Monthly Archives: January 2022

I’ll reunion you!

First, I should probably explain the lovely photo. I took a picture of a picture in my high school annual. The quality is very poor that way, but considering everything, that is probably okay. They were looking for candid photos of the seniors to put in the annual and you won’t get any more candid than this. I believe I was probably suggesting that photographer not take my photo unless he wanted me to insert my shorthand notebook in a very inconvenient place. Obviously, they were so scared of me that they not only took the picture, but splashed it on the senior candid page of the yearbook!

I suppose you might be wondering why I dug out this high school relic (the picture, not me) and chose to share it with you. Well, it’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about those years when, instead of being the teacher, I was the student in high school. Those were not my finest hours and I don’t frequently get out my annuals to look back.

A recent encounter, however, with a former classmate, has got me to thinking about those glorious days. I have never attended a class reunion and I’m reminded with every photo in the album of why not. It boils down to vanity.

Let’s start with our physical appearance. Usually in high school we are still hoping to attract that potential mate of our future. If that is the case, we are striving to look good, stay slim, wear our hair attractively and for heaven’s sake, pile on the soap and water. When I look at this picture and then look in the mirror, I know that my body has not improved at all…although, I can still rock that expression when I’m annoyed!

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with my present body, but there’s something nightmarish about going to a reunion and having all those people who remember you as 17 and all those people you remember as 17, wandering around, looking for something recognizable in a crowd of old people! I kind of prefer to remember them as they were then and I think they might be a little surprised at my appearance as well. I don’t have all my own teeth anymore, but the upside is that I still have my hair!

Second, there is the “what have I done with my life” competition at a reunion. I feel satisfied with my accomplishments, but there are people out there who might look at me askance if I tell them that my finest hours have been spent wrestling the right grammar answers out of a bunch of teenagers. The only one I would really want to see at a high school reunion would be my old English teacher–so I could apologize!

I left high school vowing that I would not be attending reunions. I passed all my classes, annoyed all my teachers sufficiently, and I’m fairly sure that there was a collective sigh of relief as they handed me the diploma. This is sufficient!

Reunions are for nostalgic memories and I have to confess that there aren’t that many in my high school years. So when the reunions take place, I’m likely to keep my somewhat overweight, straggly, years-worn body away from there so I don’t have to register the shock on a former classmate’s face as they realize who I am, while my face is lit up with shock as I figure out who they are—if I can.

This summer, those high school reunions will take place and I doubt they will miss my short-tempered, life-jaded presence, but there is one thing I would like to say: Whoever took that photo that I have shared should be fortunate that my faulty memory doesn’t have it registered. Because, if I knew who it was…I still have that shorthand notebook!

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Household hacks

Jackie Wells-Fauth

Now, I know some of you are going to look at this picture–taken from my own house, no less–and you will think that it is a picture of a load (or three) of laundry. But you are mistaken. This is actually a dresser, where all clean clothes can be found. That large wooden thing in the bedroom with the drawers is simply a flat surface where I can store fifty things that are useless, but do a fine job of gathering dust.

So, for anyone out there, I put this challenge to you: If you have never pulled a change of underwear, a clean towel for the shower, or a pair of mis-mated socks directly from a laundry basket and put them on, you are either lying, or should be carefully watched!

Sometimes, I get up the energy to fold and put those clothes away, but usually, I spend at least two days after laundry day pulling everything I need directly from the basket. I never put things away directly out of the dryer because it seems like too much work. It’s like drying dishes after you have hand washed them (yes, some people do). If you let them air-dry, you save on labor and dishtowels…which you would then have to put in the laundry. If you keep your clean laundry in the baskets, you save all that folding and putting away time and effort.

All those people who put out “household hacks,” are under the mistaken belief that I wish to do things in my house that will make the house cleaner and more perfect. Apparently, I was born without the gene that makes me want to clean and clean and then for entertainment, clean some more. This doesn’t worry me at all because I was also born without the gene that makes me want to ram my head into a brick wall and I don’t miss that either!

My idea of household hacks is a little different from most. I believe in air-drying dishes, putting leftovers in the refrigerator in their original pan because it’s faster and takes less dishes and, of course, leaving clean laundry in the laundry basket instead of folding and putting it away. Except for good clothes–I do take care of them immediately because otherwise I might have to iron something. I would run into a burning house, flames all around me, if it meant I could get the good clothes out of the dryer and on hangers and avoid the dreaded ironing board. But this aberration doesn’t extend to other tasks.

I still remember the day we were all sitting around the newspaper office having an afternoon break and one of the men discovered he had printer’s ink on the sleeve of his shirt. The household hacks started flying: spray it with hair spray, use Dawn dish soap, rub it with ice cubes, then put it in boiling water. None of those sounded at all appealing to me, but when they came to our city editor, her face buried in two articles she was trying to finish for deadline, her advice was succinct: “Sew a patch over it, or cut it out and live with the hole”. When I heard her give this advice, I knew that she and I could be friends.

This is also the woman who was full of good hacks for making people think you had been cleaning your house like some household fairy, when actually, you had been working on your latest novel all day: “Pour Mr. Clean in some of the corners of your living room and kitchen,” she advised. “It smells like you’ve been scrubbing all day.”

This taught me so much. It is the illusion of having things done that makes the difference. Like, putting in some of those pre-mixed and cut cookies before the kids get home. It smells like you have been chained to the kitchen all day, just mixing up goodies and, if you are attentive, you might even get some edible cookies out of that hack!

I’ve decided that I could write a household hacks book and what’s more, I would have a good following to read it. My hacks are not for the cleanest house in town or the easiest spot remover out there–my hacks are for people who want the illusion of doing something around the house without actually doing something around the house.

So every so often, I get a box from the basement and dump all of the things that have been cluttering my desk for months into it. I label the boxes carefully: “Junk from May; Junk from September and Junk from a time I don’t remember because I forgot to label it.” It is not my intention to ever go back and look in these boxes and so far, I haven’t missed much by doing it by this method. That, and cramming the shoe, glove, hat collection from the front door into the front closet and the dirty dishes into the oven, makes for an instantly better organized living space and the Mr. Clean will be poured in the corners if I happen to be expecting guests.

So for all the household hackers out there–I admire you for your clever ways to store grocery bags and your amazing recipes for cleaning the gunk off the inside of the shower, but I’m going to leave those wonderful ideas up to you. Right now, it’s time for me to take a shower (in the shower stall that I have sprayed with vinegar and blue soap), but first I have to go to my white plastic chest of drawers and pull out a towel and some underwear. See you later!

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A War of Worlds

Jackie Wells-Fauth

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

So often in my life I have felt like my personality was split in two and the two opposite sides were fighting each other: the me that wants exercise and a healthy body against the me that wants to sit on the sofa with a Pepsi and a HoHo. Or perhaps the me that wants world peace and the me that is willing to fight a lady to the death over the last gallon of the “good” milk at the grocery store.

The worst battle of the personalities for me has been the fight between my inner hoarder and my less powerful but equally annoying inner minimalist. I believe I have mentioned before that my tendencies are to be a hoarder. Every once in a while, though, while I am musing to myself over a wadded up bunch of paper napkins and straws at the back of the cupboard, “I might be able to use them someday, I should save them,” I will turn and find my inner minimalist shaking out a new garbage bag, murmuring, “You’re not really going to keep those, are you?”

Even though I am mostly a hoarder, I have always admired those people who knew when to throw it out. They can see the clothes hanging in the back of the closet that haven’t fit or been in style since the 1970s and they can quietly put them out of their misery in the bottom of a garbage can. For me, my minimalist instinct is frequently combated by the hoarder, who is sure these clothes will return to fashion just as I am returning to the svelte, teenage figure I had in the 1970s. (Yes, I did!)

I read a story about a woman who moved from a five-bedroom, multi-level home into a house no larger than her former bathroom. In order to do so, she had to trim her belongings down to nothing. She operated with dining ware for one, which I thought was foolish. But my inner minimalist said, “Of course! That way, she can’t have other people over, so she doesn’t need dishes for them to eat from! Then, she doesn’t need an extra chair for them to sit in or a place to put the chair.”

Like I said, I admire this and sometimes my inner minimalist will get the upper hand in the battle. That’s when I start throwing things away, cleaning out living spaces, clearing away the rest of those empty boxes that have been there for ages, and ejecting all of the unidentifiable food from the refrigerator. These minimalist fevers usually last for a day or so, and then the hoarder regains the upper hand and I’m out in the garbage can, frantically trying to retrieve pillows, yellow with age and leaking stuffing everywhere, because you never when you may need them!

There is one spot in all of this battle where the minimalist can’t win and that is in regard to books. When I finish a book, the two inner voices are right there, whispering over my shoulder, “You should put that book right down on the books shelves, so you can read it again someday — after you’ve read the other four hundred books you have.” At the same time, over the other shoulder, the minimalist is shaking its head, muttering, “Books should be shared; and you really should think about getting an e-book reader–takes up way less space.”

It’s true, I have a lot of books. If ever my house is bombed, my plan is to burrow in under the massive pile of my books. Those books might just save me by their literal mass. Can an e-book reader do that? My inner minimalist has no answer!

However, as I said, the inner minimalist does get the upper hand sometimes, but unfortunately, the fight against my inner hoarder is an uphill battle. It doesn’t stop the minimalist from trying, though. For every time my hoarder says, “keep all of those thousand grocery bags, you may need them,” my minimalist is there commenting, “One of those bags would make a great trash bag to hold the rest of them…you’re not really going to keep those, are you?”

The struggle is real!

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A Wipeout in the Wings

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve been working with high school theater for about twenty years now. I’ve seen it all happen–scripts that don’t work, students who freeze, lines dropped or mis-delivered, sound failing, lights freaking out and students who use the backstage trash bins to throw up their nerves. But this last fall, I had a new experience, where I contributed to an on-stage fail and let me tell you, when I do it, I do it BIG!

We were working with the two freshmen drama productions. Each had a nice little Christmas piece that we had well-rehearsed and which should have gone off without a hitch. Note, I said SHOULD have….

We experienced the usual dropped lines and missed sound cues, but it was actually going pretty well. I was backstage, ready to prompt and attempting to keep everything going forward. We were coming down to the end–the father had taken over the disastrous Christmas gathering and was handing out all the surprises right on cue.

Then, my stage debut happened. I moved backwards and to the left in the dark to be near the curtains to close them for the ending of the performance. I neglected to remember that right next to my chair was a small, squat stool that was to figure in the second Christmas sketch that night. I put it there myself, but my memory is not what it used to be and I paid for that.

Backing up, I caught my foot in the stool. This should have been no problem, but in the dark, I couldn’t see how to step around the stool and so, I tangled the other foot up in it as well. It was like one of those slow-motion shows. I could feel it happening, but for the life of me (and the darkness of the wings) I could not stop it. As I went over backwards, my feet came up and connected with the metal chair I had been sitting on, and the resounding clang gave the people onstage and in the audience their first clue that something unusual was happening backstage.

Now, my primary rule for being backstage is NO TALKING, so you’ll understand that the words I uttered as I went down on my butt and then whacked my head on the (thankfully) wooden floor were not only a violation of my backstage rules, but were in direct opposition to school language policy. Second issue.

That left it to the audience and novice stage performers to determine what was going on. I was told by audience members later that they heard the noise and at first wondered if that was a part of the performance. Their first clue that this was not supposed to happen was when the performers, with no experience in “the show must go on,” one-by-one broke off their performance and moved to the wings to check on the disturbance.

If you watch the recording of the performance, you cannot, fortunately, hear my collapse very well, but you do get to observe the students, whose attention went from the completion of their little play, to a flow of attention and walking to the wings.

Now, I have never had this happen before. I was somewhat stymied myself and a little dazed from bouncing my head off the floor, but when I looked up from the flat of my back to see all of the horrified actors staring down at me, I said the only thing I could think of, “Get back out there and finish the play!”

They did so, although how they managed is still a mystery to me. But those first timers on the stage managed to shake off the biggest distraction I have ever presented, complete with sound effects, and conclude their play. Afterwards, I apologized profusely, but nothing could really compensate for having your debut on the stage sabotaged by the director herself.

It remains to be seen if I can get this group of young people to overcome the trauma of my wipeout in the wings and return to do more productions with me, but I do know one thing: I myself have participated in a great many, long-standing plays over the years, but I will never forget the 2021 production of “Christmas Secrets!”

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