Blogging Has Been Fun, But It’s Time To Wrap It Up

Blogging Has Been Fun, But It’s Time To Wrap It Up

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One year ago, I shared the first post for this blog. The idea for writing it had been percolating for several years, and after retiring in May 2020, and being home a lot due to Covid, I started seriously working on it.

Learning the tech side of blogging was fun but there was a lot of trial and error. You need a domain name, web host, and blogging platform, in that order. Also a logo, tag line and a professional photo. I took a class from a local blogger which helped a lot, but as you know technology changes rapidly, and if the sites had changed since my class ( and most of them had), it increased the learning curve. The actual writing of the blog was the easiest part!

Speaking of writing, I started with some tales of my antics as a kid, and then on a list of ideas I had been jotting down for a year. I still have the list and haven’t posted all of the ideas. Sometimes life presented good material too, such as our recent trip to Denver where we used concert tickets on our phone and Lyft for the first time. Thank goodness I didn’t rent those scooters by mistake.

Here are some fun statistics- all from Word Press, and anonymous. In other words, no names attached, just the numbers. I have had readers from 25 countries, primarily the United States, but also England, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico and others. One of the most curious numbers is four from China. My content is so American I think it would lose something in translation, but four Chinese readers show up most weeks. Again, no names, but I think it must be the same four. Quite interesting! Regular readers can also follow the blog and automatically get posts each week. I have 77 followers, and other regular readers who find the post themselves. Facebook and Linkedin are the only social media sites where I share the posts each week, and they are very helpful.

The most read blog post was the one pictured above, about my brother, Bill Brown, and his friend Arthur Ashe. It had hundreds of readers, and was picked up by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and was also published in St. Louis, where Arthur lived when the photo was taken. He was playing in a tournament in Omaha, and my mom baked him a cake. The Omaha World Herald, which published the photo when it was taken, contacted me and ran the photo again during Black History Month in 2021. Dirk Chatelain, the reporter who wrote the updated story, is a gifted writer who captured the essence of that moment from a historical and personal perspective. I am sure my mom was smiling down from heaven at being remembered for her act of kindness so many years ago. She knew 18 year old Arthur had lost his mother at an early age, and was living far from his home in Virginia to be able to play tennis on non segregated courts. His accomplishments were many before dying in his forties. As my brother says, what a guy.

The next most read posts were about Paul Simon playing a concert in my aunt’s living room in small town Iowa, several posts I titled Adventures in Weight Loss, some technology posts about using cell phones, and memories about landlines. Those were all fun to write. Some of my high school classmates are regular readers, and they shared some great memories after my posts about our senior trip to New Orleans, and a cranky teacher named Sr. Evelyn Barbara. Law school classmates have commented on our antics during those three stressful but sometimes fun years . And my extended family have been loyal readers too.

Writing a blog puts your site on the web, so there are occasionally some fun contacts. Last spring, I received an email from a casting agency for a new NBC streaming show that will be produced by Amy Poehler. She currently has one called Making It, where contestants do craft projects and compete for prizes. I was contacted about Baking It, which will have amateur cooks making holiday baked goods. The hosts will be Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg. Judges will be “four opinionated, real life grandmas who are excellent bakers”. I was contacted about the grandma judging, and honestly replied I wasn’t at the level of baking expertise they were looking for. But how fun to be asked to audition. And I really would have enjoyed meeting Maya and Andy. It premiers on the Peacock streaming platform on December 2, 2021.

One of the things I studied about blogging was how to cover the costs of running one. It’s not overly expensive, but there are some monthly and annual costs. Running ads on posts in a limited way is what I chose to do. It was free for me, which was nice. And since I hate having too many pop up ads when I am reading content online, I went the minimalist route with them. You can only get very basic ads unless you have thousands of readers, and the most profitable ads require a minimum of 10,000 readers a month. Yikes!

Blogs that started long ago, like Huffington Post and Mashable, have millions of readers. But start up blogs today aren’t going to reach such lofty heights, and struggle to be noticed in a crowded space. Without a lot readers sharing your posts or being noticed on search engines, growth is very hard. And with a generic topic like humor, the search engine optimization software I use can only produce so much.

Podcasting is the newest way to reach an audience, and it probably offers more revenue opportunities, but I doubt that is something I will do. WordPress offers a way to have weekly posts read on a podcast but I don’t think my blog lends itself to that format.

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So it’s time to sign off, and I want to thank all of you who have been regular readers. It’s fun to hear from you when you like a post. I plan to keep the site up and running until 2022 since many of the posts still get noticed, but I don’t plan to add weekly content. If something really funny happens I may pop back up with a post, but who knows? There’s also a chance I will rebrand the site and graphics and do something new next spring or summer. Too hard to predict at the moment.

In closing, I hope the blog has brightened your day and made you laugh. Your support has been a bright spot the past year, and I appreciate every one of you!

I Survived A Continuing Ed Seminar, Also Known As Death By Power Point

I Survived A Continuing Ed Seminar, Also Known As Death By Power Point

Continuing Ed Seminars are required in many professions, and lawyers have to attend them according to their state’s requirements. Although I retired in 2020, I am keeping my license active for a couple of reasons- one, it took a lot of time and effort to get it, and two, I still do some work for my family or as a community service. In Nebraska, the requirement is 10 hours per year. That really isn’t much in terms of the time required, but frequently the seminars feel much longer than they are advertised to be, so it feels like 110 hours. One way to get a lot of hours in a short time is to attend the annual state bar convention, held every October.

Last week I decided to start chipping away at my requirement and signed up for two seminars at the convention- one about real estate and estate planning, and the other about the Lawyers Assistance Project, which helps legal professionals with substance abuse problems. The real estate/probate seminar started off with an interesting case- a man in Minnesota wanted to leave his house to his niece when he died, and his attorney prepared a delivery on death deed as part of his estate plan. That somewhat gruesomely named deed transfers ownership of the property after the death of the current owner, without probate court involvement. So the uncle died, but before the niece knew she was the new owner, the uncle’s disgruntled ex-wife burned the house down. When the niece made a claim under the homeowner’s insurance policy her uncle had on the home, State Farm denied her claim.

The niece sued the company, and said she didn’t know she owned the property, and couldn’t have insured it. State Farm ( Jake from the commercials is meaner than he looks) said it didn’t matter, the insurance contract expired when the uncle died. And several courts agreed with them. From a contract law perspective, this is accurate. But from a fairness and justice perspective, it stinks. How can you insure a property that you don’t know you own? What are estate planning attorneys supposed to do when recommending them to a client- ask if there are any disgruntled exes around who like to start fires? All of the attorneys in the room were concerned about this problem, and a discussion about a remedy (consensus was state law will have to be changed) ensued. We had one Power Point slide up, with the name and citation of the case. The discussion was lively and to a bunch of lawyers, also fairly interesting.

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Why is Power Point involved in our seminars? Before Power Point, there were slide projectors like the one pictured above. Small slides with pictures from cameras were put into projectors for group viewing on a portable screen. A few teachers used them, but mostly they were individual users- lots of jokes back in the day of going to someone’s house to see the slide show of their vacation. It was a simpler time! And Baby Boomers will remember View Master toys, which allowed you to have your own personal slide shows. High tech for the 1960’s. So Power Point isn’t really that different- it is a way to present slides that you create using a computer. As a college teacher, I learned to use the software and included it in my classes to a certain extent for most of the time I taught, but with a lot of enhancements.

While it can be a good instructional tool, using Power Point also has some significant drawbacks. Chief among them is inducing mind numbing boredom in the class or audience viewing the slides. This of course depends on many things- the material being presented, the person preparing the slides, the speaker, the length of the presentation, and the time of day.

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So our one slide in the beginning of the seminar was fine, but then an additional speaker was Zoomed into the meeting with more slides. A lot more slides. Slides that were too long, repetitive, and oh so dull. Some of them were read to us. I looked around and started to see other attendees shared my thoughts. Cell phones were out, and a few people nodded off. Others were on their laptops, happily billing clients for the work they were doing. This session did, however, resurrect itself a bit with some audience discussion. But then the final speakers came forth for the second hour with more slides. And a new topic- settling an estate with insufficient assets. Such fun.

In defense of the speakers, they aren’t educators and don’t use Power Point regularly. They are talking about inherently arcane topics, and they know their fellow attorneys are used to this type of content. But they also knew they were speaking right after lunch, so strike one. They have attended their share of seminars, so they have probably been bored to death in the past and should know better, so strike two. And the bar association never asks for evaluations of these presentations, which would improve them, so strike three. So on it goes, year after year.

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Luckily, day two went a lot better, with a larger audience and different topic. It was about the Lawyers Assistant Project, which confidentially assists members of the legal profession with substance abuse problems. Several things made this two hour seminar go much faster. First, there were speakers who shared their personal stories of substance abuse. These brave lawyers shed light on a significant problem in the profession, and their personal journeys to sobriety. They also spoke frankly about how a competitive, high stress profession like the law can create the “perfect storm” of using alcohol and drugs to excess.

Were there Power Point slides? Yes, but they were kept to a minimum and enhanced what the speakers were saying, rather than being read to the group. And they included some embedded videos, graphics and photos. Kudos to those presenters.

And so my journey to completing my hours by the end of December is underway. I think I’ll do the rest of the time based on the titles of the presentations. I found two seminars that might work- Messy and Ugly Issues in Employment Law, and Hot Issues in Foreclosure Compliance. Wish me luck!

Adventures In Cooking: Occasional Miscues, And My $200 Sheperd’s Pie

Adventures In Cooking: Occasional Miscues, And My $200 Sheperd’s Pie

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I have always had an interest in cooking, and it started at a young age. I remember watching my mother cook dinner, and assisting a bit as well as well as getting tastes of what she was making. For some reason I had a fondness for slices of raw white potatoes, and those were on the menu a lot. Strange, but it worked for me!

She was an excellent home style cook- this was probably due to growing up on a farm, where her mom was responsible for feeding lots of family and hired workers on a regular basis. We still make a lot of my grandmother’s dishes, and I have several of her recipes written in her handwriting. They are more nostalgic than practical because she wrote things like “cook till done”, and listed ingredients in no particular order. Luckily, we deciphered them. My mom also cooked a lot from memory, but she also liked trying new recipes. At family gatherings, she and her extended family exchanged them. I still have my mom’s recipe box, with several of these- with names like Ag’s Beans, Sue’s Economy Casserole ( so named because the ingredients were expensive), and Leatrice’s Sheet Cake. I know exactly where these tried and true dishes came from since I knew the original cooks. It is a treasure to have them.

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My personal cooking adventure started with a Betty Crocker Cookbook For Boys And Girls that I received as a gift in fourth grade. I still have it! It was a fun way to make some dishes everyone might eat, and I tried most of them. I also got some credit for a Girl Scout badge along the way, so definitely a win/win. And I kept doing assistant duty for dinner.

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Cooking took a back seat as I got older and busier with sports and activities, but it kicked back in during law school. Fast food was expensive, so I learned a few basic dishes could make quickly. Not exactly gourmet standards, but edible and enough to get me through the semester. When I lived with three other law students my last year, cooking got a bit more complicated due to our small kitchen. That is when we discovered Domino’s Pizza, the only food you could get delivered in those days. We pooled our money and ate them way too often. I can say without exaggeration I haven’t eaten a Domino’s Pizza since graduating in the 1980’s.

Cooking took on a new life when I stayed home with my kids. Learning to cook healthy food that little ones and adults would eat was one of my major jobs in those days. Luckily, I still liked to cook, and started collecting cookbooks too. Every vacation, I would pick one up in a gift shop. This lead to a way too large collection, but I tried to use them all at some point.

I was always game to try a new recipe and had some funny moments along the way. One day, I decided to make home made runza’s. For those not familiar with them, they are a meat sandwich in a baked bun, about the size of a billfold, popular throughout the Midwest. My recipe called for using pre-made bread dough, and then putting the meat filling inside. I didn’t do something right, because when I checked on them, my runza’s were each the size of a large purse, and totally misshapen. I let them finish baking, and that didn’t help. Into the trash they went, never to be attempted again. Another misadventure was a ginger bread house one December. My daughter and I used a mold and made our own gingerbread. That seemed to go ok, until I took the last batch of gingerbread out of the oven and we started assembling the house. Our walls were so heavy, they barely stood up. The only rescue was to put pins into the walls to hold them together. Decorating was minimal because the house weighed so much we couldn’t touch it without almost causing a collapse.

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Unlike my maternal ancestors, I still use a recipe for most things, but I have mastered a few “go to” recipes of my own over the years. Many of them have “jiffy” in the title. So when Covid hit, and we were in the stay at home phase, I decided to do a combination of carry out from our local restaurants and cooking. Once the regular recipes were exhausted, it was time to try some new ones. A recipe that caught my eye was shepherd’s pie, a meat and vegetable dish topped with mashed potatoes. It served four, so we’d have leftovers for another day.

I got the ingredients I didn’t have an hand and started making the dish. Total cost: $10.00. You can use instant mashed potatoes, which have improved greatly over the years, but since I had time I made my own. The filling was made, and I put the dish together and popped it in the oven. Then I started the clean up process, including the pile of potato peels in the sink. Bad idea! The disposal made a strange grinding noise, and then quit working. The sink was full of backed up water, and the dishwasher was out of commission since it drains through the sink.

A call to a plumber, who was able to come relatively quickly, lead to an easy (for him) fix. He was at the house for less than an hour. So the total cost of my shepherd’s pie was $200.00- $10 for the ingredients, and $190 to the plumber, who charged more due to the weekend.

Luckily, the pie itself turned out pretty well, and we got more than one meal out of it. If I ever make it again, instant potatoes may be the route to take. I can’t afford to call the plumber whenever real potatoes are involved!

Teaching Is A Work Of Art

Teaching Is A Work Of Art

One of the things I like about social media is keeping up with friends and family, near and far. From first day of school photos to graduations, new babies to 90th birthdays, it makes people seem closer than they are, especially as we emerge from the pandemic. As a retired educator, I am very attuned to what my fellow teachers are doing, and my Facebook friends list includes teachers at every level. From Pre-K to graduate school, the school year is humming along. And this seems like an appropriate time to share some thoughts on teaching students of any age. So I share the five things I think every teachers knows.

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  1. The “Aha” Moment- when you present new material to students, you are trying to make sure that everyone in your class understands the concepts. There are a multitude of ways to do this, and they vary based on the grade level and content. Class presentations and discussions, written work, exams, role plays, small groups- the list goes on. No matter what method you are using, you are continually scanning the class to see how things are going- and you become an expert at gauging understanding. One of the best moments you can experience in class is seeing students begin to understand the content- and it is usually something you can see in their expressions. Teachers know this as the “aha moment”. It is like watching a light go in when the room has been dark. And it is one of the things I miss about teaching.
  2. Teachers Are Always Thinking Of New Ideas For Their Classes- I have been retired for over a year, and I still think of court cases or other current events in terms of how interesting it would be to share them with students. My office was located next to one of the teacher education classrooms for several years, and I enjoyed hearing the ways future teachers were learning how to work with students in creative and innovative ways. Their methods are based on research and curriculum decisions are made at administrative levels, but there is still a lot of creativity and spontaneity that occurs.
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3. Teachers Take A Lot Of Work Home- college professors have a more time outside the classroom than our K-12 colleagues, but we all work in the evening and on weekends. Grading was the primary work I did during those times, but administrative work, answering emails, and supervising part time faculty all took time and effort. K-12 teachers may also be working on advanced degrees. College faculty are expected to do research and contribute to their chosen field of study. The list goes on. Suffice it to say that teachers at any level are almost always working on something related to their jobs.

4. Teacher Tired Is A Thing-the beginning and end of every school year are very busy, but that isn’t the only time teachers are tired. Being in charge of a classroom is very intense work, and the younger the students, the more intense it can be. Lesson plans change in a matter of minutes, and there aren’t any breaks. Getting to the restroom is a challenge, and lunch time for K-12 teachers isn’t just fast, it’s usually less than 30 minutes. Keeping a schedule like this leads to fatigue of major proportions, aka Teacher Tired. When politicians complain about the amount of time teachers have off in the summer, or the size of their classes, I always think they would change their views if they spent a week in a grade school classroom. Better yet, that they take the students on a field trip, prepare them for standardized tests, and then analyze that data.

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5. Being A Teacher Is Who We Were Meant To Be-I used to teach a first year seminar class for our new students. On the first day of class, after I went over the syllabus, and did an ice breaker so that we could all get acquainted, I gave them some generic advice about the transition to college learning. One of my messages was about their professors. I told them that all of the professors I knew, myself included, loved the subject we taught. We could talk at length about obscure concepts with enthusiasm and energy they might find strange. But the take away was that while they may not love our subject, I hoped they would appreciate the breadth and depth of their instructor’s knowledge.

If you get a chance, thank a teacher you know this week. Their work is frequently undervalued, but it is one of the most important careers around. And I will close with a funny post pandemic bumper sticker I saw on a car recently. It said “You were wrong- my child isn’t a joy to have in the classroom”.

Where, Oh Where, Has Customer Service Gone?

Where, Oh Where, Has Customer Service Gone?

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Look at the happy row of customer service professionals in the photo- ready, willing and able to assist if you need help with their company’s products or services. They should be able to solve any problem, in a reasonable amount of time, to your satisfaction. In fact, there was a time when companies trained their staff with the following in mind: the customer is always right. Those were the days!

Customer service has changed quite a bit during my lifetime. A good example is at gas stations. In the 1985 movie Back to the Future, Michael J Fox’s character is sent back to the mid 1950’s. One of the best scenes when he is back in that decade is of a gas station, where the car pulls in and several guys in matching uniforms come out to help- one fills the tank, another washes the windows, and the third one checks the oil. The only thing they charged you for was the gas. I remember laughing out loud at the scene for two reasons- one, being amazed that type of service ever existed, and two, how far gone it was by the mid 1980’s. Little did we know gas stations were just the beginning.

Let’s start with the difficulty of reaching a human on the phone. You rarely can get to them without several screening questions- are you calling about a,b,c, d, e or f? Please enter your account number, first and last name, date of birth, blood type, address and phone number where you can be reached. Ok, I made up blood type, but you get the picture. Please also briefly state what your problem is- I have learned to just continually say “speak to a representative” until they send me to one. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

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And of course some humor is in order. This true story has been shared on my Facebook page in the past, but most blog readers didn’t see it there. It is the story of me trying to mail a birthday card to my daughter who lives in London. It goes like this- I have mailed lots of cards and packages to her over the time she has lived there. The cards usually cost about the same. So I went to the post office at my neighborhood grocery store a week before her birthday. The young man helping me weighed it and told me a price that didn’t seem right. So I asked him to check it again- he said yes, that’s the price to mail it to the Isle of Jersey. One of the channel islands between England and France. I said this card is going to London, but he said the postal code ( similar to a US zip code) that I wrote was for Jersey. I suggested he look at the list of postal codes in his machine. He said London wasn’t there.

I told him it had to be. It’s the capitol of England. No response. The Queen lives there. No glimmer of recognition. My last attempt was to mention the large ferris wheel, the London Eye, pictured above with Big Ben in the background. Still nothing. I politely asked him if someone else could help. He cheerfully said, no, I’m the only one. I gave up and let him charge me for sending it to the Isle of Jersey. It arrived in London, but not as quickly as it should have. Good grief.

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My next adventure in customer service is more recent, and it happened at the same store. I shop at this particular location because their product selection is excellent, and it’s close to my house. They were very helpful during the worst of the pandemic. The prices are a bit higher, but the quality is usually worth it, as well as the customer service. But recently, there has been a change in leadership at the store that hasn’t gone very well.

I noticed about six months ago that the usual managers weren’t there any more. This was part of a restructuring process mentioned in the news that seemed designed to eliminate assistant managers. Understandable, especially since Covid has converted many shoppers to totally online. But there are still plenty of people who like to shop in person, myself included.

Two incidents come to mind. The first was early on a Saturday night. Only four checkers were open, and they were all high school age. As several customers waited in line, all of the checkers had customers buying alcohol they were too young to ring up. So they all turned on their flashing lights. It took a long time but the lone manager went to the first checker, and helped her out. Then she walked away, ignoring the other three blinking lights. A man in front of me literally yelled “we still need help in these other lines”. The manager appeared startled, and came back and helped the other three. Bizarre at best.

And last but not least, the case of the disappearing bagger. The same store, about two weeks after the underage checker incident. I was waiting for my fairly large grocery order to be rung up, and the bagger was putting things in my cart. About half way through, I heard him ask the manager if he could go on break. It was indeed the same one from the underage checker evening. She told him yes, and he disappeared. In the middle of bagging my order. And she did too. So the checker and I got the rest of my order taken care of and put in my cart. Unbelievable.

This was enough for me to send an email to their corporate headquarters. I was polite but to the point. I received a reply that the store manager would contact me by phone. It has been over a week and no one has called. I am not optimistic that anyone ever will.

I can’t decide if I should admit defeat on this one or try to contact them again. Since I’m retired and not that busy I will probably try one more time. If I ever connect with the local manager I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I should probably look for a new place to shop, but hope springs eternal that things will improve at my formerly favorite store.

Traveling With Technology, Baby Boomer Edition

Traveling With Technology, Baby Boomer Edition

After several delays, we were able to travel to Denver this past weekend and see the Eagles, the quintessential Baby Boomer band, on their Hotel California tour. They play the entire album, and then two more hours of their greatest hits. This was our first trip in the age of Covid, but we decided the safety protocols on the airline and at the concert venue were in place, so off we went. I also decided to use as much technology as possible on this one. This had some comical results.

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Let’s start with all of the uses for your smart phone. I actually decided mine wasn’t so smart on this trip. It started with trying to download our boarding passes for the airline. They sent QR codes, not regular passes on the airline app. This didn’t work. So I went back to paper copies, which always work. Paper is reliable and doesn’t have internet disruptions, or user errors. Hooray that we can still use it!

We also needed our phones to check into the hotel, which went fine. But the room keys didn’t work as stated. They said we needed to use them to access our floor. I tried waving mine, swiping it, waving it again, and finally gave up. We sat in the elevator on the lobby floor until another older couple showed us you had to hold the key next to a round thing. No instructions for that! I paid this forward and rescued two other couples later in the day. They were very grateful. It’s one thing to stand in front of a sink where the water won’t turn on, or the paper towels won’t come out, waving your wrinkly old hands. Much more embarrassing on an elevator.

Next we had a question for the front desk. I picked up the landline and looked for the Front Desk button. Nowhere to be found. There were buttons for the closed restaurant, housekeeping, an outline, and gallery host. Tried them all, and none worked. Went to the lobby and they told me they are the gallery hosts. Not a gallery in site, but alrighty. But when a Boomer can’t figure out your landline, there is something really wrong with your phones.

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Next, we encountered the QR code problem. We found lots of outdoor seating options, but the restaurants in downtown Denver all use QR codes for you to access their menus. Most don’t even own paper copies. Our lovely server at the first restaurant tried to help us, but we have androids and she has always had Apple phones. Their website menu was out of date. We finally ordered burgers and they were fine. And we had to handle the check by ourselves with a small computer. Doesn’t anyone over 60 go out to eat there? This whole process took way too long.

Undeterred, we next decided to use a ride app to practice using one before the Saturday concert. Why have I just started using them? Well, we usually rent a car when we travel. But they are so over priced at the moment, we didn’t. So enter our use of the apps.

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We found a place to go, and I accessed the Lyft app to find a driver. It was easy to enter our hotel address, and our destination. Then I saw the name Scooter pop up, with a low price, and thought I was choosing our driver. I also thought that was the perfect name for a driver, and started clicking buttons. Luckily I soon figured out the Scooter option was for actual scooters- the electric ones you see all over. They are cheap because you rent them and drive them by yourself. Good grief, no. But I found a real driver and we made our first trip. Easy, peasy.

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When it came time for the concert, I felt like a pro. We had used both Uber and Lyft, and knew to check each for the best deal. So we got our ride to the concert arena, and had to use my hubby’s phone where the tickets were stored to get in. No way we could split them up, so he scanned the first one, and then the second. The turnstyle would only let him through, so I was told to hurry through at the same time. My skirt got got on the rod, and let’s just say it was weird and a bit of a show for the people behind me. Good grief.

After the concert ( it was fabulous by the way- go see them if you can), we knew to wait awhile before ordering our ride to the hotel so that prices would come down. And we did get a better deal by waiting. They even had a designated area for Uber and Lyft pick ups. At the end of the night, I felt downright Millenial in my ability to use the apps. No more scooter mistakes for me!

As we made our way home through the Denver airport, I was struck by the long lines and size of the place. It is under construction, and they are adding a lot more automation- not only will you tag your own bags, they will be weighed and sent to the plane without a human touching them for quite awhile. Gate agents will only be checking id’s and boarding passes. This is opening in November, so be aware if you fly there. And don’t pack anything too valuable in your checked luggage!

As we were riding an escalator to the terminal train, I noticed an advertisement for bitcoin. I looked up a definition and it mentioned “vitual” and “crypto” currency. It is the subject of numerous court cases, which have ruled it is a currency and subject to regulation by the SEC. But it seems a bit like the wild, wild west in the way it is being used. So I plan to stick with my old fashioned dollars and cents, and sincerely hope we can can use them without interruption for the foreseeable future. I need to figure out QR codes before I learn more about this mysterious money!

You’ve Heard Of “Karen”? Let’s Add “Kurt” To The List Of Obnoxious People

You’ve Heard Of “Karen”? Let’s Add “Kurt” To The List Of Obnoxious People

One of the most puzzling derogatory nicknames of recent memory is the use of the name Karen and the numerous stories about her in the internet. A common definition of its current use is as follows: a pejorative term for women who feel entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is normal. (Wikipedia- a source I never allowed my college students to use, but this is a blog, so why not?). I think Karen needs a male counterpart, and I am naming him Kurt. More about him later.

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First, I must mention that I have friends and family members named Karen, and they are delightful people and nothing like the common use of the name now. I was curious about how this all got started and there isn’t a definitive answer. One suggestion was that the 2004 movie Mean Girls had a character named Karen. But that was long before this use became common. One of the most plausible answers I found was that a meme showed up in 2016 after Nintendo ran an add that mentioned “Antisocial Karen” who always brought her Nintendo Switch to parties. This seems more likely to me, so we will go with it for this post. As someone who had to do precise research and writing with academic/legal sources, I find the ability to use whatever definition I like on my blog a wonderful thing. But I digress.

Over time, Antisocial Karen got shortened to just Karen. The best photo depicting her I could find on my free Pexels account is above- she is older than the original Karen, but it has no age limit. She is the type of person who demands instant service wherever she goes, and asks to see the manager if anything is not up to her standards. In the photo above, Karen does not like the look of those birthday brownies one bit. In fact, she hates them. And she doesn’t want her picture taken. Even if she made the brownies, they are not up to her standards.

My research also found Karens referred to as entitled forty something soccer moms with short blonde hair, and a white woman walking her dog in New York who called the police because a Black man was sitting on a bench near her. Sitting for pete’s sake. She didn’t just want to speak to a manager. She wanted to speak to the police manager. For Karens of any age, if something shocks them they are referred to as “clutching their pearls”. If they are from the South, they could also be saying ” I do declare”. You get the idea.

While there is some humor in all of this, I think it is very unfair to limit the meme to women. Haven’t we all had some interactions with less than pleasant guys? So I think Karen needs a male counterpart, and I am calling him Kurt.

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava on

Let’s use the photo above as our prototypical Kurt. He is a guy who doesn’t just mow his lawn, he sculpts it. He has multiple lawn mowers, edgers, leaf blowers, spreaders, and the biggest garage he can afford to hold all of his equipment. No riding mowers for Kurt- he likes the old fashioned push type. He mows at least twice a week, especially if one of his next door neighbors has done so. He uses an edger and cuticle scizzors for the small spots the edger can’t reach. His driveway is regularly cleaned, and he caulks it annually. He is outside all the time when he is home.

Kurt is the type of guy who takes up way too much room on public transportation, even when others are left standing. Mansplaining is also a problem. This happens when a man explains something in a patronizing manner to a woman. When author Janay Kingsberry asked her Instagram followers to send her examples of this, she got over 200 responses. Two of my favorites- a male client telling his experienced female trial attorney how a trial worked, and a man telling a woman that childbirth doesn’t hurt. You can’t make this stuff up.

Kurt may not ask to see the manager as much because he spends so much time in his yard, but he likes to lurk on neighborhood apps and post replies to every topic. He is an expert on several. He also doesn’t have any pearls to clutch, but he is grouchy. He spends a lot of time in his front yard pulling weeds and lets out loud sighs and groans with regularity. If you walk by with a dog on a leash but without a bag to pick up their waste, you will get a loud double groan, followed by a sigh. If you live in a neighborhood with covenants that govern property appearance and upkeep, Kurt is the guy you want on that committee. You might as well have him there because he is going to report all of the violations anyway.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on

I think we also need a subgroup of Kurts for older guys. Retired Kurt likes to do yoga in his backyard and needs silence to do it. He also loves to keep his lawn in tip top shape, but hires some of it out. This gives him a chance to supervise the lawn staff with great gusto, which he misses from his managerial working days. He plans to take up Tai Chi in the near future, and will require even more quiet time from his neighbors to do so. He has insomnia and tends to be up very late at night, monitoring his new security cameras, especially the one in his doorbell. Have a break in or property destruction at your house? Retired Kurt just might have a video you can give to the authorities.

So there you have it- my take on the state of entitled people that walk among us. Maybe we can get Kurt to trend along with Karen if we encounter obnoxious guys. Or not. Either way, I had a lot of fun writing this and trying to get some equality going in the world of memes.

Playing Competitive Sports- The Good, The Bad, And The Funny

Playing Competitive Sports- The Good, The Bad, And The Funny

The summer of 2021 provided a lot of sports to follow for those who are so inclined, from the Tokyo Olympics to local baseball and swimming. As someone who has played competitive sports most of my life, I think this is a good time to reflect on the good, not so good, and funny aspects of these endeavors.

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I learned to play tennis at the ripe old age of five, and participated in my first tournament at age six. Although the equipment was very different ( racquets were made of wood), I remember being about the same height as the net. So the above photo from Pexels media fits.

Everything was fun- I liked the sport, you only played in the summer, and lots of kids my age learned to play at the same time. Tournaments were very low key, and we were all fairly evenly matched. This continued until middle school, when you moved on to more practicing and tournaments if you were progressing in the sport. Eventually, it included travelling around the Midwest to more competitive play, but remained a good experience.

There were occasional glimpses into the less desirable aspects of kids sports- over zealous parents, kids who broke rackets on the court, and some cheating. But overall, it was a good activity from my point of view. Especially since Title IX hadn’t come around, so school sponsored competitive sports for girls were non-existent.

The funniest thing that happened to me was the time I was playing in a tournament out of town and I got a fly stuck in my ear during a singles match. You can’t take breaks other than to switch sides on the court, so my “fly in the ear” issue could have made me default and lose the match. Luckily, the tournament director took pity on me, and let me get it out. This involved lots of jumping around, shaking my head, and some tweezers. And I managed to finish, and win, the match.

My next phase of competitive sports was as a parent, and this started with micro soccer for my kids. Micro is for 4-6 year olds, and is played on a short field, without goalies. The kids can run, kick the ball, and shoot at will. No score is kept, and all of the players get a chance to play.

The above photos sum it up pretty well- varying levels of participation is the norm. Some kids run all over, some never move. If you have a very reluctant player, parents can take the child on the field and swing them like a pendulum so that their feet connect with the ball. And some kids sit out the entire time, or decide to play goalie even though there aren’t supposed to be any.

If you want to pursue soccer and play in high school or beyond, you have to switch to try out teams and year round playing by about fifth grade. This is true of other team sports, but I am most familiar with soccer.

The select teams and year round play weren’t my favorite thing, and it has only gotten more serious and competitive since my kids were young. I think playing a variety of sports is better than hyper focusing at such a young age. But if you want the best coaching, it tends to be on the select teams. And keeping kids physically active, and away from electronics, has some merit.

There were fun and funny aspects to some of the soccer games and tournaments. At one game, when my daughter was about 12, we were playing in a nearby city on a cloudy afternoon. Sitting with our team’s parents, I noticed the opposing parents arriving late, and several of them had large coolers on wheels. I thought they really went all out and brought food and drinks for their team.

Au contraire, naive soccer mom. The coolers were full of beer- tall boys to be exact- and by the end of the match many of the other team’s parents were well lubricated. And as the match ended, it started to rain. Two of the more colorful dads on the other team decided to start wrestling in the middle of the field, which quickly turned to mud. A teachable moment for ourgirls.

The other most memorable time was at a tournament in Kansas City. Our coach was in charge of two teams- ours and a group of younger girls, so we all stayed at the same hotel. They offered free breakfast and cocktails each evening, so what’s not to love? At the first night’s free cocktails, some of the moms on the second team decided to do cartwheels in the bar. The girls were there, and thought this was embarrassing but funny.

Some of the moms on our team, yours truly included, weren’t drinking, but decided to try some cartwheels too. But we went to our floor, and tried this in the hallway. It didn’t go too well. Let’s just say the center of gravity had shifted for all of us, who were in our 40’s at the time. So partial cartwheels were all we could muster, and I am being generous calling them partial. As luck would have it, our daughters came upon us trying to do this. They all thought we were inebriated when we really were just old and a bit pudgy. Thankfully, this was before smart phones and videos.

My adult years in sports started with some women’s tennis teams that were part of a program throughout the country sponsored by the USTA. This offered great competition, and if you won at the local level, you could play regionally and nationally. I enjoyed the first few years, but eventually the competition really got out of hand.

Cheating was rampant the closer you got to qualifying for the regional event. This was done through bad line calls- yelling “out” when a ball was clearly in. It topped anything I ever encountered in my younger days, including playing in college. Something about getting those crystal paper weights shaped like tennis balls as prizes turned several women into nasty opponents. So between that and several injuries, I gave up the game and switched to golf. I know better than to play golf for anything other than fun, so no stories about competition gone awry there.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

My current competitive sport is pickleball. It is a recent sport, developed by older folks, who still want to play a racket sport but need some adaptations. So it is played on a smaller, modified version of a tennis court, with large plastic balls, and a small racket that resembles a ping pong paddle. Games are usually doubles, and the first team to 11 points wins. It is great exercise and easy to learn.

But like all sports there are some interesting things that happen, especially if Baby Boomers are involved. Outside of cities that have lots of retired folks (like Phoenix), games are co-ed. This creates some awkward moments when some of the older guys assume they are better players than all of the older women. This leads to lots of unsolicited advice about strokes and strategy.

I can usually hold my own with the guys since it is very similar to tennis, but the advice still rears its head occasionally. I used to ignore it, but have now developed the perfect comeback- “That’s interesting. I’ll let you know if I need any help”. The other way to nip it in the bud is to win a few points by myself.

I avoided learning to play pickleball for quite awhile because I thought the name was so strange. But once I took it up, I found it to be great exercise and one of the most inexpensive hobbies around. It’s also way more fun than a treadmill or exercise class, so I usually play several times a week.

I plan to play golf and pickleball for as long possible. Even with the occasional three putt at golf or missed shots on the pickleball court, these are great hobbies that keep me out of trouble in my retired years. But I’ve only been retired for 15 months, so there’s still time for some strange things to happen. I’ll save those for a future post!

2021 Technology And Other Things Our Elders Would Find Amusing

2021 Technology And Other Things Our Elders Would Find Amusing

Being raised in the agricultural part of the Midwest gives you an appreciation for wide open spaces, stewardship of resources, and farmers who work very hard to produce crops and livestock to feed the world. Regular blog readers will know that my parents were raised on farms in western Iowa, and three of my four grandparents were as well. Our roots here are deep, dating from the 1850’s. I was raised in a large city close to the farms, but I have relatives who still live there or in the small towns nearby.

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My grandparents lived on their farms until they were in their later years. As is the custom, they “moved to town” and relatives did the farm work. I saw them frequently, and other than my maternal grandfather, they lived long lives. I don’t think their generation ever had a name. Their children, however, were part of the Greatest Generation that came of age during the Depression and World War II. My parents lived and worked in the city, but remained very connected to their rural roots. Both generations were used to limited resources and periods of hardship, being very attuned to the weather, and limited modern conveniences. I frequently think that they would find things we experience regularly in 2021 as strange, funny, or both. So here’s my list.

Photo by Simon Berger on

Weather– this is great place to start, because farmers follow the weather closely since their livelihood depends on it. Our local tv stations still focus on the weather a lot because of our location. But most of their forecasts are wrong, and would probably get a chuckle from the elders.

Let’s start with naming weather events and winter storms. This has happened a lot in recent years. I have learned what derecho is (basically a bad wind storm). We have also had winter storm names for about 10 years, courtesy of The Weather Channel. Anybody remember Snowstorms Abigail, Billy or Constance from 2020? Me neither.

I think my elders would have found all of this strange, and a little silly. In the Midwest, we have winter storms. Lots of them. They can occur anytime from October to April. Sometimes we get a lot of snow, and wind that creates large snow drifts. We don’t name these events, but we do occasionally remember a really bad storm by its year- The Blizzard of ’52. That could be 1852 or 1952- these tend to live in infamy. To get a year of remembrance, it has to be really, really bad- several feet of snow, huge drifts that close roads, and being home bound for days.

The other thing they might have found amusing is the “wind chill factor”. My elders would have layered up or down depending on what the weather was like, and it really didn’t matter how cold it was. The work had to be done regardless. Cold is cold, and in January and February this isn’t much a surprise. Bundle up and head out the door.

What did they rely on? They had rain gauges, outdoor thermometers, and windmills. Radio stations gave a lot of weather information. And don’t forget the Farmer’s Almanac-still in print and probably as accurate as some of our local tv forecasts, which are notoriously wrong. This in spite of super duper 4d doppler radar. They do well with severe weather as it is occurring- but forecasts? Not so much.

All of this has created a strange mix of skepticism and panic among the locals in the winter. If you live in a city, it’s pretty rare to be home bound by the weather in 2021, but there is something in the dna of most of us that creates a rush to the grocery store if any snow is predicted. Add in Covid shortages and it was survival of the fittest getting bread, milk and the holy grail of toilet paper last winter.

Photo by Pixabay on

Technology- fancy watches that are basically a computer on your arm would have been a true wonder for the elders. Their telephones didn’t arrive until the 1930’s, and were party lines since they lived in the country. No need for social media when you can just pick up the phone and eavesdrop! They found radio broadcasts and eventually television entertaining, but anything beyond that was a bridge too far.

The first technology I tried to introduce to my parents was a VCR in the 1990’s. They had grandkids visiting who wanted to watch videos, and I thought they would find it helpful. It didn’t quite work out that way- even with step by step written directions, they couldn’t get it to work unless one of said grandchildren was there to help. When we sold their house in the mid 2000’s the VCR was still there, flashing “12:00”, connected to an ancient tv in the basement. But they did try.

In fairness I should mention that my mom learned to use email in her later years. She never mastered initiating one, but she was able to reply and that was useful to stay in touch with far flung children and grandkids as they went off to college. The speed of her computer was a challenge since a dial up modem was her preferred connection to the internet for many years. But we got that changed at some point, and it worked pretty well.

The things we do with all of our technology would have been a surprise as well. I think endless selfies and pictures of food that is about to be eaten would rank as the two of the most curious photos that are shared on social media. I also find these amusing, so that is probably an indication that I am in the elder years now too. But I do have Twitter and Snapchat accounts, and I even know what Tik Tok is, although I doubt I will ever post a video unless Geriatric Tik Tok becomes a thing.

Other Stuff-The immediacy of everything would also have been a surprise. There wasn’t any fast food or meal prep delivery, so meals took time to prepare and were almost always eaten at home. Farm wives also knew how to cook for a crowd since it was expected when hired help was around.

Newspapers were powerful vehicles for communicating, and fortunes were built from their ownership. The idea that someday they wouldn’t be mailed or delivered to your door wouldn’t have occurred to them.

I think the lack of civility and being a good neighbor that seems prevalent today wouldn’t just surprise them, it would probably make them sad too. In order to survive in our harsh weather, farming communities have always been among the most helpful and friendly. Long before Go Fund Me and Meal Train websites, my elders helped anyone in need that they knew about.

This continued when we moved to the city where I still live. There were only 300,000 people in Omaha when I was born the 1950’s. According to the most recent census, we are nearing 1million. That is getting too large for me, but I like the fact that there are still a lot of small town traditions that carry on.

On the local news recently, there was a story about 10,000 donated backpacks filled with school supplies for children in need. When the pandemic closed city swimming pools last summer, a local donor paid to open them. Food banks and local churches have been doing heroic work as families continue to struggle with the effects of the Covid pandemic. This sense of community and generosity is so common here I think we take it a bit for granted. I hope it never goes away.

So how will technology affect us in the future? What will happen when the drone delivers dinner to our front doors, and we can’t find the family robot to retrieve it? I think it’s safe to say there are inventions on the horizon that we will find curious and amusing. Hopefully our children and grandchildren will keep their Boomer elders up to speed as we learn the new fangled things that become essential to everyday life. And as a Facebook post I once saw said, they should always have patience and keep in mind that we once taught them all how to use a spoon!

Interesting Coworkers

Interesting Coworkers

As people head back to the office after working at home, I thought this would be a good time to reminisce about interesting coworkers I have encountered over the years. From the early days working during high school and college, to the really interesting years as a college professor, I give you a veritable who’s who of my working colleagues.

Photo by Gary Barnes on

My first paid position was working as a waitress at a local restaurant called King’s Food Host. It was an early fast food chain in the Midwest known for its burgers and malts. In addition to waitress work, I also made some of the food on the weekends. My coworkers were primarily teenagers, and we had a good time working together. Our manager, who had just started dating his future wife, wasn’t around much. So we had free reign as long as the customers were taken care of and we cleaned up at the end of the day. We also wore lovely teal polyester pantsuits as our uniform. Ugly, but sturdy.

When things were slow, we had time to chat and make ourselves food. One favorite activity was putting candy bars in the malt machine and making new flavors. There was a boyfriend/girlfriend pair of workers who ducked into the cooler periodically for some private time. Occasional water fights between the dishwashers. But overall a fun place to work.

Other part time jobs followed: more waitressing, a photography studio, and teaching tennis lessons. The photo studio and tennis lessons were fun and pretty stress free. The waitressing was at a Pizza Hut, and it was the low point of my part time jobs- low pay, low tips and low morale among the workers. But one group always seemed to be smiling, and that was the cooks. The only perk of the job was taking home a free pizza at the end of the night. I found out later the cooks laced their pizzas with marijuana every night. No wonder they were very protective of their food, and ever so mellow on the job.

Photo by August de Richelieu on

None of this prepared me for the workplace after law school. My first job was at bank, and it included a lot time crunching numbers, drafting documents and reviewing regulations. There weren’t a lot of women in professional level jobs, and all of the senior executives were men old enough to be my dad. You could smoke at your desk, and there were a lot of smokers in my department. Really kind of a Mad Men atmosphere, but in the 80’s. The only fun part of the day was going to lunch, and that hour went by way too quickly. I kept a jar of jelly beans on my desk, along with a recipe card. Combine a coconut, with a pineapple and it was a pina colada. Other than that, it was a keep your head down, don’t ask too many questions kind of place.

None of these experiences prepared me for my years working at a college. Academia has a well earned reputation for having shall we say “quirky” folks working there. It is well earned. Here are a few of my favorites. No names are mentioned, but work friends will recognize some of them.

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Let’s start with adminsitrative assistants. My first week at the college, with only two weeks until classes started, was very hectic. The admin assistant I shared with other faculty split her time between two buildings. She left me some office supplies, and then went to the other building. I rarely saw her after that. She somehow managed to always be en route to the other building when you needed her. She also had a knack for snagging things she needed, like the window air conditioner in my office, and installing it in hers. I couldn’t prove it, but I knew it was her. She had some foot issues, so she used a cane. This didn’t stop her from being amazingly shifty and hard to find.

She was supposed to work from 8 am- 5 pm, but frequently claimed to be coming in at 6 am, which no one could verify, and then leaving by 3. She had a great affinity for two older science professors who never really learned to use their computers. She liked to do their typing, and make them coffee, and they were happy to monopolize her time.

One day, she was asked to go into a messy office left by another professor who was gone for the summer, and clean out his file cabinet. Offices were being renovated, and it had to be done. When she opened the middle file drawer, she found a long deceased mouse family. After a loud scream, she somehow pulled the cabinet over, and it landed on her good foot. This unfortunate accident lead to a worker’s compensation claim, months of rehab, and ultimately her early retirement.

Two other interesting assistants- one unique character who wore blue rubber gloves every day. This was long before Covid. Her reason? She claimed to be allergic to paper. I did a google search and can’t find any indication this is a legitimate allergy, but if it is, working as an admin assistant doesn’t make much sense. The other was a long time assistant who was being let go for what appeared to be legitimate reasons, and decided to yell about it on her way out of the building. And I mean yell. Years later I heard that she may have been working under an assumed name due to some type of legal problems in her family.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on

But I am saving my all time favorites for last- the IT department, and accounts payable. I have a photo of an empty room above because that was a common occurrence when trying to teach. Somehow, access to the Internet, and having everything function properly in our classrooms, was an ongoing challenge. As a small school one would think this would be avoidable. A typical problem- I remember one day trying to play a dvd on the new desktop computer in class. I also had the monitor displayed on the screen in the room. I had used this DVD numerous times, and nothing seemed to be working. I tried calling the “emergency” IT number, and no one answered. No surprise there. Mercifully, a student came in late who said another professor had the same issue, and she knew what to do- press the icon on the screen that looked like an orange traffic cone. I did, and voila! The dvd popped up. Because nothing says “click here to play a DVD” like an orange traffic cone!

And last but not least, getting a bill paid or reimbursement for a work expense. The long time occupant of this job was so unpleasant, I nicknamed her Ms. Congeniality. My first skirmish with her was after attending a conference out of town. I turned in my bill for four days of breakfast at the hotel. The bill just said “breakfast”. She refused to pay it because it wasn’t itemized, and there could have been alcohol on the bill. Alrighty. Duly noted. She once threw a check at a colleague. Several staff members refused to deal with her. There was also a huge lead time for any check to be written, and holidays (campus and her vacation days) really added to it. So if you needed any checks written between October 1st and January 15th, you needed to get your request and detailed documentation in by about the first week of September. I am not making this up.

Luckily, I had the good fortune to work with some excellent admin assistants during my last few years, and the college started using credit cards for conference payments and most expenses. Admin assistants could make the charges for faculty, and help with the documentation. It was a wonderful way to avoid the previous unnecessary stress.

If you are working from home, heading back to school or the office, or are happily retired, I hope you have enjoyed this trip down coworker memory lane, and had a few laughs along the way.

Dating In The 70’s, 90’s and Beyond

Dating In The 70’s, 90’s and Beyond

I recently watched the classic teen dating movie, Grease, as an afternoon’s entertainment. It gave me the idea for this week’s blog post about dating over the decades, and how it has changed. I couldn’t find any free photos of the movie or the cast, so some others will have to suffice this week. But who can forget the fabulous outfits Olivia Newton John wore, or the classic songs like Summer Nights?

Photo by Bruno Cantuu00e1ria on

I will start with dating in the 70’s, since that is the decade during my teen years. In junior high, which was grades 7 and 8, the idea of having boyfriends started to materialize. It usually consisted of telling your friends you liked someone, word got back to the someone you liked, and then they might call you on the phone. Boys were the only ones who did the calling in those quaint times. And they used those colorful landlines we had on our houses, when only one person could be on them at a time. This limited time talking on the phone, and any budding relationships didn’t amount to much.

The next phase was meeting people you liked at the local skating rink on Friday night, or at a movie at the mall. Our local rink, called Skateland, was full every weekend with junior high aged kids from all over town. Skating to “couples” songs was popular, and it was the only way you would see any potential boyfriends that didn’t go to your school. As for movies, the main one I remember seeing was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were at their most dashing, and our six theatre location at the mall played it every weekend for a couple of years. I think I saw it about 30 times, mostly with female friends, but there were boys in the auditorium, so we counted that as a social outing with the opposite sex.

Photo by Laura Stanley on

Fast forward to high school, and the real dating began. There were lots of customs and family rules about dating- many girls, myself included, weren’t supposed to date anyone until we were 16. Boys were still the ones who called girls. Even if you had a boyfriend, the boy was still the only one who called. And unless you had the coveted “teenline” phone, you still had to limit your conversations. This was very constraining for those of us at all girl high schools because you didn’t see your boyfriends at school.

The main social activities were sporting events, like football and basketball games that the all male high schools had, and dances hosted by various schools. My all girl high school used the money raised at dances to pay for prom that we hosted during our junior year. We had live bands, and usually a very good turnout, so they were profitable. The bands didn’t look much like the one below, but that is best photo I could find.

Photo by cottonbro on

At least one funny story of course- my dad was always willing to pick my friends and me up from dances at midnight. Did I appreciate this? Not really. Too self centered and focused on the dance. And I was horrified one night to come out of the gym as the dance ended to find my 60 year old father in the lobby of the school, wearing a long winter coat, Russian style fur cap, and unzipped, black rubber boots, which he called “galoshes”. He was reading something on a bulletin board. I kind of motioned to him that we were ready to leave and ran outside.

Fast forward to my children’s preteen and teen years. This was before cell phones and social media, but the dating terminology had all changed. I remember when my oldest was about 12 and she said some of her friends were “going out” with boys in her class. I was really caught off guard by this. To Boomer parents, going out meant you were at least 16, and a boy picked you up in a car, was required to speak to your parents, and you actually went somewhere. I thought that parents of fifth graders were driving their kids on dates, and frankly that they had lost their minds. What was the rush?

Eventually I figured out this meant that a girl liked a boy, and usually the boy liked the girl, but this wasn’t always the case. I think sometimes a girl liked a certain boy, and she told her female friends about it, so they considered them to be “going out”. The boy may not have known, so an entire relationship could begin and end without him being involved. But at least they weren’t actually dating.

When they did start dating, the old rules of only boys calling went by the wayside, which was probably good. I did have some boy moms tell me that there were girls who called their sons way too much, but for the most part it was all pretty normal stuff. High school had its challenges with keeping track of everyone, but cell phones came into play during those years, so at least we had a way to communicate, assuming they left them turned on.

And finally, dating in the new millennium, after the internet changed all the rules. Now single people looking for dates had online options galore- there were services based on psychological tests, interests, religion, geographic location and occupation (, and on and on.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on

Although I have never experienced online dating, I have friends who have done so in their fifties and sixties. Of course there are sites just for this age group, but they aren’t fool proof. I had a friend who was recently divorced who joined a dating site. She posted her profile, and got several “matches” right away, but didn’t respond immediately. A couple of nights later, she had insomnia and pulled up her profile just in time to see one of her matches delete her at 3 am. It was weird to say the least. I had another friend who told me tales of agreeing to meet online dating possibilities for a drink, only to discover they looked nothing like their profile photos. And a third friend waited for a potential date at a bar and he was late. When he finally arrived, he spent the entire time talking about his ex wife and re-arranging his prosthetic ear. She could deal with the ear, but not in combination with the too recent divorce.

Luckily, I also know of many happy matches that have been made online, and this applies to all ages. It is one of the better aspects of the internet. Plus, with social media, you can find out a lot about a person online before you ever agree to meet in person.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down the memory lane of dating. I wonder what it will be like for our grandkids’ generation- virtual dances? Speed dating on Zoom? Time will tell. I hope they have fun, and also have time for some old fashioned dances and afternoon movies. Those really were the best of times.

P.S.- I will be taking a summer break from blogging and plan to be back in mid August. Have a fabulous rest of the summer!

Advice From A Professional Nap Taker

Advice From A Professional Nap Taker

Sleep, glorius sleep. We need it to survive, and the amount we get has been the subject of medical studies for years. Ask any parent, especially a first time one with a newborn, what they think about the most, and sleep ( both theirs and the baby’s) will be near the top of the list. As someone who takes a lot of naps, I thought I’d share my advice, and of course some humor, about the subject.

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Some interesting research on the subject of sleeping, and naps. A third of all Americans take a daily nap, with the number rising to 52% for those over 80. Research shows that naps can improve memory when studied in a lab setting. To “nap well”, experts recommend taking them in the early afternoon, for about half an hour to avoid interfering with your nighttime sleep. Interestingly, the Pew Research Center and CDC also report that 10-30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.

My relationship with napping goes back to age three and my aversion to taking them- Long before I was a Nana, I was pretty funny is my first blog post that includes a humorous story about it. As a kid, I remember being full of energy and happily busy- tennis, music and dance lessons, Girl Scouts, playing with friends, and family gatherings. As an extrovert with a capital E, I enjoyed everything I could be involved in. The busier, the better.

A major change to this started in high school, a few weeks before graduation. My activities were numerous, and I also had a part time job at a local restaurant ( Kings Food Host for any Nebraska natives reading this), and was happily looking forward to a fun summer before starting college in the fall. A scratchy throat and being more tired than usual didn’t change my schedule much, but by early June I was in the hospital with a nasty case of mono, where I stayed for a week. The rest of the summer was a lot of staying home, resting, and not having any energy.

I started taking regular naps that summer and continued when school started in the fall. They were really a necessity, and I can honestly say that I never got my pre-mono energy back. Not just that summer, but ever. So my professional napping was underway, to be developed and refined over the years to come.

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A couple of funny stories about my naps. First, I took a fairly long snooze on a congressman’s couch. Not as nefarious as it sounds! A friend was the chief of staff for our congressional representative, and I was visiting the Capitol Building while he worked there. My usual afternoon, I really need to sleep time occurred, so the friend offered the couch in the office. Luckily, the congressman was not in Washington at the time. But a fun story nevertheless.

Another time I was in dire need of an afternoon nap, and I decided to squeeze one in before I picked up my grade school aged children from school. This was in the days of landlines, so I turned the ringer off to avoid being awakened. I underestimated how long I would sleep, and to my horror woke up about 45 minutes after I should have been there. I quickly called the school office and the lovely secretary, Pat, was glad to hear I was alive. When the girls weren’t picked up, she had arranged for another mother ( and neighbor) to bring them home, called my mom and spouse, and was waiting to hear from them if I was ok. I walked outside just in time for said neighbor, my mom, and spouse all to arrive in my driveway at the same time. It was the only time I missed a pick up in decades of parenting, but it has grown in legend over the years when my kids tell the tale.

Fast forward to my late thirties, and my need for naps increased exponentially. I told my doctors about the crushing fatigue, but they usually blamed it on parenting young kids, working part time and having a very full schedule. Luckily, I finally got a diagnoses of fibromyalgia and some relief from a rheumatologist. I don’t have as much of the muscle soreness as many people do, but the fatigue portion of the illness is very prevalent. They recommend avoiding caffeine and naps, but increasing aerobic activity, which is counterintuitive if you are exhausted. The only prescription that offers any relief for me is a low dose muscle relaxant. They also recommended a sleep study, where I found out that I also had sleep apnea.

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So what’s a tired person to do with all of this information? Get checked for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Listen to your docs, use what works for you, and adapt the rest. I do get aerobic exercise, but I still drink caffeine, and take lots of naps. I find the CDC info above to be too limiting- thirty minutes just isn’t enough time for a decent nap in my book. I find at least an hour beneficial. Take advantage of any space you can find for your rest- the napper in the above photo is living her best life by taking a nap while studying. Kudos to her. Avoiding caffeine in the evening is a good idea, but if you need some earlier in the day to function, have at it! If you snore, get tested for sleep apnea and use the cpap machine or dental appliance they recommend. They work wonders. And ignore anyone who doesn’t understand your need for extra rest, especially if you have one of the aforementioned chronic illnesses. The old adage of “you don’t look sick” comes to mind, and is utterly useless and dismissive.

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I will close with a funny story from a vacation. Two years ago, I went on the bucket list trip of a lifetime to Ireland, land of many of my maternal ancestors. I spent a year planning the trip, and made all of the arrangements myself. Between Trip Advisor, some Irish cousins, and a tour guide book my husband and I were set for what turned out to be a fabulous journey. I decided to book seats on Aer Lingus for the overseas flights, and got a great deal on the tickets. Off we went, arriving in Dublin on time with all of our luggage.

After sailing through customs, I was really congratulating myself on my planning skills, and even more so as we sailed through the streets of Dublin quickly and got to our first hotel. Somewhere on that cab ride it occurred to me why our tickets were so reasonable, and why everything went so fast. We landed at 6 am local time. The photo above shows the River Liffey in Dublin at dawn, about the time we arrived. No wonder there weren’t very many people in the international terminal at the airport. And our hotel? We got there before 8 am, and check in time wasn’t until noon. Oops.

I didn’t sleep much on the plane, and was in desperate need of a nap. So we took our luggage and found an empty couch in the lobby. I started out sitting upright, but fell asleep very quickly and didn’t wake up for quite awhile. My husband didn’t need the rest, so he sat across from me and watched our luggage. When I did finally wake up, stretched out on the couch like a bed, I felt a lot better. Hubby was still there, and had located some coffee. The only strange thing was that even though there were a lot of people in the lobby at that point, no one was anywhere near my couch. Apparently, my long siesta without my cpap machine ( which was in the luggage) produced some epic snoring and cleared our side of the lobby. It should come as no surprise that our room became available before noon too. I think the hotel staff wanted to get the snoring American out of the lobby as quickly as possible.

So my advice is to nap when you need to, enjoy it all you can, and ignore anyone who doesn’t understand. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!

Adventures In Weight Loss, Covid Edition

Adventures In Weight Loss, Covid Edition

Regular readers of the blog will remember a prior post on January 4, 2021 entitled Adventures In Weight Loss. It detailed my many years of weight managment, and was one of the posts that generated the most readers and responses. So today, I am sharing a sequel to that post, Adventures In Weight Loss, Covid Edition.

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As the world is emerging from the pandemic, there are a lot of positive things happening- getting together with family and friends is at the top of the list for most people. And those get togethers are moving from gatherings in the back yard to restaurants and larger events like wedding receptions. In addition to the happiness of reconnecting, most of us are also celebrating with food. One big problem, however, is that many of us never disconnected from food during our days at home. In fact, we took our relationship with it to a whole new level.

Think back to spring 2020 and the beginning of the lock down. Most of us were suddenly at home all the time, and restaurants were closed. What did most of us do? We started cooking and eating at home. For my generation, this wasn’t quite as big of an adjustment as it was for our adult children. We grew up before the era of fast food on every corner, and regularly sat down for evening meals cooked at home. In the Midwest, our agricultural roots also produced some really great comfort food cooks- my grandmothers, mom and aunts fit this description to a “t”. Organized sports were usually connected to neighborhood schools and fields. Moms weren’t driving kids to practices and games every night, and that was a good thing since many families only had one car.

But raising kids in the 80’s and 90’s was very different. Fast food was not only available, it was a huge help as we drove kids to and from activities. The days of sports, dance classes, and other childhood endeavors all being within walking distance were long gone. So our Millennial kids were used to food on the go, and Baby Boomer parents got used to not cooking nearly as much as our parents did. Our kids are now parents too, and busy schedules are still the norm.

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So what did the suddenly home bound people do? Started cooking, and looking for new things to try. This worked pretty well, but it also led to making desserts. Because if you have lots of time, you might as well do dessert too. Some people like savory foods, but for me, sweets have always been my preference. And why stop at dessert? Might as well have some cookies and cinnamon rolls around for snacks. They were delish, and we gobbled them up. Homemade without preservatives- better eat them before they go to waste!

After a few weeks, restaurants started partially reopening and doing creative things to stay in business- carry out orders, and even cocktails to go. We wanted to support our local establishments, and to break up the week, so we ordered carry out from some of our favorite local places. And they had delicious desserts too. Might as well give them as much business as possible!

All of this eating had the normal results- even though we did try to get some exercise, it wasn’t nearly enough to counteract the shut down eat-a-thon. I gained weight, and so did a lot of others. You’ve heard of the “freshman fifteeen”? The typical weight gain of a first year college student? This is kind of like that, except now we’re in our sixties. So let’s just call it the “I Ate Too Much During Covid, And Put On A Few Pounds” weight gain. No need to shame any senior citizens who enjoy a good meal.

The first indication of Covid gain for me was putting on pants that didn’t have an elastic waist when the lock down restrictions were loosened. Quite a wake up. And I have a lot of pants with buttons and zippers. I put all of them in “time out” and went back to my stretchy, elastic waist pants very quickly. Most of them fit into the athletic leisure category that is quite popular now, so at least I was semi-fashionable.

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But the moment of truth was lurking on my calendar. I had my annual physical scheduled with my internal medicine doctor, and I had to keep it because a couple of prescriptions were expiring. No way around it, so I stopped baking, and tried to make healthier choices in my carry out meals. But I knew that the scale wasn’t moving much, and the dreaded day arrived.

It was March, and still cold in Nebraska, but I wore the lightest pieces of my athletic leisure wardrobe I could find. I also made sure not to wear any jewelry or my watch. Those things add up! As I sat in the waiting area, I braced myself for the dreaded weigh in with the nurse. She called my name, and back we went. And much to my delight, it showed the weight in kilograms, not pounds! Not nearly as discouraging. Except that I went into the exam room and quickly looked up the conversion of kgs to pounds on my phone. Back to discouraging. But I plan to request kg weigh ins in the future because I can’t to the conversion in my head, and I can skip looking it up.

My blood pressure was normal, so dodged a bullet there. But the blood work wouldn’t be back for a couple of days. Next came my chat with my very nice internal medicine doc, who now has some grey hair so I no longer call him Doogie Howser. After he said hello, I went on autopilot and started telling him about my long days of lockdown, how I started cooking at home, which lead to making desserts, which lead to baking, and on and on. It felt like going to Confession after a long absence, and I know my doc isn’t Catholic, so this was all probably quite bizarre to him. But he very nicely said he understood, and recommended a low carb diet and more exercise.

So here we are, three months past my eating confession, and the adventure continues. I took my own advice from my first weight loss blog post, and got the sweets and junk food out of the house. Warmer weather has brought back the only forms of exercise I enjoy, playing golf and pickleball ( a racket sport with a weird name played by retirees). I also like to float in swimming pools, and chat with my friends, but even I don’t count that as exercise! My focus on healthier eating is going pretty well, except that a new donut shop called Hurts arrived in town and it is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is only three miles from my house, and my car is magnetically drawn to it on occasion, such as the recent National Donut Day on June 4th.


My Adventures In Weight Loss continue, but I am not discouraged. Every day brings a new chance to eat fewer carbs and get some exercise in. Hope springs eternal! If you are also dealing with eating less and exercising more, I wish you the best. Success may seem elusive at times, but remember, even the blind squirrel occasionally finds the acorn!



If you look up the dictionary definition of momism, Webster paints a rather dark picture of overprotective mothers who unconsciously prevent their children from emotionally emancipating. It also has Freudian overtones. Other definitions include helicopter parenting, and questions a mom asks their child after school. These are all more negative than what I had in mind for this week’s post, which is really about common things moms said to their children when they were growing up. So our definition will be as follows: momism, noun. Something a mom commonly says. Or in this case, said, to her offspring. My memories are from the 60’s and 70’s, but many of them have become classics used on succeeding generations.

I am not sure how these phrases became so well known. It’s almost as if some moms got together in the late 50’s for coffee, and developed phrases to use during their child rearing years. It must have been quite a feat of networking, because these are so common most people will recognize them. Or maybe they were written about in one of the women’s magazines of the day. Whatever happened, they spread. So here they are, in no particular order.

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You had better stop looking like that, or your face will freeze with that expression. See that grumpy teenager in the photo? A prime candidate for this classic. I was kind of a master of grumpy expressions between ages 13 and 18, and am happy to report that my face didn’t ever freeze. But I had many chances for it to happen.

Children should be seen, and not heard. I mentioned this one in a prior post about laughing at the wrong time. But it didn’t apply if you were introduced to a long lost relative or your parents had friends over. You could be seen and briefly heard under those circumstances. You were expected to greet said guests, call them by an appropriate name ( Mr. and Mrs. Smith- no first names), answer any questions ( usually your age and grade in school) and then excuse yourself for the duration of their stay.

Don’t sit too close to the tv or it will damage your eyesight. Television was the new fangled technology of our growing up years. My mother was convinced it would damage her older children’s development and didn’t buy one when they were first available. They were also very pricey. But by the time my brother and I came along, she dropped her opposition. But you had to sit far away, and leave the lights on. Because low light was a hazard too.

Eat your food. There are starving children in (insert country). Not to make light of a real concern, because hunger is a problem, but this just didn’t work. None of us could figure out the connection between our not eating some despised vegetable and hunger in another country.

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If your friends were jumping off a cliff, would follow them? And its cousin, I don’t care if Susie’s mom is letting her do that. You aren’t. These commonly popped up in the early teen years, when doing things with friends, and plotting ways to get out of the house to see friends, became paramount.

We all have to do things we don’t want to do. Maybe, but that didn’t stop kids from complaining about chores or anything else that interfered with being with our friends. And because house cleaning, and bedroom cleaning, were so incredibly dull and boring, this one was also used a lot.

Many hands make light work. This one was actually true and could cut down on the complaining about cleaning the house. It was especially true in large families where you needed a lot of help just to get everyone fed and dressed, much less have a clean house.

When you have your own house, you can do whatever you want to in it. This also fits with the not wanting to do any housework scenario. I have a clear recollection of not making my bed unless forced to, and this was the reasoning. I can also report that still don’t typically make my bed. Just doesn’t interest me unless I am having company and someone will see the room. So I did eventually get to do what I wanted on this one. True story about my messy teenage room- my parent’s house was burglarized and the police thought they had created quite a mess in my room, when it was actually its natural state.

Santa is watching. Long before Elf on a Shelf, parents used this one from fall to Christmas to get better behavior out of their small children. It must have worked since it was a classic we all heard.

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Because I said so. The ultimate end to the conversation. See the little guy pleading his case in the above photo? His parents were probably past the point of reasoning or explaining. Some kids are very, very persistent. This may serve them well later in life, but when it comes to asking to stay up later, or stay outside, or not do whatever they have been asked to do, it can wear a parent down. Then this phrase comes in handy.

Shut the door, we aren’t air conditioning the whole neighborhood. I didn’t hear this one much because we didn’t have central ac until I was in sixth grade. But I heard it at friends houses, and it actually made sense. The cool air was really nice in our muggy Nebraska summers. It made sense to keep it inside.

It’s way too quiet up there. If you had a two story house, and kids were upstairs without making any noise, this was not a good sign from a mom’s perspective. Something wasn’t quit right if there wasn’t a certain amount of noise. It usually involved a trip upstairs to uncover the unusually quiet activities. I remember going upstairs to check on my too quiet child and a friend, and they had filled a bathtub and two sinks full of water and bubbles, and were playing some sort of water game that also included the shower and toilet. Quite a mess.

We’ll see. The ultimate momism of all time. It diffuses the child’s allegation that you never let them do xyz, or that everyone else is doing it, etc etc. The mom isn’t saying no, so it gives the appearance that she is actually considering the request. But as any mom knows, it is the equivalent of no way, not going to happen. But is is so cleverly packaged it can prevent some negotiations with a persistent child.

As parents, it is easy to slip back into using the same expressions you heard growing up. Even if you swore you would never use them. Feel free to share any gems I missed in the comment section below Leave a Reply. The more the merrier!

Going To The Indy 500 In An Ancient RV

Going To The Indy 500 In An Ancient RV

The Indy 500 is one of the greatest sporting events in the world-300,000 people usually attend the race, and millions more watch it on tv. The race cars are single seat, open cockpit vehicles that can reach 240 miles per hour. The race dates back to 1911, and with the exception of World Wars I and II, has run continuously since that date. The 2021race will be held next weekend. I had the chance to attend three times, and enjoyed them all. But the first one was the most memorable, and is the subject of today’s post.

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In the early 80’s, before I had kids, a group of friends decided to go to the Indy 500. The tickets weren’t very expensive, but the hotels in the area tripled their prices during race weekend. So we decided to economize and take an RV that belonged to someone’s elderly relative. No one saw it until we left for the race, but we knew it was a Winnebago, which is a well known brand. It was supposed to have sleeping room for 5-6, and that was exactly what we needed. We could park it much less expensively than paying the inflated hotel prices, and probably be closer to the race track. So we packed our belongings and food and prepared to hit the road about three days before the race.

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When the RV pulled up, it was obvious that it had seen better days, but the inside was clean, and the fridge and bathroom were just what we needed to get to Indiana in good time. So off we went, and things went well for the first couple of hours. The first thing to go wrong was something mechanical. We stopped and determined it wasn’t serious, but it did raise some concerns about the age of the vehicle. The next problem was a bit more difficult to contain. One friend had brought along a chocolate cake, with mint frosting, for everyone to snack on. And snack we did, with each person enjoying a piece. But the cake baker decided to indulge a bit more, and had at least three pieces. Unfortunately, this didn’t agree with her, and she was spending a lot of time in the bathroom. And after one particularly long session therein, she discovered it wouldn’t flush. Embarrassing to say the least. She didn’t want anyone to try and fix it, and nobody really wanted to anyway. So we closed it off, and decided to figure it out later.

With the toilet broken, we then had to slow down and stop for restroom breaks. And our sick friend still had to go to the bathroom a lot, so it took us hours to make it very far. We finally got her some medicine, and were able to drive more quickly to our destination.

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We got to Indianapolis after dark, and started to look for a place to park. By this time, we also knew our toilet was beyond repair. All we could find was a parking lot near a store, that was already full of Rvs and campers. It did, however, have port a potties. The ones pictured above are actually nicer than what was available, but we didn’t have a lot of options. The parking lot crowd was a bit rough, so we ran to and from them and tried to settle down for the night.

The next problem was a nasty odor from one of our propane tanks. Propane itself is odorless, but unpleasant scents are added to the tanks so that RV owners can detect a leak. Ours was a cross between rotten eggs and skunk spray. It was nauseating, so I decided to try and drown it out by spraying perfume. This turned out to be a bad idea, and somehow made the odor worse. My travelling companions were not amused.

Somehow we survived the night, and set out on foot to the racetrack the next day. It was quite a hike, but worth the wait. The pre-race fanfare was fun- the Purdue University Marching Band, and a vocal rendition of Back Home Again in Indiana were the final events before the race began. I remember sitting in the stands watching the parade laps and not thinking it was too remarkable. Then the green flag came out and the real race started. We were behind the pit crews, and not far from the finish line. The first time the cars went by at full speed, they were a complete blur and sounded like buzzing bees. Unbelievably fast, and something the tv cameras don’t capture. After a few laps, a friend and I ventured to the infield area to look around.

The infield is ridiculously large- 253 acres, and the raceway publicizes that Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl and Vatican City could all fit inside it at the same time. That is a huge space. In the days I went to the race, it was also a bit of a free for all. Lots of campers and RV’s, but they were mostly full of guys who thought they were in New Orleans. They were handing out beads to anyone who would flash them, and there were plenty of willing participants. I had no idea this was the norm at the infield, so my friend and I hurried to the gift shop, which was air conditioned, and spent some time buying souvenirs. We also visited the nearby raceway museum.

Once we got back to our seats, the race was about half over. It was fascinating to watch the pit crews work, and how precise they were. The tire changes were particularly swift. The race itself was fairly uneventful with a minimum number of accidents to slow things down. The most interesting part was the finish-the white flag comes out before the last lap, and the top cars zoom into position. We happened to be at one of the closest finishes of all time, which ended with Gordon Johncock beating Al Unser Jr. by .16 of a second. It was a great way to end the day.

Once we got clear of the mass of visitors and made it back to the RV, we decided to hit the road right away. The parking lot wasn’t exactly the best place to stay, so we thought we would look for a campground along the way. We fired up our smelly, ancient RV, with the non flushing toilet, and hit the road.

Photo by Jacob Prose on

Somewhere in Illinois, it dawned on us that campgrounds were going to be full because it was Memorial Day weekend. It was getting dark, and the RV wasn’t getting any less smelly as we drove along. I saw a sign for a motel with the vacancy sign blazing near an upcoming exit. The entire group concurred that it would be a great idea to ditch the RV and check in for the night. The rates were ok, and it was a great relief to be able to take a shower, and use a functioning toilet.

I don’t recall anything unusual for the rest of the trip, but I think the RV was probably beyond use after we got home. The next two times I went to Indy, I flew and stayed in one of the ridiculously over priced hotels. If you ever get a chance to go to the race, I highly recommend it, even if you aren’t a serious fan. Just be sure to budget for air travel and a nice hotel. It will make your entire experience more fun, and will be worth every penny.

*I will be taking a break for Memorial Day next week. Back on June 7th with a new post.

1 Year Of Being Happily Retired- Bring On Year 2!

1 Year Of Being Happily Retired- Bring On Year 2!

On May 14th, 2020, I retired from my job of many years as a college professor. It was during the early days of the Covid pandemic, and while there was a lot of uncertainty in that regard, I had no hesitation as I moved on to the next stage of life. So this week’s blog post is a reflection on the past year.

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I made the decision to retire two years before the actual date. I wanted plenty of time to get the financial side of things in place. I also like to plan ahead and let ideas “sink in”, so the lead time was beneficial in that respect. I didn’t share my decision with anyone at work until the last year I planned to be there. I also found a fun countdown app for my phone that had pictures of palm trees similar to the photo above. It had the time down to weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds. I found it entertaining, and a good conversation starter.

Things were moving along smoothly in the fall semester of 2020, and the search for my successor was starting. I was luckily able to participate in that process. This gave my students and the College time to get ready for the change in leadership, and also allowed me to wrap up some long term projects. There were also some funny moments. My desk top computer had a very old modem and monitor. When they weren’t working well, I asked the IT department for a date when they would be replaced. Their first response was that they heard I was retiring, as if that meant I didn’t need a functional computer for the 10 months I would still be there. But they did finally get some new equipment installed, and I was able to use it.

One of my retired friends told me the last year would fly by, and she was right. It also gave me a new perspective on decisions that faculty were involved in. When you have an unknown amount of time left to work, you are more vested in the impact of certain decisions. With this in mind, I tried not to offer my opinion on things I wouldn’t be around to experience. Unless it involved something with legal implications, and then I usually couldn’t help myself. I remained engaged and hopefully served as a resource due to working for a lot of different leaders, and having served on almost every committee imaginable.

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The year was moving along at a rapid clip until the middle of March, when the pandemic hit the Midwest, and we seemed to shut down overnight. It also meant moving the entire curriculum online, and making sure my adjunct instructors and students were navigating this monumental transition that we pulled off in less than a week. I am eternally grateful to my part time faculty and former students for rising to the occasion, and finishing the semester on time. We learned a lot, and had some fun moments too as working and studying from home became the norm. Family members inadvertently “attending” classes as they walked through a room. Very relaxed students with hoodies covering their faces and pets draped around their shoulders or in their lap. And we had to develop some rules, such as turning on your camera during class so that we knew who was present.

My last visit to campus was in May, when I cleaned out my office. I didn’t bring much home, but there was one gem on my bulletin board that made the trip. It was an old cartoon, where a person is going to a meeting at a new office. When they arrive, they tell the receptionist they are looking for a conference room called Where Hope Goes to Die. She says it is down the hall, near the Rectangle of Futility. It still makes me laugh.

Even though my last days were not what I envisioned, I happily settled in for my new life. I spent the first month enjoying my ability to stay up late and sleep in as long as I wanted in the morning. Heavenly for a natural night owl. I also started on some long delayed house projects, like cleaning junk drawers and closets. We weren’t going to restaurants, so we started cooking new recipes and enjoying old favorites. I also rediscovered my love of baking. Unfortunately, I also rediscovered my love of eating way too much of everything I baked. Case in point would be cinnamon roles. I found my tried and true recipe to make these from scratch, but they didn’t rise very well. I baked them anyway, and they looked flat and bizarre, at best. Did this stop me from eating them? No. Sugar, butter, and cinnamon should never go to waste.

Photo by Thomas Ward on

Warmer weather brought the ability to get outside and play some socially distant golf, and float around a friend’s pool every week after we played. So fun after being isolated for so long. I also played pickleball, which is a cross between tennis and racket ball, played on a smaller court. Ideal for older folks. And great exercise for those who over ate their baked goods.

We tried to stay in touch via Zoom calls with our extended family, who were living in two countries, four states and four different time zones. We managed to put this together a few times, even though some cameras were pointing at the ceiling, and schedules could be hard to coordinate. During one call, my then four year old granddaughter said “This is chaos!”. How right she was. But it was good to connect because we were still unable to visit in person.

August was an interesting month because I wasn’t going back to the classroom for the first time in decades. I had a nagging feeling, that I couldn’t quite shake, that I was behind and needed to get ready. I was able to play fall golf for the first time in years. But as October came along, and outdoor sports closed for the season, it was time to focus on activities at home again. Netflix was a great escape, and we got caught up on several series we hadn’t had time to watch in pre-Covid days.

The holidays were hard without sharing them with family, and winter weather settled in for its usual stay. But I had fun writing this blog, and keeping in touch with family via phone calls and video chats. And I watched along with everyone else as vaccines were developed and tested in a record amount of time. It was a huge relief to get the Pfizer version of the shot in February and March. Our public health department and medical professionals did an outstanding job of getting the vaccines distributed, and they continue to do so.

Overall, I have found that being retired is one of the best stages of life. In many ways it reminds me of middle school. That is the last time I remember having loads of free time, playing sports, hanging out with friends, and minimal responsibilities. So for me, retirement has been a lot like middle school, but with money, a permanent boyfriend/spouse, and a driver’s license. What’s not to love about that?

If you are thinking of retiring, I highly recommend it. You will know when the time is right, and hopefully will be able to do so on your own terms and timetable. And check out the free retirement countdown app with the palm trees. It will come in handy!

Social Media Wasn’t Around When We Were Young And Foolish (Thank Goodness!)

Social Media Wasn’t Around When We Were Young And Foolish (Thank Goodness!)

As I get older, I increasingly notice how different my high school and college years were compared to the social media era. It was somewhat noticeable when raising my own children, but they didn’t have social media to deal with until their late high school or college years. While I love keeping in touch with friends and relatives via Facebook, I am also aware of the hazards that arise when every aspect of life is subject to being recorded, and viewed by the world. And the permanence of those images can create a lot of unintended consequences. That is why I am thankful that none of of this was around in the 70’s and 80’s. But some of the memories live on, and they are funny.

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I will start with high school. The most high tech thing we had in those days was a polaroid camera like the one pictured above. Regular cameras had film that had to be developed. But these new fangled cameras produced pictures instantly and printed them out one at a time. That is the closest thing we had to anything simultaneous. And you could destroy any of them you didn’t like, so not really a permanent thing.

What would smart phones have recorded in those days? Silly stuff, like driving around in cars with too many people inside, and not a seat belt in site. Funny things too. Streaking was a fad in the 70’s, and naked boys would run amok in the strangest places, hoping not to get caught. There was even a hit song called The Streak, where the singer tries to shield his wife from the streakers by saying “Don’t look Ethel!”. There were streakers at sports events on tv, concerts, and even my all girls high school. That created quite a stir, because girls would run to the windows, scream, and try and figure out who they were.

But the most infamous evening would have been the one time I had a more than a few friends over for a party at my house. It was the summer before my senior year, and my friends and I were pretty bored. We all had part time jobs, but also spent a lot of time at a neighborhood pool where one friend was a life guard. The party plan was hatched one afternoon in June, and we decided it would be more fun if we invited as many people as possible, not just our group of friends. So the date was chosen, and the word was spread by the only means we had- phone calls, and telling everyone we ran into for about two weeks. The concern was that not very many people would show up.

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The big night arrived, and my fellow party planners arrived early to get ready. We had some pop in coolers, and other illegal beverages reserved for ourselves inside the house, snuck into the basement from the lower level sliding door. A few snacks outside, where the party was supposed to be taking place. Our illegal beverages consisted of one bottle of wine (Boone’s Farm, which still makes me shudder thinking of the taste), and one can of beer. I don’t remember how we got them, but it wasn’t much for a group of four. So we had some laughs, sampled our beverages, and waited for the guests to arrive.

And boy did they arrive. A trickle at first, but as it got dark out it was more of a tsunami. We knew the first wave of attendees, but as the night wore on, most were strangers. Our yard was very flat and pretty big, and it was full. The crowd was also spilling over into the neighbor’s yard, a nice Mormon family with ten kids. Their lights were on and several of the kids were watching the party unfold, but the parents never came out so I’m guessing they were gone for the evening. I never did an actual count, but am guessing we had at least 100 guests. Impressive considering it was all word of mouth. The first “casualties” of the evening were a couple of friends my mom recognized as she stood on the deck overlooking the back yard; their erratic behavior prompted a phone call to their parents to come pick them up. I walked one of them to her mom’s car, and told her that someone had spiked her can of pop with vodka. My first legal client! And it seemed to work.

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But the party carried on, and people were still arriving at the time we said it would be over. I knew it was time to try and get people to leave, but wasn’t having much success. The final straw was hearing the unmistakable cadence of Harley Davidson engines. A caravan of of them, with burly guys wearing leather jackets, pulled up in front of the house. Their bikes had Iowa plates, so word had really spread. My mom had been the only one monitoring the event up to that point, but the bikers were too much. My dad went out to greet them, and told them to move along. And with that, the party was over.

The next phase was the clean up. Most of the guests had brought their own illegal beverages, so some friends and I cleaned up everything we could see. The debris filled several garbage bags. The grass didn’t fair too well either. And we didn’t get all of the empty cans and bottles. The following fall, spring and summer, they were still popping up. Kind of like an unintentional archeological dig. Not surprisingly, that was the first and last such event I hosted.

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College and law school parties were on another level. In college, people started renting apartments, and 19 was the drinking age, so a more legal way to entertain ourselves. Lots of people smoked cigarettes, so the parties were usually hazy rooms with pizza on the floor and albums playing on stereos. Apartment clubhouses were occasionally rented, and there were some interesting moments. I recall one funny but reckless friend who liked to dive into apartment pools, fully clothed and wearing heavy boots. He also rode a tricycle into a pool once, in the fall when it didn’t have any water. He would also eat anything within reach, so nothing was safe.

And then we have law school, the three years of immense stress that produced many a memorable evening. Some of the best ones were on weeknights, planned around 10 pm while sitting in the library. Some friends lived in a decrepit house we called the Cockroach Palace, or Palace for short. They hosted most of these impromptu gatherings, and it was easy because everyone brought their own drinks and they didn’t keep any food around because of the roaches. Sometimes these were designated as Hat Parties. You had to wear one to get in. I had a brown velvet number, with netting in the front, that I got at a thrift store. I kept it in the car since these parties could pop up at any time.

My last year, I lived in a townhouse with three other law students, and we hosted some fun gatherings too. I have a vivid memory of someone who became a respected corporate attorney sitting on our kitchen floor, eating cookie dough with a huge spoon. Another classmate liked to write, and he would sit at a desk and type a story (yes, typewriters were all we had!) created about the attendees. Anyone could add to the story, which usually was a cross between a western and a romance novel. They were hilarious, and I wish I had saved them.

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Music tended toward 60’s classics; The Supremes and Beach Boys were played a lot. Leslie Gore was also a favorite. A coffee table, used as a surf board, crumbled one night. All of our furniture was garage sale quality, but the roommate who owned it wasn’t there that evening and was not amused. Picky, picky. And there may have been some lip synching of Stop in the Name of Love, complete with choreography. I may have been Diana Ross a time or two. Actually, all the time. At our graduation, a classmate introduced me to his girlfriend, and she said “Aren’t you the one who imitates Diana Ross?” I told her she had me confused with someone else. Note- there were only about 25 women in our class of 140, so this wasn’t a very effective diversionary tactic.

Although I think social media can come back to haunt anyone in their future endeavors, attorneys have to be particularly careful. Imagine the questions U.S Senators would ask of a nominee to a federal judgeship who graduated when everything was recorded-Can you tell us why you’re sitting on the floor, and what you are eating from the bowl in this photo? Please refer to exhibit number two. You appear to be using a coffee table as a surfboard in this picture. Do you have any recollection of doing this? In exhibits 3-7, you have a beer in your hand, and are wearing a hat that looks like a dead animal. What were you doing when these photos were taken?

Our last party was held the weekend we graduated. By this time, the party planners lived in a better house, and we invited our families, at least for the first part of the evening. They also served food, so there were some adult touches to this last hurrah. But it didn’t take long for the music to get turned up a little too loud, and the party goers to lapse back into their old habits. Some of my classmates had parents who were attorneys or judges. They were the first to leave. My parents took their cue from them and made a hasty exit as well. But the rest of us stayed, and celebrated our final get together before the dreaded bar exam that would take place in a few short months.

As my generation retires and heads to the days of rest and relaxation, I wish the social media generation luck as they contend with their digital past. While there will be a lot of harmless photos of what they ate, a phenomena I really don’t understand, there will also be less flattering images floating around. And from our easy chairs, the Boomers will look back fondly, and once again give thanks for the anonymity of our young and foolish days.

Every Mother Is A Working Mother

Every Mother Is A Working Mother

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With Mother’s Day on the horizon, and thirty plus years of being a mom under my belt, this seems like a good week to post some reflections on motherhood. And a few funny stories too, since humor is one of the reasons this blog exists. As I look back on my adult years, I realize that I have lived a variety of stages of motherhood- from being home full time, to working part time, and working full time. Those stories will come later. First, I’ll start with the working full time, childless era, distant memory that it is.


Baby Boomers were the first generation that had a lot of dual income married couples, without kids. I saw this referred to once as DINKS- double income, no kids. This time of life was interesting, because we were navigating our first professional jobs, and getting used to being married too. In most ways it was a fun time, with disposable income and time to enjoy family and friends. The only downside was that interest rates, which I never paid attention to prior to this time, were sky high. In 1982, we got a 13% interest rate on our first mortgage, and were lucky to have one below 16-17%. Luckily that didn’t last forever, but it made buying your first home a challenge. After you were married a year or two, the questions usually started. Questions from this era– when are you going to have kids? How many kids do you want? These were usually from well meaning friends or family, but a bit intrusive. I would smile and say “someday” and leave it at that. Or pretend I didn’t hear them, and look confused.

Stay At Home Mom

After child number one arrived, I decided to take off what I thought would be a few years to stay home with her. There wasn’t a part time work option in the legal field, or I might have tried that at some point. But I was fortunate to have the ability to take time off. Baby number two came along three years later, so a few years off stretched into eight. These were very busy times, and if you had a spouse who worked long hours or traveled for a living like mine did, it was also very tiring. In a strange way, the days were usually long but the years seemed to fly by. And for some reason, these days were also part of what came to be known as Mommy Wars. What a bleak term. But it pretty well sums up the divide between some moms who were working full time, and some who were home full time. Although the idea was supposed to be that women could choose how to approach motherhood and paid employment, that got lost along the way. It was as if your choice was the only correct thing to do. It also didn’t take into account that many moms don’t have a choice at all, and need to work to survive. For me, it also lead to some strange interactions. Questions from this era– why did you go to law school, if you were going to stay home with your kids? Don’t you get bored being at home all the time? And my personal favorite, what do you do all day? After a few years, I started losing my patience with all of this. By that point, my answers were as follows- I went to law school because I though seven years of college would be a barrel of fun, and I am so busy taking care of two little kids I don’t have time to be bored. But I saved my favorite answer for the last question. What do I do all day? I was asked this once at a cocktail party, and said ” I sit on the couch, and eat bon bons. The toddlers feed, cloth, and change themselves. Sometimes I turn them loose outside, unattended.” I may have had a glass or two of wine. And it may have been a little more colorful than that, but you get the idea, since this is a wholesome blog.

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Full Time Mom and Employee

I was able to work part time for several years when my kids were in grade school, and that was an ideal arrangement at the time. I got to keep up to date in my field, but also be available for the many activities and events that the school years bring. Eventually, a full time position became available at the college where I was teaching part time. So I applied and was hired for what became a long career as a law professor. I enjoyed teaching, and I found the job’s time off and flexibility ideal for raising school aged kids who became teenagers and college students during my career. Just as the stay at home years flew by, the high school and college years went even faster. I remain gratified that I was able to find a job that allowed me to do what I needed to do at home and at work. Questions during this era-not really mom related, but there was the occasional, why aren’t you practicing law? Easy to answer this one. I did a lot of free legal work for my family, and teaching law was way more fun than the practice thereof. I made less money, but having summers and lots of other time off was worth it.

Every Mother Is A Working Mother

So my various work/motherhood arrangements have lead me to the conclusion that every mother works her hardest at whatever path she chooses to take. And the way employers treat their working mothers has a lot to do with how they feel about their jobs. Unfortunately, I think moms are frequently expected to work as if they don’t have children, and parent as if they don’t have a job. Talk about a “no win” situation. Sadly, I think Mommy Wars still exist to some degree, and I have read that it extends now more toward different parenting philosophies and practices rather than stay at home versus career moms. Add in the advent of social media, and there is plenty of room for judgment and discord. But I also think there are lots of moms who want to connect and support each other. Maybe the pandemic has given us all a reminder just how hard it is to raise kids, and that connecting with other parents is something that moms and dads really need.

In the coming week, I will be remembering my late mother, who was a working mom in the 1960’s, long before it was a common thing to do. I hope you all have time to celebrate the moms in your lives, or their memories, next weekend. Happy Mother’s Day, one and all.

The Girl Scouts Go To Mall Of America

The Girl Scouts Go To Mall Of America

One of my favorite activities during grade school was being a Girl Scout. I went to a very large Catholic grade school, so becoming a Brownie, and later, a Girl Scout, was a great way to be with friends in a smaller group. I had a very nice leader, and we met at her house one afternoon a week. We worked on badges, sold cookies, and went camping at a lodge once a year. Great fun, and wonderful memories. The only challenging part was the once a year gathering of all the troops in the school parking lot, where the overall school coordinator was in charge. I think she had been in the women’s army corps during WWII, because she had a scout uniform and had us marching around in our uniforms. It must have been a sight. But overall, scouting was a good experience.

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When my oldest daughter started first grade, she joined a Brownie troop, and later became a Girl Scout too. I helped with the troop starting in about fifth grade, and the leader was a good match for me because she did a lot of camping and was familiar with the camps and lodges the local council owned. That troop was very “outdoorsy”. We not only camped in lodges, she convinced me to come along for platform tent camping one frigid fall weekend. It was the first time I had slept in a tent, and while I enjoyed it, I struggled with the outhouses. But a good time was had by all, and I appreciated my indoor plumbing a lot when I got home.

When my younger daughter joined Brownies, I once again volunteered to help. Apparently I was the only one, and so by default became the leader. Luckily another mom agreed to chair the cookie sales, and we had a pact to stay active as long as the other one was on board. We ended up selling a lot of cookies every year, and that was fortunate since a major trip was in our future. But first a few funny stories.

I remember having about six girls in my van on the way home from a scouting activity. The radio was on, and the dj was talking about what he wore to bed at night- in his case, pajamas. The girls then decided to share with me what each of their father’s wore, or in some cases didn’t wear, to bed. I never knew so many middle aged dads went commando in the evening, if they were telling the truth. I also tried to change the subject several times, but to no avail. It was months before I could make eye contact with some of the dads at school events.

Another memorable trip was camping at one of the scout lodges. I was in charge of making the camp fire, and it was a first for me. If you read the blog regularly you will know that I spent all of my summers playing in tennis tournaments, so I never went to summer camp. But I knew we needed a fire to make smores, so I had my instruction book from the scout office, my kindling, and logs ready to go. The girls stood by with their graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows and growing skepticism as I fumbled along. But I did eventually get the fire going, we had our smores, and I didn’t have to use the back up toaster smores I brought along. Crises avoided.

When the girls got older, and busier with sports and other activties, it was hard to find time for scouts. So the cookie mom and I came up with an idea for the girls- we suggested they plan a trip and raise money as a troop to pay for it. We would spend two years planning it, and sell as many cookies as possible to pay for it. The goal was to have enough money for each troop member and her mom to participate, and that food, lodging, and gas money would come from the troop’s account.

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The next step was to choose the destination. The girls unanimously chose Mall of America, and it worked out quite well. It was within driving distance from Nebraska, and we had several volunteers who had vans and could drive. We made a budget, and the girls set goals for cookie sales to cover the costs. After two years of planning and selling cookies, we had enough money to make the trip. The fact that our troop would travel to a mall did elicit some comments, mostly from former Boy Scout dads, along the lines of “What kind of scout troop goes to a mall?” Well, ours does! It also created a stir with another troop of girls the same age at our school, who heard about our trip and then planned one, also to Mall of America, but at a different time.

So on a warm spring day when there was a break from school, we loaded up our minivans and set out for the mall. Two moms and four girls per van was a perfect ratio. I wasn’t in the lead because of my legendarily bad sense of direction, (see prior post here,) so it was an uneventful trip to Minnesota, and we arrived at our hotel. It had an atrium, a free breakfast buffet, and elevators the girls loved to ride. If you have ever travelled with middle school aged girls, you will know that going to sleep at a reasonable hour isn’t their strong suit. There were lots of giggles and attempts to leave one room and visit another, but this wasn’t our first rodeo in terms of chaperoning. It took awhile, but once we got everyone settled in, several hours of slumber occurred. And the next day, we were ready for our first foray to the mall.

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We ate at the Rainforest Cafe, and went to the indoor amusement park they had complete with a ferris wheel and other rides. And of course some shopping occurred. Two funny things happened as we shopped. My credit card kept getting denied. This had never happened to me before, and after three or four times, I finally asked the store manager to call the card company ( pre cell phone days), and let me talk to them. They said it was because of atypical charge activity, but once we had a chat all was well. And one of the other moms, who had recently gotten a very short haircut, kept being called “sir” when she was paying for her merchandise. We laughed a lot about all of this, but it did slow our day down unnecessarily.

The last day we were in Minnesota was a Sunday, so we took the girls to mass at a lovely church near the mall, and then hit the road back home. Most of the girls slept on this portion of the trip, and we pulled into Omaha in time to get everyone home and ready for school the next day.

The mall trip was planned to coincide with their last year in scouts, so as the school year drew to a close, so did our troop. I am not sure how the ensuing years have gone by so quickly, but they certainly have. The girls have all grown up, and gone on to full lives of their own. I hope they have fond memories of our troop, all of our badges and activities, and of course, the infamous trip to the mall. It was a great way to end our years together.

Laughter, Even At The Wrong Time, Is The Best Medicine

Laughter, Even At The Wrong Time, Is The Best Medicine

Who among us doesn’t love a good laugh? And there is research that laugher really is the best medicine. It is one of the most therapeutic things around- it can lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, and doesn’t cost a thing. And it can help patients heal from illness or deal with chronic conditions. The humor- health connection came to prominence in the late 70’s with the publication of the book, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, by journalist Norman Cousins. In this best selling book, he recounted watching Marx Brothers movies and reading humorous books to help him cope with a debilitating illness. He discovered that “a good belly laugh” could lead to much lower pain for up to two hours. Taking Mr. Cousins’ advice to heart, I will recount three personal examples of laughter providing some much needed relief, even if done at the wrong time.

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My first example involved a ukalele, an elderly relative, and a musical performance. It was not, of course, intended to be funny, but I thought it was hilarious. Some background is in order- my maternal grandmother, Joyce, was number ten out of eleven children. With that many offspring, there was a large age difference between her and some of her older sisters. One of them, Annie, had married Joe Casey and moved to South Dakota, where she had a large family of her own. Annie missed her family a great deal, and needed help with her children, so my grandmother was sent to live with her for a year to help. I guess when you have eleven kids, it isn’t unusual to farm one out for awhile. But Joyce was very good natured and helpful, so off she went. Even though Joyce eventually had a large number of nieces and nephews, she maintained a close relationship with the Caseys for the rest of her life.

My mom also got to know the Caseys quite well, and over the years they would come to visit, usually one at a time but sometimes in a group. One group visit occurred when I was about ten years old. We were all invited to a dinner at a relative’s house, and there were a lot of people in attendance. I had received my usual instructions that “children should be seen, and not heard”. (See my first blog post for a refresher on my ability to disrupt events, like a church service ).

I did well that evening until one of the Casey cousins, a woman in her sixties, pulled out her ukalele and started to play. I was ok with the playing, but then she started to sing. It wasn’t really singing, more of a warble. This all seemed perfectly normal to the adults, but not to me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stifle the laughter, especially when she tried to hit a high note. And she had quite a repertoire of songs, so there were a lot of high notes. After some dagger like stares from my mom, I excused myself to an upstairs bedroom until the “concert” was over. But I had to avoid eye contact with the performer for the rest of the night or I would start laughing again.

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Laughter Incident Number Two happened at an annual social event held by the college where I worked. It was designed to honor students, and they were introduced to the audience during a formal dinner. As each student came forward, the emcee read a reflection that they had written. Several of the students being honored this particular evening were visiting our college as foreign exchange students. One of the exchange student’s introduction mentioned how much she loved all of the cafeteria food, and then listed each thing she liked- in great detail. Then it said her favorite thing to read was a student published newsletter called The Toilet Paper, which was posted every week in, you guessed it, the stalls in the bathrooms. I was laughing with the food list, but completely lost it when The Toilet Paper was mentioned. Once again, this lead to me excusing myself from the room.

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Incident Number Three happened at work, in one of our seemingly endless meetings. It wasn’t as jovial as the photo above, but that is the best one I could find in the Pexels free photo bank. One of my colleagues, who was a wise and funny woman, had coined a name for our small school based on a tv show. Instead of The Little House on the Prairie, she jokingly called our institution of higher learning The Little College on the Prairie. She saved this nickname for meetings that went on too long, or when strange policy decisions were announced. It struck most faculty as being pretty funny, and the nickname stuck.

The only problem with it was that the powers that be decided it had taken on a negative connotation, so she was asked not to use it anymore. Being a team player, she didn’t say it out loud, and neither did anyone else to avoid getting in trouble. But as many people react to censorship, she got more creative in her use of it. She shortened it to LCOP ( not all the initial letters, but close enough). We all knew what she meant. And even though she didn’t utter the words, she would occasionally sit next to me at meetings, and just for fun, write LCOP on my agenda. Several times. This was fun because it was the forbidden fruit of faculty humor, and it always made me laugh. She was also a master at analyzing other people’s motivations and abilities. If a colleague was taking exception to some minor thing, or asking endless questions, she would smile and say “That’s her gift”. Either one of these could send me into fits of laughter that I had a hard time containing. But it was all in good fun, and the LCOP moniker lives on for a few faculty who remember it.

My inopportune laughing has decreased quite a bit since I’ve retired, but I still find humor in many situations. This is a good thing since I have taken up writing a blog focused on the funny side of life. I hope your days are filled with some laughter as often as possible, because it really is the best medicine!

Learn To Play Golf- It’s Fun Sometimes!

Learn To Play Golf- It’s Fun Sometimes!

As we continue our march through spring in the Midwest, it’s time to dust off my golf equipment and get ready for my league to start. It’s a sport with many advantages- being outside on beautiful courses, spending time with friends, and some exercise if you walk. Once you learn to play golf, it can be a lot of fun. It also presents some challenges and comical moments.

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My path to taking up golf was delayed by my affinity for tennis, a sport I grew up playing. My first lessons were at age five and I entered my first tournament at six. It was fun, and since I played in tournaments it was the only sport I pursued for many years. But by my late thirties, injuries began to interfere with my game. Knee surgery and a rotator cuff tear were the final nails in my playing days. So I decided to take up golf since several of my friends already played. My impression of the sport was that it was fun to watch, but I didn’t think it would be that difficult to learn because I could hit a moving ball quite well. A stationary one should be much easier, right?

I took beginner lessons and found out how hard it actually is. There is a lot to remember- grip, stance, weight shift, head position, and aiming for where the ball allegedly would go. One of the most surprising things to me was missing the ball entirely. Whiffing, as it is so pleasantly called, is common for new golfers. My main problem with it was that I got the giggles whenever I did it. But after awhile, I started connecting more and whiffing less. Time to hit the course.

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My first attempts to play were on easy 9 hole courses, followed by joining a ladies league with three friends. The league officers were friendly when we signed up, and we explained that we were all beginners. Unfortunately, the other ladies in the group weren’t quite so welcoming. They were quick to point out our high scores on every hole, and quoted the rules of the game frequently. Stressful to say the least. We all dreaded playing, so after one year of that joy we decided to start our own league.

That turned out much better. We stayed at the same relatively easy course, and found a lot of other like minded golfers to join us. In the early years, we had flag days, guest days, and an end of the year dinner. We named the league Penny Putters, and every week, for each putt over 18, you had to put the equivalent amount of pennies in the league birdhouse. At the end of the season, the person with the lowest average putts got the money. We kept all kinds of statistics too, and turned in our score cards each week.

Now getting close to our 25th year, Penny Putters has evolved, but we are still golfing every Wednesday morning at the same course. Quite a few things have changed- first, we stopped doing the money in the birdhouse. Some players forgot to put money in, or turn in their scores. The course didn’t like storing our birdhouse, so someone had to keep track of it and bring it every week. Our statistician moved, and no one wanted to take it on. We still have a flag day, unless there is a pandemic, and that is enough structured activity for all of our members. And we typically start planning our after golf lunch around the third hole.

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A couple of funny stories- for many years, I walked and used a pull cart for my clubs during league play. One morning, running late, I got to the course without a water bottle, and figured I’d buy one from the drink cart. Except the drink cart never came, and it was really hot and humid. The course water coolers usually look grungy to me, so no go there. By the sixth hole, about as far away as you can get from the clubhouse, I started feeling poorly. The best I could do was lay down under a tree and pour some grungy course water on my head. The ranger pulled up just as I was feeling better, and thought he needed to follow me the rest of the way around the course. That really helped my game! That was also the end of my walking days, and it’s been 100% carts since then. And they’re fun to drive, so really not a problem to make the change.

The second funny story is about our bank account. I am the lifetime treasurer for the league, and happy to do so, but it has been interesting. I opened a free checking account and titled it Penny Putters, with my address. It makes for easy record keeping, but the bank has never figured out that Penny isn’t a person. I have received phone calls from the bank for years asking if they can speak to her. I used to try and explain it was a golf league, but the callers never seem to get it. So I just say she’s golfing and not available to take the call.

And then there’s the game itself. Beyond frustrating. You can hit a beautiful tee shot on one hole, and by the next one shank one it into the rough as if you never played the game. It is the only sport I can think of where your ability to do it varies so widely from one minute to the next. In tennis, once you have a forehand down, you can always hit it. Sometimes better than others, but from point to point you don’t completely lose your ability to hit the ball. So my ideas about a stationary ball being easier to hit? Out the window very early on. There’s a reason one of the best selling golf books is titled A Good Walk Spoiled.

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There are also major differences between the way most women play versus most men. For starters, we won’t spend endless time searching for lost balls. Unless it’s a pretty pink or yellow one, then maybe. I have never bet on the golf course, and find it amazing how many betting games guys can invent. Since I usually play in the morning, drinking isn’t an issue, but being able to make room for a cooler in the cart is a common thing for guys. And if you really want to see some differences, go to a guy golf mecca like Myrtle Beach, S.C. The courses have names like Tiger Paw and Charging Cheetah, complete with billboards featuring large, menacing animals. Not exactly catering to the female golf crowd.

In spite of the occasional frustrations, it is an enjoyable sport that you can play for years. Injuries are rare for amateur players. And it requires a lot of concentration, so it clears your mind and helps you think about something besides work or your “to do” list. You can be as serious or casual as you like about your game as long as you play at a reasonable speed and don’t hold anyone up behind you.

I will close with a funny golf joke I heard years ago when I first started playing. A group of four ladies had been playing golf every Friday morning for years. Their course was near a well travelled street, which you could see from several tee boxes. One morning, as they were about the tee off, a funeral procession slowly made its way past the course. When the hearse was visible, the first member of the group, who was on the tee, removed her visor, and bowed her head. Her friends were surprised, and asked her what prompted her to do so. Her reply? “Well, he really was a very good husband.”

Help For The Directionally Challenged

Help For The Directionally Challenged

After receiving the Covid vaccine, and waiting two weeks for full effectiveness, I am ready to start venturing out of the house more this spring and summer. Road trips have been on my “to do list” since retiring, so I am hopeful we will get a few planned. While I love to plan trips, and go on them, I rarely do the driving. There are two reasons: I like to take naps in the car, but primarily because I am directionally challenged. As in, no sense of direction. It’s not that I occasionally take a wrong turn, or need help finding a new place. It is more like this- I still get lost while driving in my hometown, where I have lived almost my entire life, except for the three years I lived in the state capitol, and I got lost there too. So it is really non-existent. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Maps helps the directionally challenged

This of course has lead to some entertaining stories. I will start with an ill fated trip to a friend’s lake house during my law school years. I was back home for the summer, and working part time. The photo is a good illustration of how we got around in those days. On this particular evening, I left my parents’ house on the far north side of Omaha, and headed south ending up on a two lane highway. It should have taken about 45-50 minutes. It was around 9:30 p.m. when I left, which is close to my current bedtime. But in those days, it was normal to start the evening that late.

In my trusty old Chevelle, with a broken speedometer, I cruised along listening to the radio, the only option for entertainment. I had to leave it on one station to be sure I could hear it throughout the trip. The Little River Band had a hit song that received a lot of airplay at the time called Lonesome Loser. It was about a guy who is unlucky in love, and by himself because of it. If you remember the song, you are probably humming the refrain right now- “Have you heard about the lonesome loser, beaten by the queen of hearts everytime?” A very catchy tune. I heard it about ten times.

I must have been singing along a lot too, because I was driving longer than I thought it would take to make the turn to the lake. This became apparent when I read the sign that said “Entering Otoe County” and arrived at its largest town, Nebraska City. I had missed the turn by about 20 miles. What is a lost person to do? I pulled into the closest convenience store, and went inside to ask for directions. Unfortunately, he started talking about north, south, east and west, instead of the universal language of the perpetually lost- something like turn right just past the billboard for the local bank. Landmarks for pete’s sake Mr. Convenience Store. I thanked him, and decided to get back on the road I came in on, follow the signs toward Omaha, and look for any turns toward the lake I might have missed.

I also decided I needed something to prove to my friends that I had indeed gotten really lost. This was also to explain why I would arrive so late. There was a phone booth nearby, so I went inside and decided to take an unimportant page from the front of the local phone book. As luck would have it, one of Nebraska City’s police officers saw me do this, and came over to chat. He was especially giddy when he saw my license plate, because in those days the first number was based on the size of the county where you lived. Omaha was numero uno, and the smaller towns didn’t really like the bigger ones. So I was from the big, bad, city. Probably out on parole or a fugitive from justice.

I decided to explain my predicament and just keep talking until he told me to stop. No tears, but I could have mustered some up if needed. After checking to see if I had any outstanding warrants, which I think disappointed him when I didn’t, he decided to let me go without a citation. But he did follow me out of town to make sure I was on my way out of Otoe County. After many more miles, and in spite of my best efforts, I never made it to the cabin. With the detour to Nebraska City and the police chat, I didn’t make it home until the wee hours of the morning. One of my more memorable misadventures in the car. And anytime I hear Lonesome Loser, it reminds of the journey.

I have had a lot of other driving mishaps over the years. When my daughter played soccer, we frequently went to out of town tournaments. One of them annually occurred in Sioux City, Iowa. That is an especially strange place to get to because there are three Sioux Cities right next to each other- one in Iowa, one in Nebraska, and one in South Dakota. Good grief. Couldn’t they come up with some other names?

My most recent misadventure occurred a few summers ago, when I decided to drive by myself to Indiana and meet my sister at a lake resort. Armed with directions on my phone, Mapquest printed directions as a back up, and a lot of caffeine, I set out on the one day drive. Getting through Chicago traffic was harrowing, but I was close at that point. The problem cropped up when I got within a mile of the resort. GPS took me to a cemetery. It was still daylight, but there wasn’t anybody around.

I called the resort. In a weird twist of fate, I managed to connect with the most confused front desk clerk in Indiana. She had no idea where I was, and neither did I. In fact, I am not sure she knew where she was either, because all she kept asking me was if I was close to the lake. Nope, just me and the dearly departed. Eventually I wandered onto a main road, and finally connected with my sister.

So much for GPS. It helps if you have the following conditions-one, there isn’t any construction at any point in your trip. And two, your phone has to be able to read the directions to you. You know- in two miles, you will take Exit 422, on the left. My Android phone tends to malfunction in this regard a lot. The GPS built into my most recent car purchase is ok, but you have to update a sm card to keep it current, and it doesn’t talk. Note to Mazda- make sure your GPS system speaks on future models- sincerely, every 60 something person who buys your cars.

You would think there would be a Catholic saint for this. We have one for lost things, ( St. Anthony), and lost causes, (St. Jude). And apparently one for lost heads- the above photo is entitled “Medieval Portrayal of Saints.” The one on the bottom row, second from the right, is St. Denis, the Patron Saint of Paris, whose severed head could allegedly preach while he carried it around. Many of the saints met with grizzly deaths, so I guess a decapitated one isn’t a huge surprise. But I hereby request a Patron Saint of the Perpetually Lost. Surely someone at the Vatican is reading my blog and will take this into consideration!

For those of you who share my affliction, I feel your pain. For those who live with us, here are a few tips to help your directionally challenged loved one:

1. Remember we only know one way to get to most destinations.

2. You need to give us directions using landmarks and interesting sites, and if they have changed keep using the old one, i.e. turn left where the Burger King used to be that’s now a donut shop.

3. Remember that changes to things like interstate exits and on ramps really don’t register with us.

Keep all of this in mind if we are behind the wheel, or better yet, just drive and let us nap. Doing so is one of the secrets to a long and happy marriage!

Our Senior Trip To New Orleans- What A Party!

Our Senior Trip To New Orleans- What A Party!

The high school I graduated from was an all female, Catholic school that organized two trips for students-one during our junior year, and one in our senior year. The trips were optional, but usually well attended. The junior trip was to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York, but the senior trip varied in location. In our senior year, we went to New Orleans. There were many factors that converged to make it one of the most fun, interesting and talked about trip of our lives. And we went about this time of year, so this seems like an appropriate week to share it. The details follow.

I will start with the east coast trip. For many of us, it was our first visit to those cities. We saw all of the famous sites, and it was fascinating to me since I loved American history. The day we visited Mount Vernon, we also took a boat down the Potomac back to Washington. I remember telling my parents I wanted to live there someday with a view of the water. Pretty funny since the only way to do that was to buy a multimillion dollar home. In New York, we ate at Mama Leone’s near the theatre district, and a small group of us went to a new Broadway show called Grease. This was before the movie, and I remember trying to explain to friends who didn’t see the show how good it was. Our chaperones were well organized, as was the entire week.

The New Orleans trip was quite different from the very tame journey the year before. One of the reasons was due to the difference in legal drinking age- New York had been 21, but Louisiana was 18. And in a bit of poor planning, no one thought to check our ages before we left. Many of us had already turned 18, so it was a very different dynamic. Add to that a memorable remark from one of our “chaperones” the day we checked into the hotel- as he went down the hall, he said ” Ok girls, beer and wine is 18, everything else is 21″. More about the “chaperones” in a minute. His announcement was the first clue we had that this was going to be a very memorable outing. In our home state of Nebraska, the drinking age was 19, but in our next door neighbor, Iowa, it was 18. So there had been some legal trips to Iowa, but New Orleans was in another realm in terms of bars and entertainment. Actually, more like another planet.

It didn’t take long for us to venture out on the town, and the French Quarter was very close to our hotel. I remember walking down Bourbon street, with its interesting architecture, and the doormen trying to get us into their establishments. The barely clad dancers on swings going in and out of second floor windows is a distinct memory. Musicians on every street corner, and the strains of jazz and zydeco coming from many of the clubs. We didn’t have enough sense to go to Preservation Hall and hear the best jazz in the world, but at least we heard some as we walked around.

A bit more about our “chaperones”. I use the term in quotes because they were pretty lax, to say the least. I thought that was spiffy at the time, but I look back on it now and know it wasn’t what any of our parents, or the school, had in mind. There were two “chaperones” that I remember, one a part time coach ( he of the beer and wine is 18 advice), and the other a full time teacher who had very recently gotten married. He may have been using the trip as his honeymoon, because I only remember seeing him on the first and last days of the trip.

So basically a bunch of 17 and 18 year old girls were turned loose in the French Quarter and any place else they could get to for an entire week. Kind of like Billy Joel’s classic song Only The Good Die Young. Most of us still had midnight curfews at home, so the ability to stay out as late as we wanted, and do whatever we wanted to do, was quite fun. There were a few daytime bus trips that were available to see the sites, but no one kept track of whether you went or not. So attendance was very affected by what had gone on the night before.

The things that happened the night before varied quite a bit. I shared a room with three of my closest friends, so we did everything together. One of the first places we discovered was Pat O’Briens, home of the famous hurricane drink, that came with a souvenir glass. What fun! They tasted just like fruit juice! And the “everything else is 21” advice didn’t exist. Nobody was being carded. If you could walk into the establishment and order a drink, it was yours. We went there more than once, and had so many souvenir glasses that I took the extras home in my suitcase. I remember my dad asking what was rattling around when he picked me up from the airport. Souvenirs, I replied. Lots and lots of souvenirs.

I remember sitting in the hotel lobby one night, and seeing several of my classmates get off the elevator in nice, formal dresses. They were soon met by a group of Navy members in uniform who were their dates to some type of military ball. Since New Orleans is a port, this shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it kind of was. I was amazed they had either packed or purchased dresses for the occasion. Anchors Aweigh! And it just so happened that we had a sailor theme for our school’s hotly contested annual Field Day that would be held when we got home. Of course our classmates had to attend that ball.

In addition to the entertaining evenings, we did make it to some of the famous restaurants. I remember Cafe Du Monde and Brennans, with the pastel exterior and bananas foster. And we found a relatively quiet bar right across the street from the hotel, where we met some locals who were our age. They were a lot of fun, and we were the first Midwesterners they had ever met. There was a jukebox, and the song we requested repeatedly was The Locomotion, by Grand Funk Railroad. Nobody knew how to actually do the dance, so we made up our own- kind of a conga line. It worked well, and when we’ve had class reunions with music it’s always requested.

The last full day we were in the city was a Sunday, and it may have been Easter- unlike Pat O’Brien’s, I don’t remember that part with any certainty! We were all expected to show up for mass at the St Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. That was the only time anyone took attendance, and apparently we all made it because no missing persons bulletins were issued. The church was fairly close to our hotel, and platform shoes were in style at the time, so it was an interesting walk on the old style streets to get there. I’m sure we looked like a group of devout, high school girls on vacation. And on that morning, I guess we were.

The trip home was uneventful, and shortly thereafter we won the Field Day competition, graduated, and went on with life. I am happy to say I am still friends with my roommates from the trip. Over the years, our class has had a lot of fun reunions, and invariably the senior trip is mentioned. In the days before Facebook and email, we used to ask classmates to send in their contact info and high school memories, and we put together a booklet. Lots of senior trip memories, but I think the one that summed it up best was the following: “New Orleans- some party!” And we all knew what exactly what she meant.

4 Fun Tips For Travelling With Kids

4 Fun Tips For Travelling With Kids

Spring has arrived, the virus is receding, and families are starting to organize summer trips with their kids and grandkids again. After some memorable travel adventures while my children were growing up, I offer some funny memories and tips to assist with your planning.

Aerial photo of the California coast

One of our first trips as a family was to California when our first born was 18 months old. We flew to Monterey, rented a car and planned to site see for a few days, then drive south on the beautiful Highway 101 to San Luis Obispo to visit relatives. Although we had driven on the Pacific Coast Highway before, it was our first visit to Monterey. The plane rides to California took all day with layovers, so we were all tired when we got there.

After a night of not too restful sleep due to adjusting to Pacific Time, we decided to see some sites. The 17 Mile Drive, from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, seemed like a good choice. Hugging the coastline, and with views of beautiful homes and a famous golf course, we thought the little one would probably fall asleep while we enjoyed the drive. We had made sure to time it after eating lunch and changing diapers. The little one had other ideas. After we paid the fee to get onto the drive, it was only about 30 minutes until the crying started. Non stop, full on, over tired, I am not on Pacific Time, not in my own bed, toddler howling.

We thought the motion of the car would eventually lull said child to sleep. We also thought the drive was only 17 miles, so how long could it take? Well, quite awhile with traffic. Trying to stop and console the little one outside the car didn’t work, so I moved to the backseat in the hope of helping, and we drove as fast as we could. It was like being on a European road race, but with traffic. I remember seeing a bit of the ocean, some pricey homes, one hole at the Pebble Beach golf course, and the trunk of the famous Cypress tree.

The little one did eventually tire herself out and fall asleep, after we exited the famous drive. Then we had to drive around to keep her asleep with the hope of a more restful night. From that day forth, I have referred to this picturesque locale as the 117 Mile Drive, because that is what it felt like. A return trip might be in order now that retirement has set in.

Fun Travel Tip Number One- if your kids wear diapers and take naps, avoid air travel and stick with driving trips close to home, in the same time zone. Or just stay home.

After baby number two arrived, we knew better than to fly anywhere with two toddlers. But that didn’t stop us from naively planning a driving trip to a lake with another family. The photo of the dismembered Barbie doll above, which I am amazed was available on the free photo site, gives you an idea of how this one went.

Our kids were two and four, but the friends children were a bit older. Since they might be more flexible than we could be, one of our favorite babysitters came along on the trip. She was thirteen, and very willing to help out. The drive to the lake we were visiting went pretty well, and when we got to our destination each family checked into their own condo. That was a great help since we had different schedules our kids were used to, and no one had to adapt too much.

The lake resort was nice, but with two toddlers I spent a lot of time in the condo with one or the other changing diapers or putting someone down for a nap. Our babysitter was a huge help, but we wanted her to have some time at the pool too, so it was a lot of juggling. I remember it as more of a working vacation than restful but not too surprising.

The only real drama occurred on the drive home. The toddlers and babysitter were in the middle row of our van, and each of the kids had a bag of books, toys and snacks. This worked well until the two year old fell asleep with a Barbie doll in her hand. She woke up about 45 minutes later, and apparently wasn’t done with her nap, because for no obvious reason she started hitting the babysitter on the head with the doll. And I mean hitting. By the time we pulled over, and extracted the sitter, the doll was pretty mangled. After some time to regroup, I decided to move to the middle seat and let the poor sitter get a break in the front. Miraculously, the sitter did take care of our kids again, and when she grew up even had three of her own.

Fun Travel Tip Number Two- when travelling with small children who take naps in the car, remove anything that could become a weapon when they fall asleep. Or just stay home.

Photo of the Santa Barbara airport

The next trip happened when the kids were 3 and 5, and involved another vacation to California. Learning from the 117 Mile Drive, no sight seeing was planned, and we flew into the Santa Barbara airport. Our final destination wasn’t too far away. It is a small airport, and has a lot palm trees and open areas since the climate is so temperate. The children, their grandmother and I arrived after a full day of connecting flights. The next stop was the car rental counter.

I took the five year old, and sent the three year old in a stroller with her grandmother while we got the car. The line was full of business travellers, and I clearly wasn’t- I had on elastic waste pants, a sweater, and looked like I had been travelling with toddlers all day. As the line grew, I asked one of the business people to save my place, and I put the five year old on a bench nearby, where I could see her, with stern instructions not to move or talk to anyone. Once I was back in my place, she said, as loudly as possible “Sure, I’ll sit here, and I’ll do whatever you say, you big, fat butt”. There were some stifled laughs. I mumbled something about how verbal she was for only being five, but I felt like my derriere was inflating by the minute. And I made a note not to wear sweat pants again on a flight. Ever.

Fun Travel Tip Number Three-keep your precocious, verbal children in front of you when you are in lines at an airport to avoid any unsolicited comments about your backside. Or just stay home.

The last adventure was when my daughters were 11 and 13. We were at a beach in North Carolina that had a lot of family activities- in addition to the ocean, miniature golf, go carts, and a great ice cream shop on the main street to and from the beach. We visited every year starting when the girls were much younger, but the activities remained the same. It was a popular place, but almost all of the businesses were small, family owned and had great service.

We were long past any missed naps or other mishaps by this point, but something happened that really caught me off guard. One night at the ice cream store, the nice young man serving my daughters mentioned that theirs were free. I thought it was some kind special deal for the family. Then it dawned on me- mine wasn’t free- only theirs, and he was flirting with them! What was he thinking? They were still young children my mind. I swooped in like a mother bird, paid for all of our treats, and hustled them out the door. Our vacations had hit a whole new zone.

Fun Travel Tip Number Four- when your daughters are over age 10, assume that all of the boys you see on vacation will think they are old enough to date. Dispel all boys of this notion by hovering over your girls at all times. It’s not practical to stay home at these ages, so make the best of it.

I hope this post has given you a few laughs, and some ideas for future trips with your family members, especially the kids. Happy vacation planning!

Early Birds, Night Owls, And Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

Early Birds, Night Owls, And Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

It is after midnight, and I am writing the first draft of this week’s blog post. The imminent change to our clocks on Sunday morning has me thinking about time, our natural sleep and wake cycles, and how changes to our routines affect everything we do.

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The world seems to be divided into two main groups, Early Birds and Night Owls. This is based on the 20,000 nerve cells in our brains that set our “master clock”, also called our chronotype. As a natural Night Owl, I see great advantages in this approach to being awake. It is very quiet late at night, and I do my best thinking under those conditions. Even if I feel sleepy early in the evening, at around 10 pm, I get my second wind. That usually leads to staying up until the wee hours of the morning doing things I like to do- read a good book, watch a favorite movie, or write blog posts. This happened when I was still working, and usually made me fairly tired when the alarm went off in the morning. But as a retired person, it has worked out quite well. I never make appointments in the morning, so I can stay up as late as I want, and sleep in as late I choose to as well. I am convinced this is my natural circadian rhythm because I feel most relaxed and rested when following this schedule. For my fellow Night Owls who read the blog- I see you, and you are my people. Hopefully the world appreciates our round the clock vigilance in case an emergency arises at night. We are at the ready, and will inform the rest of the world.

The only time I get up early enough to see the sunrise ( or as we Night Owls say, what is that giant yellow brightness in the sky?) is if I have an early flight that has been booked to save money. Some airlines even have planes that depart at 6 am from our fair city. With a flight that early, which requires arriving at the airport by 4, I usually just stay up all night. Much easier. On my way to the airport I have frequently seen Early Birds who are leaving for work, and even some who are happily jogging around the neighborhood. Those are Super Early Birds to me- people who not only like early morning hours, but also accomplish important things.

So we all have our natural sleep and wake cycles, and adapt them as we work and raise families. Small children present unique challenges with schedules because getting the little cherubs to bed at a reasonable time, and hoping they don’t get up too early, is a never ending thing. I remember after baths, stories, and getting everyone down for the night, sitting on the couch and enjoying the silence, usually with a bowl of ice cream. These plans were upended two times a year with the arrival of Daylight Saving Time (DST). Just when you had it down, you were gaining or losing an hour and wreaking havoc with your carefully crafted home life. The Spring Forward rule was the worst, but Fall Back had its disadvantages too. And since this is a DST weekend, it made me wonder yet again why do we do this?

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A little research reveals it started in the US in 1918, ostensibly to make better use of daylight and save energy during wartime. Moving clocks ahead one hour in the spring was supposed to save energy and give people an extra hour of sunlight in the evening to be outside, attend events and not use artificial light. Urban areas liked it because people were spending more money, but rural areas opposed it because their work had to be done no matter what time the clock said it was. And since 1918, DST has remained a controversial idea. Various laws have been passed to make it uniform and applicable in every state, but there has always been at least one state, Arizona, that chooses not to do it. But it would be difficult to find a state that has struggled more with this than Indiana. Over the past 100 years, they have passed several laws about DST, only to repeal them a year or two later. At one time, twelve counties in the state were on Central Time and followed DST, but the remaining eighty counties were on Eastern Time year round, without DST. Finally, in 2006, all counties were expected to follow DST. Good grief.

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From my perspective, gaining an hour of sleep in the fall is ok. The daylight part of the whole process is wasted on me, but I wholeheartedly support an extra hour of sleep. Fall is a nice season in the Midwest, with changing leaves and crisp, cool temperatures. Time for football games, hayrack rides and haunted houses. I don’t remember the fall time change being as hard to manage with small kids as the spring one, but I do recall some homecoming weekends during the high school years that coincided with the extra hour. Since the time changed at 2 am to 3 am, that seemed like a good time to come home from the after party to me. As the person who waited up for the teenagers to come home, the arrival time was relevant, even for a Night Owl parent.

So on we go with another round of saving daylight. Some of my devices will automatically update, and some will require manual assistance. Most notably my car, and that one will take several attempts because I only do it twice a year. I will start the car, back out of the garage, and sit in the driveway. Then I start with settings, and keep pushing buttons until something about the clock pops up. The next step is to fumble around until I remember how to change the time. But it will all be worth it, because I have an extra hour of daylight to figure it out. And I’m retired, so there’s no rush!

Memorable Teachers

Memorable Teachers

As my teacher friends have been navigating the challenges of Covid, remote learning, and heading back to the classroom, I have been thinking about the most memorable teachers I encountered in my many years of education. From kindergarten to law school, I was a full time student for twenty consecutive years. Along the way I had some fabulous teachers, and a couple of funny classroom stories too.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Let’s start with the fabulous list-

Grade School– my kindergarten teacher, Miss Virginia, was the kindest and most patient person. A good kindergarten experience sets the foundation for many years, so I was fortunate to have her. In second grade, Mrs. Hood, who calmly helped us through the assassination of President Kennedy. Fifth grade brought me to a new school and Mrs. Wybenga. She was a master teacher, and so kind to me as I transferred in for the second semester.

Junior High- Mrs. McCart, in eighth grade, who taught me how to diagram sentences, and Mr. George in math class, who was nice even when we sang the theme song to a popular cartoon, “George of the Jungle” when he walked into the room.

High school– Sister Doris for sophomore theology, who made you think a lot about her essay assignments. And Mr. Sporcic for any class he taught- a bright and funny guy.

College– Dr. Dunn, a professor who had taught at every level of education from grade school to grad school, and loved being a teacher.

Law School– Professor Larry Berger, who made the income tax class understandable for those of us who majored in liberal arts, and who taught my senior seminar on real estate law.

Of course, being in school that many years also produced some not so fabulous experiences, but they are funny, so they fit in with the blog quite well. I offer these two examples in chronological order, starting with my high school sociology class.

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Sociology was an elective, and only lasted one semester. I decided to take it in the spring of my senior year. The teacher was the formidable Sister Evelyn Barbara, known to her fellow sisters as E.B. I had never had her for a class. I also was a fairly good student and didn’t get in trouble except for talking too much in class. No big surprise there. But for some reason, E.B. took a dislike to me from day one. When she came into class, we started with a prayer, and then she took attendance. When she got to my name, she said “Sally Brown? What’s your problem beside the obvious ones?” I said “here”, and “I am not aware of any problems at the moment.” She laughed and went on. And then she did this every time she took attendance for the rest of the semester. I always answered the same. As the semester wore on, she had us start praying for a kidnap victim named Patty Hearst, an heir to the Hearst fortune who was being held for ransom in California. So the routine was pray for Patty, take attendance, ask me what my problems were, and then have class. Unfortunately, Patty Hearst became enmeshed with her captors, and she helped them rob a bank. It was very prominent on the news, so I thought it might help me with my roll call problems. A couple of days after she robbed the bank, E.B. went through the usual prayer for her, and asking me what my problems were. I gave my standard reply, but then mentioned I had a question. Did Sister think we still needed to pray for Patty since she held up a bank two days ago? Prior to that day, I had never said anything remotely sarcastic, but since she didn’t like me, I thought what the heck. And at that point there were only a couple of weeks left for seniors. She was actually speechless for a bit, and then said we probably didn’t need to if it was true. My classmates thanked me for the humor and getting rid of the Patty prayer, but E.B. still asked me about my problems for the rest of the semester. Every single class.

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The second experience was in my first year of law school. I couldn’t find any pictures of a typical classroom, but the books above resemble the thick tomes we had to read all the time. And the classrooms were big- theatre style seating for you and about 75 of your classmates. We even had microphones at each seat if we talked too softly. How special!

This fun time happened during my first semester of my first year in a Contracts class. The instruction was completely done using the Socratic Method- the instructor assigned a lot of reading each night, and it was completely composed of case law. No narrative passages like “here is what you need for a valid contract”. Just cases that you had to read and brief (summarize) each night. In class, the professor would not impart any content via a lecture. He or she would choose one student each class, and then ask them questions for a solid hour. It was completely random, so you never knew when it would happen. This was the dreaded “being called on”. It usually started out with the facts of the first assigned case, and then diverged into a lot of questions, and hopefully answers from the student. Luckily, you only had to be called on once per semester. The unlucky part was if you had a bad day.

I arrived in my Contracts class with my usual supplies- the case book that weighed a ton, my briefs for the assigned reading, and ready to take notes when one of my classmates was called upon. I was looking across the room when I heard the dreaded “Ms. Brown, tell me the facts of the first case.” Oh joy! Today was my day. But I had been called on in other classes and did ok, so I wasn’t too worried until the professor started the “what if, and would your answer change” questions. By about the fifth one, I went blank- like an out of body experience watching myself sit in the chair without a head attached. You would think my E.B. experience would have toughened me up for this type thing, but no such luck. Classmates close by were trying to whisper something for me to say, but I couldn’t hear them. After some interminable silence, I finally attempted an answer. And after I did, the professor found it so incredibly inadequate that he turned to the blackboard and started to pretend he was pounding his head on it. I wanted to sink into my chair and disappear, but we had some time left. So I kept talking, and he stopped pounding his head on the board, and then the class was over. ( Note for attorney friends reading this- I remember some of his questions involved the Uniform Commercial Code. No wonder it was a struggle!).

Fast forward to a reception many years later that the law school hosted for alumni. It was free food, drinks and some continuing ed credits, so easy to attend. As I was waiting in line for a drink, I noticed Professor Blackboard was in front of me. He turned around, looked at my nametag, and asked me if that was my name when I was in school. I said no, gave him my former name, and waited for a glimmer of recognition. Nothing! He had no memory of one of the days that lives in infamy for me, one that made me seriously question my career choice. So that put it in better perspective after all those years, but I can still remember it in minute detail.

As a college teacher I tried to draw upon all of the experiences I had as a student. To remember that everyone comes to the classroom with different levels of knowledge. That anyone can have an “off day”, including the instructor. I expected students to participate in class, but rarely used any Socratic method questions that would stress them out unnecessarily. That breaking down complex concepts into “chunks” of learning worked well, and that student writing improved dramatically when I had them prepare graded rough drafts of written assignments. And in 28 years in the classroom, I never embarrassed anyone while taking attendance, never swore (outloud- may have thought it!), and I never made contact with a blackboard or Smart board unless I was writing something related to the course. It’s good to retire before any of these things occur, so mission accomplished!

Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

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“In the future, everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes”- Andy Warhol

I think Andy had a point with his prediction, which was made long before social media and smart phones recording anything and everything. Case in point- I have had two experiences with “fame”, both on television, and they are worth remembering.

The first was in the early 1990’s, when I was visiting New York for a week. No work, just fun and lots of time to do whatever sounded interesting. A former co-worker’s husband worked for ABC News, and they offered to get me tickets to the highly rated daytime talk show of the era, Live With Regis and Kathie Lee. I had watched the show several times, and really appreciated Regis and his sense of humor. My ticket included being at the front of the line to go into the studio, and first choice for a seat. So I found one about four rows from the front, and settled in for a fun morning. We had seat numbers that we were asked to remember. One regular feature was when the hosts called a viewer and asked them a question. If they answered correctly, they received a prize. Then they were asked to choose a number between 1 and 100. Whoever was sitting in that seat would also win a prize. I don’t remember what the question was, but the person on the phone answered correctly and my number was called. I got to stand up, and felt like I had just been told to “come on down” on the Price is Right. A staff member came to my seat during the next commercial, and got my mailing info for my prize. What fabulous prize did I win? A year long supply of tea, and an ice tea maker. The whole thing lasted about two minutes, but I was sure someone back home saw me since it was such a popular show. This was before cell phones, so I had to wait until I got home to see who had been watching that day. To my surprise, no one I knew saw it. I asked people for a couple of weeks about it, and then got kind of embarrassed, so I had to stop. And to add to my disappointment, I don’t drink tea. So I gave the prize to someone who would use it.

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The next one will take a bit longer to explain, but it has a lot more humor. One of my daughters was getting married in the England, and we had spent a busy summer getting ready for the wedding. We were lucky to have a lot of help from her future mother in law who lived there. Without her help we could not have gotten everything done. The bride and groom were already there, but the rest of the family had to make their way across the pond. My husband and I had planned to go a week early to help, and hopefully be over our jet lag by the time the wedding occurred. This trip coincided with the peak of my discomfort with air travel, created by flying through a couple of thunderstorms. We had to get to an international airport from our hometown, so I made our plans with a long layover in Chicago before boarding our overnight flight. I also liked to get to the local airport early to avoid rushing to the gate. At a friend’s suggestion I also had gotten a prescription for Xanax from my doctor. It was small, and non refillable, so I needed to make sure I had enough for the flights home. If you have ever had a fear of flying, however, you will know that your anxiety usually maxes out before the first flight. And when I was on the plane, it didn’t stop the anxiety. It just kept me from jumping out of my seat and running down the aisle and asking to be let off.

The dosage info on my prescription said “1 pill as needed every 3 hours for anxiety”. We had gotten to the airport so early for the first flight, I had taken two of them- one when I woke up, and another about half an hour before we were scheduled to board. I had eaten a muffin so that I didn’t medicate on an empty stomach, but I was very, very relaxed. Minutes before boarding, there was an ominous announcement. Someone boarding our plane had what the security screeners thought was a bomb in his carry on bag. Our entire terminal was sent to the front of the building, and the bomb squad from the local police department was called. Since the guy was on our flight, they had to search the luggage hold too. It took awhile for the bomb people to arrive, and we could see them working in the distance when they did. Our local airport rarely has this type of issue, so the television news crews were on the scene fairly quickly. This is where the funny part starts.

One of the news crews was looking for a passenger to interview. They were standing near us, so I volunteered. This was going to be a live feed to the station, so there wasn’t a lot of time to chat. The reporter got my name, and that was about it. I usually hyphenate my last name, but I only gave her part of it. They started to film, and I was chatty, chatty, chatty. She asked me if I was scared. No way! I wasn’t worried at all. Just a possible bomb. I mentioned we were on our way to England, my daughter was getting married, and lots of other irrelevant details. The camera person seemed a bit amused, but I’m sure the reporter wished she had found someone else. I think I tried to hold her microphone too. Once I stopped talking, I pulled out my cell phone and posted on Facebook that we were delayed due to a bomb threat. Then the messages started pouring in. “Saw you on the news. Are you ok?” (Yes) , ” When did you change your name?” ( I didn’t) “Must be scary but you don’t seem upset” (Had some Xanax) and my personal favorite, “Have you been drinking?” (No). So unlike the tea prize of yesteryear, a lot of people saw me this time.

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Luckily, the “bomb” turned out to be some homemade fireworks the random guy thought would be ok to bring on the plane. We were able to board our flight and made it to Chicago with time to spare due to my booking our flights with such a long layover. I slept most of the way to England, and we had a beautiful wedding, followed by some travel afterword too. I had enough Xanax for the flights home, and am happy to report I rarely need them now after finding a “overcome your fear of flying” program. The only problem we encountered after the wedding was when we came home to find our car had been nearly totalled due to the hail storm of the century. We had parked it outside to save money, which of course was irrelevant with so much damage.

All of our travels have been uneventful since the wedding trip. We never park outside, because that would induce the second hail storm of the century. And I do still like to get to the gate plenty early. You never know when you might need to be interviewed by the local media in the event of an emergency! It probably wouldn’t be as funny this time, though, without my medicated persona.

I Know Why Blockbuster Video Died

I Know Why Blockbuster Video Died

black vhs on vhs player beside remote control
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Blockbuster Video was the “go to” place for entertainment in the 1980’s and 90’s. With an extensive inventory for all ages, it was the best source for videos. At their peak, they had 9000 stores and were the market leader in both United States and had expanded to Europe. Their rise to prominence coincided with Baby Boomers having kids, who became known as the Millennial generation. We spent a lot of time at the video store, and in many ways it was a fun outing. In 2010, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy, and was purchased by a satellite service. The change in ownership didn’t work out, and in 2014 the last corporate Blockbuster location closed. What happened to this once dominant brand? Read on and I’ll share my theory about their exit from a once lucrative business.

gray scale photo analogue of television
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To understand the demise of these stores, you have to understand the viewing habits of the the people with the purchasing power, the Boomer parents. We grew up when televisions were still a relatively new form of entertainment. There were three channels- ABC, CBS, and NBC. Black and white tvs were the first ones we watched, and when the color models came out it was a huge improvement. I remember staying up late one night and seeing the monologue on the Tonight Show- the curtain behind Johnny Carson was a blinding variety of colors. And the NBC peacock logo was dazzling. It was a revelation to see what the people and the sets actually looked like. Fun fact- the tv pictured above isn’t really as old as I wanted to post, but in the free photo library it was the best one I could find. It does have the memorable “rabbit ear” antennas, but the set itself is too new. This is what popped up when I did a search for “antique televisions”. Kind of funny.

disney mickey mouse standing figurine
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Since there were so few channels, we all tended to watch the same shows- in the morning, Captain Kangaroo, with his sidekicks Mr. Green Jeans and Bunny Rabbit. After school, it was the Mickey Mouse Club. Genius marketing by Disney. It made Disneyland and mouse ear beanies very popular, and launched the careers of several of the Mouseketeers. Playing outside was the norm after that, but as you aged a few evening programs were available for viewing. Lots of silly shows (a talking horse, a genie in a bottle, a witch married to a mortal husband) and a heavy dose of outer space shows since we were trying to get to the moon before the Russians. Saturday mornings brought cartoons. The Jetsons was a favorite- the show was about a space age family that had a talking tv, a robot for a maid, and flying cars. Very futuristic, and many of those things actually came true. You planned your day around when the shows would be on because there wasn’t a way to record them. So our expectations for entertainment weren’t exactly full of variety, and we learned to wait for the shows to appear.

Blockbuster filled that void, and had a lot to offer- you could watch the videos when you wanted to, and the vcr that you played them on could also record tv shows. That was life changing, and it made weekend nights more fun for parents who might not have a babysitter, and for kids who could watch shows as many times as they liked. It was relatively inexpensive and you knew what the children were watching. What could possibly go wrong with this business model? Cable tv and the Internet certainly took a toll, and Netflix renting dvds in the mail was the final nail in the coffin. But I also think there is another less discussed reason for it. In two words, late fees.

black envelope with cash dollars on marble table
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I can’t be certain late fees were a factor in every city, but I am fairly certain that the Omaha locations nearest my home were funded in large part by the overdue fees my family incurred over the years. When you rented the video, it was only about $5.00. But it had to be returned in a short time or the fees started to accrue. This wouldn’t have been so bad if we had kept track of the videos, but that was not the case. I remember finding them in the most unlikely locations- in the back of kitchen cupboards, under folded clothes in the laundry room, under dirty clothes in the laundry room, in backpacks- nowhere near a tv or vcr. Hunting for them in the house was always an adventure because there were usually very messy teenage bedrooms that could best be described as “there appears to have been a struggle”. I drove a minivan in those days, and there were a lot of hidden videos there too. I never rode in the third row seats, but I eventually learned to add that to my video search list. Moving was a huge problem too- I only moved once in our heavy rental years, but there must have been several videos lost in that process. When they switched to dvds, the problem actually got worse because they were smaller and harder to find. And the fees could add up to more than the price if you had purchased the movie, defeating the entire purpose of the rental. Since they had the corner on the market, you could not plead for reduced fees when you finally found the movie and took it back. Being a naturally frugal person, I would occasionally ban rentals for awhile to save money. But that never lasted long and we were right back to paying way too much.

When I mentioned that Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010, that happens to coincide with the year my youngest child graduated from college. A coincidence? I think not. That truly was the end of an era in many ways, including paying for renting anything from Blockbuster, so they wouldn’t be getting any more late fees from me. And in the ultimate irony, when I was cleaning out a box of college things from that child I found a Blockbuster dvd. This was in about 2017, so the late fees would have been running for at least seven years. Even though she went to college out of state, the dvd was from the local store. Thank goodness they didn’t track down their past due accounts! They would have had to garnish my wages to cover that one.

So now we are in the age of streaming and entertainment on demand. I like the new approach, especially after getting a smart tv that integrates all of the features and makes it easy to access them. The only surprising thing in this new era is the inability to find shows that I like to watch- with hundreds of channels, you would think there would always be something interesting on. Somehow that’s not always the case. And if you want some nostalgia, there is one privately owned Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, that advertises that it is the last one on earth. I wonder if they charge late fees?

Five Of My Favorite Sayings, And Three I Can Do Without

Five Of My Favorite Sayings, And Three I Can Do Without

Even though February is a short month on the calendar, it seems quite long at times. This is one of those times- with Covid still a concern, winter storms in much of the country, and spring still weeks away. So it seems like a good week to share some of my favorite sayings, in no particular order. I hope you find them helpful, and entertaining.

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  1. All Hat, No Cattle– I don’t know where I first heard this, but I am guessing it originated in Texas. It says a lot in a few words, and reminds people not to get too caught up in their own self importance. And you certainly don’t want to put on false airs. If you’ve got the cattle, everyone will figure that out. So skip the fake hat.
  2. The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things– this usually becomes apparent as you grow older, but I think Covid has brought it to the forefront for everyone this past year. In my younger days, especially when I got out of law school, I was a pretty good consumer since I had been in college forever with very little discretionary income. But as I got older it started to sink in that our relatives won’t be with us forever, and that children grow up in a hurry. I think we will all be happy when we can get back to seeing our families and friends like we did before the virus, and that those gatherings will be even more meaningful.
  3. I’d Agree With You, But Then We’d Both Be Wrong- isn’t this a catchy way to say you think you’re right? A co-worker had this printed on a plaque in her office, and it really is a great thing to have at work. I also tend to think I’m right, a lot. Actually almost all the time. So I adopted this mantra to occasionally use when someone doesn’t quite appreciate my eternal rightness. It also makes people smile.
  4. I’m Sorry, But Your Lack of Planning Will Not Become My Emergency– another spiffy quote from work. I think it was posted in the copy center at one time. I have to admit that I never said this out loud at work because it really is pretty rude. But I thought it many, many times because I rarely put anything off until the last minute. It is usually better to say that you are swamped and won’t be able to help until your workload lightens. Unless the person who asks you to do something because they didn’t plan ahead is your boss. But for everyone else, this is really a handy thing to keep in mind.
  5. It’s Their Journey-hands down, the best parenting advice ever. One of my wise friends shared this with a group of moms when we were out to lunch several years ago. It encapsulates so much. When your children are born, I think there is a tendency to envision they will do lots of things that you did, the same way you did them. It is always good to remember that your kids will walk some of the same paths, but their way of doing it will vary. This phrase can be used for minor issues ( you’re a senior now, better declare a major) to more serious ones (moving to California to do stand up comedy is a bit risky, but good luck!). No matter what comes up, this reminds you to be supportive and keep things in perspective. And you can always solicit advice from your mom friends next time you see them.
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And since everything in the world of sayings isn’t helpful, I offer three that I place in the less than helpful category:

  1. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger- good grief. No, just plain no, on several levels. First, if you almost died from it, that must have been a pretty serious thing. If you got in an accident and had to do a lot of rehab work, you may not get back to the same level you were at, no matter how hard you work. And it completely discounts the trauma you suffered. Like saying the accident was bad and the recovery was gruesome, but hey, here you are so all is well. Really not useful at all.
  2. When One Door Closes, Another Opens- this is the first cousin of number 1. Technically, it is true since when you need to leave a room when the door is closed, you will need to open it to exit. But this also discounts what happened when the door closed- a lost job, relationship, or other opportunity. If someone has a loss like this, that deserves to be acknowledged as a difficult thing. And the next job or relationship might take awhile to develop. People need time to reflect and be heard, not just be told to go searching for open doors. They might not be found for awhile, and that’s really ok.
  3. Do What You Love, and the Money Will Follow-I have no idea where this originated, but it has some flaws. I like to read, play golf and take naps. So far, I haven’t found a job that will pay me to do any of these things. If the idea is that you should explore your interests and passions as you consider a career, then I am all for that approach. Sometimes you will find a career that is a perfect fit in that regard. But you might find a career that you are good at but it’s not your passion. I once worked with a colleague who was very good at teaching math but would admit he didn’t really like the subject that much- he just happened to be good at it. And he made decent money teaching it, and had a flexible schedule. This allowed him to focus on some hobbies that he loved when he wasn’t working. There are lots of ways to do things that you love, but they may not produce any income or enough to live on.
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Since we are approaching Lent, I thought I would close with a funny story about it. As you probably know, it is the observance of the weeks before Easter that Catholics and some other faith traditions start this week on Ash Wednesday. For Catholics, it is also supposed to include not eating meat on Fridays ( usually producing some fine fish fry fundraisers in my part of the world, but alas not this year due to Covid), and some sort of sacrifice, i.e. “giving something up”. This can range from chocolate, to beer, to whatever you find appropriate. During law school, one of my friends and I spent a lot of time in the snack area, sitting in a particular booth, talking about anything that we found interesting. One year for Lent, I decided to give up complaining. Most of my complaints were about school, and that wasn’t all we talked about, so how hard could it be? Well, very hard. About two days into it, I realized that I must have been complaining all the time because I was practically mute. It was struggle to carry on a conversation, and I really missed our chats. So I changed course, and went back to the old stand by from my youth, chocolate. Much easier! Our long chats were restored, and we were so well known for sitting in the same spot that one of our classmates put up a plaque naming the booth in our honor. The booth is long gone, but the memories live on, and I have no complaints about being remembered as one of only two students who had a piece of furniture dedicated to them at the University of Nebraska College of Law.

Tennis Great Arthur Ashe Turned 18 In Omaha, And My Mom Baked Him A Cake

Tennis Great Arthur Ashe Turned 18 In Omaha, And My Mom Baked Him A Cake

Arthur Ashe and Bill Brown at the Dewey Park Tennis Center

A copy of the above picture, of Arthur Ashe and my brother, Bill Brown, was featured in a frame on the “tennis wall” in my parents’ basement for as long as they lived in the home. It was taken in July, 1961, during a regional tennis tournament that both boys were playing in at the Dewey Park Tennis Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The tournament was covered in the local newspaper, and this photo was taken by one of their photographers. A copy was given to my mother as a keepsake for baking a birthday cake for the budding tennis star. Arthur’s path to that day was not what you would expect for a young man born and raised through his junior year of high school in Richmond, Virginia. But he made a move for his senior year that helped propel his tennis career in ways that weren’t possible in his hometown.

Growing up in Richmond, Arthur lived in the caretaker’s house in a segregated park that included tennis courts. That is where he learned to play tennis, and local tennis players from the Black community noticed he had talent. Sadly, his mother died when he was only seven years old. So his tennis potential was guided by his father, and a local physician named Dr. Walter Johnson, who remained his life long mentor. High school play was segregated, so the Black schools only played other Black schools. In the winter, it was even worse. Black players were not allowed on the indoor courts in the city. So Dr. Johnson encourage his dad to let Arthur move away for his senior year of high school, where he could play on all of the public courts, and have competition to improve his game.

They chose St. Louis, Missouri, and worked with a well known Black teacher and coach named Richard Hudlin. Hudlin had gotten the outdoor courts in the city desegregated in the 1950’s, and he knew the indoor courts would be available too. This was due to the city having a sprawling athletic facility built as part of their National Guard Armory during the Depression. They were the only indoor courts in the city at the time, and a local tennis pro marked the lines on a polished wood surface. This made for a very fast court to play on, so players learned to return serve very quickly. Indoor courts weren’t plentiful in the Midwest in those days, so having access to these courts was a distinct advantage.

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St Louis also had many of the best junior players in the country. And the Armory was open to everyone, so segregation wasn’t an issue, and adults and juniors alike would show up and wait for games to develop. Five Wimbledon champions were either from St. Louis or played regularly at the Armory during the 1960’s- the most recognizable name is probably Jimmy Connors. He was younger than Arthur, but their paths would cross when they both played professionally in later years.

The tennis world is divided into regional groups. St. Louis was part of the Missouri Valley Tennis Association, which included Nebraska, and several other states. In the days before big prize money and a change in the rules regarding who could play in Grand Slam tournaments, the regional associations were filled with great competition, and the ability to move on and compete in national tournaments. So Arthur Ashe was in Omaha playing in the Missouri Valley Junior Championships when the picture was taken. It was held at Dewey Park, the lovely public tennis courts where my brothers and I learned to play by taking free lessons sponsored by the city parks department.

Many players tried to get college scholarships in those days prior to turning pro. My brother and Arthur both pursued that route, my brother at Notre Dame and Arthur at UCLA, schools that would not have been affordable for either of them without scholarships. They both became professional tennis players; my brother was ranked in the top 100 players in the world, and Arthur soared even higher. He won three Grand Slam titles, including Wimbledon. He broke many barriers, and worked for civil rights and to end apartheid in South Africa. And he played excellent tennis. I can remember watching him on tv, and always thought it was neat we had his birthday picture on the wall.

The picture came into play in future years in two ways. First, my brother has the only other personal copy of the photo, and while they were both still playing in tournaments he took it to the locker room and asked Arthur to sign it. He remembered it was from the tournament in Omaha, and wrote “A long time ago, Arthur”. My brother still has it at his home in California. The second time it came in handy was when one of my daughters came home from school and was pretty upset. Arthur Ashe was mentioned in her social studies textbook and it had a picture of him. She mentioned, to her teacher and the class, that her grandmother knew him, had baked him a birthday cake, and that she had a picture of it in her house. Nobody believed her. This makes sense since the book mentioned he was from Virginia, and St. Louis and Omaha weren’t part of his biography. Since she was pretty upset, I told her we would go to my parents’ house, get the picture, and she could take it to school the next day. We carefully took it off the wall and wrapped it in a towel. I wrote a note to her teacher explaining the whole story, and asked if she could share it with the class. Problem solved.

Off the court, Arthur had health problems, and suffered a heart attack in the late 1970’s and retired from playing. But he didn’t leave the game or his work developing new players, and fighting for equality and social justice. In 1983, he had heart surgery and received a blood transfusion. Sadly, he contracted the AIDS virus from the transfusion. He kept the diagnosis private for several years, but once it became public established endowments to fight the disease. He finished his memoir, Days of Grace, shortly before he died in 1993, at age 49. The main stadium court at the USTA National Tennis Center is named in his honor, not only for his barrier breaking career, but for his integrity and work off the court too. And in 1996, Richmond, Virginia erected a statue in his honor as well. It features Arthur, with a book in one hand and a tennis racquet in the other.

Tennis has changed dramatically since Arthur and my brother were in high school. Gone are the days of a young athlete learning to play on a public court, and developing exclusively through the local and regional tournament programs. Those still exist, but future professional players now have to attend elite tennis academies, and many don’t go to college. There is a lot of money to be made if you are one of the world’s top players, and although it’s always been an international sport, the competition from other countries has grown exponentially. It doesn’t help make a sport accessible when a system like this develops, although tennis organizations have programs designed to develop players from diverse backgrounds and income levels. I hope they succeed.

One final note on the birthday- my mom told me that Arthur was very appreciative of the cake she made and thanked her for doing so. But she noticed that he didn’t eat a piece, and he said it was because he avoided eating sweets to stay in shape to play. No wonder he won so many tournaments!

The Goldfish That Lived Forever, And Other Family Pets

The Goldfish That Lived Forever, And Other Family Pets

Pets have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember- cats, dogs and a few other species when my kids were growing up. They are members of our family, and provide companionship and unconditional love for as long as we have them. They also provide entertainment to varying degrees.

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There are two funny stories about our pets from when I was in grade school. The first one is about taking our dog, Angus, to obedience class. He was a wire hair terrier, the only dog we ever bought from a breeder. He was pretty incorrigible, so I was in charge of taking him to the classes. We were dropped off, and were placed in the remedial group- he would barely walk on his leash, ignored my commands, and didn’t care if treats were involved. To “graduate”, he had to do several on leash tasks, and then a few off leash, while the rest of the class watched. We practiced a lot, but I wasn’t optimistic. To my amazement, he was a star at graduation- did everything with ease, and clearly liked performing with an audience. So we passed, but he was never that obedient again. The second story is about our mixed breed dog, Schiller, who would eat anything. Back when women’s nylons were in individual pairs, he managed to eat one that was drying in the bathroom. It started to come out a few days later, and the vet recommended letting nature take its course. It was quite a site, and it was pointless to try and speed it up with a pull. But nature did eventually take care of it, and he was back to his misbehaving self.

During high school, we had another mixed breed dog named Chaucer that was my ever present companion. He never went to obedience school, so even though he was nice, he had a few habits we had to deal with- one was chewing anything left on or near the floor. He especially liked leather gloves and shoes. He was also an escape artist who ran out the front door whenever it opened, and would not come when called. The only way to get him back was to take meat in the car ( hot dogs were a favorite), and drive around calling his name. If there was a sighting, you had to dangle the hot dog out the window, avoid running him over, and get the little guy in the car. I’m sure our neighbors thought we were nuts.

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One of my favorite dogs after I had kids was a shih tsu named Muffie. She had a sweet disposition, and I never had to sweep the floor after meals because she lapped up everything that the girls dropped. She was willing to be dressed in doll clothes, pushed in a stroller, and be placed inside cabinets for hide and seek. Really a sweetheart of girl, and we were lucky she had a long life. We also had an adopted cat named Ginger, who was very independent and a nice addition to the house. The only time I struggled with her was when we needed to go to the vet or kennel. She was not amused by those trips.

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Since I was used to cats and dogs, the other two “pets” we had weren’t quite as easy to handle. First, we had a gold fish named Mr. Wilson. One child won him at a school carnival, and named him right away. When we stopped to buy him a bowl and food, we got a second gold fish to keep him company, and for the other child to name. The second fish was smaller than Mr. Wilson, and this turned out to be a mistake. When I got up the next morning, unnamed Fish #2 was gone- Mr. Wilson had eaten him, and didn’t leave a trace. He had no remorse, and was swimming happily in his new bowl. So we got off to a bad start. As usually happens, the kids helped a little, but over time I became his chief caretaker. I didn’t really like him, but thought he would only be with us a short time. Wrong again. I don’t recall exactly how long he lived, but it seemed like a decade. I occasionally thought he could be left on a low shelf where the cat could get him, which seemed like karma for eating his bowl mate. But I didn’t, and he finally died of natural causes. The other weird experience was with Coco, the 4th Grade Bunny. I am all in favor of pets in the classroom, but in Coco’s case, she had to be taken home by a student on the weekends. We somehow ended up with Coco in the middle of winter, and during a blizzard. Coco wasn’t a cute little Easter type bunny- she was huge, and produced unbelievable amounts of bunny poo in her cage. This got so full it had to be emptied outside, in the blizzard, several times. We only had Coco for a weekend, but it seemed like a month. I couldn’t wait to return her to the 4th grade classroom.

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For the past several years, we have had several fur kids, all dogs. When Covid started, they were thrilled we were working from home and with them all the time. They keep us, and each other, endlessly entertained. We have a ramp they walk up to get into the back of the car to go for walks. When I met a neighbor on the next block a few years ago, I was trying to point out which house I lived in. She finally said- “Oh, you’re the people with the dogs”. Yes, that’s us. I also felt compelled to tell her we had a special permit from the city to have them. You never know when someone will complain.

The only downside to having pets is that they don’t live as long as we do. As hard as it is to let them go, I can’t imagine life without a dog or two or three around the house. They are the first ones to say hello when you walk in the door, even if you’ve only been gone a few minutes. They know when their humans are sad or aren’t feeling well, and they make a special effort to comfort them. Loyal and brave, they will bark at anyone who comes to the door, and in our case, anyone who comes inside to visit too. They are also excellent judges of human character. If they are afraid of someone, you probably should be too.

So here’s to our pets- may we enjoy each other’s company for as long as possible.

Thank You, Doogie Howser

Thank You, Doogie Howser

Now that I am a month past my aspiration pneumonia diagnosis and days in the hospital, I think it’s time to show some gratitude for the medical team who helped me heal. A particular shout out will go to my internist, who I have jokingly called Doogie Howser for several years. Here’s why.

For those of you who are not familiar with Doogie, this is his story- he was the title character in a tv show in the early 1990’s. Douglas “Doogie” Howser, M.D. was a child prodigy with a genius level IQ who graduated from medical school at age 14. He lived at home with his parents, and was doing his residency at a nearby hospital. While he was practicing medicine, he was also dealing with the normal problems of an adolescent. Doogie was played quite well by Neil Patrick Harris, and I watched the show fairly often. It was all pretty funny then since I was in my forties and my physicians were all older than I was.

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Sometime in my fifties, this all changed. The two docs I saw regularly, my gynecologist and internist, weren’t practicing anymore- one retired, and the other died unexpectedly. So the search for replacements was on. I went with a new internist in the same practice because I liked the way they ran their office. I knew I needed someone younger this time around, so that was part of the process. I read profiles and educational backgrounds online, and a selection was made. I didn’t meet him for about six months, until I had what I thought was a sinus infection. I waited in the exam room, and when he walked in I tried not to look surprised, but he didn’t just look young. He looked like he was 12. Doogie Howser in the flesh, and he was now my doctor. He was thorough, kind, and concurred with my self diagnosis. But when I left, and for a long time thereafter, he still looked like he was 12. About as old as the young man in the photo below, being helped with his homework by his mother.

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I realized that I once looked too young at work too, and thought back to my time as a newly minted attorney, at the ripe old age of 25, working at a large bank. Most of the time I was behind the scenes, doing documentation for loans, compliance work (banks used to more regulated in the 80’s), and anything else I was asked to do. One of my least favorite things was being called to the safe deposit box area when there was a problem. When someone dies, it is not unusual for relatives to want to retrieve important papers from the box. This works if the relative is also listed as an owner of said box and their signature is on file. But a lot of times they would arrive without any of that in place, with just the key and a strong desire to see the contents. When the regular staff answers didn’t work, they would look for some legal advice. The only other lawyers in the bank were in the trust department, and they avoided these issues like the plague. I think they had some sort of sixth sense when the phone rang what the call was about, and they didn’t answer. I was too new to know you could dodge the request, so I would go to the box area, dressed in my blue suit, matching pumps, and white blouse, and politely explain why they couldn’t see the box, and let them know what we needed to accommodate their request. This usually didn’t go over very well. I now know it is partly because I was the legal version of Doogie Howser, and notwithstanding my professional attire, I looked like I was 12.

I have enjoyed fairly good health, so I usually only see Doogie a few times each year. Early on, he thought I might have sleep apnea. I didn’t think so, but to humor him I did a sleep study. I told the nurse who hooked me up to the various monitors that I would have a hard time falling asleep, and that I didn’t have apnea. It only took twenty minutes to fall asleep, and I did indeed have it. I have used a cpap machine for years now, and it is a miraculous thing to feel rested when you wake up. So Doogie did know a thing or two.

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In my December post about the trip to the emergency room, I mentioned that it was very unsettling due to Covid- no relatives, extremely busy, and a feeling of being very alone, and very sick. When I made it into the exam room, about an hour after I got there, the door slid open and who should appear but Doogie. I didn’t recognize him at first due to his mask, but it was beyond reassuring to see someone who knew me and had the time to offer some insight into what was going on since the ER staff was spread so thin. He mentioned he was at the hospital seeing another patient when they called to tell him I would be admitted, so I thought it was a coincidence that he stopped in.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the next morning that he did rounds, and came to see me every day I was in the hospital. The last time one of my relatives was in the hospital, a staff physician saw the patient, not her personal doctor. When I had my follow up visit at Doogie’s office after I was discharged, I mentioned that I appreciated his care while I was there. He said that while it is becoming uncommon for a practice to do it, they think it is worth it to provide continuity of care. I couldn’t agree more.

So thank you, Dr. Howser. We’ve come a long way since the sinus infection. If any readers have relatives who are just starting out in their first job, let them know that they will look impossibly young and inexperienced to their coworkers, patients or clients during their early years. But over time, their expertise and competence will win them over. And if they can add a few wrinkles and grey hair along the way, that will help too.

Paul Simon’s Concert At My Aunt’s House (Yes, That Paul Simon)

Paul Simon’s Concert At My Aunt’s House (Yes, That Paul Simon)

On a July day in 2007, a large bus pulled into Logan, Iowa, population 1500. Inside were Chris Dodd, a U.S. Senator from Connecticut, his wife, two daughters, and campaign staffers. Senator Dodd was running for president. And as the title says, he also brought along his good friend, Paul Simon. Multi Grammy recipient, two time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, performer who has sold out arenas around the world, Paul Simon. He had his acoustic guitar and the ability to play some of the most iconic songs of his career to anyone who wanted to listen. On this date, the venue was the home where my Aunt Lois lived, across the street from the county courthouse. How did my 80 something year old Aunt become the hostess for this musical performance? Well, it’s quite a tale.

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Some of the blog readers are outside the U.S, so a little political background is in order. Every four years, when we elect a new president, Iowa becomes the center of the political universe. It is in the Midwest, and as the Iowa Corn Song says, it’s “where the tall corn grows.” It also holds the first contest in the long primary season, where political parties select their nominees. Most states have an election, but Iowa uses a caucus system. This means that registered voters gather in February and form groups based on who they will support. Discussion follows, tallies are made, and participants can change their preferences. At the end of the evening, winners are declared in both the Democratic and Republican races. Since it is an early test of who the favored candidates are, it is important to do well in Iowa.

The caucus system means that candidates need to get to know the voters in the state. Commercials and flyers aren’t enough. Iowans expect to see the candidates, hear them speak, and ask them questions. So politicians like Senator Dodd spend a lot of time in the state, and start a year or two ahead of the caucus. In the summer of 2007, he was in a crowded field on the Democratic side. To set himself apart, he organized a River to River trip on his campaign bus, going from the Mississippi on the east to the Missouri on the west. It was part of the Missouri swing that brought him to Logan. And bringing Paul Simon along increased attendance at his events, and generated a lot of free publicity.

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How did my aunt become the hostess? She was very active in the community, and our family has lived in the county since the 1850’s, so the roots are deep. Politically astute and with relative and friends too numerous to count, she was a natural fit. She also liked to entertain. There aren’t any videos of her event, but Youtube still has a few of Mr. Simon performing at the Iowa State Fair and in two other towns. He is friendly, shares fun stories about his career, and plays songs people of a certain age will know: Mrs. Robinson, with the words changed for Senator Dodd, The Boxer, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. He also mentions that the first performance by Simon and Garfunkel was at a college in Davenport, IA, and they threatened not to pay them because they thought they were booking comedians, not musicians, and they weren’t funny. I guess it all worked out for them even after that rough start.

So the bus arrived, Paul Simon played for the assembled guests, food was served, and then they got back on and went to the next stop, the much larger city of Council Bluffs. I’m sure a good time was had by all, and that it was amazing to hear a free concert from Paul Simon. Although some of our local family members were able to attend, those of us a little farther away missed the whole thing. I remember my mom saying something about Lois having Chris Dodd stop by, but nothing about the music. Since I only live about 45 minutes away, I would definitely have made the trip.

A few months later, I saw Aunt Lois and asked her about the whole thing. She said the campaign asked her to be the hostess, and they offered to provide the food or pay for it. She agreed to host but was happy to do the food herself, which didn’t surprise me. The biggest problem was probably finding time on her social calendar to fit it in. When we got to the part about the musical guest, I mentioned that he was a musician I had listened to and appreciated for years. She said she didn’t really know who he was when they asked her to host, and neither did any of her friends, but lots of people had told her he was famous. And he did “sing pretty good.” Yes, I’ll bet he did.

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When the Iowa caucus results were tallied in January, 2008, Senator Dodd came in last. And he didn’t get any delegates, so it was almost worse than last. The surprise winner that evening was a young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, who went on to win the presidency. The most recent caucuses were somewhat controversial because it took a long to time to count the results. And other states complain every four years that Iowa has too much influence on the process. I for one hope the caucuses stay in our next door neighbor state because we get to interact with the candidates too since we are so close by.

My Aunt Lois remained busy, interested in politics, and lived on her own for many more years. We have great memories of Fourth of July holidays at her house. She died in her sleep at the age of 95- a long life, well lived. And her former home remains in the family, where her sister, my Aunt Marge now resides. How lucky we are to still have extended family nearby. A trip to Logan will be on our agenda as soon as we can all safely gather again. And who knows? Maybe another candidate will stop in with a famous musician. I won’t miss the next one!

Ma’am, I Am Sending The Sheriff

Ma’am, I Am Sending The Sheriff

The house we lived in the longest when my kids were growing up was in a great neighborhood. There were playmates, a park close by, and neighbors who became good friends. Because my husband traveled a lot for work, we put a security system in when we built the home. It was usually on at night, or whenever we left the house. The service included a monitoring company that would call if the alarm sounded for more than a couple of minutes. You needed a password to prevent them from sending the police. If you had too many false alarms, they charged a fee, so it was important to keep those to a minimum.

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The only times we had the police dispatched were when our kids were home with a babysitter or relative, usually a grandparent. One funny babysitter dispatch occurred when our next door neighbor’s daughter came to watch the girls one night. We would only be gone for a couple of hours, and our neighbors were also good friends, so I knew if anything came up they were close by. You picture the kids watching tv, having fun with a babysitter they know very well. What could possibly go wrong? For some reason, the alarm was turned on, and it went off when the front door was opened to get some food dropped off for our sitter. With the alarm blaring, and no one who knew the password, the sheriff was on his way. My neighbor came over in time to see her daughter and my girls, hands raised, opening the door for the county’s finest. Luckily she could explain what happened, the alarm got turned off, and everyone involved has a funny memory of the evening. And it was all over by the time we got home.

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Fast forward a few years, and another comical false alarm occurred. My mother, who was always willing to watch the grandkids, had picked them up from some activity. They came into the house, with the security system on, and must have been carrying a lot of things, because it was a bit of a disaster. The alarm went off and the code wasn’t entered correctly. The monitoring company called, and our landline answering machine was on and recorded the entire conversation, as follows:

Security – Hello, this is the monitoring company and we show an alarm at your house. ( No kidding- it is blaring in the background)

Grandmother– Yes, I know. I just brought my granddaughters to their house and couldn’t get it turned off. (Noise is louder, and now includes screaming kids, and a barking dog).

Security– What is your password?

Grandmother– Girls, do you know the password? (Negative). We don’t know the password. Isn’t there some other way you can verify this isn’t a real alarm?

Security- No, only the password will work.

Grandmother- ( Retired high school teacher, getting annoyed- using her “teacher voice”). Young man, I don’t know the password, and neither do my granddaughters. Think about it- if I was a burglar, would I be on the phone talking to you about all of this? Of course not. I would be loading the valuables in my car and making a break for it. It makes no sense to waste everyone’s time when this clearly isn’t a break in. ( Alarm, dogs and children are still making a lot of noise).

Security– Since you don’t know the password, ma’am, I am sending the sheriff.

Grandmother– Honestly. Hangs up.

The alarm wasn’t the only technology feature at our house that confounded the grandparents. We had a code to open the garage door in addition to the security system code and password. To make all of this work better, we adopted the same codes at our house that my parents used at theirs, and let them pick the security word. I also wrote all of this down for sitters when we were going out. The remote controls for the tv and vcr were never mastered, but the kids got old enough to figure those out. The vcr at my parents’ house flashed “12” as long as they had it- and it was only used when the grandkids were there to operate it.

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Now that I have a grandchild to watch, I have the advantage of a cell phone with an app that keep tracks of all the passwords I need at her house and daycare. So far, I haven’t been locked out or set off any alarms. I will admit, however, to some difficulty with the remote control and tv. Between streaming services, a gazillion cable channels, more than one remote, and the grandchild being used to everything being readily available, I am not as proficient as the other adults in her life. This is usually when she says “Nana, you are very old”. And she is right. But I am exceptionally pleased with myself when I can get something to work, and am always willing to try. It won’t be too much longer, and she will be able to find all of her shows without my help, and that will be a good thing. In the near future I will also be available to help with homework, just like the picture above. I am going to wait awhile, though, on going full grey on the hairdo. Not quite ready to give up the blonde highlights!

Adventures In Weight Loss

Adventures In Weight Loss

Thank goodness 2021 has arrived! As we turn the page on a new year, and new decade, it seems appropriate to reflect on our goals for the coming twelve months. One of the most common aspirations in a new year is to lose weight. If you look at the plethora of ads running on tv and online, you will see that the weight loss industry and is alive and well. I have some experience with these companies and will share some insight gained over the years.

One of the most popular plans is built around group meetings, which includes weighing in and a presentation by a leader that covers a specific topic. There are also products for sale, most of which are food . This program offers an eating plan that encourages gradual weight loss and a balanced approach. I found the information valuable at times ( who knew skim milk has added sugar?) but also repetitive. What’s the downside to this plan? Several things come to mind. But first, some tips and tricks to help you succeed.

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The first week you weigh in you should wear your heaviest and bulkiest clothing. It can be 95 and humid, but you want to wear a sweater, jeans and winter boots. Keep the boots on. Maybe a hat and mittens too. The amount you weigh is your baseline weight going forward. The number may horrify you, but remember it’s temporary. This method ensures that you will lose your first week because in the second week, and every week thereafter, you will wear your Weigh In Outfit- this will be a camisole, silk shorts, and no shoes. Step on the scale, and voila! You have lost at least 2-3 pounds of clothing. Be sure to keep the Weigh In Outfit handy- because you will use it every week, even when it is 20 below and snowing. Just bring some sweat pants and shirt to put on over the summer duds.

Once you get into a groove going to the meetings, some difficulty can arise. The process is you go at a designated time, are weighed by a staff member, listen to the group leader for 30 minutes, and be on your way. What’s not to love about this fairly streamlined process? Let me count the ways. First, weighing in can be demoralizing. You have to stand in line with your fellow members until a staff person is available, and they vary greatly in terms of attitude and helpfulness. There was one person in particular that I avoided because she was so negative. I came to privately call her the Crabby Weigh In Lady. She had worked there for years, and apparently forgot how hard weight loss can be. If you gained weight, even as little as 1/4 pound, she had a steely gaze of disapproval. If you stayed the same for weeks on end, there was the “Why are you wasting my time?” look. If she had any sense, she would welcome these issues. It keeps the business profitable, because most of the members never lose their required weight, and if they do, they rarely keep it off. Sounds like job security to me!

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After the weigh in gauntlet, you take a seat and listen to the group leader. Again, lots of variables in terms of their ability to present the information. The leader that ran all of the meetings that fit into my schedule was less than motivating. She had 30 minutes to instill a message, and usually spent 15 minutes handing out stickers (weird recognition for a group of adults) and another 15 minutes talking about her personal life. If you were lucky, the final 1-2 minutes had some info you could use, i.e. “Don’t eat so much this week!”.

If you go to this program every few years, as I have done, you will begin to notice some patterns. First, the members and staff are almost all women. Most of the members have been there before- we are like repeat offenders in the criminal justice system. All we are missing is the orange jumpsuits. I think of this group as the 400 Pound Club. Not that we have lost that much in one attempt. It means we have lost the same 20 pounds 20 times. The program has added some online features, a smart phone app, and completely online options in recent years. But none of these approaches offer much accountability, so therein lies the challenge. If any male members attend, they usually lose weight quickly and receive rather luke warm applause when the leader gives them their stickers. Think about the weight loss reality shows that used to be on- who usually won them? The male contestants. They were put on very low calorie diets and were required to work out for several hours every day. I read a follow up article about the winners, and very few of them were able to keep the weight off. That lifestyle isn’t sustainable.

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Maybe the key to all of this is to follow some basic advice I remember from a comedy show. I can’t recall exactly which show it was, but a person is looking for a way to lose weight. Two people follow them around with cards, and hold them up every so often-one says Eat Less, and the other one says, Move More. When you think about it, that really sums up any approach to weight loss. Since one size doesn’t fit all, I think this sage advice offers you the ability to find out what works for you, and then try it. Get the tempting food out of the house, plan your meals and snacks, and find a way to track your progress. There are plenty of free and not very expensive options that do this, and they usually come with reminders. When I was recently in the hospital, my fitness tracker kept telling me I hadn’t gotten any steps in for several days. Silly app.

It may be more challenging to do this while staying home and avoiding crowds, but it’s possible even in the age of Covid. A few years ago, I had a metabolic test at the gym I belonged to. The results said my base rate, the number of calories I burned just by existing, was 1500 per day. To lose weight I would have to go down to 1200. That’s not much food in my estimation. But more exercise sounds “doable”, and there are Youtube videos and other apps that I plan to try.

After years of thinking about this, my summary is as follows: it’s easy to gain weight, difficult to lose it, and very hard to keep it off. But I always feel better when I Eat Less, and Move More, so those will be goals for me again this year. If you are on the same journey, I wish you the best. Maybe 2021 is our lucky year!

Goodbye 2020- Don’t Let The Door Hit Ya!

Goodbye 2020- Don’t Let The Door Hit Ya!

After taking a week off for the Christmas holiday, I had several ideas for this week’s blog post since 2020 has been a most eventful year. All of that changed, however, on December 22nd, when a medical emergency sent me to the ER and a three day hospital stay. More about that later.

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Thinking back to this time a year ago- we were finishing 2019 and looking forward to 2020. I had enjoyed the holidays with family from near and far, and by the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, the beginning of the next year beckoned. I was about to start my last semester of teaching, and had a retirement party scheduled in June. My extended family planned to fly in, and tickets were being purchased. There was a lot to look forward to. The pretty pink photo with gold glitter reflects the usual optimism for a new year.

The first time I heard anything about the Covid pandemic, it seemed far away- in Washington and New York, and not very prevalent in the Midwest. But by March the seriousness became apparent, and we scrambled along with the rest of the country to cope with a lockdown and working from home. At the same time, the divisive election was gearing up, and social and racial justice issues that have been brewing for decades spilled onto the streets. Add in historic wildfires, hurricanes and floods, and it was an overwhelming time for the entire country, and the world. We figured out how to mask, socially distance, and use hand sanitizer regularly. We also found a way to use Zoom for extended family phone calls ( including some participants who had trouble with cameras pointing at the ceiling), and to meet in driveways or outside for brief gatherings. One funny meme I saw on social media was an interstate sign saying “Welcome to Nebraska- Socially distancing since the 1800’s”.

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It was a welcome change when spring and summer brought a reduction in virus cases and some easing of restrictions. I welcomed the chance to play outdoor sports, and occasionally go to a restaurant with patio seating. Being able to go the hair stylist was one of the best things that happened, and I appreciated the precautions the salon took. But by the time fall rolled around, and colder weather set in, the number of Covid cases and deaths hit the Midwest particularly hard, and Nebraska was no exception. The heartbreaking stories of families losing their loved ones were regularly broadcast on the local news, and I started to know people who were losing their lives. There was no pattern to how the disease progressed, or who would live or die.

Which leads me to my own health scare. I was scheduled for a colonoscopy screening on December 22nd. Due to family history, I have been getting these tests for years, so this was my fourth one. The prep is not pleasant, and by the time you get to the facility where it is performed, you are pretty dehydrated and hungry. Luckily I knew the process well- check in, get an iv, have the procedure while sedated, and wake up with no memory of it. Meet with the doc, and head home to rest the remainder of the day. But things didn’t go as planned.

Due to the virus, my husband wasn’t able to wait at the facility and come in when I was in recovery. I knew things were “off” when I woke up with a tremendous cough- like coughing up a lung. The nurse mentioned my pulse oxygen was low, and needed to get to 90% before I could go home. I started looking at that number and it was in the low 80’s. The number remained low for an hour, so they called an ambulance to take me to the ER, six blocks away. I was pretty out of it at this point, but we got in right away. The ER was very busy, however, with Covid and non Covid cases, so they had to wheel me to a corner of the room to wait. It is hard to describe the feeling of being very vulnerable, very alone, and very sick.

When I got to an exam room, and they increased the oxygen, it was a bit better. The rooms are separated by plexiglass and curtains, but I could hear the man in the space next door. He was Covid positive and struggling to breath. It is one thing to see videos or read about this, and quite another to see it in person. Several other Covid patients came in while I was there. I saw health care professionals who looked worn out but were giving their all to each patient. They kept me informed and worked as quickly as they could.

After some tests, I learned I had inhaled something during the procedure and had aspirational pneumonia. This required treatment and a three day hospital stay. My time on the 8th floor was not where I planned to be until Christmas Eve, but the care was excellent. My family rallied to my side, and once per day I could have a visitor. I can’t express how much that meant to me after the utter aloneness of the ER.

I have been home three days as I type this, and while I am very tired and the cough persists, I am happy to be here. I have read a lot about aspirational pneumonia, and understand it is a rare but serious thing that can occur with sedation. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know any of this when I arrived at the hospital. I thought I would get some help and be sent home that evening. 2020 thought otherwise.

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The oft used cliches that life goes by very quickly, and can change on a dime, come to mind. As we look forward to 2021, I hope we can work together to end this pandemic, comfort those who are dealing with its effects, and care as much as possible about the people around us. There are many ways, large and small, to help our neighbors and strangers alike. Let’s do what we can, wherever we are, to make this a better place for everyone. We all need a break and some time to heal from this incredibly difficult twelve months.

So farewell 2020. May we never see another one like you, and as the title to this post says, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house

Ran a tired professor and nary a mouse

The projects were graded and put in the car

And the drive to the college wasn’t too far

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Some of the best parts of being a teacher are the flexible schedule and time off, especially around the holidays. The not so great part of of it is the very busy time right before that time off occurs.

For many of my years as a college professor, our fall semester ended on the third weekend in December when graduation was scheduled. Graduating student’s grades were due, faculty attended a full weekend of graduation activities, and then the rest of the class received their grades by December 23rd. The entire college closed for about ten days starting on the 24th, so all of the administrative parts of your job also had to be settled in addition to the grading. No matter how much I prepared in advance, there was no way to anticipate everything that could go wrong during that busy time.

Case in point would be the year I promised my students that I would have their graded projects available for pick up outside my office by December 23rd. This was in the days before all assignments were submitted online, so I had a lot of notebooks filled with legal documents, research, and reflection questions that were the culmination of the class. They deserved my undivided attention and feedback. I also had Christmas dinner planned at my house, and all of the usual holiday preparations. By the time I finished, it was in the wee hours of the morning. But they were done and loaded in the car so I could lug them into the office.

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I set out bright and early on the 23rd. It was about a 30 minute drive on that very cold Nebraska day, but it was sunny and I had carols playing in the car. I parked in front of the building where my office was located, which included the campus information center. I parked in a spot the info center director could see, and there were other people coming and going. I had to carry some of the projects that wouldn’t fit in a suitcase, so I decided to hide my purse under the front seat. The small evening bag I took to the recent office Christmas party was on the floor. I hurried inside, dropped off the projects, and got back in the car. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a broken passenger window , shards of glass everywhere, and a gale force wind. Both of the purses were gone. I know I wasn’t in the building more than 10 minutes, so whoever took my purses worked quickly and must have been watching the car.

I went into the campus info center, and the director said she hadn’t seen anything. But she was very helpful as I notified my bank, the credit cards I could remember were in my purse, and lamented the loss of around $30 cash. I also tried to call some window replacement companies and my insurance company. Needless to say they weren’t able to help me on December 23rd. So after a very chilly ride home, I had to put cardboard with duct tape in the damaged window, and drive the car for several days before it got fixed.

None of that was funny, but what happened in the ensuing weeks was. First, the campus security director thought my mishap presented a teachable moment about safety. When we got back from break, he started posting every week about ” a recent break in of a faculty member’s car on campus”. Initially, it was just a reminder to lock your doors, and not to leave a purse. Then he started adding details- my purse supposedly contained hundreds of dollars, and the car was full of Christmas gifts. Lots of credit cards were stolen and received fraudulent charges. I think he also added about thirty minutes to the time I was actually in the building. This made for interesting emails, but none of it was true. And since I worked on a very small campus, everyone knew who the negligent “faculty member” was before he sent the first email. After several weeks of this, I finally contacted him and asked that he stop. Everyone knew it was me. I also mentioned that the details he shared weren’t remotely accurate, and that while I certainly learned my lesson about the purses, I was on campus to return graded projects. In other words, I was doing the proverbial good deed. I also mentioned, ever so politely, that we might need some additional patrols by the security department since I knew I wasn’t the first person to have her car broken into. I am happy to report that his emails stopped shortly thereafter.

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But the saga continued. In February, I received a call from a police officer who had found my billfold, and the small evening bag. Since the billfold wasn’t inside the evening bag, she asked me to identify what was in it to verify it was mine. I really didn’t remember, so I started guessing. Tube of lipstick? No. Hairbrush? No. She finally took pity on me and told me what she had logged on her report- an IOU for $20, signed by a friend’s husband, and a tampon. When I go out for the evening, I travel light! I was able to pick up the purse and those valuable contents about a week later. She also shared that they had arrested the culprit and he was what they called a “frequent flyer”. Breaking into cars was his specialty, and he usually waited in parking lots until he saw a woman leave her car without her purse. Health clubs and college campuses were his usual targets.

Several welcome changes occured in the ensuing years- our fall semester ended a week earlier, so not as close to Christmas and the campus being closed. We installed a learning management system, so that even though most of my classes were traditional “face to face” courses, all assignments could be submitted and graded online. The learning curve on these systems could be steep, but it made grading and communicating with students much easier. No more racing to campus with graded projects or papers.

I can also verify that I have never left a purse of any type in a car since that break in. And the projects I took to campus that fateful day? They were all still sitting in the box outside my office when I returned in January. But my teacher halo was bright, because I got them to campus on time, just in case.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. I plan to take a week off, then share my next post on Monday, December 28th. It will be a farewell to 2020. Heaven knows we are all ready to say goodbye to this eventful year!

December Babies

December Babies

From a young age, I knew I wanted to have kids. I also knew it would be a good idea to finish my education before I did, so after seven years of higher education and a couple of years working, the time was right. When I found out my first born was on the way, it was welcome news. The due date was December 10th, and I had visions of a cute baby in a Christmas outfit as we had dinner and opened gifts. More on the dismantling of that fantasy later.

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Once the excitement wore off, the worry aspect of motherhood began, and it continues unbated to the present day. It started with the realization that I had gone out after work on my birthday and had some margaritas. I had at least two. Or was it three because I wasn’t driving? They were strawberry, so maybe not as full of tequila as the regular ones? And strawberries are fruits, and the salsa had tomatoes, so there was some nutritional value. I was convinced that no matter how many drinks I had, it was probably at the worst possible moment for the infant’s brain development.

The next worry was about when the baby would be born. I had heard my mother frequently tell the tale of her first born, my sister, who was also a December baby. A five pound preemie, who was also breach. Add preemie and breech to the list of concerns. When I was getting close enough to my due date that the preemie concern was going away, I asked my obstetrician how much he thought the baby weighed. After a routine exam, he said “At least eight pounds”. If you ever have an obstetrician say “At least eight pounds”, line up the epidural asap.

Speaking of epidurals, I wasn’t sure if I would ask for one. The prominent birth class in the 1980’s was the Lamaze method. Parents went to classes once a week, and learned breathing techniques for the stages of delivery. We also got a book called Lamaze is for Chickens. That sounded about right to me and all of the other first time moms in the group. The information was valuable, but the week they showed the film of an actual birth, the classroom was silent. The reality of pending parenthood was sinking in.

Throughout your first pregnancy, you also have to be prepared for unsolicited advice, and birth horror stories. The advice is easy enough to ignore, but the horror stories can be graphic- labors that went of for days, asking for pain relief too late in the process, and on and on. In the days before routine ultrasounds and gender reveals, you also had a lot of opinions about the sex of your baby based on the way you “carried” the child. Add in people who would touch your pregnant stomach, and it was quite an adventure.

When my due date approached, the house was decorated, the nursery was ready, and I packed my bag for the hospital. I put in a cute baby outfit, and my favorite jeans and a sweater. On a sunny Saturday, our first born arrived after an average labor, tipping the scales at 9 pounds 8 ounces. No preemie issues there! And I lasted about four hours before ditching the Lamaze breathing, and got an epidural. I remember the Lamaze teacher saying “Don’t you want to feel your baby being born?” Nope. And Dr. Lamaze was a guy, so he never had to push a baby of any size into the world.

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In the 80’s, moms stayed in the hospital for a few days, and babies stayed in the nursery. Nurses brought them to your room for feeding and bonding, but when family came to visit you usually went to the nursery. It was quite a site- new moms doing the “episiotomy shuffle” down the hall to admire their baby. The bassinettes were near the window, and had cards attached with the baby’s weight, length and gender. My little cherub looked well nourished next to the little six and seven pounders. The days in the hospital included how to give the baby a bath, and some advice about nursing. Compared to all the pregnancy and delivery info, there wasn’t much considering raising the child would take a lot longer.

Time to go home, and the next surprise settled in. I had no idea I would be wearing my maternity clothes home- the red plaid shirt that was the size of a tent, and expandomatic waste black pants were not what I had planned. The operative words in maternity fashion were large and loose. No clingy clothes or pregnant bellies showing for our generation. I don’t think I ever got back into the jeans I packed, but I kept them in my closet for years. Hope springs eternal! And getting the car seat, baby gifts and other freebies from the hospital in the car was quite a process. But home we went with two weeks until the holiday.

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The rest of the month of that first December is a blur. I was lucky to have help with the baby, but when you are someone’s food source there aren’t any subs. And I discovered that it was a major victory if both the baby and I were bathed and dressed before late afternoon. We must have eaten something for Christmas dinner, but I have no memory of what it was or who prepared the meal. I was still in my maternity clothes, but I did find that nursing was sort of like liposuction, so that was one hopeful thing. The baby and I were clothed and present at the festivities, such as they were. Major new mom victory.

Over the years, I have often thought that December babies get short changed in the birthday department, so we made an effort to keep the tree and decorations in storage until after the birthday of our oldest. We also made sure to celebrate her birthday with family and friends no matter what kind of weather we were having. And in family tradition, our first grandbaby was also born in December. She has been a wonderful addition to our December birthday group, and is a very special little girl.

We are just finishing the December birthdays as I write this post, and it is certainly different this year with the virus still spreading in our community. But there will be cards in the mail, gifts delivered, and as much of a celebration as we can have while keeping everyone safe. Our holiday will be very different too, but there are still many things to celebrate. I think we are all looking forward to 2021, being able to see family and friends on all the special days, and everything in between!

Landlines, and Flip Phones, and Smart Phones, Oh My!

Landlines, and Flip Phones, and Smart Phones, Oh My!

Growing up in the 1960’s, communicating by telephone was pretty straightforward: you had a landline, in any color you wanted as long as it was black. It had a rotary dial, and a loud ring that sounded the same on every phone. There was one phone company, in our case Northwestern Bell, and they took care of any issues that arose. You could call a number on said landline and get the day and time in an automated recording, and if you needed help with a call there were human beings called operators that would assist. It was a simpler time.

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My best friend lived about six blocks away, so we occasionally had to call each other. This was stressful because her dad was a doctor, and if he was on call, which seemed to be all the time, you could only chat for about a minute. Call waiting didn’t exist. Long distance calls were a rarity because they were expensive. The phone company charged by the minute for them, so even though my grandparents only lived about 45 minutes away, it was in our neighboring state of Iowa. So a phone call was rare unless there was some type of emergency.

This all worked pretty well until I was in middle school. By then, phone calls with friends were frequent, and in my case, usually quite long. Phones were evolving, and came in new colors and styles. We had a wall mounted model in our kitchen that I used for most of my calls by stretching the cord on the receiver as far as possible, and sitting on the steps to the basement with the door closed. Luckily, the phone company came out with a new product called a Teen Line- a separate phone number, and phone, that kids could have in their rooms. That was a fabulous thing for someone like me who liked to talk a lot, and I spent way too much time in my room on the phone. There were also “touch tone” numbers instead of rotary dials. So sleek, and modern!

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Fast forward to the 1990’s, and the advent of cell phones. Most people my age thought they looked like the “shoe phone” used by Maxwell Smart in the 1960’s tv show about a bumbling spy. I wasn’t an early adopter of the new technology, but eventually got a flip phone. It was easy to use, since you just flipped it open and close to answer. No text messaging. It was convenient and saved time when making appointments and cut down on phone tag. The bill was based on minutes used, and I didn’t use very many.

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Enter the game changing phone of the century when smart phones appeared on the scene in the 2000’s. These sleek, multi use cell phones were revolutionary, and the features were plentiful- texting, music, internet access, touch screens, and voice commands. If the flip phones were easy, the smart phones were the polar opposite. I found the keyboard too small, and many of the functions counterintuitive. The voice commands were garbled, at best. Saying ” Where is the nearest gas station?” could be met with “Did you say call Elaine”? After a few of those, you might be tempted to yell at the phone or use choice words. That didn’t work either. So I fumbled along with my new smart phone and eventually learned how to use it. Most of the time.

On one memorable occasion, my new smart phone and I were in line at a restaurant that specialized in salads. You walked down an assembly line, ordered your greens and toppings, and paid at the end. One day, I was next up at the cashier when my phone rang. And it was on full volume mode. Without my reading glasses, I attempted to pay for my food, decline the call, pop the phone back in my purse, and take my tray to a table. It quit ringing, but somehow I had turned on my music streaming feature. And what was playing? A peppy number like something from the Beach Boys? An edgy tune from Black Sabbath? Of course not. I walked to my table to the very loud strains of Marvin Gaye’s classic, Let’s Get it On. And that is about the only set of lyrics for the entire song. Good grief.

But my favorite cell phone story goes back to the flip phone days. The lack of reading glasses affects this incident too. I hadn’t had my flip phone very long and was driving north on a moderately busy road when I saw what I thought was my husband driving south. It was a two lane road with stop lights, so we weren’t going that fast, and I was sure it was him. When I got to the next stop light, I dialed his phone without my glasses on. The conversation went like this:

Male voice: Hello

Me: I saw you on 114th Street. You can run, but you can’t hide.

Long pause.

Male voice: What?

Me (realizing I have no idea who this is): Sorry- I dialed the wrong number.

Male voice: That’s ok. By the way, I don’t know who you are, but I think I’d like to meet you.

I got off the phone so quickly I almost damaged it.

After reading this, it will come as no surprise that I don’t own one of the personal assistants that are on the market. Something about a disembodied voice talking to me and running the household isn’t appealing. If they come up with one that can make dinner or do dishes, I’m in. Until then, I will turn the lights on and off, and use my phone for everything else. Assuming it is charged and I know where it is!

PS- Thank you one and all for reading and following the blog after my first post. So glad you are enjoying it, because I am having a lot of fun writing it.