by a bell, I won't even have a clock in the bedroom. Time is inconsequential to me most of the time. I rarely look at a clock. I truly love and savour this luxury in particular.

6. Many times while I was working, our last day before Christmas vacation was December 22nd or 23rd. For those of you not in education, you undoubtedly work even on Christmas Eve. I raced to get gifts bought and wrapped, the big family open house planned and cooked and cleaned for on the 24th, not to mention all the other usual Christmas preparations. Now I can dawdle and shop at my leisure, like on Tuesday mornings in December. What a difference it makes.

7. My job was my stress. Period. I could go into it more than that, but I won't bother. Public education is not getting better as a career choice; it is only getting more thankless and more of a Whipping Boy for society's ills. It was never The Kids. Let's just say that.

8. I used to go straight from work to the grocery store and try to do a month's worth of shopping in an hour and a half. Or Rick and I would go on a Saturday and try not to kill ourselves or anyone else. Nightmare. Now, I can go once a week at my leisure, usually on a Tuesday morning when no one else is there, and it is a Non-Event.

9. Because all of my Stress is eliminated, I can be a Better Me. I can be kind. I can be Gentle. I can be Patient. I don't mind waiting while someone, who has had the entire time she has been in line waiting, chooses to search for her checkbook only when the cashier tells her the total of her grocery order. What else do I have to do? What good will it do me to be upset? Instead, I play Words With Friends on my phone.

10. St. Patsy is 85, and if she does not cut back on her sodium and pie, she will only have another twenty or so years left. (I am her Medical Overseer, so I am fully empowered to say this.) Being retired has allowed me the time and patience to be with her more often, and not just to haul her off to doctor appointments and to see her sister in Gettysburg. She is feisty and funny and once in a while tells a story I haven't heard yet. I have lots of friends who have lost their moms, and I am grateful to still have her around.

As I got closer to my retirement, I dreamed about it quite a bit. I'm happy to report that it has more than lived up to my expectations. I am happy and busy and I haven't regretted my decision one bit.

Dear Readers, what are you most looking forward to in Your Retirement? Or, if you are already retired, has it been everything you'd hoped for?

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Dept. of Nance Is Ten!


The Dept of Nance is ten!

You know, I almost missed it. Ten years ago this month, I started writing here, and I'm still at it. Along the way, lots of things happened: I outlasted a president (twice!), a major hurricane, plenty of blizzards, and The Recession. I saw the election and re-election of the first Hawaiian President of the United States who also happens to be black. We've had three popes and three new Supreme Court Justices. Gay people can finally get married. Lebron James came back to Cleveland. Arthur Miller and JD Salinger died. Nutella finally got real and stopped advertising itself as part of a nutritious breakfast.

To celebrate the Dept.'s Tenth Anniversary, I've decided to do Ten Posts Of Top Ten Lists. Assisting me will be Jared, who not only gave me this idea, but who has also co-written some list posts with me before.

Today's Top Ten List will be just mine. But before I begin, let me thank all of you, Dearest Readers. In the early years, I was writing, it seemed, just for me. Then, suddenly, there You were. And I cannot tell you how Very Much Better it has been ever since.

Shall we on, then? Here is the list of

10 Things That Happened To Me In The Last 10 Years

1. Retirement
2. Text Messaging
3. Driving
4. The Radio
5. Cats
6. Frozen Shoulders
7. Leggings
8. Shrinkage
9. The Menopause
10. Fantasy Sports

These are, of course, in no particular order, and this is not a comprehensive list. A few do require brief explanation. A few do not, but I'll probably talk about them anyway.

1. Retirement continues to be blissful and wonderful, and it's a damn shame that I couldn't have started it much sooner. I cannot begin to tell you how gorgeous it is to be able to slide into my day in my jammies with a cup of coffee rather than jitter into it full bore with high heels and a broken copier and a screaming hallway full of recalcitrant tardies.

2. Oh, yes; absolutely I am The Person who said that I would never, ever tap away on a teensy keyboard to anyone, ever, and I do it regularly now, even to my 85-year old mother who has an iPad and sends me text messages right back. Please feel free to scream I TOLD YOU SO! with a big, smug smirky face. It's perfectly justified.

3. Previous to my retirement, I drove almost nowhere. I drove the Capital Beltway alone in dense fog earlier this summer. I used to be a fearful driver. Yesterday, I passed a dump truck. And a Mustang. At the same time. Laughing at them...because I drive a Prius.

4. When I was teaching, I could not stand to listen to the radio in my car. Maybe, maybe NPR for five minutes. But never music. It was too much for me. Now, I listen to music all the time. My current favourite: Shut Up and Dance by Walk The Moon.

5. In the past ten years I have sadly said goodbye to two cats, TravisCat and EmilyCat. I was blissfully hair-free for a few years, but lonesome for a pet. Enter Piper and Marlowe, whose hair is everywhere. I am on a Three Lint Roller Program: one in the car, one in the bedroom, one in the bathroom (where the light is merciless).

6. I had two bouts of adhesive capsulitis, one of which was misdiagnosed as a torn rotator cuff and for which I was operated on, unnecessarily as it turned out. What a horrid, horrid time this was, for everyone.

7. Yep! You get to feel superior again. I think I banished leggings in a post once; now, they're my fall and winter uniform. Do I make absolutely certain to wear something that tastefully and discreetly covers my derriere, like a tunic or long sweater or duster? Of course! Is said long overshirt loose and not clingy? Obviously. And I wear boots. That outfit is so much warmer than jeans or regular pants and shoes. Bash away at my Hypocrisy. I deserve your scorn.

8. In the course of the past ten years, I shrank from a size 10 down to a size 0. Part of it was from Topamax for migraines, part of it was illness. I settled in at a size 2 for a good long while until...

9. The Menopause. Basically, this is the stage in a woman's life when her body turns against her and gives her The Finger. Everything went to hell. My migraines went crazy. My weight went up. My skin and hair got dry and my nails got peely. Is it worth it to stop having to buy Tampax? Now that things have rebalanced...YES.

10. What in the hell am I, a retired English teacher, whose other interests are decidedly not sporty, and who has never played a sport in her entire life, doing with a Fantasy Basketball Team? For four years running? It's so, so silly. But I love it.

There's lots more, but that's pretty good right there.  Again, thank you so much for Being There.  Perhaps in Comments, you can tell me How Long You've Been There, and then you can tell us all what you've been up to in the past 10 Years.

Oh, and do have some cake!

littlecowcreativecakes.co.uk


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Monday, August 10, 2015

In Which I Analyze The republican Debate

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are living in Strange Times, indeed. The republicans are in a panic because someone exactly like Rush Limbaugh in temperament, class, and ethos is running for President of the United States under their imprimatur, and Faux News is crying foul because of the sexist and crude way this candidate treated its own female media personality. (Does anyone remember Sandra Fluke?)

I'm too stunned to gloat.

Rather than get all calisthenic over a republican whom I refuse to take seriously, let's instead get down to something far more worthy of our discussion. Here is a picture of the candidates at the Big Boys' Debate, courtesy of US News.


Who dressed these people?

These men are all wealthy, have staffs, and, I assume, know women who probably looked at them before they settled on these suits. Why, then, is there not more than one among them who can wear a properly fitted and hemmed pair of pants? 

 It's inexcusable, really.

The only one who has a pair of nicely fitting pants of appropriate length is Senator Rubio (second from left). Governor Christie is wearing what we used to call "High Waters" back when I was in high school. Dr. Carson, third from left, looks like he has crotch problems, or as if he is standing astride an invisible bicycle or hobby horse. The rest all have that terrible, sloppy puddle of fabric around their ankles. My sons used to have that when they wore those enormous baggy jeans back in the nineties, and I absolutely hated it. Jared used to go so far as to slit the sides of his pantlegs at the ankles so that his jeans would fit down over his enormous and massively padded hightop basketball sneakers, which he left untied and flapping and which I also hated.

Another problem up there is the questionable footwear of the Robot Representing Senator Rand Paul (second from right). Perhaps he is into Steampunk and is actually sporting a pair of these.  This was not SalonCon, Senator.

Maybe, maybe I can almost tolerate the Armani Break of the pants of the candidate fourth from the left up there.  The Armani Break--also known as the Full Break--is still awfully messy-looking. I can't remember who That Guy even  is.  Oh yeah, Governor Walker, the guy who equates Teachers to ISIS fighters.

(I wish I could see their ties in this photo, but I'm sure they're very pedestrian and ho-hum.  Not an inspiration among them. Where is Greg Feith when you need him?)

We're in for a Very Entertaining Primary Season, everyone.  Like at least One Of The Candidates, why should I discuss The Issues when other topics (pants!) are so much more...pressing?

Try not to groan at me in Comments.

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