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.

Photo by Natasha Spencer on

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.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

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.

Photo by Pixabay on

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!

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!

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.

Photo by u5468 u5eb7 on

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.

Photo by Pixabay on

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!

I Know Why Blockbuster Video Died

I Know Why Blockbuster Video Died

black vhs on vhs player beside remote control
Photo by Anthony on

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
Photo by Andre Moura on

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
Photo by Skitterphoto on

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
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

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.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on
  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.
Photo by Thirdman on

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.
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

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.

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.

Photo by Sebastian Coman Travel on

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.

Photo by Sam Lion on

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.

Photo by Chait Goli on

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.

Photo by Eddie Galaxy on

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.

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.

Photo by Skitterphoto on

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.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on

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.

Photo by cottonbro on

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.

Photo by Victoria Borodinova on

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.

Photo by Pixabay on

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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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.

Photo by Natasha Spencer on

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!

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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!

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

Photo by Any Lane on

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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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.

Photo by Pixabay on

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!