Monthly Archives: September 2020

Caught in the wringer

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It was that time of year again. The time of year where I think of peaceful, restful, happy scenes like the one pictured…and make my annual appointment for a physical.

I don’t think there is a human being alive who doesn’t recognize the importance of an annual checkup of our physical health. Nor is there a human being alive who doesn’t wish with all their soul they can avoid it. But, if we are dutiful, we call for an appointment and think happy thoughts about peaceful places that are nowhere near a medical facility.

I don’t know why it’s so difficult. Perhaps it’s the attractive gown they give you to wear while they check you out. Nothing makes one feel as vulnerable as a gown the texture of a dishtowel, covered in faded designs, which is completely open down the back. Then you get to sit on a table covered in paper, which tends to stick to the portion of your anatomy that isn’t covered by the gown.

They begin with ten thousand questions, personal enough that you wouldn’t normally discuss them with a comparative stranger–Do you feel like hurting yourself? Can you count to ten? Can you follow my finger with your eyes?–you know the drill. And as much as I enjoy answering questions about my suicidal tendencies and the state of my bowels, I enjoy being poked and prodded even less.

Of course, they also sit you down and drain enough blood to make you wonder if they are working for Dracula, and then they squeeze your arm into a blood pressure cup as though they plan to remove the appendage by force–“Your blood pressure seems to be elevated, could it be that we have your arm strapped into an air-pressurized garrote that is shutting off the blood supply to everything above the shoulder?”

They save the real treat for last, however. Nothing that any exam provides for a woman is quite as delightful as the rigors of the mammogram. The late great humorist Erma Bombeck once said that for a woman to prepare herself for a mammogram, she must stand at the refrigerator door and slam it repeatedly on that most delicate part of the female anatomy, the breast.

I would never argue with my favorite writer, but I would have to say that Erma may have understated it. A mammogram is the real test of human endurance and there is no way to prepare for having the breast sandwiched between two plastic plates and squashed like bread dough under a rolling pin.

I’m always fascinated by the care and precision taken by the radiologist who conducts the test. While they have you in that machine, reluctant to move for fear of twisting off something crucial, they have all the precision and finesse of the photographer who took your wedding photos.

“Now, stand with your right arm up and your left shoulder dropped down. Put your chin on the top of the machine–that’s right, just stretch a little. Turn your body towards the machine and point your feet out to the left.”

And while you are standing there with your most delicate body part squashed into the merciless machine, your head impossibly high and your feet turned at an angle away from the body, they make the most ridiculous statement of all, “This will be easier if you just relax.” Once the picture is taken, they say, “Don’t move, I just want to check it.” This is a useless statement–until they release my breast from the machine, I’m not going to be going anywhere! I’ll just stand there, trying to visualize my happy place, but actually thinking about all the horror stories I’ve heard about things accidentally caught in those old wringer washers!

My physical is over for this year, and while I pick on the medical community, I truly do appreciate all they do to try and keep the human physiology in top operating form. All the same, it will take some hours of meditation on my calm and peaceful happy place before I set myself up for next year’s examination!

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A pass on the password

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My computer has finally gone too far. While this is not a picture of my computer, it captures the essence of my computer’s attitude (yes, my computer has an attitude). My computer is a nasty, smugly grinning monster who only knows three words: What’s the password?

For a person whose memory vaguely resembles a Swiss cheese, remembering passwords can be a real problem for me. Sometimes, I can remember passwords and account numbers and how to do math in my head. On other days–most days, I panic if someone asks for my birthdate!

Since the beginning of the password craze, I have had difficulty. What should I use for a password? I tried the standard my mother’s maiden name or my favorite Disney character, but apparently my mother’s maiden name is too easy to guess and too many people chose Cinderella! At one point, I was so frustrated, I even tried a profane word and received a morals lecture from a computer program!

Once we’ve actually come up with passwords, we’re not supposed to write them down! Right, I’m going to remember a password that is a mixture of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols in a random order. Is it the # before LJm2? or did some computer app force me to update it to something even more bizarre?

Don’t write them down, the computer experts (my children) say; someone might break into your house and find them. So, I tried to be inventive. I put them on sticky notes and put them under my good dishware in the china cupboard. I broke my best bowl because I was having trouble reading the password upside down and typing it in to my computer. So, I tried writing it on the inside of a meat paper wrapping in the freezer: Roy made hamburgers one night and there went the wrapping paper. Okay, so I need to remember them.

I solved this by not turning off my computer until some random article in a magazine guilted me into giving the computer a break and allowing for updates. I turned it off. Guess what? It needed passwords to turn back on! I remembered some of them; others, it let me change. The ones that really stymied me were mostly ones that my children helped me set up. So I sent out a frantic call: They’ve locked me out of Netflix, what is the password? I received a GIF of Jean Luc Picard shaking his head and holding his forehead.

Now, my children are usually very helpful. My daughters patiently go over the instructions time after time, but I can always tell they are impatient with their old mother – “No Mom, just press the button once; we don’t double click any more.” My older daughter and her husband are both slightly scoffing and the younger daughter bites her tongue a lot, I know. The most helpful of them all is my younger son-in-law. He’s truly a whiz and he does so much, but he has this look he gets when he’s trying to help me, that makes me suspect that he’s secretly screaming on the inside.

So, I’ve come up with a surefire method with passwords: I use one for everything and I’m going to share it with you now. My password for everything from now on is, I take a pass on passwords! Oh, but don’t tell anyone, okay? My daughters said it’s not good to give those passwords out! Thanks!

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The fly fixation

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In a field out there somewhere, there is a convocation of flies, having their end of summer conference. There are a lot them, floating around, fat, lazy and ready to make their winter plans.

The meeting will be called to order by Hal, a huge, experienced horsefly who has dodged many a flyswatter over the summer and has earned the respect of the rest of them by flying directly onto the potato salad at the Smiths’ barbecue and living to tell the tale!

But he has something more serious on his mind now than hysterical picnic-goers. “Men,” he begins solemnly and then catches the eye of some disgruntled females, “very well, fellow flies,” he amends, “it is time to get serious about where we are going to outlast the winter.”

“It’s useless,” moans Freida, a tattered fly who has seen more than her share of disappointed moments on the garbage pile. “I have all but shredded my wings trying to make it through some of these screens people put up on their windows. I can’t find a way inside.”

“Even if we can, those humans with flyswatters are cruel and relentless,” adds Harold, one of the smaller, more irritating flies whose specialty is flitting in people’s faces. “There is no place safe for a decent fly to hang out, either inside or out.”

“On the contrary,” Hal holds up a conciliatory wing, demanding the attention of the others. “I and my team have been doing extensive research and we have a place where we will be safe and well-fed for months to come.”

“Where!” exclaimed the other flies in excitement.

“It’s simple: the Fauth household. There are always holes in the screens because they have a cat, so entry is no problem.”

“A cat!” Freida screamed. “But they can be even worse than humans.”

“Not this cat,” Hal sneered. “It’s fat and lazy and doesn’t do a whole lot that requires work. She won’t bother us.”

“What about the humans,” Harold questioned, hope of flying into more human eyes growing in his breast. “Won’t they have flyswatters?”

“Oh, the best,” Hal responds. “But they can’t hit the broad side of a barn with them. We couldn’t be safer and I’m told it’s highly entertaining to watch them running around, slamming the flyswatters on counters and walls and ceiling without doing any damage to us at all.”

“I’ve heard about that place,” Freida said excitedly, then she sobered. “Oh, but I did hear that the Enderson hatchling was killed there. They must not always miss.”

“The Enderson fly was lost there,” Hal said somberly, “but he was young and cocky. He stayed too long on that Fauth woman’s foot, believing she couldn’t get him and unfortunately, she got lucky. But that’s the only one she’s taken out all year. This is the place, my fellow flies.”

“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get to the Fauth household!” Harold yelled, leading the way for the swarm to follow.

And that’s how it happened that my house has been invaded. I can only assume that it is a deliberate invasion because I can’t imagine any other way that every fly for a thousand miles has suddenly descended on my house. I hope the rest of you are having a fly-free week because they have definitely fixated on me!

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Clutter Creation

I always admire those people who are organized and neat. The people who have a place for everything and who put their things in their proper places after each use.

I admire these people, but under no circumstances will I ever become one. I have clutter in every corner of my house, from my bedroom closet, whose floor never sees the light of day…or the closet light, for that matter, all the way to the junk drawer in the kitchen that can only be closed by holding down the clutter inside and shoving hard with a hip (I have a permanent dent in my hip from this and I regularly slam my fingers in with the clutter, but that’s better than cleaning it.)

The worst clutter comes, however, to the table beside my chair. This table is where I put everything I might need in an evening’s entertainment. I regard it as a skill and a talent to find a way to put everything necessary on the table so that I don’t have to move at all once I have settled in for the evening.

It requires art and skill to get everything on this extremely small table. I must have my cold drink, which always sits on a coaster that is slightly tilted because it is sitting on embroidery thread and envelopes.

The embroidery thread takes up a great deal of the table right now as that is my current project. This is much better than when I am working with yarn and plastic canvas; however, right now the embroidery thread is wrapped around everything on the table and pulling it together in a jumbled mess, bringing scissors and used spoons and bobby pins into an awkward embrace.

Used dishes, empty wrappers from granola bars (okay, they are candy bars, but granola sounds better), and flyswatters are scattered around the edges of the table, hanging onto the few empty spots as thought their lives depend on it. If you figure that there are still some technology items that have to reside on the table as well, it means that my laptop and the remotes for television, DVD player, air conditioner, etc., are all sitting on top of the jangled mess beneath.

Of course, on top of that will be any books I am currently reading and that means that if I sleepily drop the book on top of the remotes or the laptop, I can set off a chain reaction which turns on the television, cranks up the volume and sends out some random e-mails, all with one blow.

My table reminds me vividly of my father’s workbench, which I remember as a child resembling a tool collection which had suffered a nuclear explosion. My father could always walk up to that jangle of hammers, grease guns and electrical appliances and choose exactly what he needed. My cousin, dismayed by the clutter, cleaned and organized it for him one summer and it was a year before my father could find things again.

That is my table. As long as I don’t clean or straighten it, I can unerringly locate the scissors under the envelopes and empty cans or that last cough drop tucked into a corner and sheltered by the computer. I shudder to think where I would look for that latch-hook that I never use or the scraps of paper that I can’t throw away because I might use them for notes, if I clean that table.

So, I simply tell myself that the table is my clutter creation….or maybe it’s just the clutter I created, but it works for me!

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