Category: Suzanne’s Regular Fun

For the Love of Cards

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Payday for greeting card companies. But, my husband and I have them fooled. We walk through the card aisle at Walmart together and read Valentine’s day cards. The funnier the better. If not for his grey hair and reading glasses, we would look like a couple of kids.

While security cameras capture our image we read the cards. We open the musical ones and dance to popular tunes. We press the buttons on dancing stuffed animals. They wouldn’t put a sticker that says, “Press here”, if they didn’t want the animals to dance. We haven’t shown up on “people of Walmart” yet. . . not that I know of anyway.

In the end, we say to each other, “If I were going to buy you a card, I would have gotten you that one.” We laugh and put it back on the shelf, before returning home.

I love greeting cards. Such a unique art form. A single picture and a few words to convey emotion. Usually a good emotion. I’ve never seen greeting cards that say things like, “Stay away from my daughter” or “I would have been there for you, if you hadn’t shown up three hours late.”

Funny cards are best of all. I tell my kids not to bother with boring flower cards for me. Sometimes I receive flower cards and appreciate their sentiment, but I love a good laugh. One year, my husband decided to get me cards with two talking dogs that had the most annoying voices ever. He enjoyed my cringing so much that he bought similar cards for several other holidays. I haven’t seen those cards on the store shelves lately. Hmmm.

I don’t remember so many holidays that required greeting cards when I was growing up. Christmas and birthdays. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. That was it. But, the card companies discovered the big business of cards for every holiday. Sometimes I feel guilty when my sisters send Halloween and Easter cards. Or Saint Patrick’s Day cards and Fourth of July cards. Just kidding about Fourth of July cards. I haven’t actually seen those.

Blank cards are great. They can be used for any sentiment or holiday. How many times have I selected the perfect funny card for my son, only to open it and read, “Happy Birthday, Grandma”? I have been known to cross out the words and write in my own. I put a happy face next to it and consider it part of the fun.

As I wrote this blog, I considered other occasions that card companies could capitalize on.

Congratulations on receiving 1000 Facebook likes

Welcome to Adulting

Sorry your computer crashed

Your PMS will end soon enough. Hang in there.

Here’s to binge watching Netflix.

Next time you are in Walmart, or the book store, or the post office (yes, the post office has gotten in on the action), and you see a couple of oldsters dancing to the musical cards, remember, we found free entertainment.

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Keeping up with Technology

Keeping up with Technology

Seems like I’m always looking for technology before it is ready. Later, I am surprised to learn that it has caught up to my expectations, and no one told me.

Case in point, my daughter suggested using Google Keep. It’s a list keeper that manages everything in online so that I can see and edit my lists on my phone or computer. I was carrying around a notebook with the lists and reference material (half my brain).

Worked great until I left it at the grocery store. I didn’t notice it missing until someone e-mailed me. “I have your notebook”. Kind of creepy. It had half of my brain, and some sensitive information.

Several years ago, I tried to put all of this information on my phone. A virtual notebook. I used Excel spreadsheets and synced them online. The result was clunky and awkward. Never mind. I like paper. I can touch paper and don’t mind carrying it around like a security blanket.

This isn’t the first time I expected too much from technology. Back in the ‘80s, I had a handheld computer. My parents owned a Radio Shack store and when the TRS-80 Pocket Computer came out, I was ready. It had 64KB of memory. Keep in mind, 1MB is 1000KB. So, six percent of a megabit.

I decided to put the periodic table of the elements onto the new pocket computer. Yes, I was that kind of geeky teen. Halfway through, I ran out of memory. I guess computers couldn’t hold that much information after all. No need to waste time trying.

Another time, before automatic bill pay, there was a service called Check Free. I tried to write a description of this service for this blog, but it confused my daughter so much that I just cut it.  Suffice it to say, the service was clunky, confusing and flawed. Before that I ordered checks to print from my computer, complete with perforated edges to feed through the printer.

I didn’t use Facebook for a long time. My kids both had accounts. When my son went to college, I would have my daughter creep on him while I looked over her shoulder. Finally, when she went to college, I had to get my own account for creeping. For a long time, my profile picture was a crazy llama because I didn’t want Facebook to have a picture of my face. Now, most people reading this blog clicked on a Facebook link to get here. No llama.

When I’m not watching, technology catches up to my expectations. But, how will I know?

I need to find young people to hang around. They seem to know. I can complain about technology and they will recommend a solution, just to shut me up.

Seems like a solid plan.

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Old Time Bloopers

Old Time Bloopers

People of modern times may think bloopers are a recent invention. They’re not. The name may be new, but early newspapers reported “curiously worded advertisements” for all to enjoy.

The January 3, 1884 edition of The Leadville Daily Herald reported these from a London paper.

“Mrs. And Miss May have left-off clothing of every description. An inspection is invited.”

Oh, my. I hope the inspection is of the clothing and not the ladies.

 “Wanted – A nurse for an infant between twenty-five & thirty, a member of the Church of England & without followers.”

Sounds like a pretty old infant. I’m not even sure what “without followers” means. Couldn’t be referring to Twitter, could it?

 

The January 16, 1896 edition of the Aspen Daily Times also reports items from a London paper.

“Annual sale now on. Don’t go elsewhere to be cheated – come here.”

“For sale – a pianoforte, the property of a musician with carved legs.”

Is this some kind of fancy peg leg?

“Mr. Brown, furrier, begs to announce that he will make up gowns, capes, etc. for ladies out of their own sinks.”

“Bulldog for sale; will eat anything; very fond of children.”

Is eating anything a selling point?

Old time bloopers went viral. These same bloopers showed up in the Fort Collins courier, February 4, 1897 and The Ouray Herald, February 14, 1901. Going viral took longer back then. No Share button. These items probably appear all over the country. Maybe the globe since they come out of London.

When I read the historic newspapers, I see things that look like bloopers. But who can tell with their odd humor and word usage?

From the January 6, 1884 edition of the Leadville Daily Herald, in a note about the need for a preacher.

“A live young man is needed for the onerous and multiplied duties of any Leadville pulpit.”

As opposed to a dead young man? And the word “onerous” won’t entice anyone.

 

Also, from the January 6, 1884 Leadville Daily Herald,

“- Detroit Michigan has a dog oil factory. The product is used by consumptives.”

I don’t even know what dog oil is. I Googled it and I still don’t know. Did they somehow use oil from dogs? Maybe I don’t want to know.

From the January 8, 1884 edition of the Leadville Daily Herald,

“Don’t forget that John Harvey has a fine lot of sleighs and cutters, which he is selling very low.”

And then there are articles which apparently seek to expand the public’s vocabulary.

The January 21, 1888 edition of the La Plata Miner includes the following phrase in an article about a murder.

“charging him with the crime of oxuricide (the killing of one’s wife)”

Why not just say the killing of one’s wife? And, did this happen so often that they needed to come up with a word for it?

Nice to know, as a writer, when I make a bloober. . . blooper. . . I’m in good company.

Because once the word has been pressed to paper, it lives forever.

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Lost in the Suburbs

I’m a small-town girl, who recently moved to the suburbs.  I find myself faced with so many new decisions. How do suburb dwellers figure out where to shop?

For example, when I need something for my home, perhaps a dishtowel.  In the small, mountain town where I used to live, I would go to Walmart, buy the towel and be home within a few minutes.

Now I live within ten minutes of three Walmarts. How do I choose? I can go to the one that is near the Kickboxing gym.  Maybe I’ll workout on the way there, but then I’ll be sweaty. Although, people in animal print leggings and bedroom slippers won’t care much about my messy bun and red face.

I can go to the Walmart near Costco.  Wait! Costco is only ten minutes away, too.  The wholesale warehouse sells dishtowels.  Do I need a pack of ten?  I could give them as gifts next Christmas.

Or do I venture north to an entirely new Walmart? With a different floorplan. And different traffic patterns. I could get stuck in a left turn lane and never return.

But, wait, there are three Targets within ten minutes of my house. Target would carry a more upscale selection.   I could go to the Walmart that is nearest a Target for even more choices. Then I could spend an hour exploring the options in both stores before making a selection.

Or, I could go to one of the plethora of craft supply stores to buy a towel that I decorate myself.  Or the mall.  I live near several malls. Or a kitchen specialty store.

More often than not, I discover that all of the stores carry the same two choices. After visiting five stores and the mall, I go home to order a dishtowel online.

How can stores compete in such close proximity?  Home Depot is next to Lowes.  When I need “hardware”, where do I go?  Office Max is across the street from Staples.  PetSmart and Petco. Whole Foods and Sprouts. Michaels and Hobby Lobby.  Makes my head spin.

It took me a while to find a post office. I’m not sure the one I use is even where I would go to pick up a package or put a hold on my mail.  But, why are there so many mailboxes?  Most of them say the same thing.  Which box do I use? Why not just make one big mailbox?

And don’t get me started on restaurants.  I’m surrounded by new fast, casual chain restaurants.  Ooh, the temptation.  Eating out is one of the fastest ways to blow my budget. My husband doesn’t care what he eats and doesn’t understand the temptation.  Sometimes I sneak out to a fun little restaurant for lunch while he’s at work. He doesn’t even realize how much it costs him to live surrounded by yummy restaurants.

After a year, I’m finding my go-to stores so that I can spend less brain power on decision making.  Maybe that’s what native suburbanites do.  Just pick a store and call it good.

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When did bathrooms become art galleries?

I’m fascinated by the artwork I find in bathrooms. I’ve always considered bathrooms to be unimportant when it came to interior design. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the day when pastel colored seashell soaps graced every sink, and no one was allowed to actually use them. They would remain forever encased in glistening plastic. And, of course, fancy guest towels were completely off limits.

Some people go overboard with bathroom decoration nowadays. I’m not sure I want any of these woodland creatures watching me do my business.

Without straying too far from the seashells of my childhood, I decided to decorate with a simple waterfront theme in my own bathroom. The rest of the house is a woodsy theme. Kind of a mismatch.

 

Some businesses understand the captive audience a restroom provides. They hang advertising posters inside stall doors or near the sink. Why not turn it into a money-maker? I’ve even seen fliers about upcoming events in church bathrooms.

Other businesses extend the theme of the main floor into the washroom. But, who decided to hang a toilet paper holder so far from a toilet?

The ladies’ room in an upscale mall boasts marble (or fake marble—I can’t tell the difference) counter tops and stall dividers. Fancy stall doors reach the floor. No little kids are going to crawl under those.

I’ve seen displays of decorating prowess in individual homes as well. Makes me a little jealous. While using the washroom at a friend’s house, I noticed a framed picture of a marriage license on the wall. A marriage license? So, I looked further. Framed historic photos filled the walls. I asked her about them, because that’s a question begging to be asked.

It was her grandparents’ marriage license. Normally their wedding picture hung on the opposite wall, but she had taken it down to re-frame it. She is holding it in the picture below because I asked her to bring it down for this blog. How could she refuse? Thank you, Kim for putting up with your eccentric, blogging friend.

Other pictures of relatives hung on the walls too. I wish I could remember which relative was in the photograph below. Now that I think about it, I was sharing that bathroom with a lot of people. Maybe I should stick to woodland creatures.

I suppose it’s a nice way to show the pictures. So many people pass through that room. No one would see them in her bedroom or office. Not even in the hallway near all the bedrooms. But, lots of people see the bathroom, even if it is just to check their make-up.

I may have to re-think the way I decorate my bathrooms. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if I write a future blog about the hidden treasure of bathroom art. So much to see in the bathroom.


Morning Time Warp

When my daughter was a teenager, she would say, “I’m on time when I’m in my bedroom, but when I come upstairs, I’m running late.” She suspected a time warp. I blamed her clocks.

But lately, I experience a time warp in the mornings. I have a very structured routine. Shower, dress, brush my teeth, etc. Why, on some mornings, does the routine take fifteen minutes longer than on other mornings?

Is it possible that on tired days, each movement is slower? On a good day I spend two seconds reaching for the toothbrush, and on a slow day it takes four? Or perhaps I stare into space between each activity. But I don’t think that takes an extra fifteen minutes.

When I’m running late, I try to move faster. Pump the shampoo faster. Put in earrings faster. Pull my socks on faster.

I can’t cut any activities. If I don’t wash my hair, it lays flat, like I slept on it—because I did. Without a certain amount of make-up, people think I’m sick. And, I can’t cut ‘get dressed’ from the morning routine. Although some modern fashions look like pajamas, I’m too old to pull it off.

I’m easily distracted. Perhaps that creates the warp. I need to check the weather before I dress. And, the soap container is empty. Refilling it will only take a second. Might as well change the sheets while I’m here.

A surprising number of people text or message me before I’m ready to start the day. Of course, I have to respond immediately. Mascara can wait. It only takes a minute. Right?

Does social media on my phone contribute to the rift in time? I check e-mail and Facebook while I brush my teeth and if I find something good, I finish the article before moving to the next task. I need to watch the rest of that video about puppies learning to climb the stairs.

The bathroom seems to warp time during the day as well. Ummm. Not for me. I’m . . . speaking about other people. We can shop, check our bank account, or call an Uber. All from the privacy of the toilet.

On a side note, shouldn’t all bathrooms provide special wipes to clean cell phones? We wash our hands and then pick up the phone we had in our hands before we washed them. Then we put the phone next to our face, (although actually talking on the phone has become an archaic notion). The government must have done a study on that by now.

Phones can’t be blamed for creating the time warp, but for those of us who are easily distracted, they contribute. If I’m running late, I guess I could turn off my phone and see if that closes the rift in time.

Nah. I’ll just brush my teeth and pump the shampoo double-time.


Noooo. Not the Dentist.

I only want to have my picture taken. Where’s the photographer?

Imagine being dressed in your best finery. You open the door to the photography studio and hear an evil dentist say, “Bwaaa haaa. Sit in my chair and have some gas.”

Worse yet, imagine it is 1884 in the new state of Colorado and the dentist has a four-foot-tall drill mechanism which is powered by a foot petal.

I was perusing the January 4, 1884 Leadville Daily Herald . . . because I write historical fiction and that’s how I spend my free time. I call it research.

I noticed advertisements for two businesses both located above the post office. A photography studio and a dentist office. Whose brilliant idea was that?

The ads weren’t next to each other, as I have placed them here, but they were in the same newspaper. So, they had to be very near each other. How big could the space Over the Postoffice be?

I imagine a lot of screaming and noise from the dentist’s office. Not a civilized affair like in modern times. The dentist’s ad offers gas for painless extracting, and artificial teeth are guaranteed to fit. Doesn’t say what kind of gas. This is a time when ads for children’s cough syrup explicitly state that morphine is not an ingredient. Because it could be the active ingredient.

Perhaps the gas calmed the patient enough to ignore the giant dental drill. It could keep everything quiet.

Even without a dentist next door, a photography session could be a frightening ordeal.

No one ever smiles in old-time photos. A museum guide told me that’s because it is hard to hold a smile during the long exposure time. The person could end up with a blurry mouth or face. People were told not to smile and to hold as still as possible. Some photographers even had wire stands to hold the subject’s head still.

And who knew what a camera pointed in your direction would actually do? That camera looks like a mini-canon. Maybe I’d be better off with the dentist and his gas.

And, how much noise and commotion carried to the post office below? It could be enough to keep patrons from visiting either establishment.

In fairness, I’ll note that by 1884, Kodak cameras were available, and photography had become more common. So, the dentist might be the more frightening of the two.

I researched the dentist and photographer in the advertisements further to look for other interesting tidbits.

In 1888, the photographer was in a legal dispute with Laura LeClair. The Leadville Evening Chronical says, “he had an agreement with Laura to take pictures of her girls ‘with’ and ‘without tights,’ whatever that may mean.” And, “Miss LeClair claims that the photographs were ‘improperly taken’ and were not meritorious.”

In modern times, Judge Judy would have heard this lawsuit.  Mrs. LeClair promised it would be “spicy.”

I wonder if the dentist office was still next door during this photography session.

All of this speculation gives me an idea for a novel. Plenty of potential for conflict.


Offseason: Abandoned, Like a Zombie Apocalypse

Who hasn’t dreamed of having an amusement park or tourist town all to themselves? Why fight the crowds? Just go when no one else is around.

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite little mountain towns in the winter with my husband. I had imagined poking through the shops and eating funnel cakes without crowds or lines. Instead, I found this. Closed for the season.

Most of the town shuts down when the train stops bringing shoppers. One die-hard tourist shop remains open. All of the others are locked up tight. And forget funnel cakes. Pictures of the delicious desserts cover the windows, making my stomach growl, but, alas, no funnel cakes today.

Only one restaurant stays open for lunch on any given day. The clerk at the one open tourist shop showed me a schedule that is distributed to locals. It tells what restaurants are open each day, but is subject to changes at the cook’s whim.

We lunched at the open restaurant. The choice was hamburgers or hamburgers. Plain hamburgers, hamburgers with chilis, or hamburgers with other fixin’s. Tasty and filling, but not a funnel cake.

Worse yet, we found the public restrooms locked up tight. I counted on those restrooms. . . although, maybe if the town is empty, I can pretend I’m in the woods and go behind a tree. Nah. The locals wouldn’t like that.

I should have known better. I’ve made a regular grocery run to Walmart at two-o’clock in the morning. That’s the joy of having a twenty-four-hour store.

The perfect time. Right?

No “People of Walmart” to shock me with exposed muffin-tops or undergarments on the outside of their clothes. No dodging other carts. No long lines at checkout.

Instead, I have to dodge oversized plastic-wrapped pallets of merchandise waiting to be shelved. And forget sale items. Those supplies have long since been depleted.

After I fill my basket to overflowing, I head to the twenty checkout stands, anticipating a speedy exit. But, the only line open is self-check-out. First, I look at my bulging basket. Then I look at the little shelf that is supposed to hold my groceries. If I’m lucky, someone takes pity on me and opens a stand.

Unlike Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation, I’m not able to force someone to open up for me. Although, that is my dream—I hate crowds.

On the plus side, I haven’t been chased through the amusement park by zombies like what happened in the movie Zombieland. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler for you). The abandoned tourist town hasn’t been hit by a zombie apocalypse, but it sure could be used to stage a zombie movie.

I guess if I want the full experience, I’ll have to join the crowds, when the shops and restaurants are prepared to serve the masses . . . unless I want hamburgers or hamburgers instead of funnel cakes.


Kickboxing vs Piano

Learning to play the piano is a lot like kickboxing. They don’t seem like they would have anything in common. Kickboxing is a whole body, cardio workout. And, playing the piano is a quiet, refined activity . . . unless, you’re playing Eye of the Tiger. I’m not that good.

I started kickboxing fitness classes the week that I took my youngest child to college. I work out for fitness. Don’t know what I would do if someone punched back. Yikes. But, I won’t deny daydreaming that the bag is an attacker who I take by surprise.

A couple of months ago I started piano lessons. My daughter is teaching me over Skype. An interesting experience for sure.

So many things to keep track of. Sit up straight. Round my fingers. Play the right note. Keep time. Hit some notes harder and others softer. Slur some notes together. Overwhelming.

I feel like I’m playing well and then I have my lesson. My daughter gives corrections and pointers. Apparently, I often let a couple of beats go by between measures because I am not prepared for the next measure. I don’t even hear those extra beats, probably because I am trying to remember what to do. She says to look ahead and anticipate the next measure. I’m working on it.

Then I go to the kickboxing gym. First, I jab (the punch with my left hand). Extend the arm all the way, but not quite. Punch with the fist (palm side down) at face level. Keep the other hand at my face for protection. Pull back quickly.

Then I cross. This is the power punch with my right hand. Extend the arm, face level. But, now I bend my knee and twist my body for the power. Raise my foot to stand on the toe and twist like I am squishing a bug. That’s how the instructors explain it.

Kicks have even more things to keep track of. Foot placement and hand movement all at the same time. And don’t fall over.

For each three-minute round, the instructor gives a series of moves. I try to remember all the things. I feel pretty good until the instructor checks my progress. I’m like a kid in school again. But, I’ve got the moves down. Until the instructor says, “A little higher. You don’t want to punch their neck.”

In learning piano and kickboxing, I have to concentrate to remember all of the nuances of the art. Sometimes I focus on one aspect at the expense of the others, in hopes that after some practice, it will come naturally and I won’t have to think about it. Then I focus on another. In kickboxing, I try to anticipate the next move. Don’t want to let too many beats go by between measures.

As I kick the bag and try to remember everything, I think, “This is just like the piano.” Then I start to count beats with the punches and kicks.

The two activities are exactly the same . . . except for the whole boxing thing.


Who Superglued Joseph Upside Down?

. . . and other Christmas mysteries

 We have a European Christmas candle carousel. We bought it in the summer at a tourist shop and nothing on it works right. But, we put it out every year.

On Christmas eve and Christmas day, we light the candles and try to get it to turn the right direction without catching anything on fire. There is a right direction. On the bottom layer, the camels and wise men move in a circle. On the middle row the shepherds and sheep move in a circle. More often than not, it’s a reverse circle.

We’ve checked the fan blades to make sure they are set to move in a forward direction. We try to balance the structure by putting paper under the feet. My husband is an engineer. You’d think we could figure it out.

One year, Joseph came unglued. I don’t think it had anything to do with the wise men marching around him in reverse. Someone disassembled the whole thing and superglued him back in place. It might have been my husband, but I’m not blaming him. When we sat down to the next meal, one of the kids noticed that Joseph hung upside-down.

I’m not sure why we never took him down. Superglue is pretty strong, but I don’t think that’s the reason. With both parents working, who has time to superglue Joseph twice?

The kids thought it was fun. Their friends would come over and they would say, “Look at Joseph. He’s hanging upside down like a vampire.” I’m sure we are the only ones with a vampire Joseph on our carousel.

It has a few burn marks and wax splatters from candle mishaps. But I put it out again this year. We will spend the holiday meal adjusting the blades and balancing the feet. . . and we will remember all of the Christmases with the kids growing up. . . working as a team to fix the carousel.

I looked at the carousels at a European Christmas market one year. So beautiful. So perfect. So expensive. If I were to buy one, we would look at it and remember the one with Joseph hanging upside down and the sheep walking backward. Guess I’ll just keep the one I have.

And what of the other Christmas mysteries?

The giant angel with the nativity set. Even kneeling she is taller than the shepherd. Not sure where she came from. Another set, perhaps.

Three sizes of buildings and people in the Christmas village. I look at each one and remember where it came from. Makes me smile. One year my daughter tried to make it a 3D village by placing the larger houses up front and the smaller ones in back.

The wooden candy cane holder with fifteen-year-old candy canes. We never eat them. My sister offered one to a child and I had to snatch it out of her hand.

And the fifty-year-old blow up Santa that hasn’t held air in years, but we still put it out next to the fifty-year-old stuffed Santa whose seams are barely holding.

These are the things my kids will consider normal as they enter their adult lives. I guess I should apologize to their spouses.

Nah.

 

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