The Evolution of Saturday

This week I received a writing prompt from Story Worth, How do you spend your Saturdays? At first, I scoffed. Saturday? At my age, I’m lucky to differentiate the days of the week, but it did cause me to reflect on how my Saturdays had evolved.

As a child, my Saturdays equaled freedom. I went to birthday parties, played with my friends, and was forced to watch Lawrence Welk if we had a babysitter. As a teenager, it was usually date night with my current boyfriend at the movies or hanging out at someone’s house. When I was in college, half of Saturday was spent sleeping, playing bridge, and perhaps writing the paper that was due on Monday. Saturday night was reserved for some kind of foolishness, like fraternity parties or playing drinking games at a college bar. After I graduated from college and had a real job, my Saturdays were spent grading papers, designing lesson plans, and doing graduate school assignments.

When I became a mom, Saturdays changed drastically. I morphed into a party host, driver to the mall, softball coach, dance mom, tennis mom, and cheer mom. It was rare if our home wasn’t a whirlwind of activity. Fortunately, during football season, my then-husband and I managed to go to ASU games, but for the most part, our kids dictated Saturdays.

Now Saturday just blends in with the other six days of the week. My married friends, of course, still go out for dinner, to the movies, to parties, but my Saturday has no significance. COVID has certainly squashed my urge to go mingle among a mass of people.

So to all my young readers, who are in the manic Saturday stage, remember there will come a time when you miss the frenzy of Saturday.

January…blah

First my apologies to you born in January. I’m sure you find it your favorite, but to me, it’s blah. In fact, it seems like a 31-day hangover after exciting and busy December. Gone are the Christmas lights and holiday decorations. Gone are the marvelous dinners, parties, out-of-town family celebrations. Long gone are the cookies, pastries, and candy canes, as well as the confetti, noise makers, and bubbly. All that remains is blah.

Ever since I was a child, I didn’t like January. Winter would be hanging around Ohio for at least three months. Spring break and summer vacation were light years away. Even the thought of Valentine’s Day didn’t trip my childhood trigger. (And it certainly doesn’t trip my trigger today. HA!)

I know I should embrace January at my age; I should be grateful to be alive and still with it. So, I guess I need to plan an event every January to rid me from the boring, tedious month of the year. If you have any suggestions for my new event, I anxiously await them.

Or just maybe, I should get a new puppy to relieve my boredom. Please don’t share this with my family, as they already think I’m losing it. But a rambunctious little pup may be just what I need to round off my January blah corners. Stay tuned.

Don’t Look Up

Happy New Year, and welcome back to my weekly blog.

Last night, out of sheer, Saturday night boredom, I watched Don’t Look Up. Not because I read the reviews, but because of Leonardo, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep. Nor did I bother reading the synopsis. A good thing, for I’m not a fan of sci-fi. Now, I not going to give away the movie; you’re free to watch it and formulate your own critique. However, my reaction to the film caused me a lot of tossing and turning into the wee hours this morning.

In essence, a segment of our society embraces the mantra, Don’t Look Up, meaning regardless of facts, personal experience or actual visualization of events, we disregard and even deny truth. The issues of climate change, poverty, corruption, and pandemic diseases are evident. For the last two days, the Phoenix metro area has confirmed 15,000 new cases of COVID per day, a disease that will continue to mutate until the vast majority of our world is vaccinated. Serious climate change has wrecked havoc in the rainforests and the polar ice floes.

Poverty and homelessness plague our cities. Have you noticed how we look straight ahead at a traffic light to avoid eye contact with the street corner beggar? Years ago, I was in wealthy Cabo San Lucas. The resort taxi driver reminded me as I got in the cab, “Senora, Cabo is beautiful, if you don’t look left or right.” (And see the lame, malnourished dogs, barefoot children, hovels of housing.)

Even our politicians are more concerned with lucrative quick band-aids, instead of investing in the future. If you deny that, look at our school systems. What better way to ensure our future than to educate our young?

I realize from the time we were young and skinned our knees, cut our fingers, or broke our arms, our parents said, “Don’t look. It only hurts if you look.” Me? I still don’t look when I get a shot or a phlebotomist draws blood from my arm. Perhaps, as this film suggests, it’s time to: Just Look Up.

All I Want for Christmas

Yesterday I saw my hairdresser who attempted to make me presentable. Twins surrounded their grandmother hairdresser as she attempted to cut her daughter-in-law’s hair. The boy and girl were chattering as seven-year-olds do, when I asked, “So what do you want for Christmas?”

The little boy rattled off a number of things, some of which I didn’t know. Must have been video games. Then, his twin, spoke, “I want my own Alexa, a cellphone, and art stuff. You know what else I want?”

“No, my dear, but I think you’ll tell me. What else do you want?”

“A baby sister!”

And with that pronouncement, her grandma dropped her scissors, her mom bent forward with shocked looks, and her twin brother added, “We want a baby sister every year for Christmas!”

Much to the chagrin of momma and grandma, my hairdresser and I were doubled over in laughter. Out of the proverbial mouths of babes come the most hilarious things.

May none of us lose sight of the spirit of the holiday season. May we look at our lives through the lens of a child. May we strive to be positive and not defiant. May we embody the best in us and collaboratively work together for ONE REASON: Our Children.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. My next blog will post on January 9.

The Christmas Alarm

Like many of you, our parents had a Christmas morning rule. Ours was: Stay in bed until 7:00. In Ohio, it was not even daylight at 7 a.m., but my parents and sometimes visiting grandparents dutifully agreed to leave their warm beds for my brother, Bruce’s, and my anxiousness. Of course, our three-year-old sister had to be awakened to join in our merriment.

Now, for my quizzical mind, the 7 a.m. posed a problem. Obviously, there was no Internet 60 years, so I had no understanding of why or how 7 a.m. was the chosen awake time. Without logical reasons, I concluded time was arbitrary. There were no laws to prohibit the wake up time. All I need to do was advance the clocks. Right after we were sent to bed on the Eve, Bruce and I reset the upstairs clocks.

In those days, digital, atomic clocks had yet to be invented, so one would have to squint at the dimly-lit clock, in a sparsely-lit bedroom to ascertain the time. Our plan was flawless. We congratulated each other with our creativity. The alarms went off, Bruce and I were already downstairs eying the presents and full stockings we were forbidden to touch until the adults arrived. My parents and grandparents yawned and drank coffee before the fun began. My baby sister was left to sleep through this exciting, wonderful moment.

It was a perfect Christmas morning! I enthusiastically opened a box from “Santa.” OMG! It was the clock radio I had wanted. I was so delighted I had to plug it in. In my eagerness. I flipped the dial to listen to my favorite station, WHOT. Probably playing Christmas carols, but we all needed holiday music.

Everyone who knows me is well aware I remain techno-challenged. Thankfully, I raised two techno gurus who talk me through my numerous formatting issues, TV set-ups, and cell phone problems. I could only hear the faint music, so I cranked up the volume dial to the max. The music stopped. The DJ blasted, Good morning, Youngstown! Merry Christmas! It’s Four AM!

Busted! Mom fled to the kitchen to check the stove clock, while my dad dialed the local time and temperature number. Both confirmed it was moments after four. Busted! Yes, I admitted I was the instigator, but it was Christmas. My grandparents, unlike my parents, found great humor in my clever shenanigan. Bruce and I were sentenced back to bed, where we slept peacefully until the aroma of bacon awoke us.

The Faithful Big Sister

(In keeping with the holiday spirit, my next several blogs will celebrate the “most wonderful time of the year.”)

A usual Saturday night in December over sixty years ago. My parents went to a Christmas Ball; my dad in a tux, my mom in a long gown. My two sibs and I relegated to the care of an old maid babysitter who made us watch Lawrence Welk as we knoshed on hot dogs and mac and cheese. My little ten-year-old brother, Bruce, and I snuck away from the Lennon Sisters to the upstairs in search of Christmas presents. We finally uncovered a stash of wrapped boxes in the under eaves storage attic. I left Bruce stayed. Unbeknowst to me, he opened the end of every package and peeked.

On Monday morning, our mother discovered the partially opened gifts. When Bruce and I came home from school, were confronted by Mom wrath. “Which of you opened the Christmas presents?”

We both responded, “Not me!”

“They didn’t unwrap themselves!” She followed up with the angry “mom-stare.” (Too bad the Elf on the Shelf was yet to be written.)

After several more minutes of Mom’s inquisition, I admitted I did it. Even though I knew Bruce committed the crime, I was the eldest. I should have made him leave before he got into trouble. In those days, the preferred method of punishment was swats to the backside. Thankfully, my mom was not an accomplished swatter, and I survived.

On Friday, our babysitter, who was also our weekly cleaning lady was busily dusting around. “Louiseabelle, do you know what Sue did Saturday night? She opened all the Christmas surprises! I was so mad I paddled her.”

“Mrs. Meikle, Sue didn’t do it; Bruce did.”

“But Sue admitted it.”

“Yes, but Sue didn’t do it. Bruce did.”

When Bruce and I walked in the door after school, we were faced by an angry, firebreathing dragon, AKA Mom. “Go to your room, Bruce, and stay there until your father comes home!”

“Why?”

“Because I said so.” (Classic Mom words.)

Of course, Bruce earned some swats that night, but to this day, it hasn’t curbed his inability to wait until his birthday, Father’s Day, or Christmas. In fact, his Christmas present from my sister and me is sitting on the bench inside his house. According to the picture he just sent, it remains unopened. Doubtful. Fake news!

The Commitment

Most standard dictionaries define commitment as a promise to do or give something–an adherence to which one is bound by a pledge or duty. In our everyday lives, we make routine promises to pick up the kids from school, to pay the electric bill, to bake a pie, and to feed our dogs. However, the pandemic has caused many rational folk to behave in surrealistic irrational ways. Now, as we enter the “most wonderful time of the year”–the holiday season, we must hit the pause button. It is time to stand in our mirror and admit COVID, Q-Anon, and Irresponsibility are the enemies. We must commit to being part of the solution, not fueling the myriad of problems we face.

Whether it be one’s religious or mythical beliefs about the holiday season, we need to forget naughty and be nice. We need to be patient and kind. We need to be thankful for what we have, and if we can, we need to help others.

Even though I’m a white-knuckled flyer, I appreciate the convenience of leaving Phoenix at breakfast and arriving in Pittsburgh for late lunch/early dinner–a trip by car, which would take 3-4 days. Thanksgiving is just days a way; according to some, the busiest air travel days of the year. True to form, Mother Nature may wreck havoc with storms. Airlines may experience delays and glitches. But that does NOT require passengers to punch flight attendants, nor disobey their safety protocols.

Further most businesses face a severe employee shortages. Black Friday will jam retail stores. Restaurants and bars may have long-waiting lines. Inclement weather may clog the highways. Commit to be patient, kind, and understanding. But most of all, be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.

THE Gift

As the holiday season is upon us, many folk shop for THE gift–the one present that lights up the receiver’s face. The surprise that makes the receiver dance with joy. Of course, shopping for children is easy, once their letters to Santa have been perused. While, of course, when my kids were young, they also got necessaries, like a new toothbrush and underwear. But their elation over a new bicycle, a puppy, or a talking doll was unequaled when compared to a robe or slippers.

Gift giving for adults is much harder. Though I strive to buy one present, which knocks off one’s socks, most adults don’t share their wish list with others. As a writer, I spend a lot of time studying people. My observations help me create characters to advance the plot. The better I know a person, the more genuine my gift. Yet, most of the time, I take the easy way out a buy gift cards.

Last week, though, I needed to up my game. My PCP (primary care physician) and his office manager wife are also members of our trivia team. Not only, can I always get a same day appointment, a prescription, or a blood test, they are just a text message away on weekends. I had to give them something to express my sincerest appreciation. Curiously, they both are frequent users of the quarter candy machine at the bar where we play trivia. Hot tamales and M&M’s are among their favorites.

Last night, another team member and I delivered their own, home candy machine, complete with three of their favorite candies. Never have I seen two, more jazzed adults. They beamed like children gazing at Santa’s delivery, as they enthusiastically filled each container with treats. Then, they both went in search of quarters to try it out.

When we left their house, we waved goodbye to the two big grins. Mission accomplished.

The Day of the Pigs

As a child, I had the best of both worlds. During the week, I lived with my parents in the city–a city that then had good public schools, lots of restaurants, and three-floor department stores downtown. On the weekends, we spent a great deal of time on my grandparents’ farm. There were cows, chickens, a pony, pigs, dogs, and six or eight barn cats. There were occasional snakes, the creek was filled with tadpoles and frogs. Sometimes there were foxes and deer. And in the spring, rabbits and groundhogs were abundant.

My grandparents had a large garden in addition to their fields of corn, oats, wheat, and alfalfa hay. I learned to plant and hoe, can and freeze, pick apples and blueberries. I learned to drive the tractor, bag oats and corn for the feed mill, lift hay and straw bales, and even tap a maple tree to boil into syrup. At an early age, I witnessed the birth of calves and kittens, the hatching of eggs, the ringing of pig snouts. And I even watched while my grandmother chopped off the heads of chickens with a hatchet. Not for the faint-hearted, as indeed, chickens do run around after losing their heads!

Once during the late summer, my younger brother and I spent a week at the farm. I suspect our parents wanted a week alone with our one or two-year-old sister. (Believe me, my brother, Bruce, and I would rather be at the farm too.) “Suzanne, tomorrow the pigs will be sent to the butcher. You and Bruce are to stay in the house, when they come to pick up the pigs. I’ll be outside, when they arrive. You supervise Bruce in the house. Suzanne, do you understand?” Grandma must think I’m deaf.

I received the message…but why? We had free rein of the farm to roam the fields, search for kittens in the hay mow, catch frogs. Why did we have to stay in the house?

When I saw the big truck pull in the gravel driveway and my grandmother greet them, I said, “Bruce, come on, let’s go. They’re here to pick up the pigs.”

“But grandma said no, ” he whined.

“Come on, if you’re going, or stay inside by yourself.”

We snuck into the barn and cracked the door that faced the pig pen. My unsuspecting grandmother had no idea we had front row seats! One by one each pig was felled by a shotgun blast. Another guy methodically slit their throats. Blood spurted and gushed across the sty. My stomach lurched, “Bruce let’s go, before grandma finds us.”

When grandma came back to the house, she found her innocent grandkids coloring. She didn’t notice my pale green, about-to-barf face. Thankfully, Bruce didn’t blurt out where we’d been. My grandmother was right; we should have stayed inside. Sixty-five years have passed and have failed to erase my images of the day the pigs died.

The Sucker List

Earlier this week, I ran into my friend, Jane, at the grocery store. “Hey, I barely recognized you, Sue, behind your mask.”

“I’ve had 3 shots, but I wear a mask in the case there are others who are ill. I wrote a blog about your mother being scammed out of $5,000 a few weeks ago. No names, just about her grandson needing life-saving surgery during spring break in Mexico.”

“Sue, I need you to write another about my mother-in-law.” Jane talked and I listened. Her m-i-l receives 20-30 pieces of mail per day. The vast majority of them are requests for donations to their alleged non-profits. Each request includes a pen, a sticker, a magnetic calendar, or address labels. Even though, this woman’s income barely manages to pay the rent, she’s so moved by their request and free gift, she sends a $5.00 check.

Thus, Jane and her husband took away the checkbook. Yet, the nonagenarian was not deterred. She sends cash. Yesterday, Jane took lunch to her mother-in-law and saw her outgoing mail. “Mom, I’ll take your mail to the post office for you. Is that ok with you?” After an affirmative response, Jane stuffed two envelopes in her purse. When she got home, she opened them. Each held $25 in cash!

At Jane’s request, I did some research. In 1941, Crime Doesn’t Pay movie short coined the term: Sucker List–gullible folk, who bet the entire savings on “sure thing” horse races. And now, 80 years later, the Sucker List is a sophisticated way to lure the elderly into donating copious amounts to random charities. (Note charity is usually not what it appears to be. It’s a scam! No one should surmise cash donations end up in a bank.) Sucker Lists are sold to other scammers. If an elderly person receives multitudes of such mail, rest assured, he/she is on THE LIST!

The more I researched; the more outraged I became. Certainly, there must be ways to combat the Nigerians (well-known for this charade) and/or other shysters. The first and most obvious problem is that age is public record. If you have a landline, look yourself up on the White Pages and your age is displayed. Many internet searches also display age. How do you think marketeers target teens, newly weds, retirees, etc? Secondly, donate to a well-known charity several times, and you end up on the Sucker List. The same is true of mail-order catalogs. Buy once from Jackson’s and the ads multiply. My mom’s apartment was crammed full of shoe, dress, holiday catalogs.

However, there are several websites which verify the legitimacy of charitable organizations. One is The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving that offers info about national charities. Its phone is: 703-276-0100. Web site : http://www.give.org/reports/index.asp As a word of caution, many victims of a scam refuse to believe they’ve been duped. Certainly, understandable given the current tenor of this country where people believe science, climate change, and election results are fake news.

But Jane has the ultimate solution! Scrutinize and verify every application for a nonprofit mailing status. Regular folk currently pay 55 cents to mail a letter, while bulk rate, non profits is about a nickel. Now, I’ve read the requirements to receive such a benefit and realize it’s rather simple to circumvent the rules. Jane, though, is relentless in her effort to mitigate this problem. She’s gathering firsthand accounts and examples to present to her US Senator. If you can help her, message me for her contact information. Thanks.