Monday, March 30, 2009

Another "How Come"

This one has bugged me for years. How come they can't make a window seal that holds?

I'm talking about oven door windows and house windows. My stove is a little over a year old and already the seal has broken and ugly streaks are running down between the panes of glass. When I bought the stove, I asked for a stove without the window but the saleswoman said that everybody wants the windows. They didn't even have any windowless ovens in stock.

So here I am with the leaky oven door window...again.

The modest condo I live in has four windows and a patio door, all double-pane sliding types. And, every single one of them have broken seals with streaks and/or clouding. Several of them have been replaced but didn't last long before the seals broke again.

I think the main reason it bugs me is that the stove and windows never look clean. When I have guests or host my writer's group, I feel that it makes me look like a slob. Now, I actually am a slob but when I have company, I make a supreme effort to conceal the fact. Those darn windows give me away.

What am I to do?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thursday jerk

I discovered with a shock that I haven't posted since Wednesday. After an exceptionally boring winter, suddenly I'm busy all the time. This is good.

I volunteer at a large clinic on Thursdays. My job is to sit at the lobby desk and direct people to the floor their appointment is on, fetch wheel chairs for those who request them and generally be friendly and helpful. It's a low stress job and I meet lots of interesting people of all nationalities.

About five years ago, the State of Minnesota passed a law that businesses and public places must post signs if they did not want people who carried concealed weapons to enter the building. Our sign reads:
Personally, this seems like a no-brainer. Why would anybody take their gun to a colonoscopy?

On Thursday, a middle-aged man came up to the desk with his hand inside his coat. "Can I leave my gun with you?" he asked. I was stunned--I didn't even want to see a gun! He slowly drew his hand from his coat to show his finger in pistol position. Then he laughed and said, "Every time I see one of those signs I've wanted to do that!" Then he walked away.


I quickly got over it but it gives me pause that it could have been a real gun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

So, How Come...?

A few years ago, Miss Manners column in the newspaper included a letter from a woman who stated that her mother would always correct her when she said, "How come". The mother insisted this was colloquial and one should properly say "why" instead. This came as a shock to me since I had been saying "How come" my entire (admittedly middle-class) life.

The funny thing is, arguing against the use of "How-comes" is fighting a losing battle. The most commonly heard one is, "If we can put a man on the moon, HOW COME we can't...?

Our lives are full of How-comes when you think about it. Like, how come:

-there are always a dozen guys standing around doing nothing at road construction sites?

-cooking shows always use exotic ingredients you would never have on hand? (goat cheese, arugula, fresh raspberries and Balsamic vinegar...really!)

-our outside image ages so much faster than our self-image? (Who is that old lady in the mirror?)

-we can never quite reach our own expectations? (If only I had tried harder.)

You can probably come up with much better How-comes. Let me know your favorites.

(PS-Breckenridge escaped the flooding and all is well. Thanks for all your well-wishes.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I used to be a spring chicken

I checked out the movie Savages from the library the other day. It's about an adult sister and brother dealing with their elderly father's dementia and facing their own futures. What I found most charming, however, was the film opens with a song from my childhood.

"I don't want to play in your yard,
I don't like you anymore.
You'll be sorry when you see me
Sliding down our cellar door

You can't holler down our rain barrel,
You can't climb our apple tree.
I don't want to play in your yard
If you won't be nice to me."

(Here's a picture of an old-fashioned
cellar door. Cellars were used for storing
fresh garden vegetables, home canned
goods and also for tornado shelters.)

Over the years, I've been collecting expressions and words from my childhood that have gone defunct. Many have been replaced by cruder expressions (eg. remember when "smart asses" were called "smarty pants", "smart alecs" or "wise guys"? Now "wise guys" are what used to be called mobsters or gangsters. And gang members refer to each other as their "crew". There was an old radio show called, "Gangbusters" about police who effectively put gangsters in prison. The expression then evolved to whenever something that was going fast and effectively, it was "going gangbusters".

Every once in a while, I will hear a word or expression coming out of my mouth that I haven't heard for decades. I feel like a ninny when that happens. I think I'll go to the ice box and get a bottle of pop. I could go on like this till the cows come home, but it'll probably give you youngsters the screaming mimis.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The flip side of Spring

My granddaughter Lindy lives in Breckenridge MN with her husband and three little girls. Their house is only a short way from the swollen Red River which flows north along the Minnesota-North Dakota border past Fargo and Grand Forks into Canada.

The girl's bedrooms are in the basement so the threat is serious. Lindy and her husband, a police officer, have been joining all the other locals and volunteers sandbagging along the river. If the rain keeps up, they predict the river may crest higher than ever before. So, all together now:

"Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Of dandelions and daffodils

Ten years ago, a friend and I went on a one-week tour of England. We went in March before the higher tourist season rates went into effect. As it turns out, that is a great time to go.

When we arrived at our hotel, our room wasn't ready yet. As luck would have it, a tour bus out front was just leaving for Windsor Castle. Off we went to see the green, green grass of England dotted with daffodils. It was incredible! There were daffodils growing like dandelions everywhere. This impressed me more than the castle.

Then in 2005, my sister and I went to Iceland for a week. There were big beautiful bunches of dandelions growing there. Not the wimpy little dandelions like you see in Minnesota, these were big, healthy dandelions of spectacular size. Clearly they were in their preferred environment.

I suspect the Vikings brought the seeds to Iceland in 978 the way the Scandinavians brought them to Minnesota in the 1800's. I went online to try and find a picture of Icelandic dandelions, but nothing came close. If the plants had been evolving and adapting to Icelandic climate for a thousand years, our American dandelions have a long way to go before they adapt to our climate.

Sadly, daffodils have never taken hold in this country. You have to go to England in the spring to
see them bobbing in pastures, ditches and woods. My passport expired a year ago and I didn't have any reason to spend $100 to renew it. The chances that I will ever go abroad again are negligible.

But then, I have already been to England in the spring!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring happens

Yesterday was the first day of spring. I was all ready to run out in the yard and do my "dance of spring" when I was pulled up short by a fresh coating of snow. Gee, it would have been such a spectacularly dramatic dance, too.

Oh well, there's always next year.

Today is warm (60 f) and sunny. The four cats are taking turns
sitting in the open window listening to the few newly-returned
robins and smelling the fresh air. The neighbor kids are on their
way to a birthday party. Peace hangs in the air.
I went to the library to pick up a tax form so my friend AF can
do my taxes. I have tried to do them myself but I get so anxious I can't think straight--literally. It's pathetic, I know, because I don't have anything complicated and I'm a fairly intelligent woman and should be able to think it through. I have really tried but I invariably turn into a blithering idiot after the first page.
"It's not my fault! I'm a words person, not a numbers person!" Anyway, happy spring to you all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Memories of donuts

One of my favorite online humor sites is They post pictures of signs and T-shirts etc. that have been badly translated from Asian languages to English. Some are incomprehensible but all are really funny.

This reminds me of several signs that used to make us laugh in Savage MN when my mother was living there. A local doughnut shop had mounted a large sign across their building that read, "Have you had your dougnut? (sic) Today!" Across the street was a non-descript little building that had a sign identifying the place as "Savage Barbers".
There used to be donut places all over the state. There was Mr. Donut, Duncan Donuts, Winchell Donuts and Donut Huts--not to mention every grocery store, hometown bakery and convenience store sold donuts. Those were the days when everyone was happy to eat lard (see previous post of March 11th) because it made really good donuts.
Several years ago, after all the other donut chains had gone out of business, Krispy Kreme made a foray into the Twin Cities. They built a new building out in trendy Maple Grove to a great deal of fanfare. Their huge grand opening caused traffic jams as everyone scrambled to be the first to bring a box of Krispy Kremes into the office. But the enthusiasm didn't last long. Soon Krispy Kreme was selling their donuts at Target Stores, Cub Foods and gas stations. After a while, they too went out of business.
There are any number of bagel shops replacing the defunct donut shops, and heaven knows, the bagels are much better for you. But I still have fond memories of Mr. Donut angel-creme filled donuts. (Sigh)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Confessions of a tree hugger

I love trees. I have been brought to tears at seeing trees cut down. I have often thought that if I could have a super-power, I would want the ability to create big beautiful trees in a blink. On long car trips, I often spend hours willing trees into existence--some willows around a small lake, rows of majestic elms lining barren streets, spruce trees in wide medians, groves of oak trees covering hills and roadsides. If I had my way, Minnesota would be sheltered under a blanket of oxygen-producing trees!

Therefore, it was with some alarm that I recently read in the Star Tribune that my choice of toilet paper was contributing to the loss of old growth forests. In an article reprinted from the NY Times, Leslie Kaufman stated that the Ultra-soft brands of tissue can't be produced using recycled paper. The fluffy paper we all prefer comes from millions of trees harvested in North and South America.

The average American uses 24 rolls of paper annually. That amounts to a whopping lot of trees flushed down the toilet.

So now I have to decide whether to give up my Quilted Northern and buy the recyled brands of paper products. The recycled brands are never on sale like the specials they run on the fluffy tissue. I'm going to do my environmental best to find the alternative that saves trees. I hope you will do that too.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday musings

It's funny how music seems to become less entertaining as you grow older. As a teenager, popular music is fraught with meaning. It reaches the depths of your psyche and expresses your feelings so acutely that you want to listen to it over and over. The music of successive generations will never speak to you in the same way.

It's the same with clothes. The duds that were sooo cool when you were in high school are now amusing. When I was in grade school, the big boys were wearing taps on their loafers and beanies on their head. In a few years, the hineys would give way to the duck tail haircut and engineer boots.

I was never cool although I sometimes made lame attempts. In the eighth grade, I wore a plastic dog collar around one ankle because it was the fad. Pastel silk squares tied around the neck and demurely tucked under a pixie collar were also the rage. In the ninth grade, it was pop-it beads and knee socks with saddle shoes.

After a while, you begin to realize that style and fashion are for wimps and conformists. Being trendy only makes you one of the herd. Go ahead and shop at thrift stores and garage sales! Buy what you like and don't worry about what's hot in Paris!

My fashion sense tends towards dowdy. Therefore, I embrace dowdiness wholeheartedly. I'm
comfortable and bland and content.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Right place, right time

This morning Gracie, the adopted kitty, was lying in the cat bed that sits by the window overlooking the wooded lot next door. She's fond of watching the squirrels and birds that hang out there. All of a sudden a Pileated Woodpecker swooped in and landed on a tree only 20 feet from the window. We were both excited to see it.

The big, showy bird didn't stay long, but I'm so glad I happened to be looking at just the right moment. So many things in life depend on where you happen to be at any given time.

I sometimes think of that when going on a trip. I wonder if I'm leaving a minute too soon or too late to avoid an accident, or is it the precise time for me to wind up at the exact location where the accident would occur? But, if I missed being in the accident, how would I ever know? Indeed--why would I want or need to know that yesterday, perhaps, I'd have been T-boned by a truck if I had warmed up the car for ten seconds more?

You can tell that I "live on the edge". I wonder if all overweight people have this fatalistic bent. Since I've been fat all my life, I have lived with a constant barrage of health information that I am going to be unhealthy and die at an early age. Not only that, but I deserve to die at an early age!

In the meantime, Gracie is crawling around on my desk exploring all the doodads. She is a breath of fresh air in this long, long winter. I'm so glad she's here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here's a laugh

I wonder if they ever published a Lard Cookbook? Ad is from the 1930's.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fighting ennui while lying in a puddle of doldrums

After being laid low by a bout of something vicious and pernicious, I'm still trying to regain some mental and physical energy. How many naps does it take to recover some purpose in life? I'm feeling like my brain is full of cotton and my body is collapsing into oatmeal.

This is not good.

So here are some good things:

I'm retired, so I don't have to worry about losing my job.
My income is enough that I can send a little money to the food shelf and I don't have to worry about using them any time soon (although I did several times in the past).
I have good neighbors.
I have good friends.
I have great kids and grandkids.
I will get over the blahs eventually.
And, then I can help other people.

Gee, I feel a lot better now!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Wednesday

Today is the first Wednesday of the month. In the Twin Cities that means that the Emergency Sirens are tested at 1:00 pm throughout the metro area. The system is for warning residents of severe weather, tornadoes or even civil defense threats (since 9/11). I would barely notice the tests if it weren't for my friend, Margareth.

She is the leader of one of my writing groups and frequently reads memoirs of her life as a child in London during WWII. She tells about the terror of running to shelters from the German bombs at night. She still suffers PTSD from those dreadful times. So the first Wednesday of every month when the sirens sound, Margareth has to shake off the terror yet once again.

The sirens that make Minnesotans feel safe and secure do the opposite to those who have survived living in war-torn areas.

Let us count our blessings.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

About adipose

When I was a kid, I was pudgy. I was unaware of the fact until we moved back to Minnesota from California when I was five. I have a vivid memory of meeting all my aunts for the first time, and they informed that I was fat. I have never felt anything but fat and unacceptable since.

There have been periods of my life when I lost weight and looked good, but my body image had been so distorted that I never recovered. I look at old pictures and wonder why I never knew I was OK. But, that shame never dies.

When I was in elementary school, it was common for us to have rhymes and chants. The most painful ones were taunts from my brothers or boys at school:
"Fatty-fatty two by four, Couldn't get thru the kitchen door, So she did it on the floor."

"Here comes the bride, Big fat and wide, Watch her waddle, From side to side." (My pastor used this to discourage me from having the traditional Wedding March at my wedding and instead using another hymn--which caused some confusion.)

I turned down my sister's request to be in her wedding because I'd recently had a baby and was still quite overweight.

There was also the specter of my Old Maid aunt who weighed 300 pounds and never married.
She lived with Grandma until she died and then slowly faded away. The aunt lived and died in the same small town and died before she turned sixty.

And yet, for all my history, when I watch the TV shows where they have large people taking off weight, I feel a little annoyance at them blubbering about their predicament. Obesity is so universally loathed that even fat people are prejudiced against other fat people.

I look forward to being cremated and having all my ugly fat burned up. I imagine hovering above the furnace dancing and singing (for surely I can do those things without all the extra flab and creaky bones!) It's gonna be great!