Monthly Archives: March 2022

It can only happen to me…I think

I’m a woman who has the ability to land myself in some rather peculiar situations. I’m the one who could drop glasses down the Grand Canyon, or who would need fresh underwear because my full bladder failed on the very last hill of the roller coaster ride. Each time something happens to me, I tell myself that these things do not happen to anyone else and nothing will convince me otherwise.

I once spent an hour and fifteen minutes sitting in a chair in the middle of the night, lamenting the fact that my glasses were no longer working and I was suddenly losing my vision. This was before I discovered that I had put on my husband’s glasses instead of mine. No one else would do that, right? It could only happen to me.

I live in a world full of strange accidents. I am the person who laments the fact that I have hit a bird with my car, knocking out a little of the front grill. This is only a few minutes before the deer plowed into the side of my vehicle, cracked everything expensive on the car, and then flung itself into the ditch to start the long journey to deer heaven. Only I could hit two animals on the same car trip of under 30 miles.

This week, I found myself on top of a very tall ladder, balancing on some rather shaky shelves to try and clean up a very messy prop room. In the midst of this, the lights failed. Muttering, “it could only happen to me” I managed to crawl down the ladder, stumble over a number of props and make my way to the center of the room. The motion light then turned back on, only to reveal me standing in a half-full garbage bag, the contents of which I had very ably kicked all over the place in the dark. Darn motion light!

If you’re wondering why I chose to put a picture of a plant on this article, don’t worry, it definitely applies. Along the line of it can only happen to me, I have nursed this Christmas cactus for 30 years; ever since it came out of my late grandmother’s green plants collection. The plant has had ups and downs over the years, but I have learned a lot about how to take care of and what it likes.

I noticed a few months back, that it was looking excessively droopy. Not too concerned, I watered it, thinking that would help, but more and more leaves began draping themselves over the edge of the pot, looking like they had just barely survived the Johnston Flood.

I knew it wasn’t root-bound, because I had just upgraded the pot a year or so ago. I used more outdoor soil than potting soil, which I believed was helpful. While I was having these troubles, my grandson, a year and a half old, came to visit. Knowing that he was into everything, I put the plant back in the bedroom, well out of the baby’s reach–or so I thought.

We put the portable bed up in the back bedroom when it became clear it was too cold downstairs. I had no qualms and we had our little nap-taker in the crib in no time at all. Within fifteen minutes, I heard an odd sound and the baby began protesting. I went in to check. The baby was holding the pot from the plant, there was dirt everywhere–on the baby, in the crib, on the rug underneath. In addition, the Christmas cactus, bare roots hanging out, was draped across the floor like a Victorian girl who fainted because her stays were too tight.

I quietly grieved a little; after all the plant was over 30 years old and had belonged to my grandmother. But my daughter was not ready to give up. She put in dirt (that which she could scrape out of the bedroom and off of the baby) added water, and carefully laid those roots and leaves in the newly prepared ground. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I appreciated her help. But after all, I was the one who got the plant out of the way in first place and put it exactly where the baby could get it. This could only happen to me.

I shall now draw your attention to the plant in the picture, which is in fact the Christmas cactus in question, three weeks after its impromptu re-potting and as you can see, it is looking pretty prosperous. Apparently, the thing was rootbound, or at least needed the soil aerated and the baby took care of it.

We have a year and a half old horticulturist in the family. It could only happen to me!

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Things the pandemic has taught me

Photo by CDC on

For two long years I have been waiting for the negative folks to finally announce that the pandemic, that free-reign ride of the Corona Virus, is ended. They have not done that, but they have conceded that for now it is on the downswing and that is enough to cause me to raise my head over the top of the rifle pit I have been hiding in during this war and take a look around.

Now, as serious as this time has been, I don’t want anyone to think I am trying to make fun of the very real grief and misery that has been caused, but if I can’t have a little fun at the expense of the worst disease spread in 100 years, then how could I possibly make it through? And I learned so much I’d like to share with you.

I learned that people really believe that old adage about age bringing wisdom. As one of the oldest people in my group, I frequently found myself the recipient of nervous questions, the most common of which was, “Do you remember any other time that was as bad as this?” My answer was to shrug my shoulders, because I doubt if they would have enjoyed me shouting at them, “Do I really look old enough to have survived World War I and the Spanish Flu? Of course I don’t remember a time as bad as this any more than you do!” I learned that I am irritated easily when I am locked indoors for long periods of time, with a deadly disease as the wolf at the door.

I learned that it is possible for me to function in a variety of situations with a piece of cloth strapped across my face like a diaper. I have a new respect for doctors and nurses, who live like this their entire professional lives. I had two years of wearing a mask to teach school, buy groceries and pay bills. I became very aware of people’s noses…so many went through the aggravation of the mask, while leaving their noses (the place where the virus could easily be breathed in) uncovered. Tell the truth, when you were forced to wear one of those masks, didn’t you ever want to slap that offending nose hanging out on someone else’s face, back into its mask? Hike up them masks, folks and put that nose in lock-up with the rest!

I learned that it IS possible to watch Harry Potter and Star Trek too much. By the time something new appeared on television or in the movies, I was so familiar with Harry Potter, I dreamed that he asked me to marry him…and Captain Jean Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise conducted the ceremony! I, who am unfailingly entertained by the television and especially by science fiction and fantasy, was sick of “space, the final frontier” and Hogwarts to boot!

I learned that I will never again hear someone cough and sneeze without instinctively holding my breath and covering my face with my hands, gloves, shirt, piece of toilet paper–whatever is at hand. I am terrified of choking on something in a public place–not because I’m afraid of the choking, oh no! I’m afraid others will think I have been so selfish as to appear in public with corona! “Forgive me, I don’t have corona,” I want to assure them, “no, really, I was just choking on this chicken bone, but I’m alright now that I’ve hacked it up and torn up my throat. All good here!”

I learned that it is possible to do a lot of things remotely. You can set up that class, that meeting, that business interview–all from the privacy of your own home, provided the camera doesn’t pick up on the fact that you are still wearing your pajama pants and hopefully your child isn’t doing a naked dance with the flour bag in the background! Computers were the safety net of this storm and I for one, learned a lot about them that I didn’t know before!

I’ve learned that when they use the word “pandemic” the duration is not weeks or months. A pandemic means you are in it for the long haul–two years and counting. In our child-like innocence, we believed that if we stayed indoors for a month, the virus would magically disappear and instead it rolled over us like a dark cloud of deadly locusts.

I sanitized my groceries and put gas in my car, using plastic bags over my hands. I washed down desks and sang songs to myself to make certain I washed my hands long enough to make all the little virus germs die. I learned how to open doors with my feet and shake hands with people using my elbows. I refrained from embracing anyone but my husband for a whole year, and I worried about him sometimes.

It has not been a fun two years, but it has certainly been an educational one. I learned so much about the human condition–some good and some not so good. I loved the people who delivered groceries for the elderly and I laughed at the videos that people made to try and find the humor and the warmth in the enforced isolation. I marveled at the people who believed that refusing to believe in the virus kept it away from them…until it didn’t and I rejoiced with those who beat the illness when it came knocking at their doors.

Do I hope that this is the worst pandemic I ever see? Of course I do! But if another one should come in my lifetime, I will remember that the human spirit endures some amazing things, as this two years has shown…and perhaps that is the most important thing I learned.

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Spanish Spooks

I was involved in a conversation with a group of students on the subject of ghosts, the other day. I admitted that I don’t know what to think about the existence of spirits, maybe because I have never encountered one.

This caused the students to launch into protracted stories of their own experiences with the spirit world, and the usual “touches in the night” and “weird, unexplained noises,” were repeated in mysterious half-whispers. I wasn’t listening too closely until one of them started talking about possessed dolls.

Now, I’ve always had a problem with dolls, even when I was young enough to play with them. I always thought Barbie had kind of a superior smirk on her face as she stood there in her permanent high heels and fancy suit, judging me in my sweatpants and tank top. However, I have never run into a doll that I thought was possessed or haunted…that is, except for one.

My beautiful Aunt Lois once spent two years teaching in Spain and when she came home, she brought beautiful Spanish dancing dolls for all of her nieces. I will admit the expression on the doll’s face always spooked me a little–she reminds me of one of those supercilious, heavily made-up actresses in a play production, who you get to see close-up as she is grabbing a sandwich at the diner next to the theater. Very unnatural, but still, my doll is a performer too, so maybe that’s all right.

My mother kept the doll safe and preserved on a closet shelf for many years, which is the only reason it survived my childhood, but eventually she turned it over to me. I was so glad! Until I began to have the sensation that it was staring at me…no worse, it was watching me. This feeling was so persistent and pervasive that I took to storing the doll on shelves in rooms where I did not have to see her all of the time.

That’s when the head-popping began. I would pass through the room on some mission or other and I would suddenly realize that the doll’s head was missing. Sometimes, it would be right by the doll and other times, it would be somewhere around the room. I solved this problem by gluing it on the little post that was supposed to hold it on her shoulders.

Eventually, the glue came loose and the head began to swivel on the doll’s shoulders. Sometimes, I would walk by that doll and it had this whole Exorcist thing going, with its head turned to the back. This doll has freaked me out over the years and the conversation with my students got me to thinking about her, stashed as she is on a shelf over the bed in my back bedroom.

Yes, there she was, her head turned forward for a change, staring at me. As I was looking at her, I realized that she was incredibly dusty, so I took her down and cleaned her up. I positioned her head and placed her back on the shelf so she was staring straight out. As soon as I let go of the stand, her head snapped to one side and looked at me.

I was so startled, that I knocked it off the shelf and it fell on the bed where I had been standing and immediately tangled up in my feet and nearly caused me to fall off the bed. When I finally stopped stumbling and staggering and yelling, I realized that the doll’s head was now missing.

Roy came in to see what the commotion was about. “What in the world is going on?”

“It’s the Spanish doll!” I exclaimed. “It was looking at me because it was dirty, so I cleaned it and it turned its head to look at me again and when I knocked it off the shelf, it tried to kill me by making me fall off the bed and now the head is on the floor looking up at me!”

He took one look at me, took the doll out of my hands, plopped the head back on and placed it back on the shelf…where it never moved, of course. “That’s it,” he said, “no more talking ghost stories with your students.”

I’m going to put the doll on a shelf in the garage. Maybe a summer of her staring at Roy while he’s working around the yard will make a believer out of him!

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