Guaranteed to Make You Look Young

Several months ago, my bestie informed her husband she was going to remodel their master bath. Her husband had just endured over 8 weeks of chaos when she had the guest bath remodeled, and he was not jazzed about another disruption to his status quo. (Men, not only are blind, but don’t deal well with change. I swear the house could be falling down, and men would say, “It looks ok to me.”)

However, her hubby issued an ultimatum: “You clean out the pantry and put it in order so we can find things. Then you can remodel the bath.”

The pantry was large and was designed for food storage, but due to its size it also became a hidey hole. Unexpected company show up? Stash away the clutter in the pantry. Don’t know where to store this or that? Stick it in the pantry. Put away the groceries and the new stuff goes at the forefront. Now, because the new bath was important to her, last week she began. Much to her surprise, she unearthed best if used by 11/17/2009 items. Stacks of unopened napkins and paper plates. Halloween candy, flower vases, and even an ice bucket she stopped searching for five years ago.

Then she uncovered a hidden treasure trove of supplements and beauty products, which promised the proverbial Fountain of Youth! My bestie not only believed, but bought into P.T. Barnum’s elixirs, creams, and capsules. However, she never tried 90% of them! One of them, Skinny Fit Super Youth . Another Super Neocell Collagen for skin, hair, nails, joints, and bones. Two trash bags later, she discovered the ultimate: Snail Jelly Mask! Made in Korea, the mask is “designed for ultimate absorption and hydration.” It includes: “5,000ppm Snail Secretion Filtrate.”

As she’s telling me this, I’m thinking snail slime? Really?

“Oh, Sue, it has no expiration date, and the movie stars use this mask. I’m going to try it.”

Hmm. Snail slime? Of course, by all means try it. The movie stars do all kinds of things you should emulate. “The movie stars do drugs, undergo numerous plastic surgeries, shoot their faces full of botox, and step on each other to win a starring role. So you’re going to smear your face with snail snot? Have at it.”

She burst into laughter! “Do you think I’m crazy?”

Crazy? More like a lunatic. “Who am I to judge? I bet I could dehydrate dog doo and convince you to smear it on your wrinkled brow, particularly if I scented it with lavender.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a fool born every minute.

FOMO

Believe me, after spending fifty years in education, I abhor acronyms. Lord knows the public schools were overrun with them: IEP, ADD, DECA, FBLA, MMR, EEO, FASA, etc. The federal government is awash with them: NATO, OAS, GSA, FDIC, FAA, TSA. Texting has added even more: TMI, LOL, IMO, CU, WTF. I’m tired of trying to break the codes–just tell me Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, or Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and I’ll get it.

However, this week one of my longtime friends dropped a new one on me. FOMO. “My daughters were complaining that one of their brothers showed up at the girls’ weekend. One said, ‘ You know Eddie, Mom; he suffers from FOMO.'”

Hmm. FOMO? What the hell does that mean? Eddie is a schlep? A party crasher? Needs money? Has no life?

“You do know what FOMO means, Sue.”

I didn’t, but should I act like I was hip and up on all the latest teenage language nuances? “No. I’ve not a clue. Tell me.”

Fear of missing out!”

Wow! My longtime friend finally diagnosed a disease I’ve struggled with for over sixty years. I have FOMO! I can hardly explain my relief of finally putting a name to my malady. It was like I was freed from chains and shackles. I can openly declare, “I’m Sue, and I suffer from FOMO.”

Of course, at my age, there are invitations I decline, e.g. skydiving, wrestling with alligators, or participating in a timed hot dog eating contest. But for the most part, I’m eager to try something new, even if I fail. And if you invite me to come visit, don’t be surprised if I show.

COVID has severely cramped my lifestyle. And while I’m somewhat reluctant to do anything uber crazy, I am ready to take some chances, like eat in an uncrowded restaurant, entertain twenty people in my casa, and even fly east of the Mississippi. My kids are having too much fun without me!

Think about it. Isn’t it time to stop missing out?

Lobster Sisterhood

In keeping with International Women’s month, this incident occurred last week. One of my kids and her fiancĂ©, B, were visiting me. B, in keeping with the Lenten season, eats seafood on Fridays. They had requested I fry Dover sole for dinner, but alas, no such fish was to be found in either of the groceries I routinely visit. I was dismayed; I pondered shrimp. Then I saw 3oz. lobster tails were on sale. However, 3oz. were dismally small. I looked farther to the left and saw the large ones were also on sale! A pricey $15.99 each, but better than the usual $20+, and of course, far cheaper than eating in a restaurant.

Lobster it is! The kids will be jazzed. The line at the meat counter was long; I waited. Then, this old man shuffled to the counter spying the seafood. Finally, the young female clerk walked my way, “Who’s next?” she asked.

I raised my hand, “I am.” Then….

“NO! I’m next!” proclaimed Sir Grumpy Curmudgeon. The clerk waited on him. He made her cut his salmon filets three times; they had to be the precise weight he requested–not an ounce over or under. The clerk fulfilled his order, and off he went.

“What can I get you, ma’am?”

“I’ll have three lobster tails, please. By the way, I was next.”

“I knew you were, but I’m not allowed to argue with the customers.” She placed the three tails on the scale. I looked up–$6.99 a lb. The price of the small ones.

“My dear, you entered the wrong price; the large ones are $15.99.”

She emphatically replied, “Don’t worry about it. That old man cuts in line in front of women all the time. He’s so cranky and demanding. Consider this my thanks for being patient and not making a scene about his rudeness.”

We had a delightful Friday night dinner. A special thank you to my newfound sister at the meat counter.

My Quirky Teacher

Since March is International Women’s month, I’ve been reflecting about women who made a difference in my life. A handful come to mind, which may be due to some women’s reluctance to mentor other women. If they’ve broken the glass ceiling, they revel at being the exception, not the rule. In contrast, most teachers strive to make a difference in the lives of each of their students. They cajole, encourage, tutor, counsel–in short, they do much more than pontificate from the podium. They’re not the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side.

Then there are teachers like my fifth grade one, Miss Peddlar, who was odd, peculiar, and prone to outrageous behavior. She would have been fired within a week in today’s public schools. Yet, Miss Peddlar changed my life.

She was a tall, big-boned woman, slathered with make-up and rouge; her hair was some rendition of a French twist. She’d pull into the parking lot in a humongous Cadillac, donned in very fashionable attire. Our glimpse of her suits or dresses was short-lived; for once we were in our assigned seats, busily at work on a writing assignment, she went out in the hallway, took off her dress/suit, and put on an oriental silk robe. At 9:30 A.M., she’d send two of us girls to the home ec room to make her breakfast–two slices of toast and butter, a half of grapefruit, and a cup of coffee. We’d return to our classroom and serve her. At 10:00 A.M., Miss Peddlar turned on her radio and listened to Arthur Godfrey, while she ate. No one was allowed to talk, nor ask questions during the radio show.

Every other Friday, she’s select two girls to take her paycheck to the bank for deposit. The bank was four blocks from the school on a four-lane highway. We surreptitiously took orders from the rest of the class, and we’d stop at the store to buy fireballs and licorice to distribute on our return.

Obviously, both of these behaviors would have gotten her fired, but she had a wicked temper too. She called me to her desk once, while grading my paper: “Suzanne, I can’t read this!” She tore up my paper and tossed it in the wastebasket. “When you learn to write legibly, I’ll grade it.”

Once she lined up all the boys in front of the room and swatted each of their behinds for flipping the bird behind her back. (Not that we knew what it meant–just that it was bad.) On several occasions when she was mad, she threw two large flower pots out the open windows of our second-story classroom. Then, she sent two boys outside to clean up the mess.

Surprisingly, we didn’t live in fear of Miss Peddlar, we just thought she was odd. None of our parents ever complained about her outrageous antics. She improved all of our handwriting and spelling skills. We knew all of the state capitals, and we memorized one poem each week from When the Frost Is on the Pumpkin, to Barbara Fritchie, to The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Every Friday, each student had to recite the assigned poem–some I recall over 60 years later! She played the piano and taught us patriotic, holiday, and even religious songs, and she taught us how to march in order during our singing.

Years later, I learned Oma Peddlar was Sarah Smith, a married woman who drove 120 miles round trip to school each day. She created her single persona because at the start of her career, women teachers were forbidden to be married. What a character!

I’m forever indebted to Miss Peddlar, who taught me to memorize, which has proved invaluable in both my personal life and professional career. However, my handwriting is still a work in progress.

The Job from Hell

Yes, I’m old. Yes, I’ve had to scale back on the jobs I can safely execute. I no longer climb ladders above the third rung, and I no longer use a weed whacker because too many pieces of stone have whacked my legs. However, I’m still capable of cooking, cleaning, maintaining the pool, doing the laundry, and mowing the lawn. I rototill my garden, plant it, and tend to it. But this week, it took me three days to complete the job from hell. A job I will never do again!

The job? Clean the built-in barbecue grill. This task was an absolute nightmare. The stinky, caustic, heavy-duty oven cleaners were of minimal help. Hours were spent scraping with wire brushes, five rolls of paper towels were expended wiping, as were three cans of stainless steel wipes. Even though I was wearing gloves through part of this ordeal, my nails were trashed by my efforts. Then I cleaned the granite counter top using the top-recommended product, which took another four hours. Finally, it was done.

As you know, I spent my entire professional career in public education; I’m a master at rubrics; I know how to fairly evaluate performance. I assessed my grill cleaning. Hmm. My completed project was NOT even average. “Sue, that’s a D. You can do better.” (Perhaps a quote by Mediocrates!) It was probably a F performance, but the grill looked a bit better than it did when I started.

I carefully covered the grill with its tarp, and it will be a long time before I cook a steak or a hamburger. Damn! I just remembered I’m having company next week from cold country. Of course, they will want to fire up the grill. So be it. But the next time the grill needs cleaned, I’m hiring a pro.

Would You Rather…?

I suspect all of us, at one time or another, played this game: would you rather go sledding or swimming in the ocean? Would you rather eat crickets or grasshoppers? Would you rather live in Arizona or Alaska?

A number of children’s authors have published a whole new collection of Would You Rather books. Available on Amazon in either paperback or electronic version, these are hilarious and surefire conversation starters on a road trip and even the dinner table. The object of the game is to make the other player laugh when posed with: would you rather eat a bowl of pudding filled with nails or drink a cup of hot chocolate full of cat hair? And while one may find this silly, give serious consideration to the question. Certainly, one probably wouldn’t die from cat hair but probably would die from eating nails. But is it possible to eat the pudding without eating the nails?

Would you rather smell a dirty diaper or skunk spray? Would you rather have two tongues that hung out of your mouth to your shoe tops or three purple noses on your posterior? Of course, these books are stuffed with gross kid questions, which are sure to cause laughter, such as would you rather fart and blow up in the air or burp and fall into a pig pen?

To me, any book, which encourages one to think, regardless of the entertaining and ludicrous questions, has value. Books, like these, teach both creativity and intuitiveness. God knows, we need more creative thinkers solving our nation’s issues. As adults, we are continually faced with choices: some good, some not-so good; some consequential, some not. Would I rather go to work or go fishing? Would I rather cook dinner or eat out? Would I rather study for the final or go to Tom’s party? So why not teach our children in a humorous way to make thoughtful and wise choices?

I just opened a beer. Oops! I could have had a V-8!

Party, 1999

I vividly remember New Year’s Eve, 1999. Theorists suggested it would be the end of the world as we knew. Computers would crash, banks would go under, we would never survive. We decided to make NYE an experience for our kids–just in case the world ceased to exist–and we rented hotel rooms with several other couples and their kids in downtown Tempe. Home of Arizona State, Tempe threw the most elaborate festivities. Food, drink, and entertainment were in abundance. Drunk college boys were randomly kissing strangers, everyone was singing and laughing, as a variety of bands took the stage.

After receiving 10 free bags of Tostidoes from the sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl, we all walked back to the hotel. We adults decided viewing the midnight fireworks from our balcony might be safer for kids than being amidst all of the revelers. As we waited for the light to change to cross one street, our kids were entertained by three young coeds barfing in the bushes. We were all in the bed by 2:00 AM–we had made it to the 21st Century!

Then, at 3:30 AM, the fire alarm went off. We ushered the kids down the four floors of stairs to join the numerous Tennessee fans who were also staying at the hotel. Some of them were chugging beer out of gallon plastic milk jugs, and of course, they were proudly wearing their orange pajama pants. The all-clear signal sounded, and we returned to bed. Yet, at 4:15, 5:30, and 6:00 AM, the fire alarm blasted. Enough of four floors of steps! We checked out at 6:30 AM.

We all certainly had a memorable experience greeting 2000; little did we know what lie ahead.

T-10 and Counting

We all learned to count, and usually it began with our fingers and toes. As we progressed nursery rhymes, such as one, two, buckle my shoe, reinforced our learning. Eventually, the alphabet got involved in math, and that’s when I checked out. It didn’t matter to me if A + B= C. Just how much do I owe for groceries?

Now, there were times when I counted down, particularly the days before Christmas. I made paper chains and never missed a day removing a link in enthusiastic anticipation of Santa’s arrival. I also counted down the days until summer vacation, my birthday, and my graduation. However, and this is the truth, I have never balanced my check book. As long as I have checks, I figure I must have money. Nor have I ever counted calories. Why bother? If I get hungry, I eat. (However, I’ve been somewhat blessed with the metabolism that seems to manage my food intake.)

Several months ago, however, I had an epiphany! Counting consumed my life, when I was exposed to COVID! Oh, sweet baby Jesus, what now? I scoured the internet–14 day-quarantine. Damn, I’ve spent the last six months living a cloistered life, where my only joy was a fifteen-minute shopping spree at the grocery. Now, even my one venture out in the world was squelched. Yet, somehow, I endured my 14-day lockdown with potato chips, Hallmark movies, and four novels.

Then came promise of the vaccine, but how long would it be before my age-group could schedule an injection? Weeks. I counted. Finally, I scored appointment #1. I was elated; I thought I won the lottery or the Willy Wonka gold bar. I counted the weeks, then the days, and finally the hours until the syringe hit my arm. Twenty-one days until #2. My countdown continues. Yet, another countdown looms–fourteen days after #2.

And yesterday I learned the results of my recent blood test: “Sue, you have COVID antibodies, and no, it has nothing to do with dose #1. You have had COVID.” Hmm. I’ve wasted a lot of days worrying and counting.

Entertaining? Those Were the Days

Last night was the Super Bowl, and for twenty plus years, a Super Bowl party was held at our casa. Though I’ve never had much interest in the event itself, the sheer camaraderie and copious food and drinks made it fun. I loved the gambling game of selling squares and awarding money at the end of each quarter, but Super Bowl parties ended in divorce.

When my daughters lived at home, there were constant parties–almost every weekend. Their friends would gather for pickle ball, basketball, and board games. My pantry was raided by voracious teenage boys that consumed unimaginable quantities of food and soda. (Yes, I had strict rules–no booze, no smoking, no sex. Since I knew all of their parents, the kids knew I would hesitate to call their mom or dad if they were acting out.). But those parties ended when by daughters moved east of the Mississippi.

Three or four years ago, my neighbor and I began playing trivia one night a week at the local bar and grill. Our team constantly changed as friends came and went, but it was great fun to meet new people from the neighborhood and enjoy great bar food. Sometimes we even won (bar food money), yet, it was never about winning. We felt validated for having a bunch of useless knowledge tucked in the corners of our minds. But COVID put an end to Trivia Tuesdays.

One night in June, my neighbor and I were so bored we took a box of questions from Trivial Pursuit and took turns posing questions. Wait? Why couldn’t we do that once a week with a small group of friends? And so, it began: Trivia Thursdays. Curiously, the game has morphed in sophistication. The simple verbal questions have become elaborate power point presentations displayed on the TV. The host/questioner is rotated every week, and everyone brings a dish to share.

So instead of wasting my time reliving Super Bowl parties of yore, tonight I will design my 25-question, power point, which incorporates the upcoming celebration of Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. Of course, I’ve ordered a traditional King Cake from NOLA for dessert. If you’re interested in entertaining with trivia, pm me and I’ll forward my power point. Try it. An educational diversion from the virus.

What’s Your Story Worth?

Mine? Not much. Particularly these days when I’ve limited people interaction, adventures other than the grocery store, and no airline trips to exotic places. Even my imagination seems to be holed up in self-isolation; I feel like a hermit or the crazy old, dog lady on 38th Street.

Yet, I do have one delightful entertainment: Story Worth. My kids bought me a subscription for Christmas; I think they’re looking for evidence to secure my commitment to the nut house. Just kidding, it’s kind of cute. Every Monday I’m sent a writing prompt, i.e. What are your favorite songs? What were your grandmothers like? How did you get your first job? If I don’t like the prompt, there are a myriad of others to which to respond.

I type my response to the weekly question and can even attach a picture. Then hit send, and it’s sent to both my kids and Story Worth. At the end of the year, all of my weekly responses will be printed and bound in a memory book and sent to my kids. I’m jazzed about this service because it entertains me and forces me to do something weekly. Secondly, it activates my brain. Take, for example, what are your favorite songs? Duh, that’s easy. Not for me. The more I thought about it the longer my list grew. My favorites were scattered across genres: classical, rock, pop, sacred, Broadway, folk, holiday, and silly camp songs. Notice I’m not aficionado of rap or jazz. I like songs with understandable words that convey a message, not repeat the F word over and over again. Even now, as I ponder this question, I realize I forgot a half dozen more favorites.

I’m sure in the weeks to come there will be questions I will avoid. Some answers are better taken to my grave than printed in a memory book. We’ve all had those moments, right? When our common sense took a vacation, and yet, we survived.

I fully realize our new “normal” has been frustrating. Every morning we awake and wonder if the scourge is gone, and every morning nothing has changed. But if you decide to chronicle a year and tax your grey matter, google Story Worth. Though it’s not quite as amazing as Sandy’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies, it’s less fattening!