Category Archives: daily life

Art and Eyesight

I live in an Impressionist painting. Lines and colors blur. I see no sharp edges. More Pointillism than clearly defined points.

Strings of Christmas lights increase in diameter ten-fold in a diffused fashion. Streetlights and headlights sparkle and spread. Candles are better, bright lights hurt.

I see spots before my eyes! And squiggly lines dart about. I see something in my peripheral vision. No, it’s all in my head.

Faces are a mystery if they are too far away. Far away is only a few feet. Others must think I’m a snob when I can’t read their facial expression from a short distance. My eyes just fail to read a smile, a frown, a grimace. Sorry, I’m blind to your emotions.

That’s my world without eyeglasses. Thick and heavy ones for the hopelessly myopic. This is my artistic vision. I can’t see the scientific narrative.



A Life Cluttered With Friends

Second-Hand Stories
What’s the best story someone else has recently told you (in person, preferably)? Share it with us, and feel free to embellish — that’s how good stories become great, after all.

My friend Kate’s sister-in law, Margie, has debilitating arthritis and she and her husband, Tom, decided to sell their two-story home for a smaller, one-story one which will make it easier for them to get around.

I already knew this. What I didn’t know about Margie is that she loves gay guys. She has many gay friends and, by chance, her old house was bought by a gay couple.

Now Kate and Ben are rather traditional. Married over 40 years with two children, one boy, one girl. (Or maybe that’s the oddity these days, so many divorces, etc.) One time they went on vacation to South Dakota to find out they were smack dab in the middle of Sturgis bike week. They didn’t have a clue about this massive gathering. With their two young kids, they took off on their summer vacation and landed in this alcohol-infused, wild party. For months, I had fun calling Kate motorcycle mama. So I wondered, how do they feel about Margie and her friends?

Margie likes the gay couple that bought her house. They take turns with dinner parties, she visits them at her old house (now their new house), and goes out with these guys. New additions to her rather vast friendships within the gay community.

Kate said her brother seems to be a little jealous of Mary’s friendships with gay guys. I think that is only conjecture. Mary is quite happy with Tom and friends are friends.

I think gay guys like Mary because she is fun. I like her too. For one thing, she is never boring, great to talk to. I remember the time she spilled a beer on her foot at a party. She just owned it, make a joke of it, and kept on partying. Don’t cry over spilled beer.

She also collects antiques, tons of them. Things like a dress form outfitted in an old Wayne State University football uniform (moth-eaten of course) standing near her front doorway. She moved a lot of her collected treasures to her new house even though she is willing to sell them. She thought an antique yard sale in her new house would help her meet her new neighbors. I don’t know what her new neighbors thought of her varied and crazy collections. I hate clutter, but she has a collector-bug charm.

More than anything, she is happy and upbeat despite her health problems. She’s positive and accepting, an example of what we should all strive for. As for Kate and Ben, they shrug their shoulders and accept their modern family and friends.

Winter Rant

Piles of snow sit five or ten feet high in parking lots around town. Three feet of snow surrounds my mailbox. I don’t own boots high enough to cover my legs from the two feet of snow sitting on my grass. I wake up to temperatures of 3 degrees and it warms up to 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yet the goldfinches are showing bits of yellow through their feathers. The sun has been shining nearly everyday. The sky is more often than not a beautiful shade of blue rather than gray.

I remember a dismal winter in the mid-1970s that dropped many feet of snow on the ground with not one day of thaw and not one day of sun. Old ice piled on top of new ice until a walk across a bridge became a treacherous affair. Soon the protective railing between the sidewalk and the water below the bridge offered no security. One slip and tumble could drop you into the frozen water. Dodging the street traffic was safer than walking the ice.

So I’m optimistic about this winter. I’m enjoying the snow today because I will yearn for it on those extreme hot and humid summer days. I’ve sighted robins in my yard in mid-December and I’ve seen them in early February. The robins winter in Florida less time than some snowbirds in my neighborhood. I’ll stay here.

Disparate Housewives

After my mother died, I rescued her 9 by 7 inch three-ring binder cookbook from her home. Flipping through the pages sent me traveling back in time. I remember the food cooked from the old handwritten pages. Also the recipes she clipped from newspapers and food labels. One of her few pleasures in life was cooking; by rescuing this book I have a positive connection to her.

I also found some odd little household hint clippings in one envelope in the binder. These clippings are brittle and yellow with age.

Household Hints from the Past

This one I certainly wouldn’t share with any of my guests:
If your’re not completely certain about the freshness of cream, beat in a pinch of baking soda. The cream won’t curdle, even when you add it to hot coffee.

Maybe this one was penned by a lawyer and a precursor to the overly obvious warning labels on products today:
Always oil your sewing machine according to the directions in the booklet that came with it and not as you think it should be done.

Due to my lack of artistic ability and fear of injury, probably not this one:
If you’re at all creative you can fashion your own cookie cutters, thereby having designs meaningful to your family. Remove the serrated metal strip from wax paper cartons and bend it into the shape of your choice.

wax paper

wax paper (Photo credit: eraine)

Does anyone own and polish silverware anymore? If you do, here’s a tip:
Once you have the silver polished for the holidays, help it stay bright by placing a stick of white chalk in your silverware chest. It will help retard tarnish.

Now for some uninspiring beauty advice:
Here’s a great exercise to reduce your waist measurement. Place your hands on your shoulders. Bend your knees slightly. Keeping your hips facing forward, twist your upper torso as far as you can to the right and then to the left. Repeat until tired or bored.

This doesn’t sound too easy nor effective:
Use your long-handled sponge floor mop to clean the kitchen ceiling easily and effectively.

Hey this idea may be useful or at least fun to watch:
Q: How can I determine if baking powder is still active?
A: Mix 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/2 cup water. If mixture bubbles enthusiastically, it’s still good.


Reaction (Photo credit: Hoppo Bumpo (Liesl))

I don’t know how well these vintage household hints translate to the year 2012. Maybe I also rescued a bit of my mother’s sense of humor as well.

Shades of Grey

My good friend has thick, curly, salt and pepper hair that reaches past her shoulders. I’ve known her about 35 years. Or I should say I met her 35 years ago. Some years I never spoke or wrote to her. Her birthday just passed by last month and I just remembered. Not even a greeting card from me. So maybe she is not my good friend after all. But I hate to think that way.

We met at work and I saw her every day, five days a week, until she decided to pursue a master’s degree in literature. She left and lived in Indiana, Puerto Rico, Iowa, and Indiana again. She taught in China. She traveled multiple times to Europe. I stayed home and never wandered too far. I like to think she is Melville to my Dickinson. But that is only when my ego and sanity run amuck.

We lost touch and found it again a few times over the years. Out of all my friends, and there aren’t that many, I want to consider her my dearest. It’s not what it is, but what I desire. I feel we could have known each other better than anyone else could have. I’m not easy to get close to and I’ve pushed away a fair share of people.

I remember a girl I met in my freshman year at college. She went out of her way to talk to me and one day said she hoped to hang out with me. I said I was busy with a boyfriend, school, and work. I saw some pain and bitterness in her face as if she had been on the receiving end of rejection before. I didn’t see the worth of what she was offering me. I relive that moment with regret at the friendship unexplored.

My good friend had thick, curly, dark brown hair that reached past her shoulders. She wished it were straight. I wished I could trade her hair for my straight, thin, limp, dishwater blond hair. But what percentage of women love their hair? The curly, chemically straighten. The straight haired, curl. The brown dye blond, the blond dye brown, an endless cycle. Critical women slammed the undone black hair of the fit and pretty Gabrielle Douglas at this past Olympics. I do not know the complex world of black women’s hair. But I do know that women want the hair that they do not have.

I dyed my hair just before I last saw my good friend in March. I bought a box color and as usual, was not happy with the results. Even an expensive salon dye job never made me content. The stylist would show me a color sample and tell me it was perfect for me. But the color never matched the sample. Even if the color came out just OK, it quickly faded or turned brassy.

I haven’t dyed since. The grey, white, and mousy light brown hair is becoming prominent on my head. My good friend was part of my inspiration. Each day, I notice more women that let the grey out. I like it.

The dye often irritated my scalp. I’m not wasting money on that box of dye or on salon treatments I don’t love. No more brassy gold, red blond, quick-to-fade brown.

Don’t get me wrong, grey is not the new blond. The forever young baby boomers can’t claim gray hair is youthful. I’m just letting my inner hagness out.  I don’t regret looking old. My regrets have more to do with friendships that failed to flower. So instead, I type to an anonymous few.

A Fable: The Snail and the Computer

I still get my utility bills sent to me by snail mail. I would change my ways and have them sent to me by email if it wasn’t too much work.

Each month I get one piece of mail that holds a bill for each utility; very straightforward, no extra frills except for one or two inserts that are easily recognizable as newsletters or product advertisements. You can’t stuff those envelopes with too much information since postage gets too expensive.

Just to contradict my first sentence, I did sign up for electronic delivery of my house and car insurance bills because the insurance company promised a discount. Now I’m not so sure that the discount is worth it.

Three or four times a month I get emails from this company. Some may hold some useful information such as keeping your home safe from burglars. Some encourage me to contact my agent to chat about adding more coverage.

But the only piece of information I really want is the yearly breakdown of my monthly rates. To get to this bill I need to remember my password which I last used twelve months ago. After some digging through papers I either find it or get a new one. Once logged in, I must click on various links that sound hopeful enough to uncover my bill but are dead ends. A half hour later I may find what I’m looking for.

As I see it email is not always a time-saving process. More unsolicited information comes across email than the mailbox in front of my house. I’m afraid I will simply delete some email because I assume it is trying to market a product but ends up holding a piece of information I actually need. Email holds the power to disseminate volumes of information that I don’t want to invade my computer screen.

So to get me to become paperless, email must contain less clutter. I want just the facts and not too many links taking me places I don’t want to go.

Another message brought to you by the grouch living in the past. (I can’t help it, the chaos keeps increasing!)

Eat Some Dirt: Being Too Clean Is Dangerous to Your Health

I’m not washing my kitchen floor today. Or maybe not even next week. All because I’m thinking about my health.

Scientists say that too many people live in ultra-hygienic spaces today and it is harmful to our health.

Allergies seem to be increasing because of these overly clean environments. The cells in our bodies that act as a defense mechanism against parasites have less and less parasites to fight so they start fighting something else like pollens that don’t truly cause a threat.

By the 1880’s, America’s wealthy leisure class took pride in their hay fever suffering. They lived in clean places and didn’t need to spend their time outdoors working for a living. The poorer folk spent time outside in the midst of all sorts of pollens and their bodies didn’t suffer from it. Maybe because indoors they had to live with and fight off parasites like fleas and lice.

In my old workplace, a lady brought in one of those battery operated liquid soap dispensers for the sink. So you can wash your hands without touching the pump. I guess you don’t get the last person’s germs on your hands before you wash your hands of germs. Of course buying a battery to work this thing seems to be a fine use of our limited energy resources.

Also I’ve seen advertising for disposable paper towels for home bathrooms. So now you have an ugly institutional paper towel dispenser on your bathroom wall for hand drying. You’ll never need to touch your family’s potential leftover germs on that cloth towel. Do we need to kill even more trees in the name of sterility? How about washing your hand towel every day or two? Will you also stop touching your other family members in your daily life because of germs?

My old boss got downright rude and nasty when someone came into the office and sneezed. If they didn’t sneeze into their sleeves it was a catastrophe. Better yet, she told them to take that sneeze and their germy selves outside.

Pretty soon shaking hands will be a thing of the past. Unless we can start printing up some verifiable I-properly-wash-my-hands certificates complete with video of your last trip to the bathroom hand-washing technique. Although I’m ready to arrest some of those restaurant owners that fail to provide hot or even lukewarm water in their restaurant bathrooms. (I really hate that anyway.)

Now I’m not saying stop cleaning up completely. Back in the 1800’s, women preferred midwives to doctors during childbirth since the death rate for midwives was far lower than for doctors. Doctors used to dissect body parts and rush off to deliver a baby without washing up first. Since midwives didn’t poke around the entrails of too many corpses, they came to the birthing bed with less of the nastiest germs. That connection was eventually made and doctors started scrubbing up.

But life can’t exist in a sterile environment. Without some bacteria in our bodies, we couldn’t live. Just remember single-cell germs supposedly started life on earth. (No religious arguments here please, I’ve got a full-plate topic as it is.) And if we do end up exploding this planet, it may be those germs hurdling through space that find their way to another planet to do their germy multiplication again.

Even with the death and destruction after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, all did not end up being lost. Scientists even found oil-eating bacteria in the water. Nature is more resilient and adaptable than we think.

Just now my husband started coughing and complaining about allergy season. That’s it, I’m not dusting for a few weeks now. I’m only thinking about his well being. And that gives me more time to read. I justify well.

The choice is crystal clear (unlike my windows).

The choice is crystal clear (unlike my windows)