What do I miss about the North?

imagesI grew up in Kansas City, MO, home of absolutely terrible weather:  frigid winters, several feet of snow, lots of ice.  On the other hand, we had long, hot summers.  The grass turned brown in the heat by mid-June and the breeze felt as if it came from an enormous hair dryer set to scorch.  I always thought there had to be a place that had either nice summers or moderate winters.  In 1987, we moved to Savannah, GA, and found weather heaven.  Oh, the summer was terrible and humid but I loved living in a place where kids rode their bikes in shorts on Christmas day.

What do I miss about living in the South?  When I was a child walking home from imagesschoolafter a long winter of cold and snow, in March I could see the crocus pushing themselves up through the snow.  I loved those first signs of spring: daffodils and robins and the brilliance of narcissus.  The sight of a gentle cloud of light green hovering about the limbs of trees which signaled they would soon be blossoming–well, the beauty made me smile and tear up.

imagesLiving in the South, I miss spring. I miss the relief of coming to the end of snow and ice and seeing the earth wake up before me, gentle and sweet and fecund.  I miss the soft colors and the bright ones, the tulips at Churchill Down, the red buds and dogwood trees, and the magnolias.  In Savannah, the bursting color of azaleas almost made up for not seeing those lovely northern plants–almost.  And in the Hill Country of Texas, we have wild flowers in the spring, miles and miles of blue bonnets with sprinkles of Indian blanket.  Gorgeous.  But it’s only this–azaleas or wild flowers but not the variety of beauty in spring in the north.

What else do I miss about living up north?  When I was a child, my father, an unwavering imagesfan of athletics at the University of Kansas, drove us to every home football game in Lawrence.  I remember the beauty of autumn leaves back then, the reds shimmered in the sun and the hues of yellow spread from light to golden.  Never have I seen trees so beautiful and I miss them.  In Texas, people will point out what they call a pretty tree, the leaves of which have changed from green to a deep, rusty red, nearly brown.  Oh, yes, I miss the changing of leaves in the autumn.

What don’t I miss about living in the South?  Snow.

 

 

Buchanan Dam, TX

imagesI grew up in Kansas City, Missouri–yes, Missouri.  The major part of Kansas City is not in Kansas.  Kansas wasn’t a state when Kansas City was founded in what was the state of  Missouri. The town was named for the Kansas River.

But, enough of that geography lesson.  Back when I grew up, neighborhoods were friendly and people lived in their homes forever. We knew each other and helped each other.   The older I got, the less this was true.  We moved so often and seldom knew our neighbors–until we moved to Buchanan Dam, Texas, into a small subdivision with five houses.

imagesBuchanan–pronounced in Texan, BUCK-a-nan–Dam was a lovely place to live.  There was an eagles’ nest a few miles west.  We had deer who ate my tomatoes which meant I didn’t have to garden–I don’t do that well. We had wild flowers, wonderful views, cool breezes, and great Mexican food down the road, close to Fuzzy’s Corner.  images

But the best part was that we had great neighbors.   Suzanne was a nurse who looked after out health.  One night when George thought he’d had a heart attack–he hadn’t–there was Suzanne, waiting by the ambulance to see what she could do.  Down the hill were two boys who kept us in groceries with the chickens and vegetables they raised for 4-H. May and Al lived behind us and kept an eye on the place.

And then there was Bob, a handy man who watched out for all of us.  This was sometimes a problem.  Once a floor lamp broke so I put it down in the trash.  A few days later, Bob made the long trek up our driveway and knocked.  When I opened the door, he handed me the lamp which he’d repaired.  What a great guy.  The only problem was that the lamp still didn’t work. I didn’t want to put it in the trash again because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  Actually, my main worry was that Bob would fix it again, bring it back and this would become a never ending loop.  My solution was to put it in the back of my car and smuggle it into Burnet where a friend disposed of it for me.images

Do you have stories about your neighbors?  I’d love to hear them.

 

The sleeping sickness

frustrated-woman-clipartI tried to blog this week and last–although last week’s efforts were doomed by a non-functioning brain. I have pneumonia.

This week’s efforts have been doomed by sleep.  Every time I sit down–to watch television, to write, to eat–I fall  asleep.  I feel okay.  For example, I’m not coughing until parts of my respiratory system feel as if they’ve been attacked by sandpaper and I can breathe, always good.

But every ounce of creativity has fallen asleep as well.  In addition, my fingers can no longer find the correct home keys which means you’d need to be a cryptologist to read what I write..

Hope to be back next week.

 

Laughter is the best medicine

A friend asked me a while back what I did to ease depression.  I said, “I watch The Big Bangimages Theory.”  She thought I was being flippant.  I wasn’t.  During some of the recent hardest times of my life, I’ve taped and watched three or four a day, sometimes all at once.  Sometimes spread out over twelve hours.  I always feel better after a good laugh after Soft Kittie or Knock, knock, knock, Penny . . . “.  And yes, I know this is almost the same as my first paragraph last week, but I really love this show.

imagesFrom an article from the Mayo Clinic:  “A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data are mounting about the positive things laughter can do.”

For example:

1.  Laughter can induce physical changes.  In increased the intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates heart and muscles, and increases the level of endorphins released by your brain.  It cools down your stress response, soothes tension and aids muscle relaxation.

2.  Over the long run, laughter may improve your immune system, relieve pain, make it easier for you to cope with tough times and improved you mood.

So today I decided to make some suggestions–as well as watching funny programs and movies–about how to feel better through the free and always available use of medicinal laughter.

1.  Listen to upbeat music.  I can’t listen to Pharrel Williams’ Happy without at least smiling and clapping.  Dancing would really get the blood flowing.

2.  I also watch a recording of the 2013 NCAA basketball championship won by my team, the University of Louisville.champs_0_standard-2-600x400

3.   Okay, this is really weird but it worked.  I bought a Tickle-me-Elmo because hearing him laugh makes me laugh.  Watching the cats trying to figure out where that sound is coming from is also amusing.DSCN0460

4.  I’ve learned not to watch depressing movies or read literature in which everyone dies at the end.  I know these will be depressing.  Instead, when I’m feeling greatly stressed, I read the wonderful books by James Herriot, gently and humorous or something by Kristin Higgins or Georgette Heyer or Katie Graykowski.

5.  Pet a cat, walk a dog, chat with a bird.

These thoughts are unique to me but I’ve learned they help me. I don’t dismiss the importance of counseling and medication, of faith and friendship nor do I think this will heal depression.  However, I truly believe laughter can help greatly.

What would you recommend to a friend whose feeling depressed?  Does laughter help you?

More lines I”ll never forget

I love to laugh.  I have two cats who do funny stuff,  a Tickle-Me Elmo and a deep love and imagesappreciation of The Big Bang Theory.   What I enjoy most about a good line, a well-written sentence, is that when repeated or thought about, the wording can make me laugh even completely out of context.  All someone has to say is, “Penny, . . . knock, knock, knock,” or sing “Soft kitty, warm kitty. . .” and I smile.

Here’s one of my favorites from The Amazing Race.   When we lived in Louisville, George and I used to watch this every Derby Day leading up to the Derby because, it was, about a race.  The cast was Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, and the marvelous Jack Lemon as Professor Fate.  The characters are racing around the world in an effort to win the race.  The evil Professor Fate attempts to destroy all the other teams.  In one case, he chases The Great Leslie across Europe and believes Leslie has been imprisoned in a castle.  When he finds out that Leslie has escaped with a priest, he has the following conversation with a military leader at the castle:

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Professor Fate:  Leslie escaped?

General Kuhster: Yes, with a small friar.

Professor Fate:  Leslie escaped with a chicken?

Why does that make me laugh?  Why, after all these years, do I grin when I think of that?  Here are some guesses:    1)  I love a play on words    2)  It was in character   3)  I don’t know.  LaughterIt just amuses me still.

Do you have any lines you remember with a smile or that produce a guffaw?  I’d love to know. I’d like to laugh along with you.  And, remember laughing is good for you and contains no calories!

 

 

 

 

 

 

..They have tsetse flies down there the size of eagles. Really.

In the evening, I would stand in front of my hut and watch in horror as these giant flies would pick children off the ground and carry them away.

They shot my belly out.

Professor Fate: Leslie escaped?

General: With a small friar.

Professor Fate: Leslie escaped with a chicken?

Is there a support group for those of us not ready for technology?

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My DVR was really pushy.  It controlled my life.  On its own, the DVR decided what shows it would allow me to watch.  On Wednesday evenings, I have both Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU set to tape at eight o’clock CST.   However, once college basketball season started, there were often games that evening.  I have a first world problem: I can tape only two shows at the same time.  For that reason, I had to decide that I wouldn’t tape Criminal Minds so I could tape basketball.imagesThe DVR disagreed.  As soon as I set the timer, the DVR would change it so I was taping  Criminal Minds and SVU was put on the conflict list.  Every time.  Often fifteen times a week.  FInally, I had to wait until eight, delete  Criminal Minds, and record SVU.  

Last night, the DVR said, “Not so fast, lady,”  Yes, being a very polite unit, it always calls me “lady”.  It took me seven minutes to stop  Criminal Minds and start recording SVU

And it seems that my particular box has a time limit:  I can only keep programs for forty-eight hours or they will be erased–unless I do a six punch process to save the program until I can watch it.  For that reason, when I taped something Friday evening and planned to watch it Monday, it would be gone when I was ready.  In fact, between Friday evening and Monday morning, the DVR usually deleted fifty percent of the programs I wanted to save to view on later.  Perhaps the DVR felt as if it were helping me, telling me I should be writing, not watching televisionimages

Other than the efforts of the DVR, there were other problems with the machine. Dana–the woman I talked to–told me to go to the the business office and pick up a new box.  I did.  It took me ninety minutes, but I got a new DVR and rushed home to hook it up.  Took fifteen minutes for it to download everything and get itself ready.

And the first thing I saw was a black screen.  Printed on it was this message:  Your recorder state-board-of-regents-roles-responsibilities-1-638has not be cleared for use.  Please call the cable company at 800 xxx-xxxx.  Found the phone and dialed.  I reached the State of Utah DIvision of Higher Education.  Twice.  I was not happy.  Yes, the Utah Department of Higher Education.

Well, all in all, I got it fixed, have tried to remember the programs I watch and have set them.  Was it worth the time and energy?  Yes, I must confess, I’m addicted to television and do love my DVR, unless it overrides my choices.

Do you have a story about technology fails?

You can’t always be what you want–but that’s okay

To paraphrase a Stones’ favorite, you can’t always be what you want.  I’m sorry but the imagesidea that one can be anything one wants if one just tries hard enough is just no true or realistic.  Perhaps we need to rethink this.

I love figure skating.  I watched the nationals all last weekend.  One of the skaters said, “Everyone should figure skate,” and that reminded me why I don’t.  Why, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never, ever be a figure skaters.

imagesA friend and I took lessons when we were young, back when Kansas City still had an ice rink.  My friend did very well, being promoted week after week to higher level classes, learning to twirl and do elementary jumps.  Meanwhile, I didn’t.  I continued to slog around the ice and I couldn’t figure out why I was stuck in the beginners class.  I followed directions.  I did everything the instructor said.  I worked hard in the hope of being able to fly over the ice in a graceful position but never looked like the picture on the left.

Many years later, I discovered my problem, why I was doomed to remain forever in the beginners class:  I have terrible joints.  My ankles were so weak I couldn’t straighten them.  They bent inward which made me more of an on-your-ankles skater instead than a figure skater.  Actually, I skated both on my ankles and on the edges of the blades, lumbering along, trying so hard to do better and never succeeding.  No, never.

And this is why I know that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater. Not even with the best coach in the world, I won’t.

There are people who tell children, “You can be whatever you want to be if you try hard enough.”  Well, no, they can’t and it’s mean to tell anyone such a completely ridiculous and untrue statement.  No mater how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater unless the federation puts in a new category to fit my style of skating.  And I’ll never represent my country in any sport in an international athletic  competition.  Those of you who know me recognize the truth in those words.

Some other realities: 1) No matter how hard she tried, a woman hasn’t been able to imagesbecome president. Shirley Chisholm can attest to that.

2) Until 2008, no matter how hard a black man tried, he couldn’t be elected president either.

3)  No matter how hard I try, I will never be abble to tell the difference between the word “shutter” and “shudder” without checking the dictionary.  Nor can I tell the difference b and a  d  when I’m spelling even though all my teachers told me if I tried hard, I could do that.  I am dyslexic.  Some things are mentally impossible for me.

My point is that people do not succeed in every effort and need to know that’s not the endimagesof the world. Kids, especially, need to understand this.  I awakened to this new truth many years ago after reading a magazine article.  The thesis of the article was that a spider could not make a lemon meringue pie no matter how hard that spider tried.

I am not espousing the opposite point of view that no matter how much you try, you’re going to fail. That’s really depressing.

Could we come to a middle point?  Perhaps “If you want something, work hard because you’re not going to get it if you don’t try but you many not succeed and that’s okay.”  Long and unwieldy, I know.  Maybe you could help me phrase this in a jazzier, more interesting way.

imagesAnd maybe we can stop filling children’s heads with the thought a thin boy’s going to be a heavy-weight boxer if he tries hard enough or a girl will play center for the Louisville Cardinal’s men’s basketball team.  There are other goals, good goals.  Any thoughts on this?  I’d love to hear them.

Lines I’ll never forget

imagesDo you have a favorite line or two from a movie?  I bet you do.  I’m going to share two of my favorites, then I’ld love for you to share yours.  One more thing: my favorites always make me laugh.  Do yours?

One of the problems with sharing these, of course, is that   1)  everyone won’t enjoy my favorites and 2) quoting lines from a movie the other person hasn’t seen usually goes to prove that “you had to be there”.  Nonetheless, I’m going to do that.

From The Blues Brothers:   Everyone loves and quotes on line, “We’re on a mission from imagesGod”, but my favorite is when Jake and Elwood are sitting in their car and Elwood–in a neutral voice–says, “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses. ”  Describes the situation perfectly but why does that line make me laugh?  The absurdity of the situation?  The deadpan delivery?  The sunglasses?  Probably all of them but, like so much humor, you had to be there.

imagesIf you’ve read my book Taking a Chance, you know I love the movie The In-laws.  If you haven’t read Taking a Chance, I’m telling you now that I love this movie–the first one, the classic with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.  One of the many sections that always make me laugh is when Falk, a CIA agent, describes a village in South America:   “They have tsetse flies down there the size of eagles. Really. In the evening, I would stand in front of my hut and watch in horror as these giant flies would pick children off the ground and carry them away.”  I know why that’s funny.  It’s absurd and it also created a really absurd picture in my mind.

Also from that movie, George would turn to me every now and then and say, “Serpentine.” Always made me laugh.

What are some of your favorite lines, scenes, etc., from a movie, book or television show?  Share the laughter.   images

 

 

 

 

 

Arachnophobia

“What’s the big deal? It’s just a spider.”

 

“They shot my belly out”

 

 

 

..They have tsetse flies down there the size of eagles. Really.

In the evening, I would stand in front of my hut and watch in horror as these giant flies would pick children off the ground and carry them away.

They shot my belly out.

Professor Fate: Leslie escaped?

General: With a small friar.

Professor Fate: Leslie escaped with a chicken?

tsetse flies  the size of eagles.

A house is not a home without a resident nag

Maggie, the little girl cat, looks sweet and loving, and she is.  However, there is a dark side to her personality.  She’s a nag, a terrible nag. Fourteen pounds of fur and she controls my life.

When she wants me to sit down and pet her, DSCN0438she tells me–loudly and insistently no matter what else I may be doing–my duty is to leap to my feet and obey. When her water bowl is nearly empty, she searches me out–not hard in my small apartment–and gives me a hard time, screeching at me until I follow her.  Then she wants me to pour the water from above so she can lick a few drops as it goes by.

Yes, Maggie knows exactly what she wants done and how I should do it.  I must be a great burden and disappointment to her.  I hate hearing her ME-OWW!  because I know somehow I’ve failed terribly.  Listed below are some of the things I say to her when she demands I do what she wants me to do.

MAGGIE:  Mee-ooowimages

JANE:  Hold your horses. I have to answer the phone.

or “Just a minute. I have to check my blood sugar.”

or “I’ll be right there. Let me finish typing this word.”

or  “Hold on, I have to scoop the cat box.”

or  “Keep your furry little pants on, I’m eating now.”  or “I’m sleeping now.” or “I’m pottying now.”

images“Be patient.  I have to call a friend. . . Okay, I’ll feed you first.”

“In a minute. I have to load the dishwasher.”

Or get a glass of water or clean up the kitty vomit (usually from Scooter, Maggie’s big, furry brother) . . . or . . . so many things.

What Maggie says after I explain the delay:   ME-OWW.

Who nags you? I’d love to hear.

 

Beating the Holiday Blues by Diane Perrine Coon

Today my marvelous sister-in-law, Diane Perrine Coon, shares remedies for Holiday Blues.

imagesWhen you’re sick over the holidays and still trying to cook meals and your head’s all stuffed up and you really don’t plan to make it to midnight and celebrate the New Year because all you are doing is coughing up mucus, then you have the Holiday Blues.

Here are my suggestions of how to ward off the Holiday Blues.

  1. Share your misery with the first person on your phone callback button, especially if they are trying to sell you something.
  2. Wander in and out of the bathroom looking for something, anything, everything because you can’t remember what it was you thought you needed.images
  3. Watch college basketball and if it gets too much, watch NBA basketball. Do not watch football, there are too many players on the field and you will get mixed up.
  4. Wrap up in a sweater, a coverlet, and a quilt over the top off all and then wonder why you feel hot when you don’t have a fever.
  5. Drink fluids – soft drinks, tea, coffee, ice water, fruit juices – and stay real close to the bathroom.
  6. imagesMake the dog go outside by himself. If the dog police come get you, hand them the leash.
  7. Read lots of recipes. Think how long it will take to prepare them, and then discard all of them. But the bright photos showing fabulous meals will brighten up the room.
  8. Play computer games, many of them. Mindless almost fun even when sneezing all over the keyboard.
  9. Send your soul-mate to the liquor store to get Plum Wine. It cures everything and especially the Holiday Blues. Guarantee it.images
  10. Think back to the last time you had a great holiday. Was that twenty years ago?

Get well all of you out there with Holiday Blues.