The Cheery Cheerleader

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I have a strong reputation at sporting events. My reputation is that I always sew at any athletic happening. People think that I do this because I am too bored with the sporting activity, but this is simply not true. I sew because it keeps me calm and reasonable…which I am not if I concentrate too hard on what is going on in the arena, court or field.

If I am sewing, I remain calm and friendly and interested. If I stop sewing, I turn into this crazy sports biddy that I do not personally recognize. I sew and I am serene (at least until I stick myself with a needle). It’s only when I drop my sewing in my lap that things get ugly.

I try, I want you to know that. I tell myself that I am the superior being and I can control myself and show the spectators on both sides what a good sport I am. This attitude lasts for at least the first five minutes I spend watching the game Then it all unravels (forgive the sewing reference–I couldn’t resist.)

“Oh, look, the other team scored a point, good for them,” I say with a look of Christian charity on my face…that lasts for the first point the other team scores. After that, it’s open season on the other side. “Look at that girl in the second row on the opposing side,” I snap at my husband, “she is cheering every time we miss a point. I just want to slap her.”

Normally, my husband is too wrapped up in the competition to sense the danger right away. It takes a little while to sink in. “That kid is making me crazy. If she gets up and cheers for the other team one more time, I’m going to demand that she be removed,” I declare through gritted teeth.

“Relax,” my husband responds, “that kid is the other team’s coach.”

“I don’t care,” I fume. “And I’m also going to get a pair of magnifying glasses for that line judge. She couldn’t tell an inbounds volleyball from a hailstone on a tin roof.”

It doesn’t matter the sport. I find soccer fans for the other team to be apt to rudely cheer for their players. I think referees at a baseball game should go into a profession more in keeping with their talents–like scrubbing toilets. Football coaches have no idea how to guide their teams (as I am apt to inform them at the top of my lungs) and as for basketball, well, forget it. Can you believe that they will call fouls on our team when the other team is obviously at fault?

“Oh look,” my husband will say, after I threaten to impale the opposing coach on my sewing needle, “you still have several rows to sew. Why don’t you sooth yourself and sew that and leave the commentary on the game to the professionals?”

I sew for a few more minutes before I can contain myself no longer. “Did you see that?” I exclaim, dropping my needle down among the popcorn bags and empty candy wrappers. “That girl clearly slammed the ball down on our court when she knew there were no players to return it.”

I shout a few suggestions as to the eye surgery needed by the referees while Roy frantically searches the debris under our feet for my sewing things. I could give you any number of other examples, but I think by now you understand why I sew at athletic events, whether I am there in person or watching on television. It’s hard to count the number of needles, thread spools, embroidery scissors, etc. that have been lost because I give them a heave in disgust over some ridiculous action by players, fans, coaches or referees.

This week has been particularly exhausting and my sewing has certainly suffered because of it. From, “Nice serve, sweetie, right into the net–let’s have another!” to “Why is the ref letting those boys jump on our players? They can’t play the game when they’re flat on the field! Come on, boys, give ’em a cleat in the eye!” ending with, “You can’t call back that touchdown–it’s the only one the Vikings have made! Eat my shoe, you darned TV”, I haven’t managed a lot of sewing, but they do say self-expression is good for the soul. I’m going to look upon my cheering in that very positive light.

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You’re doing just fine

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It’s been a long year, full of new and unusual medical procedures. I will admit that I’m becoming a little jaded about the miracles of modern medicine, since some of those miracles come from really uncomfortable moments.

In this year, I have had x-rays (and don’t tell me they are no problem…ever had a mammograms?). I have also experienced an MRI, which in itself wasn’t too bad because I didn’t have to use that machine where they slide you in a little hole like a loaf of bread in the oven. My objection to the MRI involves the noise, which had all the volume and soothing effect of a jackhammer being operated right by your ear.

Add to that spinal injections,, ultra-sounds and physical therapy sessions to work out the many muscle knots that were tied while I was undergoing these treatments. And in case I hadn’t scheduled myself for enough fun, this is the year I decided that I should have an implant put into my mouth just to give me enough teeth to chew with! It’s been interesting to say the least!

This month, I decided to have a little fun with something called a thyroid biopsy. This is a procedure where they basically put you head down, feet elevated and draw fluid from the thyroid with needles. I was so stupid, I thought you went down the throat to get at the thyroid, but I quickly found out that they had to put needles in the one place I had probably never had them before–my exposed neck! I had a bit of an idea how Anne Boleyn felt at the block!

I truly admire medical personnel and I feel for all they have been through and what they have to go through to help people to get well and remain well. But sometimes I wonder if they forget that the body they are working on isn’t as used to the procedures as they are.

For instance, when you are in a chair that is tilted so that your head is pointed to the floor and your feet are sticking in the air, and you are about to have a needle thrust into your neck it is useless for a medical professional to tell you to “breath normally.” If I can breathe at all, I’m lucky! They also instruct you to “not swallow.” Of course, as soon as they say that, all I can think about doing is swallowing!

When you are lying face-down on a table while they prepare to stick a needle directly in your spine, the instructions “don’t move,” and “relax” are counterproductive. I can manage the don’t move thing (although I really want to) but as for the relax part–forget it!

I think the phrase I am most resentful of during a medical procedure is “you’re doing just fine.” In most cases, I am in such a position that I’m not doing anything at all–except maybe silently screaming! In a dentist’s chair, having a post screwed into my jawbone or standing in front of a mammogram machine, so squished and positioned that I am forced to balance on tiptoe, the last thing that comes to mind is “fine”.

I understand the necessity of medical tests, but since they scare me more than a horde of Viking raiders, I am less than sympathetic to any attempt to make me “feel better.” I just want them to get finished, don’t stop in the middle to tell me I’m “doing fine.”

Because I am both terrified of all these medical tests and frustrated with the meaningless instructions to “breathe normally” and “relax,” I have developed a comeback that frequently causes them to pause a little. After the dentist told me I was “doing just fine,” I got around dental equipment, fingers in my mouth and a Novocain fat lip to reply, “so are you.” That stopped him in his tracks for a minute and in spite of the grinding he as doing on my jaw, I felt like I won one.

When the fellow about to give me a spinal injection told me to “not move,” I replied, “Don’t worry, I like where I am.” It got very quiet and I felt triumphant. During my last appointment with my biopsy test where I was told to “breath normally” I replied, “define normal.” She was so startled, she actually launched into a definition of the word.

So beware, medical community, I have decided the only way to deal with you is to use my smart mouth. And just for the record, I really am “doing fine.”

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The analog internet

It’s a humbling experience when you reach that point in life when you realize that even your nine-year-old grandson has outdistanced you on the technology superhighway. But that is precisely what happened when Arthur was visiting a week or so ago, because apparently, he’s a technological little wiz.

“Grandma, what are all these books that are the same?” he asked, while I was busy in the kitchen. He was bent to a lower bookshelf in the dining room, peering at the contents with a kind of offhand curiousity.

“Those are my encyclopedia,” I said, not listening as I rushed around, trying to get the meal ready.

“Why did you buy so many that are the same?” came the next question.

“They are not all the same one,” I answered, thinking maybe now was a good lesson for him about “the good old days.” Bending down to join him at the shelf, I pontificated, “These are like your internet, but they are in book form. For instance, suppose you wanted to look up squash.” I pulled out the S encyclopedia, which happens to be divided into two books. I pulled out the wrong one first, of course, and then I fumbled, searching desperately for squash.

“Here we are, squash,” I said, triumphant at last, pointing to the page and looking up at Arthur. He was wearing a look that was a cross between, “oh, my gosh, my grandma is old,” and “in the amount of time you took to look that up, I could have grown a squash.”

As he wandered away to play on his tablet (which I have discovered has nothing to do with paper, by the way), I was left to contemplate the fact that the “information age” has passed me by for certain. I still use those encyclopedias to look things up and not only that, I am in possession of what might be the last paper dictionary in existence.

I admit, I have not even tried to keep up. The advent of the cell phone has left me cold. I don’t mind sitting in one spot and talking on the telephone and I don’t care that my telephone will not take and distribute pictures. Cell phones today do a great deal more than provide vocal communication, they do just about everything but wash your hair (side note, when they do that, or clean the bathroom, sign me up).

It is impossible to go to a restaurant or a social event or even a classroom without seeing those phones in everyone’s hands. They apparently provide all the social contact some need, because I see so many people in restaurants sitting across the table from someone, conversing with someone entirely different on the phone. I used to wonder if I took off my clothes in one of those public places, how long would it take for anyone to notice? Of course, if they did, there would be some interesting pictures of me on Snapchat or something! There are actually support groups out there for people who are too attached to their phones…usually they communicate with each other on phones!

Phones have even affected my conversations with people– those who will look up from their phones long enough to talk. I never say, “I think squash was introduced by Native Americans to….” because I get that far before a forest of phones have cropped up in the hands of everyone there to check out that fact for me. For the record, I was okay with not being sure!

If there is anything worse than the cell phone age, it might be Alexa or Google or whatever invasive, know-it-all machine you want to let into your house. Okay, I get it, this is information at your fingertips, without having to do anything but say, “Alexa, what can you tell me about the origin of squash?” I’d still rather look it up on my own, in the quiet of my dining room, in one of my books that “all look like the same book.”

I once heard a disturbing story about the family with an Alexa, who all scattered in different directions one morning except for one daughter, who slept late, got up and wondered aloud where everyone had gone. Alexa answered her and was correct. Seriously, people are afraid of a tracing chip in their arms, when they tell Alexa everything, everyday, and they don’t know–maybe she works for the CIA!

So my grandson may have to grow up with the fact that his grandma is still addicted to her “analog internet,” and a phone that connects to the wall. And who knows what his grandchildren will be doing when he finds that he has taken a sidetrack on the railroad of progress into the future?

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A technological dinosaur

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I’m old. I’m the first to admit it. There are so many years between me and the kid who is happily operating the computer in the picture that it taxes my math skills to figure it out. This, of course, leads to the observation that my technology skills are about as useful as a shovel digging a hole in the water.

My humble excuse is that when I was born, computers were not an everyday item. I took classes in college, learning how to write cards for computer systems and then I walked across campus to feed them into the only computer in the school, which encompassed an entire room. There were so many people who would feed their cards into the computer and they would produce something wonderful. When I fed my cards into the computer, the computer made strange beeping noises and spit my cards out like they were so many pieces of burned meat.

My computer skills have never improved. As computers began to shrink, they took on more and more tasks. And each time, I was left further and further behind. By the time computers were controlled on keyboards and they fit on a desk, so many tasks had been taken over by computers, while I continued to write with paper and pencil and manage my checkbook with a calculator and even more significantly, I continued to talk on a telephone…attached to the wall.

I think it was when the computer switched to a cellphone that I realized I would never make it. I have just learned to type on a computer, maybe do some Facebook and even, check e-mail, and now technology is moving on leaving me in its gigawatted wake.

I have become that individual who knows just enough about technology to be dangerous. “Okay, I got my e-mail open, how do I check for new correspondence,” would be a typical question I have. “Click on the little envelope icon,” my child (who else would we consult) says with studied patience. “I hit the wrong thing, I hit the wrong thing. Now I’m in something called The Help Store. How do I get out of it?”

As if that weren’t enough, they have now moved all of those programs, or “apps” if I want to be up to date on terminology, to cell-phones. They have made these hand-held devises the new norm for most people. For me, I have trouble turning mine on and I usually pray no one calls me, because I don’t ever remember which way to swipe it to open it–is it right or left? Then, when I get in, I have to remember my password–no not the password for my e-mail or my Facebook that I can never remember, it’s the password for my phone that I definitely don’t remember!

Most people use their phones for everything: paying bills, reading the news, buying tickets. You name it and there is pretty much nothing that a phone can do today that I won’t be able to figure out. I ordered a plane ticket the other day and according to those cell-phone people I will be able to bring it up at the gate, show them my phone, and get on the plane. I figure there is a fifty-fifty chance I will be successful at that, so I’m either leaving for a four-day vacation, or I’m planning to sit in an airport lounge tomorrow morning and cry.

I know that my game of “continual get with the program” will not get me very far, but it has gotten me listed as the dinosaur of the technology community. And you know what? I think I’m okay with that, until the technological meteor strikes!

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Pooping on the pool party

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By Jackie Wells-Fauth

Now, let me start by saying I am a party person. If you are selling Tupperware or showering a bride or mother-to-be or even celebrating a birthday (provided there’s cake), I am right there and I do know how to party.

Having said all that, I am going to attack that standard party of the summer: the pool party. Now here is a party that brings out the pooper in me. (Not literally, people!) There are just so many things about a pool party that are not meant for me, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s start with the location. In order to have a pool party, one must be close to a pool. This presents two possibilities. Either you must be indoors in a large, echoing, reflecting building, usually so humid it will drop you to your knees, or you must be outside…in the hot sun…with bugs and stuff. Need I say more? In both cases, it requires you to walk with your bare feet over rough surfaces so as to keep damp feet from slipping. Yeah, yeah, I get it, but I don’t like it!

My second objection has to do with the attire. Most swimming suits have all the modesty of a g-string and a couple of pasties. Given that my body would better be suited to one of those suits from the early 1900s which had sleeves, a collar and a skirt, together with heavy black stockings, today’s swimming suits just don’t work. I look at the models in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and I laugh. Yeah, trying wearing one of those chains tied together with a half a tissue into any respectable pool and see how fast you rust! No, I’m afraid swimsuits are out for me!

Then there is the matter of pool party activities. I know, I know, you’re supposed to get in the pool and swim. But what happens if you can’t swim? You are relegated to the sidelines, where you crisp up like an overdone french fry and visualize what life would be like in a desert. So then, it’s into the pool. For a woman who equates “laps” with what a dog does to a water dish, swimming around the pool would be about as easy as convincing Godzilla to calm down, for heaven’s sake. Usually, it’s impossible for me to play any of the water games they have, because I have so many flippers, goggles, arm floaties, etc. on, that I move like the Michelin tire mascot!

Once in the pool, we move on to my next objection. Why do people assume that because you are in a pool, you must want to get wet…involuntarily? You have the splasher, who just can’t resist hitting the water in front of your face and planting about a gallon of it in your eyes, nose and mouth, causing you to cough, splutter and sneeze like a plague victim for the next hour. Then there is the dunker, who feels that the terrible hairdo you wore into the pool will be improved if he/she gets your head entirely under the water. That’s also unpleasant because generally, I manage to suck about half the pool into my lungs when I go under. My lungs don’t like that! And finally, we have the cannonballer (I know that’s not a word, but it’s very descriptive). This is the individual who believes that steps into the pool are for wusses and so they enter the pool at a flying leap and manage to splash you, dunk you and force a bucket or two of water up your nose in a neat, waterboarding maneuver, all in one, satisfying motion!

The exit from the pool is also on my list of things not to do at a pool party. Of course, you are soaking wet, because your fellow partiers felt that was necessary, and then, you generally have to enter a building or hallway which is air-conditioned. The sensation of walking into the north pole in a soaking wet swimsuit is one I have nightmares about. When I walk in to that chilled air in soaking wet clothing, I can’t get to a bathroom quickly enough, so I don’t add to the liquid on the floors! If you wonder who I am at the pool party, I am the person walking around in a heavy sweater and mittens, because I can’t get dry enough or warm enough after that experience.

Now, I’m sure that by this time all of you agree that I am a party pooper when it comes to pool parties. There can’t be that many people who agree with me, or there wouldn’t be so many pool parties throughout the country during summer days. Therefore, this is your fair warning: if you want to invite me to a party, have me over in the fall or the spring, over even at your annual Christmas party, but don’t include me in your pool party. I give new meaning to the phrase “all wet.”

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The forgotten vacation

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Sorry to have been away from my blog, but we have been enjoying a driving vacation over the past few weeks. It was enjoyable, at least I think so, it’s hard to remember everything and the older I get, the more I run into this problem.

We were excited to get away, but our excitement may have affected our ability to pack reasonably and remember things for the trip. We didn’t notice it at first. The first day’s drive was fun and informative and if I finally noticed that I didn’t have the card for my camera, it was a minor annoyance. As I say, this was the case at first.

By four o’clock, when I had taken three pictures before the card signaled, “No more pictures, I’m full,” I was taking things a little more seriously. So, we left the tourist path and pursued the, “I need a new picture card thingy,” path. The people in the shop where we went in search of it were unable to grasp the fact that we wanted a card, not just because our card was full, but because we had forgotten the new card that we had already bought. At least, the clerk I purchased it from looked uncomprehending, but maybe that was because I was filling him full of this information and he really didn’t need to hear my “I’m losing my mind” rant when his coffee break was coming up!

Okay, so we forgot the extra card, no biggie. Until evening hit and I realized that I had forgotten my hairbrush…and any hairbands at all. So, okay, so we hunt down a local WalMart and I restock. Now we’re set, right? So we went to our motel room and Roy went to take his evening medications…which he keeps in his shaving kit and–you guessed it! No shaving kit.

Now, of anything we were noticing we forgot, this was probably the most serious. We spent a restless night, wondering if we would be forced to return home for the missing medication. The next morning, our pharmacy and the one in the town we had stayed in were able to work out an arrangement to get enough medication for the trip. We had to wait two hours, however, so while we were waiting in the car, I bought a couple of chocolate chunk cookies to eat.

It was when I was getting out of the car to go back in the store because I forgot to buy water that I noticed that one of the chocolate chunks had dropped from my cookie…and my leg had gently warmed it so it spread to the maximum amount of the cloth car seat possible.

I went and got the water, came back, got into the trunk to get the paper towels I always carry on a driving trip and discovered I had none. Back to the store where I purchased some rather costly paper towels and I did a scrub job on the car and a muttering under my breath job on myself.

However, we were finally on the road! Our first stop for the day involved a hiking path. Five minutes in, my feet were already complaining. This was odd because, I am actually a pretty good hiker. However that is when I have the proper shoes…which I had forgotten at home…along with the ankle strap I wear when I don’t have the proper shoes. So now, it was necessary to make an unscheduled purchase of expensive shoes which would be redundant when I got home, along with the ankle strap I bought, and which has an identical mate at home. My forgetfulness was starting to cost money!

It became necessary to buy shampoo and conditioner, because the stuff provided in the hotel rooms wouldn’t take care of my bangs, let alone my full head of hair and, since I know this, I always make sure I’ve got a supply with me–which I forgot to do this time. I forgot my heating pad which my back really needed because of the hiking I did without my proper shoes.

I forgot a bathing suit, which I didn’t discover until we got to a hotel with a pool. Then, going shopping for one, I took one look at the massive number of suits, asking massive prices and revealing more than I would show at a physical, and forgot to buy one. I used some shorts that I had, mercifully packed and waited until the pool area was empty.

We played the “I forgot” game all the way through the vacation. We forgot our binoculars and Roy refused to replace them on principal–the principal of “I paid an outrageous price for the pair I’ve got and I’m darned if I’m buying another one that obviously came out of Fort Knox.” We forgot the GPS and this one was pretty major, because we forget directions as soon as someone gives them to us and the GPS always remembers.

We were getting used to stopping at multiple stores to replace things like shaving materials and stamps for postcards, but the final straw may have come when we toured the forest fire. Yes, I know people don’t tour forest fires, but we really didn’t plan it when it happened. We were driving through the Bitterroot Mountains in southern Montana and since things are pretty hot and dry there, the mountains were being troubled with fire outbreaks. On our way through we could see there was a smoke haze, but it seemed to be away from us and they weren’t stopping traffic, so we kept going. We read the signs about bears being possible, getting away from danger area and considered that we were smart enough to stay in the car.

Then it happened: we were driving along and a portion of the trees just above us were on fire. It was our first forest fire; we were typical tourists. “Get the camera,” Roy said. “I can get a shot from over here.”

“The camera’s in the trunk,” I whispered back, “and I’m not becoming dinner for some bear or getting burned up, so I can get it out.”

He was incredulous. “You are supposed to make sure the camera is in the car. That is one of your tasks every morning. So why isn’t the camera in the car?”

And you know what I answered, “I forgot.”

We made it back home all right and no, before you ask, we didn’t forget the way. The atlas is about the only thing we remembered to pack!

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That’s when the wheels fell off the road trip

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My husband, Roy, is generally considered to be the most patient and the mildest of men. He has to be, or I would have been pushed off a bridge by him years ago. He does have limits, though, and it is never a pretty picture when he is pushed past them.

This week, we played host to our grandsons, hereafter identified as Grandson A, who is ten years old and Grandson B, who is 8. We put these two little boys in the car for an extended road trip on Wednesday, knowing full well that neither of them was excited about a long drive, having endured a six-hour travel time just to get to our house.

Nevertheless, we had business to take care of in Sioux Falls that we didn’t want to put off and then, we planned to drive to the Missouri River near Pierre to enjoy some swimming. Roy had taken the boys before and they had enjoyed it a great deal, so he began this road trip in great anticipation that everyone would fall in line with his plans.

He reckoned without a number of things: First, the business in Sioux Falls involved a medical appointment for me. It was for a treatment which, while it was important, involved having a sore back. It took away a lot of my enthusiasm to do anything afterward besides go home.

Second: The weather. Wednesday was predicted to be a day of over 100 degrees. I am not a fan of hot weather in any case and since I was also not enjoying great health, I began expressing my wish to not stand on the river banks and cook while being eaten alive by little bugs made lively by the heat. When I say I was expressing myself, I mean that for the entire trip from Sioux Falls to Pierre, I gave the weather report every two minutes. “Now it’s 101, good grief, we’ll cook.” “Well, forget it, now it’s 105. We are all going to have heat stroke.” “It’s 103 now. I will not be responsible for the sunburns…I just hope we have enough aloe.”

Third: Grandson A was unimpressed by the road trip and refused to be cajoled over the fun times we would have when we got to the river. In an increasingly loud and plaintive voice, he demanded that we go home, that we not go to the river today, demanding to know whose dumb idea this was, how much longer we had to go, etc. It might not have been quite so bad if we had not forgotten the car chargers for the boys’ tablets. Once they ran out of charge and the only entertainment was to look at a blank screen. Things went downhill from there.

Fourth: Grandson B is now brought into the cacophony of noise in the car when Grandson A, discovering that his protests were not helping, began annoying his younger brother, who reciprocated by hollering and whining for him to “stop that!”

Fifth: The wife employed sarcasm when she remarked (over the noise coming from the backseat), “Oh, now we’re having fun.” This brought increased wails from the back seat where Grandson B cried, “I want to go to the river and have fun!” while Grandson A joined in with a loud lament, “This is NOT fun at all!”

And it is at this point, with a trio of dissenters singing the blues, that the wheels came off of this particular road trip. Fed up to his eyes with the hours-long lack of gratitude for his plan, Roy exploded. He gave that familiar “dad speech” in which he threatened that unless everyone shaped up and had fun immediately, there would be dire consequences. It was the sight of their otherwise patient grandfather and my calm husband, shouting at the top of his lungs and declaring that we were going to have fun if it was the last thing we did, while his face turned scarlet and spittle sprayed everywhere that finally silenced the rest of us.

We traveled the rest of that hideous trip from hell in silence and finally made it to the river with no bloodshed. Once everyone had swimsuits on or like me, sat in the shade with a cool breeze blowing off the water, we all discovered that it was a pretty good plan on such a hot day after all. Thanks to sun screen, water shirts, and late afternoon temperatures, everyone enjoyed the trip to the river a great deal…even if we had been threatened with a good time.

And Grandson A, Grandson B and their grandmother may have learned that there is a point at which Grandpa can lose his famous cool and the wheels can fly off the cart!

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The sad case of Cruella

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It’s true that movies are starting to make a comeback, but they do have a little way to go. The selection has been slim and that is to be expected as the pandemic begins (we hope) to recede. We are avid movie-goers at my house. My husband and I have seriously gone to movies that were so bad that we prayed we wouldn’t meet anyone we knew on the way out. We have also attended movies that we returned to enjoy again. It is always an unknown. But it is our main Friday night entertainment–we accept that for every brilliantly done movie there are another five that could have stayed on the script-writing floor.

We also have accepted over the years that we may go to a movie and think, “That is the worst movie we have ever seen!” And certainly someone will come along and tell us that was the greatest piece of cinema ever created. This process works in reverse as well. The one thing I believe a movie-goer has to accept is that a movie is normally just a movie and everyone will have their own opinion. Most of the time it is not worth getting the proverbial panties in a bunch over.

That brings us to last week when we, for the first time since the pandemic, set foot in a movie theater to watch a movie. We took our masks, we didn’t have food and for me, a movie without popcorn is hard enough. The fact that the best choice on the marquee was Cruella only added to my apprehensions. We went, however, and in spite of the fact that I occasionally moved my hand from my lap to my mouth in a vain attempt to imagine I was eating popcorn, it wasn’t too bad. We hadn’t expected much from a movie with the premise of this one, so anything they could do to make it theatrically presentable was a surprise.

We didn’t quite feel we needed bags on our heads so no one would see us leaving the theater, but we didn’t think it was Academy Award level theater either. What I didn’t expect was that one of the critiques of it (and there were plenty) accused it of desecrating the Disney “classic” 101 Dalmatians by make Cruella a figure of evil designed to drag children down a demonic path.

I respect that everyone has the right to their point of view, but I had trouble understanding this one. For one thing, the movie is literally titled, Cruella. The word “cruel” is right there. We kind of get the hint it isn’t going to be good. Then, I have to wonder why anyone would go to this movie believing it was a good message for the kiddies. Keep in mind that the Disney classic it is based on is the story of this woman–Cruella–trying to kidnap 101 cute puppies to skin them out to make a coat for herself. I never thought that message was particularly light and kid-like.

While I think the show is a bit dark and “un-kid-like”, I have trouble with viewing it as much more than someone’s rather unusual view of what makes for a good movie premise. I do agree with those who said the acting was good, but I think the message was more thoughtless than devil-wrought. The beauty of this, of course, is that I have every right to my opinion, just like everyone else has the right to theirs.

It seems to me, however, that if we are going to worry about things that may need addressing, I’d go with politicians who lie and cheat and worry more about their own lives than about the lives of the people they are supposed to serve. Let’s worry about people starving in the world while others can’t figure out enough ways to foolishly squander their millions. And while we are at it, let’s give one or two thoughts to the elderly, the disabled and those who are otherwise in need of our assistance. Let Cruella take care of herself and those who choose to watch it be aware of their own lives.

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Reasons why I’m the Queen of Bland

Photo by Julia Volk on

It has been a long, insidious winter. It lasted two years because you can’t count a summer in a pandemic as a summer. I know, some people used this time to work out and diet and get themselves in shape. I was sure I was at least holding my own, but recently, my clothes held an intervention with me in which they threatened to rip, shred or just plain explode if I didn’t ease up on the table exercises.

And that is where the real trouble begins. I like potatoes and bread. Just potatoes and bread, with perhaps a little meat very well done to go with it. According to all the women’s magazines I have read, this is the absolute worst diet for the person attempting to lose weight. So, if I want the ideal body, I must give up mashed potatoes and freshly baked bread…along with my morning roll and my midnight snack of potato chips.

None of this would be as difficult if I liked spices and spicy foods. It seems the national craze these days is titled “the hotter the better.” This is very hard for a woman who considers salt the only spice out there. On restaurant menus there is a kids section, a dietary section and a senior section, in addition to the regular selections. From my experience there should also be a section for those of us who don’t wish to burn our mouths to the point it boils up to our eyeballs and then singes the brain!

I freely embrace the title of Queen of Bland. I consider food sprinkled with pepper to be spicy food. I like chicken without any cumin or jalapenos and if you are eating anything with cayenne pepper or garlic, I don’t want to so much as kiss you, let alone share your meal! I can’t believe the number of people who want hot pickles or onion varieties that water the eyes and burn the tongue. Leave my potato salad alone, because those potatoes and eggs will do just fine without your paprika nonsense!

But I digress from my dieting issues. I subscribe to a couple of magazines which are loosely termed “women’s magazines,” but which would be just as useful to men. However, each week, they seem to feature another person who went on a fabulous, delicious diet and lost a hundred pounds without “denying themselves” at all! And every week, I’m suckered into reading their story which always includes a recommended menu, complete with pictures. This week featured the “Pounds Off Yogurt Bowl”. This looked like a bowl of curdled soup topped with berries and nuts–oh that makes it all better, of course. If you eat the berries and nuts, you won’t notice the yogurt slop that comes up with the spoon! It was followed by fat-burn vinaigrette (I don’t even want to try) and “Kicked-up barbecue”–you know what “Kicked-up” means: five minutes after you consume it, your mouth will want to kick you and your eyeballs are flaming up!

Of course, portion control is very important in these recipes. You should make it, and then, watch it slowly mold as you can only eat a small bite a day. Oh please, if I made “Good for you Brownie Bites,” the last bite of them would be consumed within the hour of baking! As the commercial suggests, I can’t open a bag of potato chips and “only have one.” The only food that is likely to be controllable for me is sushi, because if you put a plate of sushi down in front of me, I will not eat any of it. This may be the only food that works that way…except for the ones with cayenne pepper and jalapenos.

I’m also not too big on the so-called “meatless burgers.” Maybe it’s because I was raised in cattle country, but I like to have a solid ground beef patty between my bread–oops, got to get rid of the bread. Now, I know, I know, cows are a huge danger to the environment, unlike factories and vehicles which literally belch smog. However, I would to keep a few of them around so I don’t have to eat the Baja Black Bean burgers for which I saw a recipe. Black beans are not a favorite of mine in any form, but on the plus side, they added a chunky green stuff (doubtless spicy) to the top of it, thus ensuring that I won’t eat any of it.

With all of these things that I won’t eat, you’d think the Queen of Bland would lose weight by the sheer volume of spice out there waiting to ruin her appetite. Not so, if you put a real burger on that bun, and you don’t add Greek yogurt and Tzatziki sauce (what the heck is Tzatziki sauce anyway), I’ll eat five to ten of the burgers and wash them down with a quart of soda and a few bags of chips. And of course, this is where I started and how I got into this mess in the first place.

Perhaps, after all, the best dietary plan for me is to top all my food (including the brownies) with a serious dose of cayenne pepper, jalapeno juice and maybe some Tzatziki sauce for good measure. That way, we could ensure that the “Queen of Bland” could stop carrying the second title of the “Queen of Major Expand.” Happy eating everyone and if anyone is interested, I can give you a recipe for turkey burgers–I’m sure not using it!

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When to be funny

Photo by Liza Summer on

Okay, if you’ve ever made a joke at an inappropriate moment, raise your hand. Actually, I think everyone has probably had this happen, but for me, it’s pretty much a way of life. If I’m nervous, I make a joke, if I’m scared, I make a joke, if I’m feeling awkward, I make an awkward joke. In most cases, I’ve discovered that this is not the best time to make a joke.

I chose this picture, because it reminds me of one of the first times I tried to be funny. A friend was walking so carefully on the snowy surface, so to relax her (I think that’s what I was thinking) I threw a snowball and hollered, “Heads Up!” The snowball, true to my skills, missed her completely, but her head did come up, she slipped, her feet came up and she landed on her spine. It was at this point that I began to re-think my sense of humor!

I am the queen of the mistimed joke. TSA people love me, because when I’m standing in an airport line, waiting for them to go through the bag I’m carrying containing the toothbrush, extra underwear and current book I’m reading, I am bored and nervous about getting on a plane, so I tend to make inappropriate remarks. “I’m planning to use that underwear to build a prototype of a new bullet-proof tent,” was one remark that probably caused them to start putting up those signs about not joking about bombs.

Another time, my briefcase full of souvenir cups set off the alarms at JFK in New York City, which caused a number of people to gather and all of them had guns. While they rested their hands on their guns, I attempted to remember the combination of the briefcase and after several abortive tries, finally got it open, so they could see my mugs from the Statue of Liberty and Times Square and the used ticket and program from Phantom of the Opera. They relaxed when they saw my tourist trash and walked away. The clerk left in charge, seeing how unnerved I was, tried to calm me down. “It’s okay, they just have to be careful.”

“No, that’s fine,” I quipped, “I just wasn’t expecting SWAT to show up to take out my magnet from the Museum of Natural History.” Now, I thought this was a fine joke; the clerk never even cracked a smile as she waved me through and probably flagged me as a flight risk to everyone ahead of me.

Medical situations also bring out the inappropriate humor in me. I have long been terrified of dentists, but I’m also annoyed by the attempts they make to hold conversations with me while they have my mouth stuffed full of metal objects, plastic restrainers and their fingers. Once, after the dentist had asked mundane questions all through the exam, forcing me to try to garble answers, he ended the exam, removed the equipment and asked me, “Now, do you have any questions?”

“AH eerre meeayagjee,” I responded, spitting and drooling as I went. He never said another word and walked out of the room. Within a short time, he left that establishment and went to work elsewhere and that’s probably best, since I didn’t really think he’d want to work on my teeth again anyway, given my weird sense of humor.

This week, I had my latest run-in with an inappropriate lapse of humor. The nurse was asking about the pain I was having, which parts of my body hurt and I said, “The shoulder, the arm, the neck, they ALL come to the party.” She laughed and commented how funny that was, so I figured this was a place where they might appreciate my nerve-inspired humor.

The doctor came in and as he was hitting me with that little hammer and bending my toes in strange ways, he attempted to keep me relaxed with off-hand questions. “What hobbies do you have?”

“I like to write. I write a little blog just for my own amusement,” I answered, adding as he began twisting my arms and head in his exam, “You’ll probably make the cut this week.”

He hesitated, and then said, “Positive, I hope.”

“Oh, of course, I’m sure everyone would find an examination of spinal functions to be hysterical,” was my oh-so-witty answer. I have to go back to that clinic next week for some treatment…I’m kind of hoping he’s not the one who will do it. I don’t think he has a good enough sense of humor!

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