Sunday, October 23, 2016

Z Is For Zoo

For years and years, our family had a membership to our zoo, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. It's a wonderful zoo, and one which has terrific natural habitats like an African Savanna, Wolf Wilderness, RainForest, and Australian Outback. I rode the camels twice and always feed the lorikeets, loving how they land right on my shoulder or my hand as I walk carefully through the enclosure. I've been whistled at admiringly by the African grey parrots, and I've sweet-talked the red pandas out of their little wooden treehouse more than once. I love our zoo, and our family has gone there many, many times. The boys and I made good use of our membership in the summertime, taking guests, rejoicing at the birth of baby animals newly on display (especially awkward young giraffes), and learning not only about different species and biomes, but also about respecting the animals in their homes at the zoo.

After so many years, we started to feel like Zoo Insiders. We started skipping parts of the zoo that weren't that interesting to us. We scoffed at people who wondered aloud if our zoo had panda bears. Duh! We hated the people who read each and every exhibit sign aloud, unless they were reading it to very small children. It drove us crazy when parents let their kids bang on the glass of the animal enclosures when there were enormous signs everywhere that clearly said not to. But we reserved our deepest scorn for two types of people in particular.

The first type wears Inappropriate Zoo Footwear. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a very walkable zoo, but it has lots of hills and winding paths. Despite this terrain, we would still find hundreds of people wearing flipflops, high wedge sandals, kitten heel pumps, and on one memorable visit, stiletto heels. And those Dr. Scholl's sandal thingies with only the strap across the toe and that terrible bump for your toes to cling to. We would see person after person sitting alongside paths or stopped on the hillside terrace, taking off footwear in order to rub his/her feet or remove grit. No sympathy.

The second type is the Pompous Sign Reader/Fake Pontificator. Every single zoo exhibit has an informational sign, sometimes two. And unfailingly, some mom or dad will read information from it as if he or she simply knows this information cold about this exotic animal, like it is so important to impress this kid. The boys and I saw this time and time again, and it was always hilarious and pathetic. But never more than the time in front of the sloth's cage. Because this mom, as she read the sign word for word, kept pronouncing it "slooth." As in "rhymes with tooth." On and on she pontificated, in a very fakey, hyper-engaging, "oh boy, is this ever fun and interesting" breathless voice, just about every line of the plaque's summary about the sloth. "Wow!" she said. "So that's the slooth! Whaddya think, kids? The two-toed slooth!" I thought I would die. (Actually, I probably did die, right there in Cleveland, for a little while, and then Jared and Sam scraped me up off the asphalt and pulled me over to look at koalas, or maybe even flamingos, which always revive me.)

**For the record, that word again is SLOTH. Only one O. I am still Not Over It.**

(Really, now. Does she pronounce the word BOTH as booth? Is an APRICOT an APRICOOT? I mean, how far does this disability extend? When she shops for chicken broth, does she think it's chicken BROOTH?)


And speaking of done, that ends the alphabet for me. Chat me up about your Zoo Thoughts, your own Z Words, or topics you'd like me to take up next.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Y Is For...Yikes! Random Y Things I'm Tossing At You In An Impromptu Post

You know, this whole Alphabet Construct was supposed to help me post more often, but it really turned out to be Not So Very Helpful After All. I'm glad I'm almost done; the Alphabet was starting to feel like The Boss Of Me, and you all know how I feel about that.

Let's jump into this Y Post and I have to tell you, like Certain Persons In The Politics, I have nothing prepared. I'm winging it, composing at the keyboard, hoping The Muse shows up as I go. The difference between us is, Oh hell. There are a ton of differences. Let's not, as they say, Go There.

Y1: Yvonne de Carlo, aka Lily Munster. Here is a photo, for your reference:

Now, for those of you who know/remember/imagine what I look like, just superimpose my face on there because that is exactly what my hair is starting to look like, much to my dismay. My grey is now appearing in huge swathes against my almost-black hair, which I am growing out because I have A) no regular stylist, and B) chronic indifference/sloth. Thank heavens that I do not wear pancake makeup, eye shadow, or lipstick, or it would be Halloween year 'round at the Dept., and you all know how I feel about that "holiday." Ugh.

Y2: Yarn. As in the stuff one knits with. I'm not going to bore all of you non-knitters, I promise. Just let me say that not one single Knitting Person warned me that, once I began knitting, a chemical receptor in my brain would be switched to the On position, and I would become almost pathological in my urge to amass yarn. I'm not even a Good knitter, mostly a Therapeutic one (for my hand arthritis), but I keep looking at and feeling the need to buy/acquire yarn. I have declared a Personal Yarn Moratorium until...Forever. Which is how long it will take me to use up what I now have.

Y3: Yardwork. I was at a party over the summer, and as part of an icebreaker game, we were asked to write one sentence about ourselves on a slip of paper. Each sentence would then be read aloud, and the guests would all guess at who wrote it. One person wrote I love yardwork. My first reaction was Holy Crap. What is wrong with that person? My second reaction was I have got to get the name of that person and see if he/she wants to come work in my yard! Because, honestly, the second part of the word yardwork is WORK. And, remember, I am retired. Yardwork, to me, sounds like something on a prison duty roster. "Okay, Detweiler, this week you've got yardwork. Make sure the inmates don't huddle up in groups larger than three, and watch out for contraband. And stay on top of the litter situation."

Y4: Yams VS. Sweet Potatoes. I still don't care about which is which, and I never ever will. I call them all sweet potatoes because I hate the word Yams. I hate to say it; I sound terrible saying it. Maybe it's what my late friend Ann from Orlando, Florida, called my flat NEO "accent", but when I say it, it sounds like I can't stop the vowel sound soon enough; like I'm trying to draw it out: Yaaaaaams. Let me assure you; I'm not. Besides, sweet potatoes sounds nicer.

Okay! I made it through. I'm back. And I can't wait to hear about your Y Words or your comments on mine.

lily image
y tiles

Saturday, October 01, 2016

In Which I Am Daisy Buchanan And Seeking Your Indulgence And Patience

I've been away on a Solo Jaunt, and Things have gotten Away From Me. Suddenly it's October, and thank goodness the oppressive Summer Heat might be really and truly Gone. The entire Summer reminded me of a brief exchange from a chapter of one of my Favourite Novels, The Great Gatsby. In it, five gorgeous and privileged friends are sitting down to a light meal, and there is already tension in the air. It is only made worse by the incredibly heavy summer heat. They are sitting in a (symbolically!) darkened room, and the conversation goes thusly among the women:

"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon," cried Daisy, "and the
day after that, and the next thirty years?"
"Don't be morbid," Jordan said. "Life starts all over again when it gets
crisp in the fall."
"But it's so hot," insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, "And
everything's so confused. Let's all go to town!"
Her voice struggled on through the heat, beating against it, moulding its
senselessness into forms.

And that, my friends, is why I had to zip off on a solo jaunt. I'm back now, and Gathering Myself, and I'll be back with my Y Post soon. And off to visit your places as well.

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

X Is For...

X is a pretty boring little letter when you're not Feeling It and you're coming off a spate of Migraines and you're sick of Endless Summer Heat and you can't find a decent tomato to save your life.

And, honestly, you feel like a shit for complaining about stuff when there are people in the world who are putting their autistic child on the bus every day, or trying to navigate elder care, or figuring out how to afford an EpiPen now that some heartless shark has boosted the price over eleventy thousand percent.

Heavy sigh.

But, seriously, the X section of my hardbacked dictionary (Webster's New World College, 2nd ed., 1979) is exactly one and one-half pages long. And despite its being preciously ancient, doubtful there are loads and loads of New X-Words in everyday English that it is lacking, unless you count awful and terrible mashed-up words like Xtreme or Xtra, which, of course, I Don't.

So. Let's take a brief stroll through the Standard X-Words that we usually think of:

Xylophone: Worst toy ever. "Oh, but, Nance! It is creative and fosters an interest in music!" non-parents object. All parents, however, are nodding in fervent agreement with me. Toy xylophones are atonal and noisy and children rarely learn to really play a tune on them. Instead, kids bang on them, drag the mallet or a superhero action figure across them, and use them as a noisemaker, primarily, often to bug a sibling. In-laws often use them as a Passive Aggressive Weapon Gift to get revenge.

X-Ray: I don't object to these as strongly as many people. It's the MRI that bothers the hell out of me. X-Ray, as a term, seems so silly in this day and age, however. Can't we get a more definitive, intelligent term other than X-ray, which means absolutely nothing? It sounds like something out of an old SciFi movie. Especially when you understand that the X in X-Ray is there because the scientist who first discovered them did not know what they were, so he termed them X, like the X in algebra denoting unknowns.

Xmas: Whenever I see this term, I instinctively pronounce it Eks-mus. Some people (read: God Warriors) get very calisthenic about it and start ranting about that old chestnut The War On Christmas. I find the whole kerfuffle silly and pointless. One reason is, of course, that the X in Xmas is from the Greek symbol which represents Christ ; another is that lots of megachurches actually close on Christmas Day when it falls on a regular Sunday, a topic I covered over ten years ago. Finally, isn't it a Given that Christmas/Xmas is already a largely Commercial Holiday? It's inescapable. It is a huge economic determiner in the retail sector. It simply isn't up to Kohl's or Amazon or Target or Whatever MegaStore to Keep Christ In Christmas. That's not their job. If you are a Person Of Faith, and that Faith happens to be Christian, then You Keep Christ In Your Christmas. ANALOGY: I LOVE NUTELLA. IT IS, THEREFORE, MY JOB TO KEEP NUTELLA IN MY PANTRY. I DO NOT EXPECT RANDOM STRANGERS TO REMIND ME TO GET NUTELLA OR KEEP IT IN MY HOUSE. I think I've made my point.  (Note to self:  check supply of Nutella.)

Any X's you want to talk about?  (Not EXES, mind you; let's don't, as they say, Go There.)  Chat about Xylophones, X-Rays, Xmas or others in Comments.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

W Is For What I'm...

Working On. As I have said so many times before, I see myself as being on a Journey Of Continuous Self-Improvement. To that end I am always striving to better my character in many Arenas. Currently, I am Working On most Strenuously and to some Success: graciously accepting Compliments, never saying Never, defaulting to Kindness, being Quieter and Listening. For some of you, these things may seem quite Simple and Natural, and you may be saying, "I don't get it." Trust me, neither do I to a large extent, but that's why I have to Work At Them.

Weeping About. For some reason lately, I have become quite sentimental/hormonal and teary. This is extremely unusual for me and very unsettling. I find myself thinking of people no longer in my life and whom I miss terribly. In a few cases, I'm sure it's due to a lack of true closure; in others, the finality of death. Also bringing me to tears is the sight of the small Syrian boy from Aleppo, the victim of airstrikes. Even now, having to search for the image has brought me to tears yet again. One more--have you ever heard the song Cecilia and the Satellite by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness? I love it, and yep, it's making me tear up, too. Sigh. When (and Why) did I get to be such a crybaby?

Wishing For. While I am everso grateful for airconditioning, I am heartily sick of it this summer. We have had to have ours On more than Off, and I crave some fresh air and more moderate temperatures with low humidity. How on earth do any of my friends in the Delta states or places where 90+ with high humidity as the norm survive? NEO is also in a Moderate Drought, so while our air feels like we are walking through a bowl of soup, our yards are crisp and hard and brown. I know, California--Old News to you--but here, we're crabby and outraged. And the Death Toll in my landscaping continues: two cedars, one Japanese maple, one lilac, one more and this will be another thing I'm Weeping About.

Wild About. As many of you might recall, we here at the Dept. are Cord Cutters, and have eschewed cable television for lo these many years now. Very few network shows are Destination Television for us, but we are crazy about Life In Pieces, which we find funny, smart, and quirky in just the right doses. We continue to be avid viewers of Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards on the Netflix (thank you, Jared). I continue to mourn the absence of Hugh Laurie In Anything, and wish that House was on in perpetuity, no matter how awful it got. Isn't it a shame he isn't Doing Something, and Immediately? (And hasn't Modern Family gotten...really terrible?)

Wearing. No more high heels. Lots of easy pullover dresses. Camisoles forever, especially with breezy, loose, gauzy tops. My fleece blanket every evening on the couch, thanks to airconditioning. My hair long, past my shoulders. Makeup every single day, even if I stay at home. Perfectly arched eyebrows, waxed myself, thank you very much. No perfume. As much navy blue as I can find (which is damn little).

Well, that about Wraps It Up. Please share your W's in Comments.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Dept. Of Nance Is Eleven

The Dept. of Nance is Eleven! Trust me; that is far more astonishing a fact to me than it is to you. The Very Idea that I have been yammering on here for that long is almost as Crazy as the Notion that People Still Read Me. And often have Things To Say right back.


And so very Nice.

Eleven itself, as a Number, does not bring to mind anything I can use as a Theme, so I shall borrow a tired old construct and use the letters of the word ELEVEN and yada yada from there.

E is for Eternity. As in how long the Olympics from Rio seem to be lasting. This blog has seen SIX Olympics, starting with the Turin (Italy) Winter Games. I am absolutely certain that the Rio Summer Games are Eleven times longer. Rick has already complained that he cannot come home from work and unwind by watching Dr. Phil because our local NBC affiliate insists on having 90 minutes of news instead. And results are all over the Interwebs and aforementioned news, so unless the event is live, there is no point watching anything time-delayed. We already know the outcomes.

L is for Lists. I've done lots and lots of them on dozens of topics, both here and over at my now-defunct blog that I used to co-write with Jared, Stuff On Our List. Between the two of us, we've listed favourite pies, cakes, Christmas music, and most-hated songs played on the radio. We listed ways to turn around a bad day and Stuff That Is Dead To Us. In 2010 I listed my Five Most Dangerous Food Nemeses, and in 2016, they are still the same. But The List--you know The One--has changed a bit. I think it's almost time we Revisit that in another whole post.

E is for Elections. The Dept. of Nance is normally Very Political. While I make no secret of my Party Affiliation (Strenuously Democrat), I am so disgusted and disappointed in my country this year that I generally have refrained from The Politics this go-round. I have long decried The Wisdom Of The American People as nonexistent. This presidential Election proves it via the entire republican party and the media who had a major hand in creating its nominee, as well as the party faithfuls who continue to support and countenance him, even while they denounce his statements and sentiments. That they would sacrifice their entire country and its people in the name of a party victory or affiliation is revolting. And lest anyone think I am equating the republican nominee with the Democrat in any way, let me be clear: I'm With Her. And like Senator Sanders, I'm sick and tired of hearing about her damn emails. And all of it has caused me to break my Self-Imposed Ban Against Using The Eff Word. So there's That.

V is for Victory! The Dept. of Nance has long celebrated books, authors, poetry, poets, and all manner of writing and reading. It was with the Most Profound Sadness that I wrote about the deaths of some of my favourite authors like JD Salinger, Arthur Miller, and most recently, Harper Lee. Another Great Sadness was my inability for the past two years or so to read books. I mourned this loss so keenly; books were always a huge part of my life. Well, as of June, I'm back to reading as before! I'm so happy. And the book that broke the spell? My old reliable that I reread every June, Gone with the Wind.

E is for Eating.  In the early years of this blog, I wrote often about the protracted and terrible dramas our family enacted when trying to decide What To Have For Dinner. Unfortunately, though the characters are reduced by half, these skits are ongoing. Both Rick and I are bored with food a great deal of the time, and we are ashamed to say so, knowing that there are vast populations of the world going hungry. I try to snap myself out of it and, in bursts of Culinary Energy, create marvelous entrees to great admiration, but then back into the Slough Of Suppertime Despair I go.  Perhaps I need to take a Vitamin.

N is for Necessities.  When I first began writing here at this space, my Necessities Of Life were high heels, red pens, coffee, and martinis.  And, of course, the migraine drugs.  Now my Necessities Of Life still include the migraine drugs and coffee, but that coffee is half-caff.  I've pretty much traded in my martinis for wine because these days, I'm a very cheap drunk.  And I still have all my high heels, but I only visit them in the upstairs closet, like trophies in a case.  As far as red pens, I do all my editing and commenting on documents in a computer program, so those are another relic of a previous life.  (A friend just asked me, upon hearing that school started here this week, if I missed it. All things considered, the answer is still No. )  So, what are my New Necessities Of Life?  Migraine Drugs, Coffee, Wine, ... oh, that last one.  Such a Toughie.

Let's enjoy some cake whilst we mull it over.  Happy Eleven, Everyone.  I think there's enough.

image via Bing/Pinterest

Sunday, August 07, 2016

V Is For Vanilla Ice Cream

About eleventy hundred years ago when I was a child, the Mr. Softee ice cream truck used to come down our street during the summer. It wasn't often that we could stop him and get a soft-serve cone ourselves, but a kid down the street always did. And he always got the biggest cone on the menu, the double one. And he always got the same thing, a double header of Vanilla Ice Cream. My sister Susan, his best friend, made fun of him for it every single time. As a matter of fact, whenever we went to get ice cream at Home Dairy or any other ice cream place, Curt always ordered the same thing, a double or triple dip of Vanilla. Even if the ice cream parlor had a vast array of flavours: raspberry ripple, mint chocolate chip, peach cobbler, peanut butter and jelly, daquiri ice, triple fudge brownie, orange pineapple, and rainbow sherbet, it didn't matter. Curt would wait patiently and with an absolutely serious face (he looked stunningly like Charlie Brown) he'd give his standard order, "I'll have a triple dip of Vanilla, please." Susan would exhale dramatically and ungraciously, roll her eyes, and sometimes even let loose a "Cu-urt!" out of sheer exasperation.

To Curt's credit he responded pretty much the way he responded to all of her outbursts and fits of temper; he merely looked at her, maybe blinked once or twice, and spoke calmly. "Suze," he would say, "I like Vanilla." This usually did nothing but provoke her into more pique. All the while, Curt placidly licked his ice cream and stayed loyally by her side.

My grandparents were also major Vanilla Ice Cream loyalists. I don't think there was another flavour in their house, ever. During strawberry season, berries atop Vanilla Ice Cream was the only dessert offered (besides the ever-present homemade molasses or sour cream cookies) at their house, and it was usually eaten on the front porch. When it wasn't berry season, the Vanilla Ice Cream accompanied one of Grandma's pies (usually elderberry, rhubarb, or apple) or the aforementioned cookies. I think if Grandma had ever offered me chocolate ice cream at her house on East Liberty Street, I'd probably have fainted, assuming she'd left the church or lost her faculties. Even now, I cannot even imagine something so patently ridiculous. Chocolate ice cream at Grandma's? Impossible.

Rick is also a pretty solid Vanilla Ice Cream guy. Once, when we stopped at our favourite soft serve stand, he shocked me by ordering a twist cone. "Are you surprised?" he asked me. "I thought I'd switch things up for a change." As I started in on my own small twist, I watched him. "Well?" I asked after a few moments. "How is it?" He looked at me, his face disappointed. "I don't know why you like this so much. It all blends together and just tastes like chocolate.  You can't taste any Vanilla. I'm going back to Vanilla." And he has, although he is relatively adventurous at our favourite hard ice cream scoop shop.

Vanilla Ice Cream...bores me. I do appreciate (and insist upon) a Really Good Premium Vanilla Ice Cream, but I need a little something to jazz it up. Like chocolate syrup. Or fresh berries. Or...Something. (Not sprinkles; never sprinkles. Ugh.) But in an ice cream shop faced with a staggering array of fantastic flavours like mango sorbet, lemon black raspberry, and toasted pistachio, I'm not defaulting to Vanilla. (Even superb Vanilla.) I definitely appreciate the role of Vanilla Ice Cream in a hot fudge sundae. You don't want any other flavour in there, really. But I don't want Vanilla Ice Cream mucking about in my pie or birthday cake. (And that goes for all ice cream and all cakes, by the way.)

Are people either Chocolate Ice Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream people? I know I'm a Chocolate Ice Cream Person. If I were stuck with only one kind of ice cream for the rest of my life, and it had to be either chocolate or Vanilla, I'd pick chocolate. No question.

Tell us your Vanilla Ice Cream memories. And which Kind Of Person--Chocolate or Vanilla--are you?

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