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.

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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!

Momisms

Momisms

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.

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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.

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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.

DINKS

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 https://funnynana.com/2021/04/05/help-for-the-directionally-challenged/,) 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 https://funnynana.com/2020/11/12/before-i-was-a-nana-i-was-pretty-funny/ ).

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.”