Friday, December 23, 2016

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 
from All of Us here at
the Dept. of Nance

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

I Have To Stop Driving...Or Seeing...Or Reading...Or Something (Why Is This So Hard?)

In addition to the Saddening And Terrible bar sign announcing "$1.00 Taco's Every Tuesday!", which I must drive by at least weekly, I must also see this Disappointing, Mystifying, and Horrid thing at least that often (though on a different route):

Goodness.  Where to begin?

Apart from being dismayed by the Zombie Pioneer/Amish Woman cheerfully decaying along the street side of the sign itself, (and how nice that the lights are discreetly pointed away from her), I'm frankly astonished that the store's wares are all conventionally spelled and punctuated on the placards. There are Crafts, not Krafts, perhaps in fear of a visit from the mega-corporation, summons in hand for a patent infringement.

Travelling westward, as I usually am when I see this sign, I get a slightly different view than what you see here.  On that side, I see 'YE OLDE' VILLAGE KOUNTRY STORE with both single quotation marks.  They are still superfluous and bewildering, but at least they are a pointlessly matched set.  Travelling eastward, as this photo is taken, the second quotation mark is, for some reason, omitted.  Now the lone mark is rendered an apostrophe, as if 'YE is actually a longer word somehow shortened...or something. Either way, I don't get it/them. I mean, we all can see that the building is not Olde, the village it's in is not Olde, and none of its customers will be speaking Olde Englishe. (And I wonder if the owner even knows what Ye means/meant in Olde Englishe anywaye.)

Finally, the most Egregious Sin Of All--KOUNTRY.  Why?  Why?  WHY?!  Wasn't Ye Olde enough already?  On top of Village?  Do you mean to tell me that Old Village Country Store doesn't have enough cache or authenticity or convey enough homey charm?  It just isn't necessary.  And it looks dumb.  I'm certainly not buying a mattress from anyone who can't spell Country.  Or use quotation marks correctly.

Ye Ende.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

In Which The Dept. Cleans House And Debates Fear And Love In The Martial Arts

Act I, scene i. Rick and Nance are in the living room. Nance is on the couch, center, knitting; Rick is in his easy chair, left, folding his laundry. The TV is on. The local news is riffing on the pop news story about Earworms, the songs that get stuck in your head.

Rick: That happened to me yesterday at work. It drove Chad crazy. I kept singing "Kung Fu Fighting."
Nance: (not looking up) That would drive me crazy.
Rick: (making karate chops with a pair of tube socks) But Nance! Come on! It's like the song says--Everybody loves kung fu fighting!
Nance: (raises her eyes only, looks over at Rick) Rick. The lyric is "Everybody WAS kung fu fighting."
Rick: Well...why would everybody do it if they didn't love it?

Act II, scene i. Kitchen. A few days later. Rick and Nance are doing weekend cleaning, mostly Cat Hair Removal, and mostly in preparation for guests. Nance has already dusted four rooms and is gathering cleaning supplies for the bathroom. Rick is on his back on the floor, puzzling over a piece of packing material left under the (years-old) refrigerator.  (Reminiscent of this episode.) His phone is clipped to his belt, and it is playing his extensive and...eclectic music library.

Rick: (singing loudly) You don't own me/I'm not just one of--
Nance: I figured you'd download that.
Rick: Hey, at least I didn't download "Kung Fu Fighting." Did you know everybody loves kung fu fighting?
Nance: (using lyrics) Yeah, and those kicks were fast as lightning.
Rick: (starts singing) Everybody was--
Nance: (more lyrics) In fact, it was a little bit frightening. And there is the flaw in your theory, by the way. How can everybody love kung fu fighting if they are afraid of it?
Rick: Nance. Come on. For the same reason some people love horror movies, haunted houses, surprise packages, gambling, all that stuff. Lots of people love to be scared. They go for the thrill.
Nance: That's true. And valid. I hate all that stuff and I hate that song.


original image

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Thursday, November 03, 2016

It's A Crabfest, But No Bibs Or Melted Butter Needed (Although Who Says No To Melted Butter, Ever?)

Well, it's been another ten days or so and no post here at the Dept. Heavy sigh. I have absolutely No Legitimate Excuse other than Generalized Malaise and Slothfulness Overmuch. And Intermittent Crabbiness.

This Crabbiness thing is both perplexing and annoying. (Is that redundant? Is it sort of dumb to say that being Crabby is making me...Crabby?) I find that I'm irritated by being so irritated. It's a Vicious Circle. (And for those of you who are nitpickily wondering if that last term should be "Vicious Cycle", I was too, so I checked--of course--and I'm correct.)


While other writers are using November to be Grateful or write a Novel In Thirty Days, here I sit, bitching and grumping. Maybe I need to get it all Out Of My System, once and for all, so I can Move On. You know, the whole Catharsis thing. So, here's a (partial, I'm sure) list of

What's Making Me Crabby

1. Seeing 'S Used For Plurals
2. Cervical Myofasciitis
3. Ohio Being Exactly Like Texas Anymore
4. My Grocery Store Remodel
5. Closer by The Chainsmokers
6. the republican nominee, ugh
7. Nothing Sounds Good To Eat
8. Cat Hair
9. My Left Contact
10. Not Sleeping

Let's chat about a few of these, shall we?

1. NO WORDS USE AN APOSTROPHE TO MAKE A PLURAL. Just let that be your rule, period. There is a sign on a bar near my house that says TACO TUESDAY--TACO'S $1. Every time I see it, which is every single day I drive, I have a small fit of rage/frustration. The same sign says GO BROWNS! Why no apostrophe there? Apostrophes on nouns show ownership. If something is not being owned, DO NOT USE AN APOSTROPHE. Are there odd exceptions? Yes, but for average daily writing, just remember APOSTROPHES DO NOT MAKE PLURALS. Just stop it, everyone. (Look at all those words that ended in S. Not a single apostrophe needed. PLEASE HELP ME.)

2. Now I know why my headaches have increased in frequency and my neck and shoulders are killing me. And why my sleep is almost nonexistent (see #10). **Breakthrough! This could explain my Crabbiness.** This also means Physical Therapy, which I find embarrassing and goofy. But I know its value. (See that "its"? NO APOSTROPHE.)

3. Ohio is pretty much a red state, except for NEO and Columbus. Ugh.

4. It now takes me twice as long to get shopping done. Why can they not remodel and reconfigure and restock at night and in ONE DAY? ONE WEEKEND?

5.  I cannot escape this song and don't like it. It has made the radio almost an impossibility.

8. I really feel like some knitter person who is looking to spin his/her own yarn would want the surplus hair that my cats belligerently produce on an hourly basis. Really, it is lovely. And abundant. And, judging by the price of this scarf, could be quite valuable, since it is a Natural Fibre.

9. I cannot see out of my left contact about an hour after I put it in. Is there anything more soul-crushing than sitting in a doctor's waiting room? This is why I cannot even contemplate making the appointment, though I know I must. (BONUS--SEE THE APOSTROPHE + S AFTER 'DOCTOR'? THAT IS BECAUSE IT SHOWS OWNERSHIP. NOT MORE THAN ONE DOCTOR.)

Sometimes, after I give vent to a particular bout of Crabbiness, Rick will say, "But you still look good."  Even though this is terribly shallow and petty and even smacks of being sexist and sounds like he is trivializing my frustrations, I was the one who sanctioned this remark.  Let me tell you why.

Firstly, I am incredibly vain, as most of you know.  Secondly, when I go off on a Major Round Of Crabbing, it's usually about something trivial and timely, not Deep and Profoundly Personal.  Finally, if I am not Effectively Derailed by something Pleasant or Light, my Crabbiness will take root and ruin the rest of my day/evening.  The line has now become sort of a punchline to my bitching and gives me a chance to breathe and smile.

And I'm smiling now.  That must mean it's your turn! (IT + IS = APOSTROPHE!)  How about letting some of your Crabbies loose, and we'll have our own little Crabfest in Comments?


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?


Friday, July 22, 2016

U Is For Underwear

Underwear is one of the biggest scams out there. How on earth did this Necessity become so absurdly expensive? Honestly, if it were at all expedient and convenient to Boycott Underwear, I would Do It. And it's not just Certain Brands of Underwear. Then it would be easy. Then, those of us who view Underwear as Utilitarian and Not Part Of Our Signature Look could simply scoff and say, "Seven dollars for a pair for Underwear? Surely you jest. My derriere and I will do just fine, Overpriced Underwear Purveyor, without your wares. We don't need any fancy schmancy Underwear, thank you very much." And off we would go to Reasonably Priced Underwear Emporium, plunk down our few bucks, and walk out with Basic Underwear, happy and fulfilled.

Oh, if only.

No, that is Not The Way It Works. Because apparently, there is a Vast Underworld Underwear Cartel, and this makes it downright impossible to get a decently priced pair of Underwear anywhere. I mean, come on, IT'S UNDERWEAR. What do we really need from it? We need comfort, number one; we need utility, number two. That's pretty much it. (If you need some Sexy Prancing/Writhing Come-Hither Underwear, then by all means, pay top dollar for That Ensemble, but how many of those getups do you really need? And trust me, you could use a newspaper or a bath towel or a Got Milk sun visor and it would be just as effective, because...Men.)

But I digress.

There is absolutely No Way that my Underwear should cost what it does. Hell, even Rick's Underwear should not cost what it does. I just Don't Get It. Now, disposable diapers--that cost I understand. There is a lot of ongoing Research And Development invested there. Diapers are way, way thinner and better now than the ones I put on Jared and Sam back in the '80s. But basic Underwear has changed (no pun intended), relatively speaking, very little.

Unless you are speaking about the names of Underwear, and there, the changes have been stunning (Victoria's Secret, I am talking to you). Holy crap. I'm ready to pin the whole Underwear Inflation Scandal on that place alone. I feel like the whole Idea of that place is not only responsible for Underwear Price Inflation, but also some pretty major setbacks in Feminism. And Body Acceptance. And Sensible Budgeting.

(Is this a good time for me to go and holler at some kids to get off my lawn? I think so, too.)


My point--and I do have one--is that Underwear is a terribly overpriced Necessary. And once I find a source for a variety that I Like and Accept The Price Of, I buy a bunch of it because I know what will happen. That particular brand or style or source will completely disappear for No Reason Whatsoever, just like every single other product that I loved and lost.  And nothing lasts forever; certainly not Underwear.

(Although I know that more than a few of you have at least one pair of Emergency, Third-String Underwear in the drawer, right?  Just In Case?  Bonus points if it is actually maternity Underwear and the youngest kid isn't even living at home.)

Your turn.  Mention all your Unmentionables in Comments.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

T Is For Lots Of Things (And I Am On A Personal Mission)

Nothing compelling came to mind when I thought about letter T, so let's have a List Post of

Some T Things

1. Tomorrow
2. Tables
3. Towels
4. Tardy
5. T Adjectives

Here is the Chat Part:

1. Tomorrow. I'm more than a little bit annoyed that, when I hear this word, instead of thinking of the moody and fatalistic speech by Macbeth, I instead hear in my head the plucky and annoyingly obvious sentiment of Broadway Annie. Consider the absurd difference:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You're only a day away!

Personal Mission: Memorize again the Macbeth speech and recite it daily. I know the cats will love it.

2. Tables. How I wish I could eliminate coffee tables (aka Repositories Of Junk) from my life and the lives of others. They are also Obstacles To Efficient Vacuuming. Actually, it is astonishing how many Tables I have that I truly don't use. My dining room table is decorative and sentimental only. It belonged to my grandmother, and it holds a collection of antique books, empty bottles of favourite wines, and candlesticks. I have also a decorative book stand Table that looks as if it is made from books; a completely useless breakfront console Table under our fake Vermeer that holds leather-bound books and knickknacks; and two more small occasional Tables in the dining room that hold, yes, more beautiful old books and other Preciouses. We have a lovely custom kitchen table, but it is rarely used since Rick and I eat simple dinners together in the living room. I would also eliminate, out in the wild, Picnic Tables, which are not only ugly, but also ridiculously inefficient and stupid. And uncomfortable. And dangerous. And encourage outdoor eating, and we all know how I feel about that. What the hell kind of person attaches the chair to the Table? On both sides? With no backrest? And makes them out of wood and leaves them outdoors so that they purposefully develop splinters? Honestly, they are the worst. Want to eat on a teeter-totter? Picnic Tables are for you.

Personal Mission: Streamline my Table Situation. Holy crap. I sound like a Table Hoarder.

3. Towels. Pretty soon, Towels are going to be heirloom items like art and silver settings and fine china. This is not only because Towels are ridiculously expensive, but because they are also so stupidly thick and plush that they will be around for generations. It is as if you are using someone's velvet portieres or Oriental rug with which to dry off. And heaven help you if you wrap one around your hair and head, turban-style, after washing your hair. The massive, crushing weight will either unbalance you or give you a migraine. I don't require much from a Towel: dry me with soft efficiency and, if necessary, stay wrapped around me--briefly--if need be whilst I brush my teeth. I still have one of my bath Towels from college (1979-1981) that I use for my hair.

Personal Mission: Have a Golden Anniversary Party for my Hair Towel. I will invite the matching Hand Towel, which resides with Jared and Sam.

4. Tardy. I have not used this adjective meaning "late" once since retiring from teaching. It is one of those Teacher-Specific Terms that have fallen from my lexicon. I do not miss it. It is retired, too, along with Semester, Grades, Attendance, Extra Credit and a few others.

Personal Mission: Never resurrect these terms.

5. T Adjectives. How much do we love The Interwebs? I came across an entire page of Adjectives Starting With T, and here are some wonderful ones I especially like:


Personal Mission: Use more varied adjectives. I am getting lazy.

Can't wait to hear your Thoughts on any or all of these T's. Or if I've inspired you to go on your own Personal Missions. Your Turn To Chat now, in Comments.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different: The Dept. Might Crash The Convention In Cleveland And Offer Its Own Nostalgic Nominee

Scene opens on a living room setting. Rick is in his big easy chair; Nance is curled up on the end of the couch. Both are watching the national news; its first story is another depressingly shocking one featuring a taped segment of the republican party's Presumptive Nominee.

Nance: Oh my god. You have got to be kidding me. What a--
Rick: I know. Disgusting. And--
Nance: How can anyone...? I mean, what can anyone see in that maniacal idiot that makes him think, 'This is someone I want as my President'?
Rick: (glancing over at Piper, the huge orange cat) Piper would make a better President than he would.
Nance: He really would. He is far more stable, and much more Zen.
Rick: Well, you'd have to be his translator. And nothing could get started until after 7 AM, when he finishes his breakfast.
Nance: And everything would have to stop again at 5 PM for his snack.
Rick: And again at 9 PM for his dessert.
Nance: And don't forget his Big Nap from 10 AM until 2 PM every day.
Rick: That's right. And sometimes he runs over and sleeps even longer than that. And gets another one in from 6PM until his dessert at 9.
Nance: So...basically, a rerun of the Reagan Presidency!

End Scene.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

S Is For Salad

One dinner in particular at my in-laws' stands out. I can't even recall if Rick and I were married yet, but I was sitting down to a meal of ham, wax beans, and probably mashed potatoes. My first glance told me that the ham--pale, sad, and already sliced--would be dry and a struggle. My eyes widened in alarm at the dish of beans: they were a colour that I had never seen wax beans take on before, sort of a sepia-toned, manila hue with a distinctly grey cast. Horrified, I pinned all my hopes on the Salad. How could anyone ruin a Salad?

The Salad, such as it was, was on a separate plate already made up. It was a limp leaf of iceberg lettuce surmounted by a single ring of canned pineapple. Inside its center was a dab of cream cheese upon which had been sprinkled some walnut dust. We each had one.

I was doomed.

I thought longingly of my mother's everyday Salads, served with every single dinner, even takeout pizza. They were huge family-style bowls full of iceberg and leaf lettuces, fresh onion, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes (when they were in season), and every once in a while, a Wild Card Ingredient, depending upon her mood, my father's request, or what was hanging around in the grocery store, farmstand, or crisper. Oh, and green olives. She made her own vinaigrette, too, and insisted on Regina Red Wine Vinegar. And measure? Ha! It is to laugh. Watching her shake and pour the oil and vinegar bottles over the salad and add her seasonings (always Lawry's Seasoned Salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper), then toss and toss and toss again and again was to watch a mad scientist at work.

What I wouldn't have given for one bowl of her Salad at that meal.

No one should be victimized by Bad Salad. A Salad should be a celebration of fresh ingredients made bright by its dressing. It should be flavourful and wonderful. It shouldn't feel like a punishment, and it shouldn't feel like a scavenger hunt or a rummage sale, either.

I hate those Salads that are basically a bowl of whitish-yellow lettuce, a pale crunchy tomato wedge, and a hunk of cucumber. Period. I wouldn't give a homeless bunny that crap. Add one of those sugary, viscous bottled dressings, and I think I'd rather have the pineapple ring with cream cheese.

But by the same token, what is going on with some of these Salads that have a ton of junk in them? Lettuce, arugula, kale, spinach, chow mein noodles, cashews, golden raisins, cheese, tortilla strips, blueberries, shredded carrot, chicken, pita chips, and sprouts? Do you know that some restaurant Salads clock in at over twelve hundred calories? Holy crap.

As soon as the weather gets warm, Rick and I opt for Big Salads for dinner a lot of the time. I follow the same kind of recipe handed down from St. Patsy with a few variations. I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar for my dressing, and because I am more picky and exacting, I measure. Every time. I do use Lawry's for that familiar taste, but I use only freshly ground black pepper always. For our Big Dinner Salads, I add a chunked-up chicken breast or piece of steak or whatever protein we fancy. And rather than iceberg lettuce, I use romaine. The rest of the ingredients can vary like St. Patsy's now and then, depending upon what is in season and what I have left over. Once in a while, I make an Asian-inspired dressing, and we vary the Salad ingredients to accommodate that. Summer means lots and lots of options since the farmstands are full of produce: roasted yellow and zucchini squash, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes--the list is truly endless.  But always, I strive for taste and balance.

The only time I buy bottled dressing is to make this terrific Salad, introduced to me by my friend and fellow blogger Shirley. I make one addition to it, and that is to add chunks of crisp apples. It's a terrific Salad, especially in the fall.

Oh, Salad! What a bad rap you've gotten! From turgid Jell-O molds holding shreds of vegetables in suspended animation to ascetic scoops of cottage cheese cradled in cantaloupe halves, you've been dismissed as Diet Fare, labelled as Lady Lunch, and eyed askance as a source of Salmonella In A Sack.

But I still love you. I love you even though you are worky to put together, despite my Salad Spinner and the help of Rick, my Salad Sous Chef, a man always happy to help with anything that doesn't end up looking like stuff his mother made.


Monday, June 13, 2016

r Is For republicans

Even in the title, I cannot bring myself to capitalize the R and give this political party any respect whatsoever, especially now.

My longtime readers have journeyed with me through both terms of the Angel Of Death (Bush 43), including my Despair of the Election Of The Dark Times. We watched my Countdown Clock until a Democrat finally sat in The Big Chair in the White House, and together we mocked the teapartiers with great mirth, critiquing their sad, poorly-executed signage. I declared my own suitability for Vice President, my love for past Democratic Presidents and Presidential Candidates, and offered to serve as a nonpartisan government Department of my own.

All of this Good Fun aside, for me The Politics is Serious Business, especially Presidential Politics. To put it into perspective, let me share a brief story with you:

In April, Rick and I were visiting a winery in Ontario, Canada, whose owner/winemaker was born in Poland. As we tasted and chatted, he wanted to talk Politics. He conveyed a deep dismay with the United States' embrace of its current republican standard bearer. "I don't understand," he said. "This guy is a clown, a television personality. He has no political experience, no diplomatic intelligence."

I assured him that I, for one, was not only disgusted by this candidate, but alarmed by him. "The American press and media have created a monster," I told him. "Because he makes good TV and good copy, they have legitimized and inflated his candidacy. And the republican party fringe element has found its Poster Boy. I could not be more disappointed and embarrassed."

"But Americans," my host continued rather passionately and knowingly, "they have to remember. They are not just electing a president of their country. They are, in fact, really electing a President of the Whole World. Don't they realize or think of that?"


I have to say, I seriously doubt that any of the republicans who have endorsed the current Presumptive Nominee of their party (however tepidly or reluctantly) have thought of that. At all. These pompous, cowardly, self-righteous self-preservationists have blindly put Party before Country and Position before Constituency. They would rather Fill The Chair than Help The Country. Or the Whole World.

It is repulsive.

Even as some republicans meekly condemn this yahoo nominee as racist or bigoted or wrongheaded or whatever, they always conclude their remarks with a statement of support. Even so-called Christian groups are conflicted, some conditionally withholding support, depending upon whether the presumptive republican nominee woos them effectively. Ugh.

How dare this party call itself The Party Of Lincoln? It bears no resemblance whatsoever to that assemblage, the one which railed against slavery and passed the Thirteenth Amendment. It was President Lincoln who said of one political party:

"I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

It is a short bit of editing to make his remarks ring true for Today:

I am not a republican. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of women, be in favor of degrading classes of any people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except Muslims.” When the republicans get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except Muslims, and women, and Mexicans.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

No, this republican party is not The Party Of Lincoln. It's more like the Know-Nothing Party; the name--with this nominee especially--is a much better fit by far.


Monday, June 06, 2016

Q Is For Quirks

Now that I have reached the Advanced Age Of Fifty-Seven, chances are slim that I will change very many of my habits now. Oh, sure, if my esteemed neurologist told me that, say, sleeping on my memory foam pillow was triggering my migraines, I'd switch to whatever he said. But some of my Quirks are so ingrained as to be Second Nature, and I can't Just Stop Them.

I know some of you have them too, these Quirks that are part habit, part genetic code, part survival instinct, part plain old preference. I'll share some of mine, and then I want you to share some of yours, too.

FOOD: Ketchup on eggs; ketchup on roast lamb (I know--sacrilege!) and the only ketchup is Heinz; all beef is rare rare rare; Miracle Whip, not mayo, unless I'm making tuna anything. And in this house, white sandwich bread is a Sin. And so is any pepper that is not fresh ground. Oh, and I keep all cake in the fridge. I like cold cake. But no cake and ice cream. I hate that combination. Actually, I dislike pie and ice cream as well.  I am secretly in love with french fries.

DRINK: No "sweet tea." No milk. No instant coffee. Dry wine only. No ice in martinis. No hot tea.

COMFORT: I cannot sleep without a cover of some kind, and the room must be completely dark. I rarely sit without my feet up under me unless at a restaurant or if I am "company." I do not eat a meal outdoors unless forced. After I eat ice cream, I usually need a blanket. I hate wind, but also dislike having to run the air conditioner.  I do not like an overhead fan blowing directly on me, but a heater directly on me is heaven.  If the water would stay hot, I could take a bath for several hours.

MISCELLANEOUS: I do my hair and makeup every day, even if I'm not going anywhere. I put my seatbelt on just to move cars in the driveway (I also use my turn signals). At home I verbally correct everyone's grammar and usage on television, online, and in the newspaper. (To the cats, if Rick is not around. To no one, if it is on my car radio.) And each time it is on, I gamely watch about half of "Dateline", then promptly fall asleep before any resolution. (That show is The Best Sleep Aid, and it's free!) I run a fever when I get overtired, when I have a migraine, and sometimes when my arthritis is Just Plain Horrid. I still hate feet unless they're baby feet or animal feet, and we all know how I feel about republicans (I still won't capitalize that word).

Okay! Your turn. What Quirks make you You?


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

P Is For Painting

"We can't put it off any longer," Rick said about a month or so ago. "This is the year we have to paint the front porch. It should have been done years ago, and it looks terrible. No furniture out until it's painted."

What happened next was Profound and Fateful, and quite possibly some of the Stupidest Things I Have Ever Said In My Life. "Okay," I agreed. "Not a big deal. I can help. I'm home all day. I can paint the railings, no problem. That way, all you'll have to do is paint the floor, and we'll be done!"

What a Gargantuan Idiot I am.

Painting is an awful, tedious, horrible job. Painting spindles is the Epitome Of Awful, Horrible Tedium. Painting eleventy thousand spindles white is actually prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Painting eleventy thousand spindles white, upon railings which are at the level of a five-foot, four and a half inch woman's mid-thigh is one of Dante's Circles Of Hell.

Do you know that it is entirely possible to lose one's place whilst painting with White Semi-Gloss paint when it is very breezy and everything looks the same and it is BORING AND TERRIBLE AND THE PAINT DRIES IMMEDIATELY AND YOU START HATING EVERYTHING AND YOUR BACK AND NECK AND SHOULDERS AND KNEES HURT? And that you realize that you have been holding the paint brush as if it were going to start slithering around and trying to bite you?

Holy crap.

At one point, my cousin Ann sent me a text message. I told her I was Painting and Miserable, and I immediately offered her a Billion Dollars if she would do it for me. Before she answered, I had time to feel Ashamed, Humiliated, and Embarrassed because Ann does practically Everything, not only Painting, but sewing, quilting, rebuilding and refinishing furniture, wallpapering, canning, ceramic tiling, and cloning pets and prehistoric animals. Okay, not that last one, but she probably could do it if there were instructions on the internet and she felt like it.

Anyway, my point--and I do have one--is This: Ann said, "I would come paint your porch for a billion dollars."

And I paused for More Than A Moment to actually think about whether or not I could come up with the cash.

Honestly, how do any of you do it, this Painting? It's horrid and awful. I've done it Twice now, and I've already told Rick that my Painting days are Over. "You did a great job!" he said, encouragingly. "You are slow, but neat." Which is a nice way of saying that it took me ten hours to do what he did in two hours when he got home from work, and that includes swiping away a few smears with some Goof-Off.

Heavy Sigh.

Painting. What was I thinking?


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

O Is For Oreos

Oh, Oreos. Whereas once you stood for Childhood Simplicity itself, now you are nothing more than a blowzy, tawdry tart looking to go home with anyone who will give you a ride. Why, Oreos, why? Instead of being True To Yourself, you try to be Everything To Everyone.

What a Shame.

When I was a kid, we rarely got Oreos. My father disliked them, probably due to their intense sweetness, deep dark color, and more practically, their price. He was the sole breadwinner of a family of six, and our cookies were usually generic and whatever he liked since he did the grocery shopping on Saturdays. I recall mostly Maurice Lenell pinwheel cookies (which I loved), and huge boxes of almond crescents covered in powdered sugar, which I disliked. Occasionally, Fig Bars appeared, I think, and I liked those, too. But St. Patsy baked something every weekend, so we did just fine with her pies and cakes and strudels. My father was not a chocolate baked good fan, so Oreos were not ever On His List. Once in a while, some vanilla and chocolate sandwich cookies appeared, called Duplex Cremes or something like that.

But back to Oreos.

My friends across the street, who were often my source for All Saturday Morning TV Ad Foods, always had Oreos. And Spaghettios and PopTarts and Lucky Charms and all that stuff. Lisa would often bounce out of the house with a whole package of Oreos, sit on the curb, and twist them open, licking the creme out, only to discard at least half the chocolate cookie. It was easy for her mom to catch her since the evidence was all over her mouth. Oreos leave your teeth black if you don't have that milk to wash them down. And if Lisa's teeth didn't give her away, her sister Laura was only too happy to since it would get her out of trouble.

These days, however, Oreos can be eaten in relative Safety, thanks to all of the New! Exciting!(and Not Blackening) Flavours. Now that I'm old enough to buy and enjoy my own Oreos any old time I want to, they've decided to chase the marketing demographic segment who are so fickle and distracted that they have to have something New! and Exciting! every time they go into the grocery store (or go online to order groceries or ask Siri what groceries are or something).

Excuse me while I go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

Anyway, I digress.

My point--and I do have one--is this: Oreos just plain Overdid It. Rather than remain pure and trade on their Legacy as America's Favourite Cookie (retail), they went plain batshit crazy. They cheapened their History. They took their brand and turned it into one of those sad knock-off characters who roam around Times Square offering to take a picture with you for a few bucks. I mean, just look at this partial list of Oreo flavours:

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Oreo
Chocolate Oreo
Strawberry Milkshake Oreo
Golden Oreo
Double Stuf Golden Oreo
Oreo Heads or Tails
Creamsicle Oreo
Oreo DQ Blizzard Creme
Double Delight Oreo
Cool Mint Creme Oreo
Peanut Butter Oreo
Pure Milk Chocolate Covered Mint Oreo
Banana Split Creme Oreo
Brownie Batter Oreo
Sugar Free Oreo
Reduced Fat Oreo
Halloween Oreo
Red Creme Oreo
Birthday Cake Oreo
Candy Cane Oreo
Candy Corn Oreo
Gingerbread Oreo
Lemon Twist Oreo
Neapolitan Oreo
Berry Cream Oreo
Ice Cream Rainbow Sure, Bert! Oreo
Banana Split Oreo
Limeade Oreo
SpongeBob Oreo
Fruit Punch Oreo
Cookie Dough Oreo
Caramel Apple Oreo
Pumpkin Spice Oreo
Red Velvet Oreo
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreo
Cotton Candy Oreo
S'Mores Oreo
Root Beer Float Oreo
Key Lime Pie Oreo
Marshmallow Crispy Oreo
Cookies 'n Creme Oreo
Toasted Coconut Oreo
Cinnamon Bun Oreo

And these are just some of the ones sold in the United States. Internationally, Oreos are cheapening themselves, too, with such iterations as Green Tea Oreo (Japan), Blueberry Ice Cream Oreo (Singapore), Coconut Delight Oreo (Indonesia), and Chocolate and Dulche de Leche Double Delights Oreo (Chile), among others.

And! Let's not forget that Oreos, in their neverending quest to Be All Sweets To All People, also come in:

Double Stuf Oreo
Football Oreo
Big Stuf Oreo
Mini Oreo
Triple Double Oreo
100 Calorie Pack Oreo
Mega Stuf Oreo
Oreo Thins
Fudge Covered Oreo
Oreo Cakesters
Oreo HandiSnax
Oreo WaferStix

to name but a few.

Oh, Oreos. Your sad Fall From Grace reminds me of a little piece in Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence. In this scene, the hero Newland Archer is talking to the Countess, an outsider, after a huge high society party given in her honour. He explains to her what a Big Deal the event was, especially since it was given by the most prestigious and influential family in New York.

"The van der Luydens," said Archer, feeling himself pompous as he spoke, "are the most powerful influence in New York society. Unfortunately--owing to her health--they receive very seldom."
She unclasped her hands from behind her head, and looked at him meditatively.  "Isn't that perhaps the reason?" 
" The reason--?"
"For their great influence; that they make themselves so rare."

There is a great lesson in there for you, Oreos.


Monday, May 09, 2016

N Is For Normal

I can't remember exactly what precipitated it, but in a moment of frustration early in his childhood, Jared (my eldest) landed this salvo, "Can't you just be Normal like other mothers?!" He was of elementary school age--that much I do remember--so his need for acceptance was understandable. The fact that it was in the Early Nineties makes it even more poignant for the both of us, that decade being the beginning of Organized Play Groups, Smothering Parental Involvement, and Mumsy and Popsy sticking their tentacles into every nook and cranny of their kids' lives until they became one huge being of KidParent with no discernible end of one and beginning of the next if it were in any way possible.

Even if the parents worked, which, of course, Rick and I both did.

Anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

I remember feeling both surprised and terrible. I had no idea he was feeling ashamed or irritated regarding my parenting, which had always been a source of pride for me. Like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, my parenting role model, I never lied or talked down to my children. I held them to a standard of honesty and character that was high but reasonable. Whenever possible, I waited for their better natures to assert themselves and allow them to do The Right Thing.

But I'm sure Atticus Finch didn't, for example, make up The Underwear Song and sing it so loudly that a neighbor called to request an encore, along with a reprise of The Bug Killing Song. I'm sure he never drank beer out of a water bottle in right field during a Little League game. Or let his kids quit Little League because they were so damn miserable. Or say to them, "Go ahead and fight like hell, but just so you know, the winner gets grounded for two weeks." Or, when they were bored, let them draw all over each other (and me) with washable markers. (Full disclosure: Sometimes, during Sam's naps, I would draw elaborate pictures on the bottoms of his feet. I once wrote his letter to Santa on his back.) Or go shopping at Toys R Us, stopping first to put the five-foot stuffed Clifford in the cart with absolutely no intention of ever buying it. Or announce to the entire family gathered at Thanksgiving one year that Jared was getting pubic hair.

Yeah. That last one. I Know.

But anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

As soon as he said it, "Mom, why can't you be Normal like other mothers?", I felt sad. I felt terrible and sad. Because Jared was my First One, and I had been such a crappy mom, I thought, for so many of his earliest years. I was scared and overwhelmed and tired and really, he didn't do anything any of the books had said he would. But he and I had Hung In There, and we were good buddies overall. Beyond being my kid, I really liked him. He was funny and smart and thoughtful. But, apparently, I was failing all over again. "Oh, Jay," I said. "Do you really want me to be like that?"

I'd like to think that he's as grateful as I am that he said No.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

M Is For Migraine

Lynda Robinson

Migraine has been a part of my life for almost forty years now in varying degrees. My Migraine history predates my marriage, my children, and my career. It predates the NBA careers of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the major milestones in the political careers of William Jefferson Clinton and George H.W. Bush, the Oscar win of The Deer Hunter, and the legal career of Sonia Sotomayor. It's older than the entire casts of movies anymore, and certainly older than the playlists of most radio stations.

My point here is--and I do have one--that like most people with any sort of Overarching Thing In Their Lives, I've simply Lived With It, and done so for a Very Long Time.

It is astonishing, however, how much of one's life can revolve around That One Thing.

Migraine has been a part of my life for thirty-nine years. It astonishes me to say that, but it's a Fact Undeniable. I got my first one while I was away at college, and it has been with me ever since, stealing entire days away from me, days that add up to more than a year of my life, and those are only the Headache Days. Sometimes there are Pre-Headache Days, and always, always, there are the Recovery Days. Migraine is the worst kind of thief.

Because along with stealing days, Migraine steals parts of Me, too. After fighting Migraine for so very, very long and losing, I feel at times like a Failure. Each headache feels like a Defeat, a Loss of the Battle to me. Like I'm not Trying Hard Enough. (And that nudges my old Catholic Guilt, which we all know I've railed against for ages.) Between my neurologist Dr. B. and me, we've tried so many things, and I've become so cagey in my strategies against Migraine. I study the isobars on the national weather map; I Never Go To Bed On A Red (wine); I only drink when I have something in my stomach and some water along with it; I gave up my treadmill for a recumbent bike; I manage what little stress I have; I get plenty of sleep; I avoid artificial sweeteners...the list is endless. But Migraine always defeats me in the end.

In my search for a magic cure for Migraine, I had to endure some frightening and awful side effects while my body became accustomed to what eventually became my Wonder Drug. Some of the effects are, unfortunately, long term, but they are not nearly as serious as the earliest ones. They pale in comparison to the more frequent and debilitating Migraines that I used to get before being on this medicine.

To call Migraine a headache is like calling Godzilla a lizard. During some episodes, I have lost all or part of my vision, vomited, sleepwalked, had vertigo and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. I have felt and heard my blood throbbing in my ears and temples. Even though I would run a low-grade fever, I would be freezing. I would be confused and unable to articulate what I needed or wanted. And on top of it all, always the excruciating pain.

Thankfully, because of my Wonder Drug, many of the most severe Migraine symptoms are rare now. Mostly, I get more manageable Migraine Episodes, and thanks to Dr. B., I can truly manage them. I think of Migraine now as a little more like a Caged Panther--still dark and wild and dangerous, but I have the whip and chair and bars to my advantage.

And, unlike some Migraineurs, I've met with nothing but kindness from other people, whether they were fellow sufferers or not. No one has ever said to me, "Take some Advil" or "After all, a headache is just a headache" as I've heard in some cases. Many people have offered remedies they've seen or heard in an effort to be helpful, a habit that can often irritate and frustrate other Migraineurs who have been on this journey for as long as I have, or longer. I am always appreciative of those who want to help, but I will say that the number of herbal supplements and junk remedies and homeopathic treatments claiming to relieve or cure Migraine is ridiculous and annoying. Kale and ginger smoothies will not cure a true Migraine. A cup of chamomile tea and a valerian root capsule will not stop a real Migraine.

I once begged my doctor to remove several vertebrae at the base of my skull if it would stop my Migraines. Do you think some cucumber-lime smoothies and a drop or lavender oil on each temple is really getting it done?
I think I've made my point.

While Migraines are Part Of my life, they are Not My Life.  And it is important to me that I always remember other people are dealing with far greater challenges, and dealing with them Every Single Day.

M is for Migraine.  But it's also for Moving On.

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