What did you call me?

A few years go Grumpy spent some time in the hospital due to acute renal failure. He was unconscious for several days, and when he finally woke up he was… confused. Ultimately it was a few months before his mind was “normal” again, but in the first few days he was what you might call childlike. He said whatever popped into his head, at any time. He insulted all of the nurses with his blunt, uncensored comments. If it were possible to die of embarrassment, I wouldn’t have lasted half a day.

On about the third day, it was decided that he needed to start eating solid food. They brought him breakfast, but he refused to eat. They brought him lunch, and still he refused to eat. They tried to talk him into trying, but it didn’t take long for their priority to change from getting him to eat, to getting out of his room, so, no lunch.

At dinner time there was a new nurse on duty who hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Grumpy. I liked her immediately. She had a wonderful, cheerful attitude. Nothing he said bothered her, and when he insulted her she insulted him right back. Before long, she was insulting him first. She obviously had a special understanding that the other nurses didn’t have. And she had a beautiful Celtic accent, which of course, all Americans love.

When Grumpy’s dinner arrived our favorite nurse was there. As usual, he refused to eat. She did her best to persuade him, but he was stubborn. She continued the attack, telling him over and over, “You need noor-r-r-rishment. You can’t heal without noor-r-r-rishment”. Finally he snapped, bellowing at her, “I don’t need noooooor-r-r-r-rishment! Get away from me, you Irish witch!”.

This was far from the first insult that he had hurled at her, but this time was different. As soon as the words escaped his lip her eyes widened and she took a step back, almost gasping. She squared her shoulders, and shouted, “I’m a Scottish witch!!!”.

Oh fork!

Every summer, since my great-great-grandfather died, my father’s family has had a family reunion. Dozens of people come from around the country, sometimes from other countries, for a potluck lunch and a chance to see one another. Many of the people you meet there are strangers, a few are people you know, and some are folks that you only see once each summer.

The format is familiar: each family brings food sufficient for themselves, then all the food goes on a long table for potluck. Each family also brings their plates, utensils, napkins, drinks, and whatever else they might need. My grandmother always packed her giant picnic basket, with food sufficient for her family plus a large bear, and all of the necessary tools.

One year, after the reunion, my grandmother unpacked her picnic basket and among her Tupperware, wicker plate holders and the old, scratched stainless flatware, she found a fork that didn’t belong. She couldn’t stand the thought of someone worrying about that fork, so she immediately called everyone she knew to ask if they were missing one. No one claimed it. At last she admitted that she had no choice but to take it back to the reunion next year to reunite it with it’s owner. She didn’t want to forget, so she kept that old fork on her dresser, front and center, where she would see it every day.

When the family gathered for Christmas at my grandparents house, someone spotted the fork on the dresser and Grandma was forced to tell the story. Tipsy with eggnog and punch, everyone, including my grandmother, had a good laugh at her expense. The best joke of all was when this very proper, grey-haired little lady swore that she hadn’t stolen that sad, old fork. She took quite a bit of teasing about it that day and for the next 6 months, while the fork remained in its place of honor on her dresser.

The next summer, as planned, Grandma packed up her giant picnic basket, carefully placing the stray fork among the Tupperware, and wicker plate holders and such. They got there early, as they usually did, and as each new family arrived Grandma would ask them if they had lost a fork last year. Of course, like Christmas, it became the popular joke of the day. People were laughing, and asking one another if they had lost a fork last year. Finally, late in the day, one of the relatives looked at the fork again and said, “you know, I think this is one of my old forks”. She tossed it into her picnic basket, and the year-long quest was over, the mystery solved.

Grandma had packed her giant picnic basket for the trip home, this time without any stray utensils, and was preparing to leave. As she went around the room and said her goodbyes, my father picked up a fork from a nearby table, and quietly slipped it into her basket.

Which way do you color?

When I was 4 years old I was enrolled in nursery school at our church. I was so happy to be going to school. My sister had been to school, and she knew so much more than me. I wanted to do everything she did, and know everything that she knew. On the first day of nursery school, as Mom was dropping me off at the curb, I saw an Asian boy. My sister told me he was Chinese (he must have been, because my sister said so). My first day of school, I hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet, and already I had seen a whole new kind of person that I never saw before! School was going to be great!

Imagine my disappointment when I found out we were going to color. I wasn’t disappointed the first day, of course. I liked coloring, and now I had a whole pack of 8 fat crayons, brand new, in a box with my name on it. We also had the daily distraction of cookies and Kool-Aid to keep us from noticing, but eventually it was clear… this was a coloring class. And worse yet, the teacher was very serious about coloring. She had rules.

In fact, she had one rule. We were to color side-to-side. This was very important. So important that there was a song she taught us to sing:

When I color I go side-to-side
When I color I go side-to-side

I suspect she wrote it herself. She would walk around the room, inspecting our artwork, and woe be to the unfortunate little boy or girl who was caught coloring in any manner other than side-to-side. Not only would she announce your transgression to the class, but she would also then ask the class to sing the side-to-side song, in hopes that this mnemonic device would aid you in your coloring.

I don’t want to brag, but I was pretty good at coloring. I’d been coloring for a while by the time I got to nursery school. Not only had I already learned that using consistent crayon strokes creates a pleasing look, but I could also stay in the lines. I had even learned some advanced techniques from the older girls down the street, like how to outline an area with a dark color (press down hard) and fill in the space with a lighter shade of the same color (don’t press down so hard). And I had been coloring long enough to know that I did my best work on the diagonal. I was not going to allow this woman to control my artistic expression! I would not let her indoctrinate me with her side-to-side propaganda!

I quietly rebelled by tilting my paper and coloring diagonally.

How God saved my life

When I was about 5 years old my father painted the bedroom I shared with my sister. In the process, he discovered some crayon artwork that one of us had done on the walls. No one got in trouble for it, but he assured us that the next person who wrote on any walls would pay for it with their life. My dad was not one to make idle threats, and we all knew that graffiti was now an extremely dangerous activity in our house, and especially in our freshly painted bedroom. That probably should have been the end of it.

One day, not long after the paint dried, my father had a reason to come into our bedroom, and he spied a tiny spot on the wall, just above my bed. He moved closer to investigate, and as he got near he saw that it was, without a doubt, a word. One word, written in magic marker, on the wall he had just painted. His anger was building, but so was his curiosity, so before he set about making good on his promise to execute the next child who wrote on a wall, he moved even closer to see what the offending child had written. And there, in my childish handwriting, were three little letters: “GOD”. Try as he might, not even my father could bring himself to punish a child for writing the word God on a wall. I was saved.

Years later, when I was an adult, my father told that story at a family gathering and we all had a laugh about it. But he didn’t know the rest of the story!

I very clearly remember the day I wrote God on the wall above my bed. My older sister was telling me something she had learned in school that day. She always learned everything first, of course, and as the little sister I was fascinated whenever she brought home some new bit of knowledge to share with me. That day she taught me that some words, if you spelled them backwards, would make entirely different words. I was skeptical. She gave me an example, so I could see for myself. “Try dog”, she said.

12 Monkeys, under duress

I’m not a big fan of TV at all but Grumpy, being disabled, depends on it for entertainment and distraction. As a consequence I watch a lot of TV, none of it of my choosing. He’s a huge fan of the SyFy channel, so when they introduce a new series we usually watch it. Another feature of watching TV with Grumpy is this: he tends to fall asleep before the end. I frequently find myself watching the same shows over and over and over…

SyFy recently began their new series, 12 Monkeys, based on a movie of the same name. I’ve seen the movie many times, and now (against my will) I’ve watched every episode (so far) of the TV show many times. I feel like I’m uniquely qualified to write a review.

12 Monkeys (the series) is exactly like 12 Monkeys (the movie), but without Terry Gilliam, Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe, the amazing score, the original premise, great dialog, character development, etc., etc., etc.

When I first heard they were making the series, I wondered how they were going to do it. The movie told the whole story, and the story was cyclical. How would they be able to make a series that fits in with that universe? And the answer is: they didn’t. They kept the title, some of the names of some of the characters, a virus and time travel, and discarded everything that made the movie so amazing.

On the positive side, there’s nothing about the show interesting enough to distract me from my book.

Just bloggin’… about bloggin’

When I first started this blog, way back last month, I didn’t know what it would be. I started a blog because my friend Carolyn insisted that I do it. She thinks I’m funny on Facebook, and that I need to blog. So I guess my idea was to be funny… to share my real life experiences with a dose of humor… like I do on Facebook, but more.

I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d be sharing any traumatic childhood experiences with the world. I did that already, in a way. I had my therapeutic, cathartic outbursts, and it was helpful. I don’t think I need to do that anymore. I just want to tell funny stories. And I tried. But, like it or not, the traumatic childhood stuff worked itself right in there. I stumbled onto this truth: some people have stories that begin with, “this one time, in band camp…” and other people have stories that begin with, “my dad is a real dick…”.

And then there are the other times… when I read someone else’s story, and I feel the need, or the desire, or the obligation to share a comment or two. And I’m finding that there is a very supportive group of people here for that, and I want to be part of that support. I’m old now (do NOT try to tell me I’m not old… you will rob me of my greatest accomplishment if you do!) and I’ve lived through more stages of this thing than a lot of people have, so maybe it’s my job now to be on the support team. Or maybe I just hope that’s true, because then there would be a use for all of this experience I have.

In any case, I hope my blog isn’t just a total bummer.

Plank you… plank you very much.

A while back I read this excellent article on Lorieb’s blog explaining the many benefits to be gained by doing planks. And because I’m a copycat, I attempted a plank at the first opportunity. Wow… I made it about 5 seconds. I probably could have gone longer, but I was stunned by how hard it was, so I collapsed and spent a few minutes lying on the floor feeling like a slug. And then I realized, this is the perfect exercise for me.

I’m probably the least athletic (otherwise healthy) person I know. From time to time I make an attempt to exercise, but I always fail. Usually I fail because I bite off more than I can chew. “I’ll do an hour on the treadmill every day!”, she said. And that never works. So here’s what I decided to do: twice a day, for 60 seconds, I’ll do a plank. Two minutes a day, during which I don’t have to move at all. Surely even I can keep up with THAT exercise plan.

So I set an alarm on my phone to remind me, twice a day, to do my plank. My phone is responsible for nagging me about things I need to do, so I’m already in the habit of obeying when it gives me orders. Day one…did my two planks, no problem. It was really hard, but I made it. Oh, did I mention I’m doing the very easiest of all the planks? I call them remedial planks. Day two… whoa! Day two is much harder! I guess two minutes a day can do something, after all.

I’ve been at this for a couple of weeks now, and most of it has been uneventful. I’ve found that I can successfully maintain my plank while laughing (because the dog likes to throw tennis balls at me while I’m on the floor), spitting and cussing (because the cat dared to walk under my face), and yelling (“hon, can you do me a favor?!”  “just a minute!”  “are you made at me?!”  “no!”  “you sound mad”). And a few days ago I found that the remedial planks were getting a little bit easy, so I started doing part of each plank at the next level up. As long as my phone keeps telling me to, I’ll keep this up. You should give it a try.