Discounted Seniority

Last week I heard a talk about “how not to grow old.” The speaker did a nice job of presenting a lot of the standard advice: stay active, eat well, continue to learn and keep your brain busy, enjoy the moment, and so on.

I have to admit, though, that I listened with a somewhat cynical ear. As several older members of my extended family have discovered over the past few years, some of the not-so-great aspects of aging tend to whack you upside the head regardless of your best efforts with yoga, vitamins, or positive thinking. Besides, the speaker seemed two or three decades too young to be an authority on the topic. Either that, or the advice she gave was really working well for her.

One tip she offered did catch my attention. Never ask for the senior discount, because it means you’re thinking of yourself as old.

What she didn’t say was how to respond if someone else, who apparently thinks of you as old, offers you the senior discount.

I do know one response that, based on personal experience, is probably not recommended. I was traveling with my daughter and her friend, who were both 20 at the time. We stopped at a motel in Dillon, Montana. When I raised an eyebrow at the room rate quoted by the nice young man behind the desk, he quickly added, “Of course, you might qualify for a discount. Do you belong to AAA? Or AARP?”

Shocking myself as much as I did him, I slammed my hand down on the counter. “That’s an insult! Do I look old enough to be a member of AARP?” And I went off on a rant about senior discounts, and how rude it was to assume that people qualified for them, and I’m not sure what all else. In my defense, it had been a long day of driving and I was tired. Besides, I was joking—mostly. Meanwhile, the two pretty young women with me were cracking up in a way guaranteed to embarrass any nice young man who just might have been hoping to impress them. When the poor guy gave me the final room rate, he was very careful to explain, “And this is the Triple-A discount.”

Perhaps it wasn’t one of my finer moments. Especially since nowhere in my rant did I reveal that, as a matter of fact, I was 52 and thereby officially old enough to join AARP had I cared to. If, by chance, you are reading this and you are a man in his early 30’s who worked at a motel in Dillon, Montana, 12 years ago, please consider it my public apology.

In the decade since, I’ve become a little more relaxed on the topic of senior discounts. I have even—please don’t tell anyone—occasionally gone so far as to order a meal from the senior menu. I don’t do it easily, though; there’s always an inner dialog first. It goes something like this:

Inner Voice A (the frugal one): “The senior menu is cheaper.”
Inner Voice B (the health-conscious one): “The smaller portion on the senior menu has fewer calories.”
Inner Voice C (the logical, practical one): “Why don’t they just include those smaller-portion meals on the regular menu? Lots of younger people would probably like to order them.”
Inner Voice D (the one who’s the real me): “Chronological age be damned. I am not now, I never have been, and I never, ever, ever will be old enough to order off the senior menu.”

Most of the time, I end up listening to Inner Voice D. But at least I don’t let her slam her hand on the table and shout at the waitress.

Categories: Food and Drink | Tags: , | 3 Comments

And the Beet Goes On . . .

Last month, on the NPR program “Here and Now,” a chef named Kathy Gunst gave one of the most effective sales presentations I’ve ever heard. About beets. I was listening in the car, and by the time she was finished with a 10-minute interview, I was ready to drive straight to Safeway, buy a bunch of beets, take them home and cook them.

In spite of two facts: a), I’m really not excited about beets, and b), I’m definitely not excited about cooking.

How did she get me so excited about a fat red vegetable I don’t even care about? She used six tools to create an unbeetable way to sell an idea. Here’s how she did it:

Stay UpBeet. I don’t care much for beets, but Kathy obviously does. Her enthusiasm about them was genuine. The energy she gave off was contagious and let even a lukewarm beet-eater like me “Catch the Beet.”

Beet Your Own Drum. Not once during the program did I hear Kathy say “you should” or “you need.” She didn’t tell us that we ought to like beets or why; she just talked about what she liked about them.

Lay Down a Beautiful Beet. This was radio, remember. All she had to work with was words. And yet she used words to appeal not just to our ears, but to all our senses. She described the flavor and texture of beets in specific terms and made them sound delicious. She talked about the different colors of beets—not just red, but orange and yellow and white. She described slices of the different colors arranged on a platter so vividly that I could see it.

Don’t Beet Around the Bush. Kathy was direct and clear when she talked about the nutritional value of beets. They contain B vitamins, fiber, folates, anti-oxidants, and all sorts of other stuff that’s good for us. She gave us the basics in a way that was easy to understand and remember.

Keep a Simple Beet. On the rare occasions that I catch part of a cooking show, I am usually daunted by their elaborate recipes and complicated processes. Half the time they use ingredients I’ve never heard of, can’t spell, or have no idea how to pronounce. Instead, Kathy made cooking beets seem easy. Just roast them—which is simple and also keeps in the nutrients and enhances the flavor. Even better, it makes them easy to peel. Just put on disposable plastic gloves or stick your hand inside a plastic bag and rub the skin off. No mess, no staining, no sweat. She made it sound so easy even I could do it.

Know How Long to Let the Beet Go On. Kathy was brisk and packed a lot of information into her presentation. She focused on the right sized bite for the time she had. She said her say and then Beat It. She didn’t let the Beet Go On, and On, and On.

Since this presentation was so effective, did it work for me? Well, sort of. Even though I was tempted, I didn’t drive to the grocery store and buy some beets. However, I did get excited enough to look them up.

And Kathy wasn’t kidding about the health benefits. Beets are great food. In fact, according to one account I found, they might even be great medicine.

In a small rural hospital in Siberia, during a blizzard, a doctor had to do emergency open-heart surgery on a middle-aged man. The surgery went well, but the man needed blood transfusions and the hospital’s supply of blood was gone. Blood donors couldn’t get to the hospital because of the storm. The doctor took blood from every possible donor on the hospital staff, including himself. It still wasn’t enough. At last, in desperation, the doctor caught sight of an orderly going past the OR with a food cart. On it were bowls of borscht—beet soup. The doctor knew his patient was close to death. There was nothing to lose. He grabbed the food cart, hooked up an IV, and transfused the patient with borscht.

Miraculously, the man started to recover. After a week in the hospital, he went home, and he has gone on to lead a healthy, active life. He has just one small problem.

Every now and then, his heart skips a beet.

Categories: Food and Drink | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Missing the Point

Maybe I’m merely grumpy, or out of touch with mainstream reality, but sometimes I just don’t get the point. Things that seem to make sense to the majority of people just don’t make sense to me. Such as:

Deliberately enhancing bookshelves with careful arrangements of books in which some are standing upright, some are lying flat, and some are merely props for other decorative objects. Our bookshelves pretty much always look like that, but somehow the overall effect is crammed instead of ornamental. Possibly that’s because random rocks, misplaced pens, or dangerous items temporarily placed out of reach of toddlers don’t qualify as “decorative objects.”

Appetizers. I’ve never seen the logic of inviting people over for a special meal, which someone goes to considerable trouble to plan and shop for and prepare, and then filling them up with something generic like crackers or chips and dip before they even get to the table. It seems almost insulting to the cook. Unless the whole point is to dull the guests’ appetites. Maybe the host hopes to get by with smaller servings of an expensive main course, or hopes guests might be too full for dessert so there will be some leftover pie for breakfast the next day. But in that case, shouldn’t they really be called “disappetizers” or “unappetizers?”

White chocolate. True, it has cocoa butter in it. But that just means it contains all of the fat from the cocoa bean but none of the good stuff that makes chocolate taste so delicious. And, even more important, it doesn’t have any of the antioxidant ingredients that allow chocolate lovers to claim that eating the stuff is good for us. Besides, it doesn’t look like chocolate or taste like chocolate. Adding cocoa butter to a piece of white candy doesn’t make it chocolate, any more than putting butter on a piece of toast makes it a milk shake.

Formal wear. Why is the appropriate attire for formal occasions shoulder-baring dresses for women but long-sleeved jackets over long-sleeved shirts for men? It only makes sense if you think like a slightly warped statistician. If half the people in a room are too hot and the other half are too cold, then I guess that averages out to “comfortable.”

Piles of pillows on beds or couches. If you’re spending the night in a friend’s nice guest room—one where everything actually matches and no odd piles of random stuff are stored under the bed—it doesn’t feel right to dump the extra seven color-coordinated pillows on the floor in the corner. But what else are you supposed to do with them in order to clear enough space so you can actually sleep in the bed? As for couches, a couple of pillows on your own couch may be handy to loll on while you read or to prop up your tired feet. A carefully arranged collection of them in someone else’s living room is a different story. There you’re left little choice but to perch on the edge of the couch like an eager proselytizing missionary or a patient waiting in the dentist’s office who is ready to bolt.

High-heeled shoes with long, pointy toes that: a) were designed with no reference whatsoever to the actual shape of the human foot; b) can only be walked in by trained athletes with good health insurance; and c) make your feet look three sizes larger.

Sometimes, I feel like the philosophy student who sat down to take a final exam, only to discover his No. 2 pencil was broken. He said, “Now I understand–there is no point!”

Categories: Odds and Ends | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Over-driving Over I-90

Signs that you’ve made a lot of trips across western South Dakota on Interstate 90 in the past few months:

1. You notice when Reptile Gardens updates one of its billboards or Cosmos puts up a new one, and you consider either one an addition to the scenery.

2. You always use your “own” habitual bathroom stall when you stop at a rest area.

3. You have the preset buttons on your car radio set to three different South Dakota public radio stations and know exactly where one will fade out and you need to switch to another. You also schedule your travel time around your preferred programming.

4. You recognize individual horses in pastures along I-90, and you’re starting to imagine you can recognize individual cows.

5. You’ve considered getting preferred customer cards for the truck stops at Murdo and Vivian.

6. If you play the billboard alphabet game, you know exactly where to start it in order to take advantage of the J’s and Q’s on certain specific signs.

7. You remember when that deer carcass near Belvidere, now a bit of dried skin over a few bones, was fresh road kill.

8. You don’t bother to bring an audio book to listen to while you drive, because you don’t consider 275 miles a long trip.

9. You can estimate your gas mileage quite accurately based on the direction and velocity of the wind, including an automatic adjustment for driving east (downhill) versus west (uphill). You’ve learned to assume that the wind will blow from the southeast when you’re driving east and from the northwest when you’re driving west. If the wind isn’t blowing at all, you consider it an unexpected gift. If you happen to get a tailwind, you consider it a minor miracle.

10. Despite all the tricks and gimmicks to make the miles go faster, you still don’t take the view for granted. You notice and appreciate, not just the glorious splendor of sunsets that spread across half the sky, but also the subtle beauty of light and shadow across low hills. For someone who grew up there, a trip across the prairie and a chance to see miles of it reaching to the far horizon isn’t a long and boring drive. It’s refreshment for the soul.

Categories: Living Consciously, Travel | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Finger Bowling

Finger bowls. I’ve always associated them with formal dining, elegant place settings, and fine china. This impression, based on extensive reading of historical novels, was confirmed when I did a little research. I accidentally wandered into the thickets of the 1922 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette and found it such fascinating reading that I very nearly didn’t come out again. (Just in case you need to know the correct precedence for seating guests, the appropriate division of responsibilities between the butler and the housekeeper, or the proper way to address an envelope or a Duke, you can find the book here.)

Emily (I suppose I should call her Mrs. Post, but after half an hour of browsing through her crisp prose I feel as if we know each other) seems to assume finger bowls are standard at formal dinners, merely describing two different ways of presenting them with the dessert course. She mentions as a matter of course that the finger bowl is always placed on a doily, which may be round or square but “must always be cream or white.” She also says, “the finger bowl is less than half filled with cold water; and at dinner parties, a few violets, sweet peas, or occasionally a gardenia, is put in it. (A slice of lemon is never seen outside of a chop-house where eating with the fingers may necessitate the lemon in removing grease. Pretty thought!)”

Emily’s parenthetical shudder notwithstanding, in the circumstances recently where I used a finger bowl for the first time, the lemon might have been useful.

We were invited to dinner at the home of a couple who have lived abroad and are familiar with a variety of dining styles. I was slightly intimidated at first to see, at each plate, a pretty little blue-and-white finger bowl. Then the hostess informed us that the main course was barbequed pork ribs. She encouraged us by both word and example to eat them with her fingers, making full use of the finger bowls.

I’m not sure Emily would have approved, but the finger bowls in this instance were utterly practical. The process went like this:
• Pick up rib with fingers and eat the meat, making sure to gnaw the last delicious bites off of the bone.
• Lick fingers (optional, but highly recommended—the sauce was tasty).
• Paddle fingers gently in finger bowl.
• Wipe clean fingers on napkin.
• Pick up fork with sauce-free fingers and take a few bites of veggies and rice.
• While fingers are still clean, pick up serving fork and stab another pair of ribs.
• Repeat and rinse, as often as appropriate—but not too often, since there were chocolate brownies for dessert.

Now that I understand the practical value of finger bowls in non-formal settings, I may just have to try this at home. They could be especially useful for family dinners with small children at the table. Just image the convenience of having finger bowls at hand for toddlers to use after they finish eating spaghetti with their fingers, scooping up applesauce with their forks, dipping their green beans in ketchup, or dredging the noodles out of their soup by hand. They could rinse off their sticky little fingers before wiping them on their own pants, the tablecloth, or their grandmother’s new sweater. This could be the most useful dinner-table accessory for little ones since the unabridged dictionary.

It wouldn’t even be necessary to put violets or sweet peas in toddlers’ finger bowls. They would decorate their own—not only with peas, but with other attractive accents like lumps of mashed potatoes, rejected bites of chicken, stray strings of spaghetti, and the entire contents of the salt shaker.

Of course, being creative little souls, no doubt they would also find alternative uses for the water in the bowls: drinking it, using it to finger paint on the table, spitting it at one another, or pouring it onto their plates, the table, their laps, their heads, or the floor.

Oops. Maybe this idea needs a bit of refining. Besides, I just remembered one more thing about those historical novels that refer to finger bowls. All the elegantly dressed people at those formal multi-course dinners, making refined conversation while the maids and footmen serve them so correctly, are adults. The children, duly supervised by nurses and nannies, eat in the nursery.

Categories: Food and Drink | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Mr. Fox Joins the Circus

Long before Queen Elsa’s song in Disney’s “Frozen” added the phrase “let it go” to every four-year-old’s vocabulary, the concept of giving up control over what isn’t yours to manage has been important for living with balance and serenity. Twelve-Step programs call this “detaching with love.” It can also be described as plain old “minding your own business.” (The hard part, of course, is figuring out what is your business and what isn’t.)

A while ago I came across a saying that’s become one of my favorite ways of reminding myself to let go of things that aren’t my responsibility: “Not my circus; not my monkeys.” The image it conjures up makes me smile and helps me avoid stressing over things I can’t or shouldn’t do anything about.

Except, of course, that sometimes it is my circus and sometimes those are undeniably my monkeys.

Like the three-ring family extravaganza that took up most of last week. Ring One contained the usual local suspects: my daughter and son-in-law with their two-year-old, plus my stepson and his wife with their three kids, who are three, two, and seven months. Ring Two was my stepdaughter, visiting for the week with her three children, aged six, four, and ten months. That, ordinarily, would be quite enough circus for anyone.

To illustrate: one evening we celebrated the seventh birthday of the oldest grandkid in this particular bunch. It was fun, it was noisy, it was delightful, and it was surprisingly free from conflict. Until 7:23 p.m., when ice cream intersected with bedtime. Suddenly four children were in tears, one child was throwing a hissy fit and demanding to leave, and the adults unanimously agreed that the party was over.

But wait—there’s more! Last week we added one more act in Ring Three. The feature attraction, right there in the center of the Big Top (well, actually, in the maternity wing of the hospital), was the birth of my daughter’s second child.

My own participation in this particular circus was a balancing act—dividing time, attention, and energy among taking care of my daughter’s two-year-old, spending time with the visiting grandkids, having meaningful conversations with my stepdaughter in 27-second increments, helping provide a couple of family dinners, and being with my daughter and her husband for part of the 30-something hours they spent at the hospital waiting for their new son to show up.

More by luck than planning, his arrival was timed so I was able to be there when he made his grand entrance. Cue the trumpet fanfare and the spotlight for Fox Reed!

Fox is grandchild number 16, and I am thrilled that in part he’s named after me. He is a beautiful baby with the proper number of fingers and toes, he has brown eyes like his mother and grandmother, and he seems to be settling into his life quite nicely. So far his big brother seems to think he’s pretty special, although it’s possible that big brother assumes Fox is just another visiting cousin who hasn’t gone home with the rest of them yet.

As he grows up, I’m sure Fox will learn to appreciate the fabulous troupe he’s been born into. As one of the founders of this particular circus, I feel a certain amount of responsibility for him and all the rest of those incredible, amazing monkeys. I also am pleased and relieved to understand clearly that I’m not the ringmaster here. The next generation of performers have taken over, and they are doing a wonderful job. Their skills at balancing, juggling, and keeping the show on the road are superb.

Oh, I have a place, too. Sometimes I can hold a safety net. Sometimes I help out behind the scenes. Sometimes I get to just sit in the front row and cheer.

And always, I can say with pride and delight if anyone asks or even if they don’t: “Yep, that’s my circus. Those are my monkeys, all right!”

Plus one brand-new fox.

Categories: Family, Living Consciously | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Improbable Causes

A department store flyer this week included an ad for men’s “causal” pants. My first assumption, naturally, was that a proofreader, possibly on a Monday morning before his or her first cup of coffee, had been a little too “casual” about checking the copy.

But maybe not. What if the ad meant exactly what it said? This could explain so much. There is definitely a “causal” relationship between the wearing of certain styles of pants and the effects thereof. For instance:

The astonishingly long-lasting style of grossly oversized pants for young men, which causes:
a. An increase in underwear sales, at least among certain styles and brands, since the top two-thirds of it are visible to all who care to look and even more who don’t.
b. The inability to do anything, such as mowing the yard or carrying laundry downstairs, that requires both hands, because of the need to keep one hand free to continually hitch up one’s sagging britches.
c. The inability to carry anything heavier than a ten-dollar bill in the multiple pockets of those saggy pants, because even an extra half-ounce of weight will cause the jeans to end up around the wearer’s ankles.

The latest and opposite extreme style for young men of super-skinny jeans, which causes:
a. Still more of an increase in underwear sales, since the boxers that were required under (or rather, above) the baggy jeans won’t fit under the skinny jeans.
b. A decrease is impulse spending, because while it is possible to carry a limited amount of cash in the super-tight pockets of the super-skinny jeans if one puts it into the pocket before zipping up the jeans, it’s not possible to get the cash out of the pocket in public without losing one’s dignity.
c. A possible need to switch from the baritone to the tenor section of the high school chorus.

The style for women of super-skinny jeans, which causes:
a. The continued sale of large, heavy purses. (See “b” above.)

The style for young women, as well as for some women old enough to know better, of super-stretchy tights in brightly colored geometric patterns, unfortunately too often worn with too-short tops, which causes:
a. Even more sales of large, heavy purses, which if carried in appropriate positions may provide some much-needed cover.
b. The unavoidable noticing, by innocent bystanders, of dimples in places said bystanders have no business knowing about and would really prefer not to know about.
c. A presumed decrease in underwear sales, since if even the stretchiest underwear were worn under the stretchy tights it would be possible to read the size, brand name, and fiber content printed on it.

All these and similar extreme styles in pants certainly are causal of outbursts of sarcasm and hilarity from observers, particularly those who are old enough to have forgotten—or at least to hope others have forgotten—about some of their own earlier fashion excesses. The outbursts may be muted if these observers are encouraged to browse through old photo albums. Or, if they can’t remember where they’ve stored the photo albums, the hilarity can be brought to an abrupt end with one evocative phrase: plaid polyester bellbottoms.

Categories: Fashion | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Breakfast in the Driveway

There’s nothing to bring you fully awake early on a winter morning like going outside to experience nature while you walk up the driveway to get the newspaper. The brilliance of the stars in the still-dark sky to the west contrasts with the brightening of dawn in the east. The crispness of snow under your slippered feet and the freshness of the frigid air are invigorating. What really brings you to full alertness, though, is the tingling sensation on the back of your neck that suggests a mountain lion might be watching.

I’ve written about this before, but in the past couple of years I haven’t worried too much about mountain lions. This is probably due to several factors: the city’s effort to thin the urban deer population, a lion hunting season that has reduced the number of big cats in the Black Hills, the idea that familiarity breeds contempt (or at least nonchalance), and the fact that our newspaper subscription now includes full access to the online version.

Then, a few weeks ago, my partner learned something disturbing while he and our next-door neighbor were enjoying some male bonding over a problem with our shared water well. The neighbor said that twice in the past couple of years, he had found the half-eaten carcasses of deer—clearly killed by mountain lions—in the shallow gully between our houses.

The gully right next to our woodpile. The gully where I pick chokecherries. The gully where the neighbors’ kids had a clubhouse when they were younger. The gully that parallels the driveway we walk every morning when we get the newspaper.

I’m so glad I haven’t wasted any energy worrying about mountain lions.

Not that I’m really worried even now. Honest. I have protective strategies. First, I always put up the hood of my winter coat. I know it wouldn’t really protect the back of my neck from a lion’s teeth, but it might affect his aim.

Second, when I get the paper out of the box, I always roll it up into a tight cylinder. As a defensive weapon, it’s pretty flimsy, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays when there are hardly any advertising flyers. But still, surely no cat would appreciate the humiliation of being whacked across the nose with a newspaper.

But the most important strategy is to always take my shower first thing in the morning. That way, when I go up to get the paper, I smell like soap, shampoo, and body lotion. My idea is that any lion who catches a whiff will not associate my scent with food. The reaction I’m hoping for is, “Eeew—what’s that awful smell? Can you imagine getting a mouthful of that stuff? Yuck!” Ideally, any discerning predator will sneeze, gag, and take its sensitive nose and sharp teeth somewhere else.

Of course, there is an alternative possibility. A lion might pick up my soap/shampoo/lotion aura, take a deep breath, and think, “Yum—breakfast! And somebody already washed it.”

Categories: Wild Things | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Lies, Damned Lies, and Sticks

What sets humans apart from other animals? That’s a question people have debated for centuries. And maybe the answer is as simple as, “We’re the only ones who ponder questions like these.”

Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, says what makes humans unique is our ability to create and believe fiction. Apparently (I haven’t read the book yet, so I might be inventing fiction here), he doesn’t mean just storytelling like novels, TV shows or lies like, “No, I didn’t eat the last three brownies.”

He’s talking about fiction in a larger sense. In the February 2015 Smithsonian magazine, Harari gives an example of one universal fiction: money. Even though money doesn’t have any inherent value, we have created and we believe in a whole system of exchange based on it.

When it comes down to creating fiction at an individual level, however, I’m not sure humans are as unique as we might like to think. As evidence, here’s a true story about a man and a dog. I promise, I am not making this up. I wasn’t there when it happened, but it was told to me by one of the participants, who—despite his behavior on this occasion—is generally ethical and trustworthy.

One summer day the man and the dog were at a lake, playing a game. The man would throw a stick out into the water, the dog would swim out and retrieve it, the dog would bring it back to the man, and the man would throw it again.

The man got tired of the game before the dog did. When the dog brought the stick back for the eleventeenth time, the man pretended to throw but didn’t let go of the stick. He created a fiction.

The dog, still full of energy and eager to play, didn’t notice the fake. He dashed out into the water to retrieve the stick, which, of course, he couldn’t find. He swam back and forth several times, searching. Eventually he swam back to shore, empty-mouthed.

But instead of coming directly back to the man, he searched along the bank until he found another stick. He picked it up, started toward the man, then stopped. He trotted back to the edge of the lake and dropped the stick into the water. Once it was wet, he grabbed it again and brought it back to the man. The fiction he created was actually more elaborate than the fiction the man created.

Without words, both the man and the dog lied to each other. You can decide for yourself which one was the better storyteller.

The larger question of the ethics of inter-species lying is perhaps a topic for another day. But, keeping in mind that the man told the first lie, I just might mention another observation on the uniqueness of humankind.

According to Mark Twain, “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”

Categories: Living Consciously, Odds and Ends, Wild Things | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Words to Live By

“Favorite Quotation.” This was one of the blanks to fill in on a bio form I had to submit recently for a presentation I’m giving in a few weeks. I assumed they wanted something uplifting and meaningful, a shining little nugget of pithy advice or witty inspiration that is a touchstone in my life.

And I couldn’t think of a thing. It probably didn’t help that the program chairman needed my response by 5:00 p.m., that I’ve read and edited so many self-help books that their wise adages tend to blur together, and that my favorite poet is Ogden Nash. He certainly is quotable—here’s one of his poems:

Reflexions on Ice-Breaking
is dandy
But liquor
is quicker

However, the inspirational value of lines like this might not be fully appreciated by someone whose goal is to help a presenter seem capable and authoritative.

I finally found some adequate saying or other, sent it in, and promptly forgot about it. The next day, of course, I remembered several delightful, clever, and apt quotations that I could have used instead.

While I was on the subject, though, I started pondering some of the sayings that do influence my life. If I had been more concerned about truth-telling than pseudo-inspiration in my response, I might have cited one of the phrases (source: various semi-anonymous members of my family) that I actually use regularly. Like one of these:

“Cowgirl up.” Its better-known counterpart, “cowboy up,” means shut up, get on with it, do what needs to be done and don’t complain. “Cowgirl up” means pretty much the same thing, except you toss in a little humor while you’re at it. And wear your best red boots, except in situations where Carhartts are more appropriate.

“I just want this to be oooover!” This loud and deeply sincere bit of dramatic criticism from the back of an elementary school gym was one of the highlights of my son-in-law’s time as part of a touring children’s theatre program. My partner and I have appropriated it and find it useful in all sorts of situations. It can be muttered out of the side of one’s mouth during long-winded speeches or tedious meetings. It can be thought to oneself during dental appointments or invasive medical procedures. Said aloud with a dramatic sigh or eye-roll, it suits a variety of occasions from uphill hikes to long car trips to waiting on hold for customer service. Sometimes, the person who wasn’t quick enough to say it first gets to come back with the response my son-in-law gave from the stage: “You and me both, kid!”

Okay, I might as well admit it. When it comes to inspirational words, I’ll take a perspective-restoring chuckle over an uplifting adage any day. It’s sometimes more clever, often more useful, and always easier to remember.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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