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EVERYONE NEEDS A HOBBY

“You should take up knitting; it’s so relaxing”.

Those were the words of a former friend, whom I once mistakenly assumed had my best interests at heart. Now I rack my brain trying to understand what I could have done to her to cause her determination to turn my life into nerve pressuring misery. Knitting: Relaxing? Therapeutic? Really?

Trying to be open and fair minded, I consider the possibility that she has a good idea. As I look around wherever I go, I see women in lectures, on trains, and in recitals peacefully knitting. They appear to be relaxed as they demonstrate the art of multitasking. How hard can a little knitting be? I wonder.

You’ve always liked challenges, I tell myself, and I decide to try knitting. I’ll start with something small. Yes, I can do this! As I think about it I get enthusiastic about learning a new skill. This is going to be great fun. My friend and I head straight to a new knitting shop in Mendham. I immediately understand how addicting this hobby can become. The shop is charming; a converted room in back of an old house. It has original wide wood plank floors and ancient hand hewn wood beams. Displayed around the small rustic shop are beautifully handmade sweaters, vests, scarves and adorable, cuddly baby outfits.images

My enthusiasm increases as I imagine myself presenting my own hand made sweaters to my children, in law children and grandchildren. Depending on how quickly I can turn out each sweater maybe I can make a few for my friends too. I could have them finished in time for the holidays. What would be more thoughtful than a hand knit sweater with unusual hand crafted buttons, hand sewn button holes and pockets trimmed with beautiful special trim displayed around the shop?

Children’s sweaters will be my first project, I reason. They’re small enough to finish in a couple of days and then I can move up to adult sizes. It pleases me to think how excited everyone will be when they see their gifts this year. images-2

Soon the stack of materials I need is very large. I need a knitting bag, skeins of wool of all sorts of wonderful colors, several sizes of knitting needles, buttons, trim and some knitting magazines. The ones with all those cute pictures. I feel adept and practically professional as I gather all my equipment and materials. So far, considering only the children’s sweaters my bill comes close to $1000.00. But this hobby is going to relax me. And the children will be so excited. It’ll be worth it.

 

The first step in starting to knit is to kick off, jump off, or push off. I’d better check the vernacular before talking about this hobby to anyone conversant in knit lingo.

I’ve only begun my first baby sweater when I notice that the stitches are hard to move. A knitting needle can fit under each wool stitch on the needle holding the yarn but after a couple of stitches I can no longer move anything. The wool is so tight that I have to battle the stitch to get it off one needle and onto the next. I take it back to the knitting teacher. “You have to relax when you knit, or you pull the stitches too tight.” She pulls out my completed rows and starts over again, demonstrating her relaxed, easy rhythmic knitting style. “I can do this,” I assure myself, and take my supplies and new found confidence back home. The first few rows look good. The rows I’ve completed are loose and easy, loose and easy, and “What?” There are now holes between the stitches. The stitches are too loose, too easy, and resemble holes the size of the chipmunk tunnels in our garden. “OK, Not a problem; I’ll rip out these few rows and start again.” I turn on some soothing music and begin to knit a baby sweater. The smaller the baby the better

I am relaxed, I am productive, I am creative. The rows are the right tautness this time, and I am making good progress. I hold the project up to show my husband that evening, and notice an odd expression on his face. “Oh, um, very nice,” he stammers, and looks for a newspaper, book, or anything else to hide behind. I look at the baby sweater and am shocked to see that the sweater has taken on the shape of an alien being. What kind of creature could fit into this garment? A cross between Jack Spratt and Humpty Dumpty?

 

The knitting teacher kindly welcomes me back to her shop and explains something about decreasing numbers of stitches in rows to shape the garment. “We can just rip up to here,” she explains, “and start decreasing stitches there.”

This will be the third time I’ve had to rip out the stitches I knitted. There is nothing relaxing, productive or creative about knitting. It should be called the scorch and burn hobby: knit, knit, rip, rip rip. Two steps forward, seventeen steps back.

 

In the interest of maintaining my sanity and sunny disposition I return everything remotely returnable to the knitting store, leaving me with only $649.37 worth of knitting equipment that I will use to remember the experience.  Then I zoom over to the mall before it’s too late and with love in my heart, buy presents for everyone on my list.

They will be so delighted when they see their gifts this year!

 

FISH TANK CRISIS

There’s a new plant in the fish tank. 

A very pretty one; called “Apongeton” (uh PUNDG-uh ton). It’s an especially beautiful plant that sways with the movement of the water, caused by the bubbling aerator and the filter. 

But there is a problem. The tank inhabitants are afraid of this new green threat, which they consider the separator of the left and right sides of their home. The fish stay huddled in a trembling group, eyeing the new-comer, Apongeton. They’re not sure what to make of it. If they venture beyond their comfort levels and bravely swim through the plants’ moving branches, will they live to tell the tale of their adventures? Will they survive trying to reach the other side?

And so they sit in limbo, huddled together, waiting for someone else to make the first move. Think of government, sitting, doing nothing, and awaiting orders from the top. 

Finally one fish boldly approaches the plant and treads water, staring it down, testing his position. Nothing happens. He remains unchallenged by the plant barrier. So he takes the next step and swims right through the branches and out to the other side of the tank. “Braveheart” is formally named the Boseman’s Rainbow, and is now the official leader of all members of the Aquatic Community.

The other fish in in the tank remain motionless, still too frightened to take the chance of swimming toward the “Green Monster.” They fear the change in their environment, and are willing to wait out the challenge it imposes. 

Several fish approach the new plant cautiously, still unable to make the decision of what to do.

It’s clear to see two sides forming: the cautious versus the fearless. The fearless flaunt their bravery, swimming back and forth with impunity, scoffing at the timid group, who remain trapped by their own fears: confined to the small space on the “safe” side.

There seems to be a shutdown. Nothing is moving, except for the daring unafraid, few, who take over by assuming all boundaries are limitless. The adventurers have become freer by giving themselves permission to venture away from the fearful ones. By doing so they now have free range of the tank while the others remain ensconced in the small space of a corner, where the plant’s branches can.not reach. 

And so back and forth the adventurers glide gracefully, beating the risks and moving to their own rhythms. Success has its own rewards!

CELEBRATION OR TORTURE?


People have many different ways of showing happiness and celebrating.

New Year’s Eve is a perfect example.

Many of us plan to be with good friends, either at home or enjoying dinner at a restaurant. Or at a friend’s house for a party.

Others enjoy larger parties, like the largest one in the world, The New Year’s Eve Party in Times Square, New York City. Watching the ball drop at the moment of the New Year, followed by tons of confetti dropped from above is the highlight and big thrill of the night. If being in the  midst of huge crowds is your idea of fun, you’ll be very happy there. There is no larger crowd getting together to scream, shout, jump around and do whatever else people in large happy crowds do.        

The police presence will be enormous. They will search every bag and will not allow any alcoholic beverages to enter the area. Screening the entrance to the area will be equivalent , and as exciting, as the TSA screening before boarding an airplane. 

Uniformed police, mingling with the crowd will be armed. We are told not to be alarmed at all the uniformed and plain clothes police officers mingling with the crowd, carrying their automatic weapons. 

Even on a stormy, rainy night like this New Year’s Eve promises to be, umbrellas are forbidden from the scene. Any umbrellas that are found will be confiscated! With the increased security around Times Square there is no chance of smuggling even a tiny mini umbrella into the area. Assisting the police in their surveillance will be a squadron of drones overhead. And there will be an armed presence of Homeland Security.

There will be NO public restrooms of any kind. If nature calls, well, deal with it! Is this scenario still holding some appeal to anyone? No wonder the huge majority of celebrants are teens and young adults. One young man from the Island of Jamaica said “I haven’t had anything to eat or drink since yesterday.” He’s in training for the hours of bathroom deprivation.

Doesn’t this sound like a fun New Year’s Eve? You know you’re getting older when this kind of adventure is no longer appealing. Does a quiet evening at home by the fireplace, munching snacks, eating carry-out dinners and watching fun movies appeal to anyone? It certainly does to me!

However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a Healthy and Happy 2019. May all the surprises coming to you in 2019 be good ones.

LOSING FRIENDS

“No,” I said confidently. “I don’t plan to move away from here. This is my home. My children live here. All my friends live here.”

“That may be true now, but what makes you think that they’ll all live here indefinitely? You might decide to stay, but your children and your friends might move away.”

This conversation took place several years ago, and has come back to haunt me. 

Not one of my children settled in our community or even in our state. As I worked my way through my address book this year, sending out holiday cards, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Many addresses have changed. 

One friend, who was alone after the death of a spouse, moved to Michigan to be near his son.

“Well, that’s understandable,” I thought: “His son and his young family will be company for our friend. He’ll feel useful around his grandchildren, and they’ll be amusement for him.” But that’s not a typical situation. Most people don’t have such a reason to move away; he’s an exception.

As I continued addressing holiday cards I found surprises. The address book brought me to the names of friends who have vacationed in Santa Fe, New Mexico for years. They loved the culture, the weather, and the art, and often said they would love to retire there. Before we realized it, retirement eventually arrived. Their wish was not a pipe dream we often hear; they  actually did move to Santa Fe. images-5.jpeg

A close friend and neighbor of ours always suffered in the cold winter weather of New Jersey. Lots of people feel that way, and many leave for a warm climate for three or four months. Our friends tried that for a while, and then decided to move to Florida permanently We miss the casual invitations to “Come over and see the beautiful Clivia plants in bloom.” images-1.jpegAnd other reasons to get together. We miss their company. 

There are many reasons to make a new start and move to a different community in a different state. There also are many reasons to stay in the place you have always lived. 

It takes a certain kind of courage and bravery to cut ties in a place you know and have known for most of your life. But that place becomes more and more unlike the community you knew before: the reason you lived there in the first place. None of our three children live here any more, and friends are scattering more and more frequently. The town we lived in is not the same town it was. It is crowded, overbuilt, and full of new people of a different age group.

If we saw this town for the first time, and it now was the way it is now, would we still be attracted to it as a place to spend our lives?

Despite any dissatisfaction, we have discovered years ago that there is no perfect place to live. There is no paradise; every state in the union has advantages and disadvantages 

Measuring them and considering options is confusing. I still don’t know what the right thing for us will be, but I do know that my address book is becoming thinner and thinner.

WAS I INSULTED???

We were shopping at a grocery store that specializes in selling prepared home made dinners. What a great way to start a weekend: with a full refrigerator of different dinner choices: no need to buy separate ingredients, carry home heavy packages, sort and put them all away. 

My husband Harvey and I don’t have similar food preferences and rarely want to eat the same foods, which makes meal preparation quite a hassle. This store eliminates the necessity of cooking two separate meals every evening while still enjoying a comfortable evening at home. 

The first counter featured a wide array of entrees. These selections included containers of Italian meatballs and stuffed cabbage. Next to it were about six kinds of chicken preparations: Southern Fried Chicken and The Chickens, Murphy, Caccatore, Parmesan, Oreganata and Arroz con Pollo. As we wandered down the aisle, labels of our many choices filled our minds and rumbling stomachs with delightful possibilities.

The first package to make contact with a hungry hand was a serving of Stuffed Cabbage.But in his haste to pull a container of the delectable treat free from the others in the case, my husband inadvertently pushed in the plastic top of the container, causing the sauce to spill over the top. 

It would have been easy to simply leave the damaged, squished container in the  case and select a perfect, sealed replacement in its place. But my girl scout morality caused me to catch the eye of the store employee stocking that case, and confess the mistake of our ways. He simply said, “Give it to me; I’ll fix it.” So I did and he did, and Harvey and I continued on our way.

After a long trek through the aisles, filling our cart as we went along, I decided to visit the rest room before heading back to the car and the long, pot-holed ride home. 

As I opened the swinging door images.jpegleading to the back room where the rest rooms were located, I saw the man who had taken care of our damaged package earlier that morning. He was walking out of the work area with both hands full of more packaged meals to put into the counters. 

I backed up to make room for him to exit the area, and held my side of the swinging door open so he could pass by.

Just then he moved to the other side of the swinging door and kicked it open with his foot. Then he walked back out to the main shopping area without making eye contact with me or showing any recognition of my courteous gesture of holding the door for him.

So, my blogging friends, what do you think? 

Was I insulted?

JURY DUTY

It’s a privilege not all countries offer their citizens. In our great fortune, our country  does offer this privilege.

So why, when someone gets notice of jury duty the first thing they want to do is “get out of it?” People try obtaining Doctors’ notes with excuses such as, “She cannot serve on jury duty because the hangnail on her left thumb is under strict observation for signs of infection.” These jury duty escapees attempt being excused because they are desperately needed somewhere else.

Anything in their lives is more important than serving on a jury.

“Too busy.” “Conflict.” “ Not now; I have a headache,” oops, that last excuse is for getting out of something else.     

Once I was called for Jury Duty and, having never encountered the experience before, went to serve on my assigned day and time. I would be a good citizen and fulfill my proper citizenly responsibility. And I would surely learn valuable life lessons to boot!

All prospective jurors were seated in black metal folding chairs in a large empty auditorium, waiting to be told what to do and where to go. In front of the room were three fully armed police officers, pacing up and down the aisles. That gave a rather less than welcoming feeling to a room of well-intentioned citizens there to support our free society. At 9 o’clock A.M. sharp, a spokesperson addressed us.

‘You are required to stay seated until you’re called. If your name is called please rise and follow me. Otherwise, stay seated where you are now. There will be an hour break for lunch at noon, and you will return here until dismissal time, 4 o’clock.” This message was delivered in blunt and unnecessarily cold tones. I felt more like a prisoner of the state than a law abiding citizen willingly and freely serving my civic duty.

My name had not been called yet, so I settled back and looked around to discover that I was among interesting but odd company. The man to my right kept gnawing at his left index finger. I wished I had a cuticle clipper and an emory board to offer him so he would stop that annoying crime against the defenseless cuticle. I shifted my gaze to the woman on my left. she had a motion thing going on with her leg. She sat with the right leg crossed over the left and relentlessly elevated that right leg up and then dropped it down;  down; up and down and up. A choreographic symphony was going on in my very row. And it was making me dizzy. No matter how hard I tried I could not make the swinging leg stay still. And I couldn’t ignore it; I tried to avert my eyes, but it swung endlessly. The person in front of me was busy texting. She must have had a clever co-texter, because she kept bursting out in a high pitched cackle, indicating her amusement with her electronic pen-pal. Someone directly behind me was heartily chewing gum and snapping it in my ear. After a while I was dizzy from the swinging leg, deaf from the snapping gum and repulsed by the finger-munching molester. And that action was just from my co-jury pool of people. The presiding officers were intimidating, scary and nightmarish.

After all those hours my name was never called.  I was forced to sit in that one place all day. When it was finally dismissal time, I left gratefully, hoping that I would never again be called to serve on jury duty; civic duty be damned.

D is for Disney

Disney: a name that lights up the eyes of youngsters and lightens the wallets of adults.

We’ll make childhood fantasies come true and take the family on a Disney cruise.

Violet, 3, asks, “Can I bring “Piggy?”

Big brother, Sebastian, 5, asks, “Will pirates come on our ship?”

Xander, bigger brother, 7, wonders, ”Can we eat hot dogs every day?”

Matthew, eleven, asks, “do they have an ice hockey rink?”.

Younger brother, David, 9, says, “Can I eat all the free ice cream cones I want?“

Twin sister, Julia, asks, “Will I meet Cinderella?”

As we board the ship, we notice a few adults, and children, children, children every where. Surely there have never, in the history of the world, been so many children together in one place. They’re jumping, running and screaming. The adults look befuddled, confused and uncertain.

A honey toned voice coos us inside. As we walk from one area to another, a staff member offers each of us a pop-up, pre-moistened, antibiotic infused towel. We are now fit for Disney: cleansed, sanitized, deloused.

“Hi!” a cheery voice says to our group, “So happy to meet you. I’m Mary Lou. Let me show you to your rooms. What adorable children,” she says, with a smile the size of a crescent moon.

“Here is your room, sweetie,” she gushes to the youngest family members. “Isn’t is perfect? Mommy and Daddy will be right next door.”

To the next oldest children she ecstatically announces, “Your room has three beds and a bathroom all to yourselves. Your parents will be right through this door.”

Finally, she croons to us as she leads us to our quarters next to the others, “You can have privacy but still be near those darling children.”

She sounds as if she is announcing our winning the lottery. I never saw such ecstasy in the plebeian act of showing guests to their rooms. Her satisfaction is practically orgasmic.

We unpack and report to the dining room for lunch. “Welcome, welcome. We are so happy to see you,” another happy staffer gushes as if we were old roommates.

We are seated and Violet spills her glass of milk. Before anyone can react a cheerful staffer swoops upon us with, “Oh, honey, don’t worry. It’s alright; we’ll clean this up and get you another glass of milk.” And the new offering appears before a tear can even think of emerging.

“I don’t like this menu,” complains David, our terribly sophisticated, opinionated nine year old gourmet. At home he’d be told: That’s what’s for lunch. Eat it or wait for dinner.” But not on a Disney trip.

“That’s OK.” says our waiter. “Come with me and I’ll show you the whole kitchen. The cook will make you anything you like.”

Is this place for real? Who could live up to this kind of attitude or attention at home? 

At the pool comes a confrontation. Xander has a special fondness for his shark patterned bathing suit and wants to wear it everywhere, poolside or not. “Xander, put on something reasonable,” his parents demand. Suddenly a dulcet voice from nowhere croons, “That’s a great and very scary bathing suit. Let’s put this jacket on top, so the shark doesn’t get cold.” Score another point for Disney.

“Come on, buddies, let’s all go and watch the parade”  suggests a Pied Piper wannabe suddenly appearing before us. The children jump up and follow, sublimely anticipating the appearance of their favorite cartoon heroes.

“Where’s Cinderella?” asks Julia. “Come here and you can shake hands with her,” warmly offers yet another Disney disciple. Julia is overcome with excitement.

“Where are the pirates?” Sebastian challenges. “Oh” says a staffer who must be an agent for the Pirates’ Union, “that’s a special surprise. Shhhh; don’t tell anyone,” he says, as he takes hold of Sebastan’s hand. In the next instant we are under attack from a pirate ship. Sebastian shrieks with delight and fear, as the patch eyed pirate approaches. “Take this,” says the staffer, and hands him a toy sword.

But his little sister, Violet, is unhappy. She announces her distress with ear splitting screams. “I don’t want to take a nap.”

How do children keep from rupturing their own eardrums with their loud screaming? Mine are just about gone!

But sugar coated Disney gal approaches with a Disney promise.

”Children who take naps right now will dream of Mickey Mouse. Of course you want to see him, don’t you?” And just like that, Violet approaches nap time with a smile of anticipation.

These Disney folks are all so happy, cheerful and sweet that it just isn’t normal. It isn’t real. In fact it is becoming quite irritating. I don’t believe this over-happy, overly sweet world they’re perpetuating.

Oh, how I long for just a smidgeon of sarcasm. A smattering of selfishness, A degree of dissatisfaction. I can’t take much more of all this sweetness and endless understanding.

How I long for one honest grumbling, grouchy, irascible someone just like the dear folks at home! When that happens I will finally be able to put my feet up on a soft, cushy ottoman and let out a big sigh of relief.

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