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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today, I Feel Like A Genius. Read This And You Will Feel Like One, Too.



We join a Cleveland Sunday news show already in progress...

Robin: And today is National Jelly Bean Day! The sweet little treat is thought to be the invention of a Boston candymaker. His popular candy was sent to Union troops during the American Civil War. How about you, Ryan? Do you like jelly beans? I have to say that myself, I like Jelly Bellies better than jelly beans.

(Camera cuts to shot of Ryan the weatherman, standing in front of the map. For a moment he looks terribly confused; his mouth opens, then shuts. He glances at the camera, then looks over at the anchor desk.)

Ryan: Aaah...Jelly Bellies and jelly beans are the same thing. Jelly Bellies are a brand of jelly beans, Robin.

Robin: (voice heard, off, brightly) Oh wow! You learn something new every day!




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Friday, April 13, 2018

Settle In With Some Fries And Let's Ketch...Er, Catch Up


It would seem I'm a Terrible Virtual Friend and Correspondent. So many days have drifted by and here we are with nothing more wonderful than a Catch-Up Post from me.

Get it?  Catch Up--Ketchup?

Oh well...I tried.

Spring Has Sprung! As I tap away on my keyboard, it is a Blissfully Sunny 75 degrees outdoors. My windows are open, I feel uplifted, and I'm even barefoot right now. My walk was sprightly and pleasant. Crocuses are smiling at the sun, buds are on trees, and the guy down the street was out mowing his lawn. As I leaned over our neighbor's fence to give treats to their dogs (The Boys, as I call them), I took note of their forsythia just beginning to show bright yellow blossoms. My chives are up and ready to be snipped for baked potatoes tonight, and my oregano and tarragon are starting to come on. And, looking closely, I spot a fine sprinkling of dill which has nudged up through the mulch. Hooray!

I Am The Champion! After a grueling season rife with injuries to my marquee players, my perseverance paid off and I beat Sam in the Championship Round of our NBA Fantasy League. I had an impressive record of 18-3 with an 11-game win streak. And I was the only woman in the 10-team league. My knowledge of the NBA is bordering on the obsessive at this point. Once a student, always a student.

Undecorator Update. As of today, very few Christmas Decoration Sloths in my orbit have taken down their decorations, most egregious being the Nativity Wreck on my street and the mailbox wreath three blocks north. I've decided to Be Grateful that none of the offending decor is an inflatable.

Knitting Pathology. I started a mitred square blanket with the intention of A) using up a lot of yarn that was given to me and that I had bits and pieces of; B) focusing on Knitting As Therapy, and; C) having an ongoing small and easy project that wouldn't give me fits and didn't have a date certain for necessary completion. It all sounds Just Perfect, right? Well, baloney to that.

First, I found little mini-skeins of very pretty yarn on sale that I thought, "Oh, that would be so lovely to fill in squares on the blanket project" so I bought a load of them. Then I knitted a couple of different projects that used bulkier yarn, and I really loved that, so when I found a bunch of it at a ridiculously low price, I bought that. And then I decided that I would set A Square A Day as a Knitting Assignment for myself, which is completely reasonable, and then every day I keep an eye on the clock, wondering when I'm going to have some unbroken time to sit down and knit my square. All of which is Completely Counter to what my Original Intentions were. I swear, I am a Horrible Project most of the time.

Looking Forward. Last Saturday, our mail was exciting! In it was an invitation to a release party being thrown by our favourite winemaker in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. We were verbally invited last October, but hadn't given it much thought again until the invitation showed up. Luckily, we were able to book a room at our usual inn, and we can't wait to go and taste the new wines before they are released to the general public. We've developed some very nice relationships with so many of the wineries and winemakers there that every time we open a bottle, it's like reliving a memory.

I do so hope that Spring has shown up where you are.  We here in NEO will be back to the 40s and low 50s in just a couple of days, but this gift of Fleeting Spring has been a much-needed tonic.  And that is, after all, what Spring is all about:  rejuvenation, reward, and renewal.  I'm storing this up until Spring comes again To Stay.


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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Help Me To Help You To Help Me: My Moneymaking Idea To End The Madness Of Holiday Sloths

This idea is my gift to you.  Please make it happen and keep all the profits!
Dearest Readers, let's all check our calendars together, shall we? It is April; we can all agree upon that. Can we all agree, too, that in the past, oh, let's say...three months, we've had lots of holidays pass by, including the well-known New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Easter? Certainly a couple of those are Decoration-Worthy for some of our More Festive Neighbors. Yet, some of them are still Stuck--Irretrievably, it seems--in Christmas Past.

Case in point: the photo below is one I took on my walk a few days ago. Sadly, it is on my very own street, and as of this writing, its status has not changed.

Nativity Wreck:  The Wise Men were smart enough not to show up.
And until a week ago, a lighted wreath (illuminated 24/7) hanging out of a second story window was still a prominent feature of the front of this home.

Unfortunately, this Serial Offender is not the Rogue Holiday Decoration Sloth.  On my walk, they are everywhere.  And proud!  Like this home several blocks from my own.

Sometimes this is still lit up when I pass by in the morning!  Fun!
What's really mystifyingly egregious are the Christmas wreaths still left hanging on front doors and on mailboxes, which are hanging right next to the doors, under cover of the porch.  HOW HARD IS IT, EVERYONE?  JUST REACH OUT AND GRAB IT AND BRING.  IT.  INSIDE.  WITH YOUR MAIL.  ANY DAY NOW WOULD BE GREAT.

RIDICULOUS.  INSANE.  BEYOND LAZY.

So, here's my idea for a moneymaking business.  All you need is a van or a small pickup truck, an extension ladder, and a good supplier for sturdy cardboard boxes in various sizes.  Very No Frills.  A client calls and says, "Look.  I don't want to Undecorate my house.  All the festivity of November/December that translated into ten tons of tchotchky dripping from my home has now become a nightmare to me in February EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE HAD DOZENS OF VERY DECENT DAYS WITH NO SNOW AND TEMPERATURES ABOVE FORTY.  Please come and do it for me."  So, the Undecorator comes, strips all the Holiday Crap, and packs it into sturdy cardboard boxes.  He or she places the boxes either into a garage, shed, or into the home (no stairs will be climbed, and no lifting boxes overhead to put them up on shelves will be done, ever; the homeowner must place boxes into final storage).  Finally, the Undecorator presents the bill, takes payment, and it's over.  For all of us.

As far as looking for new business, please.  I could have found you no less than six new clients in a one and a half-mile radius of my own home, happily placing flyers, dreaming of the days when Christmas was really over well before Easter arrived.

So, what do you say?  Can you make this happen for me?


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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

They Are Students; They Are Victims; They Are Change--Ready For The Revolution


Is it almost Every Day now? Because it feels like almost Every Day--that almost Every Day a school is On Lockdown, or there is a School Shooting, or we're in the Aftermath of a School Shooting. It feels sad and hopeless, yet I'm full of outrage and anger and motivation, like I have to lift a wrecked car off of my child in order to save him.

I was more than midway through my teaching career when Columbine happened in 1999. Despite teaching in one of Ohio's "Big Urbans," I doubt one of us ever imagined a single one of our students capable of a mass shooting. Some of our kids were in and out of juvie, several had incarcerated parents, and to find more than a handful in class with the same last name as both parents (or their single parent) was relatively unusual. A high percentage qualified for free or reduced lunch. Many lived in public housing. The odds were stacked against so many of our kids, yet the idea of a Columbine-like event at our high school of 2000+ was unthinkable.  We were largely ignorant as to the profile of the typical adolescent mass shooter, and we were never given any education, even after the incident.

After it happened, the school district immediately tightened security. All exits would remain locked; teachers would be posted at the doors, admitting no one except through the main entrance (and no, we did not get hazard pay).  Students and staff were photographed for I.D. badges, to be worn on a lanyard around their necks at all times, which the kids found ridiculous and irritating. I reminded them that we were a huge school of three floors, three buildings, and that outsiders had sneaked into our school plenty of times. Besides, it wasn't costing them any money.  "This is stupid!" they protested. "The Columbine shooters were Columbine students!"  The discussion pretty much stopped when one student said, "The I.D.'s are so they can identify our bodies."  I retired in 2011, tossing my I.D. badge into the trash can.

Six months later, I joined a community of bloggers trying to grieve the losses of more than twenty grade school children at Sandy Hook by "writing it out". And astonishingly, two short months after that, and about fifty miles from my home, a terrifyingly disturbed boy walked into Chardon High School and murdered his classmates.

Incredibly, I still have so many of the same Outrages, Questions, and Sadnesses today. Because of Inaction. Because of Unwillingness. Because, it seems, of Abject Cowardice by the same politicians and, overwhelmingly, the same political party. Do they not have Children? A Sense Of Humanity? A Soul?

I know that so many of you share my feelings. And I hope you have had a chance to watch and listen to the empowering and encouraging speeches given by the young activists at the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. They are inspiring and moving. (Just search "March for Our Lives speeches" on YouTube). These Parkland teens have benefitted from a rich program of the arts and debate and a school system that helped them understand critical thinking and verbal expression. Add that to their ready use of social media platforms, and a true Movement was born. The most vital part of the speeches--aside from their obvious emotional impact--was the idea that they stressed VOTING FOR CHANGE. Tables were set up at these and sibling rallies to register voters and to provide information regarding voting. This injects more momentum to the already-inspired women and minority voters and candidates who have scored seats locally and statewide, building to a Blue Wave in the midterms.

Before I end, I want you to meet Parkland survivor Sam Fuentes. As she took cover from the shooter, a bullet tore through her leg, and shrapnel chewed into her face. Pieces of it behind her eye and cheek will remain there forever, like the memories of her ordeal. She had to post pictures of her injured face from her hospital bed and screen shots of her bleeding body being loaded into the ambulance to try and silence social media trolls and pro-NRA conspiracy theorists. She watched her friend Nick Dworet die, and it would seem her struggles with PTSD are likely far from over. Despite all of this, she took the stage on Saturday and read a slam poetry-styled speech, displaying the humanity and authenticity that is sorely lacking in Washington, D.C. Her courage and conviction, in the midst of becoming physically and emotionally overwhelmed, should inspire us all.  Please watch and listen;  you'll be so, so very glad that you did.




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Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Meme: Love It/Hate It


Yikes! Almost two weeks since my last post. Lots of excuses, but let's leave them be and jump right in with something that makes it easy to Get Back At It (the It being writing a blogpost).

Quicky Monday Meme: Love/Hate Relationships

1. What song/kind of music always makes you feel good/irritated?
     80s music always makes me feel good, and so does Tina Turner or Earth, Wind, and Fire.
     All country music irritates the hell out of me.  All of it.  All the time.

2. What are among your best/worst traits?
     A few of my best traits are empathy, tolerance, and my ability to organize.
     My worst traits are impatience, impatience, and probably impatience.

3. What food did you used to like but now you don't?
     I used to like ham, sloppy joes, and fish; I don't anymore.

4. What book did everyone else love but you didn't?
     Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
     Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

5. Fill in the blanks: I love my ______, but I hate (its/their/the)______.
     I love my cats, but I hate their hair.
     I love my country but I hate what the republicans are doing to it.
     I love my blog, but I hate how worky it sometimes feels to keep up with it.
     
Your turn in Comments.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Who Knew Salad Could Be So Racy? Sign Language Saturday On A Tuesday

Photo Dept. of Nance

Great sense of humour over at the ad agency in charge of the layout of this ad, which arrived in my mail today for a local grocery store.

Too bad it's the Baby Spinach that's "washed & ready to enjoy."  What a missed opportunity.

Monday, February 26, 2018

It Started With The Coffeemaker

On Saturday, Rick repaired--again--my coffeemaker. I'm inordinately and irrationally fond of this coffeemaker, a Cuisinart drip model circa 2004-5, and I refuse to let it go. When I first discovered it was leaking a month ago, he took it apart and replaced a hose. My Gratitude and Joy were boundless. Last week, when it started leaking again, all Rick did was to mildly berate himself for not replacing both hoses when he had the thing apart the first time, and set about taking it apart again. This time, unfortunately, the repair was more difficult and tedious.

Lucky for him, my own tasks took me in and out of the kitchen so that I could check on his progress help. On one of my sojourns through his work area, he asked me to hold the light so that he could use both hands to maneuver the circuit panel/board back into place and put everything back together.

But it wouldn't all fit back in. I watched my husband's face carefully for clues: was my coffeemaker terminal? did he really know what he was doing? was I going to have to get dressed and do my hair in order to go get coffee in the morning? WAS LIFE AS I KNOW IT OVER?

My search of his features yielded nothing. His expression was one of Placid Determination and Quiet Concentration. Clearly, I was going to have to Get Involved.

"Maybe you should just untie that bigass knot in the cord there," I suggested helpfully. "It seems to be holding up the whole shebang."

"It's not that."

"Okay." He moved around a lot of wires and cords and the panel/board thing. He tried a couple more times to get it all to fit. He looked at a piece of plastic that fit on the back near the power cord. It was obvious that my expertise was necessary here. I thought carefully about Strategy, Tact, and the cost of Marital Counseling.

Then I decided to speak up anyway. "Hey, Rick? Maybe they just tied that knot in that cord because of some UL regulations about cord length or something. You know? I feel like--"

And suddenly, right in front of me, Rick was screwing the bottom onto the coffeemaker. Just like that.

"Hey!" I said. "You got it! Yay!"

"Yep," he said. "Nance, that knot in the cord is there to keep the panel from being yanked all the way out."

"Oh. Well, you could have said that from the beginning! Why didn't you say that before?"

"I just thought about it."

I boosted myself onto the kitchen counter to keep him company while he finished up. We needed to test the coffeemaker to see if it worked and to see if it would leak again. "And how did you do all this tedious, frustrating work without swearing? If it were me, I'd have been a few Eff Words deep and then some."

"Because every time you hear me swear while I work, you think something's wrong. And then you worry. So I learned not to do that."

For a moment I was floored by this.  It showed a depth of understanding and concern that truly touched me.  It showed that Rick had listened to me over these many, many years!  "Wow," I said.  "That's really true, and I very much appreciate that, but okay, hold on. Of all the fantastic advice I've given you in all the years we've known each other, what percentage of it would you say that you've actually listened to?"

Rick held the coffeepot up to eye level to measure its contents before pouring it into the machine. He plugged the coffeemaker in, flipped the switch, and without turning around said definitively, "Seventy percent. Your coffeemaker is working."

My heart was full. I was so happy! As soon as that red light came on and I heard the sound of water successfully burbling through My Precious Coffeemaker, I almost gave Rick a pass on his preposterous answer. Almost. "Seventy percent! That's ridiculous. No way is it seventy percent. I'd put it at forty percent, tops. Especially if you figure in follow-through, like when I say you should ice your leg or take a naproxyn or stay off screens after 9PM. And you don't."

"Look under here when I lift this up," he said. "See if you see any water." He carefully raised the coffeemaker, and I craned my neck to see beneath it. A few drops of water were collecting on the newly-replaced hose. A wire clamp dangled, too. I reported these to Rick, who sighed patiently. "I can't believe I forgot to put the clamp back on after all that."

"Don't burn yourself. Be careful. Why don't you wait until it cools way down? It's easy enough just to put the clamp on, right?" I leaned over to provide Support and show Concern, so much so that I almost fell into the sink. I needn't have bothered; by the time I had expressed my Profound Sentiments, Rick had unscrewed the bottom of the unit, replaced the clamp, and started to screw it back in place.

"Why don't more people take my advice?" I asked him. "I'm not talking about the people on TV; I know they can't hear me when I tell them what to do. More people need to do exactly what I say. And immediately. Everything would be better."

"Maybe a lot of people do take your advice. They just don't tell you about it."

A final check of the coffeemaker proved successful. Hopefully, I'll have another fifteen years of Good Service and Good Coffee from it.  I'll let you know.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Free For All Friday: Some This 'N That Bric-A-Brac Gets Thrown Out (And It's Not Even Thursday)

Let's have a bit of This 'n That, which also happens to be the weather forecast for NEO. Please don't mistake that for A Complaint; I can look out and see grass in the Dept. front yard, and yesterday it was 58 degrees. Today, although it is a full twenty degrees colder, we are not anticipating sn*w, so...Good News.

Anyway.

Here's some Brain Bric-a-Brac I need to download (or is that upload?  I always goof that up):

1. Teacher Tuesday On Friday. I feel like the cumulative IQ of Our Nation is dropping precipitously, thanks to 45* and the moronic spew he emits as well as the elevation of the ninnies who elected him. Everywhere I look I see errors in...well, everything. Not too terribly long ago, I read this comment online: You really nailed it on the head! This individual obviously customized the well-known idiom You hit the nail on the head, which is already perfectly fine and makes more sense.

I also would like to clarify the meanings of the words in this group: pique, peak, peek, also found misused online. Here they are, used correctly in sentences.
The new cat toy didn't pique Webster's interest one bit.
It's not like Fabio is at the peak of his career.
I'm ready to give you a sneak peek at the new me.

2. A Discontinued Product Is Back! Way back in 2011, I lamented and cursed the demise of Reynolds Plastic Wrap. It was such a great product, mainly because its box had a slidey little cutter thing that made using the wrap so easy. Well, it's back! I wish I could take credit for its return after a seven-year hiatus, but I cannot. Instead, I will chortle in my joy and hope that some other Discontinued Products That I Miss will return as well (Oil of Olay facial bar soap, hear my plea).

3. Monday Meme On Friday: Quick Fact Rundown.
~*~My fantasy basketball record right now is 14-3; I have the second-best record in the league (and am the only woman).
~*~I watched Big Little Lies on HBO Now and was enthralled by the acting but stressed out by the stories. So good!
~*~I'm feeling so much better that I have been Primary Snow Shoveller here at the Dept.
~*~I started another knitting project and sorted stash yarn for yet another.
~*~I have Thrown Out Thursdayed even more stuff.  (And discovered moth damage in my yarn. Sigh.)

Check in, won't you, in Comments?

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Friday, February 09, 2018

As Seen On TV...Almost

Scene opens on Living Room. Dinner is over; it is approximately 7 PM. Rick is in his chair. Nance enters from the bedroom where she has just changed into her pajamas and heads past him to the small trunk where she keeps blankets. She draws out a patchwork quilt backed with flannel and heads to the couch. Out of nowhere, both cats trot over to her, waiting.

Nance: Holy crap, do you see this? It's ridiculous. (curls up on couch, spreads out comforter, and both cats jump up onto it, with enormous orange cat claiming her lap)

Rick: (chuckling) Well, that's what you wanted. You wanted a cat to keep you company and be on your lap.

Nance: I know, but this is all the time. Every single time I sit down. (orange cat begins snoring) And now, I can't move. I simply cannot move.

Rick: Nance, it's a cat. You're bigger than he is. Maybe not by much, but you are. If you need to move, just move. You know he'll come right back.

Nance: That's not nice. Piper knows he's fat. But I hate to bother him when he's not feeling well. He's been so stuffy lately.

Rick: I know. I can hear him over the TV.

Nance: (getting fussy)  Both cats rushed me, and now I can't move. I want this light off, and I can't reach it.  (sighs, then brightly)  You know what I need? I need The Clapper.

Rick: You what? The Clapper?

Nance: Yeah. That thing for old people. Then I could just clap this light off. It would be great!

(Rick is looking at her with increasing suspicion and disbelief. He is not sure if she is serious or, at this point, even sane.)

Nance: (continuing excitedly) What would even be better is if The Clapper could multitask. Like, right now, I can't reach the light. But I also can't reach my water, my phone, or even my iPad. What if The Clapper could get those things for me? Now that is something I really need.

Rick: (in the spirit now) It could clean the shitboxes for you, too!

Nance: I don't really mind that job. Litter has come such a long way that it's almost nothing to do it. But if The Clapper could put my jammies on me and wash my face every night while I just sit here on my couch under my blanket, I'd take it!

Rick: How about if it just finds your Chapstick?

Nance: (big sigh) Yeah. For sure...that, too.

End scene.

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Friday, February 02, 2018

A Winter's Tale: Sadly, A True Story

Even with large doses of Vitamin D, I still fight through Seasonal Affective Disorder during NEO's interminable winters. I employ lots of different strategies with varying success. Trying to stay physically and mentally active can be frustrating, and I often find myself wondering if I'm losing the battle.

Like The Day I Lost My Chapstick.

This winter has been taxing on my skin, hair, eyes, and lips. I'm trying everything to stay hydrated, and I've never gone through lip balm like this before. I've taken to having three tubes at the ready: one in my purse, one on my nightstand, and one in the living room on the table next to my chair and couch corner. I've finally found one that works great for me, and I'm hanging onto it like Grim Death because I know damn well it is Destined To Be Discontinued like every single other product I have ever loved and gotten attached to.

But I digress.

Last week, I must have retrieved my Livingroom Lip Balm eleventy hundred times from the floor (and under furniture) because it suddenly became a Cat Toy for Marlowe, the grey cat who, every once in a while, knocks stuff down that belongs only to me. It was largely okay, until the day that I really needed my chapstick. And couldn't find it. I had been folding laundry, and I reached over for it, and...not there. I looked over on the table. Nope.

With a heavy sigh, I took Marlowe's name in vain and got down on the floor. I searched under the couch. Nothing. I grabbed my phone for a flashlight and looked again. I looked under both chairs, the huge ottoman, and the coffee table. Nothing. By this time, I was just outright aggravated. Because now I knew that it wasn't Marlowe's fault anymore. It was my own. I had probably grabbed it and put it in a coat pocket when I went out for a walk or something.

In the closet I went through the pockets of both coats I wore--twice. "God. Damn. It," I said, carefully raising the level of my voice after each word. I dropped to my knees on the floor of the closet and looked around. It wasn't there.

I was outraged. I was incredulous. My lips were chapped! This was becoming a Sanity Challenge, and I had to win.

I emptied my purse onto the table in the breakfast nook. Not there. I rooted through the drawer in my bedside table. Not there. (But did I use the lip balm in that drawer? HELL NO! I AM NOT A QUITTER! I AM NOT THE KIND OF PERSON WHO BOWS TO EXPEDIENCE IN TIMES OF CRISIS!  I HAVE INTEGRITY!) Next up, my clothes closet: all garments with pockets yielded nothing. Ditto the dresser drawers.

Throughout most of this search, I was talking to myself--loudly--but not in encouraging terms. "Where in the hell IS it? I only put it ONE PLACE! This could not BE any more FU**ING ridiculous! I am losing my goddam mind!" Finally, I admitted defeat. I dragged my shameful, chapped-lipped, weary sadness into the living room and plopped on the couch like the addle-brained loser I was. Piper immediately jumped into my lap. I felt somewhat comforted, despite the shower of hair that came with him.

I was exhausted. I leaned over and grabbed my huge tumbler of ice water and gratefully drank several gulps. When I turned to put the water glass back on the coaster, I saw it, my chapstick. It had been there, hidden by my bigass waterglass the whole time.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Our Finger Is On The Pulse Of The Nation: A New Feature Here At The Dept. Of Nance


Ladies and Gentlemen, we here at The Big Simple Polls, LLC, have our collective finger on the pulse of the nation. At times like these, it's important to know what Joe and Sally Citizen are thinking. Too often, talking heads, policy wonks, and Washington insiders get caught up in D.C. skulduggery and beltway mumbo jumbo. It's up to regular people--like us!--to bring all that political jibber jabber and Internet noise into focus and boil it down to something clear, easy, and basic. That's why we call ourselves The Big Simple: we ask the big, simple questions to people just like you and get answers that are, well, big and simple!

Here are two questions we polled recently and their responses below. We have given you two easy-to-understand pie charts to assist you. I think you'll agree that The Big Simple Polls, LLC, has not only assisted you in understanding these issues, but also distilled them into their most basic form.

Question 1: Is the current president doing a good job?



Question 2: Would you trust the current president to tell the truth under oath?


Until next time, Keep It Simple!


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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Whoever Said Money Can't Buy Happiness Probably Didn't Feed His Pets Blue Buffalo And Have S.A.D.


Let me warn you now: my brain has turned to Polar Mush, and I take no responsibility for the coherence of this post. Yesterday, I literally Gave Up at 3:30 PM when I realized that my furnace, even after running continually, still had not attained its Goal Temperature. Which meant that I was not going to attain mine, either. I hurriedly (and shivering-ly) finished prepping dinner, made stuff for Rick's lunches for the remainder of the week, and then zoomed into the bedroom where I put on my fleece jammies with the feet attached. This roused the attention of both cats, whose bliss was complete once they saw me grab my grandmother's flannel-backed comforter and hit the couch with my pillow and remote.

When I Give Up, I Mean Business.

I'm tired of Winter. I'm sick of being trapped inside by single-digit wind chills and icy walkways. Snow is not pretty if it's been sitting out there for weeks making everything so much more difficult and being tracked inside making things wet. (I don't think it's ever, ever "pretty.") The glare off that stuff is impressive when the sun shines; I don't need to put any lights on in the house all day long. It's hell when I have a headache.

I know: bitch, bitch, bitch. And I was going to behave myself and count my Blessings forever. I still do, but there's no halo on my head or wings hiding under my sweater. This isn't the Dept. of Pollyanna.

But here's a Happiness! And like many True Happinesses, it caught me completely by surprise and came in an unassuming, ordinary conveyance.

Rick came home from work and retrieved the mail from the porch. Sometimes I dread this--particularly when I'm crabby or have just cleaned up the living room from all detritus--because he will often toss any and all junk mail addressed to me on my lap, even though he knows it belongs in the recycle bin. The rest of it goes onto the coffee table, waiting.  It just makes more work for me, and I don't even bother to open it. Or, he'll toss financial statements with my name on them to me, again knowing that he is the one who deals with them, not me.

But I digress.

Rick got the mail and tossed me an envelope. I rolled my eyes and then looked at the return address. It was from Blue Buffalo Litigation, Settlement Department. "Oh, hey!" I said. "I forgot about joining this Blue Buffalo pet food class action lawsuit. Geeze, it was such a long time ago. It was something about...I don't even remember. I read about it online and filed online, too." As I was talking, I was opening the envelope and taking out a check.

And then my eyes popped out of my head, fell on the carpet, became covered with cat hair, and Rick had to go rinse them off before he could stick them back into my face, where my mouth was hanging open like a drawbridge welcoming the procession of the Knights Of The Roundtable returning from a quest.

Because the check was for $108.69.

I got OVER ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS OF FREE MONEY IN THE MAIL. From a class action lawsuit. It's incredible.

I've joined lots of class action lawsuits that I've been eligible for in the past, and the most I've gotten has been maybe fifteen bucks. I could not get over it.  Almost as good as seeing a patch of grass in my yard...someday.

Warmed me right up.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

A New Year's Story (Somewhere, Charles Dickens Is Smiling)

Last Thursday, after grocery shopping with a lighter heart since Things Are Back To Normal, I was steering my Prius back home, barely grimacing at That Horrid Taco's Sign. It was so cold, but at least it was sunny, and I had a car full of groceries, good news from the doctor the day before, and dinner already planned in my head. It was such a Good Day!

I almost didn't see the man standing on the street corner at the busy three-way stop. He was muffled in a scarf and hat, and he was wearing a brown canvas coat that didn't look very warm. As I came up to the intersection, he turned around, and I saw he was holding a sign:
 PLEASE HELP
 HOMELESS AND HUNGRY.

The snow around the sidewalks where he was standing was piled up about fourteen inches, and in the extreme cold, had turned to ice. There were deep frozen ruts about a foot into the street, making his chosen spot a precarious one. It was also not a very smart one. Traffic coming from one direction had no stop at all, and in order for him to reach any car that did manage to stop and block this very busy intersection, he had to navigate terrible terrain. Had he merely moved to a small parking lot across from the Taco's sign fifty feet away, he'd have had a much easier time of it.

Traffic nudged me, and I had to move along. But instead of turning left at the light a block ahead, I turned right, circled back, and came around again. I was lucky--traffic had slowed, and I could stay in my lane to call him over. He was jumping up and down a bit in his tennis shoes, trying to get warm. I honked my horn a little over the noise of a loud truck idling nearby to get his attention. He turned around, and I leaned over in the seat toward my open passenger's side window.

He carefully stepped toward my car, picking his path through the icy mounds and slippery ruts. I wasn't sure if I should look at him: would it embarrass him? I glanced at him briefly and glimpsed some of the tiredest eyes I think I have ever seen. I could see that he was young, and I felt a surge of pity. "Here," I said, as I offered him a ten, "I--"

"Oh, thank you! Thank you, ma'am, and God Bless! God Bless you, ma'am!" His blue eyes glistened and he had a West Virginian accent. His cheeks were red and patched with cold, white places.

I became almost overwhelmed with...what? Embarrassment? Shame? "I hope things turn around for you soon," I said. I checked my mirrors and drove on into traffic, headed home, thinking about my December worries and how they stacked up--or, more accurately, didn't--to this man's.

To many, many people's.

When the Universe strives so mightily to Teach Me A Lesson, it is important that I not miss the opportunity to Learn It. This young man on the corner was sort of my New Year's Jacob Marley, but I won't need to be introduced to the rest of the cast.

Message Received.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

In Which I Update You On December And Forge Ahead

I'm just going to jump right in and Flex My Writing Muscles with a Spontaneous Post. December was a long and arduous month, and just getting through it felt like a Full-Time Job. Wouldn't it be nice if Christmas could be during the summer when zipping around is easier and you're not all bundled up like a first-time mom's new baby in about a hundred layers so that when you try to do anything you're rolling around, or worse yet, waddling? Ugh.

And yes, I know, not all of you are reading this in the grips of The Polar Vortex.

Anyway.

December.

1. Not Merry: On December 1st, Rick was fired. Long story short, the company that recruited him to start up and run a new division decided to all of a sudden not have that division. They gave him no severance. Then they contested his unemployment benefits (of course, it took all month for that to be deemed meritless).

2. Nance Meltdown: Needless to say, this was not something I was ready for. Without getting into all the boring minutiae of my health, let me simply say that it was a concern for both Rick and me. The strain of worry about finances, both immediate and long-range, was enormous, and no amount of reassurance--from anyone--could help me.

3. Living Together: I am used to being home alone (with cats Piper and Marlowe) all day long. There is a certain ebb and flow to my days, and I am a creature of habit. It was extraordinarily difficult to share that time with Rick, who would wake up, come into the living room where I was silently having coffee and reading the paper, and turn on the television (loudly) so that he could watch the morning news. I felt edgy and...watched. As if I had to Have A Plan. "What are you doing today?" he would ask innocently. My first reaction was to feel bristly and almost defensive. It was Completely Insane, and I knew it. I was on a hair trigger; things were Not Normal, and it was all just Fear.

4. Projects: Aside from Finding A Job being Rick's job, he tackled cleaning out his area of the basement, which gave him plenty to do and kept him safe from me. I also continued my own Throw It Out projects, expanding my reach to several of my bureau drawers, a storage closet upstairs, a section of my closet, and next on the list is my upstairs linen cabinet, home to all the bed linens for the house.  And there was also the biggest project of them all...

5. Christmas: This year, we plundered our stash of Secret Money and had a Cash Christmas. Nothing on the credit card to pay off in January.  Rick and I did all the shopping together as well as the wrapping.  I cancelled the Big Family Christmas Eve Open House, traditionally held at my home for the past 30 years. I knew the stress and workload would flatten me. Jared and Sam came over and we had wine and heavy appetizers and relaxed. On Christmas Day, Zydrunas came too, and we hung out, resurrected Wii Bowling, and watched Z destroy a toy. On the 26th, Rick and I took down all the Christmas, put the tree on the curb, and took some deep breaths.

6. Wine Therapy: Although I am not one to recommend drinking as a medication, I will say that our wine cellar played a large role in my December Survival. Without it, I would have spent the entire month brittle, fragile, tightly wound, and probably never smiling even once. Bonus: I am even more adept at food and wine pairings now.

7. Saving The Best For Last: Today, Rick started back to work. In a rare and truly wonderful twist of Fate, he is working at the company where he was previous to the one that fired him. He left there on good terms; his boss knew that Rick had been given an opportunity which, at the time, was one he couldn't pass up. He's been welcomed back with such warmth and good cheer that it's overwhelming.

And now, I am done sharing all that Unpleasantness. Certainly--and I know this for a fact--we are not the only ones to have had this hardship, and we are in much better shape than so very many people who have been--and are still going--through it. I am grateful for our resources and know how fortunate we are.

I do think, however, that it's Important in this Age Of InstaPinFace to put some Real Life out there once in a while. My December wasn't picture perfect with each day bringing its own little Christmas Miracle. Some days were good, some...not so much. Some days I had to Just Let Go and hope things would get Better. As many of you know, that's a tough one for me.

But here I am.  And On We Go.

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