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

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Election 2020

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Election 2020 has put an extra five pounds on me. On Tuesday, as I watched the returns coming in, my appetite for salty, crunchy foods hit new highs. We made tacos for dinner, and I ate extra beans and onions and chips and cheese and guacamole, and vigorously shook out way too many drops of Tabasco sauce on everything. I was wound up.  

Record-breaking quantities of food passed through my mouth at dinnertime. With every new red or blue state on the map, I headed for the kitchen. I devoured 80 percent of the crunchy food group before moving on to chocolate. 

It was fear eating. Like when I’m at the cinema watching a scary movie in wide-eyed horror, barely breathing, putting fistful after fistful of faux-butter popcorn in my mouth with one hand, clutching the armrest with the other, not even aware I’m eating until my greasy fingers scratch the bottom of the bucket.

The TV news coverage was scanty filler for strings of commercials. Seven minutes of trying to convince us to buy stuff we don’t need followed by two minutes of newscasters reading numbers on the screen that we can see for ourselves. I loved how they put up – I think it was Arizona – 00 on the red side and 00 on the blue side, and said in all seriousness, “It’s too soon to call.” Ya think?

As the evening wore on, I got really scared. It wasn’t looking good – the pantry was almost empty. The only chocolate left was that bitter dry powder in the Hershey’s cocoa can that has to be cooked in some way to be eaten. At that point, microwaving milk and mixing in the cocoa until it quit floating on top required more effort and gumption than I had. Then I’d have to stir in sugar. Too much work. Fear and food had worn me out.  

Around nine o’clock we took a break and fast-forwarded through a saved sitcom. After checking the election results again, I said. “I’m done. I’ll see what happened in the morning.” It was early to hit the hay, but there was nothing left to eat. In bed, the beans, onions, hot sauce and chocolate did not play nice in my stomach. Skirmishes occurred in assorted locations, muffled battle cries filled the room, explosions rippled throughout the war zone. Sleep did not come easily.

For days I was an overweight ostrich with my head in the sand. I got updates from friends, but I didn’t watch the news again except in short bursts. Scrolling through the stations, the same newscasters (don’t they ever sleep?) said the same things; the same man on NBC waved his arms over the red and blue map like he was casting a spell. I’ll be hearing, “too close to call” in my nightmares for weeks. My nerves were shot. I was frazzled, wrung out, wasted. And hungry.

Now that the election is over, I worry about what’s going to happen in the next couple of months, but I’ll think about that tomorrow. These last few days have been an adrenaline rocket ride. I need to go to the grocery store, clean my house, rake leaves, start a new diet – get my life, (and my pulse) back to normal. But I’m thinking there may be just enough milk to make a cup of hot chocolate, and maybe, if I dig a little more, I’ll find a partial bag of not-too-stale potato chips or a not-too-old piece of candy tucked somewhere I haven’t looked.

Time to start my new exercise program – with running to the kitchen.

Cory

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On Thursday I had lunch with Cory, a 43-year-old Black man I visit as part of a volunteer thing through an organization that builds community with low-income people. I enjoy our visits because he makes me laugh. We meet on the phone now, because of Covid, but every so often I go downtown and take him lunch in the park. This is the first time we’ve gone to a restaurant.

We met at Chipotle. As we waited our turn, I explained that he’d go down the line and tell them what he wanted. While I paid, I asked for some hot sauce – mild for me and regular Tabasco for him. Cory’s told me many times, “I like a lot of hot sauce on my food.” The server handed us two little clear plastic cups filled with about an eighth of an inch of sauce. Poor Cory, what he calls “hot sauce” apparently isn’t Tabasco.

Even though it was chilly, we sat outside. He took a bite of his steak bowl and said, “This is good.” He told me about his pending lawsuit against the guy who ran into him and broke his femur. “The lawyer said the son-bitch’s insurance will pay for me to have a maid if I want one.”

“You only have a one-bedroom apartment with no furniture except a bed,” I said. “Why do you need a maid?”

“Hell, if the son-bitch’s payin’ for it, damn right I’m havin’ a maid. A mother-f-ing butler too. I needs me a butler.”

He took a couple more bites, then remembered the little cup of hot sauce and picked it up, still talking. I watched him pour the whole thing on his food. When I shake Tabasco from the bottle, I count the drops – about 7 is my limit – each drop carefully spread out so I have the flavor without getting excessive heat in one bite. Cory poured that whole little cup on his bowl, and even thumped the cup with his finger to get the last few drops. I figured there were about 250 drops coating his food.

I stopped eating and watched him take a bite. He put the fork into his mouth, pulled it out, did a little shake of his head and said, “Man, that’s some hot sauce.” I started laughing. Anybody who’s ever used Tabasco knows that feeling, the heat, the burning that won’t stop, and he had just dumped enough on his food to belch fire.

 “I thought you liked hot sauce.”  

“I do, I do.” He paused as if trying to convince himself. “I do.” He looked at the bowl like it was a rattlesnake or something worse, but I could tell he wanted another bite because he had his fork raised, ready for action. Finally he got up his nerve. He aimed the fork, then slowly, cautiously, put the bite in his mouth and deposited the food. He looked straight ahead, his eyes bugged out. “That’s some hot sauce,” he said. He shook his head a little and let out a “Shwooo,” sound. He grabbed his water glass and took a sip. “Wooo,” he said.

I started laughing and couldn’t stop. Not only was it funny the way he said it, but I understood the dilemma he was in – between a culinary rock and a hard place. He wanted to eat, but he was scared to because his mouth was on fire. He also probably didn’t want to seem like a wimp. He’s six feet tall, meaty, with a bushy grey beard and shaved-bald head. A sweet guy in a hardened shell. The times we’ve eaten together in the park, he’ll only eat a couple of bites then say, “I’m going to take the rest home. I wanna put some hot sauce on it.” He had an image to uphold.

So I just watched. He looked at the bowl as if it was now the enemy. He stirred it. Stared at it. Stirred it again. Pushed the food from one side to the other. Then he took another bite. As he pulled the empty fork away he paused midair. “That’s some hot sauce,” he said, and shook his head. I laughed again, actually I guess I hadn’t quit laughing from his previous bite. 

He put the fork down and picked the empty sauce cup up and looked at it, like it had betrayed him. He put it down and said, “I called Merry Maid and told them I wanted a maid. I can’t just get somebody off the street. They might rob me. You can’t trust people. Not around here. They said they’d call my lawyer and get it all set up.” 

I continued to eat and just let him talk. A couple of times he looked down at his food, like he was getting up his nerve. Finally he loaded the fork half-full and hesitated a split second before putting the bite in his mouth. He chewed a couple of times, shook his head and said, “That’s some hot sauce.” I started laughing again.

I was enjoying this lunch. A lot. It was cold sitting out there under the October overcast sky with wind trying to steal our napkins, and I ate quickly so I could be done and climb back into my warm car, plus all the laughing was wearing me out. I often tell Cory how funny he is, though I’m not sure if he means to be. It’s a combination of all the cussing plus the way he tells the stories. His eyes twinkle and he grins when he sees me laughing, so I know he does some of it on purpose, but not this time. He picked up the aluminum to-go lid and molded it over his bowl and put it in the bag.

“Too hot for you?” I ask.

“No girl, you know I can’t eat much at one time. I’m gonna take this home and munch on it later.”

“Yeah, right,” I said to myself. He asked me to drop him off at his dentist’s office a few blocks away. He made fun of the way I drive, and I thanked him for all the laughs. On the way home, every time I hear him in my mind saying, “That’s some hot sauce,” I start laughing, and it’s a hearty, deep, lasting laugh.

They say it’s better to give than to receive. For the small price of a Chipotle lunch, I enjoyed a lot of entertainment. I also got a blessing that filled my heart, and my soul. Thank you, Cory!

Dreams

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What do you want to be when you grow up? We ask children this a lot. One time my daughter answered someone with about twelve things, all in a row. “I want to be an artist, a teacher, a doctor, (eight more that I can’t remember but I think astronaut might have been in there) and a waitress.” Lofty goals for a five year old!

I used to reply with only one response: a singer. I loved to sing, but I also had the ability to make up songs on the fly because of all the practice I got with my older brother. We were very competitive, and when he wasn’t beating me in foot races, high-jumping, basketball shots, ping pong, or, as big brothers often do, just plain beating me, we’d have rhyming contests. They went like this:

Me: You’re fat.

Him: You’re a rat.

Me: At least I’m not a splat.

Him: Well you’re a brat.

Me: I can’t agree with that.

Him: You’re as ornery as shit under a couch from a cat.

Me: You stink like liquid toe jam in a vat.

Him: Not bad – I’d call that tit for tat.

As you can see, we didn’t make Shakespeare jealous. The object of the contest was to not be the one who couldn’t come up with a sensible rhyme (not just jibberish) right away. If you paused too long to think of something, you lost that round. This could start at any time – walking to Dairy Queen, sledding in winter, riding bikes. With all that practice, I gained the ability to knock out songs that were, admittedly, awful. But they rhymed. I’d sing them to a slow, syrupy melody to give me time to compose them while I sang – picture a soulful love song sung by Barbara Streisand or Adele. They went something like this:

My dog has fleas,

He’s weak in the knees,

So I feed him peas,

Because he loves…….me.

My dog is kind

He’s here all the time,

Licking his behind,

But I don’t mind

Because he loves……me

My friend Carole and I used to get in verbal skirmishes a lot, probably from being together all day long in the summer heat. Most were those “are too!” “am not!” fights like: “You’re cheating.” “Am not!” “Are too!”  “Am not!!!!” 

With Carole, it escalated to one of us getting so mad we’d shove the other one. We were about eight years old, bored, in the hot, muggy, Tennessee haze, plus both our birthdays were in December, on either side of Christmas, so people were always giving us just one “combined birthday and Christmas present,” which caused a smoldering current of aggravation to pulse through our veins year round, and is probably what made us so cranky.

We were like a pressure cooker about to blow, and one of us took off running, knowing the other was about to strike. We both had long, skinny legs and she was exactly as fast at running as I was. We’d chase each other all through my backyard, and finally the person in front would falter – out of breath, legs tired – and the one chasing would catch up and swat her in the middle of the back, then pivot 180 degrees and start running. It was a little like two-person tag, except on the anger chart we had reached 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, so instead of tagging, we’d swat. Seriously, we chased each other like this until we were exhausted, red-faced, sweaty, and laughing.

One time my brother came out with two pairs of boxing gloves and said, “All this running around is stupid. Put these gloves on and just duke it out.” We tried but it wasn’t the same just standing there looking at each other, she in her long brown braids and me in my sun-streaked pigtails. After all, she was one of my best friends! I don’t think either of us even threw a punch.

In peaceful times we’d have singing contests. She sat on the grass and I stood up in front of her and sang as I made up a song – a really excellent one like the one above. Then she’d stand up when it was her turn and fumble around. “No, you have to make it rhyme. A song has to rhyme.” “Does not!” “Does too!” “Does not!!!!” She’d start chasing me and I knew if I ran out in the open area of the backyard, I might step in a gopher hole or trip on a croquet wicket or get clothes-lined by the cIothesline, and she’d catch up and deliver a soft whack between my shoulder blades, so I kept circling the two trees in the middle of the yard that had a thick bed of iris’s between them. Round and round we went until I got dizzy and darted into the open area, slowed down from exhaustion, and got swatted.

I never performed my little concerts for anyone but Carole, and she told me I was too good at singing and it wasn’t any fun. She probably meant rhyming, not vocal ability, but I took it as a huge compliment and pictured myself as a star.

Now I’m old (Am too!), and that dream has been in the fog of my memory all my life. In case you haven’t noticed, I not a star yet, haven’t ever tried to be one (what a yellow-bellied coward I am, plus I’ve rarely had any encouragement from any sane person that I should pursue singing, or even do it in public), and rarely ever sing around others except in the pews at church or when a group is bellowing happy birthday.

My dream has been with me all these years, and even though I’m old, I’m still working at it. If you pass my house early on summer mornings, when the windows are open, you’ll hear me practicing, “Corina Corina,” or “At Last,” or “Speeding Cars,” or even “Like a Rolling Stone,” although Dylan stuck a lot of words in there and it’s hard to remember them all.

Everyone has dreams. Kids don’t have the monopoly on them.

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s not too late, you know.

Is not.

Is not!!!!

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

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.

Random silliness and a prayer

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Before the pandemic, a group of us stayed for lunch and canasta after we played golfed on Wednesdays. A couple of years ago, when I took over sending the emails out to see who would be playing, I tried to entice everyone to come with a little gentle humor. I started with just a poem: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Cards won’t be much fun, Without you. 

Because of my cleverness and poetic genius, we got a decent turnout (canasta is more fun with a larger group), which emboldened me to do more. I started searching the internet for jokes relating to various holidays. Did you know there are several reasons to celebrate every single day of the year? For instance, today, August 23, is National Cuban Sandwich Day, National Cheap Flight Day, and National Sponge Cake Day. There’d be four or five National Days to celebrate, so I’d pick one, then search online for jokes. For instance, here are some jokes for National Sponge Cake Day:

I once knew an arrogant sponge cake. It was very self absorbed.

To make a Real sponge cake…borrow all the ingredients. (Get it. A play on words – you sponge off your neighbors. P.S. You know a joke stinks when you have to elbow your audience and say, “Get it?”)

Here’s a groaner: What did the sponge cake say to the sink? Water you doing? 

Sometimes I just sent random jokes – like I’m going to do for you right now. Hope these give you a nice Sunday chuckle:

A lot of people cry when they cut an onion. I don’t know why they get so emotionally attached. 

What do you call bears with no ears?  B’s

What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.

What did one DNA strand say to the other?  Do I look fat in these genes?

A police recruit was asked during the exam, “What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?” He said, “Call for backup.”

What did the grape say when he was pinched? Nothing, but he gave a little wine.

What do you call a karate move done by a pig?  A pork chop.

Two years ago I asked the girl of my dreams out on a date, and today I asked her to marry me. She said no on both occasions.

What do you call a boomerang that won’t come back?  A stick.

Why did Adele cross the road?  To sing, “Hello from the other side!”

Why can’t you trust an atom?  Because they make up everything.

They just opened a new restaurant called Karma. There’s no menu, they just give you what you deserve.

If you have 13 apples in one hand and 10 oranges in the other, what do you have?   Big hands.

What did the man say when he walked into a bar?  Ouch!

It’s me again. Some of you are probably saying “Ouch” because of these jokes.

One other thing I want to add. I went to online Mass today and our priest asked us to write a couple of sentences about what Jesus means to us. He’s a nice guy, even though he gives us homework each week. Something like, think about ways to help someone else, that kind of thing. He’s never told us to write anything, so I will do that now. What does Jesus mean to me? He’s my friend. Jesus is the one I thank when big and little things go well (like getting across the railroad tracks on my way to golf just before the bar goes down behind me). Thank you, Jesus. I would have missed my Tee-time. He’s also the one I talk to when I’ve hit a rough patch – when things aren’t going well and pile on. Oh, Lord, why does everything bad have to happen at one time? Please help me be strong. To me, Jesus is my best friend. He listens, and he loves me no matter how many stupid things I do, which is a lot. All the time.

Ahh. Homework’s done. Now my prayer for you is that you stay well and happy and that you get a nice belly laugh at least once today. Amen.

Someday….but not today

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As I get older and my body sounds like Rice Krispies – snap, crackle, and pop, I worry that I won’t be able to see, hear, smell, and taste, much less ski, golf, hike, etc. It’s scary. So when those thoughts cross my mind, I beat them back by saying, “Someday I won’t be able to (insert ability I fear I’ll lose, like hit a golf ball without tipping over), but not today.”

We all get old, it just happens to some of us sooner or later. Wrinkles, lumps, bumps, chins that hang like a Shar Pei, brain that refuses to remember names, dates, how to get home from the grocery store.

After I’ve been sitting for a while and stand up, I can’t take a step right away because of aching knees that won’t go. It’s like when you drive a stick shift and you don’t put the clutch in all the way so the gears grind and growl. I’m pressing on the gas pedal but nothing’s moving. Someday my creaky knees will buckle like the scarecrow’s on The Wizard of Oz, but not today.

I’m afraid of losing my hearing. It’s getting harder to understand people, especially in a crowd. I have to fake hearing and hope I catch enough of the conversation to be able to say “uh-huh” when I’m supposed to, like an attentive listener. Sometimes people just look at me and I realize they’ve asked a question. Oh crap. “Hmmm I don’t know” I say, my standard response. “You don’t know if you have a dog?” That I hear.

When someone sticks their iPhone in my face to show me a picture of their giant zucchini, it takes me a while to focus. Tonight my mother-in-law showed me a black and white photo of my husband’s dad as an infant. I looked at the picture and saw a two-headed baby. “Is this a two-headed baby?” I handed the picture to my husband. “It’s a dog,” he said, handing it back. He can’t see either. I grabbed my reading glasses and looked at the picture. “All I see is a two-headed baby.” I will have to find my magnifying glass to tell what it is. Some day I won’t be able to make out anything in a photo, it will all be a blur, but not today.

One of the things I dread losing is my sense of smell. Right now I can smell a rose from ten paces and the stogey smoke on my husband when he comes in from outside. I can predict the weather, “smells like snow,” even before it falls. I told my kids I’d know if they’d been drinking or smoking pot when they were in high school so they’d better not do it, and they believed me. I think it kept them from being too wild, or maybe it made them better sneaks – who knows what they got away with right under my nose. Someday I won’t be able to smell pine trees on a warm summer day, the fresh air after a rain, or marijuana smoke wafting out of a car full of teenagers, but not today.

Come to think of it, losing these abilities may be God’s way of helping us to accept getting old. If I don’t put my reading glasses on, I can’t see all my wrinkles in the mirror, my arms don’t have divots, my knees don’t sag like an elephant’s skin.

And old people smells – yikes! They let gas slip and don’t know it (and don’t hear it either). Old folks homes and hospitals have a particular odor, kind of like Pine Sol, and that’s where us old people will end up most likely. Maybe not being able to hear will be okay, too. The nightly news is just history repeating its bad habits. The scandals. The wars. Same as back in the day.

But I’m not there yet. Someday I will be really old and things won’t function like they should, and I’ll forget how I used to stand up straight and tall and will start saying no to hikes and golf, preferring my soft sofa with a remote control in my hand, watching the clock to remember to take my next pill, going to bed before sunset. But not today. Thank goodness, not today.

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.

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.

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Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Olsen