Thursday, September 05, 2019

It's A Peanut Butter Thing

I grabbed my huge water tumbler just now and there was peanut butter on it. Not a lot, but enough to make me roll my eyes, sigh, and not feel the least bit amused by it. It's ridiculous how often I find small dabs or smears of peanut butter in the most out of the way places. And lest you think I'm babysitting a toddler, let me assure you that I'm not. And for those of you who are settling in for a husband rant, you're going to be disappointed.

It's me; I'm the Typhoid Mary Of Peanut Butter.

Honestly, it's embarrassing. That stuff gets all over me whenever I'm near it. It doesn't help that I'm into the peanut butter every single day, sometimes twice.

During the summer Rick eats the very same lunch every single day, a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. He simply cannot face anything else, especially in the heat when he's out in the field. So, every night, I make him his Smucker's and Extra Crunchy Jif on wheat bread sandwich. As you can imagine, we buy a lot of peanut butter, so I get the enormous three pound jars, which are about eight inches tall, at the warehouse store. Once the level of peanut butter goes down in those jars, it's tough to maneuver the knife in there, especially in Extra Crunchy. Why don't the Jif, Peter Pan, and Skippy people put peanut butter in wide-mouth, squatty jars? Life would be so much easier! (And can we do something about that paper disk on the top that never, ever comes off cleanly and efficiently and that I have to wrestle with, resisting the urge to use my teeth? That would be terrific, too.)

As a child I had not much use for peanut butter. Now I am suddenly attracted to it like chocolate. A tart apple with peanut butter is my favourite lunch. Sometimes, I just eat a spoonful of peanut butter for lunch. Other hungrier times, a slice of toast with peanut butter and cheese.

Later, I find peanutty smears on my wrist, keyboard, phone, or nose. They could be on my sleeve, glasses, or refrigerator water dispenser.

It's...nuts.

I'm not a messy eater, and this doesn't happen to me with other spreads like butter or mayonnaise or even the strawberry jam. During my Nutella phase aeons ago, it wasn't a problem. And when I occasionally binge on (please don't judge me) marshmallow fluff, I don't mark a trail with it, either.

No, my dear friends, it's A Peanut Butter Thing. Is it just me? And if it is, any idea how I can clean up my act?


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Thursday, August 22, 2019

And They Said It Wouldn't Last--The Dept. Of Nance Is Fourteen!

It was with some Wonder and Astonishment that I realized the Dept. of Nance is Fourteen this August 2019. This will be my 795th post here, and I have to admit that I haven't an inkling as to what I'm going to write. After fourteen years of this, I sometimes feel like all the Good Stuff has been taken, you know? I've written about so many things--The Politics, two sets of cats (and their maddening hair), my teaching days, my long-suffering husband Rick, my martini-drinking days, and my two sons who are now men--that I marvel at how I can find anything at all to write about anymore.

This blog was originally started to fend off any feelings of Hypocrisy. I was forever telling my Creative Writing students that writers write, period. They write as a matter of course. I wanted to practice what I preached, so I started this site and began writing, at first every day or every other day. Then I became gentler with myself, allowed myself more leeway. (The Universe, as you all know, makes other plans for us every now and then.) But through it all, I did keep writing here.

Blogging in general hit a peak for a time, and some bloggers got famous, got book deals, and some monetized their blogs--kind of like how YouTube is now, but on a smaller scale. It seemed like everyone was into SEO and Personal Branding and Hits and Niche Blogging and yada yada yada. I simply didn't want to get that worky; I already had my career. And once I retired, I didn't want another one. My blog was supposed to be my pleasure. (And, hopefully, part of someone else's.)

So, I still have an old fashioned blog where I unwind for a bit in the old style way: I write deliberately and at length about something I want to share with others; I hope it sparks some discussion; I respond to your comments directly so that it's a back-and-forth chat that includes everyone. I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Thanks to all of you who join me here. I do sincerely love having you. And, just in case I've left any stones unturned in fourteen years, here are

14 Random Things About Me

1. I like ketchup on macaroni and cheese.
2. I own seven pairs of prescription glasses (and two of prescription sunglasses).
3. I don't wear any jewelry, including my wedding band.
4. My favourite music will always be The Beatles.
5. I might like salsa if it were served warm.
6. Country music irritates the hell out of me.
7. I'm not eating guacamole often enough to suit me.
8. I don't get the allure of Twizzlers. Or Skittles.
9. I buy dog biscuits for other people's dogs.
10. I'm a firm believer in naming pets with people names.
11. Wearing peach or yellow makes my skin look green.
12. I think the acting in most old movies is horrendous.
13. I love taking the dumb quizzes on Buzzfeed.com.
14. If I lived on Pleasant Street and it wasn't pleasant, I'd start a petition drive to rename the street.

Again, thank you for reading. And for commenting. It's been a terrific Fourteen Years. Let's go for more! Share some thoughts and your own Random Things in Comments.

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

I'm In A Mood: The Good, The Bad, And The Blues

Today finds me restless and a little bit fussy. I might have to go to Target just to feel smug about all the Back-to-School stuff on display.

But then I'd see all the Halloween candy and Christmas decorations and get snarky and irritated, so forget it.

Here are

Some Things I'm Cranky About

1. I'm sick of air conditioning.
2. I'm tired of figuring out dinner.
3. Cat Hair--holy effing crap.
4. No good tomatoes anyplace.
5. republicans.

You all get it, right? This summer has been a nightmare of heat and humidity, and while we're all Thankful for our AC, what wouldn't we give to shut it off and have open windows? For once? It's a goddam Hostage Crisis here at the Dept. My brain is like oatmeal from being entombed in here--cat hair covered oatmeal. Thanks to Number 5, my complaints are ridiculous, I know.

Yet, there is Gladness, too. Here are

Some Things I'm Happy About

1. I'm growing lovely basil in the herb garden.
2. We had a terrific trip up to Niagara-on-the-Lake last month.
3. Our wine cellar is restocked (and then some).
4. I'm reading like a maniac.
5. And doing crosswords in ink.

Last summer, my herb garden suffered from whitefly and some mystery ailment that spotted the basil leaves and left holes all over them. This year, better plants and the high heat/humidity are a boon to my pesto production. For those of you interested in the book "Before We Were Yours", I enjoyed it a great deal. It's a novel based upon true events. I disliked the alternating narrators/time frames construct, but it built suspense (there is a bit of the mystery element in here, too). I do recommend it. (As I do the wine from the Niagara-on-the-Lake and Twenty Valley/Bench regions.)

Oh, I would be remiss if I did not mention

This Thing I'm Sad About

Toni Morrison, who was born and raised in the same town I was, died this week. To say she was a brilliant writer is to damn with faint praise. I was lucky enough to meet her many, many years ago when I was a student teacher. She came to her alma mater, Lorain High School, for a special assembly, and thoughtful people there arranged for me to say hello. I remain in awe of her talent and her knowledge of writing. She was a writer's writer; her books are art. They make her immortal.

Now you...
Is summertime losing its charm for you? Share some Goods, Bads, and Blues of your own. Or, as always, just chat about these in Comments.


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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Today's Special: Nance--A Last Gasp Quickie July Post


Hey, July! You're not going to sneak away before I get one last quickie blogpost out there. But I'm tired and I have a little case of PVC (Post Vacation Crabby), so don't expect Profound Genius. Light, simple, and easy are my guideposts of the day.

As a matter of fact, I'm stealing this idea from Pretty Much Everyone. It's an Age Old Blog Meme.

Today, Nance Is

Wearing: Shorts and a breezy, gauzy tunic bought at H&M about twelve years ago. I keep clothes forever. It still looks great; two women at the grocery store complimented me on it this morning. Naturally, my Bobs shoes and my glasses matched my outfit perfectly. Some things I cannot give up.

Reading: The fact that I am able to answer this is still a source of Such Profound Joy to me! I just finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and am about 50 pages into Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Undoubtedly, all of you have already read these, but that's the great thing about books--they wait for you!

Working On: In the knitting realm, I am knitting a pair of boy and girl teddy bear handpuppets. I am also continuing work on a shawl for myself. In the more cerebral realm, I am always at work maintaining my Zen.

Hearing: Unfortunately, the air conditioner, still. While I am terribly grateful for it, I am tired of it. If it is on, it means it is too hot to be outdoors for very long, which makes me resentful. I also hear the absurdly loud clock in my office, the tick-tocking of which is laughably cliche enough to be a sound effect.

Making For Dinner: An enormous salad, to which will be added the strip steak marinating merrily away in its bath of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh garlic, and spices. Rick and I will share the glass and a half of red left in the bottle from the other night while we prep and grill, then open a fresh one with dinner.

Thinking About: How when I was a little girl, I had only a couple of dreams. I wanted to be a teacher and get married and have two children. I did realize my dreams; they both came true. As I got older, my dreams changed, of course. But being a pragmatic person, I didn't really do a lot of Big Dreaming. But I know the little girl I was would be astonished at where she ended up today.

Planning: Very little. It's Summertime.


Share your Today or just Chat about mine with us in Comments.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

I'm So Happy That My Phone Has A Camera And Here Are Some Pictures To Prove It

Sometimes, I think back to The Olden Times when things were Very Sad, like when my cell phone did not have a camera I could use easily. Now, I can snap pictures of tremendous Things, share them, and then delete them once they have served their purpose, like becoming Blog Material. A collateral benefit is that others take pictures for me and send them to me, too.

Isn't Life great? I'm glad The Olden Times are gone.


We are so Advanced now that some Beings no longer use words. It's true! Witness this ad, which has run for a few days now in the Rentals section of my Cleveland Plain Dealer:


I feel like I'm getting some of it: grand staircase; cable tv; party room downstairs; no phone or casual hookups; outdoor pool; references available upon request. The rest is self explanatory. If you can handle complex communication and don't have a pet, the rent seems pretty reasonable.


I, however, will be staying in my neighborhood, especially after what I saw in this next photo. The joy (and relief) I felt on my walk when I saw this sign just around the corner from my home was immeasurable.


Until I went to edit this photo, I didn't notice the rays of light shining down upon it from The Heavens Above. It's awfully comforting to know that The Universe is rooting for The Rest Of Us in 2020, too.


This last photo was sent to me by my dear friend Jeanine, who keeps a sharp eye out for such things with me in mind. This sign made my day; it is magnificent in its oddness and bossiness. I have never, ever seen anything like it. It defies explanation and logic in every way. I love it.


This sign mystifies me, and I am not over it. I struggle mightily to figure out exactly how driving at a regular speed or even zippily will affect a grieving family. Wouldn't it make more sense (but still be a ridiculous imposition, really) for the sign to read QUIET: DEATH IN FAMILY: THANK YOU? How slowly must the drivers pass by? Can they drive r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y but blast "Old Town Road" or "Sucker" with their windows open? Perhaps it would be better for drivers to stop altogether and observe a moment of silence for this dead person, whom they do not even know, in a family they do not even know, who are, right now, attempting to BOSS THEM AROUND IN THEIR PERSONAL CAR ON A PUBLIC ROAD

Isn't it just The Best? I told you I'm not over it. This will take some time. I'll get back to you.

In the meantime, why not chat about these pix in Comments?

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Finally, The Summer Of Nance

Seventeen years ago Rick had his first back surgery. That summer, the boys were teenagers, seventeen and fourteen. They were a big help to me while their dad had to lie and sit, not bending or twisting or lifting. He spent a lot of that summer lying on a chaise out by the fishpond or lying in his recliner whilst we did pretty much everything under his careful observation and, when it came to the yardwork, his gentle specifications. Most of the time, however, we teased him about lolling around and goofing off. And we dubbed that summer The Summer Of Rick. It was All About Him, for we had to pick up his slack and haul around his chaise. And we babied him a lot.

"Next year look out," I warned him. "Next year is The Summer Of Nance." I wanted my payback, my chance to lie about and enjoy a sultan-like existence. I don't need to tell you how Life had other plans, year after year, and I kept waiting and waiting for The Summer Of Nance.

This past winter Rick had another back surgery. Dear friends moved out of state. My mother was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and needed more help. In May I suddenly turned sixty years old. Life seemed very...big.

And then I realized, with the help of a very wise friend, that if I was going to have The Summer Of Nance, I was going to have to simply make it happen, that it was a matter of Perspective, and that it started with me, internally. I had to choose to have an Independence Day, and celebrate from there.

Sixty was my Pivot Point, my Liberation Day. I thought about how long I had lived with the shadowy presences of Guilt, Should, and Worry clouding my days. I took a hard look at how often I lived in two days I could do nothing about, Yesterday and Tomorrow. I analyzed all the stupid rules I made for myself about how I spent my time and conducted my life, and I looked carefully at just where they came from. And I wondered why I was so kind and forgiving and thoughtful to everyone except myself.

I decided that, at Sixty, it was about time Those Days Were Over. The only thing preventing me from having The Summer Of Nance was...Me. Me and the consistently bad (but well-meaning) choices I made.

I think as a woman, a mother, and a teacher, I was in a particulary vulnerable role, susceptible to the kind of mindset I was in for so long. I was the director, the planner, the nurturer, the command center, the fixer, the rule giver. And that's just the Adult Me. Habits formed in those roles are hard to break.

The benefits of Reclaiming Me have been many. I'm reading books again, and that is a profound Joy. My migraines are lessening, and my days are busy and happy. I don't think about Tomorrow or dwell upon Yesterday; I'm very content in Today. Guilt is almost completely gone, and I rarely use the word Should.

I sometimes mourn--briefly--the time I lost being so stressed and unhappy. But I know there were many Happinesses tucked away in there, and I know that I always did the very best that I could.

When I was about fourteen, I went to the doctor because I couldn't take deep breaths. I was simply unable to. The doctor, an elderly man who practiced family medicine in a pragmatic way, checked me over and listened to my chest with his stethoscope. He thumped my back a few times and pronounced me perfectly healthy. Nothing changed, really, for the remainder of my life. It was only a few months ago that I realized that I was finally able to breathe--deeply and fully--whenever I wanted to. Can you imagine?

So, this is The Summer Of Nance. I wish with all my heart that it is Your Summer, too.


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Friday, June 28, 2019

Fruit For Thought


About a hundred years ago when I was in third grade, we used to get The Weekly Reader, a little kid newspaper that we read as a class. Each issue had a Central Idea, and it came jam-packed with all sorts of articles, activities, and corny jokes to keep eight year-olds occupied and enriched.

I don't remember the Central Idea of this particular issue, but I do remember a statement it made that bothered me so much it has stuck with me for lo these 52 years. The article posited that in the very near future, oranges would cease to exist and science would provide us with juice filled disks that tasted like oranges.

Again, I have no context for this dire (and obviously now false) prediction, but I recall feeling very upset and uncomfortable. I liked oranges, and they held a real familial connection for me. My grandparents wintered in Florida every year. If my parents went down, they would bring home oranges that they picked themselves. One of my grandpa's good friends, Jeptha, worked at an orange grove. What would he do? As was always my way back then, I didn't share that story or my worries with anyone. I sat with that concern myself for a long time, thinking and wondering and probably losing sleep over it. I probably stopped eating oranges for a long time, hoping it would help save them--stretch them out and make them last, maybe.

The good news is that my efforts worked! We still have oranges today, in spite of climate change and whatever threatens the citrus crops seemingly every year.

This got me thinking lately: what fruit, if it suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth, would I generally Be Okay with? I'm not talking about fruits that I don't eat anyway, like dragonfruit and kumquats and durian. I'm talking about everyday fruits that I eat or cook with. Here's my list of

Three Fruits I'm Willing To See Disappear

1. Blueberries
2. Oranges
3. Watermelon

Obviously, I'm going to talk about this list.

1. Blueberries, however healthy they may be, simply do not do it for me. They taste like an old root cellar smells. And heaven forbid you get a mushy one--ugh. They're cute and readily available, but as far as I'm concerned, they can go anytime.

2. I. KNOW! I worried myself sick over Oranges leaving, and now I'm cavalierly bidding them farewell. But, honestly, I don't eat them all that often and I have never been an Orange Juice Drinker. How anyone can drink it in the morning is beyond me. Perhaps my Early Trauma waved me off Oranges so successfully that it ruined my enjoyment of them. Who knows?

3. I can just hear all of you wailing and gnashing your teeth over my banishment of this summertime crowd pleaser, but Watermelon bores me silly. It's also not worth all the effort, much like crab legs. It's a bitch to heft around, store, and butcher. It's messy as hell to eat. And unless you get a seedless one (and sacrifice flavour), you have the annoying seeds to contend with. Forget it. Good riddance.

What fruits are you willing to say sayonara to? And no fair using technicalities to offload your Tomato, Olive, or Cucumber bugaboo.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Last Of The Wise Words And Helpfulness From The Dept. Of Nance

This week we toss in a little bit of everything, from Parenting to Getting Stuff Done to Whatever Lies Between. A few of you decided to share meaningful sayings in Comments last week, so our series will end here. Did lives change immeasurably from our exchange? I'm betting No, but I never made the claim that they would. Instead, we had a chance to share What Works For Us in hopes that we'd lend a little glimmer of light along the way of someone else's pathway in Life.

Let's get started, shall we?

Reader Denise Fortney, in an effort to teach her children personal responsibility, used to tell them, "If you're going to be dumb, you'd better be tough." The longer version, she said, was, "If you're dumb enough to do it, you better be tough enough to handle the consequences." I think this applies to Life in general, where personal responsibility seems to be sadly lacking. The twenty-four hour news cycle is full of people making stupid decisions, stupid statements, or performing stupid stunts but not taking ownership of them. Or acting surprised when they are confronted with their actions. Good heavens! There are cameras and recorders everywhere. And would people everywhere learn how to simply say, "I'm sorry" and then shut the hell up? Too many apologies aren't.

Bridget, from The Ravell'd Sleave, finds this traditional saying to be very true: If you want something done, ask a busy person; the other has no time. I really get this. When I was working, I did so much stuff! I look back on it now, and I marvel at the Superwoman that I was. There were days when I fed the boys, took them to the sitter, went to school for an early meeting, taught all day (grading papers and creating exams in between classes), picked them up, did the grocery shopping, went home and put it all away, made dinner, bathed kids, graded more papers, then finally went to bed. These days as a retired person, I fritter away so much time and feel incredibly imposed upon if I have to do anything out of my usual little routine. The day I had to go get my oil change almost killed me. When I'm busy, I feel like I'm in Go Mode--I do a ton of stuff. But when I have only one thing to do, I will put That Thing off until I absolutely have to do it.

NCmountainwoman at Mountain Musings shared this as a favourite, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but if one of us is going to be angry, then it might as well be you.” I have to admit that I'm not too sure about this quote, and that either I need some context or I'm just not understanding it very well. I tried to imagine myself saying it to my husband in a discussion or argument under some circumstances such as me confronting him about his habit of leaving piles of mail all over, or the unfinished basement tile project. But I just can't imagine saying it...to anyone. I'm sure I'm just misunderstanding the saying, and I know all of you will remove my blindspot in Comments.

Finally, I wanted to share with you a very practical piece of advice that made a huge impact on my life, both professionally and personally. It's a small thing, really, but the difference it made has been incredible. First, a little backstory:

I grew up in a family of six in a tiny bungalow. We had one bathroom with only a tub. We had two bedrooms for four kids; we three girls shared an attic room. My father never did a bit of housework, ever. My mother did just enough, but laundry alone (and we had a wringer washer for ages) took forever. As a result, things were clean, but not always tidy. We were crowded, and if each of us left one thing out of place, it looked messy.

As a teacher, I quickly learned that Organization is your Best Friend. I put into place so many failsafe systems for grading, recording grades, filing, and make-up work that my students were awed. They could never claim that I lost a paper, forgot to enter a grade, or never got a make-up assignment. The System Never Failed. Ever. Other teachers got sick of hearing about how they "should ask Mrs. D. about her system."

I heard the advice on some local chat show. No idea who it was or why she was offering it, but as soon as I heard it, I knew it was great advice for me. She said, "Touch something only once and act on it immediately." She went on to explain what she meant, but I only half heard the rest. I already knew what she meant and that it was easy to do. Stop piling mail on the counter to look at later--toss the junk and put the bills in the bill folder NOW. Don't drop your clothes on the chair--hang them up or put them in the hamper NOW. Don't leave the clean crockpot sitting on the counter--put it away NOW. Don't let the clean clothes languish in the clothes basket--Put them away NOW. Don't wait to fill out that form--fill it out and put it in the mail NOW.

I think you get the idea.

That piece of advice is now so ingrained in me that it's involuntary, instinctive--I do things immediately as a matter of course. Even when I absolutely do not feel like it, and it's then when I realize how little time those things actually take. The serenity of having fewer loose ends and an always tidy environment is my reward, and for me, so worth it.

I do hope you've enjoyed this Series of Wonderful Wisdom from our mutual friends here at the Dept. of Nance. And, as usual, we all look forward to your discussion in Comments.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

More Free Wisdom And Helpfulness From My Readers: Part Two, The Things Others Told Us


This week we leave the homey atmosphere of the kitchen and its focus on cooking and head into perhaps the living room or coffee shop booth or office where we listen to some advice from a mentor or friend. We've all had those moments in our lives when, whether we've sought it or not, someone has told us something we needed to hear. That bit of wisdom arrived at just the right time, and we squirreled it away in our toolbox of Life Skills, taking it out as needed to hammer into shape some stubborn part of this project we call Living.

For Julie from Thinking About, it was her boss. He once told her, "You should celebrate everything that you can and want to because Life is hard enough; you might as well have some fun." She especially took this to heart when she found herself unemployed ten years ago. Julie says, "I looked for work, and tried not to worry about money, but I limited the time I was willing to spend looking for work. An hour or two a day, max. My theory was, there is a lot of bad that goes with being unemployed, the main ones being the money, the ego hit one takes, and the uncertainty of not knowing WHEN another job will come along. One should try to find the up side as well. So I took a lot of naps, walked the dog, went to matinees, borrowed books and movies from the library, had lunch with friends, and went swimming." Julie also celebrates lots of holidays, Canadian and American Thanksgiving, and anything else that sounds interesting.

I like this philosophy, which I read ages ago on her blog and took to heart immediately. It reminds me of how Rick and I don't keep track of the price of each bottle of wine in our cellar, nor do we believe in "saving" wine, per se. If we are together, that's occasion enough for a good bottle of wine. It also reminds me of my Creative Writing class. Every time my students finished reading a poem aloud in class, we all clapped enthusiastically, no matter what. I believe in a Lot Of Clapping, even now, for people in general. If I would not be looked upon as an Insane Person, I would clap for my cashiers. Seriously.

Ortizzle's wisdom arrived rather cataclysmically, during a breakup with her first serious boyfriend. His parting shot was cruel and ugly, but it stuck with her in a backhandedly beneficial way. Those words were "You should learn to keep your mouth shut." Many, many years later, she says, "I still haven't mastered it, but I am definitely a lot better than I was. My life-long instinct has always been to react verbally to nearly everything, and it has been a long, slow process of knowing when a few words will help and when they will hinder or make a situation worse, however much I feel they should be spoken."

Sigh. I learned this way way late in life. And like Ortizzle, I am still working to fight that instinct to weigh in, say what I know, correct some error, or generally blab. I recite Silencing Quotes to myself all the time: Discretion is the better part of valor. Less is More. Or, I'm reminded of Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird, “It's not necessary to tell all you know. It's not ladylike- in the second place, folks don't like to have somebody around knowin' more than they do.”

Ah, To Kill a Mockingbird! That leads me to Reader Jennifer D., whose advice came to her from that book, from dear Atticus Finch. Jennifer D. wrote that she sometimes has "a tendency to get anxious about things and my mind gets carried away with the what ifs. In those moments it is helpful to me to remember the words of Atticus...when he tells his children, 'It's not time to worry yet.' It snaps me back to current concerns."

Longtime Readers here at The Dept. know of my profound love for TKAM. So much wisdom is contained in that novel. I learned a great deal about parenting from that book, from Atticus, and that it gives someone guidance and comfort in other ways does not surprise me in the least. "It's not time to worry yet" is something I often said to my children even as I masked my own anxiety and concern.  Perhaps this summer I'll read it again, despite the fact that I know whole chapters practically by heart.

I have one more post of this series to share. If you'd like to contribute, it's not too late. Email me: deptofnanceATyahooDOTcom. Have any of these Wise Words struck you? Chat with me in Comments.


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Thursday, June 06, 2019

Free Wisdom And Helpfulness From The Wonderful Readers Of The Department Of Nance: Part One, The Kitchen

Gosh, I do hope you all managed to Live Your Lives without helpful Sentences to assist you and make you Change Powerfully For The Better while I have been off wringing out my skin and trying to keep mushrooms from sprouting in all the rooms in my house. If one of you is somehow In Charge Of Rain in NEO, please do STOP ALL OF IT. AT ONCE.

I am forced to bake something just to keep dampness at bay because it is 65 degrees inside and outside, and I refuse to put on my furnace in June.

But I have decided that THIS WEATHER WILL NOT BREAK ME, so let's get to some of the Helpful Things you all have passed along to assist us in our daily lives. I'm going to spread them out over a couple of posts so that we have the luxury of discussing them.

Here's one from Kathy B., who credits a friend for this saying I really love and plan to use myself. Kathy says she was "fretting over hosting Thanksgiving for a vegan, a dairyfree teen, a cardiac rehab uncle and five little kids who only wanted mac and cheese." First of all, kudos to her for hosting Thanksgiving for anyone besides her immediate family. I cook only for my sons and my husband and the occasional girlfriend who may be in the picture. Thanksgiving dinner is fraught with tradition and fussiness. And an abundance of side dishes. And now poor Kathy has Special Dietary Considerations and Picky Kids. Her friend told her this:
It's nobody's last meal. 
 How great is that? It's a terrific reminder when you're stressed out about cooking for other people; besides, chances are that they're not there for the food anyway.  They are there for the companionship and fun. (And some actual Last Meals aren't all that impressive, either; here's a list.)

Speaking of cooking, here are a few practical tips from Ortizzle, who shared:
*There is no solution for too much salt. Start over.
*Fried food is perfectly cooked when it floats.
*Recipes were meant to be altered.

I like practical kitchen tips, like put sour cream in a plastic bag and cut the corner off to make it easier to apply to tacos; or thaw meat on an aluminum pan because it's faster; or get rid of onion and garlic smells on hands by rubbing them on the stainless steel sink because they're just that, practical. All of us who cook and bake have tweaked recipes--many times due to necessity--and created things we like better than the original. (And if you've ever read the comments section of any recipe, almost no one makes anything as written, ever.)

Whenever I think of advice about cooking, my father instantly comes to mind. I don't know how my mother kept her temper in check and didn't throw something at him every time he walked into the kitchen. He absolutely did not cook, did not help with prep, and never did the dishes. (We kids all chipped in and bought us them their first dishwasher.) My father was, however, a fount of advice whenever in the kitchen while my mother was cooking. Here are his three favourites:

1. That flame is too high.
2. Make sure you washed your hands.
3. Add more of those tomatoes.

Now that I've typed those, I have to laugh. I say those things all the time myself. But they aren't the only things I say, and of course, I do everything in my kitchen. So does Rick, except for much cooking.  I hate cooking without him.  He cleans as I go and does a ton of prep.

If you have some great cooking, kitchen, or entertaining wisdom, do share it in Comments.  Or certainly chime in with comments about what's been shared here.  I'll be back again with more Wisdom From My Readers about all kinds of things.


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Monday, May 20, 2019

Change Your Life: Fifth In A Series--I Tell You Where To Go And Ask You For Some Help

Before I try to change all of your lives with this week's Sentence, I want to ask you to help me with next week's post. We've reached the halfway mark with today's offering, so I'm ready to take a break or even call it quits and instead showcase some Honest-To-Goodness helpful sentences, sayings, tips, or tricks that have actually improved all of your lives in an authentic way. These helpers can be practical or philosophical, and they can be from any arena of life you choose:  cooking, driving, crafting, relationships, grief, whatever. All I ask is that you do NOT leave them in comments. Instead, please send them to me via email: deptofnanceATyahooDOTcom. I promise to corral all of them and put them in a post and share them with everyone, hoping that each reader will find some Sparkle Of Wonderfulness to make his or her life better in some way.

Again, no contributions via Comments. Email me your Helpful Wisdom, and I'll share all of them in a post next week. Okay, onward.

This week's Life-Changing Sentence is not the worst thing ever. I can actually see some people finding it to be a worthy philosophy, repeating it sagely to others, especially to adolescents in search of popularity.

Here is Life-Changing Sentence Number Five:

Go where you're celebrated, not where you're tolerated.

This Sentence reminds me of Rev. Jesse Jackson's or Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran's rhetorical style--it's punchy and because it rhymes, it's memorable. (Can't you picture both of them saying this? I can.)

Its source is a motivational speaker and life coach, and the actual quote is "Go where you are celebrated, not merely tolerated", which makes a little more sense, but the sentiment is still implied in the above Sentence.

The philosophy here is good--to a point. It makes a lot of sense to avoid people who, quite simply, don't want you hanging around with them. As I said above, it's a valuable piece of wisdom to give to middle-schoolers who are desperate to break into the It Clique or sit at the Cool Table for lunch. They might endure some miserable conditions in order to do so.  Kids can be cruel and cutting.  Heaven only knows how this all translates to the various social media platforms. I am daily grateful that I raised my sons well before InstaTwitFace and WhatSnap.

As adults--and I know for sure I qualify since I turned (gasp!) sixty earlier this month--we instinctively know this already, but...do we, really? Again, social media and the internet at large have probably not brought out the best in lots of grownups. But overall, we do tend to go where we are wanted and where people are glad to see us. It's behavioral science at its core--the stimulus and response of operant conditioning.  We love a big greeting, a warm smile, a happy hello. Humans generally want to feel wanted.

As adults, however, we also know that there are times when we have to go where we are "merely tolerated." Sometimes we're caught in a less than desirable work situation where a coworker makes our lives miserable, but go we must. Still other times we have to go to a gathering of our spouse's family, perhaps, where our reception is a bit frosty. I'm sure you can think of lots of examples where we have to put in an appearance and Be Tolerated because it is The Right Thing To Do, our comfort to the contrary.

But by all means, yes, if you find yourself saying about Book Club, perhaps, "Hey! Why do I keep subjecting myself to These People?" and there is no Good Reason, jump that ship and don't even wave goodbye. Then Celebrate Yourself and your Freedom. You've made some space in your life for something better.

Here then is Sentence #5 one more time: Go where you are celebrated, not where you are merely tolerated. Did it "give you the power to go on" and "change your life for the better"?

And don't forget to send me your Tips, Tricks, or Words To Live By for an easier or better life to deptofnanceATyahooDOTcom to be included in next week's post. (And not in Comments.)  Thanks.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Change Your Life: Fourth In A Series--So Many Words, So Little Sense


Whereas last week's Sentence That Will Change Your Life was more than a Sentence, this week's isn't even a Sentence. It's a Noun, really, modified by a bunch of phrases and clauses, and taken as a whole, it is so muddly and so derivative of other Life-Improving Exhortations that it seems Sad.

Here it is, in all its wordy glory, Life-Changing Sentence Number Four:

The most dangerous risk of all – The risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.

And yes, it doth pain me much to put a period at the end of it.

Okay, first of all, let me tell you that I sourced this quote and found that it was said/written by a venture capitalist, which speaks volumes, I think, about two words used in the "Sentence" (spending, buying). It's easy to be glib about Following Your Dream when you have big bucks and investors to do so. Also ironic is that venture capitalists sometimes use their cash to buy up other people's failed dreams at a reduced price. Just saying.

Anyway, this Life-Changing Word Group isn't saying anything new. Lots of other people have said it, and far better. How about Nike? "Just Do It." What about "There's No Time Like The Present"? "He Who Hesitates Is Lost"? "Someday Is Not A Day Of The Week"? "If You Do What You Love, You'll Never Work A Day In Your Life"? All of these are just as valuable, yet just as open to criticism as Word Group Number Four.

We all can see the pitfalls of Word Group Four, right? What if Some Guy really wants to be a rap singer rather than a mechanic? What if Some Woman really wants to be a clothing designer instead of a department manager? Oh hey! Word Group Four says, Go do that thing right now! Don't wait until you've set aside some cash, paid your dues, or even looked into your chances of success. Not fulfilling YOUR dream is Dangerous! It Is All About YOU. No risk, no reward!

Piffle. And might I add, I did what I loved for 30+ years, and I worked every single day. Every Day. Some Days felt like entire Weeks. So baloney to all of that bullshit. Everybody--stick out your tongues and blow the raspberries to that kind of crap. Go!

Thank you. I feel better.

Here's the thing: I can definitely get on board with some kernel of Word Group Four. In the interest of Self-Care and Enjoying Life and Seizing The Day (and there's yet another nice, neat way of expressing the idea in Word Group Four), I think more people, Women especially, should look into making some Dreams and Desires reality. At the very least, we should recognize that if we don't go out and make things happen on our behalf, they simply won't. But it's not a matter for words like Danger and Risk.

Here is "Sentence" #4 again: The most dangerous risk of all – The risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later

Have you found, thanks to its Wisdom, "the power to go on" since it changed "your life for the better"? Chat it up in Comments.







Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Change Your Life: Third In A Series--If At First You Don't Succeed, Build, Build, Build


I'm not even going to pretend that this week's Sentence has the potential to Change Your Life. It's so shopworn, so banal, so BeenThereDoneThat as to have formed the basis of innumerable Talks and Lectures given to not only Me, but my three siblings hundreds and hundreds of times Way Back When. The speaker was my father, to whom Character Building was not only the World's Noblest Pursuit, it was also the one in which we should become the most proficient. By the time I was about fourteen, there was nothing I hated more than Character Building, unless it was perhaps Building Character.

Here is Life-Changing Sentence Number Three (as I suffer a few shuddery flashbacks):

You learn more from failure than from success; don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.

Okay, first of all, it's not A sentence; it's two. And it's way too long and wordy to be truly successful as a life-changing mantra or a motto. It's like they crammed three separate ideas into one:

You learn more from failure than from success!
Don't let failure stop you! (And isn't this implied in the first saying?)
Failure builds character!

(I added all those exclamation marks to keep myself from falling asleep.)

By now I want to remind a lot of people that, whilst many do, in fact, learn from Failure, a huge percentage of people do not. They go on to repeat the same mistakes, hoping for a different outcome and creating collateral damage along the way. The jails are full of Failing People, the schools are full of Failing People, the court system is full of Failing People, the republican party is full of Failing People, and hell--my grocery store was full of Failing People today who continued to leave their carts in the middle of the aisle whilst they wandered all around and gathered their items. I push their carts along, adding a few things I want them to have when they're not looking. Do they learn? No.

It is also clear to see that the Failure of the republican party to keep their majority in the House of Representatives taught them nothing at all. Nor did it seem to build any Character.

Aside from the nitpicky or the obvious, this Sentence is okay at best. Lots of valuable information can be learned from Failures IF you choose to analyze your mistakes, own them, and correct them. And you can Build Character by being humble and learning where your weaknesses are and, if necessary, asking for help. But while this Sentence is generic and general, it's also potentially plain wrong.

I learned a lot from my Successes in several arenas such as teaching, writing, parenting. In some cases, I learned more from Successes than Failures. Not everyone has to fail in order to learn a great deal or a powerful lesson. Many times I found that piling up Successes taught my students more and was more helpful for them personally and emotionally. (That, my friends, helps Build Character!)

I learned an endless amount about Life And Other Things from my father. I still call up his wisdom to this day. Things he told me for the forty-one years I had with him occur to me far more often than I could ever have imagined. But after many of his lectures about Character or Character-Building, all I ever felt was exhausted and angry.

Here's the thing: sometimes, Failure should stop you. If you aren't good at something and it makes you miserable, stop it immediately. Go do Something Else. And not everything can be about Building Character. Sometimes lousy stuff is just Stuff You Have To Get Through and your Character is already fine with or without it. Not everything has to mean something.  Nor will it.

I think I would have felt way better if I had been told that and been given a big hug.

So here is "Sentence" #3 again: You learn more from failure than from success; don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.

Did this "give you the power to go on" or "change your life for the better" as the article promised? Let's talk about it in Comments.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Change Your Life: Second In A Series--Because It's There

As dejected as we all are by our lives remaining Unchanged from last week's first Sentence that was supposed to Change Our Lives For The Better, here I am with Sentence #2. Do get strapped in, put down your beverage lest any harm come to your Electronic Device, and let's prepare for Metamorphosis.

One never knows, does one? And at least we can chat about the Sentence should our Lives stubbornly remain the same.

Here is Life-Changing Sentence Number Two:

Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.

Sigh. I really hate these Poster-Worthy, precious little metaphors. But that's probably just me. You go ahead and take a moment to reread it, and then we'll apply our test.

Okay.

Firstly, is your Life Changed? Mine is decidedly not. Did this Sentence give you an Aha Moment? Me...no it did not. As I said, I became unreasonably annoyed by the metaphor for some reason, even though it is perfectly acceptable, but I guess I'm just being a snot.

Overall, the Sentence provides some valuable advice. You should, in Life, strive to accomplish some difficult things, reach some important goals, broaden your perspectives in order to build your own character and satisfy your inner self, not to gain attention or extrinsic rewards. And by doing so, you will (hopefully) have a wiser, more mature view of the world around you.

I prefer poet Pablo Neruda's quote, "You have to climb the mountain in order to see the view." Not only is it simpler, but it has a clearer message: don't expect a reward without putting in the work.

(Wise, but alas! still not Life-Changing. We all learned this stuff years ago. Even the colonists of Jamestown had a No Work, No Food law.)

We've discussed the self-obsessed nature of people due in part to technology and social media. We agree that the world is a much smaller place now, thanks to both. We can both see the world and be seen by the world now, thanks to the internet. Sadly, so many people forget how big their audience is and how widespread their impact is.

Every day, men and women--children, too--climb their own mountains. They're not doing it for attention, either. They're not doing it to build character or even to figure out more about how the world works. They're merely living their lives despite whatever obstacles block their paths: chronic illness, discrimination, hunger, poverty, disability, guilt, or loneliness.

So, here it is again, our Sentence To Change Our Lives For The Better: Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.

Did this sentence, as the article promised, "give you the power to go on"...and "change your life for the better"? Let's talk about it in Comments.


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Monday, April 15, 2019

Change Your Life: First In A Series, A Public Service Brought To You By The Dept. Of Nance

About a hundred years ago I found an audaciously titled article online that I read immediately, despite the fact it was so obviously clickbait that I felt outraged and insulted. It was right up there with the headlines that used to scream out from that grocery store tabloid The Weekly World News, which used to print things on its front page like HOW TO TELL IF YOUR DOG WORSHIPS SATAN and BIGFOOT KEPT LUMBERJACK AS LOVE SLAVE.

Those are real headlines, by the way.

But I digress.

This article promised that within its contents were 10 Sentences That Could Change Your Life. I scanned it quickly and added it to my blogfodder folder (my life remaining unchanged; can you believe it?).

I'm a bit stuck for a post at present, so I'm going to pull these Sentences out, one at a time, one per post, and see if they are worthy of at least a bit of discussion, Life Changing notwithstanding.

Here is Number One:

People aren't against you; they are for themselves.

Firstly, is your life changed? Did this give you an Aha Moment? Nah, me either. I feel like this is a terribly worky way of saying Don't Take It Personally. I learned this Life Lesson a bit late, perhaps, during my teaching career and from the best possible of all teachers--teenagers.

Don't misunderstand me; I love teenagers as a group. They are a great deal of fun, very warm, intensely loyal to people they respect and care about, and when their fire is lit, it is remarkable to watch them take off on an idea. Having said all of that, they are also ruthless when they have an agenda, and if you are an impediment to that agenda, you are merely that--a roadblock. They will forget that you once sneaked them a Diet Coke from the staff room vending machine, helped them through a breakup, or did not bust them when they were late to an exam. Their hearts will turn to stone, they will lie to their principal, and they will swear up and down that they did/did not do whatever it was in order to help themselves. I can remember being wholly devastated the first time this occurred in my career. A wise assistant principal talked me off the ledge by saying, "Nance, don't take it personally. It's not about you. You could be anyone. It's all about what he wants and what's in his way, and you just happen to be standing in his way. This time." I'd like to say that I learned it right then and there, but I'd be lying.

It would be nice to think that, in this age of social media, people are never against other people, but we know that's just Not True. Bullying is real, and thanks to the ease of online accounts, it's easier than ever to victimize others and to even do it under assumed names. Hell, even the "president" does it, and with impunity. (Although he is the epitome of Being For Oneself.)

Perhaps there is room for some complexity to this Life-Changing statement: some people are against you because they are for themselves. It makes some people feel bigger, more important, and better about themselves when they act out against others. Again, 45* comes to mind--the perfect example. It doesn't make the victim feel any better, however, even though small-mindedness only captivates other small minds.

So, again, the Life-Changing Sentence was People aren't against you; they are for themselves.

Did this sentence, as the article promised, "give you the power to go on"...and "change your life for the better"? Let's talk about it in Comments.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Sign Language Wednesday: Try Not To Lose Any Sleep Over It


So much is...happening here that I can't even talk about it.

But it's real, and it's astonishing, isn't it?



Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Lesson Of The Rap Star Cow


Longtime Readers here at the Dept. know these two things about me already, but for any New Readers, I will provide you with the Short Version of the necessary Exposition:

1. I love cows.
2. I love car rides.

Number two has many exceptions, but suffice it to say that when I am bored, fussy, and feeling stressed like a colicky infant, it's often a good idea to strap me into the passenger seat of the car and take me out to look at things. The promise of ice cream (or pie) if I behave is not insulting to me in the least.

One of our regular car rides takes us past a particularly attractive herd of beef cattle pastured meditatively on some rolling acreage with the typical red barns. My irritation with this group of--let's call them cows for the sake of simplicity--cows is that they never wander close enough to the road so that I can get a good look at them. Instead, they prefer to stroll and munch much farther away. One cow especially is my favourite; I saw it late last fall when it was a little closer than the others. It was exceedingly tall and almost blue-black and, when it turned toward the road, it had a startlingly white face, unlike the rest of its compatriots. I'm crazy about this cow. I even named it.

I call it Ghostface Killa.

Now, I have no idea how that name came to me, and I know it's not Original. And it's certainly not a Very Nice Name for such a lovely cow. The real Ghostface Killah is actually an American rap artist, about whom I know absolutely nothing. And I definitely don't think this ghostfaced cow is a killer itself, nor that it goes around killing ghostfaces. I'm fully prepared to lay the blame for this name at the feet of my Google Newsfeed, if you want to know the truth. For all I know, it could have stuck a bunch of references to Mr. Killah (I don't spell my cow's name with the final "h") in my daily articles last year, and my brain hung onto them.

Who knows?

On Friday Rick had occasion to drive that way, so naturally I asked him if he saw Ghostface Killa in his travels. After he stopped laughing, he said, "No, Nance, but I was driving. If I'm the driver, I can't always look for cows. That's sad, but that's the way it is."

Ah, so true! Being the driver makes us miss a lot of perfectly wonderful cows along the way. Don't you think so, too?


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Monday, March 11, 2019

Signed, Sealed, Delivered...Well, Sort Of


Some Smartypants Thinkerhead once advised that if you are ever angry at someone, you should write him or her a letter. In that letter you should state your feelings in great detail about the situation and really let loose all the anger and frustration within you. Then, says Dr. Thinkerhead, tear up that letter. In that way you have the benefit of the Catharsis without the Damage.

It's pretty decent advice, but I feel like it was given in Ye Olde Dayes, well before Ye Internete, so I'm going to update it a little, and dash off a few missives here. (Hell, I'm being Olde Fashionede as it is, writing Letters on a Blog.)

Dear Google Newsfeed;

Why, Google Newsfeed, why? Why do you insist upon including stories about things in which I have Zero Interest and have never, ever clicked on anywhere? I get why there are stories about Lebron James and the NBA power rankings in my newsfeed; I have a fantasy team and do a lot of research. I understand why stories about Aretha Franklin's tribute suddenly popped up. But I cannot fathom why stories about The Konas Brothers or the Jardashians or Kick/Noe Konas and his wife Chiyanka Propra* are a recurrent and prominent feature.  Trust me when I tell you that not only do I have No Interest in these individuals, I also have--now!--for them all an exponentially growing Anathema.  *(I hope, Dear Readers, that you can figure out who I mean. I am afraid to use their real names, lest Blogger, owned by Google, tells my Newsfeed--wrongly!--that I'm a fan.)

Why, Google Newsfeed, do you refuse to let me delete these stories to improve your algorithm? How much longer do you think I'm going to let you Be The Boss Of Me?

Your News Is Not Good News,
Nance


Dear Dog Breeders Who Advertise In The Cleveland Plain Dealer;

I get that Dogs are your thing and not Spelling. It might be worth thinking about, however, that One Never Gets A Second Chance To Make A First Impression.

Woof,
Nance


Dear FineLife Products;



I have...so many questions. What kind of salad component is a bottled or canned beverage? What in the hell is HOMEGATING? If this is a Salad Bar, why is there only one bowl of a salad-like foodstuff? And, finally (perhaps most importantly to some people), where are the bacon bits?

For The Good Life,
Nance

Waiting to hear from you in Comments.


original image Vermeer's "A Lady Writing"



Monday, March 04, 2019

Monday Meme: Nature

It's March, and as a lifelong resident of Northeast Ohio, I know this means Zero about the arrival of Spring. Point of fact--today's high was 21 degrees; with the wind chill, it felt like 3. There is a light dusting of snow on the ground with a threat of more most of the week. Still, I'm aware we're better off than our seasonal brethren in Michigan, Wisconsin, and most recently, New England.

March makes me weary. It's a long, sloggy month with an Identity Crisis. It's Not-Winter and it's Not-Spring. My father, surprisingly chauvinistic at times, used to call it the Women's Weather Month because it's so changeable. That always irked me, but I do like the idea of Nature being Female (although the term Mother Nature, not so much).

Despite Her many vagaries, I am a great appreciator of Nature (in part, due to my father), even when She does Her level best to irritate the hell out of me with things like snow in general, wind when I'm trying to sleep, squirrels badgering my birdfeeders, and mice breaking into my garage or, worse, my house.

Let's try and Manage March with a Nature Meme:

1. What part of Nature do you like best?
Trees, especially flowering trees.

2. What natural phenomenon would you like to see?
I'd really love to see a full display of the Northern Lights.

3. Is there an animal that you find awe-inspiring?
Lots of them. I recently spotted a bald eagle completely unexpectedly; that took my breath away. When I went whale-watching, I was awed. There is something about elephants that always touches me; they seem to have such an ancient, inherent dignity.

4. Have you ever ridden on a horse or any other animal?
I've always wanted to ride a horse. I've ridden a camel!

5. Are you more of a cat person or a dog person?
I love my granddog Zydrunas wholly and completely, but I am a cat person at heart.

6. Which version of (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman do you like best, Carole King's or Aretha Franklin's?
I'll always have a soft spot for Carole King's version. Her Tapestry album is part of the soundtrack of my life. But when I think of that song, it's Aretha I hear.

7. Are you a Natural Woman (or Man), or do you avail yourself of a little Help?
I get by with a little help from my friends Mascara and Tinted Moisturizer. I'm far too lazy (and cheap) to colour my hair since it would require endless maintenance, and I'm too scared (and cheap) to get any cosmetic surgery (hospital infection! complications! wasting money!). I've even broken up with Blush for the most part. (Do they even still call it that?)

Your turn. March forth in Comments.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

In Which I Discuss The Grief Of Television, SADness, Hitting A Dog In The Face, And The News


Listen, I'm kind of showing up here because I'm afraid that if I don't write something--anything--right now, I might never write a single word in this space again. That would be sad, I think, for me, so here I go.

It would have been a good idea, probably, if I had thought a little bit about this ahead of time, but then I would have shrugged it off yet another day, and soon it would be March, and who knows what would happen then?

Perhaps a couple of General Categories Off The Top Of My Head will help Break My Writer's Block.

1. Television: Oh, yes, I am one of the Philistines Who Watch Television. Or tries to. We gave up cable aeons ago, so we suffer through commercial/antenna TV and use streaming services. When a series ends on Netflix, we are bereft and have that terrible period of grief followed by The Terror Of What To Commit To Next. We just finished Broadchurch, which we loved. But, because the lead actor had such a rapid and heavy Scottish accent, we had to be like The Olds and put on captions.  Imagine our shame and dismay.  And do not get me started about how many times I lose both remotes in the folds of my blanket.

2. Seasonal Affective Disorder: My SAD, which is usually on overdrive right about now, is not so bad. I think it's because we're seeing more sunshine than usual; I'm getting outside more often; and Sam got me a Happy Light for Christmas, which I use on cloudy days. I'm also getting better at what my friend Shirley would call Practicing Self Care.

3. My Pathetic Life: Jared went on an Axe-Throwing Date for Valentine's Day. Yeah. You read that right. Apparently, it's a real thing. He sent us pictures of him throwing an axe at a big slice of wood that was painted with a target. He said he "had a blast" and "hit a couple of game winners." I sent a text back that said, "I would do terribly at that. You should see me just try to throw stale bread out the back door for the birds and squirrels." And it's sadly true. Not only do I have zero arm strength, my aim is laughable. Ask Zydrunas, who has been hit in the face by innumerable ricocheting bouncy balls that I have attempted to toss through the doorway, but have instead rocketed squarely against the wall on either side.

4. My Newspaper Is Toying With Me: My Plain Dealer had the following headlines today, which I will place here for you, exactly and without comment: That 1 Guy Makes Music With His 'Magic Pipe' and France OKs Lightsaber Dueling As Sport.

I hope I'm back, but I can't make any promises. February has been kind of a bitch.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Cheap Therapy Of Snow Shovelling

Many of us are locked in the latest Polar Vortex--or one of them, now that there are actually three daughter vortices--and the extreme cold and waves of snow are forcing us to stay indoors, avoiding much travel. I'm also playing Nurse to Rick, who had spinal surgery on 18 January. He's a Very Good Patient, but until he is allowed to bend, twist, lift, or basically do Normal Life Things again completely, I am pretty much Everything Person. (Assisted very ably now and again by Sam, who stops by and is On Call, should we need anything, like the Good Boy he is. Jared, who lives farther away, is the Backup.)

I just came in from finishing up the latest round of snow shovelling, which is my best source of real physical activity these days. I have to say that I am always surprised and gratified at just how much any outdoor exercise improves my overall mood and sense of wellbeing almost automatically.

And I especially do like shovelling snow, oddly enough, and this comes from a longtime Hater Of Winter. Maybe it's because it gives me power over two things I so dislike, Winter and Being Cold. These things often hold sway over me, both physically and emotionally. But when I go outside and shovel, it's like I'm bossing them around; I'm refusing to succumb to Winter and the Cold.

I also think a great deal of it is that I can see steady progress as I work. The shovel leaves clear swaths of driveway and sidewalk. It's obvious where I've been and how much I have yet to do. There's also a definite end, an absolute finish to the work. When the driveway and sidewalk are clear, I'm done!  I can put away my shovel and go in.  In my career as a teacher, that wasn't the case. Even when I was done teaching a particular novel or unit and gave the final test, I still had stragglers--kids who were absent and had to make up assignments, quizzes, projects, and tests. They had deadlines, hypothetically, but you'd be surprised at how much leeway there was, especially if parents got involved.  I was forever hauling out folders of answer keys, makeup versions of tests, moving backwards into my gradebook, trying always in vain to get everyone (for once) at the same starting/ending point. I even had kids trying to make stuff up after the final grades were in and the school year had ended! Trust me, even when the Fat Lady sang, it was never really over.

The rewards of snow shovelling are so tangible. A clear driveway, obviously; a job done; that feeling of accomplishment as I look down that stretch of clear concrete; stepping into the house and feeling the warmth envelop me and see it steam up my sunglasses; the satisfaction of shedding each layer of coat, mittens, headband, boots; and finally, sitting down with the contentment of a job well done and done all by myself.

I hate winter with a Passion, believe me. Actually, more accurately, I hate Snow with a passion. I could live with Winter were it not for Snow. I never find it pretty, ever. It's dangerous at its worst and an inconvenience at its best. But I try to make the best of it.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Offering Some Perspective (And A New Cooking Show Idea?) For 2019

The Long-Suffering Zydrunas
One of the last conversations I had in 2018, via telephone with my eldest, Jared.

Jared: Ma. Got any ideas for a killer sauce or something for salmon? Decided to stay in tonight for New Year's Eve, so she's bringing stuff over and we're making salmon for dinner.

Nance: Ugh. You know I detest all fish, and salmon tops the list. But I have a teriyaki glaze recipe for it from back when I thought you all liked it.

Jared: I've always liked it. You know that. I can do an Asian thing. I don't need a recipe.

Nance: You could do a traditional lemon-dill-butter thing.

Jared: Yeah, that sounds good, too. The pressure's on. I've never cooked for her before.

Nance: Well, then the two of you could just cook together. That way, there's no pressure, and it's more of a fun situation.

Jared: Here's the second problem: I usually cook with my shirt off. You know, I put on some music, take off my shirt, and dance around, throwing shit together. Then, when I sit down to dinner, I complain to the dog when I find a hair in my food.

Nance: Oh, Jared.

Jared: I hold up the forkful or the hair or whatever, and I look him straight in the eye. I say, "Zydrunas, this is unacceptable. I've found a hair in my food. I expect better quality from this establishment."

Nance: What does he say?

Jared: The usual. He huffs and rolls his eyes. He's so tired of all my bullshit.


Happy New Year, everyone.  We might all be Tired Of The Bullshit, but let's have some Laughs!
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