Thursday, April 04, 2024

Severe Weather Season Is Here, But Here Doesn't Exist And I Remain Directionally Challenged

 It's Severe Weather Season here in Northeast Ohio (aka NEO). What? You didn't know that we had Severe Weather here? I'm going to give you a pass on that, especially if you watch the National News. According to national media outlets, weather doesn't really happen anywhere except New York and California. Oh, once in a while, Severe Weather occurs in The Panhandle and The Gulf Of Mexico, but neither of those places really interests Chief Meteorologists until there's a hurricane or a named tropical storm. At that point one of them has to Time It Out or Track It whether We The Viewers live anywhere near it or not. 

Most often, national weatherpersons stand right in front of Ohio and much of the Midwest as they gesticulate about Severe Weather in New York or California, making wide, sweeping motions about Storm Tracks and The Gulf Stream. Sometimes, Rick and I sigh loudly and say things like, "We don't live there!" and "What about the remaining two-thirds of the country?" More often, though, we talk about other stuff, like how weather forecasting has gotten worse the more technology they have, and how bad our basketball fantasy teams are this year, and how cute Theo is, and whether or not I got the mail. 

There's one habit that both national and local weather people have that really irritates me, and here it is:

News Anchor:  Chief Meterologist Rayne Shein is here to tell us about the Severe Weather alerts raising concerns in some major areas and to time it all out for us. Rayne?

Weather Person:  Thanks, Telly. We've got a major front setting up along the I95 corridor that will bring heavy downpours in several metro areas. Out west, look for damaging winds causing problems for those along the 101. 

Here at home, our meteorologists/weather forecasters say things like:  "This storm is setting up right along I271." Or, "Those of you living east of 77 should prep those snowblowers," or "The line of tornadic activity is mainly south of Route 80." 


First of all, I have no way of knowing--nor do I care--where the I95 corridor is, even though they talk about it constantly like I should. Please do not Feel The Need to inform me because--and I cannot stress this strongly enough--I DO NOT CARE. I feel like the only people who know Routes, Interstates, and Roads like this are people as old as my mother, who used to be able to tell you extemporaneously exactly how to get every single place in the country she has ever been, using all the exact route numbers and cardinal directions. It was uncanny. She still may be able to do it; I refuse to ask her. 

Secondly, I could not tell you immediately, unless I am in my house, which direction is north, south, east, or west. Okay, I could tell you if I was at the lakehouse. Or at my childhood home. Or in my car, which has a dashboard compass, but I would be cheating. If someone gives me directions and tells me to go east on such-and-such a road, I glaze over. Means nothing. Tell me left or right. What am I, an original Native American describing territory? A clipper ship captain using the North Star to chart his course? Speak in concrete terms to me that mean something tangible. You have a map right there; point to it. "If you live in the Avon-Avon Lake area, blah blah blah"; "counties below this imaginary line (or left or right of it), blah blah blah." I can even accept north, south, east, west if you refer to the map, but don't point to a plain old map and start rattling off a bunch of highways as if I'm a Greyhound bus driver. In New York or California. Because, honestly. People live elsewhere, too. That's just fact.

If you are having Severe Weather where you live, irrespective of which Interstate you are near, I hope you get through it with no damage and no floody basement, which I can now be assured of, thanks to a huge cash outlay and several days of people digging and working at my home. Let's not talk anymore about that. 

Instead, talk to me of Stupid Weather Irritations and BiCoastal Weather Biases in Comments. 


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Let's Ketchup--Er, Catch Up: The Flu, The Baby, The Experiment, The Siren Song Of Confectionery Snacks


Gosh, it's been a while, hasn't it? To quote one of my favourite lines from The Last of The Mohicans, "Things were done. Nobody was spared." Let's do an Olde Fashionde CatchUp wherein I foolishly use up a whole lot of topics, each of which could have been its own blog post.

(*)The Dreaded Illness--I'm just now feeling better more than a week after coming down with a vicious gastro bug. It left me feeling weak, sore, fatigued, and desperate. Rick got it immediately the day after I did and so did Sam, who lunches here daily. Whenever I get ill, I become irrationally angry. That does not help with Recovery. I also stay impatient to become well. Did I have my regular flu shot? But of course. Did everyone get well before I did? But of course. Did I miss some beautiful walking weather? Please. Upside:  I am about ten pounds lighter. 

(*) Theo!--Theo went on a business trip to Florida and stayed at a resort with his parents. Jordan's company paid for Jared and him to accompany her while she had to be there for meetings, etc. He was, in the words of his father, "a rockstar for the whole trip." Rick and I babysat for him while J&J went to Cleveland for a matinee performance of Funny Girl, and he was perfect:  all smiles, chuckles, and cuddles, and nary a fuss for Nana and Grandpa. He will be four months old in about a week. He is a cute little roundheaded boy and I wish I could show you one picture. Note:  I think I took my first airplane trip when I was about eighteen. Just saying.

 (*)History Bears Me Out--Every so often I just cannot take it anymore and I perform The Experiment, even though I know it's Not Good For Me. Even though I know that all it does is raise my cortisol levels and make me crazy.  I mentioned The Experiment before, in this blog post way back in 2006. It just goes to show you that I don't learn from my own suffering. Anyway, this is a photo of my latest Experiment:

That bag of jellybeans behind the candy jar is EMPTY. Rick filled his candy jar after I went to bed--desperately ill--and left that empty bag there. FOR OVER A WEEK. He looked at it every day FOR OVER A WEEK and did nothing. Meanwhile, I refused to throw it away because of The Experiment and my own Disappointment and Frustration. Which leads me to History, and this article from the Smithsonian Magazine, which is titled What Is the Dominant Emotion in 400 Years of Women's Diaries? I bet I don't have to tell you, do I, Women At Large? Hint:  It is Frustration.

(*) Warning! Do Not Ever Make This--Remember how I made Christmas Toffee with mini pretzels and said I was going to try it with potato chips? Well, I did. 

Do not do this. Do not use Wavy Lays to capture every bit of the buttery, brown sugary wonderfulness. And instead of putting the semisweet chips on top of the pan of hot toffee-covered potato chips, do not instead melt the chocolate and drizzle it on. And don't sprinkle a bit more flaky salt on top. Because, after the requisite cooling and breaking, you will sit with the entire bowl of these and eat them ashamedly and continuously. Black Box Warning:  They are the Siren Song Of Confectionery Snacks. 

There. I think you're all caught up. Let's chat in Comments. 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Skin I'm In

 This morning, after I washed my face in cold water and observed it closely in the mirror, I struggled to choose a moisturizer from among three jars on my dresser. Did my skin need moisture and brightening? Did my skin need moisture and sculpting and tightening? Did my skin need extra moisture and a boost of collagen repair? As I stood there deciding, I could feel my face draw and dehydrate. In truth, I needed all of them--immediately. 

What has become of me?

I am the girl who used to wash her face with whatever soap was available in the dish back on E. 38th Street:  Safeguard, Ivory, Caress, Irish Spring, or Dove. My skin was constantly oily. I used to use straight rubbing alcohol on a wad of toilet paper dabbed on my nose and forehead to rid myself of the shine and the greasy feeling. All of us had that skin, a gift from our Croatian father whose own swarthy complexion never got a wrinkle as he aged. I abused my skin for years, according to dermatologists, using harsh soaps and astringents, Laying Out for a tan and using baby oil. Even well into my thirties, forties, and fifties, I never understood all the Women Who Lotion religiously. 

I am also the girl who had storybook-worthy thick hair. I wore it long, and I had to shampoo it every single day or it would look greasy and stringy, especially at the scalp. It was incredibly frustrating. At times, I even washed my hair with dishwashing liquid, again using whatever was available at the kitchen sink, where all hairwashing was done since we had no shower. (You try washing long, long hair while taking a tub bath.) Forget conditioner because it made my hair lie flat and look--you guessed it--oily. On date nights, I washed my hair in the morning and again when I was getting ready to go out.

Now, I have dry skin and wash my hair about twice a week. My skin drinks in even the richest, most emollient creams and lotions like water. My lips are as dry as that old-fashioned onionskin typing paper. My gorgeous thick hair is a shadow of its former self, and I condition the ends.  I also use a volumizing spray at its roots. It all seems incredibly cruel to me. And terribly unfair.

Perhaps there should be a product for us, The Extremely Dry, that is Industrial Strength. It could come in a huge drum, and we could put on a bathing suit and merely stand in it, up to our nostrils, for about a half-hour each day. We could conveniently locate it near a television so that we could be occupied for that time and not be fidgety. When our time is up, we'd carefully emerge fully moisturized and ready for our day or for our restful night's sleep. Certainly, there are Safety Considerations, and Sanitary Ones as well, but that's for other people to figure out. I cannot be bothered with those sorts of Engineering and Science-y details. 

I feel a little better now, having thought of a Possible Solution. Do you have one? Share it--and your feelings about all this Unfairness--in Comments.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024



Authorities found the body of one of my former students on 12 February. Walt had been missing since late August when he failed to show up for lunch with one of his kids. They found him in a wooded area out past some hiking trails not so very far from one of my grocery stores. I drive past that area on that pretty road fairly often. There are nature preserves there, and some dog owners like to run their pets in the clearing. 

I remember when Rick came home and told me Walt was missing. It was sad and terrible news, and I knew it was ominous. "This won't end well," I said, "unless Walt is somebody else now." 

In October, the family and some friends organized a search party. "I feel so bad for the family," I told Rick. "Do you want to show up and help?" he asked. "No," I said. "I was his sophomore English teacher; even then, only briefly. And I don't want to go out and look for a body."

My time with Walt was, indeed, brief. He was added to my third period Basic English class about midway through the year. I already had his brother, who was a star running back for the football team, in my other Basic class. It was probably around 1983. Walt came from a juvenile facility where he had spent quite a bit of time. (You might recall from my story about Jeremy that my class was the usual landing spot for such kids.)  He was on probation and a short leash, but I didn't get any details. He was merely plopped into my class with a transfer form. As usual.

He gave me no trouble as far as routine discipline. He sat where assigned. He was respectful. He wasn't late to class. But did he bring a book, pen/pencil, paper each day? Not usually. I didn't make a big deal out of it and supplied whatever he lacked, as I did for everyone. No, the problem with Walt was that he was high almost every single day, and he often couldn't stay upright or even in his seat. He was a mess. Even so, when Walt wasn't too obliterated, he could be funny and charming. When he could manage to be sober, he was a gentleman. And he tried.

I found out from my usual Reliable Source--a smart, peppy girl from their neighbourhood named Darla--that Walt's dad and uncle were in jail. That Walt figured he'd end up there and share a cell with one of them at some point. He ran with a bad crowd that he'd hooked back up with the minute he'd gotten out of the facility. 

I decided that I wasn't going to send Walt out for being high. It was better to keep him in the room and try to get him to do something. One day two assistant principals knocked on my classroom door, called me out into the hall, and asked, "Is Walt in there?" When I assured them that he was, one asked, "Does he have his yellow gym bag with him?

"Yes, he does. Why?"

"Okay. We have information that he has a gun in the bag. You need to send him out here and make sure he brings the bag with him."

(Dear Readers, you and I know now, in 2024, how much is So Wrong about this conversation. But it was 1983; I was 24 years old and in my third year of teaching; school shootings were Unheard Of.)

I was too dumb to even be in shock, I think. I merely went inside and said, "Walt, they want you to go to the office. Please hand in your book and your work, and be sure to take all your things with you." He did exactly that, and I never saw him again. 

Every so often his name would pop up in the local paper. He'd be arrested for a rash of break-ins at gas stations or convenience stores. He'd threaten the cashier, say he had a gun, but he never did. I'd read the article and shake my head. Poor Walt. 

Poor Walt, found dead under the trees in the brush. I feel sad and helpless and impotent. What in the hell did I do for him, all those years ago? Him or Jeremy? Sometimes it feels as if what I was up against was insurmountable. For some of my kids, they were in a hole so deep, my ladder couldn't begin to step them up and out. A lot of people who lay blame on our education system and teachers need to shut the hell up. They have no idea.

Despite the life that Walt led, he didn't deserve to lie cold and alone in the woods. I hold him in my heart.


Friday, February 09, 2024

In Which I Lighten Up My Life And Get A Little Airheaded

 Let me just say this:  I'm feeling delightfully lighter in February. After 48 straight days of Absolutely No Sunshine Whatsoever, we've been treated to several bright, happy days of sun. Yesterday and today, I took my daily walks without a coat or a jacket in 60 degree temperatures. Yes, it will all come crashing down next week, but until then, I'm basking in this Joy. 

And fresh air! My windows are open! Can you even imagine that--in Northeast Ohio! in February! What luck!

Another reason I'm feeling lighter is that this morning, I watched as a volunteer from the Vietnam Vets of America came to my home and picked up bags of clothes and several boxes of dishes, shoes, purses, and two pieces of furniture from my porch. All that stuff is now G O N E from my home. Hooray for decluttering and giving to a good cause.

Now let's see if I can declutter my head a bit and dump off a few things here.

1.  This ad was in the Cleveland Plain Dealer a little while ago and hurt my eyes and my feelings:

First of all, absolutely nothing in this estate sale interests me, thanks to the ad's key words and phrases:  Every room full (they were hoarders); CB radios (no one ever left the house or had contact with the outside modern world); precious moments (dust bunnies galore and stuck in the 80s); bennie babies (Precious Moments turned out NOT to be the moneymaker they thought, so they glommed onto these, which tanked even worse, and, again, dust); seasonal (my experience with this is that many Collector-type people also collect tons of Xmas and holiday tchotchkes which also sit around collecting dust; these types of items do not sell, even at garage sales, trust me). 

Also, let's talk about The Spelling now, shall we? Obviously, it's Beanie Babies, not bennie babies, like some sort of homage to Bennie and the Jets or the drug benzedrine. And it's collectibles--the noun form--not collectables--the adjective form. An easy way to remember is "if it's an Investment, it's a collectIble." Sigh. I know, I know, I should stop reading the Classifieds.

2. On my walk today, in addition to a dandelion, I saw this and it made me smile:

I apologize for the quality of this photo. I couldn't get very close because this is not a friendly cat. It's also Not Their Cat. Did you think I was just posting this for the Irony?

This is a neighbourhood stray who hangs around on various porches. It's the first time I've seen it on this particular porch, however, and I'm rather surprised. This is where a St. Bernard lives. There must be something really good inside that Chewy box. You know what they say:  no risk, no reward.

3.  Finally, this conversation occurred on Monday night:

Nance:  I'm exhausted. I was so busy all day. (proceeds to list all chores accomplished that day)

Rick:  Wow. Well, thank you. That was a lot.

Nance: Oh, and by the way, I barely had enough battery left to finish using the leaf blower on the porch. Then I saw the charger wasn't even plugged in. What's up with that?

Rick:  You what?

Nance: I used the leaf blower to blow all the peanut shells and sunflower seed detritus off the front porch. It's ridiculous out there, you know? And the battery went dead, and I had to put it in the charger, but first of all, the charger was crammed behind stuff on that shelf, and then it wasn't even plugged in.

Rick:  I unplugged it.

Nance:  But why?

Rick: (carefully, looking right at her) Because I assumed that we wouldn't be needing A LEAF BLOWER in the WINTER.

Nance:  (light finally goes on) Oh! 

So tell me--What's lightening up your life in February so far? (And do you have the Winter Dumbs like me? Sigh.)

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Sunday, January 28, 2024

The One About Potato Peelers


Vincent Van Gogh

Sometimes, I am dismayed by the way my Life is Awash In The Mundane. The smallest, most pedestrian things earn my laser focus. This happens most often during the winter months when I'm forced to be inside more, and I become a little...well, crazy. 

Anyway, this post is not about that, per se. This post is about Potato Peelers.

About a month or so ago, my Potato Peeler (aka Vegetable Peeler, or whatever) simply stopped working adequately. I was incredibly annoyed, for the obvious reason, but also because it was bright red, matched my kitchen, and hung conveniently (and cutely) on the wall within reach. Here is a photo of one just like it, because in a fit of pique, I threw mine in the trash with a lot of profanity.

Thank you, Ebay, for this photo.

That Peeler gave me many years of good service, but it let me down, so into my Journal Of Wrongs it went, right next to my can opener. That meant that I had to use Rick's Peeler until I could find a new one. Rick's Peeler was THE Peeler many years ago until it displeased me mightily, and then it was demoted to backup status when I got Big Red.

Rick's Peeler:  Barely Usable

His Peeler isn't sharp enough and doesn't peel away from me as well as it does toward me. I hate that. It also has separation there at the neck where the Peeler part fits into the handle. I hate that, too. And the whole handle is too big for my hand. 

So I was really on the hunt for a new Peeler, and I found one at Marshalls where I was also the Victim Of Rude Cellphone Usage. It looked okay, was a brand name, and was only $3.99. The handle looked small for my hand. I went ahead and took a chance.


I could not have been more wrong. This dumb thing didn't last even one potato. (And that potato was a Yukon Gold, not even hard to peel. Come on!) I berated this Peeler loudly and vociferously the entire time it struggled to get the peel off the potato. Did I use The Eff Word? Yes, I did, and as several parts of speech. It went immediately into the trash. Enter Rick's Peeler again.

On Thursday I went to my grocery store and lo! and behold, hanging on an end cap in the Closeouts Section, were THREE bright red Potato Peelers. They were arrestingly red, a little odd-looking, and even better, priced at $1.99. How could I not try one? I tossed one in my cart immediately and hoped for the best. (I also scored a Carter's brand set of babywear for Theo for only $7.99, but this is not about that. Still, a major deal for 3 shirts and 2 pants, right?) Here's that Peeler: 
The handle is made of bamboo! It's so red and shiny! And cheap!

I put my new Peeler to the test the next day, and it astounded and delighted me! It flew through carrots and potatoes. It made short work of apples for an apple crisp. It fit in my hand perfectly and sturdily. 


It has only one drawback--its hole is not big enough to fit over the hook where its predecessor hung. But that's okay! I've placed a pair of red and white kitchen scissors there, and it's proven to be a very handy place for them. (And you all know about me and Scissors.)

This week I'm going back to the grocery store to see if any of the Peelers are still there. If so, I'm buying whatever remain. I simply cannot go through this again.

Talk to me about your Potato Peelers in Comments. Or any other Kitchen Utensil Persnickety-nesses.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Is It Women? Is It Marshalls? Is It Cellphones? What's Ruining America?

ver the years here at the Dept.,  I've written many posts about the Casualization Of America. I've lamented Khaki Pants, men wearing baseball hats everywhere but baseball games, and the godforsaken crocs and jammies in public. I've sighed about people wearing flipflops to restaurants and flipflopping their detritus upward toward everyone's food. I've tried to be a Good Sport about all of this; truly I have. My eye-rolling has diminished by a good 70% or more as I've aged and learned to Let Go and understand that there are things far more worthy of my distress.

Like what I keep encountering when I shop for a shirt at Marshalls.

Every once in a while, I get sick of my clothes and pull stuff off of hangers and out of drawers to put in a donation bag. It's usually items that I realize I've stopped wearing or that I haven't seen in a long time. Once that's done, I see that I need a couple of things to fill a gap in the wardrobe. Marshalls is across from my grocery store, so it's a convenient trip.

Anyway, my point--and I do have one--is that I don't like what keeps happening when I shop at Marshalls, and it's women who are doing it.

The last time I was there, a woman was on her cellphone in the racks across from me. "So it was just so weird," she said. "I got him up, and he was perfectly fine at first. Then he started sort of spinning--literally--out of control. I got him settled down, gave him his meds, fed him, and he seemed okay. Then he started the spinning thing again. I didn't know what to do. I'm like, do I just go ahead and send him to school or what? So I put him in the car and take him, and I tell his teacher everything and she says she'll keep me informed."

At this point I started feeling a little uncomfortable. Clearly, she's talking about a special needs child. It felt like something I shouldn't be privy to, but here I was, in a store, looking for a sweater that wouldn't show a lot of cat hair. What was I supposed to do?

"Well, I'm just shopping right now," she continued. "I'm sort of waiting to hear. She didn't seem too concerned. I just wonder how much of it is diet, how much of it is environment, how much is you know..." I casually looked in her direction, just in case she wasn't aware that there was someone else so close. She barely looked at me and continued talking in the same volume, as if she were speaking to someone who was standing next to her and about something as mundane as the placement of buttons on the shirt she was looking at. 

I wasn't too surprised. The last time I was at Marshalls I heard a woman on her cell tell someone about her daughter's MS diagnosis and her entire consult with the specialist. This woman didn't think much of the doctor, by the way, and she felt that the way he was going about things was totally wrong. If it were up to her, she'd leave that practice entirely and go with Cleveland Clinic all the way. This guy had zero idea what he was doing. But her daughter was grown and engaged to be married, for heaven's sakes, so all she could do was be there for her, but if you ask her, she really needed to see someone better.

Anyway, the woman with the spinning child wandered off to look at makeup, and I decided to look in Shoes for a pair of winter boots. Suddenly, I heard a woman tell me, "You shut up! Shut. Up. Right. Now." She had to be talking to me--even though I had yet to say a single word--because I was the only person in Shoes besides her. My eyes widened and teared involuntarily. I was almost afraid to move for a moment. Then I saw her. She came around the corner and suddenly started laughing. "Oh god! You have got to be kidding me! Shut it! You're sick!" She barely glanced at me and pushed her cart down the next aisle. 

Who in the hell are these women who A) cannot modulate their voices if they must be on a phone; B) must be on a phone call whilst shopping; C) don't care if they blab their/their family's personal medical conditions in public; D) have so little concern/awareness for Common Human Courtesy and Basic Manners that they do this in the first place? We have become a nation of crass and selfish idiots.

People like this have already ruined Going To The Movies for me. I haven't seen a film at the theater since Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis. Even the Tuesday afternoon showings were full of people using their phones during the film, talking during the film, and being inconsiderate in general. It's a Sadness that so many people simply act as if they are in their own living rooms when they are out in public, and this cuts across all age groups. "If you have a problem with it, then stay home" seems to be their attitude. 

Kindness Is My Default has been my mantra for years and years, and it will remain so. I will continue to work on my Patience.  


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Happy New Year And I'm Back With A Recap Of My Getaway Weekend


Happy New Year! I took some necessary Time Off to battle a series of migraines and to travel to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a party and some relaxation. 

Migraines:  The changeable weather is killing me. We've had so many ups and downs with temperature and barometric pressure and rain, then snow, then high winds that I knew I was in for it. My fantastic neurologist Dr. B. told me long ago to watch the isobars:  When they start packing together, that's a bad sign. I had a 48-hour migraine already in process when we left for NotL on Saturday 1/6, and meds weren't touching it. Talk about miserable. We arrived at our favourite inn, and all I could do was hibernate in front of the fireplace in our suite. Resting helped quite a bit, and we briefly went out for a quick dinner, then spent the rest of the night in. The weather was cold and inhospitable anyway.

Winery Release Party: On Sunday afternoon our favourite winery was only open for the party, which was an intimate affair this time. It was Andrzej's birthday--a milestone one--so he was releasing a new family label of wines. I especially liked the sparkling, which spent 102 months sur lie. All of them were a tribute to his skills and lovely to drink. I was so happy that my migraine had resolved completely overnight, and I felt almost normal albeit a bit fragile. My wine intake was limited to a taste of each variety (minus chardonnay, which is a trigger for me), and I made sure I had food in my stomach. 

Perfect Getaway:  I have to say that what I enjoyed the most about the weekend was the fact that I could relax completely. There was literally Nothing That I Had To Do. No vacuuming, no dinner planning, no laundry, no errands, no little task was needling at me since I wasn't at home. I read; I watched Netflix; I browsed a bit on my iPad; Rick and I chatted with our friend the innkeeper. The weather never cleared up sufficiently to make walking pleasant, and I was so exhausted from fighting a headache for so long anyway. We talked and looked at photos of Theo. On our way home we stopped at the winery and picked up a mixed case of reds to plug a few holes in our cellar for the long winter ahead. Oh! And when we went to check out, our friend refused to charge us for our stay! He said he was technically closed anyway, and we didn't have Full Service (No breakfast--We were the only guests there.) We protested strenuously, but he wouldn't hear of it. We've stayed there exclusively for decades now, and we consider ourselves good friends. 

That's one of the things we love about returning again and again to NotL. We've made friends with so many people there and stay in touch year 'round. It's a home away from home.

I hope you have had a Gentle Entry into the New Year. Tell me about your Home Away From Home, or a Friend you look forward to seeing when you're Away From Home.


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