Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #337

13 facts about the common cold. To borrow from the Mayo Clinic website, common colds are usually harmless but they may not feel that way. How true! I'm battling one now and it's embarrassing how much thought and attention I waste on it!

1. How long a cold lasts. I could not find a definitive answer. Seven days ... 10 days ... two weeks ... no one seems to know for sure. (I'm on day 9 and it's just about over.)

2. Most of us will get at least one cold every year. The average number for adults seems to two per year, while children get more.

3. Smokers get more and worse colds. That's because smoking damages the respiratory system. It just does. PS That goes for pot, too. If you find yourself getting a lot of colds, maybe switch to gummies.

4. The best way to treat a cold seems to be water. Drink a lot of it. Wash your hands often with it. Keep the air moist by using a humidifier. 

5. Antibiotics don't work on colds because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria.

6. There is no cure. This sucks, but it's true. You can treat symptoms with OTC medications but you can't cure and, frankly, likely won't even shorten the duration, of your cold.

7. What are those symptoms? Runny nose and sneezes are the most prevalent. You can expect frequent, mild head and body aches. Coughs are common. Fevers less so, but they happen.

8. Antibiotics don't work on colds because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria.

9. There's no real evidence that Vitamin C prevents or shortens a cold. But, to borrow a phrase, it couldn't hurt.

10. Chicken soup and hot tea help. Warm liquids can reduce the stuffy feeling in your nose and throat.

11. Are you sure it's a cold? If you find yourself sniffling and sneezing during the same time of year every year, you may wish to be checked for allergies. Those can be treated, and there's no reason to suffer needlessly.

12. The common cold can be a financial drain. Between workers who call in sick and those whose productivity is hampered by colds, this "harmless" affliction can have a real economic impact.

13. Beware of complications. Yeah, the common cold is usually no big deal at all. But if you find your symptoms worsening or lingering into Week 3, be smart and consult a physician.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Now I know the real story

On Thanksgiving, my dear friend Henry's husband, Reg, posted on Facebook. It was about the traditional holiday meal he'd prepared but would eat alone since Henry became "agitated," and the police took Henry away. Henry is in a psych ward, under surveillance until it's decided whether he is a danger to himself or others.


Reg's post implies that he was striving to give his husband an old-fashioned feast, but Henry ruined it. Turns out that is not really what happened. At all.


Henry is living with a traumatic brain injury. His condition has deteriorated precipitously in the last few months. In October, he suffered a pair of grand mal seizures and now he is unable to shave or use his phone without help. He is often confused about where he is. On bad days, he can't control his bodily functions and needs a diaper. Occasionally he confuses Reg with his father. 


Believing this, I accepted Reg's scenario. Only now I know this ...


1) Recovery from the grand mal seizures was complicated by Henry's ongoing alcohol abuse. Henry doesn't know where he is. Henry can't drive. Henry has no money. There is only one way Henry can get booze: Reg has been buying it for him. This is unconscionable. The doctors told Reg that he is "a failure as a caregiver." Henry has been assigned a caseworker.


2) Reg did not call the police on Henry. Neighbors did. Before dawn on Thanksgiving, Henry was apprehended nude, banging on neighbors' doors, demanding to talk to his brother Raul. This is not the first time this has happened. Henry snuck out a few weeks ago, then wearing shit-stained underwear, and did the same thing. Then the police returned him to Reg. This time, they took Henry away to the psych ward.


3) The management company has warned Reg: if this happens again, they will be evicted from their apartment.


I think we can all agree that the doctors are right; Reg is a failure as a caregiver.


Since Henry's accident I have felt just about every emotion. I have been heartbroken, angry, hopeful, insistent. Henry is dear to me and I hate what has happened to him.

But right now, I feel empty. Tired. Resigned. I love Henry, but our story is not going to end well and there is nothing I can do about it.

I must just cling to how he wished me a happy birthday Wednesday, hours before they took him away. Somehow, somewhere inside his broken brain, Henry loves me as much as I love him. That's all I have.



WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

PS I no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M. C. Beaton. I don't usually read two volumes from the same mystery series back to back, but that's a personal preference, not an enforceable regulation, and so I felt free to break it now.


At the end of the last installation in Agatha's saga, we were titillated by sudden and repeated references to Jimmy Raisin, Agatha's long-ago first husband. Agatha has been a middle-aged retiree for all the time we've known her, and I was so excited to find out about her backstory that I couldn't wait.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M. C. Beaton. This book was originally published in 1994. I had to consistently remind myself of that as I plowed through, because it includes events that had me scratching my head and asking, "Haven't these people ever heard of Google?"

Well, no, they hadn't.


Jessica Tartnick was a local character who lived in the same county as our heroine, Agatha Raisin, but a few towns over. She seemed to have two gifts: stirring oratory and pissing people off. When she is found murdered, there's no shortage of suspects.

This pleases Agatha. Not because she disliked Jessica; she'd never met her. But because her talent as a sleuth has always impressed her handsome neighbor, James Lacey. So Agatha is on the case.  Yes, her motive is that selfish. That's one of the things I like about Agatha. She is a definitely flawed woman. She is not driven by an unshakable desire to see justice done. She wants to impress a guy.


As mysteries go, this isn't so great. I figured it out pretty early on, and I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But it's important in the series for character development. We learn so much about Agatha and James that I'm glad I'm reading these order and have been able to let events unfold the way M. C. Beaton intended.


3. What will you read next? I don't know.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Of broken brains

The brain is a remarkably complex, fragile and mysterious organ. I have two people in my life who are wrestling with brain issues. It's confusing and depressing.

Henry is back in the hospital. He hasn't had another seizure, as I'd assumed. This is worse, I'm afraid. Thursday afternoon (Thanksgiving Day) he became "aggressive" with his husband, Reg, and Reg called the police. As I understand it, he will be held for four days to ascertain if he is a danger to himself or others. Since Sundays and holidays don't count, I am guessing I won't hear anything about him until Tuesday or Wednesday.

I treasure that last Wednesday, when Henry heard about the 60th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination from CNN, he insisted to Reg that he had to call me for my birthday. That means that he still knows and understands who I am. I'm sorry that he was so agitated when we spoke. He was weary and angry about cell phone reception and was barely himself. His condition declined so rapidly over the summer -- some days he can't get out of bed or go to the bathroom himself, other days he's physically improved but confused as to where/who he is, and he can no longer do things like shave or use his phone by himself anymore -- so I must be grateful for his moments of lucidity, no matter how stilted or awkward.

Since the accident, I have been certain to always tell Henry I love him, that I am forever on his side. I keep thinking of what Matt LeBlanc wrote after Matthew Perry died: "Spread your wings and fly, Brother, you're finally free." 

I do not say this lightly, but I truly hope that God sees fit to call Henry home soon. Henry was raised Catholic and attended a non-denominational Christian church in Key West every Sunday. I know his faith is strong. I know Heaven is where he believes he will go. Because, deep inside, he remains such a  loving person, I am also certain that Heaven is his ultimate destination.

I know God has a plan. Over the last five years since Henry's accident, I personally have grown and learned a great deal. I've gone from stubborn insistence that he could/would get better to humbly accepting and loving him in his current condition. I'm sure everyone whose life Henry has touched has gone through a journey of self-discovery. While I don't blame God for Henry's accident -- it was Henry's fault -- I believe that all Henry has taught us is the Lord's way of taking lemons and making lemonade.

But I think of Henry in that psychiatric hospital -- alternately angry and confused, always vulnerable -- and I hope that his time here is short. Henry always said I was his "true sister," the one God wanted him to have all along. I agree. And I hope someday soon I can say, "Spread your wings and fly, Brother, you're finally free." And thank you. Every time I think of Henry now, I must be sure to send up a prayer of thanks for the love, the support and kindness he was always showered on me since we met in 1992. I truly believe no one on earth has ever loved me as much, or always seen the best in me as often, as Henry has. What a lucky Gal I am!

Kathy, on the other hand ... She has been in the grips of Alzheimers or dementia or something for at least four years now. She is surrounded by her adult grandchildren, but they are all in their 20s and frankly not attentive to Nana. I don't know that I blame them. I believe she is the responsibility of her daughter, who is supposedly monitoring the situation from Denver but doing precious little.

As her world gets smaller, Kathy has tightened her grip on me electronically. Social media posts, texts, emails ... all of them disturbing. Embarrassing. Annoying. For example, on my birthday I posted a photo of myself and my friend Joanna smiling at the entrance to Christkindlemarket, where we celebrated my birthday. How does Kathy respond? 

"Pinch Joanna for me. Hee hee. Ho ho."

Now why would I do that? I'm not in the habit of pinching people and Joanna has never met Kathy. So I deleted the comment. But I was annoyed. I don't want to have to explain to Joanna who Kathy is or why Kathy wants me to pinch her.

Today, I mentioned that I did a lot of shopping locally for Small Business Saturday. I acknowledged that I was day late giving a shout out to my neighborhood stores, but I blamed it on my cold. "I blame everything on this cold," I said. How does Kathy respond?

"I also have a deeply dedicated COLD way far west which I have chosen not to share with anyone so I wander (fully face nose/mouth covered) thru empty lanes in the earliest emptiest hours... YeP life's a HooT {I also have miles of open empty land}."

So now I get to worry about my addled friend wandering snowy streets alone at night. I resent that.

I've considered blocking her on Facebook, but then I'd get those emails and texts that I receive when I don't interact with her regularly. Where am I? Why aren't we connected? Are "they" intercepting her online communications?

I wish I had the compassion for her that I have for Henry, but I don't. As I mentioned in this post, Kathy and I have had a complicated relationship that was fraught long before her cognitive decline. I'm annoyed. I also suppose I'm afraid I'll end up like her, like she's my Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. 

I'm sick of the nonsensical social media posts, the pathetic and paranoid emails, the pointless texts. I just wish she'd leave me alone. 

I dislike myself for that admission.

I wonder what God is trying to teach me through Kathy. Perhaps it's that my power to influence those around me has limits and I have to let go. That's what our friend John keeps telling me: I have to develop "a shield" so Kathy can't "get to me" emotionally.

How I long for the olden days, back in the 80s and 90s, when all we talked about was who fucking whom and when our careers would finally take off!

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress) 1972

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This week's song begins with Hollies' lead singer Allan Clarke telling us of a Saturday night trip downtown, taken at the behest of the FBI. What are your plans for Saturday night? (No, we don't expect you to tell us you'll be working undercover for a government agency.) I'm going to be under the covers with the new love of my life, my Vapoinhaler. I'll have my tissue box nearby, too. Yes, I'm sick. But it's only a cold and I'm just a big baby. I hope I'm feeling better in time for work on Monday. (<<< Hey! That's a sentence I never thought I'd utter again!)

2) At a bar, he meets a woman in a black dress. The LBD, or little black dress, is a wardrobe staple for many women because it's appropriate for almost any occasion. Let's say you get a last-minute invitation for a "dressy" dinner this weekend and you don't have the time or money to buy something new. What's your go-to outfit from your closet? I'd probably wear what I wore to my niece's wedding three years ago -- a long garnet duster over a matching cami and black leggings. Shoes would be a problem, since I don't think I have a pair of dressy flats to go along with it. Oh well, I shan't sweat it since this is a fantasy, after all.

3) Everyone at the bar starts to run when they hear sirens. Do you often hear sirens in your neighborhood? All the time. I don't really notice them anymore. I get nervous when the siren gets louder and slower, telling me the emergency vehicle is stopping nearby.

4) In 1972, the year this week's song was on the charts, Popeye's opened their first fast-food chicken restaurant in Louisiana. Now that the Thanksgiving feast is over, will you be eating any carry-out this weekend? Perhaps. There may be a trip to the local burger joint in my future. Unless I'm feeling exceptionally lazy. 

5) Black is this week's signature color because November 24 was Black Friday, when retailers historically have slashed their prices and the holiday shopping season begins. Have you begun your gift shopping? I'm just about done! I still have to get my niece a set of private label barbecue sauces from a local restaurant. She lives in Michigan and she can't get these particular sauces up there. I also want to make a donation in my friend Kathleen's name to The Carter Center. She admires Jimmy Carter enormously and I'm sure she's been moved by all the tributes to Rosalyn.

6) Walmart, Best Buy and Target all advertise heavily on Black Friday. If you could have a $100 gift card from one of those stores, which would you choose? What would you buy? Target. 

7) This Monday is sometimes known as Cyber Monday because shoppers can find big savings online. Do you shop confidently online, or do you worry about security breaches and identity theft? I recently was a victim of a breach, and it had nothing to do with online shopping. Back in 2018, my primary care physician sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound of my leg. Now, in November 2023, I got notice that my hospital records were compromised. I just received a very strange call Thursday from a local number. A heavily-accented man said he was calling from "[Unintelligible] Health" about my leg. I yelled at him, saying only a scammer would call on a national holiday and that there's nothing wrong with my leg. Gotta keep a close eye on my credit report. 

8) What are you thankful for this year? My friends. I have a network that supports me. I am so fortunate that way.

9) Random question: Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone (texting doesn't count)? My oldest friend called to wish me a happy birthday by playing the lads singing "Birthday" into the receiver.

The food was good but the vibe was off

John, Gregory and I had Thanksgiving dinner at a winery/restaurant in my neighborhood. Because I don't drink wine, and since it's a little fancier than I'm used to, I've never tried it. But I heard they had a great prix fixe Thanksgiving menu. So when John suggested that this year we celebrate Thanksgiving in my neighborhood instead of his, I mentioned the winery.

The menu was traditional and quite delicious -- butternut squash soup, roasted turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans with carrots, mashed potatoes, and a fantastic slice of pumpkin cheesecake -- and the price was right. The boys got out here without event; John took a rideshare while Gregory took the train. I don't remember what John was drinking, but Gregory was very happy with the prosecco. I had cranberry juice and vodka. Only one, because I'm battling a cold.

Gregory and I surprised one another with birthday gifts. His was back in August. I snapped a photo when we were all singing "Happy Birthday" and had it made into a refrigerator magnet. He gave me a white cube with lights from within, kind of a desk Christmas ornament.

So why wasn't it a perfect Thanksgiving? I don't know. The conversation just wasn't flowing the way it usually does when we're together. I'll blame it on my cold.

Oh well. I'm still thankful for good friends, good food, and leftovers!


Birthday 2023 recap

I was wistful going into my birthday this year. I think some of it could be that -- while I didn't realize it yet -- I was coming down with a cold. Some of it could be that my art director didn't mention my birthday when we got together for lunch days before. 

But it turned out to be a nice day. I had three gifts waiting for me that I received through the mail:

•  A "Feisty Ladies" wall calendar from my Cousin Rose 

•  Boxed teas and a cat-themed shopping tote from my aunt

•  A cat-themed zippered pouch, filled with inspirational/aspirational stickers, from Snarkypants

Then the Facebook messages started coming in. You know, people slag social media but this is something it does really well: it made me happy to see how many people responded to that reminder and sent good wishes.

I got text after text, too. Elaine. My art director (I think she saw it on Facebook) wants us to plan a date together to celebrate our birthdays. Nancy said, "The t-shirt is from me and Paul* because we love you." My oldest friend, promising a great gift.* John with an e-giftcard to my local movie theater. And did you see this? Kwizgiver wrote me a poem!

Not gonna lie. I like being fussed over.

I met Joanna downtown for the Christkindlemarket. All these adorable little German-themed shops in Daley Plaza, right under the watchful nose of the Picasso. I got baked cheese for myself and a little knit finger puppet for Elaine. Then we went across the street for The Best Ever Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  It's exactly what we did for my birthday last year. That appealed to Joanna because it's what we did last year and, as she wrote in her card, she appreciates the traditions she and I have developed around our birthdays. I liked it because it was guilt free. I know Joanna is cash strapped these days but this was a unique but affordable lunch. 

I heard from Henry. It was the first time in months! He suffered a pair of seizures and had been in the hospital. This took a major toll on his already compromised cognitive abilities. Now he's home, and some days he doesn't know Reg anymore and needs help shaving and using the bathroom. Other days he's a little better. Fortunately, on my birthday, he was a bit more himself. He was rooted in front of the TV, watching CNN, when he saw a mention of the 60th anniversary of the JFK assassination. 

"I must talk to The Gal. It is her birthday!" he kept insisting to Reg. First when he called I was in the shower. I called him back, but he didn't pick up so I left a message. He called again, just as I was boarding the train to go downtown. I know he wouldn't understand about the noise, so I let it go to voicemail. He called again when Joanna and I were at lunch. I took the call but tried to keep it short. He was very confused, but it meant a great deal to me that even through the fog he understood that it was my birthday and he wanted to talk to me. 

A few moments later, Reg called. Drunk and sad. He said Henry was very "agitated" about missing my birthday, even though we just spoke. I was at lunch with Joanna, it was rude to spend this long on these calls. But Henry is so important to me. I told Reg I could call back tonight, or not. Whatever Reg thought was best, I would do. Reg told me it would be best not to call, so I didn't.

As awkward and weird as all this was, it's a memory I will treasure forever. Somewhere inside Henry, he still remembers and loves me. Somewhere in there, we're still us.

*It hasn't arrived yet, but that's OK.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #336

13 facts about Clint Hill. You may very well be saying, "Who?" But I think every American has seen Clint Hill. 60 years ago, on November 22, he was the Secret Service Agent who leaped onto the back of President Kennedy's limo in Dallas right after the shooting, pushing Jacqueline Kennedy back into the car.

1. Clint Hill is 91 years old. He was born in Larimore, ND.

2. He's a history buff. It's fitting that a man who played a part in a pivotal moment in American history has always read extensively about this country. He graduated from Concordia College with a degree in history.

3. He's a veteran. He served in the US Army before joining the Secret Service.

4. Dwight Eisenhower was his "first President." For a short time, he was assigned to President Eisenhower. At 27, he was one of the youngest in Ike's detail.

5. He initially resisted protecting Jacqueline Kennedy. After her husband's election in November, 1960, Mrs. Kennedy required 24/7 protection. Clint recalls he would have much, much preferred to guard the President-elect. He was afraid that being assigned to The First Lady would doom him to 4-to-8 years of fashion shows, ballets, and high teas.

6. He was surprised to learn Jackie was, in his words, "a jock." To protect her, learned to water ski and became proficient. He tried to be her tennis partner, but he wasn't very good and the Kennedys hired a tennis pro to play with her while Clint sat court side. When she went to Virginia to ride the hounds, Mr. Hill rode in a car beside the path to keep her always in his sight line.

7. During the Kennedy years, he became a world traveler. He protected the First Lady on state visits to India and Pakistan and on private vacations to Italy and Greece.

8. He was with her when she went into labor. Born in August, 1963, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy became the only baby born to a sitting First Lady in the 20th century. He lived only 39 hours, a victim of hyaline membrane disease, or respiratory distress.
9. They were always "Mrs. Kennedy" and "Mr. Hill." For all that they went through together -- first the premature birth of her baby and then, 3 months later, the murder of her husband -- they never referred to one another by their first names.
10. They never discussed what happened on the trunk of the Lincoln Continental. After shots were fired during the motorcade, Clint Hill ran from the Secret Service followup car to the Presidential limo. He risked his life leaping onto the back. Mrs. Kennedy was already on the trunk. He pushed her back into the car and shielded both Kennedys with his body while they sped to the hospital. Mrs. Kennedy told both the Warren Commission and historian William Manchester that she simply didn't remember climbing out of the car. She was in shock. Clint Hill says that she retrieving part of the President's skull, which she did give to doctors at Parkland Hospital. Because of the historic Zapruder film, Clint Hill's actions during the motorcade are immortalized.
11. Mrs. Kennedy personally recommended Mr. Hill for special commendation and was there when it presented to him. For the rest of her life she assiduously avoided discussing the events of the motorcade, but made it clear by her actions that she in no way blamed Clint Hill for what happened that day. He, however, still wrestles with guilt. If only he had reached the bumper of the President's car seconds sooner ...*
12. When Jacqueline Kennedy moved out of the White House, Clint Hill went with her. He remained part of her Secret Service detail for a time in her private homes in Washington and New York. After the 1964 Presidential election, Hill returned to the White House to protect Lyndon Johnson. He retired from the Secret Service in 1975 after serving five First Families.
13. Today he is an author and lecturer. He has authored (or co-authored) six books about his remarkable career.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

 *It is important to note that Clint Hill was assigned to The First Lady. The agents assigned to protect the President on 11/22/63 were Roy Kellerman and Bill Greer. I state this not to blame them, but to clear up a common misunderstanding. Because Clint Hill acted first and acted fastest, he is in the Zapruder film and people assume protecting the President that day was his job. It was not.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

PS I no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M. C. Beaton. People liked Jessica Tartnick at first. Then they got to know her. She enraged the aristocratic landowners of Dembley by insisting her hiking group had every right to walk across their land. Lovers found that when they tired of her and wished to break up, she was very comfortable threatening scandal and exposure. So when she's found murdered in the field she was banned from hiking through, there no shortage of suspects

This is good news for our heroine, Agatha Raisin. Back from six months in London, she finds she missed country life and her neighbor/crush James more than she realized. One foolproof way to impress James was to showcase her ability as an amateur sleuth. 

I enjoy this series. Agatha is refreshingly three-dimensional, with her very human faults on display. I also like spending time with the recurring characters, like the vicar's wife, Mrs. Bloxby, and Bill Wong, the police officer who is forever begging Agatha to just leave the crime solving to him. When, at the beginning of the book, he encourages Agatha to join the hiking group because no one ever got killed walking, I had to smile. Oh yes, they will, Bill. Just wait a few pages.


2. What did you recently finish reading? An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena. Eight people check into quaint, exclusive Mitchell's Inn in the Catskills. They're counting on a weekend of tranquil luxury -- great food and wine, 5-star service, no internet or wifi but plenty of cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. 

Then a violent ice storm hits and they're trapped inside. The first death looks like an accident. But then there's a second ... and a third ... someone is picking them off and they're terrified, with no way to defend themselves and no way out.

Yes, it's a lot like Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. That classic is even in the well-stocked Mitchell's Inn library. It's also got a dash of The Fugitive and a soupcon of Gone Girl tossed into the stew. It's not high art, but it's good, scary fun. It starts slow, but stay with it. I promise you won't see the end coming.


3. What will you read next? I don't know.

She didn't remember

My old art director called me about 10 days ago to catch up. After we blabbed for a while, she told me how much her partner, Kevin, likes me and that he's eager for all of us to get together again. She specifically wanted to meet on Sunday. I thought she chose that day because it was the 19th and my birthday is the 22nd.

When I walked into the bar Sunday, I could tell they were sincerely happy to see me. I could also tell she had completely forgotten my birthday. Kevin offered to pay, but that's just because he's a guy and that's what guys do. This wasn't my birthday lunch. So I thanked him but left the tip.

Which presents me with a dilemma. Her birthday is coming up in December. I was going to invite her to lunch at one of our old work/Michigan Avenue haunts and give her this gift: a personalized compact.

I have to give it to her. It has her name on it! It's not like I can give it to someone else. Besides, it didn't cost me very much. I just know she's a very girly-girl who carries a small purse, so this seemed like a good choice for her.

So this is what I shall do: I'll mail it to her. No lunch. The meal would be the most expensive thing. I also think that if she opens it herself at home, she'll be spared embarrassment about missing my birthday. After all, the point is to celebrate her, not make her feel bad!

The illusion of order

This stock photo* is a fair representation of the card shop where I work. Your eye doesn't go to anything specific, it's just an overwhelming collection of cards and color.

The store, which is small, is filled with boxed cards and decorations. Stocking stuffers. So many rolls of paper are jammed into the bins that the cello wraps are tearing. There's even more paper in the backroom.

Into this world walked Jen. She is "second in command" to our boss, Cece. She's been at the store the longest, even longer than Cece. In her late 40s, a mom of kids under 10, she like me is an ad agency drop out, working 20 hours/week at the card shop. 

But boy, when she's there, does she ever work! I saw that ad agency ethos in everything she did. The floor needed "care," the floor needed "clean up." It needs to be done NOW because Black Friday is coming! We ad folk respond very well to deadlines. In fact, we need them.

She went into the backroom and brought out sequined reindeer antler headbands and asked me to unpackage them. "They won't sell if they aren't on the floor," she said, correctly. She was my supervisor yesterday and I respect that, so I torn cellophane off headband after headband and handed them over to her. Jen placed them in a wire basket on a table that already had mugs and pens and journals and Santa socks and oh, hell, I can't even recall what all else. 

"There!" she said proudly. She seemed to believe now they will sell. I'm not so sure. I don't think anyone will see them on that overcrowded table. 

There was a basket of ribbon behind the counter. It had been delivered over the weekend and no one knew what to do with it. I offered to start sorting the ribbon by color and putting them away, wherever Jen decided "away" was. It seemed like a useful thing to do and it would keep me near the register where I could ring customers up.

Jen quit spinning like a dervish long enough to tell me to concentrate on green. Why green and not red? I didn't ask. She was on a roll. I was to put the Evergreen ribbon in open slots on the display (there were only two open slots on the display) and the rest in the GREEN RIBBON overstock box. 

I did as told but let her know the GREEN RIBBON box's lid now wouldn't close. To Jen, this was catastrophe! She made it plain that, while she wasn't upset with me, she was still upset. How will I or anyone else find the right ribbon to refill the display from a box so overstuffed? Unless every single person in my neighborhood came in for green ribbon on Black Friday, I didn't see that as a problem. There was literally no room for another roll of green on that display.

She had me start a second GREEN RIBBON overstock box. I told her I'd begin with all the pale greens, since they aren't very Christmas-y and could go in the back without being missed. She liked that idea and I worked on that -- and ringing people up -- until my shift was over. I felt a little bad that there was still a wire basket behind the counter filled with red, blue and yellow ribbon, just not green, but I'd made Jen happy and so what the hell.

I overheard Jen telling a regular customer about her on-going kitchen renovation and how this year, she would not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving the way she'd like to. Either the kitchen counters or the floor aren't ready yet. (When you're eavesdropping, you don't always get the whole story.)

Suddenly Jen made sense! Not only is she a recovering agency rat, she is living in a remodeling zone. Her whole life is chaos right now. While she seemed like a spinning ball of frenetic tension and energy, I suspect she was soothing herself by injecting dose after dose of order to the card shop during her shift.

Objectively, I don't believe her efforts did much good. The fact of the matter is: Corporate has sent my little neighborhood store too much product for the floorspace.  

But really, what difference? Jen got to restore a little order to her crazy world and my shift goes faster when I'm busy (even if it's with busywork).

I think the best thing about this job will be learning about my new coworkers and their stories.

*Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sunday Stealing


1, People I'd like to thank and why. I'd like to thank my friends because they give me so much, all year and every year.

2. Something I rebelled against as a kid. Being told what to do. I still don't like it. I read that Frank Sinatra warned people close to him, "Don't tell me. Suggest." I get Frank.

3. What I need to accomplish before the end of the year. Nothing specific comes to mind.

4. Guilty pleasures right now. As I answer these questions, I've got reruns of the old TV show Las Vegas (2003-08) on. I don't know why I never saw this show when it aired originally, but I'm really enjoying it now and find Josh Duhamel (Danny) quite yummy.

5. Local landmarks. Good goobies! There are so many! The Bean, The Picasso, Willis/Sears Tower, (my favorite) Wrigley Field, Navy Pier, The Riverwalk ... Questions like this remind me how lucky I am to live in Chicagoland.

6. Cause or purpose I deeply believe in. Saving unwanted pets. It's tragic how willing cats and dogs are to love us and how badly we often treat them. If I had more money and room, I'd adopt more of them.

7. Things I never learned to do. Cook. Paint. Speak Spanish ... so many things!
8. Seasonal traditions I’m always excited for. Gift giving! Choosing and wrapping gifts for others, tearing paper off my own, it's so exciting.

9. Something I’d like to be mentored on. Spanish.

10. Exotic animals I wish I could keep as pets. NONE! Exotic animals should never be kept as pets. It's at best unwise and often cruel.

11. Something normal to me, that might be odd to others. My bathroom towels must match. I'm a lazy housekeeper in all areas except that.

12. The last book I quit reading and why. Leo Durocher: Baseball's Prodigal Son by Paul Dickson. I was about 15 pages in and realized I simply didn't feel like another biography just now. I still want to read it, and will likely return to it in spring.

13. Right now, I appreciate...  that I feel good. Looking back, the stress at the end of my career took a real physical toll on my health. I feel so much better right now than I did one year ago.

14. When “the holiday season” starts for me. Right after baseball ends. As soon as that World Series trophy is raised overhead, I'm ready to start seeing Santa everywhere.

15. Holiday foods and treats I love the most. Food: turkey. Treats: gingerbread.

16. “Terrible” movies that I actually like. Valley of the Dolls. I love every frame of this wretched mess. (Make no mistake: it has no redeeming value.)

17. Cooking all day for holiday dinner vs. ordering carry-out. Neither. We're meeting at a restaurant.

18. If I were trapped in a holiday movie, I’d pick... It's a Wonderful Life. It's romantic, hopeful, and filled with little truths about love, faith and the Golden Rule. It's the exact opposite of Valley of the Dolls in every way.

19. Which holiday tradition I wish lasted all year long. The good will. We tend to assume good intentions this time of year.

20. Favorite books, music, tv, movies and music this month. I don't really have a favorite Christmas book. Music? I love Andy Williams this time of year. Movies? My friend Elaine and I already have our tickets for It's a Wonderful Life on the big screen. (Rumor has it Santa will be there!) TV: I re-watch Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol while I wrap presents.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Last Train to Clarksville (1966)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) When did you most recently take a train? I took a short commuter train trip a couple towns over to get my hair cut. Taking the bus to the train and then walking from the train station to the salon took 90 minutes vs. 30 minutes by Uber. But public transportation cost $4.50 vs. $30 for the rideshare, so there's that.

2) The lyrics promise "coffee-flavored kisses and a bit of conversation." Have you more recently had coffee, a kiss, or a chat? A chat.

3) The record opens with a guitar riff inspired by The Beatles' "Day Tripper." Can you play guitar? No. I have depressingly short, fat fingers. Even texting is a trial for me because of these sausages.

4) The lead vocals are performed by Micky Dolenz. He is the only surviving member of the Monkees. Without looking it up, can you name his bandmates? Davy Jones (sigh), Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith.

5) The Monkees starred in an award-winning sitcom for two seasons. In Season 2, Micky surprised fans by appearing with a curly perm. Do you curl, straighten or color your hair? I cover the gray and add highlights.

6) Micky also did a stint at WCBS radio in New York. He spun the oldies every morning and helped his listeners get ready for work. Do you turn on the radio or TV when you first wake up? Yes. First the local TV news, then the shower radio.

7) Micky's daughter, Ami, followed her father into show business, appearing in several movies and a recurring role in General Hospital. If you followed your father into his profession, what would you have done for a living? I'd be an auto mechanic. Since I have no affinity for cars whatsoever, that would not have gone well.

8) In 1966, when this song topped the charts, miniskirts took the fashion world by storm. What have you recently added to your wardrobe? I ordered a pair of comfy black flats from Kohl's. They were an essential since I am now on my feet with my new retail job.

9) Random question -- You order chicken noodle soup and a packet of saltines arrives with the bowl. Do you: 1) break the crackers into pieces and stir them into your soup or 2) squeeze them in your hand and sprinkle the crumbles into your soup or 3) leave them untouched? 1.