2021 Technology And Other Things Our Elders Would Find Amusing

2021 Technology And Other Things Our Elders Would Find Amusing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!



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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arthur Ashe and Bill Brown at the Dewey Park Tennis Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You, Doogie Howser

Thank You, Doogie Howser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Male voice: Hello

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

Long pause.

Male voice: What?

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

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

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

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

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

Long before I was a Nana, I was pretty funny

Long before I was a Nana, I was pretty funny

It all started when I was about three years old, and we had just moved to a new brick duplex in the middle of town. As the youngest of four children, I was a bit stubborn and very chatty. My mother used to say that I skipped over mama and daddy when learning to talk, and my first words were “but mother……” Pleading my case as a toddler. No wonder I was drawn to a legal career. At three, I was still napping in a crib. At least that was the theory.

My bedroom was on the back of the new house, on the second floor. It had several windows, and a nice view of several surrounding homes, including the other half of the duplex. The windows were open during nap time because we didn’t have air conditioning. To say I didn’t want to take naps would be a bit of an understatement, but my mother tried to get me to sleep anyway. And I was the fourth kid, so not really negotiable. Into the crib I went.

Since I couldn’t negotiate my way out of the nap with my mom, I decided to appeal to our new neighbors, or anyone else within earshot. My plaintiff wailing of “help me, help me, will somebody PLEASE help me?” wafted out of the windows every time I was asked to sleep. The wailing got louder the longer I was in the crib. I don’t think I slept very often, and luckily child protection services were never called. But my flair for the dramatic was well established even at that age. And our presence in the neighborhood was certainly established right after the move. Luckily there were several other children my age, and we all eventually became good friends. That was especially true once those pesky naps went away.

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My other most notable incident occured when I was four. My mother and I went to mass with my grandmother in the small Iowa town where she lived, and we were related to most members of the church. I wasn’t enjoying the services very much ( it was all in Latin at that time, and the priest faced the wall, so really, can you blame me?) and I was talking too much. My mom gave me a rosary to distract me. Rather than calm down, I decided to walk to the end of our empty pew, swing the rosary like a lasso over my head, and say “Get ready Jesus, you’re going for a ride!”. It got some big laughs, and again, in my defense, rosaries do kind of look like ropes. I also knew that Jesus was part of the rosary, so there’s that. This was also before any formal religious education had been imparted to me via the Baltimore Catechism. My grandmother was less impressed, and told my mom she felt sorry for her. And it was a long time before I graced the pews of that church again.

I don’t have any memory of these entertaining moments, but they were shared a lot over the years, so I know them well. Let’s just say my reputation for being a funny, dramatic child preceded me in my large extended family.

So my sense of humor has been with me for years, and it has served me well. If you can see the funny side of things, it helps the time pass quickly and makes people smile. And that is the goal of my blog. Follow the site using the email link on the right, or check back every week for more Humor From Heartland on the Funny Nanna site. I’m just getting started!