Just For Fun

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
Candy
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

You Might Have WRSS If . . .

As character defects go, WRSS is a fairly minor one. It’s also geography-related. I assume—though I have no research to back this up—that it affects pretty much the entire populations of states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin; and for Canadians it’s practically a birthright.

The full name for WRSS is Winter Related Superiority Syndrome. It is characterized by the regrettable (but understandable) tendency to feel virtuous and superior just because one happens to live in a part of the country that has severe winters.

You and I, of course, are much too stable and emotionally balanced to be affected by this trait. Or, at least, we are skilled and sneaky enough to keep it hidden. However, if you want to know whether any of your relatives or friends suffer from WRSS, here’s a diagnostic checklist:

1. Have you ever used the phrase, “Cold enough for you?” more than three times in one day? (Extra points if, when other people ask you this question, your standard answer is, “Not quite.”)

2. Do you feel a sense of pride if your home town makes national news for having the lowest temperature in the country?

3. Do you assert that shoveling snow is better exercise than yoga? (Extra points if you genuinely believe this to be true.)

4. Do you find it odd that some people don’t appreciate the beauty of words like “slush” and “thaw”?

5. Have you ever said out loud, in public, that you think insulated coveralls or long underwear are sexy?

6. Do you regard, “It took me 20 minutes to scrape off my car,” as a legitimate excuse for being late for work?

7. Have you ever practiced blowing “smoke” rings when it’s cold enough so you can see your breath?

8. Have you ever asked someone from, say, Florida, how they can stand to live in a place that doesn’t have four seasons?

9. Are you sometimes tempted to go south for the winter, but you would never actually do it because you’re afraid it would make you look like a wimp?

10. Have you ever bragged about being able to perform miracles—pointing out that, for several months of the year, it’s no big deal for you to walk on water?

And finally, here’s how to discover whether your case of WRSS is incurable: You feel acute embarrassment if you’ve made up something snarky about cold weather, only to find that the day you publish it turns out to be sunny with a high of 50 degrees.

Categories: Just For Fun | 3 Comments

“So Rudolph and Darth Vader Walk Into . . . “

“Catalog (noun): A compilation of items you have never heard of and do not need, presented in such a way as to persuade you that you can’t live without them.”

Somebody somewhere must have been selling my address, because an assortment of catalogs have shown up in the mailbox lately. I usually toss them, but the other day two of them arrived just in time to provide reading material while I waited for an appointment.

These catalogs were not selling cheap odd junk, mind you. These, aimed at a more selective and affluent market, were selling expensive odd junk. Like washable cashmere lounging pants, battery-powered nose hair trimmers, indoor flameless marshmallow roasters, and personalized bobblehead dolls created from photographs of your loved ones. Plus a Darth Vader toaster, complete with glowing eyes and the ability to brand “Star Wars” onto each slice of toast.

While each of those had its own particular appeal, two other items caught my attention.

First, the tasteless, creepy, grandchild-terrifying Christmas decoration that no household should be without: the 15-foot tall, animated, inflatable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (only $399.95). Not only does he have an “LED-illuminated bulbous red nose,” but “A quiet electronic motor swivels his head back and forth, implying his natural curiosity, while his pert tail and ears suggest an alertness and eagerness to entertain.” In our neighborhood, that alertness could be a good idea. The real deer who frequent our yard, meeting this outsized interloper, might just decide to test their own natural curiosity and their sharp-pointed antlers against Rudolph’s chubby inflatable legs.

The second item is more utilitarian: a “Cordless Snow Shovel” for a mere $299.99. “Just push a button, and you’re off.” It’s quiet. It has a rechargeable battery. It has zero carbon emissions. (Well, if you don’t count using electricity to recharge those batteries.)

But, wait. We already have two cordless snow shovels. They don’t even need batteries, although their operators may need periodic recharging with hot chocolate. They’re quiet, if you don’t count the occasional grunting, muttering, and whining from their users. I’m not sure about the zero carbon emissions, though; the heavy breathing that accompanies their use must put quite a lot of carbon dioxide into the air.

Oh, now I get it. That’s why we only shovel two tire-width tracks up our long driveway instead of clearing off the whole thing. We’re just trying to reduce our carbon footprint.

Regretfully, I decided not to invest in either of these items. Maybe next year.

But I did think twice about the Darth Vader toaster. One person on my Christmas list, as a little boy, sat enthralled through the first Star Wars movie and, as a teenager, did an impressive Darth Vader impersonation. He just might have loved it.

Categories: Family, Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

You know it’s cold when . . .

You keep the butter on the kitchen counter instead of in the fridge, and it’s still too hard to spread.

You wear long johns and thick boots to a classical music concert.

You notice that everyone else in your row at the concert is also wearing heavy boots. (You can’t be sure about the long johns, but you know which way you’d bet.)

A friend who has two indoor cats and three sort-of-tame outdoor cats now has, “temporarily,” five indoor cats.

You keep your exercise clothes in your car, and it takes the first half of your workout just to warm up your tee shirt.

The cast-iron bathtub is so cold in the morning that your feet are still freezing when you get out of the shower.

A stray wasp in the kitchen sink is so cold it is barely moving, and instead of swatting it while it’s vulnerable, you pick it up with a spoon and put it by the furnace vent.

You decide the attached garage is the greatest architectural achievement since the flying buttress.

You use the warm-air dryer in a public restroom to dry your hands, and it feels so good you get as much of your body under the dryer as possible and stay there until someone comes in and gives you a funny look.

You tell yourself that anyone who goes south for the winter is a wimp, and you pretend your feeling of superiority makes you feel warmer.

You look at the calendar and realize winter won’t officially start for another month. It takes five dark chocolate Hershey Kisses and a cup of scalding coffee to help you recover from the shock.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Finding the Key

I may not be the tidiest and most organized person in the world. (Okay, based on the state of my desk, a photo of which I have NOT included here, an unbiased observer might conclude that I’m not even in the top ten percent of tidiest and most organized people in the world.) Still, I keep track of things reasonably well.

Things like car keys. I have had a driver’s license since 1967. I have owned cars and carried my own sets of car keys since 1970. I’ve kept careful track of every one of those keys. Even when it didn’t matter much, as in the case of the little white Datsun station wagon that could be started just as easily with the house key as the car key. (My then-teenaged son was the one to figure this out; I prefer not to know exactly how or why he made the discovery.)

In my entire driving history, I have never lost a car key. Until now.

I bought a new car last week, my third Honda CR-V. That’s “new” as in “2014, fresh off the lot, only 38 miles on the odometer” new. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought a car that somebody else didn’t own first. It feels luxurious to drive. It allows me to talk on my smart phone with its audio system. It has enough bells and whistles to be exciting, but is still familiar enough to be comfortable.

And, instead of browsing through the manual, learning how to use all the great technology this car offers, what have I spent my free time on since I’ve had this car?

Trying to find the second key for my previous car. In my defense, it’s my partner’s key rather than mine. But since he’s been gone all summer, I’m afraid the person responsible for that key vanishing from the top of his dresser has to be me.

The one place I know it can’t be is in the car. In getting it ready to sell, I cleaned the glove compartment, under the seats, under the floor mats, all the little compartments in the console, the cup holders and side pockets in all four doors, and the “hidden” drawer under the passenger’s seat. I found several fast-food napkins, two stray water bottles, three old tubes of lip balm, a peppermint, and seven pennies. No key.

I emptied out my purse and turned it inside out. I found cough drops and cough drop wrappers, unused but battered tissues, 57 cents in odd change, four faded store receipts, a few expired coupons, and two old grocery lists. No key.

I checked under and between the seat cushions in the couch, two recliners, and the rocking chair. I found a handful of lint, a nickel, an unexpected dollar bill, and an embarrassing amount of popcorn. No key.

I examined every reusable bag I routinely carry in my car, plus every reusable bag that’s ever been in my car. I checked the gym clothes bag, the library book bag, the craft/project bag, the big shopping bag, the small shopping bag, and the three string bags. No key.

I looked in every jacket, coat, and pair of pants in every closet in the house. By the time I got done, I had had my hands in more pockets than a Tammany Hall politician. No key.

But there’s still hope. I’m not ready to resort to this yet, but I know there’s one last strategy that’s sure to work. All I have to do is cough up $150 to make a new key. Within hours, like magic, the old one will turn up.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Half a Bubble Off

Some people think in three dimensions. Give them a pile of vacation baggage over here and a car trunk over there, and they can stuff the former neatly and precisely into the latter before you can say, “I don’t think we have room for all this junk.” Sometimes, even, they have it done, with the blue overnight bag tucked into the deepest corner, before you can say, “I need to have my blue overnight bag on the top.”

There are several of these 3-D thinkers in my family, and very useful people they are, too. Especially for those of us who are not quite so spatially gifted. Oh, I can get the stuff into the trunk eventually—and I will remember to leave the overnight bag for last—but it will involve a certain amount of unloading and reloading, at least one broken fingernail or skinned knuckle, and the creative use of language.

Then there’s the whole right-left issue. I do know the difference between right and left, honestly. My right hand is the one I write with, and it’s on this side, so this side is right. And since this side is right, obviously the other side is—wait for it—left.

But if I’m rushed—such as being in a moving car in traffic in an unfamiliar town, and just because I’m holding the map the driver expects me to navigate, and he asks urgently, “Which way do we turn?” and I know, really I do, but sometimes what comes out of my mouth is “left,” when I mean “right,” or vice versa. I’ve learned it’s simpler just to point, and those near and dear to me, especially if they’re driving, have learned not to believe me unless I do.

This is just one of the spatial things that seem to make perfect sense to other people but don’t quite click for me. Another one is the simple carpenter’s level. I know that if the bubble is precisely between the lines the surface is level, and if the bubble is off to one side the surface is sloped. But I never can remember which way is up. If the bubble is off to that side (trust me, I’m pointing here), is that side high or low?

This has been explained to me, but so far none of the explanations have stuck. Which can sometimes cause difficulties.

For example: We were landscaping the slope beside our driveway with railroad ties. This involved digging dirt out at one end, putting dirt in at the other end, rolling the tie into place, checking it with the level, and repeating.

Railroad ties are heavy. By the third repositioning of the second one, I had a brilliant and back-saving idea. The tie was close to level. It was sitting on soft dirt. If a person applied weight and pressure—by jumping up and down, say—on the high end, it might pack the tie down enough so we didn’t have to move the damned thing one more time.

I tried it. It might have worked, too. Except for the minor detail that I was jumping up and down on the low end.

A fact I did not realize until I heard a strange noise and thought my companion was choking. When you’re trying to use logic and creative thinking to save your partner’s back from harm, it’s counter-productive when he laughs so hard he nearly hurts himself anyway.

Never mind. Just because the execution was a bit flawed doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea.

Later, we told some friends this story. After they finished laughing, she said, “The way I remember which end is high on a level is that the bubble always goes uphill.”

And just like that, the bubble gained a personality. It became a noble little critter, always seeking the high ground. Suddenly, an abstract idea turned into a story.

Oh. How simple. That’s the kind of third dimension I can remember.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: | 6 Comments

The Naming of Names

With all the bad publicity about the name of the team, it astonishes me that the Washington Redskins haven’t changed their name yet. Maybe the problem is trying to find a new name that won’t be received even more negatively than the old one. The Washington Politicians? The Washington Congress? Not likely to get high approval ratings.  The Washington Gridlock has a nice ring to it, though. There’s a hint of power and manliness about the Washington Filibusters. Or, if they want something ominous, meant to strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams, how about the Washington Big Brothers?

It isn’t just sports teams. For several decades now, states and other governmental bodies have been working on changing place names that are offensive, historically inaccurate, or modern overlays of much older names. From McKinley to Denali National Park. From Custer Battlefield to Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.

But then there are other names that, oddly enough, no one seems to have a problem with. Like the Grand Tetons. There’s a name that would have been changed long ago if it were in English instead of French. Just try naming some mountains the “big breasts” today and see how far that gets you.

On second thought, though, maybe there’s another option, one that sports teams are already using. It’s based on the theory that, if you pay enough for the privilege, you can have your name on almost anything.

Instead of renaming, maybe the National Park Service should be looking at an untapped funding source—selling naming rights in the Grand Tetons National Park. “Maidenform Trail.” “Underwire Gulch.” “Lingerie Lake.” “Victoria’s Secret Uplift.” Since limited budgets are always a problem for national parks, there are possibilities here for a lot of support.

Then there are names that are certainly not offensive or inappropriate; they’re just boring. Like the Rocky Mountains. Really? Isn’t that a little obvious? Is it truly the best designation for some of the most spectacular scenery on the North American continent? If the person or persons who came up with that had been in charge, our maps would be full of designations like the Flat Plains, the Sandy Desert, or the Wet River.

Somebody should do something about that. They should look into options for something more dramatic. More descriptive. More exciting.

Like, say, the Black Hills.

Um. Well. Never mind.

Categories: Just For Fun, Words for Nerds | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Golf and Game in Wyoming

The card stated clearly that it was an exclusive invitation sent to a limited few. We were obviously among the chosen, since my partner’s name was on the envelope, spelled right and everything.

He and a guest—that would be me, presumably, though of course being too quick to presume can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and a wise woman doesn’t take these things for granted—were invited to enjoy dinner and fine wine for two. At the same time, we would participate in a seminar to find out all about “Wyoming’s premier golf and hunting resort community.” We would even be given the opportunity to buy “appreciating real estate” in this “deeded ownership resort.”

Now, given the exclusive and limited nature of these invitations, one might think somebody would have checked the list to verify that all the recipients actually played golf and hunted. Or at least did one or the other. Which we don’t. Maybe we qualified just on the grounds of our general all-around specialness and exclusivity.

But I still found the invitation a tad confusing. Maybe it’s my rural upbringing, but I’ve never particularly thought of golf and hunting as a matched set. Certainly, I know people who enjoy both. They just don’t indulge in them at the same time or in the same place. So I’m not sure how the whole “golf and hunting resort” thing would work.

The obvious way to clarify confusing little details like this would be to accept the invitation. Then I would have a chance to ask questions. Here are some of the things I would like to know:

1. Will the pro shop sell camouflage golf knickers?

2. A deer or antelope would probably fit on a golf cart, but if you bag an elk on the course, are you allowed to drive your pickup off the cart path to load it?

3. If you carry a rifle in your golf bag, do you have to count it as one of your clubs? And is it absolutely necessary to put one of those little mitten thingies on it?

4. Are you expected to tip the caddy something extra for helping you dress out your game?

5. If someone ahead of you on the course has stopped to field-dress an elk on the fairway, does course etiquette require you to wait, or can you play through?

6. If one member of the resort shoots a deer and it runs out onto the fairway, where another member of the resort dispatches it with a three-iron, who gets to keep the deer?

7. If your golf partner is lining up a long put, and an elk ambles into range, are you required to risk spooking the critter by shouting “fore” before you shoot?

8. If you’re on, say, the seventh hole, and you miss a deer with your first shot but get it with the second, do you have to add both shots to your golf score?

9. If you’re on the tee, and you pull your rifle out of your golf bag and drop an antelope with one shot, does that count as a hole in one?

10. If one of your drives hits a turkey in the head and kills it, is your score for that hole automatically a birdie?

Never mind petty little details like prices, access, and land values. What potential buyers really need are satisfactory answers to crucial questions like these. It might be enough to persuade them to invest—at least if they’ve had enough of that fine wine.

Categories: Just For Fun, Wild Things | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Driving Men to Drink

One of my close friends, a man of mature years, asserts that every woman he has ever met is only interested in one thing: getting men to drink more.

No, this isn’t some sort of gender-reversal seduction plot along the lines of, “Another glass of wine, my dear?” Sorry if any of you got excited there for a minute.

This is about drinking more water.

It’s a scientifically unproven but clearly observable phenomenon that women drink more water than men do. We’re the ones carrying water bottles in our cars and our bags, keeping carafes on our desks, and stopping at the kitchen sink for a quick one before we leave the house. When the server in a restaurant comes by offering “more water?” as a subtle hint (“You’ve been here for two hours, for Pete’s sake; would you just get out of here and let someone else have this table so I might make some decent tips this evening?”), we’re the ones who not only accept the refill but actually drink it.

Every time a man has some sort of health problem, then, whether it’s major or minor, most of the women in his life are likely to ask, “Are you drinking enough water?” And several men of my acquaintance would like to know why.

Well, I know why. And I am about to spill the secret. It’s breaking the women-only code to reveal this, though, so please don’t let anyone know I told you.

Yes, women think drinking more water is good for one’s health. Yes, we want the men in our lives to be healthier. But beneath those genuine concerns, which of course are as pure as bottled water from crystal-clear mountain springs, is a deeper plot.

You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that during intermissions at public events like plays and concerts, the lines at the women’s bathrooms are much longer than those at the men’s bathrooms. This is partly because, for reasons both physiological and fashionable, it takes women longer. It is also because more women, being the heavy drinkers that we are, need to use the facilities more often than men do.

Therefore, if more men drank more water, more men would spend more time standing in line for the men’s room. And fewer men would be leaning against the wall in the lobby, jingling their car keys and looking at their watches, waiting for their wives or dates to get back from the ladies’ room. There would be less eye-rolling and fewer impatient greetings of, “What took you so long?” Having stood in line themselves, they would know exactly what took so long.

There’s nothing like shared experiences to increase understanding and closeness in a relationship. This is the real reason so many women want their men to become heavier drinkers.

Better relationships through equal-opportunity imbibing: now there’s something to celebrate. I think we should all have another drink.

Categories: Food and Drink, Just For Fun | Tags: | 1 Comment

Smart Washing

That Maytag repairman from the old TV ads who never saw anyone because the machines so seldom needed repairs? If he were still around, he’d probably be lonelier than ever.

Not because washers are even more reliable than they used to be (though having just bought a new one, I certainly hope that’s the case). But because repairing today’s washers means knowing as much about electronics and computers as about plumbing and pipe wrenches. And, let’s face it, while the lonely repairman seemed like a really nice guy, he didn’t exactly appear to be a tech wizard.

Our new washer, only one step above the low-end model, is about as basic as washers get these days. Even so, I’m sure it has more computing technology than NASA did when it was sending men to the moon. It’s a very smart washer. And that’s not all. It has opinions. It is strongly committed to preserving the environment, and it is very safety-conscious.

It’s so smart that it doesn’t need me to tell it how big a given load is. In fact, it won’t even allow me to choose “small” or “normal” or “large.” Nope. The machine senses the size of the load and fills itself to the appropriate level and not one teaspoon more, thereby conserving water much more effectively than I, a mere human, could be trusted to do. Presumably, if I put in a load consisting of one washcloth and a pair of socks, the washer would go ahead and run a cycle, using about two and a half cups of water. It would, however, save energy by rinsing them with cold water. Like all new environmentally aware washers, it is not allowed to use warm or hot water in its rinse cycles.

It’s so safety-conscious that it automatically locks the lid as soon as it starts its cycle. According to the salesman at Sears, all washers now are required to do this. Presumably this is to protect me just in case I should start a load of clothes and suddenly realize I left my cell phone in the pocket of my jeans. The washer is afraid I might dash down the stairs, yank open the lid, and plunge both hands into the water before the agitator has stopped spinning, thereby breaking both my arms and leaving myself unable to use my cell phone for six weeks. Which wouldn’t matter all that much, since the phone would have been ruined by then anyway.

While all this is impressive, even intimidating, what I’d really like is a washer so smart it did everything. I would dump all the dirty clothes in a big pile in the middle of the laundry room. The washer would sort them, load them, wash them, put them in the dryer, take them out, and fold them. It would even remember that I fold towels the long way and that I fold my jeans in thirds rather than fourths so they fit in the dresser.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the machine do all that work? This one, unfortunately, doesn’t.

Come to think of it, maybe this washer is even smarter than I thought.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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