Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog - I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Month: September 2020

Gifts

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Gifts is misleading – a gift is something someone gives you, not because you deserve it (although I do, especially on my birthday because I, like many children born in December, got short-changed back in the day and would only get one box with the feeble, “Here’s your birthday and Christmas present,” mantra that, to a child, did nothing but break my heart. I didn’t know the pecuniary value of the gift, all I knew was that there was only one box to open, and that box didn’t even have balloons and streamers on it, but reeked of Santa’s and pine trees and red and green do-dads, so where’s the birthday present? – the cheapskates), but because of the person’s generosity.

This previous run-on sentence is an homage to William Faulkner, whose book, The Reivers, I’m reading now. I read it in one of my literature classes decades ago but probably only skimmed it enough to write a satisfactory analysis. Woo-wee, Faulkner is hard to follow. He writes like someone rambling along, one thought jumping in on another, going back and forth in time the way we say, “No, wait, that happened first, not after, he got out of the car. Now I remember. He was driving along and then that’s when he said…”

That’s how my brain works, a song drifts in and I sing a couple of lines in my head and then a thought bursts in (kind of like my husband does, banging open the bathroom door when I’m relaxing in the tub, just for a laugh), “Oh shoot, I forgot to put those green beans in the refrigerator. Crap! I’ll have to go back. They’ll go bad. They’re in vinegar, won’t they be okay? I don’t want to turn around. You’re an idiot. You’re almost to the mall. Just do your exchanges real quick and go back. I hate this. I wanted to go to Fred Meyers. I wonder if it would hurt to leave them another hour? With all that vinegar? They’ll be fine.” And then I sing out loud, really belt out the last stanza of the soulful song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, putting all my heart into it. “Oh shoot. You just missed your turn. What an idiot.”

The book is delightful, but I don’t know if modern readers could get past the couple of chapters to get hooked, even if they knew it won the Pulitzer Prize and got made into a movie starring Steve McQueen.

The gifts I’m talking about are the ones I get from God. Some people would call them miracles, but I know miracles. These are on a much smaller scale – like stocking stuffers or party favors, but no less appreciated.

The gifts I get most often have to do with me running late for everything. I can’t leave the house at the scheduled minute and hour because I think I have time to put the water glass in the dishwasher, and hang up the dish towel, put the magazine on the pile around the corner. I’ve got time – I know, to the nanosecond, how long it takes me to get somewhere – IF I don’t get stopped by too many red lights. When I make it through a few in a row I smile and say to myself, “It’s a gift.”

I get premonitions – not like someone who sees the future, but I get a feeling that I should do something. Like pick up around the house when I’m not expecting someone to come over. The place is usually technically clean, but I leave things lying around, drawers open, coats hung on the backs of chairs, an open umbrella drying in the great room, dirty clothes in the basket in the middle of the floor headed for the laundry room or folded on their way back to the bedroom, pine needles and leaves on the carpet, cups and plates in the kitchen, recipe book, colander, measuring spoons, pepper grinder and fresh dilly green beans in jars that should have been put in the refrigerator. Saturdays I do toilets, vacuum, sweep, dust. The place is nice for the weekend. Weekdays it’s a hoarders paradise.

Sometimes I take a notion to pick up around the house even when I’m not expecting anyone, who knows why, I just do it. And then there’s a knock at the door and it’s someone like my mother-in-law. “Come in, so glad you dropped by.” As I lead them into the tidy kitchen, “can I get you a cup of tea?” I smile and think, “It’s a gift.”

I’ll make plans to do something when I’m too busy or it’s not my favorite activity, and then it gets cancelled. “It’s fine,” I say, “it gives me a chance to get this mess picked up. You should see my house.” I hang up, smile, and think, “Another gift.”

No, it’s not coincidence, because these aren’t things I’m praying for, they’re little surprises that come from subconscious hope. I don’t want to pester God with trivial things like red lights (although I do sometimes when I’m desperate). I know where my gifts come from, and I know who to thank.

Even picking up that dog-eared, water-stained, frayed, crackling paperback from Survey of American Literature 403 was a gift. Thanks Mr. Faulkner, for giving me some smiles and forcing my brain to focus pretty darned hard to figure out what the heck you’re talking about. You really did understand the human heart. Maybe someday I will too. “It’s a gift.”

And yes, I’m smiling.

Quotes I’ll remember

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It’s funny what sticks with you – the famous quotes of days gone by. When I first came to Oregon my brother took me to a Portland Beavers baseball game. They were a minor league team, part of the Pacific Coast League. We’re sitting in the bleachers at Multnomah Stadium, eating hot dogs and popcorn, watching the game, when a big man with a bushy black beard stood up behind us and bellowed, as loud as he could, “Nobody…..Licks….Our….Beavers!”

For a few moments the earth stood still. The wind ceased to blow, there was no crack of the baseball bat, no “batter, batter, batter” chatter on the field, no crunch of the wad of popcorn I’d just put in my mouth. Silence. Shock. Did he really yell that? Did he know what he was saying? Did he understand the double meaning?

Then the earth started rotating again. Laughter rolled over the crowd like ocean waves. We elbowed each other, “Did you hear that?” “Did he really say?” All through the game we could hear chortles of laughter from pockets of spectators. Here. Over there. Through the remaining 4 or 5 innings. Spontaneous laughter. It’s something I’ll never forget – a quote I’ve shared with just about everyone I know.

I’ll always remember the time my friend Clark and I picked up our friend Mary one Friday night in 11th grade. Pretty soon we found out that she was drunk. “Pull over,” she said, “quick.” We did, and Clark and I hoisted her out of the back seat and stood on either side of her, supporting her as she threw up. Her shoe came off and got filled with barf. Clark and I kept going, “B-lah, b-lah,” about to throw up ourselves. “What the heck have you been drinking?” I asked as we returned her to the car and tucked her into the back seat. She looked at me with big round innocent eyes and slurred, “I only had a little bit of Daddy’s cough medicine.” Yeah right. Turns out she’d gotten in a fight with her parents and snuck into her dad’s liquor cabinet to drown her sorrows. Every time I drink too much I say, “I only had a little cough medicine.” People don’t believe me either. 

Another quote I remember came from a boyfriend I had when I was 19. We’d  encountered some spooky characters in the remote hills of Virginia (think of the movie Deliverance). A few of them had some teeth, but nobody had a full set. We were able to talk our way out of trouble, but it was scary and I was relieved when we got back safely to the car. I said, “Hey Steve, what would you have done if they’d had designs on me way out here in the middle of nowhere?” He laughed and said, “I would have told them, ‘Have fun with her boys, I did.’” It took me a lot of laughing before I could start pretending to be mad at him.

He had a friend named Adrienne who was quite smart. One day Adrienne said, “Can I porif some of those potato chips?” “Can you what?” I said. “Porif,” he said. “It’s short for porifera, which is a sponge.” It became the verb that replaced the words borrow, bum, hit up, purloin, mooch, glom, and sponge. We never used those words again when the group was together. It was always, “Quit trying to porif my candy. Get your own.”

Growing up, there was a guy in our neighborhood named David Roach, a tall, skinny kid with a quick sense of humor who hung out with a bunch of us on my street – he lived a few blocks away but in those days all of us were free-range kids and would walk to wherever there was a softball game or four-square in the street or croquet or ping pong in somebody’s backyard. I was probably in 6thgrade. He was a couple of years older. One summer day a bunch of us we were standing around in the street, riding bikes, trying to decide what to do next. Someone saw a dog walking toward us and said, “Here comes a shit-eating dog.” David got a scared look on his face and took off running. We laughed and laughed, repeating, “Hey David, look out, here comes a…” To this day I can’t remember names or dates or what I went in the bedroom to get, but I will always remember David Roach running away from that shit-eating dog.

My friend Clark, whose first name is Pryor, named after his dad as many of us were in the South – first name for a family member but everybody called us by our middle name – Clark got a nickname somehow, I don’t know who gave it to him or why, but whenever my cellphone buzzes and I see it’s him on the caller ID, I answer like this: “Pryor T Coon Type Dog Liar Makes His Rules Up As He Goes Along.” To me, that’s his name. That’s what we called him when we were kids. In the middle of a conversation, when I want to make a point for emphasis, I don’t say the whole name, I just say, “Now look, Pryor T, you need to take better care of yourself.” I haven’t called him Clark in decades.

On a serious note, the world has lost a wonderful human being with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We’ve respected her strength and her bravery as she stood up for America’s constitution, equal rights and justice for all people. I wanted to close with one of her memorable quotes. There are many wise and profound ones, such as: Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf….That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues.”

The one I think that fits best here, however, is the one she said after someone mentioned that she’d dozed off during the State of the Union address: “I wasn’t 100 percent sober.” This is the one I’ll remember, and surely use, even after dementia has warped and gnawed my brain until it resembles porifera. In the nursing home I will shout out, “Nobody licks our Beavers!” followed by, “I wasn’t 100 percent sober.” 

Thanks for everything, dear Notorious R.G.B. May you rest peacefully with the other angels.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg dozing during the State of the Union

Wardrobe mishaps

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We’ve all had wardrobe malfunctions. A couple of days ago I was visiting my 90+ year old friend when her daughter walked in the room, saw I had on one of my house dresses, and said, “Are you wearing underwear today?”

“Some,” I said.

I’d told them that during the summer I wear cotton dresses around the house to keep cool and comfortable. To enhance the experience, I sometimes go without one or both of the typical undergarments worn by women. I don’t usually wear the dresses in public, but will fetch the mail, do yard work, or visit female friends, so I like my house dresses to be all cotton, have pockets (for my cell phone), and either have a busy design, thick fabric (like denim), or chest pockets because I don’t want my neighbors to see that I’m not wearing one (or both) pieces of underwear.

“On Tuesday, that really hot, windy day,” I said, “I wore one of my dresses over to my garden to water and was praying that the wind didn’t whip up the skirt. It would have given people nightmares. You can’t un-see something like that.”

My friend’s daughter, who’s my age, leaned against the kitchen counter and said, “Did I ever tell you about my first date with my husband?  I had on one of those dresses with the stretchy stitching on the top.” 

“Strapless?” I asked, picturing the dress.

“Yes, strapless.”

(This type of dress probably has a name but I’m too lazy to look it up. Oh, all right, hold on a second. I’ll be right back..Okay, Google calls them a tube top stretchy dress. Back to the story.)

“I had this dress on, with tall high heels. I was gorgeous. We were going out for a fancy dinner at that restaurant up on the hill in Sellwood – it looked like a castle.”

“Was it in Sellwood or Milwaukie?” I said.

“Yeah, could have been Milwaukie – near Sellwood.”

“I remember that place, I don’t think it’s there anymore.”

“I don’t know. Anyway, the maitre d’ seated me, but off-center for the view. I just wanted to scoot over a little, so I raised up in my chair. The hem of the dress got caught in the heel of those high heel shoes.” She paused for a beat, so we could picture it.

“When I raised up to scoot over, the dress stayed put. It came down and both my boobs popped out the top.”

“Were you wearing a bra?”

“Of course not.”

We all laughed. “No wonder your husband fell in love with you,” I said.

It reminded me of swimming at a motel pool with about eight or ten friends the summer before 9thgrade. I think one of the boys knew the owner and that’s why we got to swim  there. Typical of those motel parking lot pools, it had a shallow side and a deep end with a small diving board. For some reason it also had a foot wide ledge to stand on at the deep end, maybe so little kids could go down there and still hang onto the side and stand up. 

We were playing tag. My best friend, Christine, was it. All us boys and girls were focused on her to see who she’d come after next. She’d chased us for a while, swimming underwater, sneaky, trying to tap somebody’s leg. I think she was probably ready for a rest. She sprang up from the deep end, pushing off from the bottom fast so her long red hair back would be back off her face when she surfaced. She swam to the ledge, stood up and faced us. The water, as she’d swooshed through it, had pulled down one side of her bikini top. Her left boob, big for her age – big for any age – hung completely out.

As soon as we saw it, after a couple seconds of shock, all us girls shouted at once: “Duck down! Your swimsuit! Go under! Get down!” We didn’t want to say whatever word we were using at the time – I think the word boob came later – maybe we were using breast then, but we didn’t want to say it out loud. Up until then we’d only swam with our girlfriends. We’d just started hanging out with these boys, probably because one of us discovered they had access to the pool. Those were prudish times.

Christine thought we were hollering because she was it. She thought we were taunting her. She didn’t realize we were hysteric. She just stood there – that boob big and white, framed with swimsuit lines and her tan, freckled skin. The more we shouted the longer she stood there like some half-naked Grecian statue with a puzzled, cranky look on her face – an eternity in the lives of fourteen-year-old girls.

The boys, of course, never said a word.

Finally the closest girl swam to her and pushed her under. “You’re it!” Christine said she sprang back up. There was that boob again. Law have mercy! The girl pointed, Christine looked down, threw her arms over her chest and ducked under water. She stayed down there until her breath ran out,  embarrassed to death. The incident earned her the nickname, “Lefty” with the boys. By the end of summer we’d abandoned them and gone back to the public pool, they got so annoying. 

Ahh, well, there’s nothing like wardrobe mishaps to get your mind off of everyday worries. Today in Portland the fires are raging 30 miles away in the national forests south of Estacada. The air is smoky thick, the sky yellow-grey. I can barely see the fuzzy outlines of houses across the street. Even though our windows and doors have been closed for three days, the smoke smell has seeped in. The air quality at 8:00 this morning is the highest it’s been – 516 – Hazardous. It’s listed as Beyond Index on the Air Now website, which only goes up to 400. www.airnow.gov

Portland Oregon Air Index - Sept. 13, 2020 - Hazardous

Remembering Christine and picturing that stretchy tube top dress have brought me a chuckle this morning – a good thing in worrisome times.

The search for the perfect bra

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How come I can go into a department store where there are more than a million bras and not one of them fits me?

My apologies to the men reading this, I know you don’t like us to talk about women’s underwear. Maybe just compare it to something that has to fit a particular part of a man and, like a bra, also has a cup. Maybe it’s hard for you to find the right size. Male athletes, especially baseball players, are constantly fiddling with it – seriously, they are spitting and nudging their crotches the whole game. Perhaps some of you even wear bro-bras. I remember a Seinfeld episode about that – a bra for the well-endowed man. Kramer and Mr. Costanza were trying to get rich with their Manssiere.

Kramer with the Manssiere

Back to women and this huge stumbling block to our happiness. All we want is a good, everyday bra that cradles the girls in comfort while preventing jiggles, sags, headlights, and squashouts – that flab that squashes out on our backs from under the bra lines. It’s as unsightly as panty lines.

You men say, “Just go braless.” You’d love that look on the young ones, no doubt, but gravity tugs at us older women. There’s a greeting card with an old man at a bus stop who says to an old woman, “Show me your tits,” and she pulls up the bottom of her dress. You wouldn’t be so excited to see us braless.

No, we need bust trusses, especially the well-endowed, full-figured ladies of a certain age. That’s not me, by the way. My problem is not finding anything small enough. Even the teenage bras don’t fit. I just received two of them from Kohl’s online delivery. The cup size was okay, but I’m too big around. It’s like trying to fix a monster truck flat using a bicycle tire. The bras felt like straight jackets, only not as comfortable.

My friend got a new sports bra and we played golf a couple of weeks ago. Every time she swung the club the bra rode up under her armpits. After each of her 80+ swings she had to grab hold of the bottom and tug that bra with all her might to get it back in position. She was chapped from all the friction.

I bought a workout bra one time. Just getting it on was the workout – I didn’t even need to go to the gym. I had to wiggle into it over my head. It was like a thick rubber band with only so much give – once it reached the limit of its stretch that was it. I had to pull down an inch on the left and then an inch on the right until it was in place. It made me look like a penny from one of those penny squishing machines – the ones you put a dollar in so you can get a three-inch long skinny penny that says “Seaside” on it. Flat as a board is too flattering for what that bra did to me.

Another frustration to add to our woes – when a company stops making the style of bra we’ve been wearing for years, which the company always does, it’s like losing a close friend. Most older women, especially the married ones, don’t go in for all those new fancy girly bras taking up space in the store. We buy ones that work and only replace them when the straps start falling down. Once that strap elastic gives out, the bra is worthless. If you see women constantly pulling up their straps, it’s because their bra has been discontinued and they’re still hanging on to it in denial.

My mother in law is 87. She can’t get her bra anymore. She tracked down the manufacturer and talked to several levels of higher ups before they convinced her that her bra is no more. She told us this sad news with trembling lips and a tear in her eye. Deb, her daughter and Laura, her friend, and I sat at the dining room table and comforted her, then started sketching out ideas to keep her straps up in such a way that still allowed her to get into the bra. After several hours we had a diagram and a pattern. I sewed a prototype, attached it to the bra, and it worked! She’ll have another few weeks with the bra until the hooks wear out. Then they’ll be fresh tears.

They’ve also discontinued my bra – the Maidenform T-shirt bra with a racerback so the straps wouldn’t show in my sleeveless golf shirts. They’ve replaced the whole back with lace. What the? I don’t want lace. It’s flimsy and scratchy. Nope. No lace on my back. Plus golf shirts are thin – I don’t want that lace pattern showing through. Why, oh why did you do it, Maidenform? Why?

Those two teenage bras are going back to Kohls, and I will begin the search again. Someone told me that Soma bras are good, so maybe I’ll try those. They’re spendy for me but after all the time and money I’ve racked up going through thousands of bras at hundreds of stores, I’m to the point that I’d pay anything to have a nice comfy home for the girls. Bless their hearts. They deserve it.

Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Olsen