Monthly Archives: February 2021

Leading with my left

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I have not entered a blog for the past week or two (I hope someone noticed) because I have been in the throes of a painful bout with my shoulder. It could have something to do — so the doctor tells me — with the fact that I drug a large garbage can full of heavy wood from the woodpile to the back door to burn in our stove during our recent cold snap. While nothing seemed wrong then, a couple of nights later, I awoke to a sharp tap on my shoulder and an agonizing pain in my arm and shoulder which said to my brain, “Remember me? I used to be your uncomplaining arm. Well, those days are over.”

It would have been bad, but not quite so bad except for the fact that it was my right shoulder and arm that were involved, because, of course, you would abuse your dominant hand with an impossible, wood-toting task, right? What it means is some weeks of physical therapy and learning to do everything with my left hand. I’ve learned a lot about that formerly non-dominant hand, which has spent the week going, “What? Me? You want me to cut the bread? I’ve never done that…Righty always took care of it.”

I have compiled a list of things I can’t do right now. I can’t read (can’t hold a book and turn the pages at the same time), I can’t sew, something I love, nor can I write (I’m doing this column in stages), I can’t do jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles and I can’t safely drink coffee and drive to school.

My left hand does what it can, but it is not used to buttering toast. This morning I made two slices, one ended up on the floor, butter side down, of course, and the other slice I ate without butter and dipped in the jelly. I eat all meat when it becomes tepid so I can pick it up with my fingers, because after the bread episode, I don’t trust my left hand with a knife.

I have brushed my teeth for many years without realizing that I never do anything but put the cap on the toothpaste with my left hand. For those of you who have never had the experience, try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. It’s a little like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. I have spent the past week smashing toothpaste onto my teeth with my clumsy left hand and rubbing it around in a way that would likely make a dentist weep. So much for no cavities next checkup.

I did manage to do some laundry, but it was clumsy. “Why is my underwear wadded up in the drawer?” my husband wondered.

“You’re lucky it’s in the drawer at all considering your drawer has two handles. Anything that hangs up is lying on the floor of your closet and as for the towels, they are in a basket on the floor. Use them straight out of there and that’s right–they are not folded.” Since he had no desire to do the laundry, he didn’t protest.

I’ve discovered that taking care of my hair is a lost cause. I brush it as best I can and usually my husband, taking pity on me before I go to school, will re-brush the back. As for washing it, that was a real treat and at least half of my head of hair is clean; don’t mention the other half.

Dressing in general has become an adventure. I can sort of put on my underwear, although this would be a poor week to get caught in an accident. As for my outer clothes, I no longer dress for school or at home, I dress for “can I get this on with one hand without going through the first seven ballet positions?” I don’t wear anything with buttons and zippers have become the challenge of a lifetime.

I know that all of this will end and my right arm and shoulder will forgive me for my sins, but right now the only thing I seem to do well is eat…the left hand is very cooperative in getting food to my mouth. However, this morning I discovered one more thing that this sore shoulder has done. I stepped on the scale and declared to my husband, “Oh, I have got to get this shoulder healed up in a hurry. Did you know that lame shoulder will add five pounds to your weight????”

Time to go now, my right arm is tired. Pray for my left arm this week, will you? It’s not used to leading!

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Valentine’s Day–the love holiday

Jackie Wells-Fauth

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So, I’ll be the first to admit that I regard Valentine’s Day with a certain amount of cynicism. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the flowers and candy and soft words, it’s just that I have the uneasy feeling that this is the plan of the candy companies, card companies and flower shops to boost their profit margins.

I don’t begrudge them their clever plan to make a living, but I do hate the awful pressure brought to bear. What should we do for our loved ones on this day? It is best to do something, to show that we care, but, after all, it’s not Christmas or birthdays, what if we go too far? What if our loved ones come to expect too much? What if Valentine’s Day becomes even bigger than the other holidays combined???? I just can’t take the stress.

It was the first Valentine’s Day I spent with my husband, Roy, and we were new and green at the art of Valentine’s Day. I was so excited. I baked a special cake decorated with those conversation hearts and I bought some fancy chocolates and dreamed of the wonderful gift Roy would get for me.

An enamel roaster. Yes, the very one in the picture accompanying this article. My sweet, lovely husband, after approximately four months of marriage, had looked at my inept cooking skills, my inability or disinclination to follow a recipe, my skill for picking out new restaurants to eat at, and he had bought me a cooking pan. And when I looked up in confusion from the wrappings surrounding this roasting pan, he compounded the crime when he announced brightly, “I thought maybe you could use it to cook us a Valentine’s meal!”

I have always looked at the strength of our marriage as having its early foundations in the fact that the marriage actually survived that first Valentine’s Day. Of course, the only conversation Roy got from me for the two weeks following it was whatever he could read on the conversation heart candies on his cake, but eventually I managed to articulate my displeasure at receiving a cooking pan as a gift without clanging him over the head with said pan, and we moved forward!

It has been a long trip since then until today when he safely sends me flowers every Valentine’s Day. And usually he buys a card as well, so he satisfies all the requirements laid down by the businesses who are promoting the love holiday like a new way to win the lottery, but only if you follow all the strict rules. I see others around me receiving the hearts and flowers and chocolates and so I assume that everyone out there is following the holiday traditions, but what I don’t understand is who came up with this idea? Surely it wasn’t St. Valentine, who, I believe, gained his fame by becoming a human sacrifice in the early days of the church. I doubt that as he was losing his head he said, “You know it would be nice if they named a day after me and everyone got candy and flowers!”

A holiday devoted to love comes with its own set of traps. It’s hard to ask people how they feel about the holiday without sounding cynical and jaded. In some cases, I have been accused of trying to trap someone into revealing that they don’t like the holiday, so that they will then never receive another Valentine’s gift. Kind of like a child admitting that he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and so he doesn’t receive any more toys. I swear this is not my intention. I’m just trying to figure out if I’m the only one who is suspicious of the motives of a holiday based on our affection for one another–I have to believe there are others out there who are as skeptical as me….but who still don’t want to receive a cooking pan as a sign of their loved one’s undying devotion.

This week I put the question to my students: Do you think Valentine’s Day should be a holiday or not? Explain your answer. The students stared at the question, thought a while and then quietly wrote their answers, most of which were in favor of the holiday. I was beginning to be very discouraged when one of my senior boys, in the midst of writing, raised his hand and asked, “How do you spell crock?” Now, see, there’s a boy who is going to pass my class with flying colors…and who is probably destined to give some girl an enamel roaster for Valentine’s Day some day!

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My Criminal Confessions

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I have long known that I could never successfully conduct a life of crime. While the potential for amassing millions in a secret bank account, while I make my plans to escape to a country with no extradition agreement with the United States sounds exciting, I know I don’t have the type of nerve and lack of empathy it would take. Had I been Bonnie, I would have said to Clyde, “No, no, honey! Let’s not shoot people and steal their money. Let’s just ask them politely to hand over all of their cash. That would work!”

It’s not that I have never broken the law. I know what that’s all about. I mean, I watch Blue Bloods; I understand the criminal mind. And while I’ve never been trapped in that little room, while Reagan and Baez try to sweat the truth out of me, I have been on the side of the road, with those flashing lights behind me, desperately trying to remember what I did with the car registration. That’s crime, isn’t it?

This came up tonight on my commute home from work. It came up because as I was passing through town, thinking only of my comfortable chair and a hot cup of tea, a police car appeared out of nowhere and turned on its lights while it did one of those swing-around-in-the-street things to follow a car in the opposite lane. Unfortunately, that car was mine.

I took a little time to find a spot I wanted to pull over to and finally, I just stopped because I was afraid the policeman was going to think I was trying to make a getaway…at 30 miles an hour. I always hope, when I see those lights in the rearview mirror, that they just need me to get out of the way so they can chase the real criminal…for instance, the guy driving in front of me who had been seriously slowing me down! But, no such luck, he parked behind me.

It’s then that all those rules and bits of advice about what to do when you are pulled over come to my mind. Don’t stop in a secluded area in case it is really a criminal, not the police. No worries, there, I was on the main road through town, so everyone passing by could watch me get my ticket. The second instruction was much harder. “When you’re pulled over,” say my friends who think they know “don’t get out of the car. Just sit in the driver’s seat and keep your hands on the wheel where they can be seen. And make sure you have your license and registration ready.”

Now this set of instructions presents a problem. If I have my hands on the wheel, how do I get out my papers? I was still dealing with this conundrum when the officer walked up to the car. At that point, I’m trying to remember what you should and should not say to a police officer who has pulled you over. Do you greet them, to show that you don’t see yourself as guilty of anything, or do you let them begin the conversation? I don’t have much point of reference, so what I said was, “Good afternoon, what can I do for you?” Oh great, I come off sounding like a low-level hooker and I’m already halfway to jail!

He said, “Ma’am, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but the higher speed limit doesn’t start for another block and you were exceeding the speed limit here.”

What should I say? Some people say put them on the defensive, “Don’t you have better things to do besides harassing honest citizens?” Other people recommend taking charge, “Perhaps you’re not aware that I am on official business which precludes this speed limit restriction for me.” All of them say not to confess to the crime. And I didn’t. What I got out was, “Oh really? I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”

He should have given me a ticket for criminal stupidity right then, but he managed to keep his face straight as he informed me that he would be giving me a warning ticket only. All I had to do was show him my license and registration and proof of insurance. Now, I have never been pulled over for a traffic violation in my life, where I could immediately put my hands on all three of those things. I think my papers hold a meeting and decide which one is going to be not immediately available, forcing me to frantically look for it. Tonight, it was the insurance card’s turn. The officer finally gave up and went back to his vehicle to start writing the ticket, so he said, that “you can take a little more time to look for that insurance card.” After weeding out the fourteen of them that were out of date, I finally located the right one…right where it should be, of course.

He gave me the warning ticket, but admonished me that I needed to pay closer attention to the speed limit signs, so I don’t end up with a ticket in the future. He also quoted me a price tag on a potential ticket at over $100, so then I wasn’t sure how to respond.

In my mind, I was being all Ma Barker, snarling and sneering, “Yeah, copper, you’ll never make it stick, you’ll never take me alive!” In reality, however, I was more like the fawning Israelite, grateful for any mercy from her Egyptian overlords, “Thank you, oh, thank you so much. I’m so thankful!”

It was bad enough to get pulled over for speeding today, especially since my criminal activities for the day had already included being made aware of the fact that I have a library book which is way overdue. It just wasn’t my day for upholding the law. I do have planned how I’m going to tell Roy about my brush with the law. When he gets home, I’m going to say, “Honey, let’s go out for supper. It just so happens that I have a funny story to tell you about how I managed to save over $100 today…”

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