My Mom-pants Mystery

IMG_1793It’s a well-documented fact that I am not much of a cleaner…I don’t clean, so much as I…oh, what is the word? Oh yes, I’m not a cleaner, I’m a collector….okay, I’m a hoarder. There, I admit it. My house is an explosion waiting to happen, loaded to the gills with half-finished craft projects, plastic bottles I don’t want to throw in the landfill and papers, magazines and books that I never will get completely read.

I’ve always known this about myself and I’ve been fine with it. But after this week, I have to wonder if there is some sort of “garbage gremlin” attempting to work evil within these walls. I’m not really all that upset about the idea, and that’s because other than this thought, the most exciting thing that has happened to me this week was that I opened a new container of Metamucil fiber powder!

It was the mom pants that really started this line of thought. I was cleaning the back bedroom in my house which kind of serves as a “catch-all.” Don’t know what to do with those canceled tickets to the concert? Toss them back there. No place to file those out of focus pictures of…someone’s birthday? Lay them on the desk. Can’t find a place to keep those plastic bottles and empty paper rolls that you just know you’ll find a use for? Plenty of floor space in the spare bedroom.

After a few weeks of this kind of treatment, the room begins to look pretty bad. At times, I forget there is even a bed in there at all.  So this week, I decided to clean (by that I mean shift messy piles around and make them neater piles). And always, when I clean, I come to each item and I can say, “Oh yes, I remember where this came from, I was going to sew the buttons back on this, so I could wear it again.” And I carefully place the maxi-skirt in the eleventh pile it has occupied in 30 years. But I always know where they came from and why they are there.

What I didn’t expect this week was the discovery of the strange grocery bag. Yes, I have plenty of grocery bags, but this one was from a store I’d never heard of. I cautiously looked inside, because occasionally when I don’t know the outside package, a mouse or other creature has been located inside.

All that greeted me was a box with “conversation starter” cards, you know, those suggestions for small talk like, “so, do you like the toilet paper over the roll or under the roll and do you believe this has a religious significance?” or perhaps, “did you do some type of drugs in the 60s, or did you get this confused unaided by chemicals?”

Those were not the largest mystery, however. I also found a pair of women’s jeans in the bag. Perfectly good jeans that did not in anyway resemble anything that I own. Keep in mind, I have an aversion to jeans…I would rather wear tight burlap sacks strapped across my legs and a little too short in the inseams. Add to that the fact that they were nowhere near my size….never mind what that is!

Of course, the obvious solution was that one of my daughters brought them on a visit and left them. I consulted immediately. The older of my lovely progeny immediately rejected them on the basis of size and name brand, but she did request that I send a picture, which, as you can see above, I did. On receipt of the picture, my lovely younger child dismissed the whole thing with, “What, you think I’d wear Mom pants?”

This brings us to the mystery. How DID these pants appear in my back bedroom? Pants that either don’t fit the people in my family or that are too…mature-appearing. What are mom pants, anyway? I repeat my previous statement–I must have a garbage gremlin who is depositing mysterious items in my private clutter. I am outraged. I want those mysterious mom-pants out of my house.

I’m keeping the conversation starters, though. And by the way, “if a tree falls alone in the forest, is it liable for damages?” Wait, that wasn’t quite right!

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The story of Roy’s stepchildren

IMG_1791Okay, I bet I know what you’re thinking, “When did Roy get stepchildren and what do these tomatoes have to do with anything?” I promise you, it all fits together and I’ll explain.

I have never claimed to be a master gardener or anything like that. I have, over the years, started many plants from seed, pretty much all of which barely made it out of the “popping out of the ground” stage. At the present moment, I have an outside garden in which radishes and peas are making a sporadic appearance and beans and carrots have apparently elected not to appear at all. The tomatoes and peppers were bought as mature plants and have been holding nightly meetings to come up with new lists of demands—not enough sun, too much water, etc. I don’t think they like the neighborhood!

This is not necessarily a discouraging thing for me. I am used to failures on the gardening front. I have even come to accept and embrace those failings. I admire the flowers and plants of other people with a big smile on my face and a silent curse on their green thumbs stuck in the back of my throat…okay, maybe I am a little bitter.

But this spring, things are different. As you can see from the picture, I, me, Jackie Fauth, the plant killer, have raised six tomato plants from seed! These little girls are all mine due to my diligence, tender care, and maybe even the lullabies I have been singing them. That’s right, they LIKE my singing!

Every day, I go out to the garage to the table by the window with just the right amount of warmth and sun and I give water to them and I praise them–obviously, Prunella is the biggest and most beautiful, but I try not to have favorites, because Jammy and Saucy (the most size-impaired ones) get very jealous.

Roy has been watching this development with pretty much no comment. He does keep pointing out in a carefully logical voice that they are way behind the others and probably will never reach the point where they will squeeze out a tomato before the frost hits. He doesn’t know that I plan to keep them in the house this winter…maybe on his side of the bed!

I have been taking my girls out each day for a little sun. We have a visit; I tell them what I’ve been doing (yes, it HAS been a long pandemic, why do you ask?) and they show me their new leaves and the rate at which their roots are growing. We have a wonderful relationship and I really feel like a Master Gardener.

This week, however, I have begun to realize that Roy has perhaps unknowingly (but I don’t think so) been abusing my girls. I go outside and find them sitting ON THE GROUND with no thought to their well-being. When I complained that he was not providing them with the proper amount of moisture, he SPRAYED them with water! I went out to check on them and they were laying over, looking so sad.

“What did you do to them?” I raged. “Look at them! They are distraught!”

“I watered them, along with all the other plants,” he said, looking as though I’d lost my mind.

“You don’t dump water on their heads!” I was outraged. “You sprinkle some water GENTLY around their roots, or better still, put it in the bottom of the tray and they can use it when they are ready. They are traumatized; it will take me hours to get them comforted and back to normal.”

“Something’s not normal around here, that’s for sure,” he muttered as he started to walk away.

“Another thing,” I had just remembered, “I came out here yesterday when the wind was whipping and found these girls, BENT OVER, they were so terrified of the wind. How could you do that?”

It was then that he made reference to three things: 1) My gardening was a trifle obsessed; 2) Mental health needs to be carefully nurtured and 3) He didn’t sign on to this marriage to play stepfather to a bunch of tomatoes.

Some people are just selfish!

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Yoga not what I envisioned

woman in black tank top and black leggings standing near wall
Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

Jackie Wells-Fauth

In case anyone is having problems with their eyesight, no, the woman in the picture is not me. I put it in because when I think of yoga, this is what I always envisioned. A beautiful, graceful stand on only one leg. My yoga is as similar to this as a flying cow is to a fairy (me being the cow, of course).

I have to admit I’ve come to the world of yoga rather late in the game and I may not be looking for the same things out of it that others are. I was told that if I did yoga, my balance would improve, my overall body toning would be better and I would experience things I never had before. One of those is true, but not exactly in the way they may have intended. The experiences have been profound!

Since I started late, I started slow, with a yoga for seniors routine. Now, the woman who was demonstrating the procedures had gray hair, but she didn’t bend like any senior I have ever seen and I certainly didn’t bend anything like her. She would demonstrate a move with precision and grace and I would follow with inaccuracy and imbalance. My eyes bulged, my joints popped and my body moved with all the beauty of a hog in the mud waller.

I was determined, however, and little by little, I began to master the moves she showed me. And most days, I am able to put my body in regular motion within a few hours of having done my yoga. I haven’t mastered that standing with my hands folded and one leg up, though. Oh, I can fold my hands all right, but that makes it difficult to grab the things around me when I attempt to bring my leg up and balance on only one limb! Now there’s an experience I never had before, so maybe all that hype is right!

Starting small was the theme of this project and so I am learning to do squats and body twists and ankle lifts. Well, I think I’m doing the squats correctly, as long as I don’t watch myself on the bends. I do a fair job of body twists, but when it comes to arching my back and staring upwards, I still see spots before my eyes…although maybe not as many;  I haven’t counted. The ankle lifts have been very helpful, but there again, I don’t like to watch that move. I think I’m being very graceful and ballet-like and a look in the mirror tells me that one wrong twist and the ballerina will be permanently scarred…not to mention the damage to things surrounding me if I go down.

So, the yoga actually has helped me with balance, and I know my body moves a little better and definitely I’ve experienced things I never did before, so I may have to amend my previous statement and admit that yoga has been beneficial. And if I ever master that standing on one leg with my hands folded, it’ll probably be because I’m actually leaning on the kitchen counter behind me. Happy yoga to you all!

 

 

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Put a mask on it…

94590223_3061795107192232_1116854340645027840_oI remember seeing world news over the years where in large, metropolitan areas, people wore masks. Either there was a lot of illness (although not like now) or a lot of smog or someone was just susceptible. I always felt bad for those people. Imagine my surprise to wake up one morning and discover that WE are those people!

Now, I’m not really here to debate the subject of whether we should wear masks or not. If you want to go without a mask, do so, but as for me and mine, I think we’ll wear masks. Our choice.

The real issue here, of course, is what kind of mask to wear. I have heard a thousand debates and a thousand types of masks touted and I am still not quite sure. I know we are not to wear the N-95 masks, as our medical people need them far worse. Since the 3-Ms and other mask-making businesses of the world are busy making those masks, we must fend for ourselves.

Now, I spend way too much time on Facebook and that has never been more apparent than now. If you spend five minutes on Facebook, someone will be showing you a new and more clever way to make masks. There are patterns and tutorials for every conceivable style of mask. And it changes quickly. Straight across the face masks soon gave way to a more fitted mask, which gave way to masks you didn’t have to sew. I like those best.

There is the heel of a sock mask, but I had problems with that. First of all, you have to cut up a perfectly good sock or you have to use one of the mis-mated old ones in the back of your drawer. I didn’t have any new socks, so I tried the mis-mated one. Now, I KNOW the sock was clean, but there is something about putting my nose in a sock that has been on my foot, that makes me very reluctant. I know there’s no smell, but trust me, there’s a smell!

My husband had a similar problem after I came up with the idea to use an old padded bra. I saw a great tutorial on cutting the cups apart and even using the elastic from the straps to secure it. Then my husband weighed in: he would not appear in public with half a bra strapped across his face! Some people are so fussy, but lucky for him, I couldn’t breathe in it, so I couldn’t wear it either.

In the end, after trying paper towels with staples, coffee filters and those neat ones you can make with a handkerchief and two pony tail holders (I couldn’t) I was getting ready to buy one made to look like a Minnesota Vikings poster or a cow licking its lips or even the one that looks like you have your faced shoved in the front zipper of your jeans.

My lovely daughter rescued us from that by making us some wonderful, durable masks. She sent them to us, along with a batch of delicious cookies, so we couldn’t resist showing our ingratitude with the picture I have included. We figured out how to eat the cookies and use the masks, but I will never again take for granted the simple act of drawing a deep, unimpeded breath…if I ever feel safe enough to go out without a mask again!

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Cleaning ditches causes b…., well, you know

There’s a little tradition that we have in rural America that I think is relatively unique to our small-town existence. It is the tradition of cleaning the ditches…twice a year civic groups, church groups, youth groups, etc., trudge through the ditches of our major highways, picking up the things that someone thoughtlessly or accidentally sent out a car window as they were traveling.

Now if you have ever done this, you know what an adventure it is. You have your giant garbage bag which is so large it trails out behind you, your gloves that will hopefully withstand anything up to and including Superman’s x-ray eyes, and sharp vision, ready to sort out those semi-decomposed pizza boxes hiding in the weeds.

It is my firm belief that beer and soda pop companies should be required to package their beverages in loud, patterned cans so they are easily discernible in the grass. As I’m staggering along, I sometimes don’t see those cans or bottles because their general makeup camouflages them. And there are some people out there who should seriously think about joining the baseball major leagues, because from a moving vehicle, they managed to pitch some of those things quite a distance. I rescued a number of them from the fence line on the far side of the ditch. I’d be impressed..except I probably shouldn’t be impressed by the people who throw their trash out the windows.

It’s true that you just never know what you might find. Last night’s haul included a lot of pizza boxes, a disquieting number of beer cans, some huge pieces of corrugated cardboard that didn’t want to fit in my bag and a number of latex gloves which were designed to cover not just the hand, but the whole arm; like something a woman might wear with a formal. I’m sure there’s a legitimate purpose to those gloves, but my imagination is working overtime on what they might have been protecting the hand and arm from. Needless to say, I handled those with the all the delicacy of a box of nitro-glycerin! The most exciting thing I found was a small calendar with a nude man decorating the top. And there was I, wondering what I was going to hang in that little nook in my hallway!

Things we are picking up are only half the fun. That mile and a half walk on uneven ground, through long grass which feels like sand or snow drifts is always fun. I like to think I’m fairly attuned to walking, but after ditch cleaning, I’m always humbled. The grass and sloping ground is hard enough, but add to that the fact that there are many holes dug by some animal or another, which make the possibility of shoving your foot down one and twisting an ankle very exciting. I have to admit to you that by the time I have drug through those ditches, I am so tired, that I sincerely believe that I would not notice a dead body lying in the weeds unless I trod directly upon it…and then I’d be too tired to put it in my sack!

Besides the trash in the ditches, there is always the adventure of the critters who actually live there. Nothing is such a thrill as picking up  a piece of plastic or cardboard only to uncover the snake or mouse that is living under it. They are understandably outraged by the disturbance and they are also not too crazy about the shrieking and stomping around that I do!

Ditch cleaning is over for the spring and in truth, I’m happy to do what I can to increase our environmental beauty. All that’s left for me now is to decide what to do with the trash. I mean, I know that the majority should just hit the dump, but I DID find a cigarette pack with four cigarettes in it. I mean, it IS finders keepers, right?

 

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How to be Teacher of the Year in the middle of a pandemic

Forgive the huge title, but I just can’t express the nature of this blog in any shorter or easier way. This year of “unprecedented, uncertain, unexplored, uncharted” experiences, has one more for me: how do you make it as Teacher of the Year in the middle of a pandemic?

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First of all, just let me say that being selected as teacher of the year for my school is the greatest honor I can achieve. Any teacher who tells you that they don’t want to be teacher of the year is lying. Being Teacher of the Year is the educator’s Academy Award. And as you can see, the hardware is a whole lot cooler!

So, we’ve established: I wanted to be Teacher of the Year. I just never visualized it in quite this way before. Because to be Teacher of the Year on a normal year means honors and acknowledgement and recognition at graduation…along with the cool hardware. You are confident in your skills and you know just what to do in acknowledging the honor.

Now let’s cut to this year. I am going along, teaching my classes, boring some, inspiring others and generally lighting little fires under all of them…face-to-face, in the same old, teacher of the year way. Until the Pandemic hit. Suddenly, life has a whole new edge and so does the so-called Teacher of the Year.

While we were still in school, the Teacher of the Year was yanking her pens, paper, stapler, tape, you name it, out of the hands of startled students yelling, “I’ll do it! Don’t touch it!” And then taking the fore-named article over to the container by the door to douse them in hand sanitizer, while the unimpressed students were wondering to themselves just when the old girl had gone around the bend. Not very noble or sharing, but quite the germ-fighting strategy.

In addition, there was that added layer of Teacher of the Year finesse displayed every time a student coughed or sneezed. “I want that boy out of here, he just coughed for third time this week, and I’m convinced he’s infected!” Somehow, you might have expected the teacher of the year to be a little more sympathetic and a lot less pathetic, but the times, they are a-changing.

Now we come to that plague even greater than the coronavirus: remote learning. The teacher of the year is now reduced to sending out mind-numbingly long e-mails begging for those assignments not yet handed in…no, not from this week–you’re missing the one that I assigned a month ago–before school got out? Check the instructions I very carefully laid out for you in the remote classroom site! What? They’re not there? Hang on a minute!

Then, there are the endless videos. Until this pandemic struck, I had never videoed myself in any classroom environment because the wiggling and squirming I have to do to watch myself on film was just too painful. It does not become the Teacher of the Year. No matter, suddenly, I making videos on how to join classroom discussions or how to sew on buttons…”okay, you knot that thread like this, oops, that didn’t work, well, let’s try again…for the fourth time.” In case you’re interested, this year’s Teacher of the Year never did get it right!

I know there are many things out there much more difficult than having to navigate the waters of Teacher of the Year in a year where every teacher was pretty much teacher of the year…I just can’t think of any right now. So, I’ll put my beautiful hardware on the shelf where it catches the most sun, I’ll bask in the pleasure of receiving the honor and I will always remember it as unique. But if you see me standing stock still, looking out, as if at a large audience and smiling and nodding, you will know that I am envisioning the applause I would have received at graduation had those poor seniors had a normal one. Hey, even the Teacher of the Year can dream, right?

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May 9, 2020 · 5:00 pm

The 12th Speaker

I have been in the drama business for quite a few years. I coach it for students in my school, I have seen my own daughters involved in it and I write drama pieces as well. I know how hard it is to break in.

I’ve seen my daughters through a lot of action, so far. I remember well the time Stefanie piled her then-blond hair up in a bouncy pony-tail and played the wide-eyed, original ditzy girl in a community play. It was one of my favorite performances and it was hysterical because that was so not her, so it meant she could act. I remember Tracie’s first part which required her to simply drop a pail and look astonished. I remember thinking, “Well, was it just me, or was she pretty good at that?” It wasn’t just me…the next thing I knew my little bucket-dropper had the lead in the Christmas pageant.

I’ve been through many enjoyable performances since then. I wasn’t aware, however, that the family performance tradition might take in another generation. My two grandsons had begun the rite of passage of singing in school programs before I knew it and I was missing them, one after another. Of, of course I got to see video of it, but neither boy looked like they had a future on the stage. The older one looked unenthused and the younger one appeared to be fairly hostile.

That was, until this summer. By some miracle of scheduling, I was able to see my grandsons for the first time in their program…an end-of-vacation-Bible school extravaganza, complete with wild, tie-dyed shirts and orange and yellow headbands. I was elated. The younger one was going to be doing some singing and actions and the older one was going to speak!

Some of the older students had the main parts in the Biblical story of Daniel and the three faithful who were tossed in the furnace. The part of King Nebuchadnezzar was played by a feisty young lady with a real feel for the dramatic flair (take it from an old drama coach). But I was excited for my grandson, Royce’s part.

He came out and danced and went through the actions and words of the songs, which went very well. I got loads of pictures, fighting all the other parents and grandparents to get just the right shot. I even got some shots of my younger grandson, less hostile than normal, as he, too, joined in the singing.

“Here comes his part,” I whispered to my husband, excitedly.

“What part is he playing?” asked the proud Mama snapping pictures of her little ones beside me.

“He is Speaker Number 12,” I announced proudly and just then, he stepped up and in ringing, clear tones pronounced his one line and then moved aside to allow Speaker Number 13 to speak.

“Did you hear that?” I asked my husband. “He spoke loudly and clearly and right on time.”

“He didn’t even use the microphone,” his grandfather said, bursting with pride. “He’s a natural.”

So now, I add to the memory of his mother as the ditzy blond and his aunt as the astonished bucket dropper, the memory of my little orange and yellow flame-covered thespian in the memorable role of “Speaker Number 12.” You don’t think it’s too soon to book my tickets for his Broadway debut, do you?

 

 

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Directions Dilemma 

My grandmother used to joke that it was a good thing that there is only one way to go when we are born, or there are those of us who would get lost on the way out. This joke was never particularly funny to me because I am one of those who would most definitely get lost.

On my honeymoon, I tried to read a map and guide Roy through Kansas City. The result of that trip was the first fight of our married lives. Fights over travel and directions have continued apace with every travel adventure we have taken. Most people fight about the charges on the credit card or the money spent on shoes or guns. Not Roy and I. Our fights frequently come from the fact that I told him to turn left when he should have turned right and now we are in a neighborhood which looks like a dangerous place to stop, roll down a window and admit we’re lost!

Maps were the original field of my inabilities. In final checks before we set off, Roy would say: Gas? Check. Suitcases? Check. Cash? Check. Map right side up? Check. I would have been much more insulted by this last instruction except that he was justified. I once guided him halfway through Denver before I discovered I was holding the map backwards and we were traveling pretty much in circles through heavy Denver traffic!

The introduction of GPS to our lives has improved things, but I find I can still mess up in giving directions even then. GPS and Google maps both speak directions, but Roy always asks me questions, anyway. “What direction is the next turn?” he will ask, wishing to be in the proper lane to react quickly. “Right,” I reply, pointing for good measure. “Okay,” comes his response, “you said right and you’re pointing left. Which is it?”

“Sorry,” I answer, “it’s my directions dyslexia kicking in. We turn left.”

“Now you’re saying left and pointing right,” he says, through gritted teeth. “Oh wait, there’s our street and we missed it.”

“Recalculating,” intones the GPS.

This year, we went to Germany and Roy wanted to go to places where his family had originated. That meant taking a car and going off some of the main tourist paths through the country. We took the car from the central train station in Brussels, Belgium, which didn’t look too bad until we contemplated driving through it.

“There’s a GPS on the car,” the young man told us with heavily accented English.

“Oh good,” Roy replied, “because our little Garmin won’t connect over here.”

“Yes, but don’t follow its instructions until you get out of the Ring,” he continued. “You want to drive out onto the Ring and then follow the GPS after you leave the inner city.”

We had no idea what he was talking about and judging from the expression on his face, the minute we left, he turned to his co-worker and made a bet as to whether we would have our accident while still in “the Ring” or if we would crash the minute we drove out of the train station.

Well, we made it to “the Ring”. The trick we couldn’t figure out was how to get out of the Ring. We just kept running in circles in heavy traffic, while the car’s GPS intoned in perfect British accents, “Take a slight right and then turn right.” It gave no distances, no road names and no clue as to which of myriad “rights” that were all along the street was the correct “slight right and right turn.”

In desperation, Roy pulled into a small side street and got out the Google Maps on his phone and plugged in the directions to southern Germany. The map loaded up and instructed, “Continue on this street for 1 kilometer.”

Feeling more confident, Roy put the car in gear and asked, “Which direction does it want me to turn up here?”

“Turn left,” I said, pointing to be certain and of course, I was pointing right.

“Take a slight right and then turn right,” intoned the car’s GPS.

It was a long drive through Germany.

 

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The “yearly” physical 

I know that they are important. After all, all the television doctors got together in a commercial to tell us that regular medical checkups are important. And when Alan Alda puts on his Hawkeye doctor face, I try to listen.

The problem, of course, is that for the last five years I have found one reason after another not to have a “yearly” physical. You’ve heard the reasons: I’m too busy; I’m not sick; I can’t afford it; It’s just too creepy. And then there’s my reason: If I go, they might find something wrong with me and want to treat it. It doesn’t matter that even if they didn’t find it, it would still be there and getting worse…I have spent five years believing I can’t be sick if I don’t go in for a checkup.

Finally, it was time. I am getting old, my knees are aching, I haven’t gotten the required vaccinations and worst of all, all the doctors I knew before have all retired and when I fill out forms I have no family doctor’s name to put down. Reluctantly, I called for an appointment. Unfortunately, they were able to schedule one.

Of course, for the month that I waited, I obsessed about it every day. I was sure they would find something direly wrong with me and I would then be confined to my bed, so I had to get everything done before I went. I nearly killed myself with household projects.

Finally, the day arrived. Adding to my anxiety level, I sat down in a waiting room where the news was on. Everyone knows that the news is no way to reduce your anxiety. I was alone in the room, so I turned it off. Five minutes later, it switched back on…by itself. Another thing that does not reduce your anxiety is ghosts.

I was called in before I could get out my ghost-o-meter. First thing they wanted me to do? Step on the scale. Great. The darn thing actually groaned when I stepped on it. I’ve been comforting myself that my scale was just not accurate..weighing too heavy. According to the doctor’s scale, my scale is being generous.

They handed me a gown that didn’t quite cover and a questionnaire to determine if I’m depressed. Well, of course I’m depressed! I’m at the doctor’s office for a physical! Duh!

Blood pressure and blood work were next. It is hard to maintain a really good blood pressure when you have that cuff strangling your arm…the arm that was just jabbed for blood, mind you. Then I was treated to a dizzying set of numbers and for each one, my response was the same: Is that good?

The actual exam was just as fun and invasive as I had anticipated and they ask the most ridiculous question in the world: Okay, now we’re just going to (you fill in the blank with any procedure). Are you ready? My answer? “Of course not! Just get it over with.”

The worst part, of course, is the additionally scheduled tests they want. Mammograms have always been a particular favorite of mine. “When do you want us to schedule your mammogram?” the nurse, inquires, holding pen over paper.

Let’s see: they’re going to smash one of the most delicate parts of my body between two paddles (for want of a better name), twist it closed until my eyes are leaving their sockets and then instruct, “Don’t move.” When do I want to do that? How about the twelfth of never?

Thankfully, my physical is done (except for the mammogram) and all that’s left is to wait for the results of the tests. The doctor assured me that so far it looks like I am in excellent condition: blood pressure, cholesterol and other blood work were excellent; the exam found nothing unusual, so I’m hoping for good results overall. I’m at that point now where I am feeling relieved that I went for the physical and good about myself for not throwing a fit over all the vaccinations.

However, for the next year, when Alan Alda puts on his Hawkeye doctor face, I’m going to tell him exactly where he can stick his advice…and it’s somewhere on his person!

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Signs that I am not in the United States…

It has been an eventful couple of weeks for me. For only the second time in my life, I was what you would technically refer to as “abroad.” All that means is that I spent two weeks in Germany and I can tell you it is a different world from my life in the United States. Some things better and some things worse were the result of my observations during this vacation, but I’d like to share with you some signs which told me I was  definitely not in the United States.

First, there is the bathroom. I know I’m not in the United States because I walk into a bathroom only after I agree to pay and then pass through a turn style. In addition, I have only paid and used this bathroom after a search of several blocks to find one. When I am in the bathroom, I have to worry about having two levels of flushing and I go through the stress of wondering  if I pressed the right one! When it’s easier to hold it, than to go through the stress of the “WC”, then I know I’m somewhere other than the United States.

I know I’m not in the United States when I feel compelled to begin every conversation with “Do you speak English?” To the credit of the German people, they are remarkably conversant in English, but inevitably, my question was answered with “Ya, a little bit.” A little bit was anywhere from those few words to a fluency in English that put mine to shame. Just once, however, I did run into a woman who could speak no English. Since she was the clerk in the train station and I was lost…not in the United States… this was a problem.19429656_1534105623294529_3039647992177886607_n

And this brings me to another thing that tells me I’m not in the United States. I traveled a lot by train. In Europe, the train is a popular method of getting around and the people there are very easy with it. I find it unsettling that I must find the proper train and I will be allowed to board without anyone checking my ticket. Tickets are not collected until after the train leaves the station. I spent most of my train trips in a panic that I was on the wrong train and on at least one occasion, that was the case. Then, there were the others in even worse shape than me. “Pardon me, do you speak English?” I was approached by one worried passenger, ticket in hand. Then, before I answered, she continued, “Do you know if this is train the 1501?” Not wishing to appear as ignorant as I really was, I smiled apologetically, pointed at myself and said, “Sprechen da Deutsch.” That’s something I definitely wouldn’t do in the United States.

I know I’m not in the United States because of the “Nos.” By this, I mean things that I am used to that they don’t have…no water, no ice, no hurry, no air conditioning, no fans, no window screens, no chocolate and sugar sweets. The last one was the worst. I would have given a great deal to go into a store anywhere and see a KitKat on the shelves. As it was, I couldn’t find anything that was recognizable and the ingredients were all in German. Add to that the fact that soda came in 8-ounce bottles and was referred to as “German coke,” and you’ll see the dilemma for a sugar freak like me. However, on reflection, the Europeans may have this one right.

No water and no ice go together. Water also came in small, 8 ounce glass bottles (or the European equivalent).And  if you were not careful to ask for “still” water, you would end up with a mineral water that was as pleasant for this spoiled American to drink as Alka-seltzer! They use ice in nothing. For me, I’ll forego the liquid if I can still have the ice. For two weeks, I looked for water everywhere, suffered with no ice, and sweated out what little liquid I had in the heat, since there were no air conditioners. Now, I have long said the United States keeps air conditioners ridiculously low,  but NO air conditioning was not pleasant either! Windows in hotels opened and contained no screens. This bothered me, but I’d rather battle bugs than have no air moving.

My final clue that I was not in the United States had to do with restaurant dining. Food was abundant and very filling. So much so that I could seldom finish a plate. When the waiters would retrieve it they would shake their heads solemnly at me and intone, “Not guut?” They also didn’t believe in a speedy conclusion. They would clear the food and leave you sitting there…and sitting there…and sitting there. Apparently, we in the United States finish our food and leave the restaurant too quickly. There, people linger over coffee or drinks or cigarettes (the summer means all dining is out of doors).  Anytime I grew impatient and asked for the bill, they all looked so sorry for the boorish American with no appreciation for what a quiet time over the table could offer…they were right.

And of course, no conversation about being in Europe is complete without talking about paying that restaurant bill. Cash only…they didn’t like credit cards—in fact, they trouble swiping them when they would use them. Not only cash, but in the smallest common denominator. Each waiter carried their own cash pouch for paying the bill and they encouraged you to pay in as close to correct change as possible. In fact, one young lady went so far as to look in Roy’s wallet as he opened it to get money out and request specific bills.

There were many ways in which I was charmed by the German people I met, but there is a definite difference between their methods and those in the United States. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to use the bathroom for free and then sit with my tall glass of still water on ice and have the air conditioning blow directly on me. Because I am now in the United States!

 

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