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

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Second best of the worst

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I play a game, a hateful and cruel game that treats me like a friend and then dumps me into a bottomless pit to scratch and claw my way out for what seems like an eternity.  

Why do they say we “play” golf? It’s not fun. It’s hard. A person can play golf for years and not get much better. Improvement comes only with a lot of practice – going to the driving range and hitting over and over trying to figure out not only how to make the ball go straight, which it never wants to do, but also go the correct distance. The ball will just about always refuse to do one or the other. Oh, it may get the distance right, but if it does, it won’t go straight.

Say you’re hitting the first ball on any of the 18 fairways in a golf course, and you want the ball to go 150 yards. It will go 150 yards, but it will go to the left or right, not straight. Just about every golf ball I’ve ever played behaves like this. I’ll end up in someone else’s fairway. I have to go into their territory where they’re hitting their balls at 10,000 miles per hour straight at me. When they see me, all four of them stand there, arms crossed, toes tapping, waiting for me to get out of their way. I’m embarrassed and  “off my game,” and the ball decides to indulge in some shenanigans. I have to hit between two gnarly oak trees to get back to my fairway, an easy shot, I can do it with my eyes closed. This ball, however, loves smacking into trees so it richochets off one and line-drives the squatty player with a stogie hanging out the side of his mouth, dripping sweat in the hot sun. Fortunately he ducks in time and the ball, laughing, lands behind him. This is the game of golf as I play it. 

No one would ever play this game if there weren’t handicaps. It’s like when we were kids and the really fast kid always came up to you and said, “Let’s race.” We all said, “No, you’ll win.” So he says, “I’ll let you start in front of Miss Smith’s house.” Hmmm, you look down the street and the Smith house looks pretty far away. So you say, “Okay,” thinking you might have a chance to actually beat him. Somewhere near the finish line you trip and get a bloody scrape on your knee while you watch the fast kid zoom by.

A handicap gives a stinking player such as myself a chance to win. If it takes a good player 72 hits to finish all 18 holes in a round of golf, he has a 0 handicap. If it takes you, the hacker, 104 hits on a good day to finish 18 holes, then you take your 104 and minus 72, and that gives you a handicap of 32. So your gross score (well named) is 104, but your net score is 72. That way you can compete against any golfer and have a chance to win in the net division.

This is how they get bad players to keep playing golf – it’s the hope that you’ll do enough things right, that you’re be blessed that day, that you don’t get stuck in the sand, that your ball won’t hit every tree along the fairway, that the fast kid falls instead of you – this is what keeps suckers like me playing golf.

It’s also what entices bad golfers to enter competitions, and sometimes we actually win. Last week I played in a two-day tournament and I played great the first day – oh man was I having my best game in a long time. When I putted, the ball dropped into the cup instead of defying gravity and rolling over it. The ball flew out of the sand traps in one hit and stayed mostly in the fairway. Everything went right. People said, “Wow, you were on fire out there today.”

I knew this was the gong of doom. Because the second you do something right in golf, the ball, even if it’s brand new and knows nothing about you or your game, it will sabotage your success. This is a given in my case, and it happened again on the second day of the tournament.

The ball leaped into a sand trap and wouldn’t get out. I hit and hit and hit and hit and it got to the top of the lip and rolled back down. Instead of getting a 4 on the hole like I did the day before, I got an 11. (To explain, 4 is good; 11 is very very bad.)

Have you ever watched a basketball game where the underdogs are so lively at first, their fans cheering; the score’s even. Then the other team steals the ball and makes a dunk. And they do it again. The fans quit cheering. The bad team gets a hang-dog look about them and start acting tuck-tailed. They miss passes, miss shots – everything blows up.

That was me after getting the 11. From then on, the ball zigzagged down the fairway, avoiding the middle, coming up short when I putted, doing everything it could to make me miserable.

Afterwards I had to sit in a room of women golfers as they called out the winners. I didn’t even bother looking at the scoreboard, I just hoped I wouldn’t be last. But here’s the beauty of golf, the reason all us idiots keep coming back. When the head pro came in to announce the winners, he called my name first. WHAT??? Turns out, because I played so well the first day, and with my high handicap, I got 2ndNet in my Flight. Oh, I forgot to mention that in big tournaments they will group the best golfers in Flight #1, the next best in Flight #2, and so on. In this tournament there were three flights, and I was, of course in Flight #3 – the worst golfers. And we were bad. Balls going everywhere, in ponds and rivers and ditches and roads, sand traps, other people’s fairways, bouncing off trees, rolling under bushes. But none of that mattered, because I was 2ndplace Net in a Flight of 13 women. I won $30! You’ve never seen a happier person. 

Even now, three days later, I’m still aglow. 2ndbest of the worst! Does life get any better than this? I just can’t wait to play again. What a sucker.

Lists

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Being too busy makes me cranky. I blame it on making lists. As long as I get through my days accomplishing a few things I feel pretty good when I lie in bed at night giving thanks for five things that happened during the day – one of my ways to get to sleep if exhaustion doesn’t give way to peaceful dreams. 

But lists! Yes, I think I get more done if I put the items on paper. But the list becomes the boss of me. It pushes and yanks and prods me, cracking a silent whip at my back, forcing me to do more and more without mercy.

My list of things to do

Putting everything down helps me get all those must-do’s out of my head instead of swimming around like piranhas, chomping at my peace of mind. “Oh, man, I’ve got to…” my brain says, spinning through 8,000 things I want to accomplish today – cooking, cleaning, watering, weeding. A list is a cathartic relief, like when you watch a clogged toilet filling up and then it drains just before it’s about to run over.  

I can look at the things I’ve written down and sometimes think, “Well, there’s not that much to do,” and trick myself into believing I have enough hours to get finish them. I even put times beside the items – 7:00 to 7:30 – water my garden. Then I drive seven minutes to the community garden, eating a protein bar on the way. As I water, everything looks healthy except the stupid squash plant with its yellow leaves. What the heck is wrong with it? I Google on my phone and read and watch YouTube videos that tell me I need to cut those yellow leaves off and, according to one source, make a one-part milk and eight-part water solution to spray on the healthy leaves to protect them from powdery mildew, and I need to do this in the hot part of the day so it dries quickly. After cutting the yellow leaves off and getting itchy squash prickles all over my hands, I notice that my tomato plants need to be tied higher. I’ll do that when I come back with the milk spray later in the day.

I get home and it’s now 8:15: 45 minutes behind schedule. Crap! I do the math in my head and write new times above the old times.

Everything this morning takes longer than estimated, and at lunch I’m standing up at the counter eating, trying to figure out when I’ll wedge in that return trip to the garden with the mildew spray. I despise the smell of spilt milk – the thought of spraying milk in the blistering heat with the frisky afternoon winds blowing that foul odor all over me – I get a little throw-up in my mouth thinking about it.

The day goes on. A headache is creeping up from the base of my neck. I’m doing things in a half-assed way so I can line through another item. I’ll probably get everything done, but I won’t have time for my daily walk, which I’d forgotten to add and it’s already getting dusky outside. I still need to change the hummingbird feeder – the little pests are hovering around the almost empty feeder and I know what they’re thinking. “Don’t come out here without some fresh sugar water or we’ll dive-bomb you.” They will, too. They roar like a fighter jet taking off when they zoom in to feed – doesn’t bother them that you’re going in the front door five feet away. The first few days after I hung the feeder I ducked and ran into the house – they sound like they’re an inch from your head. I love them, but today I wish they’d just buzz off and leave me alone. I’m feeling pretty cranky right now.

At 7 p.m. the list still calls, but it’s time for dinner on the couch in front of the TV with my husband. Back when the kids were home I always made us eat at the table as a family, but with the two of us the TV is fine. We start a movie, and I have good intentions to do the last two things, but I don’t. I’ll change the fish water in the morning. The hummingbirds will have to wait.

That will put me behind tomorrow, and it bothers me, but I can’t do everything, right? If I hadn’t written everything down I would have forgotten half of the things anyway (even if I’m not too proud of the way I did some of them). They’re lined through. That’s what’s important.

In my bedtime prayers it’s easy to be thankful for five of the things I got done, plus my husband, children, family and friends, the hummingbirds, my faithful fish, my garden. Maybe tomorrow I’ll forget to make a list. The thought comforts me, and pretty soon I’m sound asleep.

Mer – the sister in my heart

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I had never met her, but I knew her. Loud, annoying, obnoxious – the last person in the world I wanted to be around. I’d seen her at Robinson Junior High, and I social distanced from her in the halls whenever I heard her coming.

Mary Morelock. Round-eyed, high-cheeked, brown bob bouncing as she tromped down the halls jabbering .Me quiet, invisible, squint-eyed, mousy straight blond hair that refused to hold a curl even after sleeping in brush rollers. I loathed her. She never noticed me.

Then, the summer after eighth grade at the Legion Pool where free-range kids lived from one in the afternoon until we had to leave for supper, Mary and I started hanging out because we still wanted to swim after our friends left early. I figured she wouldn’t make noise if she was under water half the time.

The outdoors improved the acoustics of her voice, and she liked to play in the water, not just lie in the sun. She and I became friends, and in high school, when we were in the same gang of girls with the same lunch period, we became best friends.

By then I was Suz to her and she was Mer to me. I spent at least one night at her house every weekend. When we were sixteen, and I had my brother’s Chevy convertible one Friday night, we decided to buy our first beer. We waited until some country boys pulled up in front of the 7-11. The driver took my money and came out with a string of Pabst Blue Ribbon’s.

“Want us to help you drink these?” he said, grinning a piano-keyboard grin with the black keys missing. “No, but thank you so much!”

Mary popped the top of my first personal can of beer. Remember this is 1968 and we were stupid, and the law didn’t do much to drinkers in East Tennessee, possibly the moonshine capital of the world.

We drove on a dirt back road swigging Pabst and feeling quite mature – the late 60’s version of Thelma and Louise – until I dozed off and ran up on a gravel pile. The crunching jolted me awake. My headlights shone out into black nothingness. We were on the edge of a little cliff. I tried to back up but the wheels spun, throwing up gravel and dust.

I looked over – Mary’s chin was on her chest. “Wake up! We’re stuck.”

She slowly turned her head in my direction, her eyes staring past me in a half-open gaze. She opened her door and leaned out, her whole body hanging down like a limp doll. Thank goodness I’d made us put on seat belts or she would have rolled out like a barrel of beer.

“Where are we?” she said when she got a grip on her door and hoisted herself back up. “It’s dark down there.”

Not for long. Two bright headlights beamed into the windshield, blue lights flashing. “Oh no, it’s the law,” I said. That sobered us both up in a hurry.

It was no use lying to him. Empty beer cans told the story. “You girls out joy-riding, drinking Blue Ribbon?”

“We’ve never done it before,” I said.

“Well, you better not do it again. That gravel pile most likely saved your lives.”

A man from a nearby house had come out, and the two of them pushed the car backwards so it was no longer high-centered. “You got a busted radiator. Doesn’t look like there’s much more damage other than a scratch here and there. You girls get on home and don’t let me catch you out here again.”

Slowly driving home, hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, as awake and alert as I’ve ever been, I said, “Can you believe it, Mer? We could have died.”

“I know,” she said. “We could have gotten a ticket too.” Which was even scarier.

We lived to have many more adventures. A couple years later I totaled that car one night after a bunch of us had gone skinny dipping at the Moose pool where she was a lifeguard. At a T-intersection out in the country, someone had stolen the stop sign and I didn’t realize it until too late. I turned too sharp, the right wheel went into the ditch and left the road, rolling several times. Because we weren’t wearing seat belts, all three of us got thrown from the car. Convertibles back then had no roll bars. It landed belly-up in a field, squashed flat, and we would have been too.

Mary was my wild and crazy soul sister. My real, sweet little sister died when I was eight and she was five. I have missed her all these years. I envy those women who have sisters, even those with irritating ones who cause them a lot of grief. They don’t know how lucky they are.

But I realize how lucky I am to have Mary, a sister in my heart. We’ve lived together in Florida and Georgia, and had viscous fights – especially the time in Atlanta when I ate the hamburger she’d saved for after work. Oo-weeee. Talk about red-faced screaming mad!

Decades later, even though we stand on the other side of an awfully tall political fence (what is she thinking????), we are still close. A couple thousand miles separate us, and we only see each other in person every other year or so but it’s like we’ve never been apart. We relive memories, marveling that the good Lord brought us through so many dangerous adventures, happy to spend time with each other, talk about our kids and wonder at how well things turned out.

Joan Carol was my only sister, and I love and miss her, but Mary helped me journey through my insecure teens and rudderless twenties and all the ups and downs of my life, with understanding, sympathy and laughter. Just like little Joanie, Mer will always be my sister.  

Computer Everglades

I wrote this many years ago, before I switched from a Microsoft computer to a Mac and was always having technical problems. I’m on vacation for the next three weeks so will be posting old drafts of blogs I never posted before.

I was all excited this morning because I’m in a blogging frenzy and wanted to type in another post. I plopped down happily in front of the computer and tried to log in. My username is my email, and I have an assortment of passwords I cycle through to get into everything. I tried all the combinations, finally being allowed to log in when I accidently mistyped my email address. That one little wrong letter let me into my blogger account, but caused me to be greeted with a giant red warning, “Your email address has not been verified.”

“That’s because it’s WRONG!” I hissed back at the computer. “Well,” I said, determined to be in a good mood, “I’ll just fix that puppy and I’ll be off and running.”  But no, just like every freaking other thing having to do with computers, IT WON”T LET ME.

After reading for hours and hours, I find out that the mistake is permanent. Up front they happily volunteer to email me a new username, but the one I gave them is wrong and doesn’t exist, so it’s just going to go to Jupiter and back without me ever seeing it.

And how was I able to log in the day before? It doesn’t matter. The computer just does what it wants to do, and you can’t fight it. The most any of us can hope for is to plow through a zillion posts that describe the same problem, and hope some other guy figured out how to fix it, then let him lead you out of your misery one irritating step at a time. I spend most of my life squinting at the screen with my mouth hanging open and a dull headache creeping up my forehead.

To get to the fix, it’s typical to have to elbow your way through lots of pages mostly consisting of capital letters strung together that appear to be common knowledge because they don’t explain them. It would be so much more fun to wade through the Everglades dodging snapping alligators than reading that stuff. By the end of the CMOS’s and RAM’s and CPU’s and ESAD’s, I just want to say, “I’ve got your motherboard right here, you sorry piece of crap!”

It’s late at night now, and I finally got it fixed. Don’t you even think about saying that this time it was my fault and not the computer’s. I might come right through the screen and lunge at your throat like a junkyard dog. If this post isn’t funny, I’m sorry, and if you don’t like it, you can just kiss my CDISK.

Happy Birthday, America!

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It’s our 244th birthday! Ever since July 4, 1776 we’ve spent money buying explosives that light up the sky for several nights, booming so loud that old curse when they go to bed at 8:30 and dogs to bark continuously and pee on the floor. 

On the actual holiday, we gorge ourselves on fried chicken, potato salad, and white sheet cakes with strawberries and blueberries and Cool Whip to make the Stars and Stripes that our bellies refuse to digest, stretching our American elastic waistbands beyond their endurance.

We are a good country, formed on sound principles written in the Declaration of Independence – that revered document we celebrate every July 4. The most famous quote says that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our country seems like a mess right now with all the protests. We’ve been here before, but my hope is that after this year is we don’t go back again. I hope we will all remember that pursuing happiness can’t happen when you are angry. No matter what side of a political fence you’re on, if you hate others because of the color of their skin or the nation they came from, you cannot pursue happiness. Hate makes you angry. 

Go ahead, think about that for a minute. Has your child (or you, when you were a child) ever had a hissy fit, slammed a door, and shouted, “I hate you?” Are they smiling and happy? No, they’d kick you in the shin if they could get away with it. Now think about that same child looking into your eyes and saying, “I love you.” That’s happiness right there. It’s dang near impossible to find happiness when you’re angry – and pretty easy to be happy when you love someone.

It’s that simple – if we want to pursue happiness, we have to love each other. I know this goes against what you may have been taught by your angry parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, bosses etc., but it is the truth. And the truth will set you free – give you Liberty, and that will give you Life, and free you up to pursue Happiness.

Those old guys were pretty smart back in 1776. 

The video below was sent to me by my 93 year old friend, Pearl. Another very smart person. It’s a short version of a 1985 documentary where a teacher does an experiment in discrimination. It’s only 6 minutes long and well worth watching. The link to the full documentary is below that – it’s about an hour long. Happy 4th of July everyone!

https://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-class-divided/

The Shanghaied Scissors

Gingher scissors -- so shiny they reflect my garden plants
Gingher scissors — so shiny they reflect my garden plants

Scissors don’t have legs – they can’t walk away. While I was weeding at my community garden plot, my good Gingher’s did not get up on their pointy ends like a ballerina and tip-toe away. Someone swiped them.

The main suspect was a woman who came into the garden talking loud on her cell phone – as annoying as cat shit under a couch. My scissors were lying there right by the path. I was busy staking up my tomatoes, my back to her, and didn’t bother to even say hello since she was blathering on.

This woman didn’t water, she didn’t weed, she didn’t pick anything – she wasn’t there long enough to do any of that. She talked on her phone and then drove away. Now I’m not saying she did it, but what did she come there for except to steal my scissors?

When it was time for me to leave I gathered my tools and the other things scattered around – string and extra bamboo stakes. I had this nagging feeling I was forgetting something – these day I forget something most of the time. I walked up and down my little ten by twenty foot plot but didn’t see anything else so I left.

When I got home and unloaded I thought, “Now where are those scissors?” Those Gingher’s are expensive – cost me about $30 many years ago. Silver, and the things actually cut. I have ten pairs of scissors all over this house and none will even cut a string hanging off my hem except these Gingher’s and the Betty Crocker ones I got at the Dollar Store. They cut so well I gave a pair to all my friends for Christmas. Yes, I’m cheap, I’ll admit that to anybody – I’m proud of it.

That’s About the Size of It

There were many facets to my father, and not all of them sparkled. The parts of my dad that glowed didn’t outshine his flaws, but they made the journey with him brighter. 

My dad as a young man after eating a SweeTart
My dad as a young man after eating a SweeTart

Gene Patterson was born in 1923. He told us stories of his early years, gathering scrap metal for a penny a pound, near-death experiences flying down a long steep road in a homemade soapbox car with no brakes, hoping a car didn’t come through the intersection at the bottom, skinny dipping in the creek with his friends. In the Navy during WWII he got tattoos – a Navy anchor with a swirly ribbon around it and I think a rose with Mother underneath. That faded red and blue ink on his white-gravy skin were enough to keep me from ever getting branded with ink.

He courted and married Momma in Kingsport, Tennessee, and us kids came right away. Both of my parents were stubborn and independent, which may be why he became a union electrician and worked out of town, only coming home for periodic visits. Momma let us run wild, but when he was home he kept a tight ship, and we resented it, except for his first evening home when he often brought us something exotic like white chocolate. Plus he’d always bring his loose change jar full of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. I’d sit on the floor and stack them into little paper rolls and got to spend them on anything I wanted – usually candy. I don’t know what he gave to my brother, maybe folding money.

The next day, on Saturday, he’d ask me to go to Kroger’s and get something. I’d protest and want to just go to Kabool’s grocery down the street, but he insisted it had to come from Kroger’s, which was about a mile away. Back then I ran everywhere, so I dashed off, got whatever it was and ran home. I’d burst through the door to our little house, tromp to the kitchen, push the screen door open and look in the backyard – nobody around. I’d run to the bedrooms and see my parent’s door closed. I flung the door open and they’d be scrambling into their clothes. I never could figure out why they were taking a nap in the middle of the day.

Social distancing from my kitchen

I have social distanced from activities, family and friends, stores, but what I really need to do is social distance myself from the kitchen. Being home all the time is causing my appetite to surge like a Space X rocket. 

I blame it on boredom. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to do – clean closets, yard work and all that, but it’s not fun. Used to be, back in January, or Pre-C, I’d spend my time going out – you know, with friends and family, volunteering, shopping, book club meetings, luncheons. I’d style my hair and look at all my clothes, get exasperated because I didn’t have anything to wear, start combining my sad glad rags to try and get a new look, create a pile of discards on the floor that I’d hang back up later. After much time and energy I’d leave my house, finally happy to be seen in public.

It gave me something to do. First thing most mornings: walk with a friend wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Then back home, shower, change into nicer jeans and top. Blow dry and hairspray my hair, put on makeup, pick out different shoes – not the muddy ones from the walk. Later, for the evening adventure, try on several outfits, shoes, necklaces, scarves. Hang the rejects back up. Re-do my hair and makeup. Maybe give myself a pedicure.

Now, with just my husband and me here alone, unless I have a Zoom meeting, I dress in baggy, somewhat clean clothes in the morning, let my drab hair hang limp, never wear makeup.

I have nothing to do but eat.

Our Policemen Need Uniforms Like the Italians

A few years ago my daughter and I were in Rome on a Sunday morning having breakfast outside a little cafe. The morning glowed in warm sunshine, blue sky framed the wide-open piazza. The only blight on the scene was a middle-aged, pot-bellied drunk (or lunatic) about 30 feet away. He staggered around in baggy pants and a long-sleeve, grey (formerly white) shirt with rolled-up, uneven sleeves, half a shirt-tail hanging out, waving his arms and raging in gravelly, venomous Italian. No one paid any attention, but I kept my eye on him, worried he’d wobble close to us.

Then a little Italian car drove up and four policemen poured out. I’d already noticed that Italian men are handsome, and these were no exception. Tall and thin, wearing light blue shirts and dark pants, these men looked mighty fine with their olive skin against those blue shirts.

Four Italian policemen in light blue shirts
Four Italian policemen in light blue shirts

When they approached the drunk, he started yelling at them, shaking his fists in a threatening way like he was going to hit one of them. I put my teacup down. “Oh no,” I said to my daughter. I expected these policemen to slam the drunk to the ground, and he’d hit his head on the pavement and he’d be in a pool of blood while they cuffed him, all four of them pinning him down with knees on his various tender parts. Shots might even be fired. I was ready to bolt.

Shelley the Wonderdog

Shelley would have been 20 years old this August – a little Yorkie Poo, about six pounds. What a life she had! We got her in October, 2000 while my husband was on his annual two-week guys’ boating trip. He didn’t want a dog, so the kids and I had to get her while he was gone.

My son was 11 and my daughter 6 when we drove with two of his friends for an hour to Albany, Oregon to meet a woman who had Yorkie Poo puppies for sale. The puppies, the woman told me on the phone, were supposed to be full-bred Yorkshire Terriers, but a rogue poodle down the street had an intimate encounter with her Yorkie, so the puppies were misfits in the woman’s eyes. In ours, they were the cutest things on earth.

Three black puppies were in a large cage in the back of her SUV, one was eager and came right over to us, one hung back in the corner. The third one eased over to us after a little while. My daughter and I wanted them all. My son said, “Let’s take the middle one. He’s not shy but he’s not aggressive either.” He turned out to be a she, which was perfect.

Resting after being chased.
Resting after being chased.

On the trip home we debated about a name, most of which ended in an “e” sound: Blackie, Yorkie, Lovey. After a couple thousand names were thrown out, Matt, one of the friends, said Shelley. We all got quiet. Hmmmm. Shelley. It seemed like an odd name for a dog, but it had potential. For a few minutes we compared it to other names, but Shelley fit her.

She ended up being my dog, though the kids played with her constantly when they were home, and fought over whose bed she’d sleep in. My daughter carried her to bed first, then my son came in and stole her a little later when he went to bed. If my daughter wasn’t asleep yet I’d hear, “Mo-om, Chris is taking Shelley. Make him stop.” I’d go in to referee and find them with all four hands on the dog, tugging her in each other’s direction.

Shelley trying to get Scott's attention.
Shelley trying to get Scott’s attention. My husband grew to love her too.

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Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Olsen