Gentle Humor

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

Wardrobe mishaps

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

“Some,” I said.

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

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

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

“Strapless?” I asked, picturing the dress.

“Yes, strapless.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Were you wearing a bra?”

“Of course not.”

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

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

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

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

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

The boys, of course, never said a word.

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

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

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

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

The search for the perfect bra

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

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

Kramer with the Manssiere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s happening in Portland?

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I get this question a lot from my friends and family back in Tennessee. They want to know why people are rioting in Portland. Who’s stirring up all the trouble?

Here’s what I tell them. We’ve got four groups on our streets here. The first group wants to change the world for the better – they’re the people who leave their comfy, air-conditioned homes in the summer heat and walk the streets to support Black Lives Matter. They hope that demonstrating will alert police to the reality that we don’t want them killing unarmed black people. It’s a pretty good reason to hold demonstrations.

The second group wants to use the cover of the demonstrators to vandalize and loot. They are opportunists, criminals, thugs – the cockroaches of society. They’re thrilled that people are demonstrating because they lay low until the focus is on other groups, then break a store window and steal what they can. They destroy property so they can profit. Black lives don’t matter to them. They need to be sent to jail, the sooner the better. Almost as bad are the vandals and scum who spray paint our buildings and everything else with their stupid giant letters. It’s ugly. Just stop it. Put them in jail, too, after the judge makes them remove their awful graffiti. 

The third and fourth groups are vigilantes here to fight each other. One is the white-supremacists, the Skinheads and Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer and other modern-day fascists. They want every race except whites to be somewhere else, preferably dead. Let me refresh your memory about fascists. They were in charge in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s. They called themselves Nazis, and Hitler was their leader. He started World War II. In the meantime, the Nazis practiced their white supremacy by killing six million Jews in Germany’s concentration camps, not to mention anyone they deemed inferior, such as handicapped people.

Today’s white-supremacist, fascist, hate groups in America call themselves Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer and other names, because the word Nazi has such inconvenient connotations. I call them Profa – short for Pro-fascists – they are the opposite of Anti-fascists, or Antifa. 

Antifa is the fourth group here in Portland. They oppose white-supremacist, fascist groups, for, what I think, are obvious reasons. (See paragraph above about Hitler, Nazis, murdering innocents, and World War II). 

The question is, why are these two groups, Profa and Antifa, in Portland? Pro-fascist groups are okay with the police shooting someone as long as the victim is not white. They certainly aren’t here to support Black Lives Matter. Antifa is here to stand up to the white supremacists. Antifa is like the kid in school who gets between the bullies (white supremacists) and the kids being bullied (everyone who isn’t white). So Pro-fascists and Anti-fascists clash. Violence ensues. Opportunists break into stores and steal. Demonstrators keep marching.

I’ve heard people say, “Antifa is a terrorist group. They’re bussing in people and paying them to riot.” This makes no sense to me. Antifa, remember, are anti-fascists, the far left – they’re on the side of Black Lives Matter. They are against police brutality. The only people they’re fighting are the white supremacist fascist groups. 

What makes more sense is that someone is bussing in the pro-fascist groups, the far right. But who would want pro-fascist groups in Portland? Hmmm, the Proud Boys and all the rest of the pro-fascists have Trump’s name plastered all over their banners while they parade through Portland. Maybe that’s why Trump keeps calling the anti-fascists, Antifa, a terrorist group, but sympathizes with the white supremacist pro-fascist groups. 

If I were a president whose ratings are down, I’d spend some of my millions or ask my rich friends to rent a few busses so the Proud Boys, Skinheads, Patriot Prayer and other fascists can come to Portland where they make Black Lives Matter demonstrators angry. Anti-fa comes to stand up to Pro-fa. Fights break out. People get hurt. It’s cheap advertising. It’s almost the only thing they talked about at the Republican National Convention – IF YOU DON’T RE-ELECT TRUMP THE WHOLE COUNTRY WILL BE LIKE PORTLAND. What name is on the banners of the fascist, white supremacist, hate groups as they parade in Portland? It’s not Biden. 

If a person wanted to stay in power, wouldn’t it be in his best interest to stir up trouble, to manufacture fear, to pit people against each other? And then spend day and night Tweeting that the whole country will be like Portland if he’s not re-elected? 

But wait. Isn’t he the one in office right now? And isn’t the country already like this? Right now? Could it be his “divide and conquer” strategy? Divide us to the point that we’re so angry we can’t even talk to our own family members or our best friends from high school without getting into a shouting match. We may have disliked other presidents, had political debates, agreed to disagree, but we can’t even talk now. He has definitely divided us. 

But will he conquer? Not if we vote. Actually vote. Not just not vote. Many people didn’t vote in 2016 because they thought Trump was a joke, but they couldn’t support a Democrat, or a woman with a trumped up email scandal. Hilary won the popular vote, but Trump ended up in the White House. Please don’t let it happen this time. I know he’ll whine and cry and say it was rigged and we’ll have to endure his pouting, vengeful tweets about how he’s a genius and everyone else is a loser and blame it on fake news and on and on and on, but who knows what will happen to Democracy, to America, if he gets another four years? If you don’t vote for whatever reason, or vote by writing in the name of someone who can’t possibly win, Lord help us. 

What’s happening in Portland? Who’s stirring up trouble?

Do you really even need to ask?

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.

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/

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Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Olsen