The art of “speechifying”

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Yesterday morning, I arose, excited to be able to give the speech at my school’s commencement. I was prepared, eager and even on time. Yesterday evening, it was over and all my nightmares about showing up late, improperly dressed, or otherwise unprepared were proved unfounded.

Except the one where you don’t have all of your speech…that one I made come true. It’s ridiculous, really. I have taught English, speech and drama for years. I have lectured students on the things they must do and among them is, always check to see that you have all of your speech. And then yesterday, I turned smoothly from my second-to-last page to my last page and discovered a bare podium instead. I failed to make certain I picked up all the pages!

I like to think that I am a very good innovator, that I think well on my feet, but no matter how many times I practice something, if I turn the page and it’s not there, my mouth dries up and my tongue adheres to the roof of my mouth and when I do get it disconnected, something not good usually comes out. Fortunately, in the case of Saturday’s speech, I only had a few lines on the last page, so my speech stumble was a short one.

At least I knew it was the last page because I number the pages with large, obnoxious markers to be sure they are easily readable. I once did a presentation on the history of British kings and of course, when I got up in front of everyone, I dropped the notecards I had all over the floor. Because they weren’t numbered and I had to guess at their correct order, I had Henry VIII followed by William the Conqueror and their ancestor was, of course, Elizabeth II! Always number the cards, check!

I used to try to adlib when I was giving a speech. Maybe write down a few general thoughts and then just “wing-it”. However, I discovered that if I just “winged it” I had a tendency to lose my flight plan in the middle and fly right off the cliff. I forgot names, events, dates and worst of all, I frequently looked at my shorthand and forgot completely what I meant when I said things like, “make eye contact when you discuss intensity.” Eye contact with whom and what was I planning to say about intensity? I ended up talking intensely about eye contact…not that this had anything to do with the subject!

I always tried to be prepared with my appearance. I remember a story Carol Burnett told about dressing for a performance in the dark and getting on stage to discover that the seams in her stockings were running up the front of her legs. I thought, How ridiculous! At least my appearance is always good. Soon after that, I delivered the eulogy at the funeral of a favored aunt. It went well, I held it together and got through the speech fine. I sat down, well-pleased with myself, dropped my hands into my lap…and discovered that my trousers were un-zipped. I took comfort in the fact that the person who would be most amused by this, was the aunt I was honoring.

Possibly the most awkward move I ever made in front of a large audience was definitely done as I was laying the law down as a substitute teacher. I was young, and had trouble managing teenagers, so the study hall I was supervising that afternoon was pretty chatty. After telling them several times to settle down, I finally had enough. “I expect it to be silent in here,” I huffed in my biggest no-nonsense voice, “I don’t want to hear one more sound for any reason!” Crossing my arms and glaring, I began to back towards the desk…and promptly stepped into a metal trash can. For the next several minutes the students in the room were the most silent they had been all hour as they struggled not to laugh while they watched me clunk around with a trash can on my foot. Sometimes you just can’t come back from an infamous performance!

So I enjoyed Saturday’s speech and only had to mumble through a minor glitch in an otherwise fun speech. Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of this “speechifying” thing. In the meantime, I’m going to be a little more careful what I take with me and what I have zipped up, when I get in front of an audience!

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Those humbling moments

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I rely heavily on my calendar for all appointments in life. It generally works pretty well: I make appointments, I write them in the calendar and that way, I never miss things, right? There is one more step that would make this procedure run smoothly…checking the calendar each day! That is where I fall down!

I was thinking that very thing this week when I got home from a re-scheduled therapy appointment (because I forgot the original) and had a message on my telephone from my hairdresser, because while I was at the re-scheduled therapy appointment, I in fact, had a hair appointment! It’s very humbling when you realize just how many things you have forgotten, but when you can actually remember to write it down in the calendar, then it’s a good idea to go ahead and check that calendar and read it every day!

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Oh, the old girl is just losing it. The brain pan has sprung a leak.” Unfortunately, this is not an old age development. I have had difficulty maintaining my social calendar for years. I will make an appointment to have lunch with someone and then get so engrossed in a book or some writing or just an old episode of “Murder, She Wrote,” and the leave the poor person wondering if I didn’t show because I was in a car wreck or had a heart attack or something!

I have left dentists with no teeth to rap their instruments on and vets with no animals to vaccinate. The eye doctors have been left with no one to read their charts and coffee dates with no one to share their caffeine clouds. I always mean well and it seems so often that while I have the day right, I have the time wrong. And if I have the time right, I’m either a week early or a week late.

I like the businesses which ring you up the day before to give you a heads-up that you have an appointment. They do this because of people like me who have left them hanging too often in the past. If they can’t get a hold of me personally, they leave a message, “This is the dentist’s office, calling to remind you that you have an appointment at 10:30 TOMORROW. Now, that’s 10:30…in the morning…tomorrow morning. That’s the day after today and the time is just an hour and a half before lunch. Got it?”

My leaving the therapist hanging and then standing up the hairdresser was not the end of this week of humbling moments and irritated people. I managed to stand up my grandsons as well.

My daughter, knowing her mother’s failing, said to me, “Now, tomorrow you will be reading with the boys at 1:00, right?” “You bet,” I answered, and gave it no more thought as I went on a short road trip for the day instead. No more thought, that is, until she sent me a text message the next day at 1:00, to ask if I was planning to go on Facetime to read with the boys.

I did finally catch up with my grandsons later in the evening and while the younger one was inclined to overlook my lapse in appointment keeping, his older brother, ready for bed and crabby, was less beneficent. They accepted my apology, but clearly, they don’t trust the old girl to remember too well.

“I’m so sorry,” I told them. “Next week, I’ll be on for sure on Sunday, and we’ll be able to read.”

“Okay,” responded the older one, “just remember, that’s at 1:00!”

Now, all I need is someone to call me on Sunday at 12:45 to make sure I’m ready to go. I can get a different dentist is my current one drops me for nonappearance. It would be a lot harder to replace the grandsons!

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In the maw of the monster


For those of you who think my title is a little too dramatic, I apologize, but I assure you, having an MRI (don’t ask me exactly what that stands for), was a bizarre experience. I now have some idea how Jonah may have felt in the belly of that whale!

Several months of having an arm, shoulder and neck present me with night after night of no sleep, it was finally decided that I needed to have an MRI, which is a fancy way for medical people to get a look at the inside of your muscles without actually cutting you open. I am definitely for that procedure, but that was before I got a look at one of those MRI machines.

I suffer from claustrophobia. I mean, BAD claustrophobia. I am so claustrophobic that I can only shut the bathroom door in a crowded house. I shower with one of the sliding glass doors slightly open. I annoy my co-teachers because I have a loud mouth and I am unable to shut my classroom door without becoming twitchy. I took one look at that machine, large and round, containing one small opening where they proposed to shovel me in like a baker inserting a loaf of bread in the oven and I hyperventilated from the picture!

On the questionnaire, they ask: Are you claustrophobic? I answered, “I invented claustrophobia and I have been perfecting it for years.” They assured me that they could give me medication to help me relax. I assured them that in order to get me relaxed enough to go in there, it would be necessary for them to apply a sledgehammer forcibly to the back of my head!

In the end, they decided it might be easiest to put me in what they refer to as an “open” MRI machine. Now I am here to tell you that this machine was preferable to the closed one, but when I walked in the room, it still kind of resembled a giant whale with its mouth wide open, and with a convenient chair for me to sit in while it swallowed me!

Even so, I sat in the chair and they strapped me in. Then, they instructed me to place my arms in such a way that my shoulders were as narrow as they could be made. This is because that chair is on a motorized track and it moved into the heart of the machine and sandwiched me neatly between two giant walls. And when I say sandwiched, I mean a TIGHT sandwich. There wasn’t even room for lettuce and tomato! My head was placed in a brace and held into place by some pegs against my forehead.

If I looked anything as panicky as I felt, I am sure they expected me to bolt any second. The attendant, attempting to make my experience as easy as possible, said, “I’ll turn on the television. You will be able to see it from here.” He did so, and I could look out of the whale’s mouth and see the television. Then he said, “I’ll need to have you take off your glasses and any oral partials.” It didn’t matter that I didn’t have all my teeth, but without the glasses, the television was a confused blur! So much for distraction.

Never fear, though. He had another idea. “I’ll just put on some music for you.” He did so, but midway into the Beatles crooning, “It’s been a hard day’s night,” they fired up the machine. Anyone who has ever had an MRI knows that that is the loudest noise in the world and it greatly resembles the noise a jackhammer makes while breaking up cement! No television, no music, all I could do was sit there and listen to the dulcet tones of a machine that sounded like it would begin breaking me up at any minute.

In addition to the headache that this engenders, I had to deal with the no movement issues. And when they say no movement, they mean, NO movement! Before he began, he said, “Do not swallow, cough, sneeze or breath too deeply.” Once someone tells you not to do these things, it’s amazing how badly you want to.

While I was trying not to swallow, sneeze, cough or hyperventilate (causing me to breath too deeply) I also struggled with my feet. I may have neglected to mention that in addition to moving you backwards into the whale’s mouth, they also raise you up and tilt you back. It’s okay, though, they give you a little footrest, so your feet don’t dangle. Except the footrest was too short for my legs, so I was left with the choice of letting my feet dangle anyway, or pushing my knees up into an uncomfortable position which eventually, caused my legs to shake with the strain, and–you guessed it–made me MOVE!

Of course, I survived the “Jonah and the Whale Ride”, as I like to call it and the images they got when I wasn’t swallowing, coughing, sneezing or breathing too deeply have shown what has been causing my misery for the last few months. I will be glad to begin correcting the problems and I look forward to the day when I no longer have these issues, so it may be that being in the “maw of the monster,” was the luckiest thing I could have done!

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I don’t “got this”

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I really hope this woman will excuse the fact that I borrowed her picture for my column on motherhood. Yes, yes, I know it’s a little soon for a Mother’s Day post, but I was reminded this morning of my own attempts at motherhood and I felt moved to write about it now.

This woman, beautifully appointed, her face lovely, and shining with calm and composure, with a loving child clinging to her, has always been my ideal of motherhood. I always envisioned that I would be a calm saint–perhaps with flowers in my hair–a perfectly appointed outfit on, sweet music filling the air, while happy children frolicked at my feet, wearing expressions of pure joy. The real thing is not so much.

I mean, think about the whole thing for a moment. We are responsible for bringing replacement humans into the world and somehow, without instructions or a guide, we are expected to get the whole motherhood thing down and in the meantime, not mess up the little darlings that we are raising. I thoroughly enjoyed my children (and still do) but I’m the first to say that motherhood is a mystery of the universe and I am fairly certain that no one does it perfectly! But, inevitably, someone will come along, while your child is having a tantrum, or creating a scene or even just puking up the candy they overate and say something bracing like, “You got this.” Well, I’m here to tell you that not only do I not “got this”, but also, that expression has always driven me crazy by its vague reference and extremely bad grammar!

It isn’t that we don’t have people willing to help with this project, you know. Everyone has a theory on how you can better raise your children. “You should not let them watch so much television,”–please, I would have let them watch murder mysteries just to get five minutes of peace locked in a bathroom. “Too much sugar will make them grow up to be crabby people,”–I figure that they have a head-start on crabby watching my attempts at motherhood, they may as well have the sugar too!

Instead of setting women up for some idealized version of parenthood, it might be better to just admit that motherhood is a swamp full of quicksand and if we managed to navigate any of it successfully, it was sheer dumb luck or God taking pity on us! It is unlikely, however, that we will make it out of the mire without at least some of the mud clinging to our shoes. In my opinion, it is a miracle that my children are sane and functional people, because they went through quite a bit of quicksand with me as a mother and there was never a moment where we danced through the meadows, weaving daisies into a chain and experiencing perfect harmony.

Even when motherhood reaches the point that mine has, there are still pitfalls that can trip you up. I must constantly remind myself that their choices in life must meet their vision, instead of mine. Just because I think they would be an awesome prime minister of New Zealand, they may have something entirely different than political fame in mind. (Although, it’d be great if one of them would be President and I could stay at the White House). It’s also hard for me to see those mimes about how they should drop in anytime (I like to sit around in my underwear and they might object to that), check out my refrigerator and cupboard at will (the little darlings might eat all of my Ho Hos) and stay as long as they like (if they make me miss Blue Bloods, I’ll be mad). I love to spend time with them, but honestly, shouldn’t they be allowed to do other things that they like?

There is one thing I think all children owe their parents, however. They should listen, over and over, to all the stories their parents want to tell. I don’t care if I’ve told the story about my older daughter cutting her own hair at the age of four or the younger one stirring the toilet and soaking her good clothes with it at the age of two, my children should wipe that blank, deer-in-the-headlights look from their faces and listen again!

So, while I love the picture of the mother and daughter that I selected for this column, I am suspicious of the calm and in-sync picture they present here. I am willing to bet that Mom has done as many things wrong as I did and that the daughter may feel like strangling her mother rather than hugging–at least once in a while. And while we are at it–I will bet she “don’t got it” all of the time, either!


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Mattress Madness

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Before anyone asks, no, this is not a picture of my bedroom. If we had a picture of my bedroom, you would be able to tell by the clothes scattered on the floor near the hamper (which I can never hit) and the bedside table littered with cups, bowls, etc. from my midnight snack runs. This is merely a picture to get you into the mood for my subject today–mattresses.

Mine has been a long and checkered history when it comes to mattresses. I have to admit that I have not given them a lot of thought over the years. I started married life with a contraption known as a waterbed. It will date me considerably when I tell you that this mattress was the “in” thing when I got married. It consisted of a large, fairly durable rubber bag, filled to whatever was your comfort level, with water…which was also heated. So, basically, you were sleeping on a giant, heated water bottle which had all the support of a hammock. But, we were younger and tougher then.

The added joy of a waterbed included the phone calls I received at work from my children informing me that “there is water leaking on the floor under your bed.” This always meant a mad dash for home and a rapid draining of the bed so I could repair the hole (which always appeared mysteriously when my children were “nowhere near it”). The repair kit reminded me of those old kits they used to repair car tires, but it wasn’t nearly as efficient.

When we had finally had enough water disasters to suit us, we bought a conventional mattress and we replaced it from time to time when we could no longer turn over at night because of the “body holes” we had worn into the mattress. Buying a new mattress was never difficult: you went to the furniture store, they pointed to the two types they had: soft and hard and, feeling much like Goldilocks at the Three Bears’ house, we made our pick.

Times have changed. During the past year or so, both Roy and I have developed back issues and shoulder complaints and the old “close your eyes and pick one” method of buying a mattress no longer works. Apparently the entire mattress industry has discovered that we are getting pickier in our advancing age and we need something to compensate for the glorified water balloon we ruined our backs on in the first place.

That means going to the mattress store provides you with more choices than the cereal aisle at the grocery store! You can get soft comfort, foam middle and cushion outside, memory foam, firm and supportive, twin, queen, king or a division of the same. Beds can be adjustable, without box springs, softness-varied and massaging. If I had looked hard enough, I might have found one that delivers breakfast in the morning and in all truth, if there was one of those, that’s the one I’d pick!

My husband is the family shopper, but he dragged me along for the mattress hunt. We went to the furniture store and he laid down on the store sample mattresses, carefully keeping his feet on the pads made for that purpose. He wanted me to try them out as well, but I have trouble getting up from any mattress. I have developed a well-executed roll off the side of the bed to a standing position, but in a store it would too closely resemble a barrel rolling off the loading dock for my comfort, so I contented myself with testing their softness with a leaning push of my hand.

Roy then came home and began researching mattresses on the Internet and through his Consumer Reports magazine. Each site he visited had a different idea and, of course, we are now being inundated with advertising, pictures, testimonials, you name it, from every mattress store from here to Kalamazoo, wherever that is! Each one has just the mattress we’re looking for and we are welcome to try them out for 100 days to see if we like them. I know this is a great sales pitch, but I’m finicky in that I don’t want a mattress someone else had for 100 days and sent back. And for that matter, you might not enjoy the one I tried out while eating graham crackers in it for 100 days!

Eventually, we will make our selection of a new mattress and hopefully, our backs and shoulders will find that it is to their satisfaction. In the meantime, I have begun dreaming about our search. Last night, I dreamt that we had to take our 100 day trial while sleeping on the mattress at the store. The salesman woke us up every hour to ask if we wanted to buy it and I kept setting off the store’s burglar alarm system with my snoring. So much for a peaceful night’s sleep!

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Regarding the “Fauci Ouchie”

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Note to anyone reading this: This is NOT a political post concerning the Covid-19 vaccine. Whether you get it or not is up to you, but since I chose to get it, I have a few thoughts….

I love that they call it the “Fauci Ouchie.” I have been impressed by the aura surrounding Dr. Fauci for some time. I frequently don’t like what he says, but he can always be counted on to shoot it to you straight…usually between the eyes. I’ve often thought how it would be to have Fauci as my family physician. “Now, I believe the numbers don’t look good, it might be best if you cut back on the carbohydrates and maintained a distance of six feet, and for pete’s sake, wear the darn mask.” With that kind of a straight-shooting medical history, the fact that people are referring to the vaccine under his name seems appropriate.

I knew that I would be getting the vaccine, even though I am not a fan of needles in any respect. The first dose came as a bit of a surprise and I was not dressed for the occasion. It is not often that I am willing to take off my shirt in a Walmart pharmacy, but this is just exactly what happened. There was a flimsy little divider around me, but I still think there were probably people (including the technician) who wanted to gouge their eyes out, but I did a very willing little striptease to get that shot.

I expected repercussion from it, but truly, it has a lot to do with your mind as opposed to your body. For some unlucky souls, shots like this make them genuinely ill. For me, if I’m told my arm will be sore, it is. If I’m told I’ll feel a little queasy, I generally do. The first shot was reasonably uneventful and despite having to remove my shirt, I got through easily.

Unfortunately, that first shot isn’t the end. Dr. Fauci warns us not to get cocky. I agree with him, but that hasn’t prevented me from getting a little careless with my mask. Both the fact that I would forget and go strolling down the hall of my school without it (I actually had an elementary student gasp and draw back from horror, which was my first clue that I was walking down the hall with a naked face.) The other carelessness has come from the biggest issue I’ve had all year: now, when I can’t hear the kids through their masks, I’m apt to say “Pull your mask down and say it again. It’s alright, I’m 58 percent protected….Dr. Fauci says so!”

I was scheduled for my second shot the middle of this week. I held onto that card to the point I practically slept with it because I didn’t want anybody turning me away because I couldn’t produce it for the second shot. Considering that I have actually lost my husband, children, and grandchildren on shopping expeditions, I was pretty proud of the fact that I still had that card at the second innoculation…it looked like it had been through a war cause I mostly kept it in my bra strap, but nobody complained.

The second shot was different from the first. For one thing, the technician was a smart alec. I said, “I’m going to look away because I hate watching shots.” He said, “That’s fine, I’m the same way, so we’ll both look away.” He was pretty pleased with himself, shrugging and adding, “Just joking.” He knew not who he dealt with.

I waited until he was in the middle of the shot before I asked, “So, how much weed can I smoke after having had this shot?” He actually looked startled and probably pulled the needle out less smoothly, but the look on his face when I said, “Just joking,” makes my sore arm more than worth it. And I don’t even care that he gets to tell people that he gave the final shot of the day to an old hippie with a pot problem!

Now, I’ve heard all the warnings about the vaccine and some of them are legitimate. The two I chose to ignore were first, that the shot would make me infertile – I gotta tell you, this is not that frightening for a woman in her mid-sixties; and second, that there is some microchip in there so the government can track me. My thoughts on that are that I should be flattered that the government would put some high-tech, doubtless expensive piece of computer equipment in my shot just so they could track the number of times I go to the bathroom and have midnight snacks. Riveting information!

No, I think I’m okay with my two doses of the Fauci ouchie, and I’m looking forward to the day when the good doctor tells me that masks and social distancing are not as important. I will miss that part some, though, since this is first year in quite a few that I didn’t have even so much as a cold. Well done, Dr. Fauci!

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This is South Dakota

I’ve been reading with interest about all the people out there who are interested in making the move to South Dakota. I have to admit, this is a new one on me, because I always thought the migration in our state was out of the area, but, good for the people who are recognizing the benefits of a small state.

South Dakotans are traditionally pretty proud of the state (at least, those of us who have made the decision to stay). I, too, am a proud member of the Sunshine State. While not all of us South Dakotans agree on what there is to be proud of, we can all agree that the state has some wonderful redeeming qualities. Nothing beats South Dakota on a lazy August afternoon or a warm and lovely May morning.

I worry, however, that the people deciding on our state are doing so on that May morning or and that August afternoon. They need to be aware of the fact that South Dakota has other faces and we are not called the “Land of Infinite Variety” for nothing. I’ve mentioned this to people and most will say, “Yes, yes, we know it can get hot and sticky, but really, that doesn’t happen too frequently!” I beg to differ. I’ve lived in South Dakota all my life and the one thing I can tell you is that if I hang a wrinkly blouse in the closet because I took it out of the dryer too late, I can go back two days later and wear that blouse because the humidity has smoothed out the rough places. South Dakota is not next to any large body of water, but the whole state is a humidity factory.

Then, there are the bugs. I once visited Germany where they not only had no screens on their windows, but they frequently left them open to the night air. I was fascinated by this folly. If you leave an unscreened window open on a lovely evening in South Dakota, you will look like a test lab for flies and a breeding ground for mosquitoes! We take our bugs seriously, and we work hard to keep them outside, but they are here in great abundance!

Winters, however, are the thing I want to talk to you about. You really cannot judge South Dakota until you’ve spent a cold, icy, blizzardy winter here. Not all South Dakota winters are equal and it is important to remember that a mild winter, such as the extraordinary one we have been experiencing this year, can turn on you and suddenly resemble the picture that I have included above, of the road in front of my house.

The only variable is how cold or how snowy it will get. The cold can be tolerated by bundling up in every winter wrap you own and then walking stiff-legged to your vehicle, which depending on its tolerance may start or may say, “Are you kidding me? It’s colder than Frozen out there! I’m not going anywhere.” Cold is insidious and it causes the bravest people to put on extra socks, layer their gloves and mittens and wear stocking masks that far pre-date the current Covid masks and are twice as confining!

As for snow, it is the great leveler. No one, no matter how rich or powerful, is any more likely to go anywhere than the most meager person in the state if there is a good snowfall on. Since most snow in the state is preceded by a nice layer of ice, that makes walking equally treacherous! And if the wind is blowing, and take my word for it, the wind will be blowing, then you’re lucky if it doesn’t pile the snow in against your doors and windows and keep you home until it melts!

I believe I already mentioned that South Dakota is the land of infinite variety and I truly meant that. We have temperatures in the 60s, when people dig out their shorts and break out the barbeque grill. A day later, we are layered in every sweater we own and the barbeque grill is under a foot of snow. Then, when we are convinced the snow will last forever, it turns to slush and then to mud. Is that varied enough for you?

Perhaps you get the impression that I do not love my state. That is not true, but I believe in full disclosure and I think everyone thinking about being in our fine state needs to know….this is South Dakota!

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Feeding the pets

I had unbuttered toast for breakfast this morning. I realize this may seem like a random remark, but it truly ties in with the subject of my blog this week. It all relates back to the dog in this picture, who is in her natural pose, hunched over her food, gobbling it down as fast as she can as though it will disappear otherwise.

It is safe to say that I am not a particular animal lover, so those who love their dogs better than their mates should probably stop reading now. For the rest of you, the complaint I have today may seem familiar. Dogs and cats have no boundaries when they believe there are unguarded victuals somewhere in the vicinity. They also have no manners, scruples or pity when it comes to taking care of their own stomachs.

I don’t have enough space here to recount the number of cookies, cakes, half-full bowls of cereal and other unguarded foods have gone down the dog’s throat. She particularly likes when my grandsons are here, because they are even more careless and the opportunity for random food choices runs rampant. I still recall the day she double-dipped on my four-year-old grandson, who was sitting on the floor with his bowl of Fruit Loops, watching cartoons. While Curious George was getting into all kinds of fun shenanigans distracting the child, the dog casually walked up and slurped a large quantity of milk and cereal straight from the bowl. When my grandson turned to complain loud and long to me, the dog added insult to injury by nimbly cleaning up the Fruit Loops and milk that had been adorning his face.

The dog has long believed that any food within her reach is fair game and believe me when I tell you, she has a long reach. I set a pair of steaks out on the counter to thaw one afternoon. I went to change laundry in the machines and when I came back not ten minutes later, the only thing left on that counter was a set of muddy paw prints. She is both swift and efficient.

She does care deeply for my health and weight issues. If she sees me with a candy bar or a cookies, etc., she is always willing to swoop down and snatch them. I have literally had her eat a cookie out my hands. I was complaining to a friend that she will try to eat anything chocolate she can, complete with wrappers. My friend exclaimed, “You can’t feed her chocolate, it could kill her!”

“You understand, I am not feeding this to her, she is helping herself. And if she eats one more chocolate covered, Bavarian-cream filled roll out of the bakery bag I was saving it in, I may kill her!” I presume my friend’s hasty departure after that was to alert the Humane Society to keep me under surveillance, but honestly, the DOG is the abuser here! In the same day as the roll incident, I put a plated pork chop meal on the table for my husband and told him to go have supper. I was in the bathroom washing my hands, when I heard my husband say, “Hey, where’s my dinner? You gave me an empty plate.” The dog is a food thief and no mistake.

As bad as the dog is, the cat might be worse. If I fail to rinse out the cereal bowl when I put it in the sink, I am always reminded by the delicate clink-clink of the spoon against the dish as she leaps up into the sink and licks it out. This is an old, fat cat, but she stays in shape climbing on the kitchen cabinets, looking for after dinner opportunities.

I never see her on the counter, but there are things which indicate she’s been there. The sink or the coffee maker will suddenly develop a white fur coating; a package of chips or potatoes will spring a chew-out hole where she has inspected the contents. Her worst habit is coming upon butter that is not put away or bacon grease that has been poured into a container to congeal. And she is a discerning animal, she tends to taste things and then move on, so anything I unthinkingly leave on the counter overnight is suspect. Once, she literally left a tell-tale footprint on a cake I had made for a special occasion. I awoke to a neatly imprinted paw mark in the plastic-covered cake. No one seemed to want any of that–go figure.

This tale of animal feastings brings us back to the beginning and the tale of my unbuttered toast this morning. I did plan to eat the bavarian cream filled roll, but the dog talked me out of it by the mere expedient of leaving the torn up bakery bag it was in lying in the middle of the living room, licked completely clean of chocolate. Very well, I will have toast. I started the toaster and took the cover off the butter. It was then that I noticed the neatly smoothed off corners of the stick of butter. “Honey, did you leave the cover off the butter overnight?”

“Oh, yeah, I did. But when I got up this morning, I remembered and put it right back on,” he answered.

Maybe she did nothing and I’m just paranoid, but nonetheless, that butter went in the garbage. Unbuttered toast is better for you anyway, right?


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Leading with my left

Photo by Anna Roguszczak on

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

May be an image of indoor

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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