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

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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

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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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The art of “speechifying”

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Yesterday morning, I arose, excited to be able to give the speech at my school’s commencement. I was prepared, eager and even on time. Yesterday evening, it was over and all my nightmares about showing up late, improperly dressed, or otherwise unprepared were proved unfounded.

Except the one where you don’t have all of your speech…that one I made come true. It’s ridiculous, really. I have taught English, speech and drama for years. I have lectured students on the things they must do and among them is, always check to see that you have all of your speech. And then yesterday, I turned smoothly from my second-to-last page to my last page and discovered a bare podium instead. I failed to make certain I picked up all the pages!

I like to think that I am a very good innovator, that I think well on my feet, but no matter how many times I practice something, if I turn the page and it’s not there, my mouth dries up and my tongue adheres to the roof of my mouth and when I do get it disconnected, something not good usually comes out. Fortunately, in the case of Saturday’s speech, I only had a few lines on the last page, so my speech stumble was a short one.

At least I knew it was the last page because I number the pages with large, obnoxious markers to be sure they are easily readable. I once did a presentation on the history of British kings and of course, when I got up in front of everyone, I dropped the notecards I had all over the floor. Because they weren’t numbered and I had to guess at their correct order, I had Henry VIII followed by William the Conqueror and their ancestor was, of course, Elizabeth II! Always number the cards, check!

I used to try to adlib when I was giving a speech. Maybe write down a few general thoughts and then just “wing-it”. However, I discovered that if I just “winged it” I had a tendency to lose my flight plan in the middle and fly right off the cliff. I forgot names, events, dates and worst of all, I frequently looked at my shorthand and forgot completely what I meant when I said things like, “make eye contact when you discuss intensity.” Eye contact with whom and what was I planning to say about intensity? I ended up talking intensely about eye contact…not that this had anything to do with the subject!

I always tried to be prepared with my appearance. I remember a story Carol Burnett told about dressing for a performance in the dark and getting on stage to discover that the seams in her stockings were running up the front of her legs. I thought, How ridiculous! At least my appearance is always good. Soon after that, I delivered the eulogy at the funeral of a favored aunt. It went well, I held it together and got through the speech fine. I sat down, well-pleased with myself, dropped my hands into my lap…and discovered that my trousers were un-zipped. I took comfort in the fact that the person who would be most amused by this, was the aunt I was honoring.

Possibly the most awkward move I ever made in front of a large audience was definitely done as I was laying the law down as a substitute teacher. I was young, and had trouble managing teenagers, so the study hall I was supervising that afternoon was pretty chatty. After telling them several times to settle down, I finally had enough. “I expect it to be silent in here,” I huffed in my biggest no-nonsense voice, “I don’t want to hear one more sound for any reason!” Crossing my arms and glaring, I began to back towards the desk…and promptly stepped into a metal trash can. For the next several minutes the students in the room were the most silent they had been all hour as they struggled not to laugh while they watched me clunk around with a trash can on my foot. Sometimes you just can’t come back from an infamous performance!

So I enjoyed Saturday’s speech and only had to mumble through a minor glitch in an otherwise fun speech. Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of this “speechifying” thing. In the meantime, I’m going to be a little more careful what I take with me and what I have zipped up, when I get in front of an audience!

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Those humbling moments

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I rely heavily on my calendar for all appointments in life. It generally works pretty well: I make appointments, I write them in the calendar and that way, I never miss things, right? There is one more step that would make this procedure run smoothly…checking the calendar each day! That is where I fall down!

I was thinking that very thing this week when I got home from a re-scheduled therapy appointment (because I forgot the original) and had a message on my telephone from my hairdresser, because while I was at the re-scheduled therapy appointment, I in fact, had a hair appointment! It’s very humbling when you realize just how many things you have forgotten, but when you can actually remember to write it down in the calendar, then it’s a good idea to go ahead and check that calendar and read it every day!

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Oh, the old girl is just losing it. The brain pan has sprung a leak.” Unfortunately, this is not an old age development. I have had difficulty maintaining my social calendar for years. I will make an appointment to have lunch with someone and then get so engrossed in a book or some writing or just an old episode of “Murder, She Wrote,” and the leave the poor person wondering if I didn’t show because I was in a car wreck or had a heart attack or something!

I have left dentists with no teeth to rap their instruments on and vets with no animals to vaccinate. The eye doctors have been left with no one to read their charts and coffee dates with no one to share their caffeine clouds. I always mean well and it seems so often that while I have the day right, I have the time wrong. And if I have the time right, I’m either a week early or a week late.

I like the businesses which ring you up the day before to give you a heads-up that you have an appointment. They do this because of people like me who have left them hanging too often in the past. If they can’t get a hold of me personally, they leave a message, “This is the dentist’s office, calling to remind you that you have an appointment at 10:30 TOMORROW. Now, that’s 10:30…in the morning…tomorrow morning. That’s the day after today and the time is just an hour and a half before lunch. Got it?”

My leaving the therapist hanging and then standing up the hairdresser was not the end of this week of humbling moments and irritated people. I managed to stand up my grandsons as well.

My daughter, knowing her mother’s failing, said to me, “Now, tomorrow you will be reading with the boys at 1:00, right?” “You bet,” I answered, and gave it no more thought as I went on a short road trip for the day instead. No more thought, that is, until she sent me a text message the next day at 1:00, to ask if I was planning to go on Facetime to read with the boys.

I did finally catch up with my grandsons later in the evening and while the younger one was inclined to overlook my lapse in appointment keeping, his older brother, ready for bed and crabby, was less beneficent. They accepted my apology, but clearly, they don’t trust the old girl to remember too well.

“I’m so sorry,” I told them. “Next week, I’ll be on for sure on Sunday, and we’ll be able to read.”

“Okay,” responded the older one, “just remember, that’s at 1:00!”

Now, all I need is someone to call me on Sunday at 12:45 to make sure I’m ready to go. I can get a different dentist is my current one drops me for nonappearance. It would be a lot harder to replace the grandsons!

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In the maw of the monster

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

For those of you who think my title is a little too dramatic, I apologize, but I assure you, having an MRI (don’t ask me exactly what that stands for), was a bizarre experience. I now have some idea how Jonah may have felt in the belly of that whale!

Several months of having an arm, shoulder and neck present me with night after night of no sleep, it was finally decided that I needed to have an MRI, which is a fancy way for medical people to get a look at the inside of your muscles without actually cutting you open. I am definitely for that procedure, but that was before I got a look at one of those MRI machines.

I suffer from claustrophobia. I mean, BAD claustrophobia. I am so claustrophobic that I can only shut the bathroom door in a crowded house. I shower with one of the sliding glass doors slightly open. I annoy my co-teachers because I have a loud mouth and I am unable to shut my classroom door without becoming twitchy. I took one look at that machine, large and round, containing one small opening where they proposed to shovel me in like a baker inserting a loaf of bread in the oven and I hyperventilated from the picture!

On the questionnaire, they ask: Are you claustrophobic? I answered, “I invented claustrophobia and I have been perfecting it for years.” They assured me that they could give me medication to help me relax. I assured them that in order to get me relaxed enough to go in there, it would be necessary for them to apply a sledgehammer forcibly to the back of my head!

In the end, they decided it might be easiest to put me in what they refer to as an “open” MRI machine. Now I am here to tell you that this machine was preferable to the closed one, but when I walked in the room, it still kind of resembled a giant whale with its mouth wide open, and with a convenient chair for me to sit in while it swallowed me!

Even so, I sat in the chair and they strapped me in. Then, they instructed me to place my arms in such a way that my shoulders were as narrow as they could be made. This is because that chair is on a motorized track and it moved into the heart of the machine and sandwiched me neatly between two giant walls. And when I say sandwiched, I mean a TIGHT sandwich. There wasn’t even room for lettuce and tomato! My head was placed in a brace and held into place by some pegs against my forehead.

If I looked anything as panicky as I felt, I am sure they expected me to bolt any second. The attendant, attempting to make my experience as easy as possible, said, “I’ll turn on the television. You will be able to see it from here.” He did so, and I could look out of the whale’s mouth and see the television. Then he said, “I’ll need to have you take off your glasses and any oral partials.” It didn’t matter that I didn’t have all my teeth, but without the glasses, the television was a confused blur! So much for distraction.

Never fear, though. He had another idea. “I’ll just put on some music for you.” He did so, but midway into the Beatles crooning, “It’s been a hard day’s night,” they fired up the machine. Anyone who has ever had an MRI knows that that is the loudest noise in the world and it greatly resembles the noise a jackhammer makes while breaking up cement! No television, no music, all I could do was sit there and listen to the dulcet tones of a machine that sounded like it would begin breaking me up at any minute.

In addition to the headache that this engenders, I had to deal with the no movement issues. And when they say no movement, they mean, NO movement! Before he began, he said, “Do not swallow, cough, sneeze or breath too deeply.” Once someone tells you not to do these things, it’s amazing how badly you want to.

While I was trying not to swallow, sneeze, cough or hyperventilate (causing me to breath too deeply) I also struggled with my feet. I may have neglected to mention that in addition to moving you backwards into the whale’s mouth, they also raise you up and tilt you back. It’s okay, though, they give you a little footrest, so your feet don’t dangle. Except the footrest was too short for my legs, so I was left with the choice of letting my feet dangle anyway, or pushing my knees up into an uncomfortable position which eventually, caused my legs to shake with the strain, and–you guessed it–made me MOVE!

Of course, I survived the “Jonah and the Whale Ride”, as I like to call it and the images they got when I wasn’t swallowing, coughing, sneezing or breathing too deeply have shown what has been causing my misery for the last few months. I will be glad to begin correcting the problems and I look forward to the day when I no longer have these issues, so it may be that being in the “maw of the monster,” was the luckiest thing I could have done!

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I don’t “got this”

Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels.com

I really hope this woman will excuse the fact that I borrowed her picture for my column on motherhood. Yes, yes, I know it’s a little soon for a Mother’s Day post, but I was reminded this morning of my own attempts at motherhood and I felt moved to write about it now.

This woman, beautifully appointed, her face lovely, and shining with calm and composure, with a loving child clinging to her, has always been my ideal of motherhood. I always envisioned that I would be a calm saint–perhaps with flowers in my hair–a perfectly appointed outfit on, sweet music filling the air, while happy children frolicked at my feet, wearing expressions of pure joy. The real thing is not so much.

I mean, think about the whole thing for a moment. We are responsible for bringing replacement humans into the world and somehow, without instructions or a guide, we are expected to get the whole motherhood thing down and in the meantime, not mess up the little darlings that we are raising. I thoroughly enjoyed my children (and still do) but I’m the first to say that motherhood is a mystery of the universe and I am fairly certain that no one does it perfectly! But, inevitably, someone will come along, while your child is having a tantrum, or creating a scene or even just puking up the candy they overate and say something bracing like, “You got this.” Well, I’m here to tell you that not only do I not “got this”, but also, that expression has always driven me crazy by its vague reference and extremely bad grammar!

It isn’t that we don’t have people willing to help with this project, you know. Everyone has a theory on how you can better raise your children. “You should not let them watch so much television,”–please, I would have let them watch murder mysteries just to get five minutes of peace locked in a bathroom. “Too much sugar will make them grow up to be crabby people,”–I figure that they have a head-start on crabby watching my attempts at motherhood, they may as well have the sugar too!

Instead of setting women up for some idealized version of parenthood, it might be better to just admit that motherhood is a swamp full of quicksand and if we managed to navigate any of it successfully, it was sheer dumb luck or God taking pity on us! It is unlikely, however, that we will make it out of the mire without at least some of the mud clinging to our shoes. In my opinion, it is a miracle that my children are sane and functional people, because they went through quite a bit of quicksand with me as a mother and there was never a moment where we danced through the meadows, weaving daisies into a chain and experiencing perfect harmony.

Even when motherhood reaches the point that mine has, there are still pitfalls that can trip you up. I must constantly remind myself that their choices in life must meet their vision, instead of mine. Just because I think they would be an awesome prime minister of New Zealand, they may have something entirely different than political fame in mind. (Although, it’d be great if one of them would be President and I could stay at the White House). It’s also hard for me to see those mimes about how they should drop in anytime (I like to sit around in my underwear and they might object to that), check out my refrigerator and cupboard at will (the little darlings might eat all of my Ho Hos) and stay as long as they like (if they make me miss Blue Bloods, I’ll be mad). I love to spend time with them, but honestly, shouldn’t they be allowed to do other things that they like?

There is one thing I think all children owe their parents, however. They should listen, over and over, to all the stories their parents want to tell. I don’t care if I’ve told the story about my older daughter cutting her own hair at the age of four or the younger one stirring the toilet and soaking her good clothes with it at the age of two, my children should wipe that blank, deer-in-the-headlights look from their faces and listen again!

So, while I love the picture of the mother and daughter that I selected for this column, I am suspicious of the calm and in-sync picture they present here. I am willing to bet that Mom has done as many things wrong as I did and that the daughter may feel like strangling her mother rather than hugging–at least once in a while. And while we are at it–I will bet she “don’t got it” all of the time, either!


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