Read the instructions

There are two kinds of people:  those who read the instructions and instructionsthose who don’t.  I imagine most of us belong to the latter group.     As a teacher for years, I can swear to the fact that teachers are worse about following instructions than students.  I guess we all believe we’ll figure that out.  We’re smart and creative, right?

In 1987, I went from Kentucky  to a work camp at Inman Christian Center WANG2in San Antonio during a really hot July.  We were scraping and painting  the playground equipment.  On the second day, one of the center staff asked if anyone knew how to set up a computer system.  We had Apples at home.   I used mine all the time but felt sure someone knew more than I did.   However no one did and the task meant working inside in the air conditioning so I volunteered.    This was a WANG, one of the early makes and not a bit user friendly but I set it up and trained staff.   When I called George to tell him what I was doing, he gasped and asked, “How did you do that?”  To his great surprise, I answered, “I read the instructions”

Sometimes that’s a good place to start.

coffee makerI learned that again a few  weeks ago.   I make a full pot of coffee every couple of days and stretch the length of time it lasts by adding water to the tank.    However, it does get weaker and weaker so I decided to add the already made coffee to the tank which will warm it up without thinning it.   Yes, I know the instructions say, “Use only water in the tank” but I considered that over regulation by a big business and poured my coffee in.   An hour later, I smelled something burning and searched for the cause.   Quickly I realized it smelled like burning coffee.  Oh-oh.  I poured water into the reservoir.  Issue resolved.  Coffee odor gone.  Lesson learned.

Which are you?  Do you always follow directions or do you take off on your own?

 

Editing just because I can

editA few weeks back, I asked on Facebook if anyone else edited the books they were reading as they read.   Many people commented that they did.  Some said they didn’t edit if the sentence didn’t interrupt the story.    For me, if I have to stop to figure out the meaning, I quickly edit and move on, feeling better.

There’s a sentence in a television commercial for a medication that always made George laugh, a warning for “those who take aspirin or the boots in closet2elderly.”   As he explained, the sentence contained a warning for “those who take the elderly” although it didn’t seem to bother anyone else.  What an easy fix to write, “the elderly and those who take aspirin.”

A sentence I read the other day.  ”He found a pair of boots that would fit him hanging in the closet.”  Truly, my first thought was that he could wear these boots as he hung in the closet.”  Logic took over.  Of course, the BOOTS were hanging in the closet.  The sentence wouldn’t have stopped me–the incredibly picky and easily confused reader–if written like this:  ”Hanging in the closet was a pair of boots that would fit him.”

intruder in the dustAnd over and over, run on sentence beg me–simply implore me–to edit them, to cut them up into comprehensible units.   In fact, that’s one of the reasons I cannot read Faulkner.   He had one sentence that was a page and a half long.  I could not handle it.  I rush to add that Faulkner is one of the best novelists in the country and I’m not, but I still believe he’d profit from a little editing.

Do you ever edit as you read?   Please share.  It always makes me feel better to know I’m not alone.

Hoarding for fun but little profit

blanketI just got rid of the blanket George and I shared for ten years.  It was soft and warm and lasted a long time.  What more can one ask of a blanket?   However, I noticed when I put it on the bed in October, it had what looked like many little tears in the surface.  One more winter, I thought.  Surely I can use it one more winter. because I’m too cheap to buy another.   I blogged on this a year ago so you don’t remember this confession:  I’m cheap.   Really, really cheap, extraordinarily frugal.frugality

Every time I changed the sheets, I noticed that the slits had turned into small holes.  In those places, mesh showed through.   This is a Vellux blanket in which fabric is sprayed onto mesh.    LIttle by little, the cover wears off.  I also found small pieces of soft, maroon fabric on the sheets last week.

My plan was to give the old blanket to the veterinarian hospital that takes such good care of my pets, but, when I pulled it out of the dryer this morning, I noted huge chunks of fabric inside the dryer, a mess in dog in blanket cutethe lint filter, and huge holes in the blanket.  I’m not sure even the dogs want this. I wanted to take a picture for this blog, but the old thing was shedding too much to carry it the picture taking site.

The good news:  I made it through winter without having to buy another blanket.  Who knows what may happen before next fall when I need to buy a new blanket?  I could decide to use the quilt my grandmother made or move to a warmer place or, well, who knows?

What have you kept for too long?    What can’t you part with and why not?   Do you hold onto possessions for sentimental reasons?   Because they are pretty or useful?  Are you a collector or someone who hopes they’ll be worth a lot in a few years?  Or, are you cheap like me?    I’d love to know.

Searching for a sign

nursing homeI went to visit a friend in a skilled nursing home a few days ago the first time I’d gone there  When I drove into the parking lot, I saw two buildings, identical, each with an identical  porte-cochère and entrances.   Having no idea which I needed, I parked in front of the first and went inside, into   a small, square and very nicely furnished parlor.    On the right was a dark office.  Ahead of me was a door to a garden area.  On my left was a dark corridor which ended at a dark office.

Stumped, I headed out, went to the other entrance and found a woman in the second building, a skeleton staff because I’d arrived on a Saturday.   After I explained my problem, she said, “There’s a sign on the door that says for you to ring the bell.”  When I said I hadn’t seen it, she volunteered to take me over and show me.  I discovered that to find that sign, I had to turn left at the front door and go down the dark corridor, then take a right down another corridor to reach the door.

Why hadn’t I done that?  The BIG reason is that I didn’t think I should be wandering around in a nursing facility.  the patients deserved their privacy.   A very small reason is that I have a fear of being too girl in dark basementstupid to live.  If I had wandered alone down that dark hallway, would I have ended up like the coed who explores the basement during a thunderstorm without a flash light while a really bad guy is killing people?   Explaining either of my feelings was more trouble than it was worth, so I merely thanked the woman and went into the unit–although I did suggest there needed to be a sign at the front door.

RULE #1 about signs:   They should direct clueless people to the correct door and be no further than five feet from the spot people realize they are lost and clueless.  RULE #1a:  If people know where to go only after they’ve been there once, the facility needs a sign.

RULE #2 about signs:  They should make sense

baby up in this bA neighbor has a sign on the back of her car that reads, “Baby up in this b*tch.”    From the shape and colors of the sign, I guess it means the same as the “Baby on board” signs but I really had no idea what it meant.   Isn’t the reason for “Baby on board” to alert people in case of accident that they should also look for a baby?   Isn’t it a good idea therefore, to write it in words that people understand instead of using slag that we older or less hip people  may not understand?

Have you wandered in search of a sign?   Please share.  I like to know I’m not alone.

Basketball kept my marriage together

basketballGeorge always took a week of vacation to watch the opening rounds  of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  He loved every second.  What could be better than watching basketball for hours and hours?  Even teams he did care about, if they were dancing, he watched.   All week.  Iona, Butler, Little Sisters of the Poor–he didn’t care if they were playing Florida or Louisville.  He just wanted to watch every moment.charlie tyra

For that reason and in honor of George, I’ve filled out my brackets.  I’m recording all games this week on four different channels PLUS the women’s games.   At the end of this week, he’d hope that University of Louisville would go on to the sweet sixteen because, Houston v Louisvilleas much as he loved basketball in general, he loved Louisville most.  He’d bring up Charley Tyra  (in picture on right) or Butch Beard or Wes Unseld or Junior Bridgeman and tell incredible stories of positioning and rebounding.

I heard the same stories every year.  I know them well.  Thoughts of the rebounding prowess of Tyra always reminds me that spring has arrived.

These weeks go so fast.  In no time, we’ll be down to the final four–then basketball will be over with nothing to look ahead to but college football.basketball in heaven 2

During these days, I think of George.  Ihope he’s dropped his feet over the edge of heaven so he can get a good view in Dallas or wherever any team is playing.   Eternal basketball would be part of George’s idea of heaven.     And–this makes me smile and cry at the same time–I think of George settling down with his Kindle and his chewing gun and a short rope of red licorice to cheer for his Cardinals.  He’s wearing his favorite UofL shirts, easy to find inside the pearly gates.  Then the game starts and I can almost hear him shout,   “C-A-R-D-S”.

 

Magical Thinking, Basketball, and Louisville, Kentucky

doomWe sports fans are superstitious.  I’m absolutely certain if I wear my OCTAGON OF DOOM T-shirt Kansas State will win all home basketball games.   I didn’t wear it Saturday and we lost.

My husband believed that if he held our buff cocker spaniel in a certain way, the University of Louisville Cardinals would win.  That was in 1980 when we DID win our first national championship. buff cocker Guess it did work all.

But what this is really is called “magical thinking”, the idea that if I do things exactly this way, I have control over the situation.  It’s magic!

I’m guilty of this which is why, when my sister-in-law Diane called last Wednesday  and said “I’m afraid if I don’t go to the Ash Wednesday services tonight, Uof L will lose the game,”  I believed her.  Yes, the Cards were playing SMU on Ash Wednesday and she feared God would punish her team if she didn’t go to the service.    I didn’t go to services because I don’t drive at night so this was ALL up to Diane.   She hadn’t decided yet if she’d leave as soon as she got the ash cross on her forehead–the Episcopalians have a name for that act but I belong to a far less liturgical church and don’t know what the word is–or stay for the entire service.

Neither of us believe God cares  who wins a basketball game.   We know a final score is is a petty concern in a world filled with hunger and disease,  earthquakes and tsunamis.  And, yet, maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t tempt fate.  That’s superstition not faith.

So, yes, I know God doesn’t guide a basketball through a hoop or cause a turnover.  But when SMU went up 26-12, I leaped to my feet, grabbed a phone, and called to tell her that I blamed her for the lopsided score if she hadn’t gone to the service.

Connecticut v LouisvilleShe wasn’t home.   I left a message.  As I hung up, UofL went on a run and never looked back.  We won easily.   She called me after the game was over and took credit for the win because she’d gone to the entire service   Thank you, Diane!

Do you have a superstition which guarantees your team wins?  Or at least makes you feel as if you have some control?

Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, and me

Jay LenoOn Jay Leno’s final show, he and Billy Crystal reminisced about the time before they made it big.    Jay said he’d finally gotten a slot to perform in a nationally broadcast event.  Just as he was introduced, a special bulletin came on about the a hurricane.    No one got to see his set.

Billy Crystal said his first big break came in an appearance on a “That Was young billy CHrystalthe Week that Was.”   His set was about the first commercial after the legalization of marijuana, a complete spoof because this was made many  years ago when support for such a law didn’t exist.   The night the show aired, he was watching at home and that skit never appeared.  The network had decided they didn’t want to be associated with marijuana in any way and cut the piece.

I imagine each of us had a story about how our first break never happened.  When I started writing, I wrote sweet Regencies.   My first, The Mad Herringtons, was a Golden Heart finalist so was a fairly good book.   But every publisher I submitted it to closed their Regency line about a week before I submitted.  With one, I got two letters from one publishing company.   The first offered a contract.  The second withdrew it because the line had just closed.stick to the plan

All three of us kept going and finally made it–although Jay Leno and Billy Crystal at a slightly higher level than I.   But, as Wayne Gretzky said, ”You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Do you have a story about how you kept trying or an inspirational story about someone else?  I love to hear them.

What great parents

Many years ago, during an obvious lapse in judgement which turned out to be lots of fun, I agreed to take a group of my high school Spanish students to Mexico.  We all survived.

Diego RiveraWhat I’ll never forget from that trip–made, of course, when I was much younger–was the art.   Everywhere we went were murals with obvious political statements about the government and politics and history of Mexico painted on the walls and ceilings of many public buildings.  The paintings transcended the political message in their artistry and beauty, the vibrancy of the colors, the glorious scope and vision of the muralists.   I immediately became a huge aficionada of the work of them all, but most deeply of Diego Rivera.

For that reason, I was reading about his life in Wikipedia and came upon this wonderful story.  It seems that Rivera was born one of a twin.  His brother died when he was two.  A year later, Diego began his career in art.  ”He had been caught drawing on the walls. His parents, rather than punishing him, installed chalkboards and canvas on the walls.”images

How cool is this?   Most parents would probably have punished a three year old, at least discouraged him forcefully from drawing on the wall.   Did he become a great muralist because he was allowed to draw on the walls? Or did his parents recognize his talent even when he was so young and encourage him?  Or were they just the kind of parents we wish we all had and could be?

Do you have a story about how your parents or a friend or relative encouraged you?   Or have you encouraged another person to fulfil a dream.  I’d love to hear.