All hail the weather rat

Photo by Niklas Jeromin on

Now, I have reconciled myself to the fact that we have a day entirely devoted to predicting the weather that has nothing to do with meteorologists. I have even reconciled myself to the fact that we have chosen a glorified rat as our spokesperson. I’ve even endured the replaying of Groundhog Day so many times I feel like I’m living the movie. All of this just adds up to the facts of life.

What I don’t think I can reconcile myself to is the fact that the back-stabbing little rat keeps predicting six more weeks of winter. Just the other day, on the edge of my seat, I observed yet another “prognostication” from the furry little rodent stating that we get six more weeks of winter and why? Because the little wimp saw his shadow!

What stymies me the most about this situation is that there is an entire cult following on this tradition. I was curious enough about it to research its beginning. I found that in Germany, Feb. 2 is Badger Day and a badger coming out of the hole in fine weather determines whether there will be four more weeks of winter.

It was continued in this country by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who adapted to a groundhog as the weatherman of choice and they decided to add two more weeks. So, while a badger, sunbathing in Germany on Feb. 2 means four more weeks of winter, a groundhog in Pennsylvania, wandering out of its hole on Feb. 2, predicts SIX more weeks of winter. That’s great; four weeks wasn’t enough, let’s punish ourselves with six!

The official ceremony takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. They do it up right, complete with all night parties, a whole council in tuxedoes and their loving little rat…Punxsutawney Phil. I have to tell you before we go any further, that I will never be in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Feb. 2, dressed in a tuxedo so I can help drag a groundhog with too much influence out of its hole to tell me the chances for an early spring…or not!

This winter may have put me in the wrong frame of mind for this beloved holiday. Since November, we have had nothing but winter. We have endured snow, ice, blizzards, cold temperatures and did I mention the mountains of snow, week after week for months now. As I am driving to work through the latest ground blizzards, I do not want to hear that there is a creature with the unprepossessing name of “groundhog” who has the nerve to tell me I’ve got six more weeks of this. No! I refuse, groundhog!

If we absolutely have to have this prediction made, can’t it be done by scientists, meteorologists, ect.? Heck, I’d even take a prediction by the badger–he only predicts four more weeks! So perhaps we need to drive to Pennsylvania and nail the groundhog’s door shut, or put laxative in his tea (that would distract him), or something to put an end to this frustrating holiday.

For those of you who feel I am overreacting, I invite you to come to visit me and look out upon my front yard. Oh, wait, my front yard is not visible because of all the “winter” piled up out there. So, if next year, I am not the first one in line to pat Punxsutawney Phil on his furry little head for ruining my day, and possibly my season, you will understand. However, if you hear that somebody punched the little rat in his protruding, weather-predicting teeth, just pretend you don’t know me. Have a nice Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, any February holiday except Groundhog Day!

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Cooking is not one of my life skills

I believe the title of this blog says it all. I have never in my life claimed to be, aspired to be or imagined myself to be a cook. I have many fine skills, it’s just that cooking is not one of those. And I am really okay with that, but the rest of the world seems to think I should be in a fine state of panic about my inability with a saucepan.

Please! When I was but a child of 8, I managed to set the kitchen curtains of my parents’ home ablaze because I wanted to make myself some french fries. I started there and I have never looked back. In the kitchen, my primary skill is fire and most things I touch with it are not the better for the effort. If I were an elemental witch, I would be the witch of fire and earth because my food either tastes burnt or like dirt!

I believe if you check back somewhere in my distant past you will find that I told the sad tale of meeting my husband when he, as a professional fireman, showed up to quench the polish sausage I had planned for my supper. After that misadventure, we were brought together under less traumatic circumstances and discovered we had met before over a scorched pan and a sausage burnt beyond recognition.

I always tell this story and then I add: “And he married me anyway, knowing full well I couldn’t cook.” There is no argument to this and I assumed when we made the match that my lack of culinary arts skills was not a hindrance for him. However, after years of having to silently chew the burnt offerings or the underdone potatoes or the hard-as-rock cookies, he has been known to grumble from time to time. However, since my answer is inevitably an invitation for him to take over meal preparation, he always backs down because, you see, he is no more fond of the kitchen than I.

That brings us to the pan I have featured in the picture section of this article. That pan is a wonder. I boil stuff in it and fry stuff in it and I have been known to bake stuff in it. That’s why it came as such a shock to me when someone saw the pan and remarked, “Oh neat, a stove-top wok. Do you do a lot of stir fry?”

Stove-top wok. I had no idea. Keep in mind, my idea of stir fry is a bag of frozen vegetables with some left-over meat, soaked in a bottle of teriyaki sauce. I don’t need a special pan just to make that! As I was cutting the evening’s boiled potatoes in it tonight, I told it, “We don’t need fancy titles or elegant trimmings. We’re real, you and I and we’ll get along fine.”

Apparently, the stove-top wok didn’t like my little pep talk, because when I had cooked the potatoes and mashed them, they had the consistency of stringy cheese or wallpaper paste. Roy didn’t complain, though, he choose to look on the bright side.

“Are those potatoes okay?” I asked looking with concern at the swipe of potatoes hanging from his chin like a surrender flag.

“Oh, they are just fine,” he said, if somewhat grimly. “They are much better than last week’s, with the little chunks of underdone potato hidden throughout the dish.”

Way to look on the bright side I say, because my cooking doesn’t improve with compliments. Come to think of it, my cooking doesn’t get a lot of compliments, and there is good reason.

I troll through Facebook and I watch every single one of those cooking videos, and I laugh because there is no way it would come out that way for me! I have never yet tried one of their recipes, they look so good, I just don’t have the heart to show them how they could be ruined! Likewise with recipes in magazines. I tried one once for chicken-fried steak and my husband, after two bites, tossed the plate aside and swore he could taste cinnamon and sewing machine oil in the meat. I only spilled a little, he shouldn’t have been so picky!

It is my plan, as I head to retirement, to take on more complicated cooking tasks, because I’ll have time to really devote to it. The trouble will come, of course, when I discover you can’t read a book on the deck and stir the bĂ©arnaise sauce in your evening concoction at the same time. The bĂ©arnaise sauce is going to lose, I can tell you right now!

Well, I have now shared with you another chapter in the sad tale of Jackie’s cooking adventures. While I have no recipes to share at this time, I have thought of a fine logo for my efforts. I figure a cloud of black smoke billowing out of the stove while a firetruck clangs around the corner should just about do it!

In the meantime, come over anytime for a meal. My stove-top wok makes a heck of a good pancake…if you don’t mind well done!

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Teaching the old dog

Photo by Alexandru Rotariu on

There’s a saying out there from when I was young, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It never meant much to me back in my youth (a long time ago), but now that I have achieved a few years, I understand it much better. I have a terrible time figuring out new programs on a computer, I don’t know how to load “apps” on my telephone and when I pick up the mult-numbers of remotes for my television, I break into a cold sweat.

However, I found out this week, that I CAN learn new things. I had to do two things I have not tried before: constructing a small desk and conveying a purchase code from my account to my daughter. These may not seem like much to the young of the world, but to an old dog like me, they present a massive achievement.

“I ordered another small desk to add to my workspace,” I informed my husband one night.

“Fine, as long as you don’t need it too soon, because I’m at my busy time at work,” he said as he dashed for the door.

“I’ll put it together myself,” I was offended. “I’m not helpless, I can follow directions and construct things.”

“This is news to me,” he scoffed. “But if you’re so good at it, why don’t you finish putting together that stand lamp in the living room.”

“It IS put together!”

“It bends so much in the middle, it looks like it’s bowing,” and out the door he went.

Boy, that really revved me up! When that desk came, in about four million pieces, I was determined to get it together myself and then hide the one million pieces that I had no idea what to do with.

It was tough, and I wanted to give up. I was too old to learn how to do this. The fact that my ten-year-old grandson could do it in a half hour was not helpful to me, because he was miles away and he would have wanted too much money to keep his mouth shut about it to his grandfather.

I dived in. During the first hour, I opened that plastic package they send with all the screws and nuts and bolts in it, too roughly, and small metallic items went flying every direction and many of them were lost forever in the rug. I put the shelves on twice, once upside down and once right side up. Then, I decided it was time for the old dog to take a break. I don’t drink alcohol, but I sat in the living room and toasted the bowing lamp with my glass of soda.

Then, my daughter called. She needed a purchase code from my Amazon account. “If you need me to, I can get on a video call with you and help you through it.” This was just insulting! I could do it myself! And after about an hour and several abortive attempts, I was able to send her the image she was looking for.

She said, “That’s perfect!”

I preened with pride. “I’m a computer genius!” I was sure she would then praise me for figuring it out.

“You also sent me a picture of the cover of The Long Winter,” was her next remark.

“I thought you’d like it,” I lied, “So shut up and enjoy it.” And no, I can’t tell you how I got such a thing in there. The old dog can do a new trick, they just can’t explain it!

But, then I went back to desk assembly and I got done before my husband got home. I conducted him proudly back to the room and showed him the finished product.

After duly admiring it, or at least looking it over, he said, “I thought you were going to put the books shelves on the other way.”

“Well, yes, but those x-thingys weren’t marked very well and I put them on backwards. But this will work.”

“Why isn’t there a nut on this bolt,” was his next remark.

“I can’t find it,” I was not concerned. “It blends in with the rug. Besides, I don’t think all those nuts are the same size.”

“Some nuts are much bigger,” (it took me a while to figure out that zinger). “But this isn’t tight,” and he wiggled one, causing the whole thing to sway like a belly dancer.

“Don’t do that!” I yelled, “I lost that ellen thing and can’t tighten it any more!”

“The allen wrench?” he asked, trying hard not to smirk. “Well, if you’re satisfied with it, I guess it will do fine.”

I was elated. He said it would do fine! The old dog has learned a new trick! If you’re wondering why I didn’t post a picture of my new desk, it’s because I’m waiting until my husband has time to just “smooth over the rough edges.” Maybe if he can tighten some of the bolts, it will lose that tilt and sway it’s got going on right now. But it’s done! And I did it! So see, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks…or at least portions of them!

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New Year, Old hangups

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

Hello, everyone and welcome to the new year. Now, I am a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions and I sometimes keep them clear into February, but this year, I think it should be different. We are all supposed to resolve to eat smarter, lose weight, exercise more, be more organized, etc. All of those are good things for some people, but I think I will go in a different direction. I will resolve on things that most would count as frivolous, if not downright…dumb!

Allow me to explain: I don’t want to resolve on new things to do, I want to resolve on continuing the things I like to do now. Is this self-improvement? Maybe not; but it is a whole lot more fun for me. I also will be resolving to cease doing things that I already don’t want to do. That should be easy!

Let’s start with something simple, like M & Ms. Now, the world does not eat enough M & Ms. If they did, everyone would be a whole lot happier. So, I’m going to get bags and bags of M & Ms and resolve to not only eat more myself, but hand out as many of those little round circles of joy to all the crabby people in the world as I can. That’s a good resolution, now, isn’t it?

And if that resolution is not big enough for you, you will appreciate my next one. I resolve not to clean one single closet this entire year. Every year it seems, I resolve to get some closets, drawers, cupboards, etc., cleaned out and pare down the amount of junk I am storing. And every year, I clean one or two, dragging everything out, deciding I can’t get rid of anything and putting it all back. So, this year, I resolve not to clean any closets. I’m not even cleaning the refrigerator unless something in there evolves enough to talk to me!

I also resolve not to go on one single diet. Everyone out there who has ever gone on a diet at New Year’s, lost weight and kept it off for good, raise your hand: just as I thought; one hand raised and that guy is lying. I have tried breadless diets, sugarless diets, keto diets, salad diets, fasting diets and that diet where you eat nothing but Krispee Kreme doughnuts and the same thing happens. If I can stand it long enough to lose weight, that weight creeps right back on as soon as I start eating actual food again. So, I’m to skip the middle man here and resolve to stay the same chubby, fun-loving 120-pound beauty I am today. If you would like to challenge that weight declaration, you’ll have to come and get me and when we check it out, we’re using my scale!

I will make one concession-related resolution regarding my habits, however. I resolve that this year, when someone presents me with a dish that looks as though the cat were sick in a pan (and frequently smells a little like that too), and says, “Try this! I found this recipe in an old copy of ‘Meals to make for those you hate’. Does it need a little salt or something?” I won’t. I resolve that I will NOT try it, no matter the salt content. If I don’t eat things that don’t appeal to me, I might lose a little weight, don’t you think? So, no liver casserole or fried chicken feet for me! Good resolution.

I resolve this year not to lift anything more than five pounds and to never stand when I can sit. I will not take out the garbage unless the Health Department shows up and the dog will have all four legs fall off before I take her for a walk. I will resolve not to make any cupcakes or homemade bread and I will resolve not to hint broadly to all the cooks in my life to let me have some of theirs.

New year’s resolutions have always been tough–keeping them, not making them. Therefore, I will look for resolutions that don’t require a huge commitment of time or dedication. I resolve to leave the snow on the deck and hope everyone thinks I’m going for a beautiful, seasonal scene and they don’t guess the awful truth, which is that I am lazy and not interested in getting a pulled muscle or torn rotator cup, just so my deck is clean. The dog can walk through the snow and I can wait to sit on the deck until the weather warms up, should that ever happen!

I know, I know, by now you are thinking that I am not taking this whole resolution thing very seriously, and you would be right. So, for my final resolution, let me resolve to stop taking life too seriously and maybe have a little fun when I can. Now there is a resolution I can get behind. Happy New Year, all of you!

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The definition of insanity…

A wise man once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. While I agree with this to an extent, I feel the definition of insanity is more likely buying a new television, and expecting the same results as the old one!

It was decided at my house (not by me) that our old television just didn’t have it anymore. The television was now 12 years old and I finally had learned how to use it. I knew which buttons to push for which items and I even learned how to do new stuff, like play DVDs and watch Netflix. I had that television and its controls down and it only took me twelve years.

But my husband, the football fan, decided that he should turn his living room into a giant ESPN scoreboard. All we lack now is the bar and the betting pool. The television is in place.

Small problem: There are now even more remotes to handle and they are even harder to learn. For instance, there are three remotes which currently turn the television on. There are two remotes that will give you the regular cable channels and two others that take care of Netflix. We can no longer play the DVDs–no hookup and no remote.

Here is where the insanity starts. If I turn the television on with this remote, it will not bring up cable, but I can watch Netflix. If I want to adjust the volume, that requires an entirely different remote. However, if I use another remote to turn on the television, you guessed it. There will be cable, but no way to get to Netflix–UNLESS you use a further remote, which will put on Netflix, but throw you off cable.

I was busy trying to make a chart of which remote, used in which order would operate what thing, when Roy came in. He picked up the large black remote and turned on the television.

“Where’s the game?” he asked, staring at the blank screen which stared back at him.

“Is the game on cable? Because for that, you need to turn on the television with the gray remote,” I said, checking the notes.

“Well, why can’t I just switch over?”

“Because, if you hit the wrong button, you put it into some kind of sleep mode and then it takes three other remotes and a few hours to bring it back. What station is your game on?”

By now, he’s sorting through the various remotes like a woman does earrings in a jewelry box. “Well, I think it’s on Prime,” he said, sounding somewhat confused.

“Oh, for that you need this other remote over here. You turn it on with this small black one and you find your Prime station with this small white one,” I said, handing them over. “But if you need to adjust the picture or the volume, then you will have to turn it all off and start again with the large black remote.”

“You’re making this up, right? You just don’t want this new television,” he was very suspicious now.

“Of course not! I love the new television and if I sound like I’ve lost my sanity, that’s because I have discovered that loss of sanity is a requirement to operate this machine.”

He stood and looked at me and the dizzying assortment of remotes and then at the television, still staring blankly at him. Then he left the room.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To find the old television,” he replied. “Maybe it will allow me to watch the game.”

“Oh, I don’t know. The remotes for that television are now programed to the new one. It will take hours to redo them.” Married couples should do things together. So I think it’s appropriate that we go out of minds together, trying to use the new television, don’t you?

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The Case of the Missing Phone

I promise I’ll explain the weird picture in just a moment, but first I must climb upon my soapbox and rant about my favorite topic: the addiction of the human race to the cell phone. The worst thing that could have happened, in my opinion, is for the portable phone (a necessary item, I admit) to be reduced from a cumbersome bag with a telephone inside, to the point where it can be held in the palm of one hand. Add to that the fact that the so-called “cell phone” isn’t so much a telephone anymore as an appendage connected to the hand. This appendage is so amazing because it can do everything except produce your offspring…and I dread the day when they figure that out!

Given that this is how I feel about the cell phone, it is probably surprising to people that I actually do have one. I use it once in a great while to locate Roy when we are in public and separated, but mostly it just sits in the bottom of my purse and runs down its battery…until Roy thinks of it and charges the poor thing! Getting the phone was at the insistence of Roy because I travel 28 miles one way in the country in South Dakota to go to work. I see the sense of it, but for the record, in the time I have had it, I have used it on the road once, and that was not a weather-related call!

The world has not caught up with my bad attitude about phones, since it seems that now, you can’t even make a purchase without giving out personal information.

“That is 30 dollars for the paint and could I get your phone number,” said the young clerk at the hardware store.

“What?” I said, in an unnecessarily loud voice. “Young man, did you just ask me for my phone number?” He was reduced to a flushing, flustered mess and guess what? I was allowed to buy the paint without giving my phone number. Cell phones! Bah! Humbug!

I have never lost the phone, but to be fair, I don’t go looking for it, either. Usually my phone is, as I said, at the bottom of my purse. That is, until this week. And that is when the trouble began.

We have been experiencing a storm, this week, of a size and length that has not occurred in quite some time. As the white stuff piled up outside and the wind began to howl like something out of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Long Winter, Roy and I settled down and resigned ourselves to getting whatever work we could do at home finished. Roy had some hook-up needed whereby he used his cell phone to set it up. However, in the middle of the operation, he needed a second phone to call his co-worker.

“Where’s your phone?” he hollered from the house desk.

“In my purse, where it is always is,” I answered.

“No, it’s not; I’ve looked. It isn’t there,” came the ominous answer. I walked into the dining room to find my purse, looking much as it does in the above picture with my wallet, combs, pens, kleenix and spare cough drops spread everywhere.

“Now I’ve got to put all of that back,” I whined.

“No you don’t, you’ve got receipts in there from Tucker’s Grocery Store,” he replied, still raking through the things he had dumped out as if the phone would magically appear.


“So it hasn’t been Tuckers for five years. You have five-year-old grocery receipts, but no phone. Where is your phone?”

Suddenly, I was talking to Perry Mason, Dick Tracy and NCIS, all rolled into one. I had to search the car, my coat and other winter wraps and my sewing basket. No, I don’t know why I had to search the sewing basket, but the Crime Scene Investigator wouldn’t shut up until I did!

Finally, he did what all who search for a missing cell phone do…he called it with his phone. He got voice mail and we heard no locating ring from it. Now, I don’t have one of those phones that can tell you where it is, so the case of the missing phone was not to be solved. I took some comfort from the fact that, according to what I see on the crime shows, if I’m ever on the run, they won’t be able to “ping” me to find where I am hiding.

Now, between you and me, I am guessing that my phone was probably left at work. There is really no other place it could be, unless, somewhere between the school and my house, it hopped out of my purse on some “suicide mission” and is now buried under four feet of snow. But we are not going to tell the cell phone Nazi that, unless we have to. Right now, suffice it that he is cleaning my closet, my underwear drawer and the kitchen freezer in the hopes of finding the phone. At least, I’m getting some cleaning done and he is well occupied!

In the meantime, I will enjoy the fact that no one can call me and I don’t have to worry about whether the darned thing is charged or not. Happy snow storm to you all and to all–a good night!

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Rockin’ round the Christmas Tree

When I was a child, I remember, my parents would buy a real pine tree and bring it home. Oh, we were so excited! But, as an exercise in patience and endurance, they would leave it resting in the garage, keeping it cool. We walked by that tree every day, wishing and waiting for the day when we got to put it up.

I remember my mother would help my father get the tree in one of the old screw stands–you know, “screw that one in a little further, it leans to the right” and then, for added fun, she would make us leave it another day so that it could “warm up.” I didn’t want it to warm up, I wanted to put stuff on it! Eventually, eventually, we got to decorate that tree and it smelled terrific and it looked even better! We kept it watered, enjoyed the ambiance and swept up all the dead needles when Christmas was over.

I never knew how much I enjoyed those days until I came to the modern Christmas tree. I remember being shocked because I saw someone had a silver aluminum tree. There were no lights on it…just a revolving light on the floor that turned it various colors. I vowed on that very day that I would never have a fake Christmas tree. Even when they started coming out with passable green ones that allowed lights and decorating, I was still determined. No artificial tree for me.

My resolve began to weaken as the years went on and I had to wait longer than anyone else to put up my tree because it was live and then when it was over, I was reduced to getting down into the carpet and picking out those sticky, dried-up needles that had adhered themselves so much to my carpet that even the shop vac would not get them. My bare feet, though, they picked up dry, prickly needles nicely!

Okay, so I pulled the last of the razor sharp needles out of my feet and went shopping for a “fake” tree. There were masses of them. I finally managed to choose one and, avoiding the clerk’s suggestion that I buy some fake pine smell to spray over the fake tree plastic smell, I headed home.

Now, I have always regarded the tree stand as the ultimate test of our holiday spirit. If you can get those little screws into the base of the tree so that it stands up reasonably straight and you can still smile, you pass the test. However, if you can get those plastic wedge things properly seated in the grooves provided on a fake tree and not wish to hit the inventor of those tree stands in the head with a hammer, well, you’ve more Christmas spirit than me! Either way, the chances of the tree taking a header after it’s fully decorated because the stand gives out are very high. Some people have a drunk uncle who runs into the tree and knocks it over. The rest of us have an unstable tree stand!

Just getting the fake tree upright is quite a chore, but once you’ve done so, there is still more to do. Unlike the real tree which must be “warmed up,” the fake tree instead must have its branches “fluffed”. You see, a fake tree has been smooshed into a box with all of its little green wire branches adhered to the main branch so tightly that the whole thing resembles a fat marching baton. You must artfully bend and move and “fluff” these branches until they look like “real” branches.

Decorating has never been a problem for me. I slap on the lights and always secretly wonder what led the early proponents of the Christmas tree to put lit candles on a dead tree, but I am grateful things have evolved since then. I love bulbs and all manner of interesting ornaments. I know of a woman who used to put the same color and style bulbs only on her tree and she measured with a tape measure to make sure they were exactly placed. This is not me! I put the darn things on willy-nilly and usually spent the rest of the holiday rearranging them as I notice where I may have left “blank spots.”

My mother was a big fan of tinsel, those little silver strands that cling to more things than glitter. She made us put them on one at a time and take them off the same way. It was years before I realized that some people just throw bunches of it on the tree in random fashion. This seemed sacrilegious to me considering my upbringing so in the end I solved the problem by not putting tinsel on my tree. I prefer festive garlands that never fit over the whole tree and always stop at awkward points in the tree’s decor. It looks like the tree was getting dressed, but got caught trying to fit it over their ample middle and therefore, ran out of garland!

Nonetheless, my tree is now up, the stand is in place, the plastic smell has been disguised, and the branches are all fluffed. The decorations are in place…at least for now. I sat down with a sigh of relief and then I made my fatal mistake. I asked my husband what he thought.

“Well, the top branch is bent awkwardly because your lighted star is too heavy, part of your string of lights is not working over on this side–you should have checked that before you put them up–and the cat is currently sitting about a third of the way up on that branch over there that is sagging under her weight. However, beyond that, it almost looks like a real Christmas tree.”

If I was speaking to him after that, I’d have told him it IS a real Christmas tree. Ho, Ho, Ho!

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My Home Away From Home

Jackie Wells-Fauth

One of the most consistent parts of my working life is the fact that I have always had a fairly steady commute. I have always had to drive from one town to another to teach and that means a lot of time in the car. Or, as I call it, my home away from home.

My car is equipped with all of the necessities for a vehicle which is exposed to the vagaries of the South Dakota weather. It has windshield wipers, four-wheel drive, warning camera indicators. But those are the minor things. My car is also stocked with all of the things which ensure that I have a safe and comfortable drive.

Of course, food is critical. I always have candy bars and fruit snacks stashed somewhere at hand. I also bring along plenty of water and pop and then there are the fresh doughnuts and such that I add in on special occasions. I like chocolate and powered sugar ones the most, but I stopped getting those after Roy drove my car one day and got a butt full of doughnut residue. According to his “hysterical” account, he looked like a drug dealer who had soiled himself!

Of course, by the time I have added in the books I carry with me — you never know when you will get stopped by a train and need something to do — and my extra winter wraps — because I can never find my gloves when its time to go — and my lunchbox — obviously — I have a pretty full front seat.

Now, this is not counting the other items essential for a road trip. Of course I must have my purse which is so overstuffed that it looks like I’m carrying the living room sofa around, and it takes up a lot of space. It also has the regrettable tendency to tip over in the car, so in my yearly cleaning I find a lot of loose change, chap stick containers and random loose cough drops.

I never let Roy clean the car because then I would have to explain why I have a flyswatter located convenient to hand. He seems to think that trying to swat the annoying flies that always seem to get into the car, while I am driving down the road is a hazard. I have tried to explain that flies landing on my face, forcing me to swing at them with a soda bottle is also a hazard, but he won’t listen.

I would also have to explain why there are random vitamins or fiber capsules lying around on the floor. But he doesn’t understand that those buggers are really slippery and when I’m trying to take them on the drive to school in the morning, they frequently slip out of my hands and land on the floor. I can’t pick them up and take them then, can I? The floor is dirty because I never vacuum. If I never vacuum my house, I could hardly be expected to vacuum my home away from home, could I? He took a look at the capsules strewn throughout the car and said, “You’ll be arrested as soon as they see that and only after they test for Metamucil will they know you aren’t a drug dealer.”

Of course, with all the items I have in the car, I do need a nice little trash bin, but I keep forgetting to buy one. Therefore, there are candy wrappers, plastic drink bottles and doughnut napkins on the floor, in the compartment in the door, stuck between the seats and of course, in the glove box. On my annual cleaning day, I take out bags of garbage and I also retrieve quite a bit of change…usually enough to buy myself another candy bar!

Of course, no home away from home would be complete without a companion and I have one of those: it’s called the radio. It is from this chatty little friend that I learn all the latest gossip, sing along with for all the latest songs and keep ahead of the latest trends. For instance, I learned that if you smile really big even when you don’t feel it, it will improve your mood. It works while I’m still in my little home away from home with my food, coffee and purse, but the minute I step out and meet actual people, it’s a lot harder. My radio friend didn’t mention that.

Now I know there are inconveniences to my little home away from home. I would hate to have to spend the night in it and there isn’t a great deal of room for the television, but still, I find myself very comfortable on my commute back and forth to work. And as soon as I get one of those self-driving cars I’m going to bring along my microwave and oh, maybe even my needlework! Hope you all have a safe and happy commute to work this week and make sure to smile!

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The Gambler’s Life

I’ve never been much of a gambler. I don’t even buy lottery tickets because I am not what you would call “the winning kind” when it comes to games of chance. I don’t win at Monopoly, I never win in a raffle and I’m not raking in the winnings for cards or dice.

So why did the football lottery at school appeal so much? I started at first to let Roy fill out my sheets for the winning NFL football teams for the week. I put in the money, but he made the picks. And neither of us, aware of the quirks of fate and the unpredictable NFL, really expected a win.

Until this week. I had begun doing my own sheet to see how I would stack up against Roy. Last week, he picked more winners than I did, but this week I was determined to do better.

“Why did you pick Denver?” he asked, looking over my shoulder.

“Because they are playing Jacksonville and I’ve never been to Jacksonville, but I’ve not only been to Denver, but I have family there,” I answered, such an obvious point.

“Do you even know what the Denver team is called,” he asked after a moment’s silent reflection.

“Something to do with horses or something,” I was busy making my next pick. “Now, let’s see, these Houston Cowboys…”

“Dallas Cowboys,” he corrected.

“Dallas Cowboys then, I’m picking Chicago against them,” I made my mark on the paper.

“I hate to ask why, but I will,” he mumbled.

“Because city boys from Chicago are likely to know a lot more about football than cowboys would,” honestly, some things are so common sense.

He didn’t question any more of my picks and I gleefully handed in his paper and mine the following day. All I was really looking for was to beat him.

Then, the games started piling up and I was winning a few of my guesses. After Baltimore beat Tampa Bay and Denver took out Jacksonville (see, I told you), I started taking an interest in the winners. After all, I had my 5 bucks on this…maybe I could win!

I usually watch the Vikings and cheer for them because that is the team of my father and my husband, but this week, I found myself screaming at Cousins, “Come on, you Chump, I got money on this! Throw a first down!”

I got New Orleans over Las Vegas…New Orleans is so much nicer than Las Vegas…and then, New England beat the Jets. That stands to reason..have you ever seen the autumn leaves in New England???

When Tennessee beat Houston, Roy actually cheered, because it meant I had one wrong. I gave him a cold and evil stare, “Perhaps you don’t want me to win? Perhaps you don’t want a few extra dollars in this house?”

“Are you going to share it with me,” was his next question.

“I wonder how Washington is doing,” I said, avoiding his eye. “I bet big on them.”

“You bet five dollars on the whole works,” he replied. “And I knew that if you won, you wouldn’t share.”

I was riding high until the Green Bay/Buffalo game. I bet on Buffalo, but it was still nerve-wracking. After Rogers pushed through the third first down on a single drive, I threw my sewing at the television. “Rogers, I’m just not going to watch if you are going to play like that!” I yelled.

“It’s just 5 dollars,” Roy said again. What did he care? He was already out of the running.

“It’s not the five dollars,” I lied. “It’s the principal of the thing. I thought we cheered against Green Bay no matter what, in this house.”

“It’s the five dollars,” he said.

By Monday night, I was close to winning the pool, but had Cincinnati won over Cleveland (I picked Cincinnati, because it’s more fun to say than Cleveland), that might cinch the deal. No such luck. Pretty name or not, Cincinnati went down to Cleveland. I tried to shrug my shoulders and say it wasn’t a big deal, but at the thought that I was so close, I could feel my lip trembling and my mood going down.

So, it was quite a surprise on Tuesday when they handed me the football pool for this week. Apparently, I picked 45 total points in the game as a tie-breaker and I was spot on! Well, of course, I always choose 45–it was one of my favorite years in age!

I came home with this week’s sheets and a fist full of cash. Roy made his picks quickly and then looked over at mine. “Why Seattle over Arizona?” he asked.

“Because,” I really shouldn’t have to explain something so simple, “I like rainy weather better than dry heat. And I picked Kansas City over Tennessee because we live closer to Kansas City and…” I may not be suited to the gambler’s life!

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The high blood pressure blues

Photo by Stephen Meara-Blount on

As I write this, I’m sure my blood pressure would measure a little high, whatever “high” is, because my blood pressure seems to have a mind of its own and it delights in all the attention it gets at the doctor’s office. I have said so many times, that I could walk in the door of a doctor’s office with a spear sticking out of my eye and the first thing they would do is strap on that blood pressure cuff and then remark, “Wow, your blood pressure is really high.”

For those of you who think this is an exaggeration, I can offer proof. Three years ago, I was walking bare-footed through the carpet in my living room when an errant toothpick rose up and drove itself under the nail of my big toe. I’ve heard that they do this deliberately when torturing spies and I can tell you from first hand experience that if someone had done this to me and they wanted the nuclear launch codes, I would have made something up if I didn’t know the answer, just to stop the pain!

Of course, when I limped into the clinic an hour later after getting profane with the receptionist to convince her that it was indeed an emergency, what was the first thing they did? They slapped on the blood pressure machine and then remarked, “Wow, I don’t like the looks of that blood pressure.” Personally, I didn’t like the looks of the piece of wood sticking out from underneath my toenail, but, to each his own.

On another occasion, I was having back and neck spasms every time I moved. They had me get on to a table for a female exam (don’t ask), requiring three people to get me there and by the time they were done, I had little pain sparks dancing across my eyeballs and my legs were not too steady. So, of course, the next step was to take my blood pressure. “Well, we have a problem here; that blood pressure is really out of whack.” What I felt was out of whack was the fact that nobody seemed to feel that intensive and horrific pain in the back might just increase the blood pressure and a good way to bring the blood pressure down might be to treat the source of the pain. Of course, I’m not a medical person, so what do I know?

At one point in time, they sent me home with my own blood pressure machine so that I could daily monitor my blood pressure. I am not sure who thought this was a good idea, but I assure you, it was not. I made the error of asking, “Well, what would be considered a dangerous reading?” The nurse laughed and said, “Oh, don’t worry too much about it. Now, if it got to, say, 200 over 100, then we might want to worry.” You know that whole mind over matter thing? I’m here to tell you it works both ways. It took me exactly 48 hours to record 200 over 100 on my little blood pressure machine. For those who think I did it wrong, when I staggered into the clinic, it was still at 190 over 99. I made up my mind then and there that the first person who made the Captain Obvious observation that my blood pressure was out of whack, was going to get a whack from me.

This week, I decided that there is no way to win the blood pressure game. The first thing they did at my yearly appointment was take my blood pressure. Now, I had gone through the blood-taking they do and semi-conquered my problem with needles. I was waiting to hear what the doctor had to say about my numbers and I had spent the last week worrying about what my blood pressure would be. It didn’t disappoint. First reading was 167 over 80. The attendant remarked, “Well, the bottom number’s not too bad, but the top one’s pretty high.”

When the doctor came in, before he could comment, I burst out, “I know, I know, the blood pressure is high, but in my defense, when they took it at my thyroid checkup, it was only 145 over 69. I think you guys might be stressing me out.” (I’ve heard over the years that if you want to win the argument, always come out on the attack.)

The doctor said nothing and began going through my health check and everything came out normally. And just as I was relaxed, ready to leave, he slapped on the blood pressure cup again. To my astonishment, the numbers had drastically dropped to 136 over 80. “Well, that’s pretty good, isn’t it?” I said, looking for affirmation.

“Well, the top one’s not bad, but that bottom one’s a little high,” was his reply. That’s it, I’m divorcing my blood pressure. I’m tired of it grabbing all the attention!

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