Gentle Humor

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

Covid, Disasters, and Friends

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All hell broke loose in Oregon last weekend. We had snow, freezing rain, ice, power outages, and the worst – no TV! You don’t realize how truly alone you are until you’ve lost the internet and TV. My husband’s mom came to our house for two days because her power was out, and while she was here our power went out. We were forced to play Scrabble by candlelight to entertain ourselves, and then she beat me. “The game was rigged!” I whined.

Then we heard that in Texas hell actually did freeze over, bursting people’s water pipes and causing power outages and water shortages. The news was full of tragic stories about couples with four kids having no power or water in a freezing house. Many of them left their homes to stay with relatives or friends. In times of trouble, strangers step up, but it’s easier to call your mom or son or a friend to help. 

Some of us don’t have nearby relatives, and some don’t have friends. It’s hard to make connections when you’re busy all the time, or prefer your own company so you don’t have to share the remote control. It also takes courage to have friends, because there’s always the risk of rejection. They might not invite you to a party, or they choose someone else to go with them to the beach. If you’re busy all the time when they call, they eventually quit calling. Plus you have to be nice to them. That sounds flippant, but really, you can’t insult your friends or do mean things to them because they’ll put up with it for a while but eventually they’ll find a new friend. 

Don’t Answer It!

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When my daughter comes home from college and the land line rings, I yell, “DON”T ANSWER IT!” She always wants to – she thinks it might be her grandmother or somebody. It’s not.

Reminds me of growing up, when we always answered the phone. That was a long time ago, before cell phones and answering machines, in the days when the phone rang and you could count on it being a relative or friend or someone you did business with. During my teenage years back in the days of the dinosaurs, I was either on the phone talking to friends for hours, or I wasn’t in the house.

My dad worked out of town and was only home on intermittent weekends. He was one of those guys who took the newspaper with him into the bathroom when nature called. He’d be in there reading the sports page when the phone rang. Back then, though, there weren’t lying, cheating jerks who wanted to fleece us over the telephone. So when the phone rang, we answered it. Also, because there weren’t answering machines, the phone just kept ringing. Teenage girls figured you were in the bathroom popping zits or something and they’d just let it ring until you got done and answered. Or, if they were lucky, your cute brother would pick up the phone and you could talk to him until he realized it wasn’t one of the girls in his class but some dumb kid.  

After a few thousand rings my dad would throw the newspaper down, pull up his pants, clutching them at the waist because he had to return to the bathroom and finish up, and stomp to the phone. He thought that if the phone was ringing all that time, it must be an emergency. He growled, “HELLO!” Either the friend thought to herself, “Oh crap,” and hung up on him, or she said in a mouse’s voice, “Is Suzy there?” He yelled, “NO!” and slammed the phone down.

Superstitions and Ornery Boys on the Ski Slopes

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My superstitious traditions didn’t protect me when I went skiing with my brother last week. I know, I know, superstitions are ridiculous. I’ve stepped on a lot of cracks and never broke my mother’s back. But still…

On Thursday my brother and I headed to the mountain. I like skiing with him because he’s as bad a skier as I am. On the hour and a half ride to get to Timberline, there are two things we always do because, I don’t know about him but for me, I think if I don’t do them something unfortunate might happen on the slopes.

If you’ve never skied, let me assure you, it’s dangerous. You’re going way too fast on snow and ice with your feet strapped to two boards that could turn on you at any minute. One board could go into a track left by a previous skier and follow that line, or you can “catch an edge,” while the other board keeps going straight. You’ve probably seen it happen in cartoons. Usually you can force the wayward ski to behave, but if it won’t, you fall. Which can hurt, but mostly it’s just a LOT of work. Picture a walrus in the Arctic trying to get up on an ice floe, grunting and swaying and bellowing. That’s like one of us struggling back up from a fall, covered in snow like a powdered donut – well, not really, because a walrus is more graceful. Also you can get hit by a beginning snowboarder who’s going too fast and hasn’t learned how to stop yet except to ram into you and flatten you like a steamroller.

That’s the reason traditions/superstitions come into play. We want all the help we can get. The first thing we do, on the way up to the mountain just past the town of Sandy, is salute a metal sculpture. My son started that one when he was just a toddler. On a road trip going toward Mt. Hood he spotted a metal sculpture of a skeleton riding a Harley in someone’s side yard. He shouted, “Skelekos Rider!” because that’s the best he could do at such a tender age. So every time we go on Hwy. 26 and we pass that sculpture, we raise one fist in the air like the man on the Harley and say, “Skelekos Rider!”

This sculpture of a skeleton riding a Harley with his hand raise up is cool in itself, but I liked the old car and tow truck in the background, too. Not to mention the "Harley" sign.
This sculpture of a skeleton riding a Harley with his hand raised up is cool in itself, but when we pulled over to snap this picture, I liked the old car and tow truck in the background, too. Not to mention the “Harley” sign.

Wrestling with a Vitamin Jar

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I got a new jar of multi-vitamins and began the task of opening it this morning. I finally got through obstacle Number 1 – removing the clear plastic wrapper that is molded around the lid and most of the jar. I put my best magnifying glasses on, grabbed a pointy steak knife and, delicately as a surgeon, nosed it at the edge of the plastic repeatedly until I got the tip under it, enough to lift a little edge that I could tear away with my teeth. 

After I wrestled off all that plastic, I pressed down on the child-proof cap with all my might and opened the jar. I found obstacle Number 2 inside. The round white inner seal – held in place with industrial glue so strong you could chain it to a pickup truck, gun the engine and no matter how many horsepower or Hemi’s under the hood, it won’t pull the inner seal off.

Typical vitamin jar inner seal - nearly impossible to remove

The manufacturers like to trick you into believing the seal will come off, so they put a itsy bitsy little tab on the edge of the seal, or, as in this case, they have kindly glued a thin clear strip of plastic that sticks up like a shark’s fin for you to grab onto. I always get suckered into trying. “Maybe this time,” I say to myself with faith and hope, “maybe this time I can tug the inner seal off with my bare hands and brute strength.” Getting a grip on the thin plastic fin is not possible with human fingers – it’s barely enough to pinch. Gripping takes more finger real estate, almost all the way to the first knuckle. The jar designers know this, so they make the fin almost – but not quite – tall enough.

Things Are Looking Up

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My two deer came back this morning. What with the neighbor yelling at them and a strange man sneaking climbing into people’s hot tubs in the area, I was afraid they’d never be back.

The woods above our back yard are thick with rhododendron, fallen limbs, underbrush, debris, ivy, and holly. Years ago I blazed a trail through the mess so the kids could play up there. Soon deer and coyote started using the trail to get to the park. It’s a woodland circus if you happen to look out the window at the right time.  

My husband piles leaves in a bare spot up there – the woods slope up just beyond the grassy area – and that’s where we see most of the wildlife passing through. A couple of months ago two deer started hanging out in that bare area. They stand there, scratching their fleas with their teeth or skinny hind legs and intertwining their necks to scratch each other’s fleas.  

Deer in the backyard scratching an itch with it's teeth.
Deer in the backyard, one scratching an itch with it’s teeth, the other chewing its cud.

Just before Christmas they showed up four days in a row. On the fifth day my daughter arrived home from college. “Oh boy,” I said, excited. “You’ll get to see the two deer!” But of course we looked all day but no deer showed up. “Just wait, they’ll be here tomorrow. I’m telling you, they were up there for three hours the other day napping in the leaves.”

On my daughter’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th days the deer didn’t come. The morning of her 8th day, she packed up and drove away. I always get teary-eyed when she leaves, so I started putzing around the house, keeping busy to stave off the sadness. Barely 30 minutes later (I checked my phone) the two deer strolled into the clearing. I laughed, delighted to see them and amazed at their impeccable timing. I sent my daughter a text with a picture of them. “Of course,” she replied back. “They came to keep you company after I left.”

Regrets – not today

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You might be saying to yourself, “I wish I’d learned how to play the piano as a kid – I’ve always wanted to play – but it’s too late, I’m old and it’s foolish to start now with these arthritic fingers and the joints all knobby and covered in warts.” Or you’re saying, “I’ve never exercised in my life and now I’ve got pain in my knees and heart troubles and my doctor says I ought to exercise – it would make my life so much better – but I’d look like an idiot walking around the block all by myself and Harold won’t go with me, he never goes anywhere except to the Mr. Suds Bar and Grill for a few cold ones, the lazy bum.”

Or maybe, when you finally go for that walk, it feels great, and the birds chirp and squirrels frolic and the sky is blue and the grass is green and you get angry with yourself, and the whole world at large, and Harold in particular, because you didn’t do it sooner. “Why didn’t I do this years ago, before I got so stoved up I can’t even hoist myself out of my recliner and have to scooch up to the end of the chair and rest there for a minute and then start rocking back and forth until I get enough momentum, and then I lean way forward and put both hands down and push with all my might and if I don’t get it all perfectly in sync so that I’m propelled straight up onto my feet, if I wobble even a little and fall back into the recliner, I’ll wet myself because I really, really, really need to go. Why didn’t I start exercising sooner? Why?”

I’ll tell you why. You weren’t ready. You were a mess, and maybe you didn’t even know it. A lot of us do (or don’t do) things because we have some dumb fear that keeps us in the same wacko patterns that have made us afraid we’d be less happy if we did things different, even when common sense and our gut feelings tell us we need to change.

I’m in that pattern right now with eating. I’m a healthy eater – plant-based, lots of fruits and vegetables – a pillar of respectability when it comes to diet EXCEPT at Christmas time, when all the homemade goodies get exchanged. People feel compelled to open a can of sweetened condensed milk and mix chocolate chips in there and heat it up and cool it down and call it fudge and put it in a pretty tin decked out with Santas and holly and give it to me in December, often with a side of butter cookies in the shape of Christmas trees with green sprinkles. Who can resist? Not me. I gain 10 pounds from sugar every holiday season. Then the whole months of January, February and March (and sometimes April and May) are spent chastising myself for doing it because (every dieter knows this formula):

1 pound gained in 24 hours of binging = + or – 3 pounds lost in one month of strenuous dieting

Usually it takes longer, because once the sweets addiction takes hold, you spend at least the first half of January eating every piece of concentrated sugar you can find, even down to those round disks of white hard candy with red streaks radiating out of the middle that taste like peppermint – I think they’re called Starlight mints. They always have them in at restaurant cash registers where the management is cheap and happy not to have to  keep re-filling the bowl because no one eats them. Sometimes my husband grabs a couple and hands me one and, so as not to hurt his feelings, I put it in a coat pocket and it stays there all summer and the next winter I put my hand in the pocket and the candy has drawn in a little moisture from the humidity and gotten itself gummed up and turned pink all over and leached out of the wrapper and stuck to the inside of the pocket and I tug it out with my fingers that get all sticky and there’s nowhere to wash them off. You know the ones I’m talking about. In January, when I’ve gone through all the existing sweets and exercised enough willpower not to buy anymore, I’ll resort to eating one of those things because there’s always at least one somewhere in the house. Then, like a drunk in a mud puddle in the rain in a movie who’s reached rock bottom, I know I have to stop. No more sweets. No more McDonald’s fries between meals. No more eating chocolate chips right out of the bag just before bedtime so I can’t go to sleep because of the caffeine buzz. I’ve hit bottom, and I’m overcome with regret.

But consider this. Whenever you come to the point that you want to change for the better, whether you’re 18 or 89 – that’s the best time to do it. Before that, you weren’t ready. You weren’t even capable of doing it. It was not possible. You were too scared, too tired, too busy, too lonely, too afraid. And now you’re not.

 Maybe you realize you can’t blame Harold anymore, the no-account bum. You don’t need him to help make you better – you only need you. Right now.

I’ve taken up a couple of hobbies, and that voice in my head is telling me I’m stupid because I didn’t do them when I was younger – when my body and mind were nimble. “You’re an idiot, you know that, don’t you? You should have done this instead of having your girlfriends come over and calling up boys and saying, ‘Who do you like,’ for hours and hours when you could have been using that time learning to play the banjo.”

For some reason, right at this point in my life, I’ve gotten brave enough to do a couple of things I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve resolved to do them with the zeal of youth, and appreciate my progress, no matter how slow. Even once around the block – that little accomplishment – is better than sitting and feeling the life flow out of me like a receding tide.

Up now, UP! Let’s rise up and do something extraordinary – you and me. Let’s stretch our bodies and minds and be the best we can be today. Let’s take piano lessons, learn to sing or dance, take an online class to become a rocket scientist.

And if Harold, the no-good bum, or the voice in our head makes fun of us, let’s not listen. Just for today.

Happiness and Losing Stuff

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I was going to copy a letter from Pope Francis, such a smart guy, to give us hope fin all the turmoil, but I can’t find it – along with my keys and cell phone. At church our priest read the letter for his sermon and I thought, “This will be my blog this week – rather than giving a mild chuckle to the millions and millions of people who read this blog faithfully (or maybe that’s just one person – Pearl), I’ll give them Pope Francis’s take on happiness, and how we can have it even with the Capitol being stormed and all the other sad news we have.”

Doggone it. I can’t find it. Let me see if I can remember what he said. 

Believing

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Don’t panic – this isn’t about religion, although that’s when I had the revelation. I read a chapter in the Bible every day, and some of it, especially in Genesis, sounds a lot like a Marvel comic plot line – somebody makes a man out of dirt and takes one of his ribs and makes a woman, then she does something bad and so does he so they are cast out, and one of their sons is jealous and kills his brother. Later a man makes a giant ark and puts two of every living thing on it and floats in pouring rain for 40 days while the world is destroyed by a flood. If you’ve ever been on a Royal Caribbean cruise you can see how two of everything would fit. Still, some things are hard to imagine, even when you really want to believe. That’s when I had my revelation – about believing, and life.

To believe you have to have faith – against all odds and maybe even all logic. That’s true about religion, but it’s also true in life. If you want to be successful at anything – a career, a sport, learning to play piano – you have to believe you can do it. Others may believe in your and encourage you, but if you don’t have faith in yourself, you won’t succeed. You’ll give up.

New Year’s Resolution

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We’re all doing the best we can. That’s what I started telling myself over the Christmas holidays.

People catch up with each other this time of year. When they start talking about their problems, I say (or think), “Why don’t you just…?” Then I insert my unsolicited advice. They react with something like, “Well, I can’t do that because…” so, ever helpful, I offer another bit of advice – I’m an endless fountain of solutions.

In a Zoom room full of people I can solve all their problems in a matter of seconds. I think to myself, “He looks like Jabba the Hut, he needs to go on a diet.” “If only she’d pay attention to that child it would stop screaming in the background.” Boom – world’s problems solved.  

Memorable Decorations

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Christmas Angels my children made years ago out of paper plates

These two angels that my kids made at an Advent Fair are part of the Christmas decorations I put out every year. My daughter’s has a sweet face – smiling and happy. My son’s is a tough guy – his scowling expression says, “You want a piece of me?”

Those pictures in magazines that show holiday homes with color schemes – turquoise birds on white trees with silver ornaments all matchy-matchy – that’s not happening in my house. Nothing coordinates. Just about everything has broken parts glued back on. I keep them for the same reason I’ve kept my kids’ angels all these years – they have a memory that makes me smile.

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Copyright © 2021 by Suzanne Olsen