Se habla?

Featured

Spring is here! At last the weather is warm, winter gear is no longer necessary, days are longer. There is also a plethora of outdoor activities that present themselves. Long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in  State Parks, bicycling along trails, and when the Covid quarantine lifts, there will be outdoor café visits with friends. In the land of 10,000 Lakes, we also await the thaw of all the waterways. Along with that there’s an increase in various flora, fauna, ichthyoids, and testudines. No, that doesn’t have anything to do with male anatomy. Less formally, testudines are turtles. Ever since Dr. Seuss opined about Yurtle and his hard shelled friends, I have been in love with the domed creatures.

One of my hobbies is to visit various lakes to find them. Back when it was permissible, I even owned a couple of them. Fact is, turtles are adorable. I love everything about them. Their shiny, faceted shells that gleam in the sun. Their splayed paws with the long fingernails, their ability to hold their breath underwater. I’m in awe of their ability to sleep without breathing for an entire season. Don’t even get me started on how magnificent sea turtles are!

In pursuing my love of turtles, I often go in search of a peek at them basking in the sun. Turtles sun themselves on logs near the shoreline of ponds and some smaller lakes. The sight of them laying in a row or stacked upon each other is more endearing than I can say.  I have spent hours walking slowly along trails and through shoreline undergrowth to catch a glimpse of dark half circles lined up on a tree branch in the water.

To preserve my citings and to share them as well, I purchased a new camera that has a very long lens. Alas, while I love looking at turtles, they aren’t always fond of my approaching them. Typically what happens is a very soft ‘plop’ into the water and the silent ripples that follow. This occurs more frequently earlier in the spring when the turtles are re-acclimating themselves to the world outside their muddy den below the surface. When they lose their camera shyness, I have been able occasionally to take pictures of them sitting in all their glory. I was using the camera on my phone. This is a perfectly serviceable piece of photographic equipment, but it was difficult to get close up.  So I bought the new camera.

It came with a camera bag, two lenses, one of which would surely enable me to see the turtles painted undersides at long range. In addition to the camera, the lenses and the equipment bag, I also own a tri-pod. With all that paraphernalia and my trusty waterproof hiking boots, I imagined myself as intrepid a naturalist as David Attenborough. For my first outing with the new gear, I wanted to prepare my camera, lenses, and the tripod to be ready for any photos that I’d be quick enough to catch. I got everything out, laid it out on my kitchen table in neat rows and put the camera bag on a chair out of the way. So exciting, so professional. I have to admit, there were images of being a famous turtle photographer dancing in my head.

Holding the camera in my left hand, I got out the instruction book. My primary objective was to understand how to set up for the long range close-ups. Feeling very proud of myself for having saved the instructions, and being humble enough to realize I needed the instructions, I flipped to the first page. It was all in Spanish. Not to be dissuaded, I flipped to the back, thinking the English instructions would be on the reverse side. Nope, just Spanish. While I remember a few phrases from 6th grade Spanish, I am by no means fluent enough to interpret a camera manual. There I was, the sunshine of Spring abounding and a camera that I wasn’t sure how to use. I was devastated. After a few moments of chagrin,  I resigned myself to trial and error with the new lens. Maybe I could get a shot of turtles worth looking at.

Where was the English manual? I have no idea. I had purchased the camera over the winter and fastidiously thrown out all the packing materials and anything that seemed unnecessary. What did this teach me about photographs of turtles? Nothing. I did learn that I don’t have to listen to others when they insist on that it’s important to throw out things you don’t need.

Hands Down

Featured

One of the things that has puzzled me throughout my life is that other people seem to believe that I actually want to put my hands into the kitchen sink strainer and scrape out all that stuff that gets stuck in there.  Have you ever looked at that stuff? It doesn’t resemble anything ever cooked in my kitchen. Somehow going from the cooking stage to the rinsed stage and landing in the sink strainer has rendered it unrecognizable. At which point, it must be dealt with. Yuck!

I have never lived with anyone who has offered to clean out a kitchen sink. No roommates, children, husbands or distant relatives have stepped up to the plate to say, “Hey, don’t put your hands in that mess. I’ll clean it out for you!“ Cleaning out the kitchen sink strainer is another level of a dirty, lonely job. Yet if it isn’t done, complications multiply rapidly. Not the least of which is a malodorous kitchen. Or a sink that won’t drain because of the dreaded gook that swirls around as if it’s laughing at you. I’m supposed to put my hand in there and get it out? Yet it must be done.

Because I live alone, the logical candidate is just me. I don’t have a cleaning person for my small apartment and even if I did, they wouldn’t come daily to empty the kitchen sink strainer of its contents. At least not without an exorbitant fee. Stuck with doing the job myself, musings on the reason for being forced into this disgusting job abound as I scrub and rinse. Is there a legal requirement that I must do this? Is there a prohibition in the child labor laws that kept my children from doing this? They grew up unscathed in the art of emptying kitchen sink strainers, so I guess we won’t know the answer to that one. What about any of those husbands I used to have? Why didn’t they step up and save a damsel in distress from the slime monster lurking in the above ground plumbing? None of them ever evinced the slightest interest in intervention strategies needed for kitchen cleaning warfare.

Glaringly obvious is that this task is relegated to the quaint catch-all “women’s work.” If you think that we are more enlightened as a society, I beg to differ. Possession of a uterus is nine points of the law. Because of that I, me and my comrades in kitchen gloves, continue to make more meals, scrub more pots and pans, empty more dishwashers and, you guessed it: clean out the kitchen sink strainers. This is ignominious work. No recognition, no awards, no rewards. Lest it go undone, there would be plenty of notice from those orbiting the kitchen. Comments ranging from unkind to negative would surely abound. I believe that science should be tasked to find a way to keep the kitchen sink from becoming in need of constant attention. Better things to do are waiting. They won’t get done until the kitchen sink strainer is emptied.

Christmas Goods

Tags

, ,

This year for Christmas Day I was by myself. Let me clarify that I was not alone, as all of the people who love me made sure I was contacted, gifted and thought of for the holiday. I didn’t necessarily think of it as spending Christmas alone, just spending Christmas by myself. I had already spent a wonderful time with my step-daughter and her family on Christmas Eve. My other adult children were busy with in-laws on Christmas day, but called me and wished me well, as did a cousin or two. When they called, I expressed my appreciation for their gifts and how much they mean to me. This made me realize that this year what I wanted to concentrate on for the holidays was THE LOOT. Being by myself, I could indulge my desire to receive gifts and relish how much fun it is to open them and be surprised.

I was well rewarded for my plan because I scored big this year! From the exquisite jewelry made by my cousin, who is a jeweler, to the very expensive set of re-usable kitchen bags and a hand-crafted jewelry box from the grand kids, I really made out. Each gift was amazing unto itself. I have no illusions about the cost of any of these items. Whether the givers were here in town, or as I said, visiting in-laws, each gift was substantial. Cha-ching!

There was no one but me on Christmas morning, so I ripped open all the wrapping paper. I was not going to set an example of recycling for anyone this year because I was by myself. Ha ha! I threw ribbons on the ground, shredded paper that wouldn’t come off easily, tossed packages aside. What a mess. What I got for my efforts was some pretty amazing stuff and I was really happy about it. Reasoning that I would spend the day in my apartment running my hands over each present, I thoroughly enjoyed each item. I appreciated their colors, the length, heft, form and, yes, the practicality in some cases, of each gift. But this year was not about practicality. It was about giving in to my baser instincts. Which was about all the stuff that I got from people who couldn’t be with me, so they felt guilty and sent me some great presents.

If we are to believe the pundits who encourage us to get in touch with our inner child, this Christmas I completely gave in to that notion. It made me happy and looking at the thoughtfulness and the efforts my family went to, it made me feel loved. I even had a brief moment of looking up in the sky for . . .no, he doesn’t really exist. But I felt like he did and it was so much fun.

Next Christmas will be filled with lots of people around, food to be cooked, babies to be soothed and discussions to be mediated. This year, for one day, it was all about me and the things everyone sent to make me feel special. What a gift.

So This Is Christmas

Tags

Sat down with pen and paper

To see what I could say

‘Bout 2021 and all that

Did, or did not, come our way.

After a year of quarantine,

Where nearly everyone stayed in,

I burst into the friendly skies

Visiting kith and kin

A stop in Nashville

To look at a sweet Corvair

With all the insides completely shot.

Had to leave the yellow beauty there.

Drove to Wisconsin to rustle up nostalgia

Got a speeding ticket in the process.

Decided to teach ‘em a lesson and

Took State Patrol off the Christmas card list.

California called,

So it was on another plane.

It’s truly not the Midwest,

I bet you think the same.

Then California again,

Searching for a home.

Lots of help from Kate and Craig

Meant the search was never alone.

Some things fell through,

Others went fine,

Like how Brad got a new job

In the Florida sunshine.

Holidays arrived,

Along with surgery for my right eye.

Guess I’ll be squinting through Christmas carols

And singing Auld Laing Syne.

You get another of these dreadful poems

Because you’re family and friends

But you also get my warmest wishes

In the holiday card I send.

Learning New Old Skills

There I was, sitting in the groove in my couch that I had perfected over the last year and the governor of our state says there’s no more mask mandate. We can go out, be free, fly like the other little birds who don’t have to wear a mask either. Wait. What? I had just reviewed my summer hunker down plan to include solitary walks around a few of the lakes in the city, solo trips to the beach, possibly a road trip up north to a rented cabin-all by myself of course.  Time spent with friends would be outdoors only and then perhaps in the fall we could resume indoor activities. Of course the only thing we do is eat at restaurants, but tell ourselves that we’re engaged in some kind of useful activity.

What I really thought would happen is that there would be a more gradual easing into unmasked activity. First it would be outdoor restaurants, then move indoors to eat. Vacations would be masked up to the point of departure at the airport then we could go bare faced upon arrival in some magical land where Covid wasn’t the case.

What I really, really wanted was a much longer time to prepare for going mask-less. By prepare, I mean that I would become motivated enough to work out and lose the extra pounds acquired with some of the deceptions I had practiced during quarantine. Things like “Couch time is ME time!” “There’s no need for real pants here, sweat pants are just fine.” “You’ll get lots of exercise once the gyms open up again.” “Sea salt caramels have more vitamins than you think.” Every addict has their rationale down pat. I was no exception. It’s not just that I have to face the music, I have to get out on the dance floor and jump, jive and wail.

The prospect of real clothes brings the further dread of make up and some semblance of hair care. With a mask on I could, and did, tell myself that others understood the wisps and tendrils that stuck out was because of the mask. Now that we’ll be operating in real time, I’m gonna have to comb my hair. The no mask mandate also portends a return to regular hygiene practices that had fallen by the wayside. There was no need to shower on the daily because Zoom world is only visual. Thank goodness there is no Smell-O-Vision. I was going to have to brush up on things necessary to enter polite social circles, similar to a young teenage boy. Many of them need a reminder checklist and I was feeling like I needed one too. Things like: take a shower and while you’re in there, wash your hair, wash your face, use soap everywhere, dry yourself off with a towel and wear clean clothes. I’m grateful to a 12-year old nephew that regularly needs these reminders so I didn’t have to try and come up with my own list.

Re-acquiring the habits of how to be with others will prove worthwhile. I hope to have mastered enough of these skills so I can be out and about without my mask. I’m looking forward to the time when the only thing people will find unacceptable is my sarcasm.

What I Forgot

What I Forgot

I got my Covid vaccine six weeks ago and was ready to take on the world. So I went out to lunch with a couple of friends at an actual restaurant.  Immediately, I noticed that things were different. My two friends sat across from me and actually talked. Unlike my two cats who sit across from me on the couch and just stare. I had to make conversation with regular adults.  And I needed to do so without offering them little tidbits from off of my plate. I forgot that humans need conversation, not desiccated treats.  

Because of virus concerns, we sat at an outside table.  It was so wonderful because the hot, humid weather allowed outdoor seating. I had eaten at other restaurants during the winter part of quarantine, but that required several layers of clothing, near an outdoor heater and wait staff willing to bring a constant supply of warm drinks. This summer outing was infinitely better because we could sit two inches closer to the table without all the outerwear.  I forgot what it was like to sit that close to a surface I was eating from.

Sitting at an actual table instead of sitting on a couch made me realize that my posture was upright. I wasn’t slouched on the sofa and I wasn’t bending over six layers of winter clothes. I could just sit up, face my friends and eat like a regular person. Well, kind of. After 14 or 15 months of eating alone on the sofa, I was unpracticed in using a napkin. For some time I had become accustomed to letting things fall where they may – down the front of my sweatshirt, onto the floor or in between the cushions of the couch. Of course I’d clean it up but eating at a restaurant doesn’t offer the perks of sloppiness one can acquire when there’s nobody to notice for over a year.  I had forgotten that out in public I had to, as my grandmother used to say, “Sit up, young lady!” In following those childhood instructions, I realized that sitting upright requires a different set of muscular contractions, whereas slouching requires almost none. By the end of the two hour lunch, certain muscles that I won’t mention, were sore.  Who knew that sitting was so much work? I guess I forgot that too.

I realized that we are no longer socially distancing, we are socially contracting. That means act nice, be polite, speak up, but not too loud. Use things like plates, silverware, and napkins. Pay attention so food doesn’t fall down the front of your shirt. I was no longer eating from the pan on the stove and using the back of my arm in case of spills. Beverages out in public typically come in attractive glassware, not the old Tupperware tumblers I bought at a garage sale. It dawned on me that I would be required to pay attention to what my friends were saying and to interact with them. That’s part of the social contract that I forgot.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch. Old habits were resurrected, new habits were forged.  I am committed to rejoin civilization as we once knew it. Or even civilization as it will become. As Phoebe Snow and then Aretha Franklin assured us, it’s a different world from where you come from.

A Purse By Any Other Name

Even though I didn’t need one, I went ahead and bought a new purse. There was all kinds of rationalizing behind the purchase: I hadn’t gotten a new purse since last March, which was over a year ago; I needed that particular silhouette for summer outfits; summer was coming and I needed a new purse to go with shorts and warm weather clothes. I suspect that most of you reading this know the real reason for purchasing a new purse. I just wanted to buy a new purse. It’s been eons since I strolled through a mall, credit cards burning a hole in my wallet and small confection and pretzel stands calling my name as I passed by. We used to refer to it as “retail therapy.” I was sorely in need of therapy but alas, this is not prudent right now. So I looked up the shopping channels that hawk purses for the homebound and I found what I was looking for and I bought it.

After the transaction I began to think about the cost of a woman’s purse. Advertising tells you that it’s a good investment because it’s leather. Features that are included in the purse make this worthy of the amount submitted for the object itself. Things like a lining in the purse, a zippered side pocket, plus two pockets that will store your cell phone and another small object. I thought that a Snickers bar would be the ideal candidate for the extra pocket. A couple of brand name makers also include a leash for your keys. Good thing. Those purses are typically large enough to hold a small British sports car. My keys always get lost sifting through errant receipts, sun glasses, old shopping lists, crumpled work orders for things done to my car, loose change and face masks. Once I found several Bit-O-Honey’s that were quite hard, so I ate them to protect anyone else from having to risk broken teeth. What a sacrifice!

What really struck me about the purchase was the cost of the purse and how little I was offered in return. Yes, they are stylish but really, aren’t they just stylish grocery bags? For the amount of money charged, purses should at least offer the traveler’s friend, RFID protection. You can buy purses with that feature, but they are a separate fashion line costing slightly less than leather and vegan-leather options. By the way, it nearly drove me crazy until I figured out that vegan leather was plastic that was man-made to look like leather. They like to charge as much, but don’t offer RFID protection either.

Another thing I’d like purses to offer for the price they charge is some kind of service, like refrigeration. That way I could keep a sandwich cold while out and about. Or perhaps they could include a portable USB charger so that I could plug in my phone and not worry about losing a charge if I’m running errands. There is one brand that offers more storage than a U-Haul truck center. It’s typically got a zippered flap on the front that opens up to rows of credit card storage, a mirror small enough for any mice that might want to live in there, coin storage, dollar bill storage and pen slots. Inside you could almost maintain a wardrobe on hangars because the purse is so big. There’s room for a tablet, a phone, work papers, umbrella, water bottle and, in a pinch I suppose, a very small child. They could play with the mouse in the outer compartment. For expensive purses, this brand is at the lower end. The leather isn’t vegan, it’s actual plastic. But even with all those zippers, features and gewgaws, there still isn’t any RFID protection.

Why am I railing about this? Because my credit cards have been hacked several times over the past six months. It happened at a department store I was visiting and they incurred several charges over $300. There are some purses that cost that much and I for one would like to think that if I’m paying that amount, they should offer super-sleuth protection as I walk around with their logo on my arm. If I’m going to advertise for them, they should offer protection to me. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Just Don’t Say Anything

Tags

It seems Instagram is after me again. This time they sent me a notice saying that some of my content goes against their policies for reasonable speech, I guess. They’ve already closed one of my accounts and I promptly responded by adding a number to my previous account name to get back on the ‘Gram. Of course I had to go through all the nonsense of trying to remember who I was following and do a search-and-follow check. I lost a few ‘friends’ that I wasn’t terribly interested in anyway. Gone was “Tips 4 Home.” It wasn’t exactly a favorite. I’m not entirely sure how that account landed in my feed or how I ended up following them. They had uber-charming photos of things like professionally decorated farm house back porches, or metal plows against a sunset painted with flowers. You get the idea. Additionally there were the homey, mid-western-grandparent captions, such as “It’s better to rust out than wear out.” I wanted to send them a note saying there are anti-arthritis drugs now, so wearing out doesn’t have to be an option. Not sure if they were terribly interested in what others had to say. I suspect sometimes that those kinds of posts are either Russian bots or some anonymous corporation looking for my data through my phone. Either way, I culled out some accounts and added others.

Typically what I added were political satire, social justice commentary and a few politicians that benefit greatly from the posts I forward to them or comments that I have about their performance. I also follow a few accounts related to the #MeToo movement, because misogyny is everywhere you don’t want it to be. My comments typically had to do with being less tolerant of previous social conventions. I post about politicians and their verbal gaffes, question the wisdom of allowing gigantic corporations the latitude they seem to enjoy in the current political climate and, just as important, pictures of my cats. It’s hard to say what the Instagram censors found offensive about any of that. In talking with friends, I shared my feeling that Instagram, like so many institutions, has a long history of expecting women not to cite white males as part of the problem.

Therein lies my difficulty in life. I am not now, nor have I ever been terribly deferential to men. I have spent parts of my young working life picking up odd jobs for a summer, or a semester, in the “pink collar” sector. That means I sat at a desk, answered phones, shuffled papers, and often typed words or calculated numbers on behalf of a male that made significantly more money than I did. That was irritating enough, but the fact that they seemed to need so much more help for simple functions was really off-putting. When I say simple functions, I mean things like getting coffee, finding small items on a desk, explaining reports I had put together that they didn’t understand, yet got credit for, and making healthcare appointments. Did I mention they made A LOT MORE money than I did. Most of them were shut away in offices by themselves. Presumably a time out from the real work being done outside their doors by the bevvy of women engaged in the same activities that I was.

Women who do this kind of work have careers that are replete with stories about training men in offices, hospitals, board rooms, factories, etc. on how to do their jobs. These women continued getting the same salary while the men got promoted. Early on I came to a decision that I just couldn’t be deferential to people who knew less than I did and capitalized on my better than average abilities so they could get ahead without acknowledging me. Trouble is, I often said so. This is perceived as bothersome in the overall social schema and I have been “talked to” more than once about my prevalent attitude. I knew what was really required: I should shut up, do as much as possible for very little pay and pretend not to notice how things were. You’ve probably guessed that those kinds of jobs didn’t work out terribly well for me.

Now here we are in the 21st Century and the specter of not noticing how things are shows up on Instagram. I have openly posted phrases specifically related to  not being deferential to old, white men. Based on my experience, their position and power was acquired based on the efforts of women who, like myself, were also not well paid and expected not to notice how things were. I say let’s just cut to the chase and skip the carve-outs given to mostly old, mostly white, mostly men, just because they showed up with a certain set of genitalia. I suspect there is a certain group of people at Instagram who would like me not to notice that they too operate under the implied contract we have for men. I’d like them to shut up, do their work and not notice what I’ve been saying.

Running with Aargh, Not with Scissors

The tedium is starting to get to me. I am having a hard time finding new challenges in cleaning out a closet, developing an existing hobby or searching for meaning in emptying the litterbox. There are just so many “new” and “exciting” things to be discovered in my apartment and I think I’ve been over them twice now.

When quarantine for the pandemic started, I was coming off two years that included a divorce and a bout with cancer. It is resolved, and I still hate my ex-husband. I’ve had plenty of time to ponder,  meditate, and journal my feelings. That’s why I’m comfortable saying that I still hate my ex-husband. For god’s sake, is there not a man alive who understands the phrase “my side of the bed.” Recent musings have been in the direction of considering dating again as I am no longer feeling disposed toward bodily harm when it comes to the masculine sex. I decided to give that a few months to simmer before I checked out any kind of singles app, silver or otherwise.

What I really want is an end to the boredom. The tedium of talking to the same people, engaging in the same routine, sitting on the same couch. I’m also tired of searching the internet for new ways to do anything. Please spare me the diatribe on how wonderfully well your exercise program is going. If I had more space, I’d have my own home gym too.  Part of the fallout from the divorce was that I didn’t get the condo, which had a gym in the building. Working out was always within reach. I keep thinking about that guy who logged in something like 31 miles walking around his kitchen table while in lockdown. How absolutely boring! It certainly made me wonder just how interesting his sex life was. Thirty-one miles around a table? Nothing was heard from the wife.

I don’t have a dining room big enough to walk around let alone clock in some miles. I don’t have an extra room for hobbies, crafts or the like. If I choose to engage in any kind of activities for entertainment, I have to get out the supplies, complete the tasks, put the supplies away and then clean up from whatever I was doing. This is so I will have enough room just to live in my apartment. As someone once observed, it’s kind of like playing Tetrus here. They said that before lock down and I’d like to find them to offer congratulations on their incisive assessment. When I get frustrated with all of the things that I have to move, I try to remember that line, hoping I’ll trick my brain into thinking that I’m playing a game.  Even that has become tedious.

As an extroverted extrovert, a typical day used to involve generating three or four hair-brained schemes that would be wildly funny if I had the time or wasn’t in some place where adult behavior wasn’t pervasive. Being unable to let my imagination run like that adds to the tedium. It seems that quarantine is nothing more than endless adult behavior so that we don’t touch anyone, or breathe on anyone or infect anyone. It reminds me of when we used to have meetings at work. The expectations were that we didn’t laugh, didn’t make faces at anyone, didn’t snap rubber bands and then look away. You know, act like adults. They’re so boring, which is why everyone hates meetings. Now that meetings are shirts on top and pajamas on the bottom, it sucks the fun out of thinking about how to disrupt these get-togethers. With everyone in sweats and/or pajamas, there’s no fun to be had. More tedium.

Quarantine will end. More and more people are being vaccinated and some people are beginning to travel. Especially older folks who are less vulnerable and less obligated to jobs, children, and making money. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for searching the internet for new ways to do, well, just about anything.

The Bathroom Sink

What is up with the bathroom sink?

What makes it so dirty, I continue to think.

Why doesn’t all that water and soap make it any cleaner.

All that scum and stain just gets meaner.

I wash you and rinse you, to no avail.

Why don’t you stay clean, I continually wail.

I rub you and scrub you, then pat you down.

Like a baby’s clean bottom, you soon turn brown.

Your appearance gets worse, it seems on the daily.

Where do you get all this dirt if I so much as dally.

Your penchant for grime seems a little bit shady.

I’ll just have to give in and get a cleaning lady.