Thursday, August 4, 2016

Two things that changed my life this week.

Doesn't that title make me sound like Oprah? Or at least someone who writes clickbait? Maybe if I titled it, "Two things Oprah doesn't want you to know!"

Well, at any rate, these things twisted my reality in the last few days.

1. Traffic cones. 
There's a guy around the corner who has been parking his truck all illegal-like on the street. But he's put two orange cones around the truck. The cones send the message that hey, this is totally legit. Nevermind that it's not a utility truck or a delivery truck. It's just some dude's GMC pickup.

It occurred to me that traffic cones are the universal sign of "These are not the droids you're looking for." They're like an instant get-out-of-jail free card! You can do whatever you want as long as you have some orange cones around you.

Clearly, I need some traffic cones. Forget my parallel parking anxiety - I will just leave my car in the middle of the street, throw out a few cones, and call it good. And I bet the cone shield works without a car, too. Worried about getting arrested for loitering? Set up some cones around ya. You're no longer loitering - you are doing sanctioned work. The Lord's work.

Obviously, this is life-changing.

2. Compliments.

I was shopping a few days ago. I had actually made an effort that day ... which basically means I wasn't wearing running shorts. I had on a dress and cute sandals. I felt good.

A woman walked passed me, touched me lightly on the arm, and said, "You are so beautiful."

Now, I recently took a quiz to tell me which Golden Girl I am. It said I was a Sophia, but I'm not so sure. I think my response to this kind woman's compliment might make me more of a Blanche. What flew out of my mouth was not, "Picture it: Sicily, 1923." Instead, it was a very southern, "Oh, honey, thank you!"

She walked off. I don't even know if she heard me. She certainly didn't stick around to comment on which Golden Girl I am. But what she said stuck with me for days.

At random moments, I've thought, "Oh! I'm so beautiful! That lady said so!"

I guess we all need those friendly reminders, those random acts of kindness. I'm so thankful that woman took two seconds to say a few kind words to me, even if they were code for, "Thanks for not wearing those ratty shorts again," which I'm pretty sure they weren't.

So, if I were really Oprah, I would tell all of you to look under your chairs. Traffic cones and kind words for everyone! YOU get a traffic cone! And YOU get a traffic cone! And YOU get a traffic cone!

Also? You look really nice today.

What's changed your life this week?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Statues and ferries and girl power!

Last week, I visited the Statue of Liberty. As you do.

It was part of a three-day whirlwind trip to NYC with a friend. And for those keeping score at home, yes, this is how I used my frequent flyer miles instead of buying a Barbie house/chicken coop.

Anyway, we'd both seen Lady Liberty before but neither of us had actually been to Liberty Island. So, we braved the crowded ferry and got our audio guides and walked around what is truly a big statue.
She's tall.
The audio tour was bossy as hell. "Turn to your left. Look up. Now look away! Now walk three steps to your right! Now look up! I said look up! Doooo eeeeeeet!"

Combine all the directions with tourists who insisted on having their photos taken about every 10 feet so as to capture a different angle of the statue and, well, we were kind of over the whole deal.


The audio guide did drop a bombshell. And that bombshell was that when the Statue of Liberty was officially unveiled in 1886, no women were allowed at the ceremony.

According to wikipedia, the official line was that event coordinators were worried the fragile ladies would be crushed in the crowd, what with the strapping menfolk being so caught up in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A group of suffragettes chartered a boat and had their own ceremony, cheering liberty being personified as a woman. Oh, and talking about how women should be able to vote.

It only took 35 more years!

So, today, I'm thinking about that men-only ceremony to fete freedom, of all things. And I'm thinking about my grandma, who was born before women had the right to vote. And I'm thinking about my mama and the misogynistic treatment she endured in the workplace. And I'm thinking about how a kid at school told me I was "just a girl" and so what I thought didn't matter. And I'm thinking about a young friend who recently told me she'd had a similar experience. Now. In 2016.

But mostly, I'm thinking about how a woman is about to become a major party's candidate for president of the United States. In some ways, it doesn't seem like a huge deal - she got the most votes. She's mega-qualified. Cool.

Except it is a big deal. It's a huge deal. Because think of all the girls who now get to grow up thinking it's not a big deal. Of course a woman can be president. It would be silly to think otherwise!

I'm proud. I'm sad it's taken this long. I can't believe half the human race is still treated like less-than. I'm glad we're shifting, slowly but surely, to full-fledged people.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Addendum to my tale of eye rabies: Advice for CVS and Walgreens.

Hi. I like your stores because if I ever need Funyuns, mascara, ringworm treatment, and first-class people watching, you provide one-stop shopping. Thanks for that.

I recently received a prescription for drops to treat my ongoing eye rabies. My doctor didn't call the prescription in to my regular pharmacy. Instead, he called it in to the local Walgreens, as a manufacturer's rebate was available only at the Walgreens.

No problem at all. I drove to the Walgreens. I went inside and stood in line at the pharmacy. And then ... I thought it was funny that a Walgreens would have signs for CVS.


I had gone to CVS. Because Walgreens and CVS always build their stores across the street from each other. And both have red signs and similar branding.

Dammit, CVSalgreens, I can't tell you apart. And it has nothing to do with the eye rabies. To me, you are one entity.
I nonchalantly left the CVS, hoping no one was watching as I got in my car and drove across the street to the Walgreens. I got my eye drops. My eyes were on the road to recovery. But my ego was bruised.

I am an adult woman. I can read. I function in society. And yet I can't tell a CVS from a Walgreens.

Dear people of CVSalgreens, for the love of all that is holy, somebody change your branding. Please, please, somebody use a color that's not red for their sign lettering. Somebody choose a secondary color that isn't blue or grey. Please, in the name of Oprah, baby pandas, and all good, pure things, differentiate your stores so that I don't need a big ol' vat of store-brand migraine medicine.

Unless that's your objective.


Well played, CVSalgreens. Well played.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

In which I have eye rabies and fight with my husband.

Because I'm an adult lady and super fancylike and also dignified? I try to keep it classy. And one of the best ways to keep it classy is to not have pink eye.

Sadly, I have failed this basic tenet of fanciness this summer. I have pink eye, and I've had it for a few weeks. But don't worry - I have been assured that it cannot be spread over the interwebs.

When I got pink eye, I did the smart thing and saw my eye doctor immediately. He was like, "Hmm. It looks like one thing but it might be another, but let's do the cheap eye drops and see what happens."

Sadly, he did not prescribe a regimen of pouting and complaining about the pink eye. However, I figured that was an important part of the process and took that on myself. I figured it couldn't hurt.

But the eye drops did hurt. They hurt a lot. I figured that meant that were working. It was only after the treatment was over that I realized I'm allergic to one of the main ingredients in the eye drops.

I am not the brightest star in the sky. Besides, I was too busy obsessing over the fact that I was going to be pink-eyed and glasses-clad for The Official Family Photo that my mom was coordinating. Because when you're super fancylike and also dignified, you generally don't want to be photographed when you have the modern equivalent of leprosy. But I took one for the team, me and my gunky eyes.

I called the eye doctor again and was forced to 'fess up about the allergy - which, to be fair, he didn't catch, either. But he was incredulous, like, "So, the drops hurt really badly, and you kept using them?"

Clearly, he is a man. Any woman would be like, "Ah. That sounds like thongs and hair color and any form of hair removal. Of course you keep going."

So, now I have new eye drops. Eye drops that cost $260 but that I paid a mere $60 for, thanks to a manufacturer's coupon. Who says drug companies are gouging patients?

Anyway, I updated My Guy on all of this. He eyed me suspiciously, and then looked at the sleeping dachshund in my arms. "You know why this is happening, right?"

I looked at my sweet husband. "Because I'm paying a karmic debt for being so awesome?"

He shook his head solemnly, paused a moment, and then let me have it. "No. No, you have EYE RABIES because you let this little dog with the BIG POOPY MOUTH kiss you!"

I clutched my hand to my chest. If I had been wearing pearls, I'd have been clutching pearls.

"There's no way those two things are related," I said.

"What-EV-er," My Guy replied. "Lil' Frank eats poop. Then he licks your face. You probably have Zika and emphysema and ringworm, too!"

"You think EVERYTHING is ringworm! I had strep throat and you tried to treat it with Lotrimin Ultra!"

"It would have worked, too, if you'd just given it a chance."

"You sound like the bad guy from every 'Scooby Doo' who says his plan would have worked, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids."

"The bad guy says it because it's true!"

"I have eye rabies from an undetermined source. Lil' Frank doesn't kiss me on the days he's eaten poop. We have an agreement. And he never kisses my eyes."

At this point, My Guy shook his head and walked away. He tried to act all bad and mad, but he scooped the dog out of my arms so they could cuddle. Because I'm not the only object of dachshund affection.

Besides, how could anyone blame this face?
"C'mere and lemme kiss ya."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book review: Across the River.

Like small towns and novels that are wicked and full of heart? Do I have a book for you!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the author is my friend, Melissa Westemeier. Many of you know her as Green Girl in Wisconsin. She's a hoot and a wicked awesome writer, too. And she has an ear for dialogue and the kind of stories you can only hear in the Midwest, in a small town, in a bar, after a few rounds.

"Across the River" is this and more. It's a novel about Mona, a young bartender who has lived in Bassville her entire life. Her world is filled with interesting characters with names like Maw and Dob and Loyal. And there's that all-too-familiar pull between the way things have always been and the great unknown. Oh, and there's this handsome guy who might like Mona, too. Oh, and a guy who owns a bait shop who becomes a celebrity and tries to turn his store into a "Girls Gone Wild" photo shoot. You know, the typical folks you find in small-town America.

I love how "Across the River" captures the feel of small-town life while still maintaining an interesting and engaging pace. It's one of those books you tuck into and then realize you've been reading for hours. Huh? Whaa?

You can order "Across the River" directly from the author or from Bridle Path Press. Skip Amazon on this one - buying that way basically steals dinero from Melissa's hands. And we all need to eat, including authors. Especially authors who mention "Jontue" in their books. (I'm shocked to find it still exists, but that's another story entirely ...)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Time travel through real estate.

So, I almost started bawling in a stranger's kitchen.

This weekend, my family was given a tour of the house my grandparents built. They lived there from 1961 until they moved to assisted living in 2001. And lemme tell ya - those 40 years were packed with kids and grandkids and cousins and meals and card games and the stuff of life.

My brother and I grew up about seven minutes away. So, we spent a lot of time with our grandparents. At a certain age, I came to feel like I was being dumped at their house. But my grandparents were kind, loving people, and they just rolled with it. Maybe that's what happens when you're looking down the barrel of 80 but still offering to watch your grandkids. You make them oatmeal in the morning and tomato soup at lunch and something with green beans and rolls at night and you just roll with it.

Their home was always well-tended, even as such tasks became more difficult. After we sold the house, it fell into disrepair. My mom warned us never to drive by. I would gaze upon it from down the hill, two blocks away. From that vantage point, it seemed OK. I could roll with that.

Now, a couple my parents have known for a while (OK, like 40 years) has purchased the house. They fixed the moldy soffits and dug all the trees out of the gutters. On the spur of the moment, they invited us in.

We stood in the garage that my grandpa had paneled. The screen door to the kitchen was the same. My grandpa had undoubtedly built the cabinets next to the door, too. And as we stepped over the threshold, I felt a tidal wave in my heart. I'd stepped through that door thousands of times - most notably to rush to the kitchen sink to puke after a particularly bumpy school bus ride. This time, I didn't worry about which side of the sink had the garbage disposal (I'd gotten it wrong last time - sorry, Grandma.). This time, I wondered if I would cry.

The floor was new and lovely. The cabinets had been painted a cheery cream. The dinette was tiny - how did we fit five people around a table in such tight quarters? The brick fireplace had been painted and a rustic mantle hung where the plastic fruit used to drape out of a metal basket thing that can only be described as, "You know, like from the 60s?"

The new homeowners had done everything that every HGTV show tells you to do to make a home your own, to freshen a house that may be a bit dated.

I wanted to tell them that their furniture wasn't quite in the right spots - the TV goes *there* and you need to make room for a piano against *this* wall. But if it had been the same sea-foam green carpet that I remembered, that would have just been sad.

These folks were obviously very excited about their new home and the changes that they'd made. It looked lovely, even if it was a bit jarring to find that it had changed at all. The pink bathroom was gone - the tile had crumbled when the plumber tried to repair the shower. And what was always my room - what had been my dad's room during his high school days - had become an office with an expanded closet to hold the laundry.

But that's where I sorted my grandma's clothes after she died. I sat on the bed and smelled her dresses.

But that was also the same bed where Grandma lay with her arm over her eyes, too exhausted from the stress of moving. I had been tasked with keeping her company while the movers loaded up furniture for what she was sure was a temporary move to an assisted-living facility 90 minutes away. At the time, not many small-town Iowans of a certain age got to stay close-to-home.

I tried to keep her mind off the fact that her home was being emptied. She told me about how on their last night of a European vacation, she and Grandpa had been too tired to do anything. So, they went to the movies and saw "My Fair Lady." And she listened to me talk about a dress I'd just bought, and how I thought my boyfriend was emotionally scarred from his parents' divorce and it was keeping him from proposing.

She kept her arm over her eyes, but she listened to every word. "Well, he just needs to get over it," she responded.

Get over it.

When the new homeowner was showing off her new washer and dryer and how it fit into the new, larger closet, I gave a cursory glance. Then, I walked back down the hall to wait for my family in the entryway. The new homeowners had a little table where the grandfather clock was supposed to be, but I rolled with it.

When we left, I touched the woman's arm. "We had such good, good times in this house," I said. "I'm excited for you and your family to do the same."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Products I considered buying instead of using my frequent flyer points for a hotel because I was on hold for 43 minutes.

Huh! Lookit this! You can get Godiva chocolates with your points! And just dark chocolate - that's a nice touch. Classy-like.

Thank you for holding. A vacation consultant will be with you momentarily. We truly appreciate your patience and look forward to helping you with your vacation plans.
Well, I don't have a Grumpy Cat scarf/hat combo. It looks warm. And it's on sale! It's not a look an adult woman could or should really rock. But speaking of rock ... the Muzak has shifted from nondescript crap to "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood. I hope they paid him a lot of money. I now equate this song with depression.
OMG. Now we're talking! This is the chicken coop / Brady Bunch house / Barbie house of my dreams! I have no desire to have chickens, but we could play Brady Bunch Barbies with this! It could be what happens when the Barbies move to the farm. Barbies meet "The Brady Bunch" meet "Green Acres." I am brilliant.

We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls. We apologize for the extended wait time. Please stay on the line and one of our customer service representatives will be with you as soon as possible.
You can get a 3D printer with frequent flyer miles? This is insane! I still own a VCR!

I'm starting to feel mildly homicidal. I've been on hold forever, and one of the two "thanks for holding" messages plays not every minute, but every 30 seconds. It's too much. It's taunting me. I think it might be lying. What if my call isn't important? What if all the vacation specialists are on a smoke break, hanging out behind the building and laughing at my on-hold plight?
Lil' Frankfurter would really love this. I shouldn't encourage his "no walking ever" dreams, lest he end up on some "My 600-pound Dachshund" special on TLC wherein he is removed from our home via crane, but ...

Ah, Southwest. You are indeed the Greyhound of the skies, yet I cannot quit you. Your people are so nice and your credit card gives me a gajillion miles. Miles I want to use to book a hotel. If only you'd answer your damned phone.
This is AWESOME! I need this car! Look at these girls - they're like Thelma and Louise without all the death! The pain in my heart isn't due to Southwest Rapid Rewards - it's because I don't have a Power Wheels Ford Mustang with a sticker of the Frozen characters on the hood. My life is a lie!

Thank you for holding. Our vacation consultants are mocking your pain. We truly appreciate your patience and look forward to completely ruining your vacation plans by keeping you on hold forever.
If I use my points for this pool toy, my husband would be forced to install a pool in our backyard, right? Right? Then I wouldn't need a hotel, because I would never leave my house.

After all the frequent flyer miles-based suffering I've been through, I deserve a pool complete with a Pirate Island Adventure Set. I'm only calling Southwest because the website ate my points and then it took 72 hours to get them refunded and I'm not about to spoon-feed the website my hard-earned points again. No sirree. No. I don't have time to be on the phone because I need to be out in the yard, plotting out where our pool will go. I hope there's no ancient burial ground in our yard like in "Poltergeist." That movie totally traumatized my brother. I bet he wouldn't have been so upset if we'd had a Pirate Island Adventure Set.

Actually, I could really use a new electric toothbrush. Periodontal health is so important.

We are currently high. We apologize for the extended wait time. Please stay on the line and ... I forget what we're supposed to do.

Epilogue: After a mere 43 minutes, a very nice man booked my hotel. I was so taken aback by an actual human on the line that my initial communication was in the form of grunts. However, I managed to elocute my rewards number and get the hotel booked. I am appreciative, even if my mental health took a hit.