Lessons Learned

It was a typical day at Sam’s Club and there I was with my army-sized supply of toilet paper and a five-quart jug of peanut butter, waiting in line.  I was standing behind a group of elderly ladies and trying not to be nosy, but since two of the three were wearing hearing aids that appeared to be off, it was hard not to listen.

The first thing that hit me is that when you get older, your give-a-damns just disappear.  Nothing is off-limits.  I. Cannot. Wait.  I love these women. I want to be these women. I thought I had a snarky attitude, but I could learn a thing or two from these lovely seniors. They are my heroes.

Emily:  Yeah, I am so happy I found the value pack of these Depends. The Grateful Dead tribute band tickets go on sale next week and I want to be ready to stand in line.

Margaret:  Did you see the gallon sized Preparation H?  I didn’t see the gallon size of the Preparation H.

Joan:  What?

The next thing I realized is that these ladies, easily in their 90’s, get lucky way more often than I do.

Emily:  I’ve got a date with George tonight.

Margaret:  Didn’t you break your hip last time you saw George?

Emily (with a faraway smile):  Why yes, yes, I did.

Joan:  What?

And that being older doesn’t necessarily mean being nice. My Grandma Mooney taught me this lesson. These women just solidified the idea.

Emily:  Did you see Ethel’s bathrobe last night at the buffet?  I can’t believe she’d wear that!  It shows everything she’s got, the wrinkled old bitty.

Margaret (stage whisper):  I heard that she’s sleeping with Frank.

Emily:  Frank has the clap.

Joan:  What?

They didn’t quite get the whole concept of social media – though, really, this was to be expected. These ladies were obviously out and about and active, and no doubt spending their free time with tribute bands, and seriously, who wouldn’t?… with no time for idly sitting in front of a computer.

Emily:  I saw my youngest great-granddaughter, Jessica, today. She was busy on her cellular phone, putting on posts to Snaptalk.

Margaret (with a not-so-slight tone of ‘I know better than you’):  It’s Facechat, dearie.

Emily:  What?

Joan:  What?

I had a little déjà vu when we got closer to the check-out … I swear, I’ve had this same conversation with my mother. I won’t tell you which one of us is which in this scenario.

Emily:  Margaret, hand me my checkbook.  I think I have one check left in there.

Margaret (busily counting quarters and pennies): No, Emily, you used that in the dollar store.

Emily:  Are you sure?  Hand me my pocket-book.  Are you sure?

Margaret:  One hundred thirteen, one hundred fourteen… damn it, Emily, you made me lose count!

Emily:  Found it!  Now where is my license? 

Joan:  What?

I felt bad for listening in and was trying to read a magazine to drown them out, but they just wouldn’t stop.  These ladies never met an ailment they didn’t like and enjoyed the challenge of topping each other’s illnesses:

Emily:  My knees are really acting up today.

Margaret:  Oh?  My blood pressure is up.

Emily:  My heart feels funny…

Margaret:  I died last night, but I feel better now.

Joan:  What?

At this point, I felt like I knew them personally, so I made sure to wish them a great day.  Emily and Margaret nodded and smiled, heading out the door, but Joan looked at me blankly.  I repeated, “Have a nice day” in my outside voice and she leaned towards me.

“You know, I can hear perfectly well. I just find it more fun if it appears that I can’t. I’m seeing George on the side, Ethel’s my sister, I gave Frank the clap, and honestly, I can’t stand those two.”  Then she smiled and toddled after her friends to the door.

One last lesson I learned about the elderly today?  I cannot wait until I’m old enough to be Joan!

 

 

Valentines and Self-Realization

The older I get, the more I realize that my mother was right after all. I am just like my Grandma Mooney.

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Grandma Mooney & the Case of the Vinegar Valentines

Valentine’s Day always reminds me of my Grandma Mooney (more specifically, she was my Great-Grandmother). That may seem odd to some people (to think of grandparents around a holiday meant for couples), but there’s a reason behind it.  She was actually quite a colorful character… and then some. And one of her favorite things to do centered round Valentine’s Day.

It’s not really observed much anymore, but back in the day people would give out what were called “vinegar valentines.” They were basically insult cards with a caricature drawing on the front and a small acidic poem on the back that tended to call people out as being either foolish, a spinster, a loser, etc. You get the idea. They were pretty unflattering for the recipient and not exactly the heartwarming valentines we give out now covered in hearts and roses. Grandma Mooney absolutely loved giving these out to so-called loved ones and friends.

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It was one of her favorite times of year because, while she may have been thinking these evil thoughts all year, now she was able to put those thoughts to paper. And let me tell you, she got serious pleasure out of poring over who would get what card. If memory serves they were sent out anonymously so the person receiving the snail mail insult couldn’t be sure who thought they were an idiot, but rest assured, someone out there in the world did. The ironic part is that Grandma Mooney would get super pissed if she ever got one. She sent them out by the bucketful but getting even one in return was blasphemous.

I wish I could’ve seen her face as she was picking out the cards and sending them out. It’s hard to picture without having seen it up close, but anytime Grandma Mooney was up to trouble, she’d laugh… not out loud… but sort of an internal laugh so that her massive bosom shook like jelly. Watching her go through her stash of valentines with an intensity more often seen in a tax auditor and the inevitable intervals of shaking as she came across just the perfect one for say… Georgie or Carlene… would’ve been a hoot. Although I’m just guessing that these two were among the lucky recipients.  Grandma Mooney always kept her list top-secret so no one could rat her out.

In truth, though, I almost wish more that I could’ve seen what she did when she opened up one that she had received. I’d be observing that from a very safe distance of course.  I mean, there’s just no sense in poking an already pissed off bear. Grandma Mooney would’ve made Sherlock Holmes proud though… because after receiving one of these heart to heart communiqués in the mail, she suddenly became a resolute and determined investigator, examining handwriting, postal stamps, and whatever else would give her a clue as to who sent it.  She’d wander around the house muttering names for a week as she narrowed down the list of suspects. And when she finally had that “eureka!” moment and was convinced she knew the perpetrator of this horrible crime, she immediately began planning the coming year’s list, editing it accordingly, and putting that person’s name in the top position. Ahh… it’s the simple joys that mean the most.

When I was young, my mother used to tell me that I was just like my Grandma Mooney. I’d take offense at that if I could only figure out how to argue the rationale. Admittedly, I can see the similarities — though not to the extremes of my enjoying sending anonymous insults. But I do share some of her ornery eccentricities. In some respects, it may seem like an awful comparison — but along with her cantankerous quirks, my grandmother had a heart of gold and took care of her family above all else. So I guess when all is said and done, I’m pretty happy to be compared to her.

 

Smarter than the Average Bear

We all know that proud, overly-sharing parent, the one who is amazed their child can do perfectly ordinary things.  “My daughter Marjorie can add up to ten!”  Your daughter Marjorie is in college, Karen.  “Look at little Timmy read this book!”  It’s a picture book, Barbara.

If you’re like me, you want to back-end every car sporting a “My Kid is an Honor Roll Student” bumper sticker, and you snicker at the “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Roll Student.”  I have a new bumper sticker:  My Super Smart Dog Bit Your Honor Roll Student.

If you ask me, there’s not enough focus on the truly smart animals in our lives.  Anyone who thinks animals can’t count has never tried to give three biscuits to a dog who is used to getting four at a time.  The internet abounds with videos of horses counting and even if it is a trick of clever training, the idea that a horse can be trained to appear to count is pretty freaking amazing.

Recently, a family member was gushing about her toddler who knew where the pretzels were kept in the house.  She even went so far as to surreptitiously record her child in this endeavor to share with the audience. This tiny human marvel could even open the pantry door and get the pretzel jar, but the act of unscrewing the tightly closed lid thwarted her adorably chubby little hands.

Awww, isn’t that cute.

My dog knows where the treats are.  He opens the kitchen cabinet, gets his treats, opens the box, and eats his fill. I will admit, he hasn’t quite grasped the idea that cleaning up after himself might be to his advantage. At the least, as I keep explaining to him, it would buy him some time before being found out. I had to put childproof locks on drawers and doors and everything in between to foil my cat, the ne’er-do-well, who is apparently a master locksmith and can open any barrier placed in front of her.  So long as she wants whatever is behind it, that is.  My friend shakes her head sadly when telling me about her German Shepherd who can unlock door handles, open the door, and go into any room she likes.  Baby gates? Pfftt. It’s like you’re not even trying. Cabinets and drawers and off-limit rooms are nothing to these animals, so while I think it’s adorable that your toddler can find the pretzels, I am holding my applause for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I know kids are smart.  Heck, I’ve had two kids raise and train me perfectly.  I just think it’s funny when over-effusive parents boast about ordinary milestones in a completely unironic way.  “Look, she’s only 144 months old and she can recite the alphabet!”

Yeah, Lois, very nice.  Can you hold the cat while I call the vet?  She opened my locked bedroom door, climbed a ladder, cracked my wall safe, and got into the treats that I thought were for sure out of reach this time.  And let me know if you’ve seen the dog, my car keys are missing, and I think he drove down the street to see that damn poodle. Again.

Don’t even get me started on that horse next door who keeps blowing the whistle on my trips to the refrigerator at night; I never should have gotten him binoculars for Christmas.

 

Thoughts from a Shower

I’m not sure why people always have their deepest, most sincere and profound thoughts in the bathroom.  Men are famous for flushing the toilet, opening the door and announcing, “I just thought of something.”  For women, we do our best thinking for the shower.

Sometimes, shower thoughts are genius:  We could solve world hunger if cow manure was edible.

Other times, they are life-changing:  I am going to invest my tax refund wisely instead of buying another pair of shoes.

And sometimes, they are rambling, incoherent, and pointless.

Ladies and gentlemen, I devote this entry to my rambling, incoherent and pointless Shower Thoughts. Lucky you!

  1. I know there are dogs who are allergic to fleas, but what if there are sheep who are allergic to wool?
  2. What if a turtle is claustrophobic?
  3. Are there cats who are afraid of mice?
  4. Are there mice who hate cheese?
  5. I know this has been pondered by better people than me, but what if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?
  6. Why do people say they are putting toast in the toaster? And for that matter:
  7. Why do people refer to their water heater as a hot water heater? If the water is already hot, why heat it in your hot water heater?
  8. Am I the only one in the world who knows that “penultimate” means second to last, and not top of the line?
  9. Why do we demand piping hot pizza when we have to wait for it to cool off before we can eat it? Why isn’t lukewarm, edible pizza a thing?
  10. Why do we say people who don’t eat much “eat like a bird” when birds eat half of their body weight every single day?
  11. If we’re at a restaurant and someone tells us our meal looks good, why do we say thank-you?
  12. How can every coffee shop have “the world’s best coffee?” They do mean OUR world – Earth, right? I guess they could mean Venus and not be wrong.
  13. Why does every person in a crime thriller shoot until they run out of bullets, and then throw the gun at their target? Has that ever worked?
  14. Why is “moist” such an awful word?
  15. Why do we “dust” when we clean our homes? Shouldn’t we be un-dusting?
  16. Are there any pilots who are afraid of heights? And if so, just don’t even tell me.

Okay, so where do you do your best thinking?  Any Shower Thoughts you’d like to share?  Feel free to spill, folks!  I’m always looking for proof that I’m not the only one with a mind like a mouse in a maze!

 

Do You Haiku?

Remember in school when we had to write haiku?  Neither do I, so here’s a refresher.  Haiku is Japanese poetry, three lines long, with seventeen syllables. It’s written as 5 syllables, 7 syllables, then 5 again.  It’s usually about nature or an experience. Someone, somewhere, thought this up, folks.

I live in the Eastern US, where “nature” has been eleven straight months of rain, followed by a swath of single-digit weather.  I wrote this lovely haiku about it:

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain

Rain rain rain rain rain rain rain

Ice, ice, ice, ice, ice.

I know. I agree. I am far too talented to be wasting my life working instead of creating masterpieces.

Looking at it, haiku are like limericks for the snootier among us, minus the humor.  Haiku doesn’t rhyme, and not to disparage a centuries old tradition, it sounds just a bit disjointed and rambling when read aloud.

In my mind, all haiku follows this:

These words make no sense.

Here are seven syllables.

Oh look, it’s a dog.

Don’t hate me for my talents, embrace me in all my haiku glory.

I have never liked non-rhyming poetry.  Non-rhyming poetry is cheating.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s look at a beloved classic, in non-rhyme form.  This is my absolute favorite literary piece of all time:

I don’t like them in a home, with a rodent.  I don’t like them, wherever you put them.  I don’t care for this dish of green eggs and ham. I’ve told you several times, Sam, I don’t care for them.

Now let’s go one step further.  Green eggs and haiku.

I don’t like this meal.

Sam, take them away from me.

I won’t eat these eggs.

Look, I’m not saying that the haiku process takes the fun out of poetry (hey, at least with a haiku I wouldn’t have to come up with a word that rhymes with purple for that piece about grape jelly I’ve been struggling to write).  I’m just saying it seems like the kind of poetry put together by someone who thought rhyming was overrated and just a tad too, well, rhyme-y.

I may be in the minority here, though.  April 17 is National Haiku Day, believe it or not, so make your big Haiku Day plans early.  My plans on Haiku Day?  I am going to protest by reading from a book of limericks on the White House lawn.

Nobody likes “leaves, all floating down – stupid leaves need to be raked – damn it I hate trees,” but you know what we all have in common?

Everyone loves the man from Nantucket.