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Friday, August 31, 2012


I want to apologize to my readers. I know that I have not been writing regularly these last few weeks. We have been dealt some blows and the stress I have been under has made it difficult for me to focus on writing, whether serious or funny.

This Monday, August 27, 2012, Trent and I were dealt the cruelest blow of all. After twelve and a half years, we had to have our precious dog Paris put down. I don't want to go into details; it is just too hard to go through it again. But it is so hard to make the decision to end the pain of your best friend, a sweet creature who is more or less your child. We could not bear to have her suffer. Her pain is over, and ours has begun. It is amazing that the absence of such a small creature can leave such a large wound in your heart. 

When I am in the kitchen, I no longer have my sous chef watching carefully, hoping to be asked to taste whatever is being made. If I am washing dishes by hand, she is not sitting there hoping that I will go to the refrigerator and get out a can of dog food and fix her a dish. And when we come home from going somewhere, she is not there to greet us with boundless joy. 

Some people may not understand the mourning we are going through. But those of you who have bonded with and truly loved a dog will know. We have lost a best friend who loves us unconditionally, our child, our devoted companion, a member of our family. Time will help lessen the pain, but right now the wounds are very raw. So please bear with me, dear friends. I am still here but just not quite myself. Or perhaps quite myself? Those who really know me know that under this lunatic veneer there is still a soft heart. I just need to let it go through its grieving process. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Shirt Off His Back

When I was a customer service trainer in the banking industry, one of my trainee-graduates kept telling me that he wanted to meet his friend. A few meetings were set up and cancelled, and I didn't get my hopes up for anything happening. One day, I was invited over to meet my former trainee's family, and Trent was invited to stop over as well. He was not told that I would be coming over, so he was rather unprepared. He seemed like a nice guy, if a bit grumpy, and was kind enough to give me a lift home. During the course of the evening, I learned that he would be starting in the next training class.

Poor Trent. I remember one morning he stopped by the office before class and, speaking right past my two office mates, said that breakfast sandwiches had been two-for-one, would I like one? I told him matter-of-factly (and truthfully) that I had already had breakfast, but I knew that my co-trainer was hungry and would really appreciate having a sandwich. Accepting temporary defeat, he handed the sandwich over and went on to training class. The girls teased me about him daily. "Trent just lights up when you go in the training room!" or "Why does Trent bring you treats and not the rest of us?"

One day, when the class was on a break, my co-trainer and I went outside to the smoking area because she really needed a smoke (I never touch the stuff) and we needed to chat for a few minutes. Trent showed up while we were outside, but we didn't mind because we weren't talking about anything private. The only problem I was having was that I was freezing. It was early March and I had gone outside without a coat. I was wearing a lightweight dress with short sleeves, and standing outside shivering. Trent looked at me and saw that I was chilled. He was wearing a t-shirt with a button-down shirt over it. Without a word, he took off his shirt and placed it on my shoulders. It was very unexpected and kind, and impressed me quite a bit. In fact, I told the class that I wasn't going to name any names, but there was someone in the class that was such a gentleman that he had given me the shirt off his back.

I had dinner plans that evening with a friend, and told her that she would not believe what had happened to me that day. When I finished with the story, she said, "You better watch out; you could end up marrying a guy like that!" Six months later, we took a trip to Las Vegas and got married. The rest, as they say, is hysteria, and next month will be our thirteenth anniversary. After all this time, we can still laugh at the other person's silly jokes. No, we don't always agree with each other. But we are still plugging along. And I think he would still give me the shirt off his back!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Please Don't Send In The Clowns

Now the truth comes out. I think we all have things that we don't like even though it seems like everyone else does. One of those, for me, is clowns. I know that there are lots of you out there who might have an opposite opinion, so I will ask your forgiveness. 

There is something about clowns that sort of creeps me out. I think I first started feeling this way when I was about eight or nine years old. Since I was so young, this cannot be blamed on Stephen King's book It which featured a killer clown with razor-blade teeth, or the movie Poltergeist with that horrid clown doll that tried to pull the kid under the bed. Maybe it's those weird faces. Clown faces, whether they are painted with a smile or a frown, seem to me to be incredibly sad. And I think that perhaps some of the television programs that I watched as a kid which featured clowns added to my discomfort. Even at that young age, it seemed to me that if you got really close to them, you'd be able to smell liquor on their breath. Breakthrough! Maybe part of my weird feelings about clowns come from having a father who often drank to excess? The same man who took my mother's life? Wow. That certainly could make a person feel uncomfortable or even scared. I seriously never thought of that connection before. I will have to think about that for a while after I finish writing.

But since I am divulging secrets here, let me tell you about something else that creeps me out. Dolls. I don't mean Barbie-type dolls; Miss Barbara Millicent Roberts and I had a lot of fun together. No, what kind of makes my skin crawl are those baby dolls and ones like them, with eyes that open in the upright position. I could never be a doll collector for a very simple reason. I would never be able to sleep because of those little eyes. Those wide-open shiny eyes would make me feel like I was being watched. I can just imagine getting up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and seeing several of them watching me with those eyes that click when they open or close. One of them might even have a sharp knife on her lap because she knows all of our habits now. They are plotting to take over the world, and she is their leader.

Several years ago, one of the toy companies came out with a talking Big Bird doll. My sister Liz got one for me because she thought it was cute and kind of funny. And it was, for a while. Since I couldn't bear the thing sitting and staring at me, I would put it in my closet. And then the craziness ensued. One night as I was getting ready to go to sleep, I heard a voice coming from my closet. No, I am not making this up. It really happened! I opened the closet door, and there was big bird, with those shiny plastic eyes, and he was talking and talking and talking. I know it was a malfunction, but when a doll starts spontaneously talking in your closet and won't stop until you remove the batteries, you have a couple of choices. Call a toy exorcist, or send it to the big dumpster in the sky. I chose the latter. I couldn't possibly give it to a child. They would actually have a real monster in their closet! I guess it could have been worse, though. It could have been an evil talking clown.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Are You Talking To Me?

There was a time in my life when I had just left a job after several years. I received a nice little sum of cash from retirement and other accounts, so I decided to take advantage of the situation. Instead of trying to find a new job right away, I decided to do a little bit of traveling. I bought a train ticket and went to Canton, Ohio to spend a few days with my oldest sister, Margit, her husband, Harlan, and her daughter Johanna. Then Johanna and I got on the train to spend about a week in New York City. In fact, Johanna had her seventeenth birthday in Manhattan. After the days of fun and sightseeing and shopping, we went back to Ohio, and Margit and I went on a road trip.

Margit really wanted to take me to Reading, Pennsylvania. I am not sure if it is the same now, but in those days, a lot of people in that area would drive to Pennsylvania to go outlet shopping. Not only did they have large outlet malls, they had no sales tax! So we drove there, checked in to our hotel, and had some dinner before hitting the stores. Why wait until tomorrow when you can shop today?

When we were in the first cavernous store, Margit got a funny look on her face and said, "Where's the restroom? I really have to go!" Of course I didn't know where it was, I had never been to this place before. As we searched for the facilities, it happened. Margit set off a gas bomb. A loud gas bomb. Being a smartypants from birth, I said, "God Bless you!" She gave me an exasperated look, and we found the restrooms. I think many women, including me, will stop at the fire hydrant when our friend has to do so. It just makes sense. That way they won't be mad at you later for having to stop everything because you have to tinkle.

So we went into stalls right next to each other, and then my body betrayed me. It made a teensy little "pfft" sound, which caused my sister to say, "Are you talking to me?" I thought she had pulled off the ultimate smart-aleck remark, and started roaring with laughter. Which was when she realized that I hadn't been talking to her at all. So here we were, in the restroom of an outlet store, laughing till we had tears running down our faces. We could barely breathe. You've heard people say that they laughed until they tinkled in their pants, right? Well, for me it was the opposite. I was laughing so hard I couldn't! I can only imagine that the other women in the restroom thought that we were a couple of loons, and kept a lookout for us so they would know who to avoid. Needless to say, for the rest of the trip, we kept saying, "Are you talking to me?"

What made it even funnier was that about a month later, I was shopping with my other sister, Liz, and her daughter, Rebecca, and we ended up in the restroom in adjacent stalls. I started getting the giggles really bad. They got worse and worse, and Liz started laughing even though she didn't know what was so funny. Of course her daughter was disgusted and humiliated by our silly behavior in public. Until I told them what happened with Margit. The phrase quickly became a part of our family's vocabulary.

So if you ever happen to be chatting with me, beware. If an unpleasant smell or sound should drift into the vicinity, I might be asking you if you are talking to me!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Auntie Kat

We had our Wednesday Club this evening. One of our members, Rhiannon, is going to have a baby girl this December. Marie will become a grandmother, and is completely thrilled. Tiffanie and Lisa will become aunts. I was feeling a bit left out since I am the only one that isn't technically a family member. I asked for permission to be an Auntie, and Rhiannon graciously granted it. After we finished our chat, it reminded me of something funny that happened to this "honorary aunt."

I was working as a trainer in the telephone customer service department of a large banking corporation. Our newest trainer, let's call him John, and his wife, we will call her Judy, had a lovely baby boy a few months after he began working with us. I liked them both, and was very flattered when they started referring to me as their son's Auntie Kat. It was quite sweet, actually, to receive a Christmas gift with a card that said, "Merry Christmas, Auntie Kat!" It truly warmed the cockles of my heart. Please do not ask me where the heart's cockles are located. I have not been to medical school, so I don't know. All I know is that they were warmed, okay?

Time passed and Baby came in to the office at times to visit us, and he pretty much had me wrapped around his tiny little finger. He was such a good-natured baby, and had a sense of humor from a very young age. You know what I mean. He was one of those babies that bursts into endless giggles when you make a funny noise or a silly facial expression. As long as he didn't pee on me, we were good friends.

When my birthday rolled around, I came to my desk to find that a bouquet of flowers had been delivered while I was in the training room. It was such a pleasant surprise. I looked at the card and saw that the florist was located on a quaint little block that was filled with restaurants and shops. I eagerly opened the envelope to read this lovely sentiment; "Happy Birthday, Antique Kat! Love, Baby." I burst into laughter. How hysterical! John was stunned. What was so funny? People don't laugh like a loon when you send them flowers on their birthday!

I was actually laughing too hard to tell him what the card said, so I just showed him. He got embarrassed and his face turned red, but I had to tell him that it was the sweetest and funniest thing that had ever happened on my birthday, and I wouldn't change it for the world. So what, the florist misunderstood the order and made a mistake on the card. But that mistake was so fun I have never forgotten it. The next time we drove through that quaint shopping district, I noticed something that I hadn't realized before. Nestled amid the restaurants, ice cream shop, and florist was a liquor store. Perhaps the florist spent too much time and money at some of the neighboring shops? I am sure that is not the case, but it added a little extra flavor to the story of how I became Antique Kat!


Memories And Musings

As I flipped open the cap on my jar of petroleum jelly, I thought, "Wow. I can remember this stuff coming in glass jars!" Seriously! It was a very homey, comforting design. It was round and easy on the hands, with a screw-on metal lid. And a pasted-on label that was there to stay. It had a smooth sturdiness that said, "I am here to soothe you." Another thing that I miss: mentholated ointment used to come in glass jars as well. But not just any glass jar. It was a lovely dark blue. The color almost said that when you used it, there would be blues skies ahead. 

Of course, when I saw that blue jar, I knew that Gram was doing her best to make me feel better. This included some lozenges in a paper box with a waxed-paper liner. Sometimes, if I was not too sick, they were the cherry flavored ones, which were my favorite. But for the really sick times, there were the lozenges of torture. They may have helped me get well sooner simply because the stench made me want to throw up. They smelled a bit like raw bacon, but not in a good way. Kind of like a really old, dessicated piece of bacon rind. I probably faked feeling better more than once to avoid those lozenges! I finally got up the nerve to tell Gram that they turned my stomach, and she was kind enough to never make me take them again. If only I had figured out that simple approach about five years earlier, I could have saved myself a lot of rancid-bacon induced nausea. Her other throat-and-cough remedy didn't upset me too much, though. It was a home-made concoction of honey, lemon, and whiskey. Some of my cousins got very good at having fake coughs when they came over to visit!

In addition to the items I have just mentioned, Gram had mysterious and lovely grown-up things. Pink and white glass jars and bottles of various creams for her face. There was always a red lipstick. And a box of beautifully scented Coty Airspun loose face powder in a box with a flower pattern on the outside and a big powder puff inside. Sometimes I just want to go to the store so that I can smell that powder again. It would almost be like having her back for a moment.

There was also the magical button tin in the coat closet. No matter what color or style of clothing item you had, there was always a button, or set of buttons, that would go with it perfectly. The same with scarves, gloves, and costume jewelry. I know if I had ever needed stockings or handkerchiefs or an evening bag, she probably would have had them in her dresser drawers. It was more of a treasure chest than just a receptacle for clothing items. When I was older I found that the treasure trove included cards and drawings that I had made for her as a child. She had carefully saved them in boxes along with report cards and other mementos of my young accomplishments. What a lovely way to find out how much someone loves you!

I hope I haven't bored you with my memories and musings. Sometimes sharing memories makes them even sweeter.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jim And The Camera

When we were on the trip to Europe that has been mentioned previously, I really wanted to go to Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Julie wanted to go as well, so we left Liz and Marie at the Eiffel Tower and forged ahead. If you are thinking we are morbid or weird to spend time visiting a cemetery, I beg to differ with you. A cemetery as old as Père-Lachaise is full of history. Whether you love history, politics, art, music, or literature, there is someone there you have heard of. And the gravestones, crypts, and statuary are beautiful as well. Julie had a few specific graves she wanted to see, including Camille Pisarro and Colette, and I wanted to see Jim Morrison (of The Doors, if you can't place the name) and Edith Piaf, among others. As we made our way through this city of the dead we saw many lovely monuments. The trees cast dappled shadows over us as we searched for the people we wanted to find. Considering that it is located in one of the largest cities in the world, it was an amazingly quiet and peaceful place. 

When we reached Morrison's grave, I noticed once again something that had bothered me throughout our trip. There were many people who had cameras and were taking lots of pictures, and I will freely admit to being one of them. Photographs help preserve our memories, and also allow us to share them with others. But the thing that really bothered me was that some people never really stopped to take in what they were visiting. They were visiting the Louvre or the Cathedral of Notre Dame or even Père-Lachaise cemetery and not even looking at anything other than the display screen on their camera. Me at The Louvre: standing in wonder as I view incredible works of art, and then photographing them. Them at The Louvre: whistling at people to get out of their way while looking at the back of their camera to take a photo. It made me feel two quite different things. One was pity for them for not being there fully for their trip. I felt that I was building memories while they were building a photo file. The second thing was an overwhelming urge to say, "Hey! Don't whistle at me! I am a human, not a dog! And I don't even treat my dog as rudely as you are treating me!" But I remained a true lady and simply glared at them, or smiled and stayed right where I was.

So Julie and I kept back while people flitted in front of us to see Jim's grave through their cameras. When they left, we enjoyed a few minutes peacefully soaking in the atmosphere. I could feel his presence, and his amusement and dismay at the way people were acting. "They just don't get it," I felt him thinking. We moved on to find a few more of the graves we wanted to see, and had found all but Edith Piaf. We were in a lovely central area with a grassy park and people enjoying themselves and picnicking or just resting in the afternoon sun. It was absolutely lovely. We were so close to nature that Julie even got pooped on by a passing bird. I'm serious! I have photographic evidence, but I am not going to publish it willy-nilly. She took it like a champ, and laughed it off. Things like that tend to happen with her and animals.

We looked at our maps and found that of course Edith Piaf was at the farthest corner and in the opposite direction from where we needed to go. We were also running short on time to reunite with our travel mates. Julie was willing to go the distance, but I made the decision to just head out. All the time we had been at the cemetery, I had kept my camera strapped securely on my wrist. I pulled my tote bag off my shoulder and put my hand in the bag to drop the camera in. The camera ended up on the ground, not shattered, but still unusable. I heard Jim Morrison's voice in my head saying, "You got what you came for, Babe, you don't need any pictures of that wrinkled old prune." And like Julie, I just had to laugh. He was right.

If you go to Paris, you might want to consider going to see amazing and beautiful places like Notre Dame, The Louvre, or even Père-Lachaise. Just remember that even though you may have a firm grip on it, you might have to deal with Jim and the camera. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hungarian Hands

Have you ever had one of those moments when you see someone, think that you know them, tell them so, and then regret it? I had one just recently when we were in a waiting room for a doctor's appointment. As soon as I heard my mouth say, "I think I know you," all of the mental cogs finished spinning and I was thinking, "Oh, no! Why don't the brakes for my big mouth work?" Before I knew it, I had spoken to someone I really didn't want to. Not that it did me any harm; it just brought up some interesting memories.

I have some specific reasons for not thinking terribly highly of this person, but that is something I don't want to get into right now. It is too heavy and too unhappy for me to put in my blog. And this from someone who has told you about some terrible things from her own past! Ah, well. I will share a story about this lady, though, that happened many years ago. I believe I was in Junior High School at the time, and was visiting at my Aunt Roberta's house. As often happens in neighborhoods where long-lasting friendships form, there were neighbors stopping by for quick visits. 

While we were there, one of the sets of visitors was a proud grandmother showing off her daughter and her daughter's newborn baby. News travels fast, and a few other neighbors came by to see the new baby. One such visitor was the lady I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Let's call her Mrs. X. Mrs X was looking at the baby, remarking over how lovely it was. When she looked at the baby's hands, she said, "Oh, look at those hands! She has hands like a Hungarian!" Since this lady is not a Hungarian, and I am, I was both curious and pleased. I thought the baby had beautiful hands. Maybe Mrs. X would drop a little pearl about my Hungarian heritage that I wasn't aware of, like Hungarians have hands like artists, or something else equally nice. 

So with a smile on my face, I said, "Oh, really?" "Yes," she answered, "Hungarians have different hands than white people." HUH? I wasn't aware that Hungarians or any other ethnic groups were a different species than the rest of the human race. At that moment, I knew that I would never pay very close attention to anything Mrs. X said from that moment on. Later events that occurred in her family made me realize the wisdom of this decision.

Of course, when I saw Mrs. X at my husband's doctor's office, it made me remember the Incident of the Hungarian Hands, among other things. It also made me remember a teacher that I had in Junior High School. I must say, I had some wonderful teachers at this stage of my life. They not only filled me with knowledge of the world, but helped form me as an individual. One of the best of them taught me that it was okay to question authority. "Just because I am a teacher doesn't mean that everything I say is right. If I say the sky is green, the fact that I am a teacher doesn't make it true. It's your responsibility to say something when things like that happen." True wisdom from the lips of this young man.

In contrast, there was Mr. F. Mr. F was a Social Studies teacher. I was smart enough to know that he had a lot of intelligence and information to share with us. But I was also smart enough to know that there was something about him that just wasn't quite right. You see, Mr. F. always had a joke or a comment about ethnicity. And for some reason, he spent a lot of energy aiming his comments at me. "Hey, Katrina, do you know why you never tell a Hungarian a joke on a Wednesday?" "No, Mr. F." "You can't tell a Hungarian a joke on a Wednesday, because he'll start laughing in church on Sunday! Ha ha ha!" "Yeah, Mr. F, that's so funny I forgot to laugh."

Although I wasn't very knowledgeable about my Hungarian heritage, it made me angry. Why did he always have to say something cruel? Why not just say, "Hey, Katrina, all Hungarians are stupid. Since you're Hungarian, that means you are stupid too!" But he couldn't say something like that. First of all, it was way too direct. And second, how can you say something like that to a girl who has some of the best grades in her class? I found out several years later that Mr. F had gone too far. He was sued for his continued ethnic jabs and comments, and lost his job as a result. I don't bear him any ill will. 

As the years have passed, I have learned that Hungarians have hands just like all the other humans do. And just like everyone else, there are Hungarians that are not so bright, and those that are super-smart. If you don't believe me, look up Albert von Szent-Györgyi or Erno Rubik. And when you've found out how intelligent they are, look at the mug shot of Zsa Zsa Gabor after she got arrested for slapping a police officer with her Hungarian hands. I rest my case.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Sense Of Urgency

I woke up this morning with a mental checklist of things I needed to do today. One of the important items on the list was getting on the computer to get the rest of this month's cycle of bills paid. I had planned to do this task in the late afternoon or early evening, after doing the other things that were necessary. 

I like to start off my day by checking the daily news to see what has happened overnight, and what is going on at the moment. And of course, that leads to checking email and deleting lots of junk email, and then peeking into people's lives through social media. With my warm little bundle of dog tucked close next to me and tablet in hand, I opened my email.

"Urgent Notice: Payment Date Approaching," was the title of an email from a credit card carrier. Oh, CRUMBS! Did I screw up and not get my payment scheduled soon enough? Was I going to have to pay a late fee? Or even worse, was I going to have to call someone and spend half an hour on the phone to make one of those crazy expedited payments I have heard about that cost almost as much as a late fee does? Just what I needed to NOT ease into my day.

So, with a mixture of resignation and dread, I opened the email to face the bad news. "Dear Katrina, the payment date for your credit card with CrazyBank is coming soon. Log on to to make your payment. Your payment of $xx.00 is due on August 12, 2012." Huh? Aug 12th? As in ten days from now, August 12th? Do we need to have a discussion about the meaning of the word "urgent"? When you get your toe caught on something and it's facing in the wrong direction, that is urgent. (Thanks to Ally and her sister for that one; sis, your injury is now officially famous. Or infamous!) When there is enough time to write a check, forget to mail it for three days, and still get it there on time (but it won't go down that way because you always pay it online), that is not urgent!

I suppose it is just a reflection of marketing techniques. Perhaps we need to be given a sense of urgency to get in gear to do something or buy something? "Hurry in while supplies last. This price is only good for a limited time." Mmm-hmm. It seems that a limited time has a lifespan of up to three months. Okay, now I get it! Laaaaa! (Sound of Heavenly Choir.) It was so simple. If a limited time lasts three months, then it makes complete sense that a mere ten days' span would be called urgent! It may take me a while, but eventually I do catch on.

The sense of urgency that was born in me when I saw the title of that email was put to good use, however. I paid all of the bills way ahead of schedule, enabling me to spend some time this afternoon watching people who can't walk through their homes or use their kitchens or (ick!) toilets say that they do not have a problem. And I was able to write this before dark-thirty this evening. Of course, that probably means that at dark-thirty I will be in bed, wide awake, needing sleep. Urgently.