Author Archives: Kathleen Fox

From Size 10 to Size 6—Overnight!

Yes, a dramatic overnight transformation from size 10 to size 6 really is possible. I’ve done it myself. Truly. When I was in high school, I wore a size 10. Suddenly, a few years later, I became a size 6. Even now, weighing around (mumble, mumble) pounds more than I did then, I wear a size 6.

The reason for this has little to do with my actual size, nor the size of any other adult female person. It’s because sizing standards changed.

For a long time—pretty much ever since people started making fabric and shaping it into clothes, probably—making clothes that actually fit meant measuring one person at a time and cutting the garment to match. The first attempts to standardize women’s clothing sizes in the United States came in the 1930’s and 1940’s, thanks in large part to catalog businesses like Sears Roebuck wanting to help customers order garments that that might actually fit them. In 1958, the National Bureau of Standards came up with an official standard. After a couple of decades of various revisions, adaptations, and increasing disregard by manufacturers and retailers, in 1983 the Department of Commerce tossed its measuring tapes into a corner and gave up trying to maintain standard sizes for women’s clothes.

Thousands of women have done the same. Continue reading

Categories: Fashion | Tags: | Leave a comment

Double-check your Language

In the car with three small children, headed for Storybook Island on a sunny afternoon, I had a moment of grandmotherly concern. “I need to stop and double-check that we have sunscreen,” I told the kids as I pulled over. I looked in the bag; the sunscreen was there; I resumed driving.

After a thoughtful pause, the not-quite-four-year-old piped up from the back seat. “Aren’t you going to double-check?”

“I did,” I told her. “I looked, and I found the sunscreen.”

“But doesn’t ‘double-check’ mean you look twice?”

Well, duh. Of course it does. Or at least it should, if you pay literal attention to the word instead of the way we use it. I didn’t really double-check; I only single-checked. It takes a clever grandchild (no bragging involved, of course) to notice that.

Which leads a reasonably clever grandmother to start thinking about some of the other words we use without paying much attention to their literal meaning.

Such as: Continue reading

Categories: Words for Nerds | 3 Comments

What Does “Adult” Mean?

As a child, I used to think there was a portal to adulthood that everyone passed through at some point—on their 21st birthday, maybe, or when they graduated from high school or college, or at some other magical milestone that I would reach someday. On the other side of that portal would be “the answers.” The confidence, wisdom, and grownup status to know, in pretty much all circumstances, what to do and how to do it.

By now I know better. If such a portal exists, I haven’t found it yet.

Oh, I know what “adult” means in the legal sense. It refers to someone who is old enough to legally vote, buy alcohol, enter into contracts, serve on juries, and do other grownup stuff like get tattoos or piercings without needing anyone’s permission. Continue reading

Categories: Living Consciously | Tags: | 2 Comments

Eat Breakfast or Be Breakfast

It’s hard to sleep when the neighbors’ drama is happening outside your bedroom window at 2:45 a.m.

The noise that woke me wasn’t all that loud, but it was clearly the sound of someone in distress. When it was repeated, I put on my glasses and peeked through the window, trying to be quiet enough for my spying to go undetected.

The sounds were coming from the left, outside of my field of vision. But in the light of a moon that was either half full or half empty, I made out a vague shape just below the window. When it moved, I could see that it was a fox, also focused on the sounds. It started toward the noise, came back, watched a bit more until the sounds stopped, and then ran silently off toward the right with its tail flowing behind it.

After a few more uneventful minutes, I settled back into bed. Apparently whatever had happened out there in the dark was some variation on the circle of life. Or, more precisely, the circle of life and death. Somebody, on a night of good fortune, got to have breakfast. Somebody else, less fortunate, got to be breakfast. Apparently the fox, like me, was only an observer.

This assumption was confirmed when I went for a walk later in the morning. Starting at the corner of our property, following along and then across the road, was a trail of blood drops.

After this little life-and-death drama had played out, it took me a long time to get back to sleep. When I did, I dreamed that a troop (herd? mob? barrel?) of monkeys broke into the house and ate all my bananas. At 6:00 a.m., I woke up to another mysterious noise, which turned out to be my stomach growling.

Thankfully, it was a day when I was one of the fortunate ones who got to have breakfast. I didn’t even have to hunt for or kill it first. And the only unfortunates whose lot it was to be breakfast (besides the banana—thank goodness, the monkeys were only a dream), were the hapless goobers that had been ground into my peanut butter.

I hope the fox was equally fortunate.

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If We’re 65

Turning 65. It’s not necessarily anyone’s favorite milestone birthday.

So many things about getting older are annoying. Vanishing hair, for instance. Those silver ones are fine, even attractive if the light is just right; it’s all their friends and relations that have disappeared who are the problem. Or joints that start to creak when you move and stiffen up when you don’t. And skin that begins to look and feel somehow too big for you.

Even worse are the reminders that, at 65, you have suddenly moved into a new demographic category. One populated by “those to be condescended to.” Continue reading

Categories: Family, Living Consciously, Loss and Healing | Tags: | 1 Comment

Everyday Lifesavers

“I saved his life.”

Unfortunately, whatever lifesaving the sixtyish woman at the next table had done, it wasn’t exciting enough to make her raise her voice as she chatted with her husband about it. That one tantalizing phrase was all I overheard.

This left me to wonder about the rest of the story. Whose life? How did she save him? Rescue him from drowning, or a car crash or a conflagration? Give him a kidney? Was he a child? Was he even human? Maybe he was a dog or cat they had 30 years ago, for all I know.

That’s the frustrating part: I don’t know. And I never will. Because as an unrepentant but courteous eavesdropper, I do know it’s bad manners and worse strategy to lean over and say, “I didn’t quite get that—could you please speak up?”

After I finished wondering about the other woman’s mysterious lifesaving, my mind took the next logical path. I started wondering whether I’ve ever saved anyone’s life. Continue reading

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After the Last Snowflake Falls

When it’s spring in South Dakota, April showers frequently have to be shoveled. New Easter outfits, just like Halloween costumes, are best designed to be worn with winter coats. According to our outside thermometer, it was six degrees at six o’clock this morning. That’s enough to make even the most optimistic crocus decide to pull up roots and head south.

Weather like this, life-threatening for newborn calves, causes serious work and worry for farmers and ranchers. For those of us who don’t have to go out in the snow to rescue half-frozen babies whose mothers don’t appreciate the help, spring snow is merely an inconvenience. It won’t last long, and shoveling it is good exercise.

But still. One can’t help but feel a teeny, tiny bit abandoned when, with suspiciously convenient timing, one’s sweetheart and snow-shoveling partner just happens to be “working” in California during the two early April snowfalls. Just as he was “working” in Nevada during the late March snowfall.

I couldn’t help it. While I was doing my solitary shoveling, my emotions overflowed into song. Here it is, with appreciation and/or apologies to Freddy Fender. (If “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” hasn’t already started up in your brain, you can listen to it here.)

 

After the Last Snowflake Falls

If it brings you happiness while you shovel, then I guess
There’s no reason why you need me there at all.
Do your workout in the snow
While upon the beach I go,
But I’ll be there after the last snowflake falls.

I’ll be there any time the sun shines on the drive
To melt away the snow long before I can arrive.
So if the white stuff makes you blue,
Just remember I love you,
And I’ll be there after the last snowflake falls.

Categories: Just For Fun, Odds and Ends | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

So a Gas Gauge Optimist Walks Into a Service Station . . .

Do you see the tank as half full or half empty?

The gas tank in your car, I mean. This is not a philosophical question; it’s a practical one. Because those happy-go-lucky optimistic drivers who see the tank as half full and those careful pessimistic drivers who see it as half empty are destined to marry one another. Or at least to travel or car pool with one another. It’s car karma.

Here are some signs that you might be a gas gauge optimist:

1. When the idiot light—er, excuse me, the “low fuel indicator light” comes on, your first thought is, “I can drive for 40 more miles on what’s left in the tank.” This thought does not correlate in any way to the actual fuel economy of your vehicle. You think it whether you drive a mini-something that gets 47.3 mpg or a supersized SUV that averages 7.3 mpg.

Continue reading

Categories: Just For Fun, Travel | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Dusting Off The Family

The family has all been banished from my workspace. No more eyes on my computer screen to know when I’m working and when I’m playing online Scrabble. No more distracting smiles in my direction while I’m sitting in my comfy chair with my pen and notebook. No more hanging around in my office.

The only one left is a single grandchild. For the sake of family harmony, let me hurry to add that this isn’t due to his particular place in my heart. It’s due to his particular place in my office. He’s on the inside wall.

The others, on the outside wall and just around the corner from it, had to go. But truly, it was for their own protection. The siding crew starts work on our house tomorrow, and we certainly don’t want family members bouncing off the walls when the thumping starts.

Continue reading

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Washboard Abs

 

The washboard hanging on the wall of our laundry room is no reproduction, artistically distressed to look pseudo-authentic. It’s just plain old. It’s been used. The wood is unevenly bleached and stained from standing in tubs of hard water laced with harsh soap. At the bottom of the ridged glass surface, the frame is worn away in the middle, no doubt from years of scrubbing dirty overalls.

I even know whose hands must have done that scrubbing. Not my grandmother (one of my sisters has her washboard), but my grandmother’s neighbor and close friend.

But let’s not wander too far into “olden days” stories about my grandmother scrubbing clothes on a washboard for a family of 12. At least by the time my mother was old enough to notice, in the early 1930’s, washboards may have been still used for extra scrubbing, but the bulk of the laundry was done with a washing machine. First they had one with a wringer that was turned by hand—a perfect chore to assign to kids (in rotation, of course). The next one had an agitator and a wringer powered by a small gasoline engine. You can see one like it in action here.

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