The Dead Language

No, I’m not talking about English, though many folk obviously weren’t paying attention in English class. I’m talking about:

Latin is a dead language

As dead as it can be.

Latin killed the Romans

And now it’s killing me!

Au contraire, I beg to disagree. Latin was so beneficial to me as an English major and made my study of French even easier. I took five years of Latin in high school and college, which served to improve my vocabulary and spelling, but it also made it easier to decipher words I’d encounter I didn’t understand. My internist is also a member of our weekly trivia team, and his undergraduate major was Latin. Between the two of us, we can arrive at logical answers of word derivatives and Greek and Roman mythology. He’s also the first to admit Latin was extremely helpful in medical school–a comment made by law students as well. So why did Latin vanish from public schools?

According to a The New York Times article, in the 1960’s students rebelled against the classics and the Roman Catholic Church ended Mass in Latin. However, recently there has been a resurgence of Latin; not only on the East Coast, but in states like Alaska and New Mexico. Some attribute this increase to student fascination with Harry Potter ‘s Latin chanting spells, others say it increases SAT vocabulary skills, particularly in high-performing suburban schools. Jason Griffiths, headmaster of Brooklyn Latin (a NY public school) says: “it’s the language of scholars and educated people…people who are successful.” Adam Blistein, executive director of the American Philological Association at University of Pennsylvania adds Latin study appeals to college admission officers as a sign of critical thinking skills and true intellectual passion.

Yet, if a school wanted to offer Latin, there is a dearth of Latin teachers. Some schools have waited four years to fill a position with a qualified teacher. Yes, there are online courses available, but none would compare to my wonderful Latin I instructor, Ron Cataland. Yes, Mr. Cataland, I remember the opening line of The Aeneid: Arma virumque cano. (I sing of arms and men.) Further, I’m particularly fond of Kansas’ state motto: Ad Astra per Aspera (To the stars through difficulties.)

Latin will never be a dead language for me. I’m very grateful to Youngstown Public Schools for offering it over 50 years ago. E Pluribus unum…out of many, one. Check your money; now you know.

Help Me, Rhonda!

(Apologies to The Beach Boys.) But I need help. In fact, I need a lot more help as I’ve aged. Replacing burned out light bulbs on my 10-foot ceilings is no longer on my to-do list. In fact, standing above the third ladder rung makes me perspire. Secondly, I’ve every jar lid removal appliance invented. I swear it used to be I could simply tap them on the tile floor and twist the lid off the pickle jars. And don’t get me started about the heinous Gatorade bottles or childproof prescription bottles, which I’ve been known to smash with a hammer.

To complicate my life even further, I’m living in a digital world, where others seemingly understand how to set up their computer, smart phones and watches, and charge hundreds of cordless devices. (I’ll save my rampage about charging cords and charging devices for another time. But really, why can’t they all be somewhat universal.)

While I’m most appreciative of those who help me navigate and fix things for me, I’m very grateful for Rhonda–my pet name for You Tube videos. I was not always a visual learner, after all, I was an English major. But when we entered the high-tech age, their language made zero sense to me. I struggled reading and rereading unintelligible instructions. I had to compensate for my inadequacies before I looked royally stupid. Now, I’m amazed by the number of things I can do by watching a one-minute instructional movie! I’ve learned how to change watch bands, program my phone, download apps and delete apps, and repair a leaky faucet. This week my touchless garbage can wouldn’t work; okay, just replace the batteries. Once I replaced the batteries, it still didn’t work. But Rhonda came through for me. Clean the sensors with a wet rag. Voila! It works. And to think I was initially so frustrated I was going to buy a new one!

And so my friends, when you encounter a problem in our complex, technological world–ask Rhonda.

“Two Beers and a Puppy”

Earlier this week I stumbled on an excerpt from Ross McCammon’s book: Works Well with Others: An Outsider’s Guide to Shaking Hands, Shutting up, Handling Jerks and Other Crucial Skills in Business that No one Ever Teaches You. Billed as a helpful test in determining one’s feelings about another, one can determine by asking two questions: Would I have two beers with this person? Would I have this person babysit my puppy for the weekend?

Perhaps, it’s such a simple test it seems ludicrous. But think about it. Two “nos,” and move on. Yes, to beer; no to puppies. This person may be fun and entertaining but lacks maturity or responsibility–and thus, trust to care for an innocent dog. Also, beware of anyone, regardless of their beer choice who doesn’t like animals. In contrast, no to beer, yes to dog sitting. These folk aren’t conversational gurus, nor amusing, but puppies and kittens are enamored by their quality of attentiveness. Good people–not the lives of the party.

Two yeses equals the jackpot! Thankfully, throughout my life for the most part, I’ve surrounded myself with 2 Y’s, who have so enriched me. Some of them have been colleagues, some were employees, some were just random folk I encountered along the way.

Since I initially read this and assessed all my past and present relationships, I realize now mistakes I’ve made. I’ve trusted when I shouldn’t have, I misjudged in my naivete, and I’ve overreacted. Yet, I’m intrigued by the simplicity of McCammon’s test. This Dr. Suze, old dog has learned a new trick.

Damn! I may have just given you direct insight into my persona. If I don’t invite you to happy hour or ask you to dog sit….

Email Blitzkrieg

In my naivete, I thought the amount of my daily emails would decrease ten-fold once I left the school board. However, every day I’m bombarded with almost 200! Granted they’re not the angry ones I used to receive, they are primarily the results of online shopping and my internet searches. (And folk were worried that Corona vaccines injected tracers in their bodies! Hell their cell phones and computer devices know all there is to know!)

However, recently, I’ve received hundreds of emails about my recent job application. What? First and foremost, I did not apply for a job! I am not looking for a job; I get roped into enough volunteer ones. I do not want the time constraints that come with a job. At 6:00 this morning, I received this: We are working on a select number analyst and manager roles, and after reviewing your information and qualifications, I thought I should reach our to you. Please take a look at the attached list, and let me know if you would like to have your resume included in the upcoming interviews.

Impossible! This job search company, American Job Board, received no application and no resume from me. If they had my resume, they would never ask me to apply for analyst job; math and I are not friends. Finally, I’ve spent my entire professional career in some form of public education, currently a vilified profession, where parents and politicians know more about student achievement and success than a classroom teacher.

Until now, I’ve just deleted these intrusive emails. I’m afraid to respond to them, lest they will continue cramming my in box. But Johnny Paycheck was right: Take this job and shove it.

“April Is the Cruelest Month”

One hundred years ago, T.S. Eliot, declared in his poem, “The Wasteland” April was the cruelest. OMG! I, so agree! As I perused the weather news this week various parts of the US are still experiencing snow clinging to budded trees. Mother Nature continues to tempt with daffodils and crocuses only to roar back with Santa Claus delivering Easter baskets.

April, for me, brings nothing but painful memories and worries. My first mistake was finalizing my divorce on April 1, which at the time, I found humorous. However, in retrospect, the joke was on me! In April, all of my insurance bills are due as well as my taxes. Ye Gods, I’ve written so many checks my hand hurts, not to mention my bank account. Further, two years ago in April, I also had my dance with death during the pandemic.

I fully realize many of you who have April birthdays adore April, and I wish you many years of celebration and happiness. And by the way, the last word of “The Wasteland” is Shantih, which means peace in Sanskrit. Hopefully, April will, indeed, bring us peace and May flowers.

Cricket…the Dumb Dachshund

When my youngest kid was suffering through chemotherapy, I made the choice to spice up her 25th birthday with a new puppy. Even though, I’m not a dachshund fan because of their stupidity and gluttony, my kid loves wiener dogs. The breeder had over a dozen from which to choose: traditional reds and blacks, and piebalds. My kid naturally selected Cricket who was born on April 20th and gave her the middle name Kush. (I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t Mary Jane.)

After recovery and remission, my kid moved out, but Cricket stayed. She’d become so accustomed here and had grown far too big to fly under an airline seat that it seemed like a wise idea. Now, after 8 and one-half years of adoption, Cricket is still here and mastered her incessant watch-dogging and random bathrooming habits.

Early this morning, I was in the most delightful slumber. Then, my mattress began to shake. Soon my bed was rocking and rolling. Ye Gods! Is there an earthquake? I abruptly stood up, turned on the light, and beheld another pillow to be rocking my bed. What the hell?

Dumb Cricket had managed to crawl head first into the pillow case, and given her length couldn’t turn herself around to get out. Perhaps, had it been eight or nine AM, I would have found this amusing, but at 4:30, I was not pleased. After several, unsuccessful attempts to pull her fatness out, I just picked up the pillow and shook her out on the bed. She was seemingly grateful for her release, unlike me who had been rudely awakened.

Hopefully tonight, she will be on guard duty anxiously awaiting the Easter Bunny and sparing me from her shenanigans. But, my friends, take it from me. NEVER, buy a wiener dog.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter.

I Am a Bag Lady

The term bag lady is defined as a homeless woman who carries around all of her worldly possessions in shopping bags. Others define it as a woman with emotional baggage. In my case unfortunately, it’s literal.

Two years ago, I literally got ripped a new one–a side model–thanks to a perforated colon. For the three weeks following the proverbial everything that could did go wrong. So much so, that I’m reluctant to have reversal surgery. Given COVID, shortages of hospital staffs, length of stays, and length of retraining to jump start the old one, why bother? Hector, as I dubbed my sidekick, and I learned to adapt. True, I had to give up wearing a bikini, staying anywhere but my own hotel room, and eating Chinese food. But the upside is I’ve lived to tell about it.

AND…I’ve developed a personal understanding of “bag lady.” I’ve a new empathy for the homeless woman pushing a grocery cart crammed with aluminum cans, plastic bags, and a blanket. I’ve a new empathy for the hunch-backed woman that carries the emotional angst of depression, job loss, divorce, or death. And when I see these women, I try to help ease their pain. I should, right? Because, I, too, have baggage..

Do Unto Others…Again

Over five years ago, I did a series of blogs highlighting special people in my journey through life. I’m very gregarious and have friends from every walk, and once in awhile I stumble on someone who is a shining example of humankind. Now, those persons don’t come along often, but when they do, I know it. Sara is one of those rare shells I search for at the beach.

Even though I’d lived in the hood for almost thirty years, I’d never been inside The Cheers Bar and Grill. It was Trivia Night that drew me in, where the food was great and the folk were nice, so I became a regular. Last fall Sara was hired as the manager.

If ever there is an Energizer Bunny, it’s Sara. To watch her perform makes me weary. Not only can she handle orders, mix and serve drinks, deliver food, and bus tables, but she knows everyone by name. I’ve never seen her approach a table of eight to ten people and say, “Who ordered the BLT on sourdough?” She just knows. Her customer service is impeccable, as she balances bartending, serving, cashiering, and managing her staff with humor. Her effervescent smile and attentiveness to her customers is refreshing in this day of mean, cranky people, who complain about minutia.

Perhaps, because she’s also a yoga instructor with the physique that screams gym rat, she doesn’t rattle easily. She probably meditates through rude jokes, loud jukebox music, roaring televised sports, and occasional rowdy behavior. How else could one survive the chaos of managing such a high-energy establishment with a smile?

Yet, her most extraordinary example occurred Friday night. Granted, I usually take an elderly, lonely man to Cheers every Friday night for clam chowder and fish and chips, but I couldn’t do so that evening. At 6:15, I received a text: Sue, are you and Brad coming for dinner? When I replied we weren’t, her immediate response: Just checking, We are running out of fish, and I instructed the server to hold back on orders until we checked on you. OMG! Where else can I get this kind of service?

The pandemic, followed by the shortage of employees, has wrecked havoc on small, independent businesses. Local pop and mom specialty stores have closed or gone bankrupt due to quantity pricing and the convenience of internet shopping. Sure, you can eat and drink your way across America and even abroad at chain establishments, but if you dare to step aside your box, you will discover an amazing world of wonderful, friendly, caring people, like Sara.

Do unto others….

Lasagna: A New Way

My next door neighbor’s son, daughter-in-law, and grands are visiting this week. On Wednesday, my neighbor said, “I can’t believe I’m free all afternoon. Sandi (her d-i-l) is preparing dinner this evening.”

“Nice. What’s she making?”

“Lasagna with bread; I guess it’s some new recipe using bread instead of pasta.”

“Hmm.” My mouth is thinking mushy, gummy bread slathered with tomato sauce and cheeses. “Really? I’ll be anxious to hear about how it tastes.”

“You can come to dinner.”

NO! “No thanks, I have plans tonight.” I couldn’t imagine ever eating anything like that! Plus, I’d have to pretend that I liked it, even if I could barely swallow mushy goo.

On Thursday evening, my neighbor came over to have a beer, and I inquired about the lasagna dinner success.

“Oh, Sue. You know I’m hard of hearing, and I wasn’t really listening. It was Lasagna with garlic bread; bread being on the side!”

And we laughed and laughed. The joys of old age!

The IR$

Let me say from the onset, I do not rue paying taxes. I have benefited greatly from Medicare, particularly during my dance with the devil. I’m grateful my garbage is picked up curbside every week. I find great comfort in knowing either the police or the fire departments are a phone call away. And I adore I live within the boundaries of a fabulous school district. I fully understand these services are solely a result of paying taxes–no free lunch. However, I do have a BIG issue with IR$.

No, it’s not the amount of money I have to pay yearly; it’s the copious amount of paperwork and time-consuming preparation work. When my life did a 360 years ago, I knew there would be no way I could do my own taxes. I was not so naive to know I couldn’t add numbers, nor even begin to understand the tax laws. (The instruction booklet must have been written by writers from The Twilight Zone!) Thus, I hired the most reputable CPA firm I could find; my worst nightmare is the IR$ showing up at my front door and carting me of to jail for income tax invasion.

Yesterday, I spent over four hours sorting through piles of paperwork to take to my accountant. This yearly effort could be easily simplified if the IR$ would just send me a bill. Once a month, quarterly, or once a year. Just send me a bill! But no, I have to itemize my donations, deductions, interests, ad nauseum. Why? Big corporations, Bezos, Trump, and Gates pay no taxes, but schleppy Sue has to spend four hours on paying her pittance. Why?

The government knows full well how much money each of us earns per year, and I don’t think the feds should care how much we donate to charity, nor gamble at the casino, Just charge us all x-percent (including billionaires) whatever X is.

After seething about this, I did some research and found that the federal tax code has become a tome. The IR$ employs 75,773 folk and their average salary is $79,831. That’s in excess of $60 million. God only knows how many CPA’s, cottage accountants, and national HR Block firms there are. My epiphany! Long gone is the opportunity to restructure and simplify federal taxes; too many people would suddenly be unemployed. Colleges and universities would no longer need accountancy and CPA studies. Damn, America might even collapse.

So for the rest of my life, both you and I will spend hours amassing paperwork each spring to pay our convoluted bill to Uncle Sam.