Thursday, June 27, 2013


I’m sitting here trying to think of a subject to write about – but I’m so sleepy I could pretty much nod off at will. I’ve yawned so much my eyes are watering and I’m wondering how I’m going to make it through the day without a nap.  In retrospect, staying up late the past few nights was probably not such a great idea.

Neither, apparently, was my recent decision to stop drinking Diet Coke.

I’ve spent the last couple lunch breaks reading a library book. Except that I’m not really reading. I’m doing that head bobbing thing where my eyelids get heavier and heavier making it harder and harder to keep my eyes open.

And then, just before I fall into a deep sleep, my subconscious yells, “YOU CAN’T FALL ASLEEP NOW; YOU HAVE TO BE BACK AT WORK IN TEN MINUTES!”  And then my head jerks up and my eyes pop open and I realize that (a) I’m giving myself whiplash, and (b) I have absolutely no clue what the book I’m reading is about.


I’d impose an 8:30 bedtime on myself, but that probably wouldn't work because I'd be wide awake sometime during the middle of the night. Or I could take a nap when I get home, but it seems like there is always some chore that needs to be done. By the time I finally settle down to relax, Vince arrives home and we want to spend some quality time together.

And by the time we finally decide to call it a night and start our teeth brushing, face washing and head-to-toe moisturizing routine, it’s after midnight. 

What’s that you say?  Since it takes so long to moisturize our old, dry, cracked, lizard-like skin, we should probably start that process immediately upon arriving home for the evening?

Hey, that’s not very nice.  “Lizard-like”?  Really?

Actually, I think the problem is that we’ve developed some bad sleeping patterns lately. Like waking up multiple times throughout the night.  I’d blame Vince – but he reads this blog and he can easily point out the many times I wake him up throughout the night with my restlessness.

Don’t ask me when that happened. I used to sleep like a rock and wouldn’t stir until the alarm went off in the morning. And even then I didn’t always wake up. Hey, give a girl only one good ear to hear out of and she can very conveniently ignore things like alarm clocks.

Lately, though, our rambunctious felines have added to our sleeplessness.  They seem to have forgotten every household rule they’ve ever been taught.  Like, for instance, Jinx has decided that the lower right quadrant of the bed is the perfect place to snooze.  This is precisely where my feet go.  And if I move my feet, she pounces on them. So then I move them more. And she pounces more. While she may think it’s marvelous fun, it’s a game that I don’t enjoy all that much because it keeps me from sleeping.

I’ve also noticed that the cats believe their morning feeding time has changed to five o’clock.  In. The. Morning.  Are they nuts?!  To convince me it would simply be easier to get up and feed them, they take turns launching themselves onto the bed and bumping their heads into my face.  This, as you might imagine, startles me awake.  And then I get annoyed.  Plus, then I have cat fur in my mouth and I have to worry about things like fur balls. Ick.

But the cats don’t recognize “annoyance” and they truly believe that I’m going to drag myself out of bed and stumble into the kitchen to dump food in their bowls. 

I’d do it to get them out of my face, but I can’t give in to them. Otherwise, they’d be waking me up every three hours throughout the night like a couple of newborns.   

And we all know that’s not happening.

We could shut the four-legged creatures out of the room completely by closing the bedroom door. Except that inevitably one of the two-legged creatures in the household has to take a middle-of-the-night potty break. And I can see it now. We’ll forget that the door is closed and we’ll smack into it face first. Since  it's hard to accessorize the black eye-and-swollen-nose look, closing the door is not an option.

Hey, I’ve got it!  Perhaps we could feed the felines kitty tranquilizers. If they sleep through the night, maybe we will, too. 

Or maybe not. Because, as Vince will be happy to tell you, my feet are not moving only because Jinx is pouncing on them.  Hunh. Forget the kitty tranquilizers. Maybe we need some Jane tranquilizers?  

Yeah, that idea has merit.  It might not solve all our problems, but maybe we could get a decent night’s sleep. 

It’s either that – or I’m going to bypass the Diet Coke and head straight for the Red Bull.  Whiplash ain’t all that much fun.

Besides, my library book is due back at the library in a few days. It’d be nice to get the chance to actually read it.

Better go.  It’s time for nap.  (Ooh. Sorry.) 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

POW/MIA Bracelets

I was in elementary school during the Vietnam War, but it became popular among the girls in my class to purchase a bracelet imprinted with the name of a solder classified as a prisoner of war or missing in action.

At the time I was more interested in seeing if I could get away with rolling my uniform skirt to thigh revealing lengths without the nuns catching on than I was in being either a war supporter or protester.  I didn’t know anyone personally who was in Vietnam and it was – for me, anyway – something that was happening far away from my little hometown.

In my defense, I was still a child. I didn’t “get” what was going on in the world at the time.  The whole hippie movement seemed bizarre, although I sported long straight blonde hair and wore bell bottoms whenever I wasn’t in my school uniform.  Woodstock was a yellow bird in the Peanuts comic strip – not some rock festival in upstate New York. For me, it was all about getting to purchase my first bra and not about burning it. And it was all about dodging the ball – not about dodging the draft.

So we weren’t being political; we were following a trend. Or at least I was. Nevertheless, we were aware enough that we hoped the name etched on that bracelet belonged to a soldier who would soon find his way home.

These days I can scarcely remember the name of my 7th grade homeroom teacher, but I can – even at my advanced age – remember the name of the POW soldier engraved on my bracelet.

What prompted this latest walk down memory lane?  Well, I recently read an article about a woman in Toledo who returned the POW/MIA bracelet she had held onto for decades to the 91-year-old serviceman who, clearly, was not still missing in action since he lives in a retirement community in Melbourne, Florida.

I hadn’t thought about those bracelets in years. So it was somewhat surprising that the soldier’s name etched on my bracelet would come back to me so easily: LCDR Aubrey Nichols.

Back when we were in grade school, we were pretty much limited to the Encyclopedia Britannica for any research we wanted to do. And unless you were really, really famous, you probably didn’t make the cut.  But now…well, now we have Google.  And you can find pretty much anyone on there.  Well, you might be a little harder to find if, say, you're in the witness protection program or something, but you know what I mean.

So, naturally, I searched the name Aubrey Nichols. To my surprise, there was more than one person with that name, which seemed pretty unusual and distinctive. Of course, I think my own name is pretty unusual and distinctive, but when I Googled my married name I  found a bunch of us out there. 

Anyway, back to my soldier.  (How DO I go off on these tangents?!)  I was pretty much able to eliminate the guy in Tuscaloosa who was busted for drunk driving. Clearly, he is much too young to have served in Vietnam. But, after a few stops and starts, I found my guy. He’s from El Paso, TX, and he was 32-years-old when he was shot down over Laos in May of 1972. He was released nearly a year later, in March of ’73.

Prisoner of War Medal
I’m thinking I probably wore that bracelet long after he was released and never knew that he was a free man. But I’m certainly happy that that was the outcome. As is he, I’m sure.

Like the woman in Toledo, I’d love to send my bracelet back to this brave man, who would now be 73-years-old. Perhaps, like the former POW who lives in Florida, he’s received many of these bracelets over the years.  Except, um, I haven’t a clue where that bracelet went. Heck, I can’t even find a ring I wore last week, let alone a bracelet I wore 40 years ago!

So, sadly, there will be no fun follow-up to this story.  But in my head, I have a connection to a complete stranger who never knew that I thought of him daily and wore his name on my wrist for a couple years.  I hope he is happy and well and that he has had a good life. And, even though I can’t send him a bracelet with his name engraved on it, I can express my gratitude to him and send it out in cyberspace. So, to LCDR Aubrey Nichols, I thank you for your service to your country. Your sacrifices did not go unnoticed – even if one of the people doing the noticing was a schoolgirl in Ohio.

And I am thankful you returned home.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Telegram is Going the Way of the Dinosaur. I Thought it Already Had.

I just read that the world’s final telegram will be sent in India on July 14, 2013.  

Why India, I wondered. And who in the world is still sending and receiving telegrams, for cryin’ out loud? 

India, evidently. 

Naturally, I had to do a little more research on the subject. 

And I found out that, yes, people in India still use telegrams to transmit information to one another.  And these are the people we’re frequently connected with when we have a problem with our modern-type computers? Yikes!

The U.S., however, stopped using telegraph services over seven years ago. Huh. I would’ve thought it was longer than that. I, personally, have never received a telegram. In my whole life.  And some not-so-nice people would say that’s been a L-O-N-G time. 

I don’t really know much about telegrams, except that they peppered every communique with the word “stop.” And the only reason I know this is from the old black and white movies I used to watch on Turner Classic Movies. I’m not sure why they said “stop” so much. Maybe whoever was taking down the information needed a break to catch up.  Or had to stop to have a smoke. (Characters in those old black and white movies smoked. A lot.)

I’m pretty sure cell phones and text messaging put the final kibosh on the Samuel Morse invention.  And I wonder if they use Morse Code for anything anymore either?  Instead of dots and dashes we just use acronyms and emoticons?

That makes me think about other inventions the world lived with until something newer and better and more modern came along. 

Like the abacus. 

I kid.  I’m not going to go that far back in history. I’d be here for the rest of the millennium writing about outdated inventions.

But, no, I was thinking more along the lines of newer inventions. Take the fax machine, for instance.  We’re using it less and less these days since more and more businesses use email systems to scan and transmit information.

I used to marvel at the changes my now-deceased grandmother had seen in her lifetime. She was born in the early 1900s and television hadn’t even been invented yet.  Her household didn’t have a telephone. I believe they actually had running water and indoor plumbing, but that wasn’t the norm.  Cars had only just started production and it would be years before families would own one car, let alone two.

My grandmother was in her 50s before she took her first trip by airplane. Back then it was a major event and air travelers got all gussied up to fly the friendly skies.  Fortunately, airport security back then was a little more simple.  No one put passengers through full body scanners or patted them down or made them practically strip to get through security. Those travelers would’ve been horrified. Back then men wore suits and hats to a family barbecue, for pity's sake. And women wore dresses, stockings, hats and gloves to go to the market.

Hmm. I’m sure it was a simpler time, but I’m sort of glad I wasn’t born back then. I can’t imagine having to wear stockings and gloves to go Krogering.

But even in my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of changes. The first TV I remember was black and white. We had to change the channels manually and we only had a couple channels altogether. No cable. No DVR. If you missed a show, you were out of luck.

Our telephones were attached to the wall and started out as rotary phones.  We finally “modernized” when push button phones came out, but in our house, there was only one phone and it was still firmly attached to the wall in the kitchen.

Through college I used to hand write letters to friends and family. Not surprisingly, I had a lot to gab about and frequently wrote six-page letters.  Talk about writer’s cramp.  Yeah. Nowadays that would be called BlackBerry Thumb or Carpal Tunnel syndrome.  Or maybe they even have a newer name for it since I think the BlackBerry is going the way of the party line.

Haha. Isn’t that funny?  Young readers wouldn’t even know what a party line is! 

Actually, I think party lines were even before my time – or at least before I was allowed to talk on the telephone.  All I remember is dialing the seven digit number of the person I wanted to speak with.  Local calls were permitted, but long distance calls in our house required written approval from both parents and a promissory note to repay every penny of that expensive long distance call.  Consequently, we blurted out only the pertinent details and hung up as quickly as possible.

When I was in high school, I took a shorthand class. Not because I intended to ever use it for work purposes, but because my friend Diana and I wanted to have a secret method of communication where no one could crack the code. Well, unless they, too, had taken a shorthand class. 

I wonder if anyone still uses shorthand? I can’t remember any of it anymore, so it pretty much looks like a bunch of squiggles on a page to me now.

I also took a typing class. On a typewriter.  I don’t think I was even in high school yet. My dad had a manual typewriter at home and it was a way for me to earn a little spending money by typing chemical abstracts on that manual hunk of metal. It took me forever to type those ten lousy abstracts every month. But back then I thought ten bucks was a lot of money, so I stuck with it until I left for college.

When I was a student at Ohio State, I worked for a few hours every day in the Metallurgical and Chemical Engineering offices. Hey, I knew how to type those hieroglyphic-type equations, so I was pretty well qualified. But we didn’t even have copy machines back in the late 70s/early 80s. We used mimeograph machines to make copies of exams.  Which meant that the exams had to be typed on mimeograph paper and, if you weren’t careful, your skin would be stained purplish blue from the ink transfer. And If you made serious errors, you had to start all over again. There was no backspace or delete keys to help you out.

My generation talks about the changes in the way we listen to music. We used to have record albums and then 8-tracks and then cassettes and then CDs and then whatever non-tangible form music has evolved to in order to get it on my iPod. Which I don’t have anymore because I have an iPhone and and iPad. And I’m sure that mode is quickly becoming antiquated, if it hasn’t already.

Personally, I think it’s getting harder and harder to keep up. Many folks who are a generation ahead of me gave up trying a while ago.  My parents, for example, don’t even own a computer – and they don’t want one. They reluctantly agreed to carry a cell phone but only in case of emergencies.  It is not a smart phone because they wouldn’t know what to do with one.  Heck, my mom still doesn’t know which button to push to answer the thing if it rings.

So – like the telegraph, we all become obsolete eventually. I imagine us as 90-year-olds talking about cutting-edge Bluetooth technology, while young people roll their eyes and say, “Bluetooth hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaur yet? I thought it already had.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Reality that is Duck Dynasty

Vince’s son was over the other night and he took control of the channel changer lest I get a hold of it and force them to watch Beaches or Ghost of some other seriously weepy chick flick. 

So what did he choose?  Duck Dynasty. Duck. Dynasty.  Have you seen this show?  It is a veritable train wreck! And, despite the fact that I had my iPad to keep me company, I couldn’t help but listen to the show.  Sometimes I even had to look up and watch when something really bizarre transpired. And that apparently happens a lot in this program.

Oh man, I thought, as a society, how much lower can we possibly sink?

Whenever I think we’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel in reality television, shows like Duck Dynasty come along and prove me wrong. 

In this particular episode, the men in the Robertson family decide to blow up the old guy’s deer blind because it’s all rickety and falling apart and whole lot of snakes have taken up residence.  Eww, snakes. If I watch too much of that sort of thing I’ll end up having nightmares, so I concentrated really, really hard on my iPad until they moved beyond the snakes and started rigging up the explosives.

Then one of the men – and don’t ask me to identify him because all I can tell you is that he was wearing camouflage and had long, scraggly hair and an even longer scraggly beard.  If you haven’t watched the show, you should know that they ALL have long scraggly hair and even longer scraggly beards, so it makes it tough to tell one from another. At least initially, I assume.

But, anyway, one of them decides it would be an excellent idea to build a platform and hoist an old camper trailer thing up there to serve as their new deer blind.

Sheesh. Give a redneck a few bucks…

But that’s exactly what they did.

I kept expecting someone to get hurt or the platform to come crashing down, camper and all, but that never happened. Instead, they all just complained about how lazy some of them were being and one of ‘em talked about an old blue plastic Tupperware cup he has been carrying around since the Vietnam War.  Huh. Such an education one can get from watching these sorts of programs, eh?!

At the end of the show they brought the camera inside the newly created deer blind – and it was not what I expected. They had refurbished the inside of the camper and had either rigged it up with electricity or had some sort of generator to provide enough juice to run all sorts of electric appliances like coffee makers and microwaves.  Not only that, but they were all shiny new appliances.

These guys may look like indigent scraggly rednecks, but they’ve got enough serious bank to make their next hunting season pretty cushy.

Meanwhile, their wives were back at the house holding a garage sale. They were getting rid of all sorts of junk.  The only problem was, it was the men’s junk. I didn’t see that ending well, especially when they sold the patriarch’s ratty, old recliner.  It was rather amusing when the men drove toward home and saw various items heading in the other direction, including said recliner loaded in the back of a pickup truck. 

There was another scruffy-looking guy walking along the road carrying his garage sale find: a stuffed squirrel mounted on a piece of wood. When the Duck Dynasty guy saw him, he stopped and bought his own stuffed squirrel back from the guy.  At twice the price the man paid for it!

Somewhere in there is a lesson in economics, but I was so taken aback with the fact that he would want to display a stuffed squirrel, I ignored the lesson. 

All I can say is I was very relieved when the menfolk in the household walked out of the room and I was able to grab the remote.  I immediately cleansed the inside of my brain with an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  No, not really. It was one of those Real Housewives shows.

No, honestly, people.  I flipped channels for a few minutes. And then I turned it off. 

Ah. That’s better.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Dreaded Acronyms Have Invaded My Brain

I was talking to a friend the other day and I was telling her about something someone said to me that made me laugh out loud. But instead of saying “laugh out loud” I said “LOL.” 

And then I caught myself. I actually said “LOL” instead of the complete words.  What just happened, I wondered.

Apparently, texting acronyms have officially invaded my brain. I never thought this would happen to me.  Why?  Because I was the last of the purists who spelled out things like “laugh out loud” and “talk to you later” when texting or sending messages.  It's a very good thing my cell provider doesn't charge me by the character, because my texts are freakishly long and detailed. 

I was proud to say that I have never used the acronym “BFF” as in, “My BFF and I went out last night and did tequila shots.”

Not that my BFF and I would be out doing things like tequila shots. After all, we’re no longer in our 20s.  Nor are our livers. Ah, but those were the days, weren’t they?  We were young and carefree and…

…but I digress.

I was talking about the overuse of acronyms and about how I am ashamed to say that I have succumbed. 

It’s not like the Internet or cell phone users came up with the concept of acronyms. They’ve been around forever. Well, maybe. I can’t say for sure since I wasn’t around during the days of caveman communication. Perhaps they carved, “BBS” for Be Back Soon on their cave walls to let their cavewomen know they were heading out to hunt mastodon.

But for sure we were familiar with acronyms well before the World Wide Web and smart phones entered the picture. I mean, everyone knows what “CIA” stands for. And “FBI.” And “CYA.”  And even “FUBAR.” 

I think the last two were coined by the military. Perhaps they started using them when they didn’t want to swear in polite society? 

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s inevitable that we start saying LOL instead of laugh out loud.  I mean, we rarely say “Federal Bureau of Investigation,” do we? No, we say, “FBI.”  It’s easier. It’s quicker.  And our tongues don’t trip over the words. (Go ahead, say it out loud fast. The words simply don’t flow.)

But still. It makes me uneasy.  Are we going to turn into a bunch of acronym-slinging Americans? Our grammar and spelling have already become atrocious.  But whenever someone is called out on their spelling errors, they use the excuse that they are sacrificing accuracy for expediency. Well, not really. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t spell any of the words in that sentence correctly.

Nevertheless, you get the gist.

Those thumbs have to text quickly or the recipient will have already moved on to the next text and the next texter.  Spelling, grammar and coherent thought aren’t routinely taken into consideration.

Have you ever taken a look at some of your texts? Just scroll back through your communications with someone. They read like parts of thoughts and fragments of sentences and make very little sense when reading weeks or months later. And “LOL” is usually peppered throughout the communication.

Ah well. It could be worse. We could have absolutely no sense of humor about anything and instead of using “LOL,” we could insert frowny faces. That would not be good.

So I guess I should just relax a little. Communication in one form or another will always be with us.

I may just have to adjust my expectations, albeit reluctantly. Very reluctantly, my friends.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Just Call Me Farmer Jane. On Second Thought...Don't.

So we’ve rounded the corner on May and are sliding into June already.  And the flowers we bought weeks ago are still in their flimsy pots on the front porch. 

If we wait long enough, the season will be over and we will have avoided the whole dirty process of digging holes in the dirt and tossing in said flower.  We can just throw away the flimsy pots with their dead flowers and be done with it.

Have I mentioned I do not possess a green thumb?  Oh, yes.  I did right here.  Rather emphatically, I might add.

So how did flats of annuals come to appear on our front porch? 

Well, as you might guess, it wasn’t my idea.

One day in May Vince and his father visited the Dawes Arboretum in Newark. All the floral displays and greenery there must have inspired them so they went to a greenhouse and bought flats of annuals.  And Vince brought these home to me.

I looked at them with a perplexed look on my face and said, “And...what do you expect me to do with these??!” 

He chose to ignore my sarcasm. Instead, he stated matter-of-factly  that I should plant them. Into the ground.  I didn’t tell him what my matter-of-fact response would have been had I chosen to state it aloud.

Nevertheless, I gamely accompanied Vince and his son to the store a few days later to buy bags of mulch; a purchase that has never before graced my credit card statement and never even entered my mind as something I would need to buy.  Ever.

So while Vince and his son were busy reviewing their mulch options, I wandered over to the baskets of flowers. 

Now, I’ve never said I don’t like flowers.  On the contrary, I love flowers.  I just don’t want to be the one growing them. Or watering them. Or pinching off the dead stuff. I am, however, fairly handy at filling a vase from the kitchen sink and arranging cut flowers in that vase, but that’s about the extent of my expertise.

Yet they had beautiful hanging baskets of…flowers.  See?  I don’t even know the names of them. Pansies? Petunias? Some name that doesn’t start with a P?  Who knows?  I was pretty confident in the colors, however, so in keeping with my theme I bought a basket of pink flowers and a basket of purple flowers. 

I figured I could keep them in their hanging baskets on our front porch. I’d even make the effort of watering them every day and pinching off the dead buds.  And they’d add some color to the front of our house and people couldn’t say I wasn’t making the effort.

Yeah, like that worked for me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have managed thus far to keep those pink and purple flowers alive in their hanging baskets. And I do water them every day and pinch off the dead blooms.

But that’s not all I had to do on that fated mulch-buying day. 

I had to help carry the bags of mulch and other gardening stuff from the car to the yard. And I even had to don the pretty pink gardening gloves Vince so considerately bought for me so I could help dig in the dirt.

Our plan of attack was to start on the flower bed that is most visible from the street. Last year it was filled with some sort of green viney stuff and an overgrown crabapple tree that littered our yard and walkway with crabapples.

Clearly, the previous owner did not possess a green thumb either.  When we moved in last year, our yard more closely resembled a jungle than it did any of the manicured yards that flank our house.  We had weeds so big a novice such as myself wasn’t sure if they were bushes or trees or actual weeds.

The fact that our yard looks halfway decent now is a testament to Vince’s efforts.  He has worked long and hard out there to get the greenery tamed and looking somewhat respectable.

He had the crabapple tree and all that viney stuff removed and in its place he and his son planted some sort of flowering tree. Don’t ask me the name of it because I do not know. When it does flower – hopefully by next year – it will have pretty pink flowers on it.  That’s the extent of my knowledge of it.

So we got to work on this flower bed, which seemed the perfect bed in which to plant all those flats of annuals.  We started pulling weeds and turning the dirt to prepare it for the flowers, except that it was filled with roots.  Lots of roots. Roots that seemed rather permanently, well, rooted in that dirt. 

After a couple hours of hard, sweaty labor in which we filled two trash cans with yard waste, I gave up. And I wasn’t the only one.  We moved on to another area and spread mulch, which greatly enhanced the appearance of that bed, by the way.  So I might even become a fan of the mulch.

But after the spreading of the mulch, we were thoroughly exhausted and hot and sweaty and all done in.  Besides, it was getting dark outside, so we gave up for the day.

That was a couple weeks ago. And nothing has been done to those flower beds since.

It’s going to take more than any muscle power I possess to clear that bed of roots, so I can’t see the flowers getting planted in there anytime soon.

So the other night I went out and bought some colorful ceramic pots. I’ve decided I will plant the flowers in these pots and distribute them around the yard. We’ll get those flowers out of their flimsy pots anyway. And our irrigation system can take over the watering for me.

Yeah, I’m going to get on that right away.  Maybe even tonight.

Or…not.  My thumb has not turned the slightest shade of green during this whole process. And…um…I think my pretty pink gardening gloves are all dirty.  Probably I should wash them first. Or maybe I even lost them sometime since I haven't seen them lately. I couldn’t possibly start digging in the dirt without gardening gloves, could I?

Oh crud. I’m sure none of those excuses are going to work for me. Guess I’d better start diggin’…

To be continued, I'm sure…