She was sitting alone at the next table. Both of us were saving places for our husbands, who were trapped in a long line of hungry customers eager to place their lunch orders. She gently picked up a green vase displayed on a wide shelf directly behind us and checked the price on a sticker underneath it. "Nice to look at but I've stopped bringing anything decorative into my house. I'm determined to simplify," I commented.
"Oh," she said, releasing a long sigh, "I've given up on that. You see, my husband is a collector." She put down the vase and ran her fingers across the ornately designed fruit bowl next to it.
"What a frustrating coincidence," I couldn't help but respond. "My husband is too. Ideally, this is the time to start getting rid of superfluous items little by little, in stages, so we won't have to let go of everything all at once when we're older, which will be much more emotionally traumatic. This is what I keep telling my husband but his papers. office supplies, and books keep piling up. I could open up a store with his stuff."
"Right," she grimaced, putting down the bowl and turning to look at me. "My husband keeps bringing things in. Before it was china, then came silverware, then came antiques. It's been one category after another.
"Now he's singing the praises of crystal. It's 'Look at that gorgeous crystal bowl' and 'Check out those crystal candlestick holders' everywhere we go lately. I'm bracing myself for what's coming into the house next."
"Maybe we could go open up a huge store together," I chuckled, "the store with something for everybody. At least, we'd get all their stuff out of our houses that way."
"One thing I've learned is to never ever to tell him I like something. I happened to admire a Royal Dolton doll in a store once. Now he has thirteen!"
She turned toward the shelf again to glance at a statuette, then swung back around quickly as her husband approached their table.
Whenever I hear certain words in our English language, misused or overused, I bristle. First one up is the word okay.
The most ridiculous line used in so many movies today is the "Are you okay?" question. It is always asked of someone who's been through some ghastly ordeal and is black and blue all over. For once, I'd like the victim to answer, "No." I guess the new definition of being okay is "not dead."
How do you like the current substitution of the word discomfort for the word pain by health professionals? As I let out a scream during my recent sigmoidoscopy, the attending nurse inquired passively, "Are we having a bit of discomfort?"
How can a meal be healthy? The meal itself does not have good health; it is good for your health. A meal is healthful.
Have you noticed that nobody disappears anymore? They go missing.
Thing, cool, hot, and awesome are all overused words to such an extent that they have become almost nebulous. When is someone or something cool vs. hot? That is the big question.
I decided to take a new attitude last night after hearing a discussion on TV about the need to put the little annoyances of life into perspective. My alarm clock has a feature that awakens me every morning with sounds of nature, such as a babbling brook, birds, and crickets. It is the irritating sounds of the crickets that actually wake me up. But this morning, with my new attitude, I was so relaxed about the crickets that I fell back asleep.
The other day, I wrote my usual grocery list and left for some routine shopping at the supermarket. As it turned out, though, I ended up shopping with two other persons...only they never knew it.
Before I saw the middle-aged, conservatively dressed man, I heard his voice. "Well, it's great that you always find the reduced fat, creamy peanut butter when you go shopping but I'm telling you, it's not here. They've got chunky regular, creamy regular, but not what you want," he said emphatically, as he continued to stare at the shelves.
The cord from his ear piece dangled across his chest down to the cell phone hooked onto his waistband. "I will not ask anyone to help me find something that is not here!" I glanced knowingly at his third finger, left hand, confirming that he was talking to his wife.
As the man continued down the aisle, head turning from side to side, I placed a jar of raspberry jam into my cart and took a quick peek at the peanut butter section as I passed by. What do you know, he was right. I guess I checked because of the flashback of my own husband invariably bringing home the wrong food item or too much of something he became enamored of whenever he did the shopping.
I could hear the man as I headed down the cereal aisle. "That's not too much sugar," he pronounced, examining the label on the back of a box of chocolate Cheerios. "You're getting the kind of cereal you want. What about something I like?" This seemed like a reasonable request. Let's see...something for my husband, something for me.
When I got to the ice cream section, a few aisles over, there he was again. We must be moving at the same pace, I thought.
"Well, my dear, let me read you the entire row of names," he said. "Chocolate Delight, Coconut Breeze, Strawberry Song, Vanilla Mountain Glory, Melon Melody, and Hazelnut Surprise. Yes, they're all lactose-free. How do I know? It says so right on the front of the container."
I had not intended to indulge in any ice cream but I wondered what kind of surprising ingredient was in the hazelnut concoction. I nonchalantly hovered several feet away pretending to be absorbed by the sorbets. As soon as the man made his choice and wheeled his cart toward the next aisle, I promised to keep my portions small as I cupped my hand around the Hazelnut Surprise.
A few minutes later, over the nuts and seeds bins. I couldn't help but overhearing him as I scooped chopped walnuts into a baggie. "You really should try the raw, hulled sunflower seeds to lower your cholesterol." About twenty seconds of silence followed his suggestion. Then, "Well, of course, hon, to lower mine also, not just yours."
Hmmm, I thought, I need to lower my cholesterol too. After he moved on, I grabbed another scooper.
We were making progress. He skipped the pet food aisle as did I.
The laundry detergents were waiting for the three of us...the man, his wife, and me. "All right, I'll buy it but it's not on sale," he complained as he lifted a large box of my favorite detergent. He gave a long, last, lingering look at another popular brand that was reduced by two dollars. Truth be told, I don't think I would have noticed.
This shopping trip had paid off for me in more ways than one but, apparently, not for the man's wife. "Hmmph! I've saved you the time and effort of having to go through all this and that's the thanks I get. You can do the food shopping from now on and I'll take over the laundry," he told her, ripping off his ear piece.
Have you ever watched a man do the laundry?
Do you have a special method for disciplining your children or grandchildren?
My great-grandfather Pietro, who owned a farm in Abruzzo, Italy, had to rely for help upon his four sons as they were growing up. During the day, when growing boys are so easily distracted, it would have been a waste of his time and energy to try to keep their full attention and extract a genuine promise to improve, and he had too much work to accomplish before the sun set.
He wanted a captive audience who could do nothing but listen. So he came up with the most inventive method of discipline I've ever heard of.
Whenever one of them misbehaved, he would wait until the middle of the night. Then he would get up, quietly pull up a chair alongside the boy's bed, tap him on the shoulder and begin to talk.
He would talk on and on, in a low, modulated, calm voice, until the offending son would invariably say, "I give up, okay, you're right!" and beg him to just let him sleep. If the boy started to doze off, Pietro would tap, tap, tap him on the shoulder again and launch into part two of his lecture.
He would let him know exactly what he had done wrong, why it was wrong, and how he could improve. No arguments ever occurred because his sons were too tired to formulate one, and Pietro never once raised a hand against any of his sons.
Picturing the scene in my mind, I often enjoy a good laugh but at the same time, I think he was definitely onto something wise and effective. This is just one of many life lessons this poor, hard-working man left.
Everyone has an opinion about airplane food. What's yours?
When the attendants come around with snacks, I decline, having brought my own. Isn't it amazing that whatever they offer will be super high in sodium, saturated fat, sugar, and artificial ingredients I never heard of? And even more astounding is that people still eat these snacks.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she eats and by their food choices. If they gobble the greasy chips and chomp the high-calorie cookies, or if they hold their sandwich with unwashed hands and lick their fingers afterward, they just might not be health conscious.
Unobtrusively observing the eating styles of passengers can even become a form of airplane entertainment. Those who read while eating must have strong digestive systems. The ones who wolf everything down noisily are not sensitive to others around them, while the ones who pause between bites have manners.
It's easy to spot someone who chews with his mouth open, crumbs falling on his lap, or a person who takes bites so huge, he fills his mouth to capacity.
Since I must continue to fly to visit distant relatives and friends, I am trying to develop the new trendy "whatever" attitude.
In my experience, most hairdressers only know how to do about three or four hairstyles and you're destined to leave their salon with one of them.
It doesn't matter how much you gesticulate in front of their mirror while explaining what you want or how many magazine pictures you show them or how much they assure you that they understand exactly what you want.
A couple of hairdressers back, during my first and last visit to a recommended salon, I remember how the stylist stared at my hair with a pained expression before she was able to utter, "Look at all these split ends! Your roots are showing and you're even beginning to grow some nasty stark white hairs in your eyebrows."
"Here's a picture of the kind of hairstyle I'd like," I said, handing it to her.
"Oh, it's you," she now smiled. "I'm going to take care of all your problems, just relax."
Two hours later, I emerged from the salon hoping I wouldn't see anyone I knew on the way to my car. I grabbed my sunhat to cover my butchered hair and donned sunglasses to hide my super thick Groucho Marx-style, pitch black eyebrows.
After my hair grew out a little, I changed hairdressers yet again. The new one solved my hairstyle dilemma during my first visit and immediately started working on my limp crown hair problem.
"I'm adjusting your hair's aura," he assured me in his strong French accent. "See how happy the hair in your crown is now!"
Now I ask you, can I pick a great hairstylist or what?
Everyday living is riddled with so many time-and-energy zapping moments, it's semi-miraculous when you can accomplish any project that transcends the mundane.
To make a simple phone call and reach a human being, you have to first get past menus, submenus, and Burt Bacharach. When you do reach a person in real time, they want to transfer you to another department. Better than being out-sourced to a different country, though, where you will have to strain to catch a recognizable word here and there as someone with an extremely thick accent rattles off information.
It practically takes an act of Congress to get anything done right anymore. To get something--anything--repaired, you've got to wait out the "window of time" during which a repair person might arrive. When and if they do, you know deep down that it's highly unlikely they will fix it correctly the first time. No, there will usually be a second or third visit.
I can't even tell when my car will reach downtown San Diego in heavy traffic, but scientists know to a fraction of a second when Venus meets the sun every one hundred twenty-two years. I'm in the midst of doing all the funding of our revocable trust, trying to figure out which plans are best for our mobile phones and house phone, and learning to cohabit with my temperamental computer. If it were not for the joy of blogging, I'd have my way with this Gateway Table Top and hoist it out of the window.
Simplify life? Really? When passwwords are different for every single account?
It took me three nights to wade through the user guide to my new cell phone so I can send pictures, download help menus, program different ringer tunes for each contact, and give voice commands that work. Speaking of electronic devices, did you know they actually disrupt our natural biorhythms, our energy levels? Their electromagnetic fields release chaotic energy, according to an article in a scientific magazine.
These days, you'd better bring along a carefully prepared list of questions, as well as comments based on your own investigative research, when you go to see your doctor. This list will increase your odds for a productive visit during the ten minutes you're lucky to squeeze out of your clock-watching doctor's day.
You'd also better be ready to do everyone's job for them. Your doctor might be on the ball, but if his secretary sends his order for therapy to the wrong place, who do you think will have to take time out to locate and then tell her the correct fax number? And will the secretary be apologetic? Come on.
Here's how one of my recent commications with an insurance agent went:
Agent: That's not in your contract.
Me: Look on page 24, under B 3.
Agent: Oh, there it is!
I've come to the conclusion that I will never get everything accomplished in this lifetime that I want to do, have to do, and should do.
Case in point: I leafed through my 1998 schedule book, which I discovered at the bottom of a box while attempting to clean our garage, and at least four of the identical things I'm still struggling to get done were in that book. It gets worse. Not only have the same unreachable stars followed me from year to year, but new unreachables have sprung up to form a galaxy of undone things.
Next, I took a look at last year's schedule book to analyze where my time has gone. Bottom line: it was swallowed up by a host of multifaceted little things that are not even measurable, things that defy you to classify them. The interminable, self-perpetuating, never-ending to-do lists rule.
First, there is the grand master list of all my projects and, of course, the sub-lists of steps to be taken for each project. Then come the shopping and errands list that I carry with me, birthday and important dates lists, the bills to be paid list, as well as the Post-its all over the house. What I need now is a list of my lists!
The undone things follow me around and haunt me, just the way that black cloud always hung over one of the characters in the old Lil'Abner comic strip.
With a smile, my husband asks me, "Are you spending more time on the doing or on the listing?"
"Probably on the listing because the doing has become too frustrating," I fuss.
Of course, the important and the urgent things must be done. But I read somewhere that the speculative and imaginative things you would like to do "someday" aren't worth the constant angst of carrying around,copying and recopying.
So I guess that just because I have wanted to do something for years doesn't mean it is still worth doing. I'm going to have to reassess my master to-do list. Here's to the survival of the fittest!
I should have worn my hat today at the beach.
Early this morning, I was greeted by a low tide, overcast sky, and only a few vacationers. Good, I thought, I won't even need my hat; my zinc sun lotion is more than enough protection for my face.
So . . . I happily started my routine of fast walking, interspersed with some arm and leg exercises. After some thirty minutes, I was completely relaxed, my mind absorbed by the sights and sounds of the beach: a canopy of stratus clouds over grayish-green water, receding wavelets revealing sand patterns that looked like a quilted bedspread, a few surfers, a kayak, kelp bulbs that popped under my weight, and the plaintive cries of seagulls. All was right with the world.
And then, I looked up at a couple of Blue Herons flying directly over my head.
I really should have worn my hat today at the beach.