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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fido Facial

We went to visit some friends today, friends whom we hadn't seen in a while. They have added two adorable puppies to their family since the last time we saw them, Chloe and Lexi. Chloe and Lexi are West Highland Terriers, like the little guy you see on commercials for food that comes in wee packages sized just right for small dogs. Our friends lost two dogs last summer on the same day that my brother died. Daisy was also a Westie, and Buster was a Cairn Terrier like Toto in The Wizard of Oz. Buster and I hit it off very quickly. When I came in and sat down on the sofa, he would jump up on the sofa and then jump up again to the sofa back. He'd come over (I had taken my glasses off in preparation) and rub the side of his head and shoulder on my face to show his affection. Then someone would say, "Get her nose, Buster!" and he'd gently grab my nose with the side of his mouth. My laughs would make his ritual even more exciting for him to perform. 

I remember when I was told that there only a few people that Buster showed love to in this manner. I was touched to be one of his special people, and I still cherish my memories of his delightful show of affection. As we set off to visit M and S and their new babydogs, I told Trent that I hoped they would like us. Trent scoffed because in the entire time he has known me there has been a grand total of one pet that hasn't warmed up to me, which is probably one of the reasons he calls me Mother Nature.

Chloe and Lexi have recently discovered that they are able to do something really cool called barking, so they greeted us with a bit of a chorus along with some excited peeing on the floor. They were shy at first, but little puppy tongues were licking my toes before I sat down, so I held great hope for doggy friendship. Before long, Lexi made a move to come see me on the sofa. Her personality is a bit like Buster's - she was willing to check me out fairly soon. Chloe is a bit more like Daisy - slightly more reserved, taking her time to get to know us. Before long, Lexi was licking my face, and Chloe soon joined in the fun.

Trent was soon getting his own Fido Facial from Lexi. She got on the back of the sofa to lick the right side of one of our faces. When it was sufficiently bathed, she walked around to the other side to make sure it got the same loving treatment. We both got our share of lickings from both of these adorable little puppies. What made everything seem to come full circle was when little Lexi began to nibble gently on my nose. It was almost like getting a kiss from my old friend Buster. 

As we sat and visited, the puppies fell into the deep sleep that only exhausted pups can manage to pull off. They would wake up and see that we were still there, waiting for more puppy kisses, which they generously gave. And suddenly, magic happened. A little puppy opened her mouth and gently chewed on my nose with her side teeth. For a brief, magical moment, my old friend Buster was back and young and getting my nose again. It brought a smile to my face and my heart. Dogs may come into and out of our lives much more quickly than we can bear, but the love they give so freely stays in our hearts forever. Lexi and Chloe, thank you for giving me your friendship. Buster and Daisy, thanks for the joy you added to your family's lives. Like our little Paris, you are loved and missed. But like the best of friends, you are in our hearts forever.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mean-Face Girl

I can't even remember how the joke got started. Somehow one of my favorite trainees was given a particular nickname. Lauren became known, occasionally, as the Mean-Face Girl. To understand how funny this is, you'd have to know what Lauren looks like. She has a very pleasant face, kind and clear-eyed. This is not the face of someone who looks even remotely intimidating.

I imagine that is probably what started it all. She probably said something during one of our classes about how she was so very scary or something, and made everyone laugh. When she tried to look mean, she'd frown, glare, and squinch up her nose, all while making a scowling expression with her mouth. It was terrifyingly not-scary. In fact, whenever she tried to make her mean face, it usually brought a smile to mine. 

Training classes finish and trainees move on, as they are supposed to do. One Saturday Trent and I happened to run into Lauren at a local wing restaurant. Oh, this place had good chicken wings! I wonder if they are still there? Gosh, those wings were, what were we talking about? Oh, yes, Lauren. I introduced Lauren and Trent, telling him that she was the Mean-Face Girl I had told him about from one of my training classes. She demonstrated her scariest, most intimidating glare. Trent responded with a bland comment along the lines of, "Oh, that's really scary - not!" But now at least he knew who I was talking about when I referred to the Mean-Face Girl.

I am proud to say that Lauren did extremely well with her job. She received additional training and advanced to more responsible positions in the call center. When a position for a trainer opened up, I was thrilled that she applied. She did well in her interview and presented a wonderful training demonstration session as well, and was hired as my coworker. I had a wonderful time with Lauren as a coworker. She is an intelligent, funny, and caring person. We spent about a year working together, I think, and became very good friends. The hilarity usually lasted past the end of the workday as well, because Lauren and I rode the same bus home from work. When she realized that she drove past my apartment on her way home from the bus station, she began to give me rides home from there every day. These rides were a great chance for us to decompress from work, and we often literally laughed until we cried on these rides.

Lauren and I were together through a wide variety of things. There was the tiny training group that she was observing as a brand-new trainer. There were only four people in the class, and they would get drowsy in the warm training room after lunch. It caused me a lot of frustration, and I will admit that once or twice I got a bit testy with them. One day I decided to wake them up by beginning to train while using a loud Mrs. Doubtfire accent. Much hilarity ensued, especially because one of my trainees dared me to train the entire module that way. And I did. Lauren laughed until her jaws hurt. She tried to use her patented Mean Face to stop herself from laughing, but it didn't work. She didn't even try not to laugh when she was observing and co-training the class with her brother as a new hire. After he snottily told her he didn't need any help from her, Karma stepped in and he spilled a cup of coffee right down the front of his pants! Not only did he have to deal with the burn, but the chill that set in later. And his big sister never had to lift a finger to get back at baby brother.

Lauren was also there to give me support when a young man that I had trained in various classes, and was a person that I really cared about, died of liver disease. Unfortunately for this sweet young man, he was unable to live long enough to find a suitable donor for a transplant. I remember that the day I heard of his death, I was terribly shaken. She was very kind and supportive, and willing to take over my class at a moment's notice if I asked.

Lauren moved on to another area in the bank, and I no longer work there. Her husband John (I trained him in the call center, too!) became a Physician's Assistant and they moved out of state and we fell out of touch. They are now back home in Colorado but living on the other side of the state. Recently I was on a certain social media site and found that I had received a message from Lauren. She had read one of my blog posts and left me a very sweet message that made my day. Though I haven't seen her for several years, I still feel the same way about her. She will always be a treasured part of my life and there will always be a great deal of love in my heart for Lauren, The Mean-Faced Girl.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

People-Watching And Baby Diets

I love people-watching. In fact, I have written about this before. No, I'm not a creepy, stare-at-others, make folks uncomfortable kind of person. I think it may have started when I was a little kid and would watch and listen to what was going on around me. If I was in the presence of adults, they would not want to have my input, but if I sat quietly and observed, I knew more of what was going on than I think they realized. It actually became part of my survival skills - if I observed others' behavior, including both successes and mistakes, I could learn through their trial and error. It's sometimes a good thing to be the youngest of your generation. If you are observant and can learn from the behaviors of your older cousins and siblings, you can save yourself a good deal of time and trouble.

As I grew older, I continued to enjoy my fleeting glimpses of lives passing by and happening around me. You can take a break from shopping at a mall, for example, and see little bits of life's dramas floating by like leaves in a stream. The girls who are begging mom to please, please, please let them get their ears pierced or buy some makeup. Dads struggling with toddlers and strollers, trying to get a gift for a friend and control their young ones at the same time. Young couples in love, walking hand-in-hand. Old couples in love, walking hand-in-hand. People laughing, arguing, talking can see them all.

When I worked at a retail shop located in the Denver International Airport, the people-watching was terrific. In an airport, emotions often run higher than in places like malls or restaurants. You may be left wondering about people for days after you see them, especially if you also interact with them. Airports are more than just masses of travelers going from one place to another. They are full of people with different reasons to travel. The young man who looks nervous and excited may be welcoming a girlfriend home from a trip. Maybe the reason he keeps putting his hand in his jacket pocket is because there is an engagement ring sitting there in a plush velvet box. The woman in the suit with an anxious expression on her face may be trying not to miss the connection to a flight that will take her to a job interview and the possibility of a completely new life. The sorrowful looking couple with tears in their eyes may be going to a parent's funeral in another state. You never know what is going on in others' lives, do you?

One of the drawbacks of being an observer is that we sometimes see things that bother us. Yes, there's the cranky parents who are loudly impatient with their children. The couple who are clearly experiencing problems with their relationship. Faces full of worry and stress. But there's a whole world of other things happening in our view. We may see old friends reuniting, crying tears of joy and excitement. Someone at a corner table in the restaurant interviewing for a job there. A business lunch where you are trying to guess who is the boss and who is trying to make an impression on her.

The other day, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that might be described by the current term of "fast casual." You know, the kind where you place your order and get your own drink, picking up your freshly-prepared food and enjoying it from real plates, with real flatware. I had been to a doctor's appointment that required me to be fasting, and by the time we were finished with that and an errand on the way home, I was famished.

While we ate, I saw all sorts of things going on around me; business, friendship, family lunches, it ran the gamut. I noticed two women who seemed to be waiting an awfully long time, with no food on their table. Suddenly one woman's face lit up and she exclaimed, "Oh! Here's the baby!" Both women got up to greet the mother they had been waiting for. It made me a bit sad to see them fussing so much over the baby, with the big brother completely forgotten. I told Trent that moments like this made me understand how older siblings could hate younger ones. It was almost as if Big Brother was invisible.

The two ladies went to order lunch while mom set up a highchair for New Kid and started feeding Big Brother and NK their lunches. NK was old enough to drink from a sippy cup, probably a bit under six months of age. Mom handed him his cup, which contained water. Then she pulled out his lunch, a container that contained a couple of tablespoons of orange-ish baby food. I have to admit to being perplexed. A baby that size needs more than just water and a couple of spoonfuls of baby food for lunch, I thought. Is that baby on a diet? I know that doctors say that a fat baby will grow into a fat kid and then a fat adult, but where do we draw the line? Babies are supposed to have a bit of padding, and they need to ingest plenty of good food to grow their muscles, brain, and bones. 

I couldn't help but think of my Gram and wonder what her opinion would be. First of all, she'd say that both mom and BB were so thin they needed to turn around twice to make a shadow. Then she'd say that a baby doesn't have to be fat, but in most cases, it also doesn't need to be on a diet. She would probably wonder as I did if the pendulum might be swinging too far in the direction of worrying about whether a baby was too fat. It made me remember when two of my coworkers had babies a few months apart. The first woman's baby was 7.5 pounds, the US average. The second was about 6.5 pounds. One day, the second mother told me that her baby was better than the other mother's "because it's skinnier." The baby was barely born and she was imposing standards of weight and size on him.

I tried to shake all of this off and remind myself that this was just a brief slice of the day. Mom may have already given NK a lunch before they left the house, and who am I to judge anyway? See what happens when you people-watch and try and guess what's going on in other people's lives? It can make you crazy for no reason. But then I laugh and think, all right, all right, the NK is okay. But I still think BB deserved more attention!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

That, I Can Do Without!

As I sit here typing this post, it occurs to me that this post's title could end up being used for a series of related blogs. While this post is entitled That, I Can Do Without!, there may be some future posts that will be parts two through who-knows-how-many. Now that that bit of housekeeping (warning? promise?) has been taken care of, let's get down to business.

When I got ready to take my various medications this morning, I decided that it was just silly for me to have to hold onto a handful of pills and not lose them while I tried to grab hold of a drink to swallow them down at the same time. This is not working, I thought, I need to get a little disposable cup for these. I knew there were some in the kitchen; we have them on hand for various uses. We are still using the same package that we bought shortly after we got married, so they are obviously not used in great numbers. Anyway, I headed to the kitchen with my pills tightly clutched in my fist, ready to get a little receptacle to make things a bit more convenient.

On the way to the kitchen, I saw something and thought about how it needed to be taken out in the garbage. A few steps later, and I saw that there were still a few items that needed to be placed in their proper spots in the cupboards after our last trip to the grocery store. I turned from the dining room into the kitchen, and then it happened. What did I come in here for?  I know I came in here to get something, but what was it? My pills were still held tightly in my hand, but the things I saw on my way to the kitchen had pushed them out of my mind. This, I can do without! I came here to get something and have no idea what I came here for!

Luckily for me, as I glanced around the kitchen, I became more consciously aware of the pills in my hand. If they hadn't been carried into the kitchen with me, I would have had to do the backtracking thing. The backtracking thing is where you retrace your steps, whether they be mental or physical, in an attempt to recapture the moment when you decided to go from one room to another. The idea is that if you track back to that moment, you will recapture the thought that sent you on your way. You will then know what you've forgotten, and will be able to accomplish whatever it was that you set out to do originally.

Now, if any of you are reading this and thinking that this is entirely due to my age no longer beginning with a two or a three or even a four, let me stop you right now and say that this is absolutely untrue. I've been doing this for years. I suspect that many of you have, as well. There are also variations on this irritation. (Hey, accidental poetry!) One of the most aggravating for me seems to be related to plumbing. Seriously! I'll be in the shower or bathtub, or maybe just washing my hands, and I'll get a Brilliant Idea. I mean a Really Brilliant Idea. The only problem is that when I remove myself from the protective force-field of the water in the pipes, the idea gets flushed. Yep, as soon as I walk out of the bathroom, the idea is gone forever. It even seems to defy most attempts to do the backtracking thing, which makes it even more frustrating.

Story within a story: 
Trent and I had an experience with this that has become one of our family legends. He was in the living room, and I was soaking in the bathtub in the master bathroom. Our little dog Paris was curled up on the bed but keeping an eye on her mommy just in case I wanted to throw a toy for her to fetch. Suddenly I had a Brilliant Idea. Argh! By the time I finished my bath, dried off, dressed, and went into the living room, it would be gone forever. I tried to call for Trent to come into the bathroom to hear my Brilliant Idea. I called and called, but he didn't hear me. Paris, on the other hand, lifted her head and looked at me from the first moment I called for Trent. She came into the bathroom with a questioning look on her face, walked over to me, and put her front paws on the edge of the bathtub. "Go get daddy! Tell him to come see mommy!" She turned and walked out of the room. A few minutes later, she came back with Trent following her. She had gone into the living room and stared at him. She turned and took a few steps, looked at him again, and sat down. He finally guessed that she wanted him to follow her, and she led him to the bathroom so that he could hear my Brilliant Idea. I don't remember any more what the Brilliant Idea was. I just remember how proud we were that Paris acted like she was Lassie and told Trent that Little Timmy had fallen down the well!

We now return to our original program:
Another variation of this problem that has given me a lot of laughs is getting lost when you are having a conversation with a friend. You begin to tell them about something amusing that happened to you, or how your boss made you want to commit homicide even though you are non-violent, and suddenly the conversation takes a turn down a lovely country road. There is dappled sunlight from the lovely trees, and then beautiful fields of sunflowers, and - wait! What were we talking about? I was trying to tell you something, but now I can't remember! Okay, we were talking about sunflowers, and before that, we were talking about trees, and then we were talking about Mister Bossman. Oh! I know! I thought about the trees because Mr. Bossman is allergic to them, and he made me so mad today that I wished I could abandon him in a grove of those trees. So, anyway, this morning, Mr. Bossman...

I hope that if you, like me, have bouts with That, I Can Live Without, that you are able to find some humor in them. We aren't losing it, we are simply being human. So many thoughts and distractions can happen to us, and they often happen so quickly that it's easy for our little trains of thought to get derailed. Or as I have said on more than one occasion, it pulled into the station, and I wasn't even there. And missing that train is definitely something I can do without!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Many Unhappy Returns

I've never been the type of person to return things to stores. If I buy something at the grocery store and find that it is spoiled (or was already opened, ick!) when I get home, I'll certainly take it back for a replacement. But if I buy something and don't care for it, I just chalk it up to experience. Something that I haven't ever done is returning a gift that was given to me. I've received things in wrong sizes, duplicates of things I already owned, and one or two gifts that were downright baffling in their complete clash with my tastes. I don't know if it is something I was taught by Gram, or something I came up with on my own, but I have a guilt or sensitivity related to the subject. Someone thought about me, if briefly, and chose to gift me with something that they thought I would like. If they knew that I returned it, it might hurt their feelings or cause them embarrassment. I really hate to hurt anyone's feelings. Wow, it just cleared itself up in my mind. Having been abused both physically and emotionally, I shy away from doing anything that might cause another person unnecessary pain.

When I worked in a retail shop in an upscale shopping center (which looked like a mall but was never called a mall because that is so common) I learned that a lot of people are the opposite of me when it comes to gifts. Their behaviors were quite an eye-opening experience for all of us in the shop, and sometimes in a very unpleasant way. Naturally, the returns came in droves in December and early January after the gift-giving holidays.

It was the day after Christmas that I learned about an interesting type of holiday shopper, the one I tended to think of as Mr./Ms. I-love-my-grandma-but-not-enough-to-pay-full-price. This is the person who would come blustering into the shop right when it opened the day after Christmas and demand to see the "sale section." In those days, the parent company of our shop did not have sales. They charged the same prices for their products all year long. Since we assembled our own gift baskets and bags, if they didn't sell, we simply took them apart and put the products back on the shelves. When the customer was told that there were no sales, they would sometimes start yelling at us that we were supposed to have a sale today. "I have to get a present for my grandma! What am I supposed to do now?"

I freely admit to thinking unkindly of the people who treated us this way. They obviously told dear granny that they couldn't see her until the day after Christmas because they wanted to get her gift more cheaply, and then blamed us when their plan went astray. Let me add that the people who made the biggest stink were often the people who could obviously afford to pay the full price. (If they weren't, I'd go out of my way to help them find Grandma affordable but thoughtful gifts. It was one of my great joys in working retail.) After seeing several of these ungenerous people in one day, I had to fight the urge to spend a day's pay over at the Godiva store on my little white-haired Gram, and at full price.

There were others that were much worse than the day-afterers, though. They were the ones who thought of every gift as an opportunity to get some cash. They would toss their birthday gift on the counter and say that they wanted to return them. When asked the reason for the return, as was customary, they would say, "I don't like it." The gift was unopened, but they knew, magically, that it wasn't good enough for them. They wanted cash. Unfortunately for them, this was not the shop's policy. We did exchanges or gift certificates when there was no receipt, or repayment in the same form as the original payment if there was a receipt. You can't imagine some of the colorful names I was called on these occasions, and often by people who were young enough to have barely entered middle school. If I weren't naturally polite, I would have asked if they kissed their mom with that filthy mouth.

There were all sorts of people with all sorts of behaviors related to both returns and shopping, and most people are kind and decent to others. Serving them gave me a great deal of happiness while I was working. The overriding feeling I have related to the unhappy returns is a simple one. The people on the other side of the counter are just that - people. They usually don't own the store or make the policies there. They're just trying to help you and make a living. They will usually respond better to kind treatment, just like everyone else. I hope that I always remember that, no matter which side of the counter I'm on.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Right Word

We recently watched a rerun of one of our favorite episodes of Law and Order: SVU. One of the things that intrigue us about this episode is the witness to the nearly-fatal beating, the daughter of the victim. The child has Williams Syndrome, which can cause learning and developmental disabilities, along with very social personalities and an affinity for music. The child does not see the crime occur, she hears it. Since she has very sharp hearing and perfect pitch, she will be able to identify the assailant when she hears his voice. This actually happens when someone who is not a suspect speaks while he is in the police station. The girl doesn't say that this is the man who beat her mother, however. She walks up to him and says, "You used the wrong word. You called my mother a bitch. A bitch is a female dog. My mother is not a bitch!" Even though the defense attorney questions the witness' identification of the assailant, justice prevails.

I've seen many examples of people using the wrong word over my lifetime, but the trend appears to be growing. One that I have never forgotten happened many, many years ago. It was very early in my daily drive out to my retail job at Denver International Airport. There was, and I believe still is, a florist's shop at the corner of a fairly busy intersection along the route that I drove that day. They had a sign with the name of the shop, the kind that has space below the business name for plastic letters to spell out messages like, "Don't forget Valentine's Day!" Well, this particular day, their sign had me mystified. I actually drove at least half a dozen blocks before I figured it out. The sign was advertising BO-KAYS for $9.95.

I drove down the street shaking my head and trying to figure it out. What the heck is a bo-kay, I wondered. In my mind, I was pronouncing it bo-kye. Bo-kye, bo-kye...what in the world is a bo-kye? Why would anybody want one? Was $9.95 even a good price for this mysterious object available at the corner florist's? Then it hit me between the eyes (that is sorta where the brain is, right?). It was a bo-kay...bow k...bouquet! You know, if they had spelled it that way, I would have understood it immediately.

As a moderately good speller, perhaps I am too judgemental of this situation. Heck, I'm still trying to get used to the common replacement of donut for doughnut. In fact, the grammar and spell-checking demon that I recently installed on my computer, which drives me insane with trying to change my writing style because I do not care if it thinks I am missing an article or am being too wordy, is currently underlining doughnut and suggesting that I change it to donut. Gah!

I've noticed while reading various things on various parts of the internet that many old-time sayings are either lost or misheard, along with new terms using the wrong word. I actually saw something in the body of an article that surprised me because there was obviously no proofreading. I can't even begin to tell you what the article was about. All that I know is that I wrote down the gem for a later date. The writer observed, "At lease they admit it." Mm-hmm. A lease is an agreement whereby one party agrees to pay another party for use of property. C'mon, professional writer, at least you could have someone double-check your work!

Another one that can make me laugh is when someone writes that such-and-such person is a hoe. That's a good one. Feel free to call me a hoe. A hoe is a gardening/agricultural implement. It's sort of a flat blade on a long handle and is excellent for moving earth around in your garden. It chops at the roots of weeds, giving the plants that you like more room to grow. Now, if you should call me a ho, as in whore, we will definitely have a problem. That is absolutely not the right word, not to describe me. Don't use it. Actually, whether you think it is the right word for someone or not, let's not use that one, shall we?

Which misused words or phrases irritate you? I'll list a few more here to start you off.

-Now in days or now a days instead of nowadays.

-Using myself instead of me or I because people think it makes them sound smarter. It doesn't.

-Saying you stood overnight at your friend's house. Were there no chairs? You stayed there overnight.

-And, as always, not knowing that the ground is outdoors, and the floor is indoors.