Monday, November 30, 2020

November Challenge Complete! Post 30: Why I Blog

Who knew I'd write a post every single day for the whole month of November? Certainly not me. (And please don't expect this again any time soon.) Today's post does mark the end of this Challenge, and the subject is Why I Blog

1. I enjoy having a platform.

2. I like exercising my Writing Muscles.

3. I value and appreciate the relationship I have with my Commenters.

4. I think the blog community is an important one.

5. I feel the platform of the blog has more depth and maturity than social media.

As I said in a previous Challenge post, I started my blog as a way to practice what I preached to my Creative Writing students, that writers write. I've continued it, however, far into retirement because I still find it valuable, interesting, fun, and rewarding. I'm constantly intrigued (and frankly, astonished) by the number of people who choose to read me, both on the site and by email subscription or feed. 

And I'm appreciative, of course.

While social media is more immediate, often self-centered, and brief, I like the thoughtfulness of blog posts. I like the fact that there is some time and effort that goes into writing each one (at least I put that into each one of mine). Platforms like facebook and Twitter are quick hits and fluff. I feel that blogs offer something of more substance. I view mine as my newspaper column of sorts.

Finally, I can't stress enough how much I love the interaction in my Comments section. I care very much what response my writing evokes; it makes every writer happy to know that their words have prompted a response, a memory, an action, or a thought. I feel fortunate to be able to know what those are on this platform, and to be able to engage right back is such a luxury and privilege. I've made some very good Virtual Friends on my site, and I'm grateful.

I'm also grateful for those of you who have read (and commented upon) all or most of these THIRTY posts this month. Your kind loyalty was such an encouragement to me. 

My question to all of you is why do you blog? Or, if you don't currently have a blog, why not?

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Sunday, November 29, 2020

November Challenge Post #29: What's In My Makeup Bag

Let me tell you, I'm getting a big laugh out of today's topic. This post could be over almost before it begins, mainly because I don't have a Makeup Bag. 

Secondly, here is the extent of my Makeup Regimen.

I'm not even sure if the Olay cream counts as Makeup since it's more of a skin care item. I don't even use it every day, and sometimes I use it at night. 

I used to use a little foundation (Neutrogena), then I started using only a dab of it to tint my moisturizer (Oil of Olay). Then, this summer, I gave that up and went au naturel. No one has ever said a thing to me about looking different or pale or icky or, "Hey, what happened to your skin?", so I decided it was more of a Me Issue and have been barefaced ever since.

And loving it. My vanity keeps me using mascara, though. I do have my standards, and I'm always on the lookout for the perfect one. 

Do you still wear makeup? And do you have The Perfect Mascara for me?

Saturday, November 28, 2020

November Challenge Post #28: Places I've Travelled

oday's subject is one that I've written about before in a few different posts over the years. I come from a long line of Travelers (on my mother's side), people who are constantly picking up and moving all over the place for long trips and visits. My grandparents loved to take epic road trips, visiting Alaska before it was a state, camping all over the USA, and fishing in Canada.

All their children inherited the gene, and they all became intrepid tourists, often caravaning together in one big family parade, exploring whatever routes and states they mapped out carefully and deliberately well ahead of time. I vaguely remember one such trip only in flashes, chasing chipmunks among driftwood on the big dune beaches in Michigan, seeing a Paul Bunyan statue in...someplace. I think I was four.

I'm not as eager a traveller. When I was seventeen, my parents planned an enormous road trip for the month of August in 1976. We were to drive throughout the northwest states (12 in all) and a couple of provinces of Canada. That late spring and early summer, I had contracted several illnesses/infections, culminating in mononucleosis and a particularly bad case of strep. I was barely recovered, unable to swim or hike, but off we went. You can read about it here.

All of our road trips were pretty much geared toward my parents and had zero taken into consideration for the kids. Lots of scenic overlooks and nothing for children or teens to do. And after you've seen one mountain, you've pretty much seen them all, you know?

As an adult, I loved the cheap airfare during the 90s. I could fly out to see friends in Chicago, Maryland, Denver, and Florida. Those were the heady days before September 11; my family could still see me off at the gate! I could wear my shoes through to the plane!

For our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in July 2006, Rick surprised me and booked a cruise for us to Alaska. It was a beautiful trip with nearly perfect weather. I wrote several posts about it and posted photos as well, if you want to check my archives (July/August 2006). I was awestruck by Alaska's beauty, and I liked the general convenience of being on a cruise.

My favourite trips are always to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It's not a long trip, and we have made so many friends there. We have friendly and lovely accommodations, and we enjoy our wine tastings and stocking our cellar two or three times a year. We always learn something new from our wineries and winemakers. We walk by the lake and by the river, we eat at terrific restaurants, and we always relax and have fun. 

I've made many solo road trips as well, sometimes to visit friends in Maryland or Virginia, sometimes to go see things I'm interested in, like the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky, or an art exhibit in Washington, DC. Sometimes I get Rick to take me to see something I'm interested in, like the Abraham Lincoln House and museum in Springfield, Illinois.

I've always wanted to take the time and go to England. And I thought maybe I'd like to go to Ireland, Scotland, France, and Croatia. But we took a chunk of money about six years back and bought our lakehouse instead, and I'm glad we did. It has given us so much pleasure and relaxation. It's like a getaway, a haven every time we pull into the drive.

So it's a tradeoff of sorts, as so many things are in life. I haven't been to Europe, but I've seen over half of this country and a few provinces of Canada. I'm not a world traveller, but I have a place to get away and enjoy a lovely view of a lake. It's all good.

So tell me, where have you been? Which place is your favourite?


Friday, November 27, 2020

November Challenge Post #27: What I Look Forward To

It's important to Live In The Now and be grateful, but it's also important to have something to look forward to. My grandfather lived to be more than ninety years old. He was a busy man, a putterer by nature, and he never met a ladder that he wouldn't climb and get up into something where he definitely should not have been. He was well into his seventies--maybe even eighties--when he leaned an old ladder against a pear tree to pick the fruit. The next thing we heard was that he was in the hospital. He had not only fallen off the ladder, but into a picket fence (where he became impaled) because had been reaching for "the good ones." 

My grandpa was busy every day of his life. He once told me that the secret to living a long time was to always have something to look forward to. He had a job to do, a chore from Grandma, or an event at church or the Senior Center or Retired Men's Club which required his presence every day. Whenever he did sit down, he usually caught a quick nap, and that irritated my grandmother, who thought it made him look like an old man. 

Which, of course, he was, but she didn't care about that, and that made it even funnier to all of us.

But my point in all this--and I do have one--is that I never forgot what he told me:  that the reason he was living so long was because he always had something to look forward to.

So, in the spirit of my grandpa, in these difficult times, here is a list of

What I Look Forward To (When The Pandemic Is Over)

1. No more masks

2. Hugging and kissing whomever I want

3. Going back to Canada

4. No more shortages

5. No more being afraid of people in general

What I Look Forward To In General

1. Rick's retirement

2. Weekends at the lake

3. Time with the kids and grandkids

4. Redoing the bathroom floor

5. Wine tastings

6. Repainting the bathrooms at the lakehouse

What are you looking forward to?


Thursday, November 26, 2020

November Challenge Post #26: A Note To Someone

The challenge topic for today is to write a note to someone. It's also Thanksgiving Day. Let's see if I can make this work.

Dear Dept. of Nance Readers,

Happy Thanksgiving Day. I do hope you are able to celebrate this day in a pleasant and thoughtful way. For those of you who are cooking, it is my most fervent wish that you asked for and received help. I do know that sometimes it's easier to do it yourself than to take the time to explain what you need to be done or how to do it, but no one likes a martyr. 

For those of you, like me, who are missing a larger family at your table, thank you for doing your part and for making a sacrifice. If you are missing family members because of a loss, you have my profound sympathies. 

President Abraham Lincoln instituted the first American Thanksgiving holiday by proclamation on October 3rd, 1863. The proclamation, while signed by Lincoln, was written entirely by his Secretary of State, William Seward. In it, Americans are urged to express gratitude that despite the civil war fought upon the battlefields, "peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere." He goes on to say that when observing the holiday, citizens should pray that God provide for those left widowed, orphaned, or suffering due to the "civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged" and further request Divine assistance to "heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union." 

You can find the Proclamation here. Were it written by Lincoln, it would be less flowery and more clear, but it has some salient points for us even now. As you know, I'm not a believer. I do, however, find it oddly ironic that here in 2020, we may still call upon the Universe? Each Other? our new President? to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it soon to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

Happy Thanksgiving, dearest Readers and Friends. I am Thankful for quite a bit this year, and your presence here is among my blessings.



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

November Challenge Post #25: An Old Picture Of Me


What would we do without school pictures? They're the best representation of who we were as kids, and what our lives were like at the time. That's why I always made sure my kids were wearing pretty much their everyday school clothes. I wanted to remember those days exactly how we all lived them.

Here's An Old Picture Of Me for today's challenge topic.

This is my kindergarten picture. It's how I looked pretty much every day of my life that year, both at school and at home. My hair was always long and in two braids. My bangs were cut straight across by my mother, aided by a piece of Scotch tape placed across my forehead as a guide. I was wearing a hand-me-down sweater--this one was red with white piping and buttons. The ribbons on my pigtails were probably white. I wore hand-me-downs in every single school picture in elementary school, and they weren't from my sister, either. They were from another family who had girls, and they gave us big bags of nice clothes fairly often.

I look at this little face every day because I have this photo in a frame on my dresser. I wonder about the small smile on her face; it doesn't look quite happy to me. But school photography would have been new to me, so perhaps I was just nervous. 

I don't like being photographed at all. I try not to be like this because I know my family will want photos of me for memories later. But I hate being in pictures.

Do you have a specific memory about any school picture? How do you feel about being photographed now?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

November Challenge Post #24: Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

Today's topic was supposed to be "Blogs I Love And Why", but I decided that topic was kind of a Duh. First of all, I have a tabbed page above that provides that information, and secondly, I read the people who read me and comment here, with a few additions. 

End of post, pretty much.

So I'm freelancing and changing the subject to something else. I'm also fighting a weather-triggered migraine right now, so this will have to be a quickie. Sorry in advance if this post is not as coherent and well-written as my usual offerings.


It's wonderful that Some People at gatherings can lift their pinkies and their eyebrows and say things like, "Oh, television. We don't even have one in the house. We got rid of it back in 1979. It was kind of our protest against the mediocrity and crassness of the media." Or, "We got a television for the children so that they could watch PBS. That's the only channel we watch." 

Well, la di dah.

I am not Those People. I watch television, and I even watch garbage on TV once in a while. On purpose. Here are a few of my

Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

1. Judge Judy

2. Hot Bench

3. People's Court

As you can tell, I like the TV court stuff. It's hilarious. I put it on and knit during the testimony. The kind of scenarios I hear on these shows is so alien to my way of life that I'm often completely astonished and often gasping. And laughing. I highly recommend it if you're looking for some mindless entertainment that makes you feel much better about yourself.

What are your Guilty Pleasure TV Shows?


Monday, November 23, 2020

November Challenge Post #23: My Favourite Childhood Books

I learned to read at a very young age. Once I started reading, I couldn't ever stop. Back in 1964 it wasn't expected that kindergarteners would know how to read, and the most knowledge we were expected to have was a rudimentary identification of colours, a few numerals, and be able to recite perhaps our address and our parents' names. Miss Osborne was stunned that I was already reading children's books.

We had Little Golden Books in the house, and the one that I was enamored with was The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown, of Goodnight Moon fame. (I never even heard of Goodnight Moon until I read it to my sister's kids aeons later, even though it predated The Color Kittens.) It's likely that I picked out the book myself at some point, being drawn not only to the kittens on the front, but the very colourful illustrations inside. I've always loved paints, crayons, and the names of colours. This is the edition that I had as a very little girl, I think. My book is long gone.

This page of this book especially was my favourite.

All of the pages were about a colour and what it felt like or what things were that colour. It was so creative and imaginative.

When I was older, probably about seven or eight, I was going to the library once a week with my mom and my sister. I was allowed to take out eight books. I started reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Not all of them were always available, so I read them out of order, and some of them I read several times. I loved those books so much! These look pretty close to a couple of the ones I read from my little tiny town library, but most were recovered in plain hardcover library binding. They got a lot of wear.

When I was about ten or eleven, my brother was selected to go to a special summer program at Oberlin College, which was about twenty-five minutes away from our home. He was given some books to read, and he shared them with me. One was To Kill a Mockingbird, the edition below.

I obviously didn't have the depth or maturity to fully appreciate or understand this book at such a young age, but I loved it. I felt especially drawn to Jem, and I was so impressed by Atticus. I borrowed this book from my brother's bookshelf many times. As so many of you know, it became my favourite book of all time, and I was lucky enough to teach it dozens of years during my career. Each time I assigned it to my students, I, too, read it again right along with them. It never stops being powerful for me.

One last book that I loved and that came into my life at a very critical time was this one.

When I was nine, I had emergency surgery for a burst appendix. It was quite serious, and I was in the hospital for a very long time. I missed my family, my home, and Easter, too. My godmother sent me a tower of presents, and among them was this book of colour poetry. I still have it to this day, and I used to use it in my Creative Writing II class. The poems it inspired from my students were profoundly original and beautiful. It's not unlike The Color Kittens, really. Just more sophisticated. The way these two books echo one another makes me smile and feel very...complete.

I'd love it if you'd share some favourite books from your childhood with all of us in Comments.

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

November Challenge Post #22: My Dream Job

Is there such a thing as a Dream Job? Isn't the Big Dream not having to go to work at all, but to have all the money you need in order to do whatever you want whenever you want?

Just sayin'.

For me, Teaching was my Dream Job. I always wanted to be a teacher since I was a little kid. I played school, even by myself, upstairs in my room with a big chalkboard, actually grading pages in old books as if they were student workbook papers. When my little sister Susan was old enough to finally be my student, I played school with her, creating a reading book and trying to teach her from it. When it was the peak of summer, I moved my classroom to the garage now and then because my room was too hot to play in.

I loved the idea of having my own classroom, a big desk, and writing on the huge chalkboard at the front of the room. Grading papers sounded like fun to me. I occasionally helped my teachers mark papers, even as early as second grade. 

My commitment to Teaching wavered briefly in high school. After reading a series of books by James Herriot, a veterinarian in the English countryside, I changed course and decided to become a veterinarian myself. I informed my high school counselor, and we investigated my college choices and my remaining course selections for the rest of my high school years. I worked hard in chemistry just for a B, but it didn't deter me. Let's not talk about Algebra and Geometry except to say that I made it out of both of them.

I began Pre-Veterinary studies in college and ran up against a real jerk in Zoology I. Dr. H's first words to the class were, and I quote, "What are all you women doing in here?" It only got worse after that, but I didn't care and challenged him often. My dissection was impeccable; my interest in anatomy carried me through. It was only when we did blood typing that I found my weak point. I became nauseated and almost fainted. He was, in a word, gleeful.

To make an already long story short, upper level chemistry classes and more math spelled the end of my veterinary aspirations, hastened along by my odd reaction to blood. I've since overcome the latter, but my inability to deal with anything but straight arithmetic continues to this day. I'd probably have done okay with the chemistry, but it would have taken me forever and I'd have had to get good help. 

I wasn't too sad to go back to Teaching. It felt like home. 

Teaching would still be My Dream Job today if it weren't for the Not Teaching stuff. So much of the job is Not Teaching. If I could go to work and Just Teach, I'd still be doing it. I loved that. But I had so much other soul-sucking crap that was often more of a priority than the education of my kids that it stopped being Teaching and started being A Job. Just Work. And no matter how much I did, it wasn't enough and was never going to be. And no one--not one damn person in charge--ever said "Thank you" or "You do a great job." 

And I'm sure, to some extent, it's because they were all under pressure, too.

Still, Teaching English was my Dream Job. I did it for a little over 30 years. And I was damn good at it, too.

What is your Dream Job?  


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Saturday, November 21, 2020

November Challenge Post #21: The Best Thing That Happened This Year

Let's stipulate for the record that 2020 has been a Dumpster Fire, a Hellscape, a Trainwreck, and a Shit Show. I know that every single time I said, "How could this year get any worse/more stupid/any more ridiculous/more outrageous?", it went ahead and did just that. It did it so often, in fact, that I stopped saying those things and merely thought them in my own private head, sure that I was somehow jinxing everything and causing all the horrid stuff myself. The 2020 Tsunami Of Crap kept rolling over us, and because I couldn't stop myself from thinking, for goodness' sake, I decided to stop being so superstitious and realize that it wasn't my fault at all, it was entirely the fault of the republicans, and I had to just ride it out and hope for Joe Biden.

But I digress.

Despite all the Terrible, No-Good, Very Bad Stuff this year, I did have something good happen this year. But first, let's list 

The Things That Did Not Happen To Me This Year

1. I did not fall down.

2. Rick did not have surgery.

YAY! Let's hope we keep this streak going.

Okay. I digressed again. Back to the 

Best Thing That Happened To Me This Year.

Here it is:  My oldest son Jared moved out of his apartment on March 1st. 

I know. On its own, it isn't wonderful, but it brought about a cascade of joy for me. Let me explain.

Jared moved out in order to move in with his girlfriend Lauren, who he'd been dating for about a year and a half or so. He also moved in with her three children from a previous marriage, who had been calling him Dad for a while. We had already met Lauren and loved her. In short order we met and spent time with the kids, then ages 17, 15, and 5, having them at our house last Christmas (and of course at the lake during the summer). And we loved them immediately. We told Jared and Lauren that it was up to the kids as to when they were comfortable calling us Grandpa and Nana (the names we chose because it's nicely close to Nance, and they already have a Grandma and Papa). 

It wasn't long at all before we were visiting at their house and the youngest, Violet, leaned in close to Lauren and said, "I feel comfortable now." Her mother said, "That's fine. Go ahead." We became Nana and Grandpa from that time on. I'm even Nana in Ella's and Jagger's phones, so I know it's for real. So, I got three grandchildren in 2020! 

The second joyful thing that happened when Jared moved is that custody of Zydrunas transferred to Sam. Z is a large, exuberant dog. Here he is, for those of you who haven't seen him:

Living with Jared in an apartment was not the best place for him. And as Jared's social life bumped up against Zydrunas's needs, it became a tough spot. Now Z lives three doors down from Rick and me and has a nice yard. He goes to dog school for training, and Sam is very consistent with commands and his routines. Z now has lots of people friends, so he's becoming more socialized. And Sam is more laid-back in general, which is to Zydrunas's benefit. Sam's girlfriend Emily is in love with Z (so is Lauren), and was generous and excited to welcome him to their home. So my grand-dog is much happier and lives right down the street, and that makes everyone happy, too!  

In spite of 2020 being a shitful year overall, we can certainly find some joy and bright spots in it. I know you can find some, too. Share them with us in Comments. 

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Friday, November 20, 2020

November Challenge Post #20: My Favourite Foods


These days, I have a Love/Hate relationship with Food. I'm sure so many of you do, too. It's become almost a Herculean task to plan dinner.  How on earth am I supposed to figure out in the morning what I'll feel like eating later in the day? Most often, by the time dinner does roll around, I've spent so much time preparing it and smelling it, the last thing I feel like doing is eating it. Or, it's something I never wanted to make in the first place, but oh well! it's all I could think of at the time. 

"Here!" I wish a magical someone would say. "I've brought you a dinner you love. And I'll be doing that for the forseeable future. You're welcome!"

I dream a dream. Sigh.

In the meantime, until that happens, here's a big list--in purely random, scattershot order, of some of 

My Favourite Foods

1. Raw oysters

2. Seafood

3. Toast

4. Butter

5. Walkers Shortbread

6. Avocado

7. Pork belly

8. Lemon pie/lemon bars

9. Mango

10. Naan

11. Liver and onions

12. Lima beans

13. Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream

14. Duck

15. Tomatoes

Here's the thing:  I do like food. All of these things, I enjoy very much. I could eat any one of them right now, and it occurs to me that I haven't had lunch today. I could also make dinner out of any one of them easily. Actually, I have made dinner out of a good many of them, but let's not get specific.

(For the record, I'm not just talking about the ice cream. Or pie.)

Anyway, I'm still not entirely sure about tonight's dinner yet, and since I missed lunch entirely, I probably should grab an apple or something. Meanwhile, why not tell me a few of your favourite foods? Will we be having a tug-of-war over any?


Thursday, November 19, 2020

November Challenge Post #19: A Difficult Time In My Life


In the summer of 2005, I began having severe pain in my left shoulder. Moving it hurt. Lying on it hurt, too. By the time school started, I was having trouble moving it to dress myself. The pain was intense. If I bumped my arm in any way, a white-hot knife shot through my shoulder and almost made me collapse.

At some point I saw a doctor and was diagnosed with a possible torn rotator cuff. At some later point, the diagnosis changed, and I was re-diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. I was sent to physical therapy for a little while, but no gains were made, and the pain got progressively worse. Nothing was helping, and I was trying very hard to teach every day and be a mother and a wife (and a new blogger) and survive this pain, which was relentless.

I was prescribed Vicodin, but it wasn't helping. Like my father did, I have a very high tolerance level for narcotics. One martini gets me drunk, but two Vicodin do nothing but make me feel a bit sleepy. After a day of Vicodin, the next day they may as well be Skittles. I was sent to a pain management doctor who gave me a pain block that did absolutely nothing. 

Physical therapy was deemed pointless. I was unable to move my arm, frantic with pain, and trying to teach and serve on the committee to choose new textbooks for the English departments for the entire district. I couldn't even drive myself to and from school. I was exhausted.

The doctor decided to put me on oxycontin. And then my life completely fell apart in little pieces, bit by bit.

I have little to no memory of my life at that point. I would take prescription strength ibuprofen during the day so that I could teach. The moment I got home, I would put on my pajamas, take my oxycontin, and hit the couch. I have no idea if I ever made meals, ate them, or what. I mean, I'm sure I must have retained some semblance of my normal life, but I don't remember it. When I ask my husband about it, he says, "We managed just fine." Jared and Sam were busy with their own lives, working and going to school, but I know it affected them, too. They don't say anything about it, either. 

I don't remember Thanksgiving. I don't remember Christmas shopping. I know I was far too unwell to host my usual big family Christmas Eve. I don't remember Christmas. I was a wreck. That drug destroyed every system of my body. Narcotics are notorious for disrupting your normal digestive system's rhythm, and mine was simply nonfunctioning. I was merely existing to work and then come home and take a pill to quell the pain. I do remember at one point telling Rick that I couldn't go on, that this was no Life anymore. That I didn't recognize my life and I couldn't do it one more day.  I remember him sitting next to me on the couch and pleading with me not to give up.

Finally, my shoulder pain began to ease up. I don't remember if it was in February or March or when. I decided to take myself off of the oxycontin, so I just stopped taking it one day. A few hours later I was nauseated and shaking. I felt jumpy and over-caffeinated, and my heart was racing. I don't remember how it came about, but I called the doctor's office and told the nurse I had stopped taking the drug that day. I was told that what I had done was dangerous, and that I needed to take it immediately and have someone drive me to the office. Somehow I got there and was given a step-down schedule to wean myself off the oxycontin. I had no idea that I was, for all intents and purposes, an addict. My brain was addicted even if I, Nance, wasn't. I was angry and confused. 

I wanted my life back now. I didn't want to wait.

I don't remember the step-down, how long it took. Huge chunks of my memory are just Gone. I don't know if they are a biological casualty of oxycontin, or an emotional casualty of my psyche protecting itself. But it's all gone.

And I'm still a bit angry about that.

I got frozen shoulder again in 2008, in the other shoulder. They misdiagnosed it again as a torn rotator cuff, and they actually had me in surgery before they discovered their mistake. That time it was a much less severe case, and I took nothing stronger than naproxyn. 

Obviously, this was a terribly difficult time in my life, and difficult to share. Thank you for making me feel like I can, here, with you.

I hope you feel as if you can share a difficult time with me, either here or via my email, which you can find in my sidebar.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

November Challenge Post #18: My Collections

As a person who likes order and symmetry, I also like things to match and coordinate. Even when I am merely hanging out at home for the day, I make sure my clothes are coordinated, and that my shoes match my outfit. Taken further, my glasses must also match what I'm wearing for the day, even if all I'm wearing is black leggings and a grey sweatshirt.

Oh, I do love a theme, a motif, a color scheme, and a focal point. Each one makes everything so much easier. They also lead to Collecting. Here are three of 

My Collections

1. Cows:  As my veteran Readers know, I am almost preternaturally fond of Cows. I have been all of my life. It gives me great joy to be able to surround myself with them in my kitchen, which is cow-themed. What I am showing you is approximately one-tenth of my current Cow Collection. As many of you with Object Fondnesses know, once you express that Fondness, people start giving you tons of tchochkes in that realm. I have garage-saled dozens and dozens of Cow Items, and I still have more not on display. Here are a couple of photos of my Cowful Kitchen.

2. Books and Special Wine Bottles:  I have some very, very old books. Some were my husband's grandparents' from school. Others were from an insurance restoration job that Rick was the project manager for ages ago. He saw they were being discarded and brought them home for me. They are nineteenth century primers and sermonettes, among others. One is a leather-bound collection of Tennyson with a handpainted cover. 

We also save the bottles from wines that we especially loved and found to be incredibly excellent. If it knocks one out of the collection, then that bottle is retired. We have the bottles on the dining room table amongst some of the old books and some candlesticks and other objects of significance. Other bottles are on our mantel among still more old books, and a few more decorate a breakfront in the living room and bookshelves there where even more books reside. Here's a photo of my dining room table.

3. High Heels:  I had a terrific (and extensive) professional shoe wardrobe during my teaching career. My students always checked out my shoes every day, and I loved my high heels. There was simply not an outfit for which I did not have a perfect pair of shoes. Sadly, they now live upstairs in the back of my husband's big closet, like the wing of a Nance Museum. I know I should donate them or, in some cases, just toss them, but I can't bring myself to do it. Here's a sample of my Teacher Shoes.

I had to stop with those few. The cats were starting to climb around back there and at one point, I pulled out yet another work boot of Rick's. How many old pairs of work boots can one person have? (Yes, I'm hearing the irony in that remark, but really, it's not the same thing at all.)

What are some things you collect or have collected? Or, how do you feel about Collections?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

November Challenge #17: Why "Dept. Of Nance"?

 I started this blog a little over fifteen years ago as a way to Practice What I Preached. I always told my Creative Writing I and II students that the only way to be a writer was to write. It keeps your voice fresh and your brain primed for inspiration. Writers think differently; they perceive the world differently, just as photographers and painters see their world unlike you and I do. But it's not enough to see the world, they have to record it. Writing completes that connection; it is their way to make sense of their place in it. It is their Art.

Even though I wrote every assignment I gave right along with my students, I also felt I should be writing in my most natural narrative genre, the personal essay. The idea of having a site on the Internet appealed to me in that other people could see and hopefully react to my writing. 

I set out to make my blog a real reflection of my opinions, thoughts, and ideas. It was going to be my voice and my slant on a variety of topics. It wasn't going to be about any one thing. It was merely whatever I decided was under my purview at the time. That's why I chose Dept. of Nance. Whatever I wrote about was in my Department.

In 2007 I wrote a post about what it would be like if the Dept. of Nance ever became a real government department. You can find it here. It makes me laugh. I made a list of things I would immediately do in my First 100 Days, and I must say that I have to strike #5 off that list. I would, however, still like to have the Dept. of Nance become a government entity and help President Biden take care of some business. My Teacher Voice is still pretty commanding, and I don't put up with much.

What's the story behind your blog's name? If you don't have one, what would your blog name be if you did?

Monday, November 16, 2020

November Challenge #16: My Proudest Moment

his particular topic gave me a great deal of Trouble. I thought quite a bit about it while I threw some pasta sauce together and put it in the crockpot for tonight's rigatoni. I gave it some more time as I vacuumed (for what seemed like four hours), and I was still thinking about it as I folded laundry and changed the sheets on the bed. 

Here's the thing:  I don't have a Proudest Moment. Lots of Moments when I'm sure other people feel Proud--and justifiably so--I feel happy, yes, but sometimes I feel like "Okay, cross that one off the list," or "Yes! Just how I planned it!" Or I'm actually extremely Happy and Joyful, but I don't think it's a question of being Proud.

Let me explain.

At all my graduations, I was happy, yes, but for high school, I never expected NOT to graduate. And for my degrees, it was mostly relief and what I said above. I planned college so carefully and financed it by myself, working and carrying a small loan. I had a timeline. I was checking boxes and had a goal. Pride wasn't part of the equation; I was mostly relieved and ready to move on.

When I signed my first teaching contract for my first real job, Pride wasn't there, either. Relief was, mainly, with a small bit of Happiness. It meant (perhaps) job security, but more importantly, health benefits, and back then in the good old days, it meant Rick was covered, too.

There have been many Moments when I've been Proud of my sons. Many, many. I'm Proud of the men they've become, and I know that Rick and I had something to do with that. But that's not a Moment. 

 I'm very Proud of how my husband and I have always been a good team, no matter what. We've been through some very trying emotional times with some ugly family things on his side that defy human understanding. We've been through tough financial times with several layoffs. And there have been some medical setbacks along the way, too. I'm sure you all have had your share of some of these problems, too. Throughout it all, we've remained steady, facing it together, knowing that we can get through anything because we've weathered some pretty nasty stuff already and come out on the other side.

 In a way, our lives are a collection of Moments, but not in the way people on social media like to portray them. In truth, the Moments are actually much smaller and on a continuum, and they blur together, forming a film of our Lives. Because Life is bigger than Moments, and it's fluid, too. It doesn't fit nicely into a little frame, but runs out of the edges like water.   


Sunday, November 15, 2020

November Challenge Post #15: A Sample Of My Handwriting

My handwriting was usually worse than average in school. Ironically, in elementary school, a photographer came to take pictures for a new handwriting book, and I was one of the students sent up to the board to model writing the lowercase letter J in cursive. I stood there for many minutes, making J's fastidiously, being incredibly careful to start at the bottom line, make a confident upstroke but stop at the center dotted line, come down but not make my loop too fat, and bring my upstroke perfectly to the center line again so as to be able to connect to any other letter. My J's were lovely to behold.

Later, especially in junior high, papers came back with "Be Neat" on them when I had to answer boring questions in social studies and science. (But never in English.) In high school, I finally took pains to adopt a clearer style of handwriting after experimenting a great deal.

I started a more up-and-down style of handwriting when I began teaching. I wrote on the board and on transparencies quite often, printing clearly for my students. That seeped into my handwriting, as did the habit of writing quickly. When I lectured, I used to write key words and phrases in outline form on the board as I spoke. (If I did it ahead of time, they'd copy the board instead of listening to me.) I had to write quickly to keep up with myself and to be flexible, adding in ideas and information as the students brought up other points and asked questions.

Here's the result in

A Sample Of My Handwriting

Sigh. It's all over the place. I didn't try to be neat or careful, but to show you an honest sample of my everyday writing. It's probably not what you expected at all, is it? Is your handwriting a better representation of you?


Saturday, November 14, 2020

November Challenge Post #14: An Average Day For Me

My Average Day usually begins when Rick kisses me goodbye and leaves for work. I always tell him to be careful. I really want that on his mind as he starts his day. 

I usually lie there and see if I can go back to sleep for a little while since he often leaves at 6:45 AM. More often than not, however, it's not I who makes that decision. That is made for me by the resident cats, Piper and Marlowe, who have been without food for almost twelve whole hours and are wasting away from starvation. I'm often walked on, head-butted, pawed at, and get my hair chewed, accompanied by some pretty indignant narration until I get up and feed them. Only then can I make my coffee and wander into the living room and open up the drapes for them to patrol the neighborhood from the back of the couch.

I make the bed, grab my coffee, check email, then read my Cleveland Plain Dealer online before settling in to answer Comments, read and comment on blogs, and fritter away a good chunk of my morning. During this time I also play Words With Friends.

After I shift myself from this, I get cleaned up and dressed to face my day. I take care of catboxes and then head out for my walk. When I return, if my bird feeder needs to be filled, I do that. If my neighbor dogs are out, I run in and grab them a few biscuits and visit with them over the fence.

At this point in my day, I have to perform my Light Domestic Goddessing, and I sneak in some cat brushing, too.

Everything stops at 1:00 because Sam comes for his lunch. I love this hour every weekday to visit with my youngest son. Sometimes he makes his own lunch; sometimes I make it. Always, we chat and enjoy each other's company. On days when his girlfriend is off, he sometimes goes home. I miss him.

At 2:00 when he leaves, I write in my journal for about ten minutes or so. If I haven't already, I make a stab at planning dinner. I finish up whatever else there is that needs to be done so that I can have time to read for awhile or knit for awhile. Sometimes, my friend from North Carolina calls for a long, long chat. 

Rick is usually home at 4:00 or 5:00, and once he decompresses a bit, he comes into the kitchen and helps me prep and prepare dinner. Sometimes we have a glass of wine while we cook. We usually eat dinner in the living room on the couch, and we love when it's just a casual one-bowl meal. After dinner is cleaned up, I change into jammies and grab my comforter and stretch out on the couch, immediately covered by at least Piper, the snuggliest (and snoring) cat. We chat, watch TV, and Rick sometimes reads me hilarious posts from Next Door, the neighborhood forum. I also play a few more rounds of Words With Friends until I have to be off screens (Dr.'s orders) by 9 PM. 

Before we go to bed, I pack Rick's lunch. 

This is my Average Day. I retired so that I could have these slow, easy, Almost Nothing days. Before the pandemic, I went a few more places and did a few more things. If it were warmer weather, I'd be outside doing some gardening, or maybe I'd be telling you about an average day at the lake. But aside from a few different things here and there, this really is my quiet little life right now. And I'm happy with it.

How different is your life from mine? What's your Average Day like?


Friday, November 13, 2020

November Challenge Post #13: If I Won The Lottery

o, how much are we talking? Did I win the Classic Lotto, which is $5.5 million, with a cash option value of $2.8 million? Or did I hit it a little bigger, and win on the Lucky For Life, and take the cash option value of $5.8 million? OR did my numbers come up on the Mega Millions Multiplier, with a cash option value of $124.6 million?


I feel like there's way too many lottery options. I don't even play the lottery, but I definitely feel like I deserve to win.

Let's say that I win a really big jackpot. Here's what I'd do

If I Won The Lottery

1. Call my financial advisor and listen to his subsequent advice for investment

2. Tell Rick and absolutely no one else

3. Arrange for Rick to quit working immediately

4. Pay off our debts

5. Arrange wonderful private care for my mother in her own home

6. Give money to my children for their debt

7. Start planning a lengthy trip

8. Start researching local non-profits whose mission I believe in that would make the most of my donation

9. Indulge in the luxury of a housecleaning service

10. Buy a new boat

This is just a starter list. I would win such huge, enormous, abundant money and invest it so wisely that I'd be able to do all kinds of stuff. The mind boggles. 

Wouldn't that be something? It's a fun dream, but that's all it is. What are a few things you'd do with all your newfound cash?


Thursday, November 12, 2020

November Challenge #12: Things That Make My Day

I often remind my husband how lucky he is to be married to me. I have very simple tastes. I don't get caught up in the whole designer label fetish. I don't wear jewelry, and even when I did, it was inexpensive costume stuff. I don't care about expensive cars or big vacations. I'm a little snobby about wine--I'll admit that--but not to the extent that I'm spending a hundred bucks a bottle for stuff I'm drinking every week.

I'm good at finding my Joy in the little things. Here is a list--in no particular order--of some 

Things That Make My Day

1. Dog heads sticking out of cars

2. Sam coming over for lunch

3. One-bowl meals for dinner

4. Seeing blue jays, cardinals, or woodpeckers at my feeder

5. Comments on the blog

6. Having no demands on my time/no place to be

7. Giving the dogs next door a treat over the fence

8. Getting a Triple Word Score with a Z-word on Words With Friends

9.  My hair looking good

10. Anytime my sons send me a text to check in or video-call me

11. When Sam sends me photos or videos of Zydrunas

12. Being able to open windows and air out.

This is by no means a complete list, and I think if they all happened on the same day, I'd probably dissolve into a warm puddle of honey and sentimental happy tears on the floor. I've come pretty darn close to all of them on the same day, though, I have to say. 

And yes, Zydrunas lives only three doors down from me now, but I still like to get photos or videos of him every once in a while when he's being completely goofy or charming.

NEO has crashed back to normalcy with temperatures in the 45-55 degree range. Those few glorious days of summerlike weather are gone now, but I appreciated them so much. I had every single window in the house open, and it felt wonderful. I air out as often as possible, and it's not uncommon to find my windows open even during winter if we get an unseasonably warmish day. I always feel better.

The sun is still out today, and my walk was brisk and bright. No dog heads, but I did chat with one neighborhood cat (a Democrat; DemoCat?). I had nowhere I had to be, and Sam sent me a text to say he was working through lunch today. Oh well. When I came back home, the bird feeder was mobbed with sparrows--Walmart birds, I call them. Later, when I took out the recycling, I disturbed a gorgeous and sassy red-bellied woodpecker extracting a peanut.

I'm having a pretty great day.

What are some things that make your day?


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

November Challenge Post #11--Outfit Of The Day

Probably I should have looked more closely at some of these Challenge Topics before I blithely told myself I was All In on this deal. After I write this post, I'm going to look at the remaining nineteen and see what substitutions I need to make.

Simply describing what I have on today is a terrible idea for a post. I tried photographing myself in today's outfit, but for a variety of reasons, it didn't work. So, FOR YOU, I undressed, hung the whole shebang on a hanger, and took a photo that way. The cats were flabbergasted and annoyed. This Falderal Project delayed their meal.

My Outfit Of The Day

 And no, I do not stand like that. The sweater is olive green, and is from Amazon Essentials. It was a Christmas gift from Sam. The jeans are "boyfriend" style, which means they are slightly cropped and hit me a few inches above the ankle. I got them about six years ago on a Target clearance rack. They are a little big, but they're so comfy. I like to wear my sweaters oversized a bit, too, and long. The glasses are a sort of dark jade by Elizabeth Arden. They were cheap, too, from America's Best. Those are the drapes in my office.

As soon as I got done photographing my outfit in my underwear, I realized I had not shown you my shoes. Here they are:

Gone are the days of my high heels, for sure. I had to grocery shop today, so these were pressed into service. I can also take these for my walk. Please do not look too closely at them. Marlowe, my princessy longhaired cat, lies on all shoes, so I'm sure they have her hair on them someplace. I'm probably the only person in the world who has to lint-roll her shoes. And that is the desk chair in my office.

So there you have it. I did get dressed again to feed the cats and write this, rest assured. What's your favourite thing to wear on a Normal Day? Do we dress like twins?

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

November Challenge Post #10--A Few Of My Favourite Things

 A subject like this can be easy to write about or it can be a nightmare. I'm choosing not to take it too terribly seriously or overthink this. I have a long list of things that are my Favourites in categories that range from shampoo (Pantene Sheer Volume) to shortbread (Walkers), from books (To Kill a Mockingbird) to basketball players (Patrick Ewing forever). Showing you just a few is relatively easy. I'll just pick out the ones that I use most often in a normal Nance Day. 

Here then, in no particular order, are 

A Few Of My Favourite Things

1. My Sisters Comforter:  I call it this because my grandmother and both of her sisters (Ethel, Grace, and Bertha) worked on piecing and sewing this at the Senior Citizens' Center when they were all still alive. It's not hand-sewn, and I think its colours are hideous, but I love it. My parents got it for me when I went away to college in 1979, and at one point, I had put it away. But I remembered my grandma saying how silly it was that people didn't use things like antique mason jars even when they were still serviceable. I knew she'd want me to use that comforter rather than simply store it. I use it every single night, even in summertime, cuddling under it on the couch, watching TV, usually with a cat or two curled up on it with me. It's backed with flannel, which makes it even cozier. It's coming apart now and fraying, so I'll need to find a way to get it fixed.

2. Generic Volumizing Root Lifter:  I usually try to get this stuff at Sally Beauty when it goes on sale for 4 bottles for $20. It's like magic. I spray it at the roots of my slightly-damp hair, then blow dry. I don't have to do anything else, and I like that. I'm way past the days of wanting to futz around with my hair. And my once-thick tresses are sadly Not That anymore. This really helps me look nice without a lot of bother.

3. California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Everyday Olive Oil:  This stuff is my go-to olive oil, and for the longest time, it was hard to find. They came out with a Destination label, which blended in internationally-sourced oils, and I didn't care for it as much. But my warehouse club had a big stock of the all-California oil, and I got several at a very good price. I really like this oil.

Looks like I'm all done here! You know what to do in Comments, and how I love our Chats.

Monday, November 09, 2020

November Post #9--I'm Freestyling And Talking About President Joe Biden And Vice President Kamala Harris

Topic #9 is supposed to be My Best Physical Feature. To be honest, I have no earthly idea. There have been times that I have walked by a mirror or store window and not even known my own reflection. I have an odd perception of what I look like. So, I'll let someone who knows me answer this one, perhaps. The whole idea makes me uncomfortable.

Besides, don't we have something more Important and Wonderful to talk about? I'd say that we do!

How many of you smiled and took a full, deep breath just seeing that picture?

Here's another reason to smile.

While this election should never, ever have been as close as it was (and that does make me shake my head in wonder and dismay), I choose to see it as a full repudiation of Chaos, Incivility, and Corruption. The individual wallowing in the White House and tarnishing the Office of the Presidency will continue to do so, but his time is thankfully limited. His bootlicking lackeys can bluster and blow right along with him, but It Just Doesn't Matter. His cult can drive their gas-guzzling trucks with their flapping flags up and down the highways and dirt roads, but It Just Doesn't Matter. He can tweet in all caps about stolen votes and fraud and taking it to the courts (or Court), but It Just Doesn't Matter. He's Out, Gone, Done, and in his own obnoxious word, Fired.

I, for one, feel lighter. Joyful-er. Safer and more secure. I can be Proud of being an American again. Pretty soon, I can watch the national news and not roll my eyes at yet another stupid, outrageous, or infuriating spew of crap coming from the White House. I can, perhaps, retire my #Resist.

Wasn't it uplifting and affirming to listen to a President speak about caring for the country? One who said he was humbled by the trust we placed in him? Who spoke truly lovingly about his family and his wife? Who spoke of unity and not division? My heart was so full as he spoke. I could feel years of stress and pain begin to slough away.

His partnership with President Obama may very well be the way he will view his relationship with Vice President Harris. Since she joined the Senate, she has been a standout. Her questioning of Kavanaugh was masterful and still riles the old white guy republicans in the Chamber. She will be a Force in that office. What a vibrant, vital, and welcome replacement for smarmy, duplicitous Pence.

One of 45* 's ghostwriters said that 45*'s favourite strategy is to create so much chaos and trouble that the other people simply become exhausted and give up. 45* himself said, "I am a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win." Well, our democracy doesn't work that way. As President-Elect Biden's campaign manager said, "The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House."

How I'd love to see that!

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Sunday, November 08, 2020

November Post #8--My Worst Habits

wonder if I should consult my husband Rick for this particular post. He would probably have a much better perspective on my Worst Habits than I would. Presently, he is napping in the recliner, having already been awake for a strenuous three and a half hours, most of which were occupied by watching the Sunday morning political chat shows. Apparently, they took a great deal out of him.

While he rests, let me take a shot at what I think might be

My Worst Habits

1. I Cannot Sit Normally:  Most people sit on a chair or sofa with their feet on the floor. I fold one leg underneath me and then sit. Eventually, both feet end up under me or I sit cross-legged. It is a gargantuan struggle for me to sit with both feet on the floor like a normal adult, even at a dinner table.

2. I Sleep In The Fetal Position Always:  Even in a king-size bed, I cling to the edge and never, ever stretch out my legs. I now have to wear night braces on my wrists to keep them straight and prevent daytime pain. 

3. I Am A Leaner:  My mother, St. Patsy, called me out on this constantly as a child and teen. If I sat next to her on the sofa, I leaned on her heavily. I lean to one side on the couch now, resting on an armrest. I do the same thing in my big chair. I even lean to one side in the car, both as driver and passenger. Even when I walk on the sidewalk, I tend to drift. I often wonder if my center of gravity is off or what.

4. I Need Symmetry And Order:  I hate when the big rug in the dining room is askew and must straighten it. I have to have the light switches synced--if one is in the Off position, but is actually On because the other switch was used, I have to make it right. I immediately fix any crooked picture, mirror, or clock. I hate if the wrong pillow is in the wrong spot. I'm working on it.

5. I Can't Get Going In The Morning:  After 30 years of exploding into my morning full-blast and in high heels with a room full of relentless teenagers, I looked forward in retirement to easing into my days. Now, I've taken it to the extreme. I might wake up at 7:00 or 7:30, but I will fritter away my time for three or four hours reading the newspaper, blogs, and other sites while I sip my two cups of coffee. I answer my Comments, make comments, answer emails, and do all sorts of procrastinating activities before I finally truly Get My Day Started. It's by far My Very Worst Habit.

By the way, Rick surfaced a moment ago and I asked him to weigh in. After several minutes of thought, he said, "I don't think you really have any bad habits." Bless his heart. I love him so much.

Your turn, if you feel like 'fessing up. What are your worst habits? Do we share any?

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Saturday, November 07, 2020

November Challenge Post #7--What's In My Bag

First, let me apologize for the lateness of this post. I was on St. Patsy Duty. She required a trip to the hair salon for a shampoo, perm, cut, and style, and ice cream afterward. I hope that's a good enough excuse.

Today we are supposed to look inside my bag. I'm not sure how edifying that will be, but okay. I think it's more important that we look at my bag, actually. And, I prefer the term purse. Bag sounds kind of ugly and homeless-lady-on-the-corner to me. Here's my favourite purse, and the one I carry in fall and winter.

Most of you know of my Cow Obsession. My dear friend Leanne got me this purse years ago, and I adore it. She sent it to me out of the blue one day, and I fell in love instantly. I get more compliments on it than any purse I carry. My grey cat Marlowe loves to curl up next to it on the chair and sleep with it.

Inside this purse you'd find

1. a little red leather wallet

2. a migraine pill

3. a Shakespeare pillbox

4. my keys on a bright pink furball keychain

5. two Target gift cards

6. a receipt from the warehouse club

7. a drugstore coupon

8. a Burt's Bees lip balm

9. two pens

10. a key to my brother's house

11. a hairbrush

12. my sunglasses

Thrilling, right? I'd ask what's in your purse, but instead, tell me what's the weirdest or scariest thing you've ever had to carry in your purse. I'll think about what mine is and get back to you in Comments. Or just tell me what you think about my Cow Purse. 

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