Monday, March 23, 2015

My Address Book


I need a new address book (the inside front cover says November 2004), but I wonder if it would be disrespectful to replace this one with a new one.
Names, phone numbers (from those who still own landlines), and addresses with zip codes would be lost.  Some folks still accept letters and thank you’s and invitations, and I do not trust listing everything on my smart phone.  One accident and everything would be erased. I would not feel too smart.   
Where would I keep the thousand (it seems like a thousand) of user names and their updated passwords and the security questions (where I lied about favorite vacations spots, first pets, and maiden name that do not exist, at least not in this lifetime)?
Sure section “G-H” needs additional pages (maybe I will make note to use “X-Y-Z” since I only have two or three entries in that section). All those scratched out entries document the many travels and the many places my children (whose last name starts with H) and HoneyBunch’s sons (whose last name starts with G) have lived. Arrows point east to west, north to south, just like their lives have done until recently.
Other entries are scratched out because businesses no longer exist, doctors closed their practices, and dear ones have departed this life. My Dad and all of his siblings and their spouses are gone.  Too many of my dear friends are widows now but I have kept their husbands’ names tucked next to theirs. Time has pared down friendships and only the true blue are left.  Newer entries take their place: doctors specializing in all the major organs of my body, hotline numbers to Medicare and Aetna and AARP, and a growing list of birthdates and clothing sizes for grandchildren.
Some entries are embarrassing confessionals.  I have joined Weight Watchers Online six times in the last eleven years and Defensive Driving twice.  Some are sad reminders of the past.  I have my old online info for Borders and Kobo, and for several online military supply stores (the three times my son was deployed, our government did not purchase all of his necessary equipment, so I did). Some are reminders of another life – the name and phone number of my divorce lawyer, the code for the alarm system from my old home, and the names of my kids’ best friends and their parents’ phone numbers when they were teenagers in case they didn’t come home in time for curfew (probably none of these are current).
Should I buy a replacement address book (do they still make them?)?  Would it be callous of me to forget the past? Would it be disrespectful of me not to keep my Dad’s name as a reminder that he lived and that I loved him with all my heart under the “M-N” section?
What if I need the history list of my eleven passwords for my Gmail one day?   

Monday, March 16, 2015

Crossword Junkie


Jon Stewart proposed to his wife via a crossword puzzle.  Merv Griffin made millions off his TV shows based on crosswords (Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune). Those employed by the NSA are tested for their ability to decipher a word puzzle.  Even the Queen of England cannot go a day without her daily crosswords.
Me?
I have been addicted since elementary school when the nuns handed out our Weekly Reader on late Friday afternoons and I would zoom to the last page to tackle the puzzle on the “Fun Page.”
My career as an educator for 37 years limited my free time.  I was too busy making lessons and multiple-choice tests, assigning projects and grading essays, and writing tomes and tomes of curriculum guides.  My free time was filled with family and conferences or workshops that taught me how to perfect my classroom teaching.  Walls of to-be-read books piled around me, and crossword puzzles were limited to an occasional foray.  I was lucky to get around to it once a month.
I renewed that love affair once I retired, especially the two separate years I babysat two different infant grandsons.  Both boys were little angels so as they napped, learned to crawl and walk, Grandma filled in one crossword puzzle after another.  After years of keeping abreast of bright and demanding secondary students and years of constant study, I needed the stimulation.  My brain was hungry for more than the vocabulary of a one-year-old child.
I keep several crossword puzzle books by my bedside.  They vary in difficulty.  I am also addicted to the two puzzles that come in the daily newspaper.  (I have noticed that the puzzles in my paper increase in difficulty as the week progresses.  Monday’s is the easiest; Sunday is the most difficult. )
According to studies on the aging brain, besides diet and physical exercise, doing mental exercise is also encouraged, and that includes reading, learning a new language, and enjoying mathematical or word puzzles.
Good to know. 

It gives me an excuse to feed my obsession. I have gotten better and better at them, especially the more difficult ones.  I hate those that are so snooty and use only the most elite of clues, like a word in Urdu or an obscure cabinet member under Reagan or an abbreviation that is not a true abbreviation (they shorten the word wherever they want to fit the grid). I either throw the puzzle away or “cheat” and use the Internet.  I figure that is what the NSA does anyway.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

How to Give The Best Pity Party in Five Easy Steps


1.    Invite yourself to the Pity Party.  You are not only The Guest of Honor but also The Hostess.
2.    Prepare the house.  Don’t vacuum. Don’t dust.  Don’t clean the bathroom or the kitchen.  A Pitiful House sets the tone for an excellent Pity Party.
3.    Prepare the food.  Keeping with the mood, set out a mournful menu: the box of dried up raisins leftover from Christmas baking that have formed a block (no need to rehydrate them; just tear open the box and lay it on the table), a sleeve of saltine crackers, and a pitcher of iced tea without the ice.
Hey, it’s your Pity Party.  If they wanted food, they should have thought about you first and brought you some.
4.    For entertainment, drag out the microphone that came with the stereo or the Karaoke machine. If you don’t have one, make one out of a toilet paper or paper towel cardboard tube.  Monopolize the conversation with your speech of woes and moans.  Drone on and on about how your life sucks until your guests start easing out the door, one by one. 
There will be some diehards, family and friends, who will try to intervene.  They will form groups, some a cleanup crew, another to run out and bring back healthy food for your empty refrigerator, but the most annoying will be the cheerleaders, full of wisdom and advice.
5.    Get nasty.  Threaten to spill secrets they shared with you that you pinky swore never to reveal. Believe me that will empty the room quickly. They can see you are about to blow. You won’t have to say another word.

Once alone, assess the success of your Pity Party.  You should be proud.  You have now given the Best Pity Party ever! When you set your mind to do something, you let nothing stand in your way.  You should turn that enormous talent into a positive.  The next time you feel like giving yourself a pity party, put all that energy into overcoming the obstacles in your way.

Turn your “woe is me” anthem into “go is me.” You will be awesome!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rest in Peace


I have few regrets about divorcing my ex fourteen years ago.  One that weighs the heaviest was separating myself from his family out of necessity, especially the ones who were kind and gracious to me throughout the thirty years of that relationship.
I lost a brother-in-law last week.  He was a half brother to my ex, one of two sons from my father-in-law’s first marriage. They were so young when their parents divorced that when their mother married again her second husband adopted the two boys and gave them his last name. When they were of age to travel alone, they made the trek from Arizona to San Antonio, Texas to meet their paternal grandmother and their father’s second family.  Their dad had passed away several years before but they wanted to have a relationship with their half siblings.
I saw Bud (the loving name everyone called him) and his family a total of four times during my marriage to my ex. Twice they came to SA and the family gathered at my mother-in-law’s home or at our house. The other two times we traveled to their small hometown in Arizona, on the border between them and New Mexico.
Their two oldest were daughters followed by two sons.  The oldest of the boys had Muscular Dystrophy and by the time I met him he was confined to a wheelchair. He was as kind and as unassuming as his parents and was chosen MD Poster Child one year by Jerry Lewis. As the two girls graduated from high school, they dedicated one year of their lives before going on to college to help care for their little brother. It devastated us all when he passed on to glory.
On one trip to Arizona, we went and stayed with Bud and his wife for a week, and he planned day trips for us each day because he knew I loved history and “was a teacher.” Since he was retired because of his health, he was available to show us the sights.  We saved some of them for the weekend when his dear wife could join us.
He showed us the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater.  We went to Tombstone one weekend and made a tour of several other “real” ghost towns in the area.  We treated ourselves to sarsaparillas and visited the “fake” graves of the good and the bad guys of Tombstone. We went to see the Chiricahua National Monument and tried to make out the “crying Geronimo” on top of one mountain.  He even joked with us that if we wanted we could drive through the nearby nudist colony, the famous Sangri-la.  The second most amazing sight (besides the Grand Canyon) was driving by (in front of – yikes!) Hoover Dam. That may be where I developed my fear of heights. Somewhere in my boxes of junk are scrapbooks with pictures of that visit.
The last time I saw Bud and his precious family was in September of 1999.  We stopped and spent the night on our way back from San Diego.  We were bringing our youngest home from Marine book camp.
My marriage was holding on by a fine thread and it was obvious to anyone with an empathetic heart. He hugged me goodbye and told me he would pray for me.  He said it was obvious that my husband had turned out as ornery as their father. I hugged him back, knowing that I might never see him and his family again.

Over the years I have thought of him and his dear wife, their amazing daughters, and their kindness toward me. Rest in peace, dear brother, I never forgot you. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Blog?


For the last four years, I have blogged once a week, every Monday at 6 am.
Why?
1.    Discipline.  It started as an exercise, forcing me to come up with a topic, forcing me to write it with economy, and forcing me to break out of my introverted shell. Once I promised a weekly blog, I had to keep my word for those who have come to expect my Monday ramblings.
2.    To test my voice.  I love to write.  It is what I do.  Writing is my “creative thing,” my dance, my song, my form of expression, so I write to test and practice my voice.
3.    To create an interest in my writing.  I blog to communicate with others, to chat, laugh, and comfort those who look forward to my weekly blogs. I sometimes write about the craft of writing.  Sometimes I journal, sharing memories or beliefs in hopes that they resonate the same in the reader’s thoughts. 
Sometimes I just want to offer comfort or a good laugh. It is what I do.