Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Happy Place

I used to work with a gal who would jokingly say she was going to retreat to her Happy Place. She didn't really describe it but it seemed to make her happy to talk about it.

I've never had a Happy Place although I'd sometimes try to imagine what it would be. It most certainly would not have anything to do with a beach or an island--or a foreign destination. Thoughts of winning the lottery triggered Happy Speculations but not really a place I could retreat to. Nothing concrete would come to mind.

For the past week, I've been fighting a bad cold and coasting through my days trying to regain my energy. Then a few days ago I realized that when I'm on my computer and blogging or checking emails in the morning, I feel pretty good. When I finished and went to have some lunch, however, I'd crash. My energy level would bottom out and I'd have to take a 2-hour nap.

So, it seems that My Happy Place is at the computer! When I am here I'm being productive and interacting (sort of) but most of all I'm comfortable and content. Now, that's what a Happy Place is all about!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Whatever happened to pretty hankies?

When was it decided that it was a good idea to cut down trees and grind them up to make products to blow our nose in? What the heck is wrong with using hankies?

Now I must admit that I really hate Kleenix. I have a personal aversion to the feel of it--it's like it leeches the moisture right out of your very protoplasm. I have a similar aversion to flannel sheets and several other things. (I have a niece with the same repulsion, so it must be innate.)

But nevertheless, what's wrong with hankies? In suffering through my current cold, I have been using bandanas as hankies, but they aren't really something you want to flaunt in public. Sadly, you never see anybody carrying pretty hankies anymore. Today, everybody carries disgusting little balls of tissue.

I remember when I was a little kid, I carried a little hanky with me to Sunday School. Mom would tie a dime in the corner for Offering, and always with the admonition, "Now don't lose this." Being the bearer of a dime was a big deal and not to be taken lightly.

Mom would sometimes receive birthday cards from her sisters with a pretty hanky inside. Like most little girls, I learned how to iron by starting out with hankies--Dad's big white ones with colored stripes around the borders and the rest with floral prints or embroidery. There was something satisfying about a neatly stacked pile of fresh hankies.

I have my one-and-only real hanky lying here by my computer. It has scalloped edges embroidered in pink and a floral design in one corner. I don't remember where I got it but it's very old. It would have been perfect for tying a dime in the corner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Joy of skunks

Tonight on Nature on PBS, they did a documentary about skunks. It was entertaining and enlightening. But the most interesting fact I learned was that I am not the only person in the world who can't smell skunk!

I have always wondered about this strange disability. When I was a kid, my mom always remarked on my good sense of smell. This earned me the privilege of being called upon to smell the milk to see if it had turned. Yet, when we traveled down the road and the rest of the family would suddenly cry, "Pew! Somebody hit a skunk!" I would smell nothing unusual. To this day, I have never had the experience of smelling skunk.

The documentary featured a skunk researcher who is unable smell skunks, and didn't know it till he started working with them. He now has 80 skunks at his facility.

They really are delightful little things. Of course, I'm a sucker for a furry face no matter what the species.

I really have to get out more!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Time out

I'm sick with a cold.
Enough said!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

TCF-- the Bamboozle Bank

My daughter gave me a TCF Visa gift card for my birthday in August. I recently read in the paper that sometimes they charge a fee on such cards.

I checked the teeny-tiny print at the bottom of the card and sure enough, the buggers charge $2 a month. Being a thrift-minded gal, I decided to exchange it for cash that I could hoard in a coffee can and spend at will--or, deposit in my savings account--something reasonable like that.

So, I took the card to the cashier at my TCF bank. She was a small Asian girl with a sweet face. Without blinking an eye, she told me there is a $20 fee for turning it into cash!

Arrrrgh! (That's pirate talk for those who aren't into banking.)

This means I have to use the card before they start attaching fees to it, whether I want to or not. I'm nonplussed at this turn of events, not to mention plenty ticked off.

After all the value I've lost on my retirement annuity in past quarters, I'm beginning to think coffee cans are a darn good idea.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Watching TV

I watch a lot of TV--I'm that kinda gal. When I was a kid, the ultimate entertainment was going to a movie. My earliest memories of films were Blondie and Red Skelton in The Fuller Brush Man. I dreamed of living over a movie theater with a little window facing the screen so I could see every single film.

And then came TV!

In 1953, when I was in the 8th grade we got our first TV set. It was a Muntz brand TV. We lived more than 60 miles from the nearest broadcaster, so the picture was snowy and unstable. The set had 13 channel selections but we only got reception on two channels, poorly. We had an electric antenna rotor on top of the TV which turned the antenna up on the roof to pick up the signal whenever we turned the channel. There were buttons on the front of the set for adjusting the vertical hold and horizontal hold; this had to be done frequently.

There was a lot of physical activity involved in watching TV in those days. Every time the picture started to roll, somebody had to jump up and fix it, or, to change the channel, or turn the antenna--especially in windy weather. Rain storms or ice on the antenna or a loose wire could screw it up for days.

My younger brother, Bob, said a kid in his 6th grade class told him that when the picture started to roll, if you extended your arm and vigorously waved your hand from side to side, it would stop rolling. Being new to the television experience, we went along with it. I don't remember how long we kept that nonsense up, but it never worked.

There was a true personal commitment in watching TV in those days. I rushed home from school every day to watch Atom Squad and Topper. No more Nancy Drew books for me!

To this day, I'm devoted to watching the tube. Only now I prefer dramas, documentaries and news programs--and a bunch of other stuff.

When John Lithgow received an Emmy for his show Third Rock from the Sun. He raised it and declared, "God bless television!"
And I say, "Hear, hear!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Thing that conquered Angels

I took my age off of my Profile. It bothered me to see it there because my age doesn't define me. I am not really that old in my mind and I don't want you to mistake me for an old lady.

I don't list my astrological sign either since it has never even been close to describing me or my life. It used to bother me; my personal expectations were geared toward what the horoscope said about me. It was always wrong, which made me feel like a putz. I finally decided to stop looking at my horoscope since it was bringing me down. I still sneak a peek at it once in a while, and it's still consistently wrong.

When I was a child, I tried to believe in angels. Hansel and Gretel had angels watch over them while they slept. But, hard as I tried, I could never sense anybody watching over me.

I could have used some angels back in 1951. We had moved to an old farm house way out in the boonies for the summer. The house and abandoned out-buildings were at the end of a long dirt drive and surrounded by a dense grove. It was really primitive--there was electricity but no plumbing.

On Saturday nights, my parents, three siblings and I went into the nearest little town for shopping. While Mom and Dad got groceries and stuff, we would go to a movie. Movies were the ultimate entertainment and I loved them all. When I saw a preview for movie called, The Thing, I begged my mom to let me go to see it. I knew it was a monster movie but thought in my naive 10-year-old mind that it would be a typical "Scooby Doo-type" plot. I was not prepared for the monster to be a "real" alien creature.

I was traumatized by that movie. I spent the entire summer afraid to be alone. I slept flat on my back with the covers pulled up to my chin in terror that the alien's severed hand would come and grab me. I retain a sickening memory of that house and even occasionally dream about it.

I still can't help but wonder why that alien hand was more real to me than the angels.

(Howard Hawk's The Thing from Another World is still available, but the 1982 remake of John Carpenter's The Thing starring Kurt Russell is much better.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

I love News

I heard some advice on handling stress the other day. The Professional said that if the news stresses you out, stop watching the news.

Not follow the news?! Now, that would stress me out! My son calls me a "news junkie" for good reason. If I don't know what's going on in the world, I feel isolated and uneasy.

Sure, I get tired of hearing about stupid wars, and conflicts over stupid stuff like "who hit who first". I get upset when I hear about Rwandan rebels threatening the mountain gorillas. I feel really bad when I see what global warming is doing to the polar bears in the arctic. My heart bleeds for the AIDS-ravaged people in Africa. I become alarmed at what over-population is doing to our beloved planet.

Nothing I do or say will change it, yet I am a citizen of this world and I have to know what's going on. It's sorta like the refugees in WWII huddled around radios listening for news about the war. It matters! Everything matters!

So, insignificant as my knowledge of what's happening may be in the scheme of things, I need to know! Long live the Star Tribune Newspaper and the news industry!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thought for the day

I have decided that on those days when I don't have the oomph to write a post, I will submit a thought or quote. It's the least I can do! So here goes:

"Happiness isn't something
you experience,
it's something you remember."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Have a cookie

My eldest daughter, Cindy called me this morning on her way home from work. She said it was 33 below zero up north by Fergus Falls. I told her it's only 16 below here in St Paul. Truth is, it's the nastiest winter in years.

It's a darn good thing we're Minnesotans, I tell yah! We take such beastly weather in stride with secret pride. We learn that at our mother's knee that such petty hardships are OK to comment on, but then you get on with your life.

This is good weather to stay in and bake cookies. The heat from the oven warms up the house and the activity lifts your spirits. So here's a recipe in case you feel like doing that:

2 c flour 1-1/2 c brown sugar
1 c softened butter 2 eggs
1 t soda 1 t salt
2 t baking powder 1-1/2 c quick oatmeal
12-oz bag of butterscotch chips
Combine butter & sugar, add eggs and beat till
creamy. Add flour, BP, soda & salt, then add
oatmeal and chips. Drop by spoonfuls on a
greased cookie sheet & bake at 375 10-12 min.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Again with the cats!

Today is Monday. So, I went and put the garbage pail out in the driveway, then I came back in and watered the plants. Now, here I sit with my stuffy head incapable of producing a single original thought. This is what the winter doldrums reduce you to! And, it's snowing again!

There are no birds around except for a few juncos and an occasional chickadee. I haven't seen an opossum for almost a month. The squirrels are holed up again--the snow is so deep they can't be seen over it. There is a vole living under the flower box near the edge of my patio, but it rarely makes an appearance. (I think it probably stocked up on food set out for the possums and is living in luxury underground.)

With this lack of animal life, I'm so grateful for the feral cat who has graced me with his faithful presence. He (gender is a total assumption) first showed up when I put out food at night for the opossums and squirrels back in November. At that time, the poor cat was so terrified that I couldn't even get a good look at him. If I was very careful, I could peek through the drapes and get a glimpse of him. His tail was covered with cockle burrs and his coat so matted I couldn't tell for sure what color he was.

Slowly and cautiously he's been getting accustomed to being fed. At first, when I put out food in the evening, he would wait and come late at night to eat food that would be frozen by then. Recently, he's been coming when it gets dark around 5:30. I put out warmed food and always add extra fats and also a bowl of warm water. He will hide just around the corner and come quickly when I close the patio door. He ignores my three cats as they sit and watch him chow down.

I've discovered he's a black, long haired cat with some brown in his coat. He has pulled all the cockle burrs out of his tail so it's practically bald now. But he seems happy and well-fed as he stretches and sharpens his claws on a tree. So, I feel like I'm doing a good thing.

This is pretty much the highlight of my day, and that's why I'm really grateful to my feral cat.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Look what my cat can do!

I have three cats of various colors, ages and genders. I love them all dearly, but, they are pretty unremarkable as cats go. So imagine my surprise when dear old Snuffy did something mind-blowing.

Snuffy was born on a farm near the North Dakota border thirteen years ago. My daughter Paula and family lived on a neighboring farm. Paula took the three boys over to get a free kitten and they chose a fluffy little black male. Being outdoor cats, they were a little wild and the boys had to chase the kitten through the grove to catch him. They took him home and named him Snuffy.
(Snuffy's Malt Shop is a Twin Cities chain of hamburger restaurants and a big favorite of the boys.)

Several years later, Paula asked me to take Snuffy and his cat companion, Tweety, when they left the farm and moved into an apartment. The cats came to live with me and adapted to "city" life just fine.

Years passed.

Then, one night recently I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed. Snuffy came into the bathroom, jumped up on the toilet seat and whizzed!
Right into the toilet!

Now yesterday, I woke up to the sound of someone in the bathroom--and there was Snuffy at it again. I am kinda weirded out by this. How does an old farm cat suddenly acquire such a sophisticated skill?

Am I in the Twilight Zone?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tilting at windmills

I have just concluded my 25th year of boycotting Kemp's Dairy products. My son teases me occasionally about how the boycott is going. The truth is that Kemps has yet to notice, but I persevere.

My personal crusade began when I moved to St Paul back in 1983. I was annoyed that Kemps seemed to have cornered the market on dairy everywhere I went. It became obvious they were the "big guys" and were cutting deals with grocery store chains to force out the "little guys".

This offended my sense of fair play and so I retaliated--no Kemps for me! If I shopped at a store that only carried Kemps, I would stop at a convenience store to buy Schroeders or Dairy Fresh milk. Happily, Cub Foods carries Land O Lakes products so I seldom have to do that anymore.
But, I have to wonder what this says about me. That I'm stubborn? Strong-willed? Egalitarian?
Set in my ways? Quixotic?

Something else to brood about!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Getting your thrills where you find them

I''m trying to get "centered" right now. It's Sunday 1:00, and in a few hours the Minnesota Vikings will be in some sort of football contest in Minneapolis across the Mississippi. This would be of little import to me except that my grandson, my granddaughter and her husband have traveled all the way to the Twin Cities for this event.

While the parents are gone, my three darling little great-grand-daughters are whooping it up here with me and playing hide-and-go-seek. They squeal with delight when they are discovered hiding behind furniture and under beds, or even the knee hole of my desk as I type.

This takes me back to the delicious thrill of being found when you've hidden in a really great spot. It was always much more fun being found than finding someone who was hidden.

I notice that when my cats play, they react that way too. The one hidden always leaps up in excitement when the stalking cat approaches. If they were kids, they would be laughing just like the little girls are.

I can't think of anything in my life that would equal the fun and excitement of playing hide-and-seek! Now, how jaded is that!?

Anyway, Go Football Team!

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

#1. Stop brooding! The world will not end in 2012--not even if Sarah Palin runs for president!

#2. Never eat eight pieces of sugar-free candy at once again!

#3. Remember to start writing 2009. Rejoice that 2008 is gone-gone-gone.

#4. Lose weight (this is merely tradition, it's been my annual resolution since 1954).

#5. Get organized (this is a periodic resolution that has limited effect, but I really, really mean it this time!)

#6. Post more often, even if nobody is reading it. I need the outlet to organize my thoughts--on those occasions when I have some.

#7. Read more books and watch less TV (except for CSI, NCIS, Gray's Anatomy, Chuck, Closer, Dexter, reruns of 3rd Rock, Bones, Nip/Tuck, Monk, Life, My Name is Earl, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Jeopardy, Tudors, Jay Leno, The Daily Show, CBS Sunday Morning, Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, The Sarah Silverman Program, Leverage, My Worst Week, Cops, Lost, Heroes, Law & Order: all 3 of them-- regular, SVU and CI, and a few other shows I can't think of right now).

#8. Try to rise above my limitations and finish my book!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A whole new year to louse up

I just put up my new calendar for the year. It has a picture of two sleeping cats snuggling up together. I already have four notations on dates on the new calendar. They are the same as the notations on last year's calendar--meetings, writer's groups and appointments. Things are not looking good for this to be a shiny, prosperous or in any way different new year.

But then, this is the time of the year when the winter doldrums begin to set in--you know, Seasonal Affective Disorder aka SAD. This is when the Minnesotans who don't ski, skate or snowmobile settle in to brood. Some say this is the result of our Scandinavian and German heritage. The tendency for Northern Europeans to brood is credited (or blamed) for producing many philosophers, scientists, psychologists and writers who have shaped our thinking.

Now that's something to brood about!

"Great thoughts come to me in the winter time. What was hidden becomes obvious."